Daily News from New York, New York on November 10, 1957 · 226
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Daily News from New York, New York · 226

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 10, 1957
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I SUNDAY NEWS NOVEMBER 'I01D57 'r131 $ 111 ? ' "J,N t. W;v ft;" , - - . x - A A. fe, s 4 v- ' r mT : S- Jt i t .3 1 . Killer left hole in car door. Mrs. Minnie Smith holds year-old Jacqueline Moate. the Audrey's six-months stay as their hous guest. f "She never helped me in any way. not even with the dishes. She hated housework and she was always around Tom. If he was working- on his motor boat or reading or anything1, there she was. She knew she was causing dissension between us. She wasn't at all attractive, but she was intelligent and seemed well-educated, and she had a way of twisting people around her finger. I hated her!" To some, these words offered a possibility that Mrs. Hotard might be re-tponsible for the disappearance of Aud rey ana tne niuraer oi Hotard. Why Did Audrey Lie? But investigators could find nothing absolutely nothing to justify such suspicion. Indeed, they found the missing Mrs." Moate far more of a puzzle than Mrs. Hotard. For instance, on th final Saturday morning Audrey told her mother the was going to work. Why did the tell this lie? tier mother had been blind to her illicit romance and approved of her friendship with. Hotard. They usually met on Saturday, so. what made this day different to Audrey t Hebert had no trouble establishing the Sheriff Percy Hebert fact that Audrey drove alone to Laplace and got into Hotard's car after she parked her own. Apparently, Hotard drove directly to their last trysting place at Frenier Beach. After that ... what? The sheriff called upon every possible resource in his hunt for the missinjf woman. First, deputies and volunteers? fanned out in search teams in all directions. Wearing high boots, they beat their way through palmettoes and dense undergrowth, keeping a close lookout for snakes as well as a body. State police observation planes and Coast Guard helicopters criss-crossed woods and swamps at tree level. Two hundred national guardsmen armed with walkie-talkies were called out to tramp at arm's length through the treacherous section. A guardsman found a post card addressed to Audrey partly submerged in muck not far from the car. Said Hebert. "I am going on the assumption that Mrs. Moate is still alive or that her body is in Lake Pontchartrain. In cold weather like this a body shouldn't stay under for more than a week." But Lake Pontchartrain gave up no secrets. Investigators could learn nothing about the origin of the single tire track found at the gravel patch where .the woman's footprints and the man's boot tracks stopped. Nobody in the vicinity had seen or heard a motorcycle in months. NATURALLY, Audrey's ex -husband, George Moate, was questioned. But he, happily remarried, was eliminated as a suspect. Police brought in for questioning Just about every man from miles around trappers, fishermen, moss pickers. A prominent New Orleans lawyer, who requested that he be shielded from publicity,- gave impetus to the theory that the killer used a boat. "I was hunting near Frenier Beach about 1 o'clock that Saturday afternoon," he told police, "when my attention was attracted to a speed hull just drifting on the lake waters. In the bow was a woman all huddled up as though she, were cold. A big man was in the stern by the motor. I especially noticed them because they were so still. "They weren't fishing. The motor was off and the boat was riding the waves, drifting. I thought at the time it was pretty nippy weather to be communing with nature out on Lake Ponchartrain." The sheriff and his deputies declared It was entirely possible for the murderer to have piloted a boat with its motor off almost to the Hotard car. The killer could have beached his craft with only a slight crunching sound, crept up to a rear window of the sedan and blasted Hotard. Abducting Audrey would have been com- ' paratively easy. But what was she wearing? From a study of the garments in the car, police concluded that Audrey left with only a brassiere and a skirt. Her purse was missing. If she ran for her life, she would hardly have clutched her handbag, throwing out her car keys as she ran. On the other hand, it seemed unlikely that her pursuer, overtaking her, would have searched her handbag, cast her car keys in one direction and the post card in another, but keeping the bag itself. Letter Turned Up A thorough check of Audrey's belongings turned up a letter stuck away in a corner of her office desk at Kaiser. It consisted of a few rather rambling sentences of the "I am fine, how are you?" variety. But the last sentence read "I will take care of you later." It was signed "Fathead." The letter was undated and there was no envelope to give a clue to the writer's identity. It was now exactly 12 days since a Gretna neighbor saw Hotard kiss his wife good-by and turned to reproach her husband. "Why can't you be like Tom Hotard? He's a perfect family man!" At 4 o'clock the afternoon of Dec. 6, the telephone rang in the New Orleans home of Mrs. George Moate, Audrey's former mother-in-law. Mrs. Moate answered. "Mom!" came a woman's voice. "This is Audrey. I'm in very bad trouble ... need help!" "Where are you, Audrey? Where are you?" cried Mrs. Moate. At once the line went dead. "It WAS Audrey," Mrs. Moate insisted to the police. Accent Unmistakable "She always called me mom. While she was living in California, she picked up a kind of clipped accent absolutely different from anybody around here. I'd know that accent anywhere." But why would Audrey telephone her former mother-in-law? "I've thought of that," said Mrs. Moate. "But I was about the only person she knew well in New Orleans and we were still friends. She paid me a visit only a couple of months ago. After all I am the grandmother of her children-two of them. Maybe if the call came from right here in New Orleans she didn't have the money to call her own mother in Eaton Rouge, and maji 1 was too frantic to think about phoning collect." AUDREY MOATE'S picture appeared in the New Orleans papers next day and waitresses in a French Market coffee shop reported to police that they had seen her. At least, they had seen a haggard, disheveled young woman whose resemblance to Audrey was striking. She ordered coffee and doughnut3 early one morning, but when she saw them eyeing her, she paid her check and fled. This report put every policeman and dozens of civilians in New Orleans on the lookout for the missing woman. If the woman at the French Market was Audrey Moate, her second disappearance was as complete as the first. Nineteen more weeks passed. Last April 28 Jackson Lejeune, a New Orleans produce dealer who bought vegetables ia the French Market, went to . w police. " Drink Is Offered "I saw Hotard killed and I know what happened to Audrey Moate," he said, keeping a nervous watch over his shoulder. "A certain man I'd known for about five years came up to me in the market that Saturday afternoon and asked me to have a drink with him. "We had a fete, and then he said, 'Come on, Jack, let's go for a rid'.' We drove to Laplace, where we parked by a restaurant. Suddenly he kind of gritted his teeth. 'That's herV he muttered. At that, he turned his car to follow a man and woman in a blue sedan." Lejeune said they followed the blue car to Frenier Beach and parked out ef sight of the couple in the car. Finally the man who knew Audrey reached down to the rear floorboards of his car and came up with a shotgun. "What you gonna do?" Lejeune asked. "Never mind. Just stay here and shut tip." Then he walked to the other car. "I saw him shoot into the rear window," Lejeune said. "As the woman came running out, he grabbed her and dragged her by the hair into the car where I was sitting. I begged him not to hurt her, to let her o. but he told me. 'If you don't f-hut up, I'll kill you.' So I shut up and he started the car. "Down the road he stopped the car, pulled the woman out and went back into the woods. After a long time, I heard three or four shots. He came back to the car, took a shovel out of the trunk and went back to the woods. After a while he came back once more. By then it was daylight and he drove me back to New Orleans. . tt a t i :e t t -,v,l ...v. I'd seen he'd kill me, so the next day I took off for Donaldson, La., because I was scared to death. But all this time my conscience has been bothering me. So I had to tell what I knew." Lejeune begged the police to lock him tip for protection "because that man gets awful mad when he's crossed." Sheriff Hebert fouvd the story interesting but shot with discrepancies. In the first place, the time of Hotard's death had been clearly established as Saturday morning, not Saturday night. i a l r j j:j .7. L - ( flfr lime c irrn r- rt i s uiu ww. i'""' ' information gathered by investigators. Lejeune was wrong about the position in which the Hotard ear was parked. During three visits to Frenier Beach, he failed to find the place where Audrey might hare been buried. The man Lejeune accused, however, was no figment of his imagination. He was well known in the bars about the French Market, but police found no evidence to connect him to the Hotard-Moate case. Fled in Fear Lejeune's story of his flight was corroborated by his landlady. She told reporters that he left town on Nov. 25, the day after Hotard was murdered. "He was so nervous I had to help him pack his things," she added. "He kept insisting. If gone to Texas remember, to Texas-" There was evidence, too, that Lejeune hid out for several weeks in Donaldson. "A victim of delusion," said police and dismissed his story. Twice since then, bodies of unidentified women have been found floating in the Mississippi River near New Orleans, but neither answered Audrey Moate's description. Mrs. Smith believes her daughter is a victim of amnesia brought on by her ordeal. Audrey's former mother-in-law also is convinced the missing woman is alive perhaps held on one of the uncounted and uncharted bayou islands cfi Frenier Beach. Audrey Moate is siH listed as a miss ing person and Tom Hotard's murder is "unsolved."

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