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Voodoo murder shook future ghost town

MONTZ — In 1974, the United States government used eminent domain to seize the homes of all property owners in Montz. Soon after, the Army Corp. of Engineers built “an emergency levee” south of LaPlace, where the little village once stood.

However, a quarter-century before this landmark land appropriation, the town made national headlines for another injustice, the voodoo murder of Blanche Montz.

From the United Press syndicate, Thursday, March 16, 1950:

“Authorities said today they are completely baffled in their search for the crazed killer who fatally shot a 41-year-old Montz housewife and brutally mutilated the sex organs of her lifeless body.”

“Leo Montz, 47, found his wife dead in their river-level home yesterday evening at 4:45 after working at a paint plant all day. He said he last saw his wife at 6 a.m. Montz found her body face down in a pool of blood, pillowed by her folded arms. The shotgun lay next to the body with the muzzle near her head.”

“Montz said he and his wife, Blanche, had no enemies. Since his surname matched that of the town, locals referred to him as the mayor, and they called Blanche the jolliest woman in the parish. He said he never knew her not to be singing or laughing with a big smile on her face.”

“St. Charles Sheriff Leon C. Vial, Jr., said he has not the slightest idea who murdered her. He said they had no suspects, and that the Montz’s neighbors are frightened and flabbergasted.”

“According to the lawman, the slayer killed Mrs. Montz with a 12-gauge shotgun she used to kill rats. He said, ‘It looks like she was on the floor, on her knees, begging for her life when he fired.’ Fifteen minutes later, the sheriff said, her attacker fired a second blast into her groin.”

“The sheriff said mothers should keep their children indoors and their menfolk close at home to protect them.”

The following day, the Associated Press reported:

“Parish Coroner J. Earl Clayton confirmed Sheriff Vial’s earlier report that Blanche Montz died after the first shot hit her around 9:30 a.m. The second shot came at 9:45 a.m., according to reports from two relatives living next door. Joe Montz and his mother thought the shots came from teenagers hunting on the other side of a levee.”

“Dr. Clayton said the killer placed the shotgun muzzle above Mrs. Montz’s left shoulder and fired downward. The shot penetrated the heart and ripped the abdomen, killing her instantly.”

“Hours after the woman died, he said, the slayer turned her body over, leaving it lying face down, and fixed her arms in a specific way.”

That same day, the Hammond Vindicator printed:

“Deputy Sheriff Ed Guidry of Norco said today his office expects to make an arrest in the mysterious shotgun slaying Wednesday of 41-year-old Mrs. Leo Montz by the end of the week.”

“The suspect, Guidry revealed, is a Creole witch doctor.”

“According to the deputy, among other clues not reported about the crime scene, a voodoo curse had been set up in the Montz home, laid out as a flask attached to a crude doll and suspended from the ceiling. The doll’s head pointed downward, revealing a name scrawled on its back.”

“Deputy Guidry said he could not reveal the name, but said the man was their prime suspect. He said his office would make an arrest soon.”

On the morning of March 18, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported:

“A hitchhiker, picked up for interrogation in the murder of Mrs. Leo Montz in St Charles Parish, was released after questioning by police Tuesday.”

“St. Charles Parish Chief Deputy Sheriff Edward Prejean said the man was taken into custody in Houma and knew nothing about the killing.”

“Sheriff Leon Vial reported earlier that his office had arrested the man on suspicion.”

But that afternoon, the Associated Press confirmed Guidry’s voodoo claim:

“Authorities now believe the murderer of Blanche Montz was a madman into Voodoo.”

“Voodoo, the witchcraft of slaves brought over from Africa, is known to be practiced in the Montz area, Coroner Earl Clayton now admits, reporting local Creole peoples make themselves up as Voodoo doctors.”

“Mrs. Montz, a 41-year-old childless housewife, was not a Creole. However, Montz is a perfect setting for the weird rites of Voodoo.”

“Heavily wooded with ancient moss-hung oaks, the tiny farming village is one of the oldest settlements along that portion of the Mississippi River 30 miles upstream from New Orleans.”

“Within sight of the house where the mysterious slaying occurred stands an ancient post-office building, no longer used, its hand-hewn cypress shingles trailing a long beard of moss.”

“Dr. Clayton said Mrs. Montz did not believe in Voodoo-ism. However, he said, it is possible someone believed she was under a spell, or that she had put a spell on them. A neighbor may have killed her to free her from the spell or to free himself or herself, he said.”

“The doctor added that the Voodoo angle is only one of many authorities are investigating.”

“This was a horrible, gruesome killing, he said, but insisting they found no clue to the killer or no motive whatsoever.”

“Dr. Clayton said authorities are still investigating the possibility that another breed of madman did the slaying. He said that authorities must consider science as well as superstition. Family intermarriage is common among Creoles, he said, and interracial biogenetics is a funny thing.”

“‘Sometimes cross-breeding works out for the best and improves the strain, but sometimes it causes mental instability. We are looking into the possibility a cross-bred person of unstable mind, possibly without a motive, killed Mrs. Montz without realizing what he had done anything wrong,’” the elected official said.

On March 22, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported:

“In New Orleans, Detective Captain William J. Dowie, head of the homicide squad, said his men are continuing to look for a slim, young man who posed with a copy of the New Orleans States headlining the Montz murder, one night after the event.”

“Dowie said the man posed for a woman photographer with his shirt opened to show deep scratches on his neck. He said the man in the photograph was between 23 and 26 years of age, about six feet tall, and weighed about 140 pounds.”

Leo Montz died in June 6, 1962. He had no children and never remarried. The government bought the Montz home from a cousin in 1974.

Today, the murder of Blanche Eve Bourgeois Montz remains unsolved.

This article submitted by HL Arledge of “Bayou Justice,” a weekly true crime column featuring exciting or notable crime-related stories often focusing on cold case files in South Louisiana; stories based on interviews with key players, among them: police investigators, lawyers, victims, and their families. If you have information regarding this case or another unsolved crime, contact Crime Stoppers or your local police agency, or email bayoujustice@hammondstar.com.