A woman shot and killed in a Sherwood Forest neighborhood Tuesday evening was dropping off a friend after dinner when a masked gunman approached their car and fired one fatal shot, according to the survivor's fiance.
Kenny Williams said Wednesday that the shooting of Janessa Hartley, 57, was captured on his house's surveillance cameras. He said the shooter fled the scene on foot.
"It's scary to think this person is still out there," Williams said. "We're just hoping we get a call soon saying (authorities) found someone."
Police said Hartley lived with her family about half a mile from her friend's house where the shooting occurred.
Williams said his fiance, who didn't want to be interviewed Wednesday, was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when the shooting occurred. He said the surveillance video shows a person — who appears to be a masked man — approach the car before firing one shot into the driver's side door.
The victim and her friend had gone out for dinner Tuesday evening to celebrate Hartley's birthday, which would have been Wednesday. They were sitting in the car chatting for a few minutes before Hartley began preparing for the drive home.
Williams said he believes the shooting resulted from an attempted armed robbery or carjacking. Police have not released a motive but did confirm Hartley was dropping off her friend when she was shot.
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The shooting occurred around 8 p.m. in a quiet residential neighborhood off Goodwood Boulevard just north of Old Hammond Highway. Residents said crime is rare in the neighborhood, which is filled with large brick houses and manicured lawns.
Jonathan Ricard, who lives in the house across the street from where the shooting occurred, said he heard raised voices and a man tell someone to "get out the car." Then he heard one gunshot and a woman yell: "He shot me."
At the scene Tuesday night, Hartley's body could be seen lying on the ground next to an SUV with its driver's side window shot out. The vehicle appeared to have run off the road and her body was lying in the grass on the driver's side.
Williams said his fiance, who was sitting in the passenger seat at the time, had put the vehicle in reverse to try and get away from the shooter, which is how the SUV ended up in their lawn. She then got the vehicle back in park and tried to help her friend.
Williams said the case illustrates a widespread crime problem in Baton Rouge. And he hopes that local officials will take action to ensure something like this doesn't happen again — allowing some good to come from the devastating loss of Hartley's family and friends. He also said he believes police are working hard to make an arrest.
"It's bigger than this case. I want local officials to look at this situation and just really dig deep and try to figure out what can be done," he said. "Otherwise incidents like this are going to become commonplace if they don't get a grip on it."
Hartley's family declined to talk about what happened when reached at their home Wednesday afternoon, saying they were still in too much pain.
Friends and colleagues said Hartley grew up in Baton Rouge and attended Redemptorist High School. She worked for many years as a classroom assistant at St. Thomas More Preschool in Baton Rouge, before retiring about five years ago to spend more time with her family.
Camilla Ponson, the preschool's receptionist, said Hartley had three children and several grandchildren. Ponson said the school's phone was ringing off the hook Wednesday with parents and past students calling to express their grief over the news of Hartley's death.
"She was so kindhearted and loving to everyone she came in contact with — a beautiful person inside and out," Ponson said. "It's so tragic. We're in such disarray … I still can't really believe this happened."