Hidden City Crime File: New Orleans

Delve into 3 crime stories from New Orleans.
Marcus heads to New Orleans to investigate the demons of the city. He delves into 3 different crimes, from 3 different eras. Discover more about each story.
1. Mark Essex
Who: Mark James Robert Essex was born in Emporia, KS on Aug. 12, 1949. He graduated from high school and attended college, but dropped out after a semester. Essex joined the Navy in 1969, and found himself facing racial abuse. He went AWOL in 1970, and was discharged in February 1971. He later joined black radical groups and ultimately became part of the Black Panthers.

What: Mark Essex went on a killing spree that resulted in the death of 9 and injury of at least 10 more. Essex’s started out by targeting the New Orleans police -- killing a cadet and wounding a lieutenant outside the central lockup. He fled and hid in a building, setting off an alarm in the process. When 2 officers responded to the call, Essex shot at them, ultimately killing 1. A week later he started shooting guests and setting fires in a Howard Johnson’s hotel. During a standoff with police, Essex was killed. It was later discovered that Essex had sent a letter to a TV station saying the attack was to “avenge the death of 2 brothers. And many others.”

When: Essex’s shooting sprees occurred on Dec. 31, 1972, and Jan. 7, 1973.

Where: Essex’s killing spree was in New Orleans.

In the Media: Essex is mentioned at length in Gil Scott Heron's version of Inner City Blues. Japanese doom metal band Church of Misery recorded a song about Mark Essex called "Soul Discharge" on their album The Second Coming. A news report of the shootings was seen in the movie The Assassination of Richard Nixon. And Adrienne Kennedy wrote a play An Evening with Dead Essex, based on his life. It opened in 1973 at the American Place Theatre in NYC.

2. Madame Delphine LaLaurie
Who: Marie Delphine Macarty was born around 1775, 1 of 5 children. Both her father, Barthelm Louis Macarty, and her mother, Marie Jeanne Lovable, were prominent members of the New Orleans white Creéole community. Delphine's cousin, Augustin de Macarty, was mayor of New Orleans from 1815 to 1820. Delphine was married 3 times and had 5 children. Her third marriage was to Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie. It has been said that she died on a boar hunt in Paris in 1842.

: The LaLaurie family was well-off and had slaves. Madame Delphine was known for being harsh and treating the slaves like property. When a fire broke out at the LaLaurie mansion, horrors were discovered. Slaves were mutilated, chained up and tortured. Bodies were found on the property, including that of a young black girl. There was also a rumor that LaLaurie beat her daughters when they tried to help the slaves.

When: The torture and killings supposedly took place between 1832 and 1834. LaLaurie's crimes were discovered when a fire broke out at the mansion on April 10, 1834. Bystanders ran in to help only to find 7 slaves who had been abused and imprisoned. When judges investigated the fire, they found additional horrors. After the discovery a mob attacked the mansion, causing the LaLaurie family to flee.

Where: The LaLaurie family owned property at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans. Madame Delphine built a 3-story mansion where she lived with her husband and 2 daughters.

In the Media
: Madame LaLaurie's story has been included in many books on New Orleans, such as Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans by Kalila Katherina Smith and Jeanne deLavigne's Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans.

3. Danziger Bridge Shooting



Photo by: Mario Tama

Mario Tama

Who: New Orleans police officers Robert Gisevius, Kenneth Bowen, Anthony Villavaso, Robert Faulcon, Michael Hunter, Ignatius Hills and Robert Barrios were all involved in the shootings on Danziger Bridge.

What: A group of 7 New Orleans police officers opened fire on the bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison; 4 other civilians were wounded. All victims were unarmed. Madison, a mentally disabled man, was shot in the back. The New Orleans police fabricated a story that they were responding to an "officer down" report and were being fired upon by 4 people. The plot was discovered when the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice, as well as the FBI, began to investigate the case. Eventually officers came forward admitting guilt in the cover-up.

Where: The shootings occurred on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans.

When: The shootings occurred on Sept. 4, 2005, 6 days after Hurricane Katrina.

The Latest: New Orleans Police officers Barrios and Hills were both charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and have resigned from the force. The other 5 officers were charged under a federal civil rights statute and found guilty. All of the officers remain in custody awaiting sentencing in February 2012.

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