Vacherie man held in murder of neighbor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / February 16, 2000

CONVENT – A 51-year-old Vacherie man was found murdered over the weekend and a neighbor has been charged in his death.

Preston Champagne, 22, 2445 Church Lane, Vacherie, is accused of killing Junius Dumas, of 2084 Church Lane, and dumping his body at the edge of the Mississippi River, where it was discovered by St. James sheriff’s deputies.Champagne has been charged with second-degree murder and is being held at the St. James Parish Jail under a $150,000 bond, set Monday by Judge GuyHoldridge.

Dumas is St. James Parish’s first murder victim of 2000.Authorities were notified by Dumas’ mother Friday and told she hadn’t seen her son since the night before. She said she was alarmed since she usuallysaw her son once a day.

She also told deputies she heard her son may have had a fight with Champagne Thursday.

Sheriff Willie Martin Jr. said witnesses had seen two separate fightsThursday night between Champagne and Dumas. The sheriff’s departmentwas informed that the fights had accelerated to physical violence and that after the second fight, Dumas had not been seen again.

Martin said Champagne was being held for questioning into Dumas’ disappearance at the time Dumas’s body was found. Champagne hadadmitted to fighting with Dumas, but has denied knowing where he had gone afterward, said Martin.

After an investigation at the scene, evidence found with Dumas’s body further linked Champagne to the murder, the sheriff added.

Martin would not comment on the nature of the murder, the evidence linking Champagne to the body or the results of an autopsy performed in Baton Rouge. Martin said the body had been removed from the scene of the murderand dumped in the river.

Martin said Champagne is claiming to be innocent and has hired a defense attorney.

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