Teens accused in Norco murder

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010



LULING – Less than two days after St. Charles Parish sheriff’s deputies discovered a 78-year-old woman beaten to death inside her Norco home, investigators announced the arrest of four Norco teenagers in connection with the woman’s murder.

Late Sunday evening, sheriff’s authorities charged two 16-year-old boys with first-degree murder in the death of Mary Nancy Arico. St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne would not release the names of the boys because they are juveniles.

Also charged in connection with the murder were a 14-year-old girl and 17-year-old Pauline Deese. Champagne said the 14-year-old was charged with principle to first-degree murder for being with the boys when Arico was killed, while Deese, who is the sister of one of the 16-year-old suspects, was charged with accessory to first-degree murder for allegedly helping her brother to dispose of evidence.

Champagne said investigators determined that Arico was killed on the morning of Nov. 8, but her body was not discovered until Friday after Arico’s sister in New York called a neighbor to ask her to check on Arico because she had not heard from her sister in several weeks. Champagne said the neighbor called 911 after knocking on Arico’s door and got no answer.

“When deputies arrived at the home to do a welfare check, they found a rear door partially ajar,” Champagne said during a press conference Monday. “The victim was found severely beaten lying on the kitchen floor.”

Champagne said an autopsy conducted Saturday in New Orleans determined Arico died of blunt force trauma to the head, as well as multiple stab wounds. He said the suspects likely used items from within Arico’s home to beat her to death.

“The motive of this crime was robbery,” Champagne said. “They wanted money. The two male suspects knew of the woman and knew the area her home is in.”

Arico’s home is in the 100 block of Mary Street not far from the Norco refineries. The home is surrounded by empty lots, with a wooded area behind. Detectives do not believe the suspects knew Arico personally but did know she lived alone.

Champagne said the boys knocked on Arico’s door and asked to use her phone. He said while one distracted Arico the other grabbed objects and began beating the woman. Investigators do not know why or how the robbery escalated to a murder. Champagne said several small items were taken from the home. Arico’s murder is the third homicide in St. Charles Parish this year.

“Detectives canvassed the area and talked to several people in the area about what happened,” Champagne said. “We received several tips from other juveniles about statements made by the suspects. The teens weren’t believed at first because no body had been found. Once more information was made public, more people came forward.”

Champagne said two of the teens have criminal history but would not say what they had been arrested for in the past. He said his office is working with the district attorney’s office to determine if the 16-year-olds can be tried as adults. The boys face a lifetime prison sentence if they are convicted.

“It is unusual to see perpetrators this age committing crimes of this nature,” Champagne said. “It’s truly horrific.”

Deese is being held in Nelson Coleman Correctional Center, while the others were sent to area juvenile facilities. No bond was set for any of the suspects.