A group of crimefighters in Mamou wants people across Acadiana to step up and take interest in unsolved crimes in their community— and help close them.
The Cazan Crimefighters held their second Cold Case Conference at the Hotel Cazan in Mamou Saturday. About 30 people gathered in a lounge at the hotel, including armchair detectives, members of law enforcement and the family members of people missing or murdered in the community.
The families are still seeking answers and said they’re thankful people are keeping the stories of their loved ones alive. Community awareness is key to getting justice and a sense of closure, they said.
Randy Dupuis, father of Crystal Grebinger, told the room how his daughter disappeared February 8, 2013 after leaving Faith House in Lafayette, a shelter for domestic abuse victims and battered women.
Grebinger had a tumultuous relationship with her husband, Sean Grebinger, and the two were in the midst of divorce proceedings when Crystal Grebinger disappeared, Dupuis said.
Sean Grebinger is now living in Brazil, and it’s unclear if he was questioned by police or considered a suspect in his daughter’s disappearance, Dupuis said. Dupuis said he doesn’t speculate and instead wants the focus to remain on finding his daughter.
The case is still open and being investigated by Lafayette Police Department detectives, Dupuis said. He was careful with the details he shared to avoid hindering the investigation’s progress but said even with police involvement there are many holes he hasn’t been able to fill.
“There are so many things I don’t know,” Dupuis said.
Dupuis said the most important thing is for people to keep the memory of his daughter alive so her case can maintain momentum. Alex Babineaux’s family members agreed.
His mother, Leona Baloney; father, James Baloney, Sr.; and cousin, Khristina Oliver sat near a photo collage of Babineaux as they told attendees how their loved one was gunned down July 16, 2017. Babineaux was walking home around 5 a.m. when he was shot multiple times on Wilson Street in Church Point.
Leona Baloney said she could see where her son was shot from her front door. When she walked down the street to the scene, his cap was lying on the ground next to his covered body and his shoes were visible.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she said.
Her son had turned his life around after run-ins with the law, and he had taken an entrance exam for a college in Houston, Leona Baloney said. The results arrived in the mail several days after he was killed. He got an A, she said.
Babineaux was openly gay, and his parents and cousin said they believe his sexuality may have played a role in his death. The family believes members of the community have information about Babineaux’s death but haven’t come forward.
They’re calling on them to do the right thing.
“You would want someone to say something if it was your child. If you know something go and say it, no matter what,” James Baloney said.
Church Point Police Chief Dale Thibodeaux was present Saturday and stressed the importance of continuing to engage the public about active cases. Thibodeaux was on scene the morning of Babineaux’s slaying and has worked the case since becoming chief in January. He’s coordinating with State Police, who assumed control of the case.
“The more people that know – it’ll get back one way or another,” Thibodeaux said.
Cazan Crimefighters organizer Valerie Cahill stressed this is where community members can play a role. The more a case is discussed, the more likely new details will shake loose or someone will pick up on a tip that’s been overlooked, she said.
“The police can’t do everything. They need our support,” Cahill said, later adding, “Everybody needs an assist. Sometimes it’s a tip, sometimes it’s a word, sometimes it’s a facial expression.”
Melissa Perritt has been searching for the word or tip that would crack open her mother’s case for 36 years. Perritt is the daughter of Alice Marie Reeves, who disappeared from the Mamou-Ville Platte area in May 1967.
Perritt was four months old at the time, and Reeves dropped her infant daughter off at a babysitter’s house in Mamou to go to work at a local beauty shop. She was never seen or heard from again.
Perritt was taken in by her mother’s cousin. She discovered the truth about her mother’s disappearance when she was 15, and since then has been on a mission to find the truth for herself, her grandmother and her two siblings.
Over the years Perritt discovered bits and pieces about her mother’s life — the babysitter who watched her was a member of her father’s extended family. Her parents never married, and her father was allegedly involved in criminal activity, she said.
Her mother danced in local men’s clubs, including a club in the area called The Purple Peacock. She also witnessed a murder in Lake Charles in 1965 – when a man she was seeing stabbed to death another man with whom she'd had a relationship.
No matter her mother’s lifestyle or the people she associated with, she’s a victim and deserves justice, Perritt said.
“She was still my mother, still my grandmother’s daughter and she didn’t deserve what she got,” she said.
Many of the details Perritt has uncovered came to light in the last several months with the help of the Cazan Crimefighters, she said.
“These crimefighters have helped me find more info than I’ve ever gotten in my entire search. I’m more grateful to you than you know,” Perritt said.
Cahill said progress like that in Reeves’ case is why she and the other Cazan Crimefighters do what they do. They want to provide closure to family members and paying attention to unsolved cases is a way of caring for your neighbor and community, she said.
Cahill said the crime fighting team plans to continue hosting summits at the hotel. The goal is to host a meeting the last weekend of each month, urging families to continue to come forward asking the group to feature their loved one’s case.
She said the group also has plans to open a Center of Excellence for Rescue and Recovery in an office adjacent to the hotel to handle cases of missing persons and cold cases. They’re partnering with Tim Miller and his organization Texas Equusearch, a non-profit that provides trained horseback riders to assist in search and recovery efforts.
The office will be the Louisiana home base for the group and it’ll also be used to teach classes focused on search techniques, proper handling of evidence and other law enforcement skills so the community can be well versed to assist in searches for missing people, Cahill said.