Miles Away: Suspected hit-and-run driver can't be found

Miles Away: Suspected hit-and-run driver can't be found
Janneh Trench, 35, of Vacherie
Janneh Trench, 35, of Vacherie
The remains of the vehicle Trench allegedly was driving
The remains of the vehicle Trench allegedly was driving

(WVUE) - Police say they know who's responsible for a tragic accident that killed an LSU student from the north shore. Yet, months after the crash, the local man can't be found.

In Baton Rouge, students fired up an airboat at the LSU College of Agriculture, and it isn't any airboat. It's a research vessel that students studying renewable natural resources will use in the field.

Tossing a little water on it, student Taylor Tycer announced, "I dedicate this boat to Eric Fabre." She christened Research Vessel Eric Fabre in memory of the beloved student from Slidell who loved the outdoors.

"It just exemplifies everything about Eric. Just that whole sun setting, and he would be very proud, humbled. He would be very proud," Jack Fabre, Eric's father, said.

Eric Fabre would have been a senior at LSU this year, but over the summer, the 20-year-old's life was tragically cut short when he became the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Baton Rouge. Jack remembers getting the awful phone call. "One of those middle of the night, three o'clock in the morning phone calls that's never good typically when the phone rings, and we got the word, and I just basically fell to the ground," Jack said. He and Eric's stepmom, Michelle, couldn't believe what they had heard.

Seven months later, that pain hasn't healed. Police haven't arrested the man they say is responsible, 35-year-old Janneh Trench of Vacherie. "That's the frustrating part, to know who it is who the police are after, and yet, he remains on the street," Jack said. Baton Rouge police tell FOX 8 the U.S. Marshal's Office is now assisting in the search for Trench.

Two arrest warrants spell out that he's wanted on several charges, including hit and run, obstruction of justice and simple arson. "That's the scary part, that possibly he'll do this, you know, some other family could suffer the same tragedy that we have," Jack said.

He remembers the night of June 20th well. He had spoken to his son that evening on the phone. Eric and some friends had gone bowling. He says they headed to grab a quick bite just a few blocks away. Eric's friends were in one car, and Eric was driving just behind them, on his motor scooter.

"In an instant, they saw the light from his scooter go down," Jack said. They stopped immediately and rushed to help. Speeding away he says Eric's friends described a reddish Chrysler 300 that had come from behind them so fast. "So the person didn't really even stop.. just hit him and continued on," explained Jack. According to him, several hours later, someone called in a report of a car that had been burned, matching the description.

The arrest warrants detail that investigators found Janneh Trench's name on "unburnt paperwork in the vehicle." It explains the burned suspect vehicle had "damage to the front bumper"... "consistent with that of striking the rear of a motorcycle."

The arrest warrants also explain cell phone records show Trench used his phone before and after the accident, and the cell tower used was in "close proximity of the crash." According to police, the registered owner of the vehicle told them Trench was the primary driver. The warrant spells out the car's registered owner spoke with Trench after the incident and "he was remorseful about the events that had taken place." Yet, Janneh Trench has never turned himself in and remains at large.

"We ourselves have traveled to his hometown, handed out flyers, trying to get the word out. We've done that in Vacherie. We've done that in New Orleans," Jack said.

A grieving father pleads for the public's help, to the suspect's friends and family and to Janneh Trench himself. "For those who have children, if you put yourself in our shoes, you would hope that somebody would come forward - or this man himself take responsibility for what he's done and do the right thing," Jack said.

When he was killed, Eric Fabre was two weeks shy of his 21st birthday when he planned to propose to his high school sweetheart, Taylor. He had aspirations to be a wildlife and fisheries agent. He loved the outdoors.

"[The renewable natural resources students] were gonna be taking an airboat that he worked on and refurbished on a trip to Texas to take samples and things," Jack said. "If it had a motor or an engine on it, he could fix it," Jack explained.

But Eric never got that chance. "But he will get a lot of chances for as long as that boat is running," LSU graduate student Kristin DeMarco said.

At LSU, students and school leaders dedicated a newly refurbished airboat in Eric's name. "He touched a lot of lives and his spirit goes on and on each and every day through you and through what you're accomplishing," LSU President F. King Alexander told a crowd of more than 100 people gathered for the special ceremony.

"I just couldn't be happier to have a little bit of him out there with us. I couldn't feel safer. I couldn't feel more protected, and it's just knowing that some part of him is out there with us.. that boat.. and this program and everyone who is touched by his life will be better off and safer and happier," DeMarco said.

As long as they've got this boat, a piece of Eric Fabre will live on. It's something his family tries to focus on. Still, they want justice, knowing the man police believe is responsible for taking it all away is still free.

If you've seen Janneh Trench or know where he may be, call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111. You could be eligible for a reward, up to $2,500.

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