Live-in companion captured and arrested after eight-hour search

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A LaPlace man confessed Sunday night that he killed his girlfriend of nine years in their well-maintained home on Golfview Drive, said St. John the Baptist Parish Information Officer Sgt. Dane Clement.

During an interview conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division, Giovanni “Gio” Highstreet of 2104 Golfview Drive acknowledged that he murdered Esmeralda “Chachi” Valdez.

Neighbors say that even though Highstreet has confessed to the murder, they find it hard to believe he committed the crime.

According to Clement, the sheriff’s office received a call Sunday at 12:16 p.m. from Valdez’s sister, reporting that Highstreet allegedly stabbed her sister.

When authorities and medical technicians arrived at Valdez’s home, her nude body was found lying on the kitchen floor, said Clement. She was dead.

Clement confirmed Valdez called her sister for help.

Neighbors said Valdez’s sister and brother showed up at the woman’s house to help their sister.

Valdez’s relatives wrestled with Highstreet in an attempt to restrain him said Clement. However, Highstreet escaped through the back yard of his home wearing only a pair of blue jeans.

Highstreet jumped into the Golfview canal where witnesses say they saw him swimming.

An extensive search of the property and canal was performed but Highstreet could not be found by investigators or by divers.

Clement said officers remained at the crime scene to work the case.

At approximately 8:30 p.m. the officers heard a noise in the back yard of the residence, said Clement. When they investigated the noise, they found Highstreet coming through the fence – into his back yard.

Highstreet was arrested without incident.

Clement said Highstreet is charged with second-degree murder and is being held in the Sherman Walker Correctional Center on a $350,000 bond.

Valdez’s mother was taken by ambulance to the River Parish Hospital at 1:36 p.m., said Clement.

Neighbors said she was later released and is doing well.

Clement said this was not the first time Highstreet had purportedly accosted Valdez.

Police records reveal Valdez called the sheriff’s office in 1999 and in 2003 to report Highstreet. When complaints were filed in 1999, Highstreet was arrested for attacking Valdez.

Clement said Valdez had been earlier portrayed by media as Highstreet’s common-law wife. However, Clement said he wanted to correct this statement.

“The state of Louisiana does not honor common-law marriages,” said Clement.

“Valdez was not Highstreet’s common-law wife.”

While the couple was never married, neighbors said they shared a two-year old daughter named Analexis.

“That little girl was such an angel,” said Highstreet’s neighbor and good friend, Mark Kovacs. “When Gio was home, Analexis was sewn to his hip. Gio’ just adored her.”

Kovacs said Highstreet was a warm, generous, fun-loving person.

“Every time you saw the guy, he was smiling. Every time he walked out of the house, he would wave to everybody. He talked to everyone. It’s just a shock,” said Kovacs.

Kovacs said he trusted Gio’ with his son, Markie.

“He was wonderful with children. My son stayed at his home if my wife and I had things to do. My son loved Analexis. He taught her to ride a bike. He was over there for two hours this past Friday,” relayed Kovacs.

Kovacs and Highstreet hung out together every chance they got.

“We always went to Home Depot together and we always did our lawn work together. My house is the neighborhood hangout. Everyone comes over in the evening. Gio’ always came over. He would pull up a lawn chair and hangout,” maintained Kovacs.

Kovacs said while Highstreet was an extrovert, Valdez was withdrawn and quiet.

“She was nice and all. If you talked to her, she would talk to you. But, she would not initiate a conversation and she would not talk to you if you did not engage her in conversation,” explained Kovacs.

Kovacs said Valdez would only come out of the home late at night.

“You never saw her,” said Kovacs.

According to the neighbor, Valdez came out at 8 or 9 p.m. to place Halloween decorations in her front yard.

Pamela Perilloux lived next door to the couple.

She said the couple owned their home for four to five years and spent a great deal of time and money on renovations.

Perilloux said the couple recently spoke about putting aluminum siding on their home.

“I am in total shock. I never suspected it. Gio’ and my husband, Marvin, were talked in the yard Saturday morning. They always invited us to swim in their new pool. They put it in their back yard this summer. At least twice a month, they had a function in their home. We were always invited over,” said Perrilloux.

A third neighbor also spoke well of the couple.

She did not want to give her name but she spoke in detail about her friend – Gio.’

She said, “I cannot picture Gio’ doing this. He’s so happy-go-lucky. He’s always cutting up. Gio was funny. He made you laugh. I can’t imagine him going off like that.”

The unnamed neighbor said she too noticed Valdez was quiet.

“To me she appeared a quiet person. She didn’t visit as much as Gio.”

All three neighbors said the couple spent a great deal of time in Mexico.

Kovacs said Valdez had relatives in Mexico.

“They always went to Mexico. They went to Mexico for the hurricane,” confided the anonymous neighbor.

Perrilloux remarked, “They had a gorgeous home. They were always bringing things back from Mexico.”

Highstreet told Kovacs he was going to Mexico this coming Friday.

“He went to Mexico every two to three weeks to pick up novelty items such as purses and watches. He sold them at the Swap Meet in the New Orleans French Quarter. Gio’ was planning to buy Chachi a hutch for her dishes on this trip,” said Kovacs.

According to Kovacs, Valdez was an independent insurance agent. He said

Valdez’s mother lived in Kenner and watched the couple’s two-year-old during the day.

Kovacs said Highstreet gave up being a volunteer fireman a year ago and that Highstreet started working for his father in his dad’s print shop two months ago.

“Things were turning around for Gio,” said Kovacs.

Kovacs added, “When I saw Gio’ Sunday, he was coming out of his house in

handcuffs. He just looked at me. He had a blank look on his face. It was Gio’ but it wasn’t Gio.’ I just looked down and shook my head.”