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."
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.