A couple weeks ago, while she was still working at a job in Texas, Lindsay Nichols said something over the phone that haunts her mother now.
“My daughter called me from Texas and said, ‘Mom, I can’t believe it’s two weeks in a row young women were killed in New Orleans,’ ” recalled her mother, Jolene Dufrene. “And now, it’s her.”
On Sunday, Nichols became yet another victim of shocking violence in the city.
NOPD officers responded to a report of a vehicle fire at Lake Forest and Michoud boulevards about 7 a.m.
It is a lonely stretch of Michoud, a street where cars are sometimes set alight. But after the New Orleans Fire Department extinguished the fire, Nichols’ body was found inside the trunk.
Nichols did not die by fire, however. Someone shot her, according to New Orleans Coroner Jeffrey Rouse.
Dufrene is at a loss to figure out what happened to her daughter, the mother of a 9-year-old boy named Peter.
She said Nichols had gone for a night out “at some club” in New Orleans with friends, who told Dufrene they left the club about 1 a.m. Dufrene believes her daughter left with someone who killed her.
On Sunday morning, Dufrene started to get worried when her daughter’s phone would not ring. Peter wanted his mother. Then she saw a picture on the Internet of her daughter’s burned car.
“I saw my daughter’s car, and we just knew,” she said.
Dufrene, who lives in Des Allemands, said she heard from neighbors that the police had gone to an address where she used to live. On Sunday, as the city was transfixed by the capture of a man accused of killing a police officer, she tried to get someone at the NOPD to answer her call.
All through Sunday, no one called her back.
Dufrene said she took it upon herself to drive Monday morning to Rouse’s office, where she was able to confirm that the dead woman was her daughter, based on clothes and tattoos.
NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said death notifications are generally made by the Coroner’s Office.
“This particular Sunday was extremely busy as we worked three murders and our homicide detectives were on the street working each case,” he added.
Dufrene said Nichols worked as a timekeeper for a Texas construction company and returned to the New Orleans area between jobs. She loved going into the city and loved playing with her son.
“She was a tiny little thing, 98 pounds, spunky, lot of attitude, and she thought she could take on the world,” Dufrene said. “She trusted everybody, which is good and bad.”
Now Dufrene and the boy’s father are faced with the task of raising Peter while wondering why his mother died. Dufrene said she had a message for anyone who might know something.
“Please come forward. We really need some kind of closure on what happened,” she said. “It’s horrible. I don’t know what to say.”
Homicide Detective Robert Barrere is in charge of the investigation and can be reached at (504) 658-5300.