Clear the Books: Unsolved homicides in St. Tammany Parish

Published: Feb. 11, 2013 at 10:39 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 11, 2013 at 11:53 PM CST
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St.. Tammany Parish has one of the lowest murder rates in the country. But it's troubled by some old unsolved homicides.

One of those cases goes back nearly 50 years. It involves two teenage girls who walked away from their New Orleans home and were later found dead along the East Pearl River.

"This is still an open wound.  Though it occurred many years ago, it happened here and needs to be concluded," said St.. Tammany Sheriff Jack St.rain.

46 years ago, the bodies of two 17-year-old girls, Patricia Purcell and Joyce Galloway, were found in St.. Tammany Parish.

"She was beautiful, friendly, outgoing, and had a lot of friends," said Kevin Purcell of his sister.

The girls had been reported missing from their Gentilly neighborhood, where they had left the day before and were never heard from again. "That was hard on everybody, especially when they found out what condition they were in," said Purcell.

"The classic tale -- every parents' nightmare," said St.rain.

The girls were headed to a party, but somehow their bodies wound up at the East Pearl River. Both had been killed by blunt force trauma, and unfortunately no evidence of a murder weapon was ever found, complicating the investigation.

Police made an arrest but had very little evidence to work with.  "There was a belief at the time [that] he used a tire tool, and the suspect had attacked his girlfriend with a tire tool, so there was a connection there," said St.rain.

St.. Tammany investigators continue to talk with suspects and they are hoping that, nearly five decades later, there may be new information.

Detectives have a tough time dealing with old cases: Witnesses die and DNA technologies didn't exist when the cases were open.  But more recent cases present challenges too.  Police make arrests, but without enough evidence to convince a jury the case can't be closed.

"You just can't say this person did it, slam dunk," said Strain.

Another open St. Tammany investigation also has a south shore connection.

Two bodies were discovered two and a half years ago in Lake Pontchartrain, off the Twin Spans along the Orleans-St. Tammany line.  58-year-old Herbert Glass and 42-year-old Lynette Williams Glass were apparently abducted from their Kenner home.

"They didn't just take Herb's life, they took his wife.  They need closure." said Herb's brother Richard Glass from his Kenner home.

Each victim died of a single gunshot wound to the head, and so far authorities have not been able to bring a suspect to trial.

Strain said, "One of the problems we have in that case... so many parties are incarcerated or have a criminal background."

St. Tammany authorities also are asking for your help in solving a third open murder case.

Genevia Craft spoke out nearly five years ago about the murder of her son, a popular Slidell-area barber named Nate Mills.  He was shot to death in his own barbershop, near his mother's home.  While police made an arrest in the case, they lacked the evidence needed to get an indictment, and bring a suspect to trial.

St. Tammany Parish criminal investigators have a 98 percent murder solve rate.

"Don't assume these are faceless people. They have a mother or father, aunt still devastated by that crime, and for us to bring closure would be all we could ask for," said Sheriff Strain.

"It will never go away. And we're glad that the police department has taken an interest in it again, and hopefully they can get somewhere with it," said Kevin Purcell.

If you can help authorities solve these cases, they ask that you give them a call.  The Greater New Orleans Crimestoppers is offering rewards of up to $5000 for information that leads to an arrest or conviction in any of these cases.  You can contact Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.