NEWORLEANS - Police are investigating the murders of two men, gunned down in a New Orleans East motel overnight - it's the latest bloodshed in an exceptionally deadlyeight daysin the city.

Officers found the bodies of two men inside the Rivera Motel in the 6000 block of Chef Menteur Highway.

Both were shot several times and police say they found drugs in the room.

They later identified the victims as 26-year old Tyrez Williams and 23-year old Terry Trask.

Pastor John Raphael of the New Hope Baptist Church says Williams grew up in his church.

'His father is a minister,' said Raphael. 'His mother is one of the strongest Sunday school teachers that we have in the church. They trained him right. They say there may have been drugs involved, but I say there was a valuable life involved.'

This double murder follows a quadruple murder last week in the Lower Ninth Ward and a triple killing this week in Treme.

That brings the body count in the city to at least 53 so far this year.

That's compared to just more than 40 in the first quarter of last year.

The city is on pace to have 212 murders this year, once again putting New Orleans at or near the top of the list for murder rate in the country.

The number would also exceed the post Katrina spike of 210 murders in the city in 2007, 174 last year and 179 in 2008.

'We're finding that people who know each other are killing each other,' said NOPD Assistant Superintendent Marlon Defillo. 'We're not finding the stranger type homicides where someone walks out of their home and they're the victim of a homicide.'

Tulane criminologist Peter Scharf says drugs are clearly fueling much of the violence.

'A lot of murders occur at 4 o'clock in the afternoon,' said Scharf. 'These are assassinations. These are drug assassinations.'

Pastor Raphael says the community's sense of outrage to the killings is tempered by a feeling that people killed in drug-related violence don't matter.

'If 53 dogs were shot on the streets of New Orleans there would be an uprising in this city,' he said.

As police try to solve the latest murder in the east, a community tries to solve a much larger problem, how to stop the violence.

'You literally can't have a city of 50 murders a quarter,' said Scharf. 'You just can't. There's no one who would want to be here. We got to turn this around.'

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