A monster’s victims converse over coffee
In a press conference last week, Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre labeled confessed murderer Dakota Theriot a monster. Last Friday night, that description dominated my thoughts as two Tangipahoa Parish women described another monster—one they believe has escaped justice for more than three decades.
The staff and customers at Joe Muggs Coffee Shop in Hammond Square Mall likely wondered what I kept saying to these ladies to bring them to tears, again and again, the four hours we sat there, but I merely arranged the reunion, drank my coffee and listened—and at times, my stomach turned.
These two women worked for the same Hammond business in the 1980s, along with one of the women’s sisters. I would have loved to have invited that woman as well, but she—I will call her Tina— was murdered a year after leaving that company for another job.
Tina’s sister described how the monster would arrive at their workplace on payday, upsetting Tina and leaving with her paycheck. Following those paydays—and a few other days—Tina reported for work in dark glasses and refused to let anyone see her eyes.
Tina’s sister said Tina did not yet own a car in those days. Tina’s husband would pick her up from work—often hours after her shift had ended. Her sister would offer her a ride, but Tina always refused, saying it might anger her husband.
“And he would have been angry too,” the second woman said. “I should know. He’s my brother—and I’ve been afraid of him all of my life.”
The monster’s sister then described in detail how her brother had raped her as a child. The first time, she said, she was 11-years-old. He made his last attempt while he was still married to Tina.
“I was a senior at Hammond High,” she said. “I expected my mom to pick me up after school, but my brother picked me up instead, and he refused to take me home. He drove until almost dark, saying he wanted to show me something. Then he pulled the car over and showed me something I didn’t want to see, saying ‘make me feel good like you used to.’”
The two sisters stared silently at each other for five minutes or more, and then the monster’s sister took the other woman’s hand.
“I should have told you, but I didn’t know how,” she said.
“What do you mean?” Tina’s sister asked.
“I heard you on tape.” The monster’s sister said. “My brother tapped the house phone line and recorded all of Tina’s calls. Most of them were with you.”
“Remember all those times he sent flowers to her work. You talked about it on the phone. Tina said she knew it was him because she didn’t have a secret admirer.”
“I do remember that,” Tina’s sister said. “She was so scared.”
“Not long after the baby was born,” the monster’s sister said. “I was at their house. Tina had lost weight so fast. I was asking her how she did it. She got on the floor to show me, doing sit-ups, and my brother came in. He said she was losing weight for her boyfriend and stomped her in the stomach.”
“My God. Why?” I asked.
“Oh,” Tina’s sister said. “He was extremely jealous.”
“Yes,” the monster’s sister confirmed. “He tried to make people think she was seeing a Hammond lawyer, but I listened to those tapes. She loved him. She wanted to have another child by him—she was just deathly afraid of him.”
“How did you hear the tapes?” Tina’s sister asked.
“Right before their house fire,” the monster’s sister said. “He moved a bunch of boxes into my mother’s garage. I was a nosy teenager, so I found the tapes and played them.”
“Oh, that fire,” Tina’s sister said. “He sent Tina to stay with our mother the week it happened. I called there and told her the house was burning. Tina said that she suspected something would happen. [Her husband] had increased their home owner’s insurance a few weeks before.”
Both sisters told me that shortly before someone murdered Tina, the monster increased her life insurance policy and then purchased a second policy. Because of the brutality of her murder, they said, the monster collected double indemnity.
The monster’s sister said she had held her tongue all her life out of fear.
“In 1985, my brother took Tina and me to see the movie, the Jagged Edge. We hated that movie, but he loved it. It was about a man who murdered his wife for the money.”
“And a few months after Tina died, my brother got my husband to help him take a heavy bag from his shed and lower it into a dumpster on Airline Highway near LaPlace. When they were loading it in our truck, I heard my brother mention something about ‘Sloppy HPD’—that was what he always called Hammond Police.”
“Sometime after that,” she said, “my brother tried to convince me to increase my husband’s life insurance. I refused and told him he was crazy, but he got someone to draw up the paperwork anyway.”
She opened a leather binder, allowing me to read the unregistered insurance policy. The agent listed the payout at one million dollars.
I asked the monster’s sister why she was telling her truth today.
“My perspective changed,” she said, “when my daughter told me how many times my brother had raped her.”