Update: Body of missing girl found

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, July 6, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

VACHERIE — The tragic conclusion to a six-day search for a missing St. James Parish girl came Sunday morning when authorities found the body of 12-year-old Talaija Dorsey at the edge of a cane field.

St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. said Talaija’s body was found at 10:20 a.m. Sunday on Louisiana 3127, the same road authorities said was the focus of their investigation Friday.

Martin previously told L’OBSERVATEUR authorities were focusing on Louisiana 3127 because it was believed to be the route John D. Celestine took from the home he shared with Talaija and her mother to his work in Jefferson Parish.

Celestine, 42, is in jail, charged Wednesday with obstruction because Martin said he has not been cooperating with authorities.

“We’re still holding that person,” Martin said about Celestine during a news conference Sunday. “We’re hoping that we will find evidence at the scene that will help us.”

A massive search for Talaija had been under way since Tuesday morning.

Police said Celestine is engaged to Talaija’s mother and the three lived at 8303 Pecan St. in St. James Parish.

Responding to reports that Talaija had complained to her mother previously about unwanted contact from Celestine, Martin previously said the Sheriff’s Office had received no such complaint.

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Martin was complimentary of neighbors on Pecan Street and St. James community members in general, saying numerous people had volunteered to help with the search and most had been welcoming when authorities searched near-by homes.

“We have been using (community volunteers) to kind of soften up the community so when we came back in the community and started home searching, they knew what our intentions were,” Martin said. “We just wanted to make sure she was not hiding in a house.

“I can’t brag enough about the community’s support. They still want to get more engaged. The churches and community leaders are doing a lot of things to support us, supplying water and a lot of other things.”

On Friday authorities said they were looking for a 2001 white Chrysler Concord, four- door, in connection with the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 1-855-TIPS-247, text a tip to 888777 or call 1-877-903-STOP. There may be a $2,500 reward.

Major Sid Berthelot said authorities were alerted to Talaija’s disappearance Tuesday.

“Her mother reported her being missing after waking up Tuesday morning and discovering her daughter was not in their home,” he said in a release. “After searching her house and nearby houses belonging to relatives, Talaija’s mother contacted the sheriff’s office when she could not locate her daughter.”

Detectives interviewed family and friends in an attempt to develop leads.

Law enforcement agencies that searched for Talaija included the sheriff’s offices in St. James, Livingston, Assumption, Jefferson, Ascension and St. Charles parishes, the Kenner Police Department, Louisiana State Police and an F.B.I. Task Force.

ATVs and two helicopters were being utilized to aid in searching areas that were difficult to access.

As the investigation into the disappearance of Talaija moved forward, Berthelot said St. James detectives developed Celestine as a person of interest on Tuesday.

Berthelot said Celestine is the fiancé of Talaija’s mother.

“Due to the potential of additional charges, elements of the investigation involving John Celestine are not being released,” Berthelot said. “He is currently incarcerated at the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office Jail in Convent.”