A tip led authorities Thursday afternoon to scour the woods off Nicholson Drive near a barn owned by a slain Baton Rouge couple, searching for possible human remains, but all they found were what’s believed to be animal bones.
The property was where 42-year-old Ernesto Llerena Alonso, the landscaper accused in the killings, had lived in an apartment above the barn.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said a tipster told detectives Thursday he had “direct knowledge” that Alonso, accused in the strangulation deaths of Denis “Bubbie” Duplantier, 71, and Suzanne “Suzy” Duplantier, 70, “had possibly committed some other murders and buried the bodies” on the Duplantier’s property at 4950 Nicholson Drive, near the barn.
Apparent animal bones were found at one area pointed out by the tipster as a possible burial site, Gautreaux said, but no other remains were found during the daylong search, which wrapped up about 6 p.m. Mobile command trailers from the Sheriff’s Office and State Police, along with dozens of other vehicles, were parked on the wooded property. A police helicopter circled the area for about a half-hour Thursday afternoon.
“Right now, we’re reasonably confident that what we’ve found is all we’re going to find” on the property, Gautreaux said.
The bones have been sent to a forensic lab at LSU to confirm that they are animal remains, the sheriff said.
Alonso, who was arrested by police in south Florida about 8 a.m. Wednesday, had lived in the barn apartment and done landscaping work for the couple for four or five years, Molly Smith, a close family friend of the Duplantiers, said Wednesday.
The bodies of the couple were found Monday night in the back seat of their pickup in the parking lot of a Hammond gas station.
Earlier Thursday, a Florida judge denied bail to Alonso, who will remain in jail in Broward County, Florida, while Baton Rouge authorities seek to have him extradited to Louisiana to face two counts each of first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Police have not yet identified an accomplice in the slayings, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said Thursday.
Authorities have said they’re searching for at least one more person, spotted on grainy surveillance video at the Hammond truck stop climbing into a white Chevrolet pickup that had been seen following the Duplantiers’ truck into the gas station.
Gautreaux said it’s possible there might be other suspects in the slayings.
The white Chevy pickup was found at a home in Hollywood, Florida, where police arrested Alonso. Hollywood, a seaside city, population 140,000, is about 15 miles north of Miami.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he wasn’t aware of any indication that Alonso, a Cuban national with permanent American residency, was trying to flee the country.
Also found in Florida was a “large amount of money” believed to have been taken from a safe in the Duplantiers’ Highland Road home, Baton Rouge police said Wednesday, though authorities have not said how much money was recovered or how much was believed to have been taken from the safe, which was found open. Blood was found in several rooms in the couple’s home, indicating there was a fight.
An extradition hearing for Alonso is scheduled Monday. Moore said he’d spoken with an attorney for Alonso, but it wasn’t yet clear if he would try to fight extradition to Louisiana.
“We’re in the process of trying to prepare extradition cases,” Moore said.
If Alonso decides to fight extradition, Moore said, the process could take “a week, two weeks at the longest,” though proceedings could last as long as three months.
Baton Rouge detectives are still in Florida interviewing the suspect, though Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola declined to say whether Alonso is cooperating with police.
At a news conference on the edge of the Nicholson Drive property Thursday, Gautreaux asked that the public continue to come forward with any information about Alonso or the Duplantier slayings.
“We still have at least one suspect … out there,” the sheriff said.
* This story was edited after publication to correct the spelling of Bubbie Duplantier.