Read an Excerpt
By Susan D. Mustafa Tony Clayton Sue Israel
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Susan D. Mustafa and Tony Clayton with Sue Israel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneConnie Lynn Warner
In late summer 1992, Louisiana residents were busily preparing for Hurricane Andrew, which had come through Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico only a few days before. There's nothing that can raise tensions in the middle of a humid Louisiana summer faster than a strong, approaching hurricane, and residents of Baton Rouge and its suburbs hurried to stock up on last-minute supplies-water, gasoline, nonperishables, and plywood and tape to protect vulnerable windows. Andrew had carved a destructive path over the Bahamas and through the lower parts of Florida and was lurking in the Gulf, carefully choosing its next victims.
The townspeople in Zachary, a small town about fourteen miles northeast of Baton Rouge, were not as concerned as those who lived in lower-lying areas closer to the coastlines.
Connie Lynn Warner was a bit concerned, though not about the hurricane. She was worried about the black man she had seen peeping into the windows of her home in Oak Shadows subdivision. Connie had made a report to the police and had not seen the man since, but still, she worried.
Connie had moved to the subdivision only four years before, attracted to the pretty rows ofstarter homes, which lined the streets of the neighborhood-streets named Job and Saul and Eli, Leviticus and Numbers, their names taken from the Bible. Connie lived on Job Avenue, on the corner, in a pretty pale-brick home with a single carport and large yard. A privacy fence ran along the back edge of her property, separating her home from the backyards of those on the next street.
After many years of living with her parents, Jack and Betty Brooks, Connie was excited that she was finally making it on her own. She had divorced her husband when her daughter, Tracy, was only a baby. Zachary was the perfect place to raise the child around whom Connie had built her world.
In 1992, Zachary was much smaller than it is today, quiet and charming with old family homes situated on large properties in neighborhoods that lined country roads. There were not many commercial structures to be found beyond the town's small business sector. The Zachary Police Department (ZPD) sat amidst a few businesses on the main road in the center of town. As Baton Rouge experienced the exodus of many middle- to high-income families searching for better schools in which to educate their children, the town experienced a boom, and construction accelerated.
But in August of 1992, Zachary still retained its small-town appeal, complete with low crime rates and friendly neighbors who enjoyed easy accessibility to Baton Rouge when things became too monotonous.
Connie was unaware that the safe neighborhood filled with other single mothers and families just starting out had already become fodder for a man who lived just down Highway 964 in St. Francisville, a man who liked to watch light-skinned women with dark hair.
Oak Shadows subdivision runs alongside Azalea Rest Cemetery, whose majestic oaks proudly cast shadows over the edge of the subdivision when the sun is positioned in the west. With huge roots sprawling above ground, these expansive oaks also provide shade for those buried in rows beneath their branches. Flowers and toys surround graves whose markers denote time lines back through the 1800s.
While the dead peacefully rested, young mothers in Oak Shadows subdivision hurried about their lives in blissful ignorance of the danger that lurked in the shadows of the cemetery.
Connie couldn't have been happier when she bought her home. Finally she had a place where she and Tracy could build a life. That accomplishment had been difficult. She had gone into her marriage with high hopes, only to find herself alone with a child to raise. She had gotten a job with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals as an accountant, but she was laid off shortly after she moved into Oak Shadows because she didn't have a college degree. Upset by this setback, Connie once again enlisted her parents' help, and they agreed to take care of her bills while she concentrated on earning her degree. In 1990, Connie graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, equipped with the diploma that would ensure her future. She soon found another job with the state, and she and Tracy at last had the financial security that Connie had worked so hard to achieve. Connie's worries were put to rest-until she saw the man peeping into her window.
Connie was not one to go out much, especially at night. Her poor vision did not allow many excursions after dark because it was too difficult for her to see clearly. She went to work and went home, unless Tracy had an activity she needed to attend. Connie always made time to go to Tracy's basketball and football games, proud that her daughter had been chosen for the cheerleading squad. But mostly her evenings consisted of cross-stitching and sewing and watching television.
Although very attractive, with her curly brown hair, pretty green eyes, which were partly hidden behind large hard-rimmed glasses, and her open, friendly smile, Connie preferred to stay home. She chose to devote her life to her seventeen-year-old daughter and was happy with her simple existence. She had worked hard in her forty-one years and was content with the peaceful life she had created.
A steamy night in August, one week before her forty-second birthday, would change all of that. Someone was watching, waiting for the right moment to strike. Police are not sure when Connie Warner's world was invaded by an unknown man bent on her destruction-if it was August 23 or 24. But they know that she was alone that weekend. Tracy had gone to stay with her boyfriend, Andre Burgas, although Connie thought her daughter was staying at a friend's while going through orientation at Louisiana State University (LSU). Connie knew the importance of a good education, and she was proud that Tracy would soon be attending the university.
Just five days before Connie disappeared, a husky black man who lived in St. Francisville, less than twenty miles up the road from Oak Shadows subdivision, lost his job with the Cecil Graves automobile dealership. Connie did not know this man, but he had worked in the construction industry in Zachary throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. He knew the area well. He knew the subdivision. He was drawn to it through the beautiful young women who lived there.
He liked watching them.
And he was filled with an unending yearning to possess just one of them. The loss of his job only perpetuated the anger and rage he felt inside-the feelings of incompetence, of not being good enough. Though he tried, he could not keep a job or get the women he desired to take notice of him.
On that hot August weekend, the man's hunger took on its own life, stirring and whirling about inside him like the hurricane that lingered in the Gulf. So he drove to Oak Shadows subdivision, determined to take possession of the slender woman upon whom he had spied.
Connie sat alone in the house on Job Avenue, cross-stitching what could possibly have been her vision of herself and Tracy-a Southern room with a lady and a young girl dressed in ruffled gowns with a window opened wide to a view of the world. The television provided a distraction from the needle that slowly wove in and out through the pattern. Perhaps it was a knock at the back door that prompted Connie to hook the needle in the pattern and lay it on the floor in front of her. Perhaps she opened the door to investigate a noise, nervous about the Peeping Tom. There were no signs of forced entry, but telltale clues within the house would later provide a picture of what happened next.
It was about nine o'clock on the evening of August 24 when Tracy returned home. She noticed immediately that her mother was not there, but the teenager was not too concerned because the television was on. She thought that perhaps Connie had gone to visit a neighbor and would be home shortly.
By 10:30 P.M., when Connie still had not come home, Tracy became worried and called her grandparents, but she could not reach them. She had noticed that things in the home were out of place. Tracy ran to several of her neighbors' houses and asked if they had seen her mother. They had not.
By 11:30 P.M., she finally got in touch with her grandparents. Jack Brooks rushed right over. Tracy showed him the washer and dryer, which appeared to have been pushed back, and pointed out spots of blood on the utility room floor. On the carport, Jack noticed three buttons that looked as if they had been ripped from a shirt. He looked in Connie's 1989 Chevy Cavalier and saw vomit on the backseat. Very worried, Jack called the police.
Officer D.L. Courtney was the first to arrive. He questioned Jack and Tracy, and then began to inspect the home. Sergeant Bruce Chaisson arrived next.
"Connie would not just go off at night without letting Tracy know where she was," Jack assured Chaisson. "She wouldn't do that."
The hood of the car told the officer that this was not just a case of a woman going out for the evening. There was brown hair stuck to the hood, where marks indicated that someone had lain across it. There was vomit on the right corner. The side of the car was dusty, but outlines in the dust indicated that someone had slid across the car from the passenger's door to the driver's door. Chaisson found vomit in the backseat, as well as part of a belt buckle. He also saw the three lavender buttons.
"Those belong to a striped blouse my mom always wears," Tracy said. "And this door-it's always locked. My mom never leaves a door unlocked, even when she's here."
Chaisson examined the carport door and found no signs of forced entry. Opening it, he went into the utility room, where he noticed three blood spatters on the floor between the door and the washing machine. The washer was out of place, as if someone might have grabbed hold of it to keep from being pulled out of the house. Another piece of broken belt was found on the dryer.
Connie's bedroom revealed more clues. The mattress of the bed had been pushed against the nightstand; the bottom drawer, where Connie always kept a can of Mace, was partially opened. The top sheet, which Connie always tucked in, was tangled in the middle of the bed, indicating that some sort of a struggle had occurred there. Connie's glasses were lying on the floor. Detectives later found a small bloodstain on the carpet beside the bed. A pair of pink pants and white panties bearing bloodstains were also entered into evidence.
Chaisson was convinced that Connie was missing and possibly harmed. He and other officers secured the crime scene. Tracy and her grandparents waited anxiously for Connie to come home, staring at the phone hoping for a call, pacing back and forth, asking everyone who knew Connie if they had seen her. But Connie never came home.
The vomit on the front of the car and in the backseat verified that Connie had been alive when she was taken. The buttons ripped from her shirt found lying on the ground indicated that she had put up a fight. Connie did not go with her attacker quietly-yet no one in the small neighborhood heard her cries. Her keys would never be found. A witness would later tell police that he had seen a man carrying a bundle walking toward Connie's car that night, but the man had then placed the bundle into another vehicle parked behind hers-a red Buick.
Jack, Betty, and Tracy would never know exactly how it had happened, but they would eventually know who had done it-although the man who had so cruelly destroyed their lives would never be officially linked to Connie's murder. Any clues that might have surfaced with the discovery of Connie's body would be washed away by a hurricane.
Andrew roared through Baton Rouge on August 26, although its strength was diminished by its journey from the coast to Louisiana's capital city. By the time Baton Rougeans were huddled in their homes, taking cover from the storm, Andrew's winds were only seventy miles per hour, not enough to do serious damage to homes and residents. The storm moved on to the north, leaving behind some downed trees and homes without electricity for several days. But this hurricane would have a major impact on the investigation of a murder that happened only miles from Baton Rouge. Connie Warner's body, exposed during the storm, would rapidly decompose, and clues to her attacker would disappear with Andrew. Meanwhile, Connie's parents and daughter would spend endless nights waiting for news that she had been found, hopefully alive.
For nine days, they waited.
On September 2, a truck driver discovered Connie's corpse on Sorrel Street, near downtown Baton Rouge. Her badly decomposed body, found by the Capitol Lake, close to the state capitol building, did not offer much in the way of evidence for police. They could only determine that she had died from a skull fracture, apparently from a beating of some kind. There was no other evidence, no fingerprints or tracks in the grass, no DNA. Nothing. Andrew had washed away any clues that could have led police to the killer.
After Connie's death, Tracy moved in with her grandparents once more and tried to go on with her life. It was difficult because there were no answers, no reasons why, no arrests. Connie was simply gone, and so was her killer. It would be eleven years before her family would get some inkling as to who had committed this despicable act. Eleven years of wondering.
But someone did know, and after he had dumped Connie's body by the lake, he felt the satisfaction that comes with power, the power to hold a human life in his hands, the power to make another human being succumb to his whims. He had held the light-skinned woman, had felt her hair, had run his fingers along her cheekbones as she begged for mercy. He had made her his. His appetite had been appeased.
For a while.
It is possible that Connie Warner may not have been this man's first victim, although it is widely thought that she was. A young LSU student, Melissa Montz, had disappeared many years before, in 1985, as she was jogging along River Road in Baton Rouge. Her decomposed body had been discovered close to the LSU golf course by a golfer retrieving a ball. She had been strangled. And another woman, Joyce Taylor, had been murdered in her home in Baton Rouge, stabbed to death just three months before Connie's abduction. Joyce had been a physical education teacher at the man's high school.
Connie's death was a shock to the small community of Zachary, a warning of things to come. But residents in Zachary and Baton Rouge would not know for many years that they had a much larger problem. A problem bigger than just one murder.
If this man was indeed responsible for Melissa's and Joyce's deaths, then Connie's murder made three, and a serial killer had been born on that night in Oak Shadows subdivision. A killer who would hold a vast area of Louisiana in a grip of terror for many years to come. No one was safe.
But back then, ignorance was bliss.
Chapter TwoThe Cemetery
The young man crouched low beside his car, surrounded by the dead, hiding among them. He was usually comfortable there, but not on this cool November night in 1992. It had been only three months since he had left the woman by the lake, but he hadn't forgotten the feel of her-the taste of forbidden fruit. He had come back to Zachary for more. Even though the cool night air blew across the tombstones, he was sweating. He had ridden the girl's bicycle hard to get back to his car. He heard the footsteps getting closer, saw the glare of flashlights illuminating the graveyard. He had to make his escape.
He jumped into his red Buick Electra, revved the engine, and sped out of the Azalea Rest Cemetery, heading down Highway 964. The police officers followed. The man threw his blue jacket out the window as he drove, determined to outrun the officers. They caught him at Shellmire Lane.
"Turn around and put your hands up," an officer commanded. The man complied. They had him.
The house in Fennwood subdivision, just across the highway from Oak Shadows, had looked like an easy mark. The man had been watching it. The golf course located behind the affluent homes had made watching easy. He had thought no one would be home, but the owner had arrived unexpectedly. The husky black man had tried to be friendly. (Continues...)
Excerpted from BLOOD BATH by Susan D. Mustafa Tony Clayton Sue Israel Copyright © 2009 by Susan D. Mustafa and Tony Clayton with Sue Israel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.