Lee “Woody” Hinson came outside Monday morning to find the kind of scene that is almost unheard of in the rural stretches near Abita Springs: Crime tape cordoned off the house next door, and four or five Sheriff’s Office vehicles were parked outside.
His neighbor, James “Kenny” Hamilton, 51, had become the first homicide victim in St. Tammany Parish this year.
“It’s surprising, very shocking,” Hinson said Tuesday. “It’s not something you would think you would have in your neighborhood — and so close. It’s a rural setting, and everyone knows everyone. That makes it a little scarier.”
The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office has said little about the killing, issuing a news release Tuesday morning that confirmed an investigation was under way. Later, spokeswoman Suzanne Carboni said the agency hoped to have an arrest to report soon.
The St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office identified the victim and said the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Hamilton’s body was discovered Monday morning by family and friends who had gone to check on him at the white frame house on Lenel Road. They had grown concerned because they had not heard from him since Friday evening, Carboni said in a news release.
In a possibly related development, the Sheriff’s Office on Monday towed a blue truck that had been left in the parking lot of the Ochsner Health Clinic on Level Street in Abita Springs, residents said. They said they had seen the same vehicle, in bad shape, driven by a young man who left it in the parking lot.
Neighbors said Hamilton drove a blue truck, but it was not at the house Tuesday.
Hinson, who bought his home from Hamilton, said the victim lived in the house with a brother, Rusty Hamilton. A teenage son or stepson also had been living there, he said.
Betty Hamilton, the brothers’ mother, had lived there prior to her death about two years ago, Hinson said.
“It was a great family,” he said. “She was a sweet lady.”
He said he talked to the Hamilton brothers frequently during the summer when residents are outside doing yardwork.
Campbell Roofing in New Orleans confirmed that Kenny Hamilton worked there, along with another brother, Ricky Hamilton. Ricky Hamilton declined comment.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.