Death of woman is a suicide

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – The investigation into the discovery of a woman’s body found hanging from a tree branch in Reserve last week has been ruled a suicide, according to St. John Sherriff Wayne Jones.

The sheriff said detectives have tentatively identified the woman as 37-year-old Paula Chenier of Reserve, who had been missing since April 3. He said she was last seen on a surveillance camera, leaving a Reserve convenience store that evening, and the clothing she was wearing that night matched the clothing found on the body.

Jones said investigators also found four suicide notes addressed to family and friends that were written and signed by Chenier. He said the notes, along with Chenier’s identification, were found in a purse near Chenier’s body.

“Identification is 99 percent complete,” said Jones. “We are awaiting DNA tests and dental records to determine an absolute match.”

Maj. Mike Tregre, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said evidence from the surveillance tape, along with a preliminary autopsy exam, revealed that no foul play was involved in Chenier’s death. He said there were no signs that she was in danger when she left the store, and the autopsy showed no signs of any blunt trauma to the body. He also said the autopsy showed the body had been dead for at least two weeks.

A St. John Parish Public Works employee found Chenier’s body while he was cutting grass along railroad tracks near Northwest Fourth Street on May 1. He said he spotted the body hanging in the trees from what appeared to be a noose. He then contacted authorities immediately.

Jones said he decided to publicize the results of the investigation to quell some of the rumors circling throughout St. John Parish about there being a killing spree of some sort. There had been two other women’s bodies found recently, one which had floated down the river and

found in the Mississippi, and another which had been burned and discovered under a mattress. However none of the deaths appear related in any way, and the body found in the river appears to have floated from somewhere far upstream.

Chenier’s mother, Phyllis, had worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 23 years. Jones said the prayers of the St. John Sheriff’s Office are with the Chenier family.