As Debra Owens searched the internet for Black Friday deals at her mother’s house on Midland Drive in Thibodaux Friday morning, she heard a loud pop and knew immediately something wasn’t right.
Her 75-year-old mother, Grace Owens, had taken the trash out but never came back inside.
“I thought somebody had popped a balloon,” Debra Owens said. “So I got up and walked outside and saw my mom laying on the ground and this guy who lived next door was standing over her acting like he was trying to do something to her.”
Debra Owens said the man, identified by police as 41-year-old Kai D. Williams, of 1722 Midland Drive, had shot her mother in the back of the head. The suspect then dragged her to the end of his driveway.
“He had a gun in his holster and pulled it out and pointed it at me,” Debra Owens said. “I said to him, ‘Don’t do this’ and ran inside the house to call 911. I stayed on the phone until officers arrived. When they got here I went outside and saw them put him on the ground, cuff him and put him in the car.”
According to the Thibodaux Police Department, officers responded to the 1700 block of Midland Drive near Schriever and found Williams attempting to use a propane burner to set fire to the victim’s body.
Williams was charged with second-degree murder and was transported to the Lafourche Parish jail, where he’s being held on a $2 million bond, police said.
The victim was taken to Thibodaux Regional Medical Center and was later transferred to University Medical Hospital in New Orleans, where she died, Thibodaux Police Chief Bryan Zeringue said.
“This is an unfortunate tragedy,” Zeringue said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.”
Police have not released a motive and are still investigating the killing.
In the hours following the shooting, friends and family of the victim somberly gathered at her home to pay respects to the woman who they say dedicated her life to children.
She was one of the best people around,” said Grace Owens’ son-in-law, Michael Naverre of Thibodaux. “She worked at a day-care center for many years and taught every kid in town. She also worked at Thibodaux Elementary. She cared for every child. She loved kids. That’s the kind of woman she was. She never stopped.”
Although police declined to comment about the suspect, neighbors claim Williams had suffered from psychological issues and had a history of hostility.
“I knew something was wrong with him,” said 42-year-old Chantell Smith, who lives next door to the suspect. “I knew he wasn’t straight because we had a Rottweiler. Something about that man made that dog go crazy. One day I was at work and my kids called and said something was wrong with the dog. The dog had lost a lot of weight and died the next day. I found out that it died from Freon poisoning. When my boyfriend asked (Williams) if he killed our dog, he just laughed. I was afraid for my kids to come outside. I hoped I was wrong, but I knew something like this was going to happen.”
Neighbor Jane Scott said she’s also had her run-ins with the suspect, who she described as mentally unstable.
“He’s a psycho,” Scott said. “One time he brought a pellet gun and shot my son in the navel. We had to bring my son to the hospital so doctors could remove the pellet.”
“He was sick,” Naverre added. “Something was off about him. I really believe they need places to help people like that.”
Friday’s fatal shooting marked the second homicide in Thibodaux this month. On Nov. 15, Thibodaux police investigated a shooting that occurred on Ridgefield Road just a couple of miles away.
In that incident, Tremell Batiste, 21, 164 Georgette St., Napoleonville, and Dontrell Bryant Jr., 19, 800 E. Winder Road, Thibodaux, were both charged with the second-degree murder of 30-year-old Chansie White.
The close proximity of both shootings is coincidental, Zeringue said.
“We hadn’t had anything like this on that side of town in a while,” the police chief said. “Things had calmed down. I had my fingers crossed that we wouldn’t have any more homicides this year, but they’re almost like crashes sometimes. You hope for the zero, but all of a sudden they start popping up.”
--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@DanVC