Fatrell Queen

Fatrell Queen

Tara Snearl has pressed for answers at all levels of government, seeking resolution to her son’s death even as the trail has grown colder and colder.

More than three years have passed since her son, 28-year-old Fatrell Queen, was found shot to death in the closet of his Port Allen home. The investigation has long been at a standstill.

No arrests have been made, and sparse new information has emerged from law enforcement.

"Accountability must happen," Snearl said. "There's a ripple effect of trauma, and we expect law enforcement to do their job."

Port Allen police officers responded to reports of gunshots at Queen’s home on Nov. 2, 2017, but investigators didn’t find Queen on their first sweep of the house and reported him missing.

Hours later, they found his body in a closet. By the time the coroner’s office arrived at Queen's house on the north end of the city, several hours had elapsed.

“We couldn’t even donate his organs because so much time had passed,” Snearl said.

Queen's family have expressed worries the delay may have made police miss the chance to collect vital information and possibly save him.

Police officials said at the time of his death that there didn’t appear to be any forced entry into the house.

Amid lingering questions of officers’ sweep of the home and follow through with the case — which has gone through at least four different detectives — Queen’s family recently turned to a private detective to give the investigation a jolt.

"Tara hit every check and balance that you can go up through the chain of command, and no one listened," said Joseph Summers, the private detective investigating Queen's death.

So far, he said he’s made some headway on Queen’s death.

Summers said he's found indications of a struggle inside the home and has also collected bullets in recent weeks that have remained in the house for the past three years.

Snearl said she hopes that fresh eyes on her son’s case, after past attempts to get parish, state and federal law enforcement involved, will move the case along.

She and Summers say they are currently seeking and calling for the release of body camera footage officers wore during their response to the shooting, which may provide clues into how the investigation was conducted.

Queen’s death was the first homicide in four years for Port Allen, a city of just under 5,000 people.

Several community members and leaders have voiced concerns about Port Allen police and their ability to clear violent crimes and homicides more recently.

Last November, Larry Profit, a 62-year-old community activist, was found fatally shot outside of his Port Allen home. It happened just hours after he attended a city council meeting and criticized local leaders for unsolved killings in the city.

No arrests have been made in that case, as well as at least three other homicides that have happened since Queen’s death.

District Attorney-elect Tony Clayton said he’d welcome any evidence on Queen’s death from the public, but so far law enforcement have yet to bring his office anything worthwhile to levy criminal charges against anyone.

“The Port Allen Police Department needs help and help investigating homicides,” he said. “It needs help and funding and they can eventually solve the case.”

Shortly after Queen's death, Snearl started the Justice for Fatrell Organization, which has pushed for Port Allen Police to seek assistance from an outside agency and call for changes in the department.

She'd like to see the creation of a police oversight board modeled after a similar board in New Orleans and others across the country.

Supporters of the board say to also provide a bridge between the police department and the public, especially in instances when people are unwilling to work with investigators due to a fear of retaliation, a lack of communication, misconduct and lack of follow-up on complaints.

As the investigation into Queen’s death has languished, his family says the uncertainty has made it difficult to heal and move forward.

They recall Queen being laid-back person who would often lighten the mood with a corny joke during social gatherings and could spot if someone needed a friendly ear.

He had just won custody of his daughter who was 3 at the time of his death, but she still remembers the times she’d spend with her dad after daycare.

"I never imagined that he would lose his life in his house,” Snearl said, adding that she frequently warned him about violence in the metro area. “When he was home, it made me feel safe as a mother of a young Black male."

As she’s continued to push for answers and a resolution, she has met with families in similar situations across the Baton Rouge metro.

Through her work with the Justice for Fatrell Organization, she’s been able to give them a voice and bring attention to gun violence in the area.

Still, Snearl says: "I wish I could do more.”

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad