A day after making their first arrest in one of the area’s most gruesome killings, Kenner police said Thursday that they believe Margaret Sanchez helped to brutally cut up the body of a Bourbon Street dancer before dumping her dismembered corpse off a bridge in Mississippi almost two years ago.
Sanchez, 30, was picked up Wednesday at her parents’ Metairie home and booked on counts of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, Kenner Police Chief Steve Caraway said.
The arrest came a few weeks after Kenner police took over the case from authorities in Hancock County, Mississippi, who said they had investigated the case to the best of their ability and concluded that Jaren Lockhart, 22, probably was killed in Kenner.
Caraway said that since his department began looking into the death, new witnesses and evidence led them to arrest Sanchez. He declined to detail that evidence or discuss what connection the new witnesses might have to the case.
He did say his investigators suspect Lockhart was killed in Kenner and that Sanchez helped dismember her body before it was dumped off a bridge in Mississippi. Her head and other parts of her body later washed ashore along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The alleged dismembering led to the obstruction charge, Caraway said.
Sanchez remained jailed Thursday on a $750,000 bail, according to Jefferson Parish Correctional Center records.
Since taking over the investigation, Caraway said, his detectives located “more than two” new witnesses after reviewing files from Hancock County.
Those witnesses, he said, could possibly lead to others who might be able to bolster the case against Sanchez.
“We think we know what happened. We think we know how all of this went down,” Caraway said. “We’re going to take our time and see where this leads us.”
Sanchez and Terry Speaks were identified as the last people Lockhart was seen with before she was reported missing June 6, 2012, following her shift at Temptations, a strip club in the 300 block of Bourbon Street.
Speaks, while a suspect in the case, has not been arrested. He is in a New York prison on an unrelated charge of failing to register as a sex offender in North Carolina.
Kenner detectives have traveled to New York to interview Speaks, Caraway said, but a warrant has not been issued for him.
Caraway said the investigation will be lengthy and that additional arrests could be made and new suspects could be identified as new evidence continues to come in.
“This is a very lengthy process. It’s not something I think you’re going to see go to trial next month,” he said.
One thing investigators do know, thanks to a license-plate recognition camera in Kenner, is that the car used by Sanchez and Speaks was in that city the night Lockhart disappeared and that the car later made its way east toward Mississippi.
While they now believe she was killed in Kenner, details about exactly where the stabbing death and dismemberment happened remain hazy, Caraway said.
Although pieces of Lockhart’s body washed ashore in several places in Harrison and Hancock counties, evidence suggests they were tossed from the U.S. 90 bridge in Bay St. Louis, rather than in separate places, Caraway said.
There has been some speculation that Lockhart’s death might have some ties to another dismemberment case in New Orleans.
Sanchez was a friend of Addie Hall, who was killed in October 2006. Parts of her body were cooked by Zack Bowen, her boyfriend at the time, who later killed himself by jumping off the roof of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter.
While Caraway said there is not yet any certain tie between Hall’s death and Lockhart’s death, that angle will be investigated.
“You don’t see a lot of those types of homicides around here,” he said. “Certainly we’re confident (Sanchez) was involved in this (Lockhart’s) dismemberment.”
Caraway declined to say if Sanchez is cooperating with investigators.
The most elusive aspect of the case is why Lockhart was killed. That is what detectives hope to figure out next, Caraway said.
“What was the motive? What led to the stabbing? Who knows?” he said.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.