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April 19, 2023

1980's Cold Case Update from St. Tammany Coroner and Sheriff

               When Paula Boudreaux vanished from Golden Meadow in Lafourche Parish in August 1986, investigators pulled out all the stops. One clue led to another and another, but ultimately detectives were unable to determine what happened to the 22-year-old mother of a 4-year-old son.

               When skeletal remains were discovered by a sportsman near Slidell in January 1989, DNA technology wasn’t what it is today. The remains were sent to the LSU Forensic Anthropology Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Lab, and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner wasn’t even involved.

               Thirty-three years later, St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston contacted the FACES Lab and requested a joint inventory of overlapping and unsolved cases, wanting to ensure that no one slipped through the cracks – gaps in history, technology, and leadership.

               In October 2022, an email tip to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) suggested investigators look at Paula Boudreaux’s case and that there may be a link to the unidentified remains from 1989. NAMUS contacted Cold Case Investigator Chris Knoblauch at the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, and things started to fall into place.

               Knoblauch contacted Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre, whose investigators collected DNA from Boudreaux’s known surviving relatives, and sent it to Lacombe. In short order, the St. Tammany Coroner linked the remains found in 1989 to the young mother who had vanished 2 ½ years earlier. Those results were returned to LPSO in January, and the Coroner contacted the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office to join the investigation.

               Although from a forensic standpoint the case was “closed” in that the remains now had an identity, for law enforcement there remains more work. Knowing who she was does not, after all, explain how she died – or how she wound up in Slidell, 105 miles away.

               The Coroner identified Boudreaux in January and her next of kin were notified, but for investigative purposes that news was kept quiet while the LPSO and STPSO expanded their probes. Last week, law enforcement gave approval for this important development to become public, hoping the news will shake loose even more leads that might solve the mystery of Paula Boudreaux’s disappearance and death.       

               “It’s unfortunate that Ms. Boudreaux’s identity remained undiscovered all these years while science caught up with mystery,” said St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston. “We’re happy to have played a role in bringing some measure of closure to her family, and to have contributed substantially to the work of local law enforcement. As the only Coroner’s Office in the state with an in-house DNA lab, we are able to provide these investigative tools that bring not only emotional closure, but justice. We have now identified the victim, and we will continue to work with these sheriff’s offices as they seek to identify whoever is responsible for her death.”

               “Mrs. Boudreaux’s family has been left with unanswered questions for the past 33 years, but today, they can finally begin to have some closure,” said Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre. “With that said, this is only the first piece of the puzzle. Now, our investigators will work with St. Tammany Parish investigators, and likely other jurisdictions as well, as we attempt to determine what happened to Mrs. Boudreaux. We hope this ongoing investigation displays our commitment to finding the truth in every case, even when it means waiting for the technology to catch up to that investigation. We also implore anyone who many have any information which might be helpful in this case to come forward.”

               "We never forget the victim of any crime, and we are thankful that more than 30 years later due to the cooperation between our agencies and the other entities involved, we are finally able to begin the process to help provide closure for Ms. Boudreaux’s family," Sheriff Randy Smith said. "Our detectives will continue to work with the detectives in Lafourche Parish to determine what happened to Ms. Boudreaux and how her body ended up in St. Tammany Parish so the person or persons responsible can be held accountable."

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