NEW ORLEANS — The May 8 murder of 63-year-old Zelda Townsend sent shockwaves though the Mid-City neighborhood in New Orleans.
According to a 12-count indictment handed up Thursday by an Orleans Parish grand jury, the wife, mother and grandmother died trying to stop a car burglary outside her home in the 2700 block of Cleveland Street.
Her husband was also wounded in what police described as an exchange of gunfire.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro called the crime "one of the most tragic and senseless murders New Orleans has seen in many years."
"For this supposedly non-violent crime, Mrs. Townsend paid with her life," Cannizzaro said. "It is extremely disturbing to us and it's disturbing to people in this community."
Cannizzaro announced first-degree murder charges against 17-year-old Emanuel Pipkins, 18-year-old Byrielle Hebert and 16-year-old Alvin Robinson.
The teens are also charged with the attempted first degree murder of the slain woman's husband, Danny Townsend.
"The killing of Ms. Townsend drew wide condemnation throughout New Orleans, forcing some reticent city leaders finally to acknowledge the extent of our juvenile crime problem," Cannizzaro said.
A special grand jury also charged Pipkins and Hebert with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for a similar shooting on May 7, the night before the Mid-City murder.
Investigators determined the teens used the same gun in a shooting outside a bar in the Lakeview neighborhood.
Cannizzaro said Pipkins and Hebert fired at bystanders who tried to intervene as they were burglarizing cars.
Mariah Weinand lives a few doors from the bar.
"To hear that it happened right outside your house is super uneasy and just makes you more worried when you go to bed at night," Weinand said.
Weindand added that she was glad to hear the teens are now under indictment for the crimes.
"Every step we can take to keeping our streets safe and everyone safe is a right step," Weinand said. "I hope we can get to the root of what's causing this violence and what's causing the break-ins."
A juvenile has also been charged in the case with conspiracy to commit simple burglary of automobiles.