Time to kill

Grave dan­ger

Real People - - CONTENT -

Evil lurked amid the tomb­stones of Dorothy’s pet ceme­tery...

Dorothy Thomp­son’s house sat way back off the high­way, down a se­cluded wood­land drive.

The white-painted clap­board villa, by the side of the bayou in the tiny Louisiana town of Toca, had seen better days, but kept an air of faded grandeur.

But what made it fa­mous were the tomb­stones.

The house’s 14-acre gar­dens housed the Aza­lea Orig­i­nal Pet Ceme­tery, the last rest­ing place for much-loved pets: cats, dogs, birds, even mon­keys.

About 5,000 an­i­mals had been buried there since the busi­ness was opened by Dorothy’s mother, Grace, in 1950.

‘It’s haunted,’ the lo­cal kids told each other. ‘There are ghosts and stuff all round the place.’

Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, pets weren’t the only things buried at Dorothy’s house. Some­where, there was said to be a for­tune amassed by Dorothy’s dad, Jack, a casino owner with shady links.

Be­cause of her reclu­sive­ness, and the ru­mours of great wealth, Dorothy was vul­ner­a­ble…

Friend Patricia New­man en­tered Dorothy’s life around 1980, when she was de­pressed over the death of her mother.

Soon, the young woman, in her 30s, was like a daugh­ter to her.

Around the same time, Dorothy hired Bran­don Nodier, 26, as her live-in care­taker.

One night in April 1985, Patricia phoned Dorothy to dis­cuss plans to pick her up next day and take her shop­ping.

But, when Patricia turned up at the house, Dorothy, 63, was nowhere to be found.

Patricia re­ported her miss­ing to the St Bernard Parish Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

Three weeks later, fish­er­men dredged up Dorothy’s body from the Mis­sis­sippi River.

Par­tially naked, and with a bin bag tied around her head, her corpse had been weighted down with heavy chains.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined that she had been stran­gled be­fore be­ing dumped. But, with few clues, the case was shelved.

In 2012, the in­quiry was re­opened by cold-case de­tec­tives – one of whom, Colonel John Do­ran, had fond mem­o­ries of Dorothy, hav­ing done odd jobs for her when he was a teenager.

‘She was kind of ec­cen­tric and wasn’t in the best of health, but she was a gen­er­ous and sweet per­son,’ he said.

Most of the case files had been de­stroyed when Hur­ri­cane Katrina hit the area in Au­gust 2005, but one file re­mained that Colonel Do­ran de­scribed as a ‘Bi­ble of names and wit­nesses’.

They re-in­ter­viewed Patricia and dis­cov­ered that, at the time of the mur­der in 1985, Dorothy’s care­taker, Bran­don, and his ex-wife, Bon­nie, had been due to face Dorothy in court.

‘He was al­ways try­ing to get her to sign the prop­erty over,’ Patricia said.

Even­tu­ally, Dorothy had, but she’d been con­vinced Bran­don had hood­winked her out of the ceme­tery – pay­ing her just $20,000, a frac­tion of its worth.

Five months af­ter fil­ing the law­suit, Dorothy went miss­ing...

Bran­don was prime suspect, but po­lice needed ev­i­dence. Then, a woman called to say that her jailed hus­band wanted to talk about an old mur­der…

James Tre­gler told the po­lice he hadn’t seen Bran­don, an old ac­quain­tance, for 25 years – un­til re­cently. He’d turned up to say that, if James didn’t keep quiet, his wife would get hurt.

Fear­ing for his wife’s safety, James con­fessed to the po­lice.

He told them Bran­don had picked him up one night, driven to the pet ceme­tery and told him to wait.

A few min­utes later, he heard Dorothy scream. Run­ning to the house, he saw Bran­don on top of Dorothy, chok­ing her.

He yelled at him to stop, but Bran­don threat­ened him. Scared, he let him fin­ish Dorothy off. Then he helped dis­pose of the body.

‘I didn’t know what he was go­ing to do,’ he said. ‘I was scared to death of him.’

When James con­firmed de­tails that had never been made public, the de­tec­tives knew he was telling the truth.

In April 2012, al­most 27 years to the day af­ter Dorothy went miss­ing, Bran­don, 60, pleaded guilty to man­slaugh­ter and was sen­tenced to 10 years.

‘I don’t think it weighed on him at all,’ said De­tec­tive Cap­tain Mark Jack­son. ‘He showed no re­morse – no noth­ing.’

Dorothy’s house is now derelict, but Patricia New­man – the true friend who hounded the author­i­ties for years about solv­ing the mur­der – said she in­tends to ren­o­vate the prop­erty and re­open the ceme­tery soon, as a trib­ute to Dorothy.

Watch Homi­cide: Hours to Kill on Thurs­day 14 June at 10pm.

Bran­don was nabbed nearly 30 years later Dorothy and Bran­don in her pet ceme­tery in 1981

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