Roommate suspected in murder of New Orleans mobster Kent ‘Frenchy’ Brouillette; body may have gone undiscovered for days _lowres

William Bonham

After a long life spent getting in other people’s faces, reputed New Orleans mobster Kent “Frenchy” Brouillette met his end by being stabbed in the back.

Police said that when 5th District officers found the body of Brouillette, 79, inside a rundown St. Roch house in the 2400 block of North Tonti Street on Saturday morning, he was lying between the couch and a coffee table in the living room.

The onetime Carlos Marcello henchman had been stabbed from behind three times.

Authorities allege that Brouillette’s roommate, a down-on-his-luck musician named William Bonham, did the deed.

Police said in a warrant that a witness told them Bonham had admitted to killing Brouillette on Thursday night, two days before his body was discovered.

Bonham apparently claimed he stabbed Brouillette, 29 years his senior, to save his own life. The witness told police that Bonham said Brouillette “came at him with a knife, and he stabbed the guy in self-defense.”

Bonham was booked on one count of second-degree murder Sunday after being arrested at Tulane Medical Center, according to court records. A Police Department spokesman did not explain why he was taken into custody at a hospital.

Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell ordered Bonham held on $500,000 bail.

One of Bonham’s friends expressed shock that the man he knew as a kindly master of the mandolin could have committed a murder. David Hyde of Hammond said the only way Bonham could have killed somebody was in self-defense.

“I don’t think the guy had a violent streak in him. And I think maybe the other guy might have come at him,” said Hyde, 61. “This just doesn’t seem like something Willy Bonham would do.”

Bonham is a skilled musician who plays the mandolin and acoustic and electric guitars and also sings, Hyde said. Despite those talents, he said, Bonham had infrequent gigs at a Frenchmen Street bar and struggled to make enough to pay the rent.

Hyde said Bonham was forced to live in the “substandard” apartment on North Tonti Street, although he did not recall any conversations about him boarding with Brouillette.

“He just said (the residence) was horrible, and he was trying to get on his feet and get work going,” Hyde said.

Hyde said his friend had suffered a major blow about two weeks ago when his musical equipment was stolen.

Online Orleans and Jefferson Parish court records show no previous felony arrests for Bonham.

“I just don’t think he did that,” Hyde said. “If you could take the most gentle human being you know and read about him doing something this crazy, this is how crazy this is.”