30 year anniversary of NOLA sniper

December 14, 2002 - The New Orleans Police Department will commemorate the 30th anniversary of an incident known as the Howard Johnson sniper. On January 7, 1973 a sniper had set numerous fires in the Howard Johnson hotel in downtown New Orleans. As police and firefighters responded to the scene the sniper fired on them with a .44 magnum rifle. During the encounter, which lasted about 24 hours, the sniper killed three police officers, including Deputy Superintendent Louis Sirgo, the Department's second-in-command, before the sniper was killed by police gunfire. The hotel's manager and assistant manager were killed along with two guests; several other police officers, firefighters and hotel guests were injured in the attack.

This incident was a culmination of a week of violence by the sniper, who first struck on December 31, 1972. On this date the sniper fired on several police officers at the Central Lockup, fatally wounding an 18 year old police cadet, Alfred Harrell and wounding a police lieutenant. Canine Officer Edwin Hosli, Sr. was shot and wounded by the sniper while conducting a search of the area and expired from his wounds in March, 1973.

NOPD Superintendent Eddie Compass, III announced that a memorial service to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the sniper attack will be held on January 7, 2003 at 10 a.m. in the plaza in front of NOPD Headquarters at 715 South Broad St. The plaza was named the Louis Sirgo Plaza many years ago in tribute to the Deputy Superintendent who lost his life during the attack. The public is invited to attend.


At November 19, 2004 at 4:47 PM, Blogger vige said...

the Times Picayune:

The 10 murder cases listed here in chronological order all have at least one thing common: They rate among the city's most shocking 20th-century crimes, capable of fascinating us still.

July 23-27, 1900: The Robert Charles Riots

Robert Charles killed seven people and wounded 20 in a series of gun battles on the streets of New Orleans. Charles, 34, was a black man angered by segregation and racial discrimination. The city exploded with racial riots, as white people pulled innocent black people from the streetcar and beat them, and a white mob burned a school for black students to the ground.

May 1918-October 1919: The Axeman Cometh

The mysterious killer struck at night, whacking his victims with an ax. In March 1919, with four people dead and six injured, The Times-Picayune received a letter addressed to "Esteemed Mortal" and signed "The Axeman." It warned that the killer would be passing through the city a few nights later, but would spare anyone who had a jazz band playing in his home.

On the night in question, residents jammed local cafes and gathered in private homes to trade music for salvation. No one got the ax that night.

"The Axeman" struck twice after that, wounding one teen-age girl and killing a man, before ending his killing spree in October 1919. No one was arrested for the murders.

Nov. 30, 1952: Death of a Debutante

The body of 30-year-old Amelie Jane "Diddie" Woolfolk Cooper, daughter of a socially prominent Uptown family and estranged wife of the owner of The Court of Two Sisters restaurant, was found lying across a bed in her Louisiana Avenue Parkway home. She was found wearing expensive nightwear -- a red, quilted robe over a sheer blue sleeping gown -- and had been bludgeoned, killed by a blow to the head. As one newspaper reported, "There were bruises on Diddie Woolfolk Cooper's lovely neck and an ugly gash on her forehead."

Police work was a little different in the 1950s. The city's entire homicide division was able to devote itself to the case non-stop. Investigators found the killer's blood at the scene but were frustrated to find it was type O, "a common and almost untraceable type of blood," as one newspaper noted.

Cooper's husband, restaurateur Jimmy Cooper, was arrested in 1953 and tried for his wife's murder in January 1954. Cooper, about a dozen years older than his wife, seemed to nap during some of the trial's testimony although the rest of the populace found even the most minute details interesting. Newspapers published complete accounts of each witness's testimony, as well as pieces detailing Cooper's every move in the courtroom and the reactions of the victim's family as they heard testimony.

As the nine-day trial came to an end, Jimmy Cooper predicted he'd be out of jail by the weekend. He was right. After 31 minutes of deliberation, the 12-person jury marched back into the courtroom "with Cooper's freedom written all over their faces," according to one account. The not-guilty verdict was met with both tears and cheers, "then something happened which long-time courtroom observers say had never happened in Orleans Parish before . . . a polite but firm roll of clapping for the jury. It was much like the applause at a concert or a play," one newspaper said.

The police reopened the murder investigation after the acquittal. Jimmy Cooper died of natural causes in his apartment above his restaurant in 1956. Diddie Cooper's killer has never been found.

Jan. 7-8, 1973: The Howard Johnson Sniper

The city stopped when Mark Essex, a 23-year-old African-American, took over the Downtown Howard Johnson's on Loyola Avenue and took revenge on white "honkies."

Essex killed seven people -- including a couple on their honeymoon -- and injured at least a dozen others during his 10-hour onslaught. It was later discovered that he'd killed two police officers in the days before his rage-fueled spree.

Essex was killed on the hotel's roof, his body riddled by 200 bullets, but the city remained frozen for another 18 hours as police searched for the accomplice they were sure Essex had. No accomplice was ever found, but veterans of the Howard Johnson's siege remain certain Essex did not act alone.

June 24, 1973: The Upstairs Lounge Fire

The Upstairs Lounge fire in 1973 killed 29 people within, making it the deadliest fire in the city's history. Within days, the death toll would rise to 32.

An arsonist ignited the blaze in the stairwell of the second-floor gay bar at the corner of Iberville and Chartres streets on the evening of June 24. Their primary escape route blocked, some patrons managed to squeeze between the burglar bars on the Chartres Street side of the lounge and jump to safety. More than a dozen others jammed against the barrier, where they perished. One bartender led about 20 people to safety through another exit. From the ground, he watched his lover die while pressed against the bars.

The surrounding streets were filled with sirens and screams. Witnesses wept alongside victims.

The Upstairs Lounge had served as a regular gathering place for members of the city's gay and lesbian community and the fire devastated the city's formerly hidden homosexuals while also pushing them into an unwelcome spotlight. Many believe the tragedy united the community.

Three of the fire's victims were never identified. They were buried in Holt Cemetery.

No one was ever charged in the Upstairs Lounge fire. Investigators had one suspect who committed suicide a year later. In 1980, the state fire marshal's office closed its investigation.

January, 1974: The Honeymoon Murder

At first, officials considered Patricia Albanowski Giesick's death an unfortunate accident made more tragic by the fact that the young woman had been on her honeymoon when it occurred.

The 25-year-old bride was struck down by a hit-and-run driver on Michoud Boulevard shortly after she and her husband had finished feeding ducks in a nearby pond. The victim's husband told police his lively bride had challenged him to a race back to their car, parked in a shopping center across the road, when she was struck by the car that had its lights turned off.

Giesick's death was listed as the city's first traffic accident of the year. Her grieving husband, Claudius James Giesick, 26, went home to Texas and police continued to seek the hit-and-run driver.

But something didn't seem right, at least not to Patricia Giesick's parents. Less than two hours before she was killed, Patricia called her mother in New Jersey and said her husband of two weeks was acting strangely. Another man accompanied Giesick to Patricia's funeral in Trenton, N.J. The man was Samuel Corey, a massage parlor operator and mail-order minister who had married the Giesicks. At Patricia's funeral, Corey collected money from her relatives, promising them he'd pray for her.

Two months after Patricia's death, her husband was arrested for bigamy in Texas and New Orleans police decided to give the so-called accident another look. They learned Giesick had rented two cars during his New Orleans visit, that he'd taken out $300,000 worth of life insurance on his wife days before her death, and that he had an accomplice in town on the night of the murder -- Corey.

Patricia Giesick's body was removed from its New Jersey grave so police could get a sample of her hair. They found it matched hair found on the axle of one of the rental cars. Both Giesick and Corey were charged with second-degree murder in June 1974.

That's when Claudius Giesick decided to plea bargain. In exchange for a manslaughter sentence, he told police that months before he married Patricia, he and Corey found themselves in need of cash. They decided Giesick would marry a woman and heavily insure her, then the pair would kill her. Patricia was the chosen victim, Giesick said, because she was "lonely" and confided in Corey, who encouraged her to marry Giesick.

On the night of Patricia's murder, Corey sat in the dark car while the Giesicks fed the ducks. Then, Giesick said, he signalled Corey by blinking a flashlight three times. He waited a few seconds, he said, "then grabbed Tricia and tripped her." The girl fell into the street, where Corey's vehicle crushed her. "I actually tried to make her comfortable until the ambulance came," Giesick said during Corey's trial.

Corey was convicted and given the death penalty, later reduced to life in prison. Giesick was released from jail in 1986 after serving more than half of his 21-year sentence.

June 1980: Terror in St. Tammany

During a week-long crime spree, Robert Lee Willie and Joseph Vaccaro kidnapped a young couple, raping the young girl and slashing her boyfriend's throat, and brutally murdered 18-year-old Faith Hathaway of Mandeville. The pair had kidnapped the teen-ager as she walked back from a post-graduation party, viciously raped her, slashed her throat with a hunting knife and dumped her nude body in a wooded area of Washington Parish.

The brutality of the crimes and Willie's arrogance grabbed headlines. On trial, Vaccaro testified against his one-time partner and a jury found them both guilty. Vaccaro was given a life sentence. Willie was sentenced to death.

In prison, Willie befriended New Orleans nun Helen Prejean, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. Prejean's book about the case, "Dead Man Walking," was the basis for an Academy Award-winning motion picture. Willie died in the electric chair in 1984. Before the hood was dropped over his head, he winked at Prejean.

Nov. 8, 1980: The Algiers 7

Years after Jim Crow laws and segregation had been abolished, the murder of New Orleans Police Officer Gregory Neupert and the subsequent search for his killers showed the city and the nation how much work in race relations still needed to be done.

Neupert, 23, was barely alive when a fellow officer found him lying in an Algiers ditch in the early hours of Nov. 8, 1980. He was bleeding from a fatal gunshot wound to the neck, a flashlight in one hand and his police radio in the other. His marked police cruiser, parked nearby, had its headlights on and the engine running.

Neupert's murder began a chain of events that included the deaths of three more people, the resignation of a police superintendent and the indictment of seven police officers on federal civil rights violation charges.

Angry officers began hunting for the person who had killed one of their own. Residents of the Fisher Housing Project said officers were cursing as they kicked down doors with guns drawn and grabbed any youths within reach for questioning.

Five days later, in two pre-dawn raids, police officers with arrest warrants in hand gunned down two male suspects and an innocent woman. Officers said they had acted in self-defense because James Billy Jr., Reginald Miles and Sherry Singleton had guns and the two men had fired them.

Police Superintendent James Parsons resigned less than a week later as criticism of his officers' actions mounted.

An official probe of the shootings did not result in any criminal charges. But a federal inquiry into the investigation resulted in the indictment of seven officers -- the so-called Algiers 7 -- for civil rights violations, charging the officers had threatened and beaten people while questioning them about Neupert's murder. Three of the officers were found guilty and sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Feb. 23, 1984: The Janet Myers Murder

Investigators from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office initially concluded that William Fontanille, a friend of the Myers family, had bludgeoned Harvey housewife Janet Myers to death, beaten her toddler son and battered and stabbed her husband, Kerry. Fontanille and Kerry Myers told police similar stories: Both said the other beat him with a baseball bat over a 10-hour period, climaxed by a knife attack on each other. In between the fighting, the pair watched "The Odd Couple" and "Magnum P.I." on television and discussed problems in their respective marriages. Each man said he did not know Janet Myers had been killed or her son injured.

Six years later, Fontanille and Kerry Myers sat together at a defense table. During a trial, a forensic scientist testified that blood splatters on the clothes worn by the two men that night indicated both had participated in the killing. Myers was convicted of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence. Fontanille was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

March 4, 1995: Murder at a Vietnamese Restaurant

New Orleans Police Officer Antoinette Frank and a teen-age accomplice shot and killed three people during an attempted robbery of the Kim Anh Restaurant in eastern New Orleans. The victims were Ronald Williams II, Frank's fellow 7th District officer and one-time partner, who was shot point-blank in the head; and two of the restaurant owners' four children, Cuong Vu, 17, and his sister, Ha Vu, 24, who were shot nine times. The two other Vu siblings survived by hiding in a walk-in cooler. Frank sometimes worked security details at the restaurant and had eaten dinner there a short time before the killings.

The crime was a nadir for a police department already mired in scandals. Frank, 23 at the time of the murders, and Rogers Lacaze were found guilty in separate trials and sentenced to death. Frank is the only woman on Louisiana's death row.

At June 6, 2011 at 11:52 AM, Blogger cadivinity said...

I want to comment on the Janet Myers Murder. I grew up down the street from Billy Fontanille. We all grew up together, played hide and go seek at night during the summer time when it was too hot to play outside during the day. He was a quiet guy, likeable...but always carried a bat, strangely enough. The thing that gets me is how it affected the family after he went to prison, his mother became recluse. She was always a prim and proper lady, substitute teacher. The crime that was committed clearly broke her heart. That will always stick in my mind. She died a very sad woman. I know she loved her son.


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