Neighbors reflect on quiet strangers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002


GARYVILLE – Allen St. Pierre Jr. was not surprised when David L. Roy, politely declined his neighborly invitation to join the crawfish boil he was hosting Tuesday evening.

“I saw him outside so I asked him if he wanted to come over. But he didn’t want to,” said St. Pierre.

Though less than 20 feet of asphalt separated their houses on Buster Street, there remained a gulf of unfamiliarity between the families even after more than six years of living adjacent to one another.

“They were strangers in our neighborhood,” St. Pierre said.

Earlier Tuesday, Roy, who went by his middle name of Logan, had knocked on the door of the home of Allen St. Pierre Jr.’s parents, Audrey and Allen St. Pierre Sr.

The elder St. Pierre’s had carved land from the back of their own property on River Road to build houses for their son and daughter. The Roy’s lived in the residence the St. Pierre’s built for their daughter.

“Logan came and said his dogs had gotten loose. Audrey said she saw them and pointed out where,” recalled Allen St. Pierre Sr. “He had a serious look on his face. But he was polite.”

Melissa and David Roy had to cross through Janice LeBoeuf’s property on the other side of Allen St. Pierre Jr.’s to retrieve their dog. LeBoeuf knew the Roy’s mainly through the couple’s oldest daughter, 9-year-old Asher, who played with her 5-year-old granddaughter, Macy.

“They were over here playing with their dolls on Sunday. But we very seldom saw the parents,” said LeBoeuf. She let the Roy’s park their car at the end of her driveway and retrieve their three dogs.

It might have been the last time anyone saw Melissa Roy alive.

Buster Street is a cul-de-sac barely wide enough to fit two passing vehicles. Between the St. Pierre family and LeBoeuf’s daughter and granddaughter living across the street, the social fabric of the street is as tight as the property lines. The Roy’s had their family as well for a time.

“Every weekend he would have his family over. They had parties, but they were quiet,” said Allen St. Pierre Sr., a St. John the Baptist Parish Council member.

But the parties stopped about two years ago and for what reason Allen St. Pierre Sr. could only guess. There were rumors of family friction after Asher was not invited to a family party, he said, as well as tales of David Roy’s mother dying from cancer. David Roy’s father, Raphael, lives in Harahan, and would not comment for this article.

Allen St. Pierre Sr. said the condition of the house steadily decayed from that point.

“The lawn would get really high before they cut it. They didn’t maintain the swimming pool. She (Melissa) had planted sweet peppers but didn’t tend to them,” he said.

Though he would see David Roy outside barbecuing from time to time, Allen St. Pierre Sr. rarely saw Melissa Roy.

“About three weeks ago I was out here turning over my tomatoes. She came and asked me if I could work the ground around her pool,” he said. “Well I told her I had a lot to do and then said, ‘what’s the matter with your husband?’ She just kind of said he wasn’t going to do it.”

Allen St. Pierre Sr. speculated the family was having financial problems. “I don’t think he worked at all this week,” he said.

David Roy drafted industrial design blueprints for Kaiser Aluminum until October, according to personnel director Steven Olds. His contract was terminated when the plant underwent a 10 percent workforce reduction.

But Fannie Givens, 66, Melissa Roy’s aunt, said she thought David had found work at a company in eastern New Orleans.

“We talked on the phone every week,” said Givens. “We never talked about anything serious. There wasn’t anything serious to talk about.”

Givens said Melissa Roy grew up in Kenner. She lost her father to lung cancer in 1977, and her mother to a pancreatic condition in 1985.

At age 16, she moved into Given’s home in Independence. Givens, 67, described Melissa as a “happy-go-lucky” girl who did not finish high school.

Eventually, she moved back to Kenner and worked at a Winn-Dixie, but returned to her aunt once more before moving out for good. Givens said she met David Roy after the couple had been dating for two or three months.

“He was as sweet a person as you could be around,” said Givens. “You don’t ever know what’s in somebody’s mind I guess.”

Givens described David Roy as a loving father, and the cheerful disposition of Asher was indicative of that.

“She never stood still, when they came to visit,” said Givens. “She was a very good and very smart girl.”

Asher Roy entered Riverside Academy in Reserve as part of the private school’s program for four year olds.

Many of her classmates in Suzanne Boone’s third grade class had known her since that time. Which is why when Boone received the news about Asher’s death from Principal Barry Heltz Wednesday morning, she decided she wanted to tell the students herself.

“I sat down at my desk and asked them to all sit on the floor around my desk,” said Boone. “Then I told them that Asher had died. I didn’t tell them how. I wanted to focus on them grasping the fact that she wasn’t going to be walking through that classroom door anymore.”

Riverside Academy is in the middle of its standardized testing period. The tests were canceled in Boone’s class for now, as she expects the focus on the students’ grief to continue.

The schoolchildren spent the day assembling a memorial for her. On one bulletin board, the kids had all made paper flowers blooming up toward the words, “April Showers Bring May Flowers.” They decided Asher Roy’s purple flower should be put in the center of the board, reaching the highest point.

“Asher had broken her ankle a while back. Some of the kids would bring her lunch to her, or stay inside during recess because she couldn’t go out,” said Boone. “She was always hugging me and saying how pretty my clothes or my earrings were. She gave me a wind chime for Christmas that said on it: ‘someone loves you – me.'”

Heltz spent the morning going from classroom to classroom. First in the elementary school section, then the middle school, and finally the high school to personally tell the 820 students what had happened to their young classmate.

He called in grief counselors, and wanted to have them back at a later date for the parents’ sake as well as the children.

“They’re asking, ‘what do I tell my child?'” said Heltz. “Moms are asking, ‘what do I say about my husband when they ask?’

“Daddys normally take care of you. This dad didn’t.”