Despite his claims of innocence, the longtime boyfriend of Jorion White’s mother was jailed Monday on suspicion of murdering White, the Kenner teenager whose lifeless body was found April 24 in a remote part of St. Rose.
Daniel Lee Beckley, 40, killed White, 16, then used his car to dispose of her corpse about two days before the body was discovered in “an advanced state of decomposition,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said at a news conference.
Champagne didn’t release many details about the case against Beckley, but he said detectives were “confident and comfortable” in arresting Beckley on the basis of witness testimony as well as physical and forensic evidence that he said implicated the suspect.
Michelle Price, 38, was working her overnight job when she left her daughter in the care of Beckley at their home in the 2600 block of Phoenix Street in Kenner late on April 21, Champagne said.
White, a junior at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School, did not show up for classes the next day or return home in the evening, leading her family to report her as missing to Kenner police.
Passers-by spotted White’s body in a drainage ditch near some woods just north of a railroad crossing on St. Rose Avenue two days later. Pink curlers in her hair helped authorities identify the teen’s body, but it wasn’t until Friday that the St. Charles Coroner’s Office determined the death was a homicide, Champagne said.
Champagne declined to discuss any injuries the girl may have suffered, citing the decomposed state of the body. He also didn’t explain where investigators believe the girl was killed but said they were confident Beckley had used his car — confiscated last week — to dump her body in a remote spot in a neighboring parish.
Champagne added that some surveillance camera videos from the area “proved to be very meaningful and substantial” but did not elaborate.
St. Charles investigators, who were leading the probe into White’s death because she was found in their jurisdiction, obtained a warrant to arrest Beckley. Authorities arranged to meet him Monday and arrested him, Champagne said.
White’s family members were devastated at the outcome of the case, but they expressed relief that Beckley was in custody, given that they were suspicious of him “very early” in the investigation, Champagne said.
He said White’s family was skeptical of Beckley because he was the last known person to have “care, custody and control” of the girl. The sheriff said he believed Beckley previously lived in St. Charles Parish and was familiar with the area where White’s body turned up.
In an interview with The New Orleans Advocate last week, Beckley acknowledged that relatives of Price — his girlfriend of nearly a decade — believed he had killed White because he was the last one known to have been with her.
Some among a crowd of about 100 people who assembled at White’s house shortly after the girl’s body was found shouted that Beckley had killed her. Kenner police arrested five people accused of creating a disturbance by trying to force their way into the home to confront Beckley.
In the interview, Beckley denied having anything to do with White’s disappearance or her death. But he said investigators met his assertions of innocence dubiously, swabbing his mouth for DNA, attempting to give him a lie-detector test and calling him “a killer” during questioning before he was temporarily released from custody.
Beckley said investigators also told him he had been accused by White’s relatives of molesting the teen, something he denied. Champagne wouldn’t comment on that issue Monday.
Beckley, who has a son from a previous relationship who is about White’s age, said he was forbidden from returning to the home he shared with Price and was ordered to stay away from White’s funeral in Kenner on Saturday.
He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning.
Attempts to contact Price were unsuccessful. However, after investigators obtained a warrant to arrest Beckley, White’s brother, Darrius Price, wrote on Facebook, “God is good.”