Authorities scanned the bottom of the Mississippi River Wednesday with sonar in a search for the man who jumped from the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Tuesday, while similarities emerged in some of the crimes to which he has been tentatively linked.
Kylan M. Laurent, 22, of Vacherie, has been identified as “a person of interest” in two homicides and an aggravated assault and robbery in Jefferson Parish, law enforcement officials said.
Laurent also is a suspect in several crimes in Baton Rouge, including one in which he is wanted on charges of aggravated battery and false imprisonment, State Police have said.
Baton Rouge Police Department and State Police spokesmen were not able to release details on the Baton Rouge cases Wednesday. Arrest warrants were not available in the court record.
Laurent jumped from the bridge linking St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes Tuesday afternoon during a chase with State Police troopers after they tried to stop his car on La. 18 in St. James Parish.
With Laurent still missing Wednesday despite a search by several agencies, State Police also declined to rule out the possibility, albeit extremely remote, that he survived the roughly 165-foot fall into the muddy river’s swift currents below.
“We can’t assume he is deceased until we have the body,” said spokeswoman Melissa Matey of State Police Troop B.
She said it can take time for a body to surface in the river due to ship and barge traffic and underwater debris. Sometimes it takes months, she said.
Matey noted that a woman survived a fall several years ago from the Crescent City Connection.
In each of the Jefferson Parish attacks this month, a young black woman with out-of-state ties was assaulted in a motel room, according to reports and accounts from authorities.
Each of three women appeared to have been bound — possibly with heavy tape. Two of them were strangled or asphyxiated, the third survived:
• On Monday, Anita McDonald, 22, of Flowood, Miss., was found dead, partially clothed in her bed in a room at a Comfort Suites Airport motel in the 2700 block of Idaho Avenue in Kenner. She was strangled. Ligature marks were found on her wrists and neck. Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway said the marks included the sticky remains of duct or electrical tape.
• On Aug. 18, Avery Shirnelle, 22, of Ohio, reported to Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies that a man she met through a social media website choked her until she lost consciousness at the Sun Suites, 1101 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey. Shirnelle, who fought with her attacker and scratched him, woke up with her hands bound behind her back and a pillow tied over her face. Black electrical tape was used.
• On Aug. 10, the partially clothed body of Jateese Hudgins, 20, of Philadelphia, was found with her hands tied behind her back at the La Quinta Inn, 5900 Veterans Blvd., Metairie. Preliminary autopsy results indicate cause of death was partially from strangulation and partially asphyxiation due to suffocation.
Three of Shirnelle’s cellphones were stolen, along with cash and a laptop computer, a sheriff’s report says.
Caraway said McDonald’s cellphone was missing.
McDonald was arrested last year on a count of soliciting prostitution in Nevada, Caraway has said.
Shirnelle told Jefferson sheriff’s detectives she is a dancer who is traveling. She told deputies she rented the hotel room and, wanting company, had used the Internet to look up the man who subsequently attacked her, a report says.
State Police originally reported Tuesday night that Laurent was a suspect in three Jefferson Parish homicides.
But State Police and Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies clarified on Wednesday that it was two homicides and an assault that a woman survived. Laurent also was only a person of interest in those cases, they said.
Sgt. Larry Dyess, spokesman for the Jefferson sheriff, said deputies were still working with other agencies to determine if Laurent is a suspect in those crimes.
Perhaps underscoring the importance of finding Laurent’s body, Jefferson sheriff’s deputies recovered fingerprints and DNA from at least one of those crime scenes, a report says.
It is not clear to whom the material belonged. Dyess declined comment on the reports at this time.
Trooper Graham said that while a trooper saw Laurent go over the edge Tuesday, no one saw him fall or hit the water. By the time the trooper could look over the edge, he could not see anything, Graham said.
St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said authorities spent time Tuesday looking in the bridge superstructure for Laurent. A flip-flop sandal was spotted on a beam below the bridge deck, Graham said.
Doug Shaffer, LSU’s head diving coach, said Laurent’s fall is likely near, although not beyond, the limit of human ability to survive. But he also said it is a dive made even more difficult by the river current.
“In my opinion, that level is at the threshold for an experienced athlete with years of training and experience,” Shaffer said.
Adam Einck, spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said a department boat used sonar to search the river for Laurent on Wednesday.
He said officials expected to resume the search Thursday morning.