The preceding paragraph was part of The Independent Weekly's June 13 cover story, "Slipping Through the Cracks," which detailed the lives of Lafayette's homeless population. Independent contributor Dege Legg spent a week living on the streets and in a "tramp camp" he discovered off Evangeline Thruway. One of the women Legg interviewed and briefly wrote about was a young homeless woman named Shannon, a quiet, petite brunette who often made trips to the laundromat to wash the clothes of the tramp camp members.
"She was definitely shy and not interested in being in the spotlight," says Legg. "She was sweet and smart and reserved. There were some pretty strong personalities in the camp, and she didn't mind staying in the background. She didn't seem to take drugs, and her worst habit, if anything, was junk food. She was also one of the few that never panhandled."
Last Friday, Shannon's body was discovered under a tree approximately 300 feet from the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission's welcome center at 1400 NW Evangeline Thruway.
"At this point it's being labeled a suspicious death," says Lafayette Police Department spokesman Mark Francis. "The preliminary reports from the medical examiner indicate that it's a homicide." Toxicology reports will not be released for another two weeks.
The police department is not releasing her full name until it can notify Shannon's next of kin. Francis says they have leads that her family may be in Tennessee, while Legg says that Shannon told him she ' at least at some point ' had relatives in Texas. (Anyone who has leads on her death is asked to call Crimestoppers at 232-TIPS.)
Approximately three weeks after we ran our initial story, the Lafayette Police Department conducted a sweep of the camp. "We had folks calling and complaining that there were X amount of people in this particular area, because the residents and business community had concerns," says Francis. There were no further sweeps conducted at the camp, but its effects were evident. I drive the Thruway every morning, and at the height of summer's blistering heat, it was common to see the homeless congregating under the shade of the lone tree near the corner of the Wal-Mart parking lot.
In death, as in life, Shannon for now remains nameless, labeled simply as a transient. Her body currently rests unclaimed at the Lafayette Parish Coroner's office. If no next of kin can be found or if her body isn't claimed, she will either be cremated or given a pauper's funeral at the parish's discretion, according to a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Coroners Association.
The day after Shannon's body was found, I received an e-mail from Independent Weekly reader Denise Dupuis of Opelousas:
"I remember the cover article on the homeless featured back in June and how shaken I was to realize that these people could be any one of us," she wrote. "No one is immune to the reality of the unexpected happening in life. Complacency is a luxury that life does not allow for very long.
"After a job interview in Lafayette this past Friday morning, I was on my way home to Opelousas when I got stuck in the traffic jam passing by the crime scene near the gas station," she continued. "I did not hear it was one of the homeless women in the featured story until today. ...
"Please acknowledge this woman and the incident in your next issue to remind everyone that she was a human being with a life, and people loved her no matter what her flaws. And remind people that we should not look down on or judge the fragility of others or what life has done to them. We all need to throw off the security blanket of fear that we wrap ourselves in and have the courage to open our eyes to see what we can do to make a difference in the lives of others. We need to realize that taking time for even the smallest kindness can make a difference beyond measure. Any small ripple of light that we put out there is unending."
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.