NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Every year, the French Quarter is a popular destination for Halloween and thousands of people regularly congregate for the costumed festivities. But on October 31, 2009, before the sun rose, a murder in the French Quarter would shock the New Orleans Medical Community.
Dr. Jeffrey Wiese, the senior associate dean for graduate medical education at Tulane University, worked alongside Dr. Ralph Edward Newsome and could not believe the tragedy.
“Just disbelief. I don’t think that any of us could imagine that would happen," Wiese said.
At 3:15 a.m, New Orleans firefighters received a call of a fire inside a luxurious townhouse in the 900 block of Toulouse Street . While battling the flames, they found the body of an unconscious man on the third floor.
It was Newsome. Someone had stabbed him several times, leaving his body to be found on the floor of his bedroom. Despite efforts to save his life, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. He was 45 years old.
Newsome was a prominent Tulane University plastic surgeon. Wiese said he and his colleagues couldn’t comprehend why someone would kill the beloved surgeon they called Edward.
“How can you take something that special? I mean that beautiful, and how can you ever conceive that Edward would be in that position that somebody would have malice toward him,” Wiese said.
That was the question -- Who would have malice toward Dr. Newsome?
The Alabama native was described as a kind, talented, Tulane University surgeon who had a passion for working with wounded trauma victims and skin cancer patients.
Sarah Kuo is Newsome’s younger sister. She spoke to FOX 8 from her home in Alabama, recalling the painful conversation about her brother’s death. It was her who had to deliver the devastating news to her parents.
“I don’t think any one ever thinks this can happen to your family,” Kuo said. “I had to go tell my parents. How do you tell your parents? It was terrible."
Kuo said she and her brother had a lot in common. He was a surgeon and she was a nurse. She said he always had a passion for caring for other people and became known across the country for his emergency medicine skills and abilities in both general surgery and plastic surgery. His murder left a huge void in their family, Kuo said.
“People say it takes a piece of your heart. It’s deeper than that. It’s more than that, it takes a chunk of your soul and that never goes away,” Kuo said.
Investigators say they found no sign of forced entry at the home and they believe more than one person was involved in the killing. They say the victim either knew his murderers or they had another way to get into his home. Also missing from his home -- Newsome’s phone and his laptop, which police could hold clues.
Despite the fire, there were also no signs Newsome inhaled any smoke, nor did he have burns from the fire. Investigators believe he was fatally stabbed before someone set the fire, to most likely cover up any evidence.
Investigators also revealed on that morning of the fire, someone saw a man leaving Newsome’s home, and no one was seen entering the house afterwards. About a half hour later, police say neighbors saw smoke coming from the residence.
NOPD cold case detective Ryan Aucoin has been working this case since day one.
“That means the individual left before the fire started or possibly could have started the fire,” Aucoin said.
He said investigators tracked down the man seen leaving Newsome’s home before the fire and questioned him.
“The person was local, and this individual did some work for the doctor as far as home renovations, or grocery [shopping] or [as a] personal assistant for the doctor,” Aucoin said.
The detective wouldn’t reveal the identity of that person, but confirmed they are still a suspect in the murder but has never been arrested.
“We were never able to collect enough evidence to prove that was the person who killed Dr. Newsome or that was the person who set the house on fire," Aucoin said.
He also said investigators viewed nearby surveillance video, but nothing panned out.
Kuo also shared information with police that she thought could help solve the case: right before her brother’s murder, he told her about numerous threatening calls he was getting from another doctor.
“Multiple phone calls. All day and all night,” Kuo said. “This doctor had been calling him, and even called when I was there and threatened my brother.”
The exact reason for the threatening calls to Newsome remains unclear, but Aucoin confirmed Newsome was dealing with a disgruntled unidentified person. However, he said there are people in Newsome’s professional medical life who are still on their radar.
“We were able to rule most of those individuals out, but there are still some still missing. Some things don’t seem right with it. I don’t want to get too far into that part of the investigation,” Aucoin said.
But, he said investigators believe someone locally has clues to help make an arrest. This is one of the main reason’s why Newsome’s close friends and loved ones are pleading for help in getting justice.
“I think to just have some closure in it. If somebody can help with that, then it matters to a lot of us,” Wiese said.
Kuo also expressed the same plea for help.
“I don’t want this to happen to someone else," Kuo said. "If this was such a rage murder, what’s to stop it from happening again, if somebody gets paranoid or go into another rage?”
Newsome’s is a killing they say took the life of a gifted surgeon who had no ill will against anyone, and just wanted to bring good to the world.
If you have any information on the murder of Dr. Edward Newsome, call NOPD detectives at 504-658-5300 or Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.