Husband pleads for violent crime solutions after wife’s brutal carjacking at Costco

Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 10:52 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The husband of a woman dragged through a Costco parking lot at the hands of a carjacker says the couple is sad and angry at “what has become of our beloved city.”

Kelleye Rhein, 45, was pumping gas at a New Orleans Costco on Carrollton Avenue when somebody snuck into her driver’s seat and took off.

Her husband, Jason Rhein, posted a message to Instagram with screenshots of news articles that circulated the day after the attack.

More: Woman carjacked, run over while pumping gas at Costco

He says his wife was badly hurt, suffering fractures in her skull, face, and neck. She has abrasions on her face, down the side of her body, and a brain bleed, he says. Kelleye spent about 24 hours in the Intensive Care Unit, “but thankfully is now on the long road to recovery at home,” he wrote. “She is still very fuzzy about what happened to her.”

“She is one of the strongest, most amazing humans and she will heal from this in time,” he says. “But we are not OK.”

“We are deeply saddened and angry that this is what has become of our beloved city,” he says.

The Rheins have called New Orleans home for nearly 25 years, raising a family and starting their own businesses.

“We love the culture and the people so much. But when you can’t do every day things like getting gas in a busy Costco parking lot in the middle of the day without fearing for your life, it makes you start to question things,” he says. “This city is on a downward spiral with crime. And I am not seeing any city leadership proposing any meaningful solutions.”

“I kept thinking that could have been me,” Dr. Aarti Pais says. “I was the next car in line and usually I have my kids with me. There’s so much going on in the world right now and there’s so much to worry about. Pumping gas should not be one of them.”

Carrollton Avenue Costco gas pumps
Carrollton Avenue Costco gas pumps(WVUE)

The attack came one day before New Orleans Police Chief Shaun Ferguson and Mayor LaToya Cantrell held a joint press conference to announce an expansion of crime-fighting strategies. The plan includes expanding the department’s violent crimes unit, bringing back district task forces, 12-hour patrol shifts, and asking the city council to amend or repeal an ordinance limiting the use of facial recognition technology.

“What we’re seeing from these brazen criminals, of every age, they’re relentless,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “They’re vicious. [They] show us themselves on social media platforms every single day. So I’m asking for everyone to be more vigilant.”

Thursday morning, Ferguson joined District Attorney Jason Williams at Edna Karr High School after weeks of political infighting to address the ongoing crime. Two Edna Karr students were recently killed in separate shootings.

More: ‘We’re seeing our students in coffins’: Another Edna Karr athlete is killed in an Algiers shooting

NOLA crime plans
NOLA crime plans

Rhein called out Costco management, who refused to comment after the second consecutive day of violence at their pumps.

The night before Kelleye was bloodied and left to die, a similar attempted carjacking unfolded in the same place. In that instance, the woman was able to shove her would-be carjacker away and the foiled thieves sped off.

The membership warehouse has had private security patrolling its parking lot in a marked vehicle since late last year, after two women loading groceries into their vehicles were carjacked at gunpoint in a span of three days on Nov. 10 and Nov. 12.

“I am not naive to think there is an easy band-aid solution to these issues. Yes we need more security and more tangible action (not just empty words) from our city leaders. We need more police presence. We need to not make the criminal justice system a revolving door for repeat offenders. But I know it’s deeper than that,” Rhein’s post continues.

Carjackings are happening across New Orleans at an alarming rate. According to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the NOPD has investigated more than 50 carjackings so far this year.


One man, two teens arrested for West Bank carjacking, NOPD says

VIDEO: Woman escapes attempted kidnapping in the Marigny

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“We need to come together to find solutions to these problems before it’s too late for New Orleans,” Rhein’s post concludes.

Friends who say Kelleye is a tough cookie have started a Meal Train to help ease the family’s burden during her recovery.

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