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."
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.