Murder, disappearance still unsolved mystery

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If you are a lifelong resident of St. John the Baptist Parish, then you may recall the two murders that took place on Frenier Road on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain many years ago.

The date was Nov. 26, 1956, and Mr. Henry Monaret, an avid hunter, was in the woods hunting when he saw a car parked near the lakeshore with a man and woman inside. He could see them moving around, so he continued on his way. The next day, Mr. Monaret returned to the area to hunt and could not help but notice the same car, in the same location, but no one was moving around.

He watched for a minute or so, and after seeing that no one was moving, he decided to walk up closer to get a better look into the car. As he approached the car, he saw a man lying face down covered with blood and appearing to be dead. The woman he saw the day before was not there. He remember the car as being a 1953 Nash, blue in color and the right door was open and the right front seat was lying back. Mr. Monaret immediately left the area and went for help.

He went to the home of the sheriff at the time, Sheriff P.D. Hebert, and told him what he had found. They returned to the end of Frenier Road and discovered the male had been shot with a shotgun, and the pellets had passed through the side window, striking the victim in the back of the head. As soon as the sheriff viewed the situation, he called for other deputies to respond to the crime scene.

A few minutes later Deputy Miliato, Deputy Troxlair, Deputy Deslotte, Deputy Vicknair and Deputy Oncle arrived. Louisiana State Police from Troop B were then called.

I became extremely interested in this case on the late 1980s. I talked to Mr. Gross, who was the coroner at the time of the murder. Mr. Gross told me that someone stood outside the car and shot through the window, striking the victim at the base of the skull. Mr. Gross said the person doing the shooting was so close to the car glass when the shot was fired that the wading from the shell was imbedded at the base of the victim’s skull.

The male victim in the car was identified as Thomas Hotard Sr. of Grenina, La. The female was nowhere to be found, but her clothes and identification were left at the crime scene. The identification showed the missing woman was Audrey M. Hotard, a white female, 31 years old. She was 5-foot-1 and weighed 110 pounds.

Sheriff Hebert at first thought it was a husband and wife but later found out the name of the female was Audrey Moute. She was a girlfriend of Thomas Hotard and was using his last name. Audrey drove a 1949 Oldsmobile, and it was missing.

The car was later found parked at Steins Restaurant in LaPlace, located across the street from Airline Motors. The investigation revealed that Ms. Moute’s clothes and purse were inside and outside the car. Her footprints went a short way down the road and then stopped, and there appeared to be scuff spots in the roadway along with a large boot or shoe prints. The footprints simply disappeared, and so had Audrey.

The Louisiana State Police, along with some 400 National Guard troops, Wildlife & Fisheries officers and private citizens searched the swamps for days, but to this day Audrey Moute has never been found.

The television show “Unsolved Mysteries” came to LaPlace and filmed for days, and the show has been shown over 30 times.

Shortly after the show aired, I received numerous phone calls and letters from all over the United States for people saying they had information about Audrey Moute’s whereabouts. After countless hours of phone calls and follow ups, nothing has brought this case to a close, and the person responsible for the murders has never been arrested or brought to justice.

I believe the remains of Audrey Moute will forever lie buried in the swamps of St. John the Baptist Parish. I hope maybe one day someone will find some of her remains that can be identified, and she can finally be laid to rest.

Maybe after reading this story, someone might have some information they never felt was important enough to come forward with, but now is the time to close this cold case and get it off your chest. Please give me a call, and together we might be able to put an end to the unsolved mystery of St. John Parish.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John thhe Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.