An Orleans Parish grand jury on Thursday indicted William Bonham on charges of murder and obstruction of justice in the December slaying of onetime New Orleans mob fixer Kent “Frenchy” Brouillette at the victim’s St. Roch home.
Brouillette, 79, a larger-than-life pimp and gangster who was known for his dealings with legendary New Orleans Mafia godfather Carlos Marcello, was stabbed three times in the back in early December.
Police quickly arrested Bonham, Brouillette’s roommate, on a count of murder.
Police said in a warrant that a witness told them Bonham had admitted to killing Brouillette on Dec. 3, two days before his body was discovered in his home in the 2400 block of North Tonti Street.
According to a witness, Bonham 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.”
According to a friend, Bonham is a skilled musician who plays the mandolin and acoustic and electric guitars and also sings. Despite those talents, said David Hyde, of Hammond, Bonham had only infrequent gigs at a Frenchmen Street bar and struggled to make enough to pay the rent.
Bonham, whom police describe as unemployed, remained jailed in Orleans Parish late Thursday.
He faces a mandatory life prison term if convicted on the murder charge.
The nature of the alleged obstruction of justice was unclear.
Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier set bail for Bonham at $1 million on the second-degree murder count and $250,000 on the obstruction charge.
In his heyday, Brouillette was known for his lavish tastes and would wear designer suits, alligator boots and rings on every finger, according to Matthew Randazzo, a writer who in 2010 wrote a book with Brouillette titled “Mr. New Orleans: The Life of a Big Easy Underworld Legend.”
Randazzo said Brouillette drove new Cadillacs and served as a go-between for former Gov. Edwin Edwards — his cousin — and Marcello, leader of the city’s major organized crime family.
Brouillette frequently ran afoul of the law, federal court records show. Into his later years, Randazzo said, addiction to drugs and alcohol would lead to bouts of homelessness.
“He really was a legit old-school drunk gangster,” Randazzo said shortly after police found his body. “From 1953 to 2015, Frenchy was more or less continually on a bender.”
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