ARABI, La. - St. Bernard authorities have announced the arrest and indictment of a suspect in a nearly three-decades-old murder in the eastern part of the parish.
They call the 1985 killing at a pet cemetery in Toca, one of the most enduring murder mysteries ever in the parish.
"It was one of these issues where there were a lot of strange elements that were involved in it," said Sheriff Jack Stephens. "Some of it a little hard to believe."
Wednesday, 58-year-old Brandon Nodier from Arabi surrendered to detectives.
A grand jury charged him with the second degree murder of Dorothy Thompson.
The 61-year-old woman owned the Azalea pet cemetery on Bayou Road.
Nodier was the caretaker and he and his wife lived on the property.
Thompson disappeared in May 1985.
Fishermen found her body about a month later tied in heavy chains in the Mississippi River near the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.
She also had a plastic garbage bag tied around her neck with metal wire.
Robert Graf who lived across the highway from Thompson says he always suspected Nodier was the killer.
"She asked him to leave and he didn't want to leave and shortly after that, she disappeared," said Graf.
The original investigation involving the state police and the St. Bernard and Plaquemines Sheriff's Offices also had Nodier as the prime suspect, but detectives were never able to find enough evidence to arrest him.
Investigators say the motive for the killing was Nodier's desire to possess Dorothy Thompson's 14 acres of land. They say Nodier and his wife hatched a scheme to coerce Thompson into a fraudulent act of sale.
"When she realized what had happened, she filed a lawsuit against the Nodiers to get her land back," said Col. John Doran, Chief Detective. "Ten days prior to it going to trial, she disappeared."
In the years since the murder, some locals have reported seeing Thompson's ghost walking through the old, overgrown pet cemetery.
Investigators say they reopened the case in 2009 after a mysterious caller provided new details.
"We found a couple of witnesses that we talked to and some other information as well that go a long with it," said Doran.
The murder occurred shortly after Stephens took office.
"This happened within months after I took the office and the clearance is occurring within months of me departing office, 28 years later," said Stephens. "Sometimes we're a little slow, but normally we get to the bottom of these things."
Stephens says right now, Nodier is not talking. He described the former caretaker as a "real fearsome character."
"Everyone that we ever talked to about him said that he was a killer and that he was responsible for other murders too, some in the city of New Orleans," said Stephens. "This guy was a dangerous guy. Apparently his action in the Thompson case was consistent with his way of life and his concept that whenever he didn't like something or wanted something, he was willing to kill someone to get it."
Sheriff Stephens says they are not ruling out future charges against Nodier's wife.
"That's something we're going to take a hard look at, whether or not she was complicit in this crime or complicit in the cover up of this crime," said Stephens.
Toca neighbors say after 27 years, the arrest in the Thompson murder gives them a bit a closure to a gruesome crime that sent shock waves through their small community.
"You wonder wow, who would want to kill a nice old lady," said Graf. "You always wonder. Now, they got him and that's good."
A $1 million bond is now expected to be set in the case.