Two arrests made in decades-old rape, homicide cold case in Louisiana

Two arrests made in decades-old rape, homicide cold case in Louisiana
A body found in 1980 has been identified through DNA as Donna Gayle Brazzell, who was around 18 years old when she died. (Source: Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office)
Two Oakdale men - Leo Laird and Gary Joseph Haymon - have been arrested in connection with a cold case investigation that dates to 1980.
Two Oakdale men - Leo Laird and Gary Joseph Haymon - have been arrested in connection with a cold case investigation that dates to 1980. (Source: Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office)

RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KPLC) - Authorities believe they have solved a cold case that dates to 1980.

Skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near Nichols Cemetery Road and La. 28 in the Gardner area on Nov. 5, 1980, according to information from the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The investigation was originally assigned to Det. William E. Hilton. His investigation reviewed missing persons reports in the Rapides Parish area as well as surrounding states and was assisted by the LSU FACES Lab. It was the FACES Lab that was able to determine that the victim was a white female between 16 and 21. It also determined that her body had been in the elements at least two months. The FACES Lab documented a DNA profile and reconstructed a likeness of the victim, which was shared on missing person’s websites.

But a positive identification was unable to be made and the case became cold.

The Sheriff’s Office says it received new information in 2014, though, and Leo Laird, 64, and Gary Joseph Haymon, 54, both of Oakdale, were identified as suspects.

In July 2019, the body was positively identified as Donna Gayle Brazzell, a resident of the Alexandria/Pineville area who was around 18 at the time of her death.

Authorities have not said what ties Laird and Haymon to the case, but says “sufficient probable cause was established” to issue arrest warrants for the men. Both were arrested on counts of first-degree murder, first-degree rape and aggravated kidnapping.

Laird, who would have been in his 20s at the time of the alleged crime, was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center on on Aug. 14. He is being held on $1 million bond.

Haymon, who would have been in his teens, is currently serving a 49-year sentence for other convictions: second-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and public bribery. His projected released date is in 2047. Haymon, who is imprisoned at the Avoyelles Correctional Center, will be booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center on the new allegations.

Rapides Parish authorities say the investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be filed.

Left, a facial reconstruction of a body found in 1980 in the Gardner area of Louisiana. The body was positively identified in July 2019 through DNA as Donna Gayle Brazzell, right, who was around 18 years old when she died.
Left, a facial reconstruction of a body found in 1980 in the Gardner area of Louisiana. The body was positively identified in July 2019 through DNA as Donna Gayle Brazzell, right, who was around 18 years old when she died. (Source: Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office)

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