More people have been murdered so far this year in East Baton Rouge Parish than in all of last year.
But the number of days on which a killing occurred was lower this year than last, owing to a disturbing pattern: double and triple homicides grew more common.
Authorities can’t explain why there have been two triple homicides and seven double homicides in 2015, up from one triple and two doubles last year. The number of incidents in which two or more people were killed in East Baton Rouge Parish hasn’t risen above five for each of the past five years, except this year. There have been nine through October.
A handful of these killings — such as those of three brothers in Central, who police say were shot dead in September by a man who soon fired a bullet into his brain, and the slayings of Texas women Corrin Rayford and Brandi Gilbert, who were inexplicably found dead in a car on Boone Drive in June — have driven up the local homicide count to 67 through Saturday, with two months left of 2015.
Last year, there were 63 homicides in East Baton Rouge Parish. The numbers, which follow the FBI’s definition to tally deaths categorized by law enforcement as murder or manslaughter, don’t include justifiable or negligent killings.
Shots in morning
“I went to sleep, and I dreamed about gunshots. I woke my husband up, and I said, ‘Did you hear some gunshots?’ And he said, ‘No.’ I laid back down, and then I heard gunshots. And I just told my husband, ‘Oh, my baby gone.’ ”
That’s how Mary Thomas, 69, remembers the early morning of Aug. 2, when a grandson she raised was gunned down along with two people he knew.
Antoine Harris was only 23. Thomas said she stumbled upon his body while looking for him outside in the dark. He lay next to Kevin Ford, 24, and Fredrick Corner, 25. Harris was already “crippled,” she said, from a shooting to the leg years earlier.
Thomas stood in that spot again Friday, just steps from her Plank Road apartment in the Fairfield section of north Baton Rouge. A building separating her dwelling from the murder scene is sprayed with the words, “Keep Out,” in dripping red paint.
Her own doors display another kind of writing. One hand-scrawled message by Alayshia, the 6-year-old daughter Harris left behind, says: “I miss my dady I want him back home whiy did they cel him.” The girl, who’d been living with her father in Thomas’ apartment since before the killing, outlined the letter in blue crayon, for her father’s favorite color.
“It’s like we’ve lost the ability to communicate,” said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, remarking on the high number of murders. “We’ve lost the ability (on the part) of our young men and women, to talk things out.”
Dabadie says he sees more interpersonal disputes being resolved through violence, a problem authorities say is most concentrated in the 70802 and 70805 zip codes, along with a few other pockets of the Baton Rouge metro area, due to gang violence. Four of the nine double or triple homicides this year were in those zip codes.
“I wish I could tell you why,” said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III. While he posited that the double and triple murders could be due to stronger weapons being fired from afar, he doesn’t believe there’s necessarily been a rise in gang activity.
“No one comes up person-to-person anymore. They’re more cowardly,” he said.
September’s Central killing — which took the lives of brothers Perry Allen, 55, Joseph Allen, 57, and Mark Allen, 51, along with alleged shooter and acquaintance, Rodney Chemin, 60, who committed suicide — was the first triple homicide East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux’s deputies investigated in his eight years in that position, he said.
“Each year, we are seeing domestic-related homicides increase. These homicides are difficult to predict and prevent in terms of visibility (and) drug-enforcement efforts,” he said in an email.
Three months after Antoine Harris was killed, Baton Rouge police still haven’t made any arrests in the case, citing a lack of witnesses willing to talk.
“I just need some type of closure to this,” said the young man’s brother, Troydell Harris, 33. His many calls to detectives, he said, apparently haven’t helped them solve the murder.
“I still take it kind of hard a little bit. That was my little brother, and I loved him,” he said. “I just hope they catch them, whoever it is, because they’re still out here.”
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.