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Arrest made in 2016 cold case murder of Tulane student

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 2:36 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 4:40 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Five and a half years after detectives discovered Tulane grad Thomas Rolfes’ body at the corner of Claiborne Avenue and Amelia Street, his suspected killer, Ernest Weatherspoon, has been captured and indicted.

“It’s been an emotional time for myself and the Rolfes family,” Liz Fried said. Fried was Rolfes’ fiancee. “We are just so incredibly grateful.”

A special grand jury indicted Weatherspoon for the murder on Thursday. The NOPD and U.S. Marshals arrested Weatherspoon on suspicion of armed robbery and second-degree murder.

Ernest Weatherspoon was arrested on suspicion of robbing and killing Tulane grad Thomas Rolfes...
Ernest Weatherspoon was arrested on suspicion of robbing and killing Tulane grad Thomas Rolfes in 2016.(JPSO)

District Attorney Jason Wiliams says Weatherspoon robbed and “senselessly” killed Rolfes on Mother’s Day weekend in May 2016.

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Fried remembers Rolfes as a kind soul who was always smiling.

In May of 2016, Rolfes was overjoyed as he and his fiancee returned to New Orleans to find the perfect wedding spot. Rolfes’ love for New Orleans began in 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina when he and his dad traveled from St. Louis to help deliver relief aid.

Rolfes was on his way to meet some friends at Miss Mae’s in Uptown on that fateful night.

Police said after spending time with his friends, a surveillance camera at the bar captured Rolfes leaving alone at 2:39 a.m.

The next time police saw Rolfes, it was on surveillance video at 3:29 a.m. walking into the Delta Fuel gas station at South Claiborne Avenue and Toledano Street, around two miles away from Miss Mae’s.

Surveillance video from inside the store caught Rolfes buying two bottles of water and was the last time Rolfes was seen alive on video.

“It’s been a big open wound for myself and his family,” Fried said. “The hardest part was not having those answers.”

“The system never gave up,” Williams said.

Rolfes’ family says Weatherspoon “made a horrible decision that took our son’s life.”

The cold case was solved thanks to new evidence. Williams says the community came forward to help and he commended the hard work of his investigators and NOPD detectives.

“He came back down here to plan that big event in his life,” Williams said at a press conference Thursday. “He lost his life in his favorite city. It is deeply emotional.”

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