NEW ORLEANS - Clearing up the last known New Orleans homicides before Katrina hit, a woman pleaded guilty Friday to fatally shooting Joe Wongchoy Jr., a city building inspector and owner of the now-defunct Polynesian Joe's restaurant and bar in the Warehouse District.
In a plea deal, Ashleigh Thornton, 28, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a 30-year prison sentence. Judge Frank Marullo sentenced Thornton under the multiple bill statute as a second-offender, eliminating any possibility for probation, parole or appeals. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Thornton, a Mt. Carmel Academy graduate from Metairie, confessed to shooting Wongchoy once in the head on Aug. 27, 2005, two days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. She was arrested within hours by a Jefferson Parish deputy who pulled over her car in Metairie and found the murder weapon along with Wongchoy's checkbook and a stash of prescription drugs and crack cocaine.
Thornton had several previous narcotics and weapons convictions.