‘It was very gruesome with multiple body parts’

Published 12:11 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

LAPLACE — As a veteran of the St. John the Baptist Parish Coroner’s Office for three decades, Dr. Christy Montegut has examined many dead bodies.

Still, the discovery of a severed arm Dec. 29 in LaPlace led to a first.

“I’ve been coroner for 29 years and I’ve never had a case like this with dismembered body parts,” Montegut said this week. “It was very gruesome with multiple body parts.”

Kenner resident Viusqui J. Perez-Espinosa, 44, was arrested this week, part of a major announcement led by Kenner Police following the death of Ivis Alexis Portales-Lara.

Authorities believe Espinosa killed Lara in a fit of jealous rage Nov. 11 following Lara’s romantic involvement with Espinosa’s ex-girlfriend.

Police now believe Espinosa tossed numerous black plastic bags containing Lara’s body parts into the Reserve Canal off an elevated portion of Interstate 10 in St. John the Baptist Parish on Nov. 12.

That information was not known two days before the New Year when a single arm was located by a local fisherman and his daughter, who were fishing in the Reserve Canal.

Montegut said his office was notified of the case and sent an investigator to the scene to examine the arm.

“You first make sure it is human,” Montegut said. “We’ve had cases before where it’s animal body parts and somebody thinks it was a human. This was obviously human. There was flesh.”

Montegut said authorities first hoped to get fingerprints off the hand but determined they weren’t suitable for analysis.

The arm was transported to the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office, which handles local autopsies, Montegut said.

Since the Dec. 29 arm discovery, additional body parts have been found in the local canal, and they have all been locally secured and evaluated before being shipped to Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

The torso and legs have been discovered, but the skull is still missing.

Montegut said he is happy authorities made an arrest this week and, most importantly, identified the deceased.

Espinosa is being held in Jefferson Parish under an $800,000 bond, charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.