Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NOPD Botched Terrilynn Monette Search With Route Assumptions, Reports Times Picayune

Latest Update, August 16: Negligible alcohol and no drugs found in Terrilynn Monette's system, says coroner's toxicology report. Read at WWLTV site.


Formerly missing Terrilynn Monette
On Monday, I wrote about the Terrilynn Monette case and how I felt about it as a New Orleans resident and mother of an adult daughter. I spent some of that post obsessing over my belief that criminal justice professionals assumed too much about the route the young teacher took home the night she disappeared. They consistently ignored that she may have gone straight down Harrison Avenue, the same route I would have chosen had I been her, to get to her apartment on Paris Avenue. (Read my post here.)

A new article at the Times Picayune/NOLA.com website is also calling police assumptions into question. One of the issues is the conclusion they jumped to based on sketchy deductions about red light surveillance photos:
"Because we assumed that (red-light camera) picture was valid, we kind of ruled out Harrison Avenue," [State Rep. Austin] Badon said.
Every local media outlet reported that the police had  footage showing Terrilynn's car turning left on Marconi, which would have taken her away from Harrison Avenue. Badon felt compelled to get involved, and I applaud him for his persistence, but his efforts were also influenced by what the police said.

As previously reported, on Saturday, June 8, more than three months after she went missing, Terrilyn's car with her body inside were found in Bayou St. John where Harrison Avenue crosses that body of water. The article at NOLA.com ends with Badon saying, "It's a message for all of us not to assume anything."

I remember asking my daughter back when the news of the surveillance photos broke, "How do they know it was her car and that she was the one driving?"  But it never occurred to me back then that the police would ignore Harrison Avenue as a straight shot, that they would not consider all possible routes from Parlay's Bar to Terrilyn's apartment complex. Now I wish I had called or written someone in March and asked, "Why would you rule out her taking the straight route down Harrison?" Instead, I went on with my life, ignoring my hunch because I thought it was logical that others would think the same thing. And they probably did, but like me, they thought the police were doing all that they could.

Also, when I saw that volunteers and officials were dragging the bayou for cars back in March, I thought the search would logically include the bayou at Harrison Avenue because the search, according to reports, included part of the bayou north of Harrison as well as south of it near LSU Dental School. As it turns out, due to some bizarre decisions based on the red light camera report, searchers skipped the Harrsion Avenue bridge at Bayou St. John completely.

As it turns out, the NOPD was never sure that the car they saw turning left in the photo and video was Terrilynn Monette's Honda. Sloppy, sloppy work.

I'm glad Slidell Police Officer Mark Michaud came along and finally found the body so that Terrilyn's mother will not have to wonder where her baby is, but I am dismayed that the NOPD was so careless about the search. If it weren't for Badon, Terrilynn's mother, and Terrilynn's fellow teachers keeping this story in the spotlight, her body may have never been found.

Is it possible that NOPD officers had a cynical attitude about looking for Terrilynn? Is it possible that they did not give her case the attention it deserved because she was, in their eyes, just a black woman drinking too much at a bar and who has time for that kind of missing woman?

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