Arrest made in motel murder

Published 8:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2012



METAIRIE – Authorities in Jefferson Parish arrested a Reserve man in connection with the murder of LaPlace resident King Honore, a St. John Parish elementary school teacher’s aide who was found strangled inside a Metairie hotel room last week.

James Vandell Hutchinson, 39, was booked with second-degree murder Wednesday, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato. Hutchinson was arrested after being questioned at the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Fortunato said investigators used DNA evidence collected at the scene to link Hutchinson to Honore’s murder. Honore, a LaPlace resident whose home was flooded by Hurricane Isaac, was found strangled to death on Sept. 28 inside a room at the LaQuinta Inn, 3100 S. Interstate 10 Service Road in Metairie, where he had been staying since Sept. 3.

It’s not clear how long Honore had been dead by the time a housekeeper discovered his body lying beside his motel room bed. According to a Sheriff’s Office report, a second housekeeper reported seeing a man lying on the floor in the same room one day earlier on Sept. 27. She told investigators she assumed the man had “passed out from being highly intoxicated.”

Fortunato said a DNA sample was submitted to the Sheriff’s Office’s crime lab and it matched Hutchinson’s profile. Fortunato said Hutchinson has an extensive criminal record that includes arrests for attempted murder, aggravated battery, domestic abuse, robbery and assorted drug and traffic charges.

According to St. John Parish interim school superintendent Herbert Smith, Honore was a paraprofessional at East St. John Elementary School in LaPlace. He had been with the school district for 14 years and worked as a teacher’s aide at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary before coming to East St. John six years ago. Honore handled special education classes with mostly sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Investigating detectives Rhonda Goff and Donald Zanotelli tried to track Hutchinson down at his last known address, 204 Homewood Place, Reserve, on Tuesday but were unsuccessful.

On Wednesday, St. John Sheriff’s Office detectives said Hutchinson contacted their office and said he would come in for questioning. There, Goff and Zanotelli questioned Hutchinson about the murder. Fortunato said Hutchinson told Goff he visited Honore at the hotel around the time frame of the murder but denied any involvement in the incident. Hutchinson refused to answer any further questions without first speaking to an attorney.

Fortunato said investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Hutchinson and took him into custody in St. John, where he was charged as a fugitive from Jefferson Parish. He was later transferred to the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna and booked with murder. Bond has not been set. There is still no word on a motive in Honore’s killing.