• Selonia's Grave

Selonia Reed case active, Reginald Reed indicted

Last October, Hammond Police Chief James Stewart said HPD had closed the investigation into the 1987 brutal murder of Selonia Smith Reed without making an arrest. This prompted me to file a Public Records Request with the department (as well as 15 other law enforcement agencies) requesting 30 years of data on all homicide cases closed without anyone being charged for the crime.

This month, Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto dismissed Chief Stewart, and last Friday, Assistant Chief Thomas Corkern informed me that the Selonia Reed case is now active with both the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police involved in the investigation.

In an unrelated case, 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux indicted Selonia Reed’s husband, 58-year-old Reginald Reed of Hammond, with one count of aggravated rape on January 14 of this year. The office scheduled his arraignment one month later, on Valentine’s Day.

Perrilloux’s Public Information Officer Autumn Payton said the DA’s office could not release any additional information due to the nature of the crime. She said it would be impossible to do so without publicly identifying the victim of the rape.

Reginald Reed became a public figure in 1998 when he ran for Mayor of Hammond, but he made headlines 11 years earlier when someone murdered his wife.

At 6:30 that Sunday morning, August 23, 1987, Reed phoned Gwen Smith at Northoaks Hospital to tell her that his wife, Selonia, had gone out with friends the night before and had not returned home.

Gwen Smith told him, “That’s not like my sister. She wouldn’t go out and leave Little Reggie at home.”

Gwen Smith told me last week, “Even if Loni had done such a thing, she would have been home before Little Reggie got up. He was a momma’s boy. She didn’t go anywhere without him.”

An hour after speaking to Gwen Smith, Reginald Reed phoned the Hammond Police Department and reported his wife missing. Another hour went by before a patrol unit found Selonia Smith Reed’s car in the parking lot of a convenience store less than a mile from the police station; her mutilated body slumped in the passenger’s seat.

Jackie Smith, Selonia Reed’s younger sister, lived in the Reed home the week before Selonia Reed’s death. “Reginald had gone to New York on business. Loni was off work from the bank—home on vacation—and she was afraid to be alone. When she picked me up, we stopped at our father’s place, and she asked Dad if he would buy her a gun.”

“I thought she was afraid of the neighbor, a maintenance man that did work for them sometimes. One night, I stepped out on the porch to smoke. Loni said ‘No. Go into the bathroom.’ She hated smoke in her house. I knew something wasn’t right. This was about 10:30 at night. Loni heard Little Reggie moving around in his room and went to check on him, and I went outside anyway. Just as I stepped off the porch, a man was standing in the shadows. He almost scared me to death. Loni came to the door, saw us talking, and told me to get inside. We were both shook up.”

After Reginald Reed returned from New York, the family of three drove Jackie Smith back home to New Orleans. “That Friday night, we had dinner. Everything seemed fine. I had no idea that was the last time I’d see my sister.”

Gwen Smith said she saw their sister the night before her murder.

“My car was in the shop, and Loni gave me a ride home from work. She didn’t say anything about going out with any girlfriends. She said she was going to the mall to pick up some things and asked if I wanted to go. I told her I was tired and had to work early the next morning.”

The next morning was the Sunday when Reginald Reed called her.

“I went straight to Loni’s house from work. The police were there, but there was something else strange. Don’t get me wrong, Loni was a good housekeeper, but this place looked and smelled unusually clean, immaculate. There was no trash in the cans. Even the dirty clothes hamper was empty.”

“She was going back to work that Monday, so it made sense that she would clean-up. I just never saw her house like that before. I still think about that sometimes.”

Tangipahoa Parish Coroner Dr. Vincent Cefalu said the autopsy showed Selonia Reed died of four puncture wounds to her heart. The killer inflicted her wounds with “an instrument larger than an ice pick, but smaller than a knife, about the caliber of a screwdriver,” Cefalu said.

Cefalu visibly choked up in a press conference, describing how police found the 26-year-old with an umbrella forced into her vagina and her face badly beaten. “It was just a bad sight,” he said.

The autopsy report showed the murderer spread a substance similar to white toothpaste or lotion on parts of her body that mixed with the blood.

At the same press conference, Captain Jim Richardson of the Hammond Police Department said Selonia Reed had been dead less than three hours when they found her body at 9:30 a.m. He told reporters that detectives had looked for some container that might have held the lotion, but they could not find one.

In 1987, I worked as a newscaster for WFPR and WHMD in Hammond. I also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press and as Investigative Reporter for the Hammond Vindicator. In those roles, I worked the murder of Selonia Smith Reed, a young girl I had met only once. She was a teller at Citizen’s National Bank.

The week following her death, I took a walk. From the location of her abandoned car on Thomas Street, behind the Timesaver convenience store, I walked through the woods and came out in the neighborhood where Selonia Reed lived.

Today, I shudder to think how difficult the hike might prove with my arthritic knee, but 30 years ago, I made the trip from the Timesaver to Selonia Reed’s front door in under 15 minutes.

On a bulletin board in my office at home, a yellow newspaper clipping commands my attention at least once a day. The Hammond Daily Star photo by Steve Petorka shows the Loranger High School homecoming court of 1976. The high school junior smiling second from left is Selonia Smith.

I keep it to remind me that justice for Loni has not yet been served.

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