Zurik: Third investigator believes 2005 death was a murder, says witnesses recanted out of fear
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A third investigator says he believes the 2005 death of Joey Georgusis was a murder and not an overdose, as originally classified by the coroner’s office.
Georgusis died on August 5, 2005, weeks before Hurricane Katrina. But in the months following his death, Joey’s father received calls from people telling him his son was murdered.
“Then in about November, I get a call from an individual who tells me they heard he was murdered,” Joe Georgusis said.
The father said he received more calls from people saying the same thing. After those calls, he called police and asked them to look into his son’s death as a homicide.
Georgusis reached out to an acquaintance, Chuck Loescher, who was an officer at the time with the New Orleans Police Department. Loescher, who has not spoken publicly about the case until an interview with FOX 8 News, said he and Georgusis met at a Burger King on Veterans Boulevard in Jefferson Parish.
The two knew each other from living in St. Bernard Parish.
More than a year after Joey’s death, Loescher, in his capacity as an NOPD detective, interviewed Joey’s roommate, Jerone Carrasquillo.
In that interview, Carrasquillo told Loescher that two now-convicted drug dealers murdered Joey.
Loescher said he then asked Carrasquillo to meet with a few more officers at the NOPD trailers which were serving as offices for the department following Katrina. Loescher said Carrasquillo told the same story.
“When Jerone left the trailer, he got outside he asked if he could talk to me off to the side. He said look Detective Loescher he says I’m scared for my life, I’m giving you truth about this story and I’m afraid they’re going to come back to get me.... Can you and Mr. Joe get me some kind of protection or help me move out of town for a while, get me some type of witness protection?,” Loescher recalled.
The former police officer said he believed that Carrasquillo was scared.
“Do I believe that he was scared? Yes. He was pale as a ghost. I believe he was scared for his life,” Loescher said.
Months later, Carrasquillo recanted his statement. The reason why, he said, was pressure by police to make up a story.
In a sworn deposition, Carrasquillo told a story about how police surrounded him.
“I’ve never seen a New Orleans police about this before ever. All of a sudden there is about five or six New Orleans police. There is a piss test, cup sample on the thing,” Carrasquillo said.
Among the officers that interviewed Carrasquillo were Loescher and former NOPD Captain Tim Bayard.
“Me and Captain Bayard wouldn’t be carrying around piss sample cups. I’ve never heard police carrying around piss sample cups in their vehicle or anything,” Loescher said.
In the deposition, Carrasquillo told Joe Georgusis’ attorney, police had threatened him.
“I’m already on probation. I don’t want to go to jail for anything. so they already threatening me that I’m going to go to jail and violate my probation because I admit doing drugs with Joey if I don’t tell them the truth,” Carrasquillo told the Georgusis’ attorney. “The man had me in tears pretty much. Pretty much had me in tears, really had me in tears because he would not let me f----ing leave until I told him what he wanted to hear. "
Loescher said Carrasquillo’s accusation was a “right out lie.”
“First of all, we made sure we told him several times Jerone you’re free to leave anytime you want,” Loescher said. “We didn’t want at any time to think he was under arrest or anything like that, we said Jerone you’re free to leave this house anytime you want. He says no I want to talk to you. And he began to tell the story and when he finished the story said I’m glad to get this off my chest finally.”
But more of Carrasquillo’s sworn testimony during the deposition raises even more questions about his truthfulness.
When asked about how Joey was found, Jerone said he ran in the room “rolled him over and tried to give him CPR.” According to that sworn deposition, this means Joey would have been face up when police arrived. But the responding officer, Sgt. Jennifer Dupree, said that was not true.
Carrasquillo said it again that he tried to do CPR on Joey.
“When I rolled him over he made a gasp -- a gasping sound so I thought he was still breathing,” Carrasquillo said.
Sgt. Dupree said it did not appear anyone had attempted CPR on Joey when she arrived because there was foam in his mouth. She said Carrasquillo was not in the same room with Joey when she arrived at the house. She said Carrasquillo was sitting on the couch in the living room.
ATTORNEY: What was -- what was his mannerisms at the time you first observed him?
SGT. DUPREE: Calm.
ATTORNEY: Were his mannerisms consistent with a person dying in the other room in your opinion as a police officer?
ATTORNEY: Did he appear to be in distress to you?
Carrasquillo’s initial story that two convicted drug dealers murdered Joey, matches what Joey’s former girlfriend, Jennifer Miller, also told police.
Miller told Loescher on the morning of August 5, the two convicted drug dealers went into Joey’s room and left about ten minutes later.
INVESTIGATOR: TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT DID HE SAY?
JENNIFER MILLER: they said they would hurt us not to say anything because we will kill you too.
INVESTIGATOR: AND THEN YOU KNEW SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED TO JOEY?
INVESTIGATOR: WHAT DID JERONE SAY?
MILLER: Jerone said I’m scared Jen, and I said me too.
Loescher said Miller’s story adds credence to the one Carrasquillo told.
“Their stories were very alike on two different occasions when I interviewed them,” Loescher said. “Their stories were so similar and so detailed what they told me, that I really believe this happened in the house.”
Both Miller and Carrasquillo recanted their stories they told Loescher.
“I think they were scared for their life,” Loescher said.
Former Orleans Parish Coroner, Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, reclassified Joey Georgusis’ death from an overdose to undetermined. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation. Loescher is now the third person who investigated the case who said it probably wasn’t an overdose death.
“I believe he was murdered,” Loescher said.
Joe Georgusis, Joey’s father, has spent millions of dollars hiring investigators and attorneys trying to find out what happened to his son. On the day before his son’s death, Joe said Joey told him he wanted to move to the Northshore and restart his life. That would be the last time the two would speak.
“I said when daddy comes home I’ll be home Saturday we’ll sit and talk about it,” he said. “[Joey] said great man you always come through for me. I love you.... I said I love you too.”
FOX 8 reached out to Jerone Carrasquillo multiple times and he did not respond. We also called Jennifer Miller, Joey’s girlfriend at the time for a comment. When reached by phone, she hung up on us.
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