Update, 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 9, 2016:
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed his condolences to Thomas Rolfes’ family and fiancée on Facebook Monday, saying that Rolfes was “a highly valued member of our 2012 campaign team.”
“His warm smile and engaging personality lifted our spirits,” Romney’s post said. “His commitment and dedication to our effort made him an invaluable part of the campaign.”
Romney called Rolfes’ death “a senseless and tragic loss.”
Update, 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 9, 2016:
Surveillance video obtained by the New Orleans Advocate on Monday shows Thomas Rolfes, a St. Louis man in town to plan his wedding, minutes before his death early Saturday morning.
Can’t see the video? Click here.
Rolfes, 25, was wearing a pink checkered shirt. At about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, he entered the Delta Fuel gas station on S. Claiborne Avenue on the upriver side of the store, selected two bottles of water, paid for them and then left the store through its downriver door. (The faulty timestamp on the video is two hours behind of when the exchange actually occurred.)
The entire exchange lasted only a matter of seconds. Hussan Muntadhir, the store's owner, said he had spoken with the clerk who sold Rolfes the water bottles. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary during the two men's brief exchange, according to Muntadhir.
But one thing did stick out to Muntadhir: The fact that Rolfes bought two water bottles instead of one. He speculated that Rolfes may have been with another person who remained outside the store during the purchase.
A little more than an hour after the bottles were bought, the New Orleans Police Department got a call that Rolfes' body had been found near the corner of S. Claiborne Avenue and Amelia Street. He had been shot once in the chest.
Hesham Saymeih, 25, lives above a cellphone store that faces directly onto the site where Rolfes' body was found. Saymeih said he never sleeps through an alarm, and feels sure that the sound of a gunshot would have woken him.
"I heard nothing," Saymeih said. "I was surprised that a crime happened next to me. I was shocked."
Elizabeth Fried had just landed in New Orleans from Boston on Friday to look at venues for her wedding next year with her fiancé , 25-year-old Thomas Rolfes.
Her flight got in two hours after his, and when she got to the hotel, he had gone out with college friends, so she went to bed.
But when she woke up Saturday morning and he still wasn’t there, she knew something had gone wrong.
Then she saw a New Orleans Police Department news release saying a man had been found shot to death at Amelia Street and South Claiborne Avenue.
After several phone calls and a trip downtown, Fried, 24, helped the police identify the victim as the man she was planning to marry.
“I didn’t even get to see him,” she said Sunday.
Now, Fried is left trying to make sense of a fatal story that began when he apparently disappeared from Ms. Mae’s, a popular 24-hour bar at Magazine Street and Napoleon Avenue where he had been spending time with friends, and ended on a strange corner far from the bar or his hotel.
“Police are still working out what happened,” Fried said. “How he went from Ms. Mae’s to that street where he was found. They don’t know.”
By getting information out to the public, she told The New Orleans Advocate, she hoped that someone would be able to fit more pieces of the puzzle together and help find the person who killed her fiancé .
Rolfes had been living in Greenville, South Carolina, but was based in St. Louis, where he was a project engineer for a construction company. He was familiar with New Orleans, Fried said, because he had graduated in 2011 from Tulane University, where he studied finance and met his future fiancé e. She graduated from Tulane in 2014.
Police do know some details, including the fact that Rolfes didn’t go straight from Ms. Mae’s to the spot on Claiborne Avenue where he died.
According to Fried, there is video footage that shows he was at a Delta Fuel gas station on Claiborne Avenue, where he was seen buying several items about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. The station is near the spot where his body was found about an hour later.
When police got the 911 call about his death, he had been shot once in the chest, Fried said. His phone, which had died about 1:30 a.m., was still on him, but his wallet was gone.
The rest of the story is a mystery.
He didn’t have a car here, and Fried said she didn’t know how he got from the bar to the gas station, or from the station to Amelia Street.
“The big unknown is what happened in that hour, and how he even got there in the first place,” Fried said. “So I want to make sure his story gets out. We need to catch the person who did this.”