By Katie Urbaszewski / Houma Courier
SCHRIEVER, La. - Patrons saw things differently than a Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office deputy when a man left a small Schriever bar less than two hours before he was hit by a train.
Conway “Moe” Richard, 47, left a daiquiri shop attached to a Go-Bears convenience store at the edge of La. 20 and Main Street the night of Sept. 29 before he was fatally hit, according to patrons and a police report. Where their accounts differ is how drunk he was.
“Conway did not appear to be intoxicated, and he did not smell of any alcoholic beverages,” says Deputy Brandon Percle's police report, which was filed two days after Richard died. “Conway appeared to be in physical condition to walk where he had already proceeded from. I advised Conway that he was free to leave, and if he needed any further assistance to contact TPSO.”
However, people with him that night said when deputies sent him off, he was belligerent, swaying, stumbling and clearly drunk.
His sister raises a question. Should deputies have brought him home?
“I did say a prayer for this man. Maybe, hopefully the next time, he will give the next person a ride,” Richard's sister Kitty Daigle said. “Maybe he should've given him a ride.”
The bartender who called deputies told them Richard had been at the daiquiri shop for four hours but had only had one drink, according to the report.
That seems unlikely, said bar patron Chris Richardson, because Richard was drunker that night than Richardson had ever seen him before.
Richard's long-time friend and roommate, Lee Smith, was with him at the bar that night, as well.
“I know 100 percent that he was very drunk,” Smith said. “He killed a fifth of vodka plus a daiquiri (with extra shots).”
After Conway died, the Sheriff's Office released a statement that “according to bar patrons, he was extremely intoxicated.” Daigle said deputies who came to her house soon after also told her Richard was drunk.
When deputies talked to Richard, he said he would be walking home to 122 Brunet St., “which is several hundred feet from the business,” the report says. It's actually a half mile away.
But Richard's home is at 122 Mulberry St., which is about 1.5 miles away, Daigle said. She couldn't think of any place Richard would be walking to on Mulberry.
It's up to a deputy's discretion whether to drive a drunk person home, Terrebonne Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said.
It depends “how much the person is incoherent,” Larpenter said. “If you're really drunk in public, you can't walk,” then the deputy should bring that person “either to their home or to jail.”
But the fact that Richard walked as far as he did — he was found dead on train tracks near North Main Project Road about a half mile from the bar — means he probably wasn't that drunk, Larpenter argued.
“We come to barrooms on a regular basis. … If nobody wants to file charges, we're not going to put everyone in jail or bring them home. … You're allowed to be intoxicated,” he said.
Richard's toxicology report, which may reveal his blood alcohol content, has not been completed. However, Terrebonne Parish Coroner's Office investigators will not release it to the public when it is completed, they said.
The Sheriff's Office was called in the first place because Richard was in the bar parking lot yelling at people and trying to fight, the bartender said in the report.
Richardson and Smith agreed that happened.
“He was a cool guy any other day,” said Richardson, who added Richard didn't come into the bar that often, but he had met him a few times.
The bartender had locked him out, according to the report.
“I advised Conway that if he did return to the shop he could be charged with remaining after being forbidden and possibly arrested,” Percle wrote.
“They said you're going home or you're going to jail,” Richardson said. “They should have given him a ride.”
Richard was swaying and stumbling in front of deputies at the time, Richardson said.
“The cops should've brought him home, put him in jail for 24 hours or something. ... His death could have been prevented,” Smith said.
Smith said he didn't go home with Richard that night because the bartender wouldn't let him out.
“When he was drinking, he always walked to the tracks because it was the safest place,” Smith said. “The highway was too dangerous.”
Deputies left about 7:15 p.m., according to the report.
The Sheriff's Office reported it received a 911 call about 9 p.m. that a pedestrian had been struck by a train.
When deputies came to her door, Daigle said, they said they didn't know if Richard was a woman or a man because his body had been so badly mangled, and Smith identified him by his tattoos. Deputies told her his death was likely instantaneous.
His death was deemed an accident, the Sheriff's Office said two days after he died.
Richard's and Daigle's father died 30 years ago in a car crash, and it “threw Moe into a tailspin that he would never recover from,” Daigle said.
He became an alcoholic but then went to rehab and was “straight for many, many years,” she said. However, their mother, who had Alzheimer's disease, died in June, his girlfriend of 15 years left him and Richard had started to drink again.
“I want to find a place in my life, a place far away from all this hurt, a place to hide,” Richard had written in a poem that Daigle found tacked to his wall after his death.
Smith and Richard were living together in Richard's mother's house. He died the day before their parents' anniversary, Daigle said.
Richard was the youngest of three siblings, Daigle said.
“He loved everyone more than he loved himself,” Daigle said. “He was a kind-hearted soul.”
He loved his dogs, a Rottweiler named Buffy and a pit bull he rescued named Viper, Daigle said.
“They protect and love me no matter what!!!” Richard wrote in his journal after Viper was injured. Daigle had glued the page to a scrapbook she put together after his death. “I put a pillow on the floor for him and laid down with him, he's done it for me,” Richard said of Viper.
Richard attended H.L. Bourgeois High School and worked in construction and roadwork, including the building of U.S. 90 until recently when back pain from a birth defect kept him from working and he began receiving government disability money, Daigle said.
Smith and Daigle said they were and still are shaken to the core by Richard's death.
“I'm just upset about how he died, ... when I started hearing he was in pieces,” she said.
Smith said he misses him everyday and still expects him to walk in, laughing.
“He's probably laughing at us, up top,” Smith said. “At least he's in no pain.”
When Richard was 16, he was shot, and he wrote in his journal in 2011 he remembered a vision of heaven he saw in his mind after that shooting.
“Seeing heaven's bright light was a memory I will never forget,” he said. “How could I?? A vision of the afterlife. It was the most beautiful vision in my entire life. Thank you God for that amazing sight.”