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."
The circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."