NEW ORLEANS — The search for Terrilynn Monette continued Monday as two local towing companies and a diver worked to pull several vehicles from Bayou St. John in hopes of finding the missing Jefferson Parish schoolteacher’s car and possibly Monette herself.
The effort was being led by state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.
Badon said the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries found a large number of objects — most of them vehicles — in the waterway during a previous search and provided him with the coordinates for those objects. Two local towing companies recently approached Badon about pulling those vehicles out of the water at no cost.
“They saw the same thing I saw — her mother, grieving and distraught,” Badon said.
Monette has been missing since March 2. The 26-year-old teacher at Woodland West Elementary School in Harvey was last seen at Parlay’s, a Lakeview bar.
Cameras recorded Monette driving toward her Gentilly home, but her movement beyond Marconi Drive on the edge of City Park remains a mystery.
Previous searches of City Park, its waterways and lagoons, and Bayou St. John have been met with negative results. But the fact that there are objects in the murky bayou water was enough for Badon to take up the towing companies on their offer to help retrieve those items.
“We needed to look at these vehicles to eyeball them to see if they’re her car,” Badon said. “This is a search operation for this young lady. It’s a salvage option secondly.”
Badon said late Monday afternoon that six of several dozen cars in the bayou near Interstate 610 had been pulled out, though none of those was Monette’s 2012 black two-door Honda Accord.
As the search here continues, Monette’s mother is back at her home in California, where she waits to hear of any developments, Badon said.
“It’s really difficult, but she understands we are searching,” he said.
As the towing companies work to pull the remaining vehicles from the bayou, the vehicles will be examined to ensure they are not the missing car. The towing companies, G&D Towing and Real Towing, likely will sell the salvaged vehicles for scrap to help offset their costs, Badon said.
If nothing else, he said, the vehicles need to be pulled from the water since they are polluting Bayou St. John.
Officer Hilal Williams, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman, said investigators continue to search for Monette and are following any leads they receive in the case.
On Monday, onlookers gathered near LSU’s dental school as the cars were being pulled from the bayou. Most of the stinking hulks of metal appeared to have been submerged in the water for years.
Boaters were trolling the bayou and then marking the location of the cars for the tow trucks. A man in blue jeans and a T-shirt was connecting the towing equipment to the vehicles underwater.
Badon said the NOPD and other law enforcement agencies that have assisted in the search have worked tirelessly to try to find Monette.
“They want to solve this case just as much as the family does,” Badon said.