NOPD: Motive in Tulane alum killing was robbery

NOPD: Motive in Tulane alum killing was robbery
Published: May. 9, 2016 at 12:04 PM CDT|Updated: May. 9, 2016 at 9:49 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Tulane University graduate back in New Orleans to plan his wedding was shot to death Saturday during what investigators think was a robbery, New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse identified the man as Thomas Rolfes, 25. He was shot once in the chest.

Harrison said Rolfes had marks on his hands that would indicate a struggle. Rolfes' body was found around 4:30 a.m. at the intersection of Claiborne Avenue and Amelia Street.

Rolfes had flown into New Orleans Friday night and went out with friends while his fiancee slept in their hotel room. Harrison said investigators are going through surveillance video, some of which shows the Tulane grad at Miss Mae's bar on Magazine Street. The bar owner said Rolfes arrived at about 12:30 a.m. and left at 2:40 a.m. He was then spotted at a convenience store on Claiborne buying two bottles of water.

"We've spoken to his family, we've spoken to fiancee, and the fact that we know he bought two bottles of water raises more questions that our investigators are working very, very hard to answer," Harrison said.

Rofles' fiancee, Liz Fried, said she became worried when he didn't come back to the hotel.

"I called our credit card company and found out there had  been a charge at the gas station. The Delta Fuel station at 3:31," she said.

Harrison said he didn't know if Rolfes was with another person at the time. The chief wouldn't say if there were any shell casings around Rolfes' body at the spot where it was discovered. He said detectives know the answer, but they're not ready to release it.

"He was found with his pockets turned inside out and his wallet was missing, which was why they were not able to identify him until I called," Fried said.

There is still a question about what happened from the time Rolfes was at the Delta Fuel convenience store to the time his body was found. Surveillance video from a nearby phone repair business does not show Rolfes walking by on Clairborne Avenue.

"Hopefully we can get some footage to show if he was with someone. We're just trying to get some answers," Fried said.

The NOPD is asking anyone with surveillance video to contact them.

Rolfes had worked for the campaign of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who posted the following to his Facebook page:

Mitt Romney

3 hrs · 

Heartbreaking to hear that Thomas Rolfes was killed this weekend while in New Orleans looking for a wedding venue with his sweetheart, a fellow Tulane graduate. A senseless and tragic loss. Thomas was a highly valued member of our 2012 campaign team. His warm smile and engaging personality lifted our spirits. His commitment and dedication to our effort made him an invaluable part of the campaign. Ann and I send our love and prayers to his family and fiancée

The St; Louis Post-Dispatch published a lengthy report indicating the Rolfes was raised in the St. Louis area and most of his family still lives in the region.

Read the full report here.

Rolfes' employer Clayco, a building design with locations in St. Louis and Chicago, released a statement on Sunday morning.

It"s with a heavy heart that I report to all the Clayco family really bad news.

Our young and well loved superstar team member Tom Rolfes was taken from us in what appears to be a senseless shooting in the early morning of May 7th while in New Orleans. Son of long time Clayco veteran Ron and Julie Rolfes, Tom has grown up a part of Clayco and made terrific contribution on our recent RGA completed project and has currently been at our Toray project. Photo attached. Tom would be 26 years old this June and recently was promoted to SR PE which motivated him to propose to his sweetheart Liz Fried. Tom has two younger brothers Tripp and Tanner and a 12 year old sister, Tessa.

Please take a minute and say prayers for the families. We will get you more details in the future.

Right now the family of the Tulane University graduate distraught and wants answers to why he was killed.

New video shows Rolfes at a convenience store on South Claiborne just before the fatal shooting.

The coroner says he was shot to death early Saturday morning.

Julie Rolfes, the mother of the shooting victim, is heartbroken. She told us her son, originally from St. Louis, came back to New Orleans to pick a wedding venue after getting engaged about a month ago.

Julie Rolfes' is still trying to figure out who killed her son.

She said on Friday night, he was Uptown at Miss Mae's at the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Magazine Street with a friend. She said that friend left and returned half hour later. In that time, Rolfes left the bar on foot.
Julie Rolfes believes her son walked from Miss Mae's to a gas station in the 3300 block of South Claiborne Avenue where surveillance video shows him buying two bottles of water.

His body was found a short time later not far away at Amelia Street and South Claiborne Avenue. Rolfes suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest and died at the scene.

Anyone with information is asked to call  Crimestoppers at 822-1111.

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