ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — Chrystal Davis remembers the day when her son Ja’Naries Gaudia, 19, got his class ring. He was ready to leave high school behind.
“This is his senior ring, graduation,” said Davis holding her son’s senior ring. “He was so excited.”
Gaudia’s dream of becoming an electrician never happened, because he never made it to graduation at St. James High School.
Six months before, in the late afternoon of November 11th, 2020, Gaudia was shot, about 30 yards from his home on Ball Park Lane in Vacherie.
“I heard two gunshots and my husband said, ‘That sounded like firecrackers.’ I told him, ‘No, that sounds like gunshots,’” Gaudia said.
Davis immediately started calling her son’s phone. He never answered. Then she got a call to get to Magnolia Park, just down the street.
“It was just unbelievable, looking at my child down there on the ground dead,” Davis said.
Gaudia was shot once in the back of the head.
I felt we lost everything
“I could not believe that was him. Just felt like everything, we had lost everything in that moment. He was just down there and lifeless and we couldn’t do nothing about it,” Gaudia’s aunt Alice Alexander said.
Alexander says that feeling continues today. Just more than two years after his death, Gaudia’s family still doesn’t know who killed him or why.
“Here we are today with not a lot of leads, not a lot of information forwarded from the public,” St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said.
Sheriff Martin says tips through Crime Stoppers have confirmed some suspicions but there’s just not enough evidence to make an arrest right now. Martin says given the number of people at the park that day, someone saw something.
“It was Veteran’s Day. There were kids playing on the basketball court. There were kids near the baseball field where he was killed,” Martin said.
Martin was on the scene that day. He says he talked with people and wanted to help bring closure to the family by making an arrest.
Hope to solve the crime quickly faded
“I was extremely hopeful that because it was a 19-year-old high school student that this might be one that people would say, ‘OK, we can’t sit back and not say something,’” Martin said.
Gaudia was one of four siblings, the second oldest. His mom says he loved riding his bike and music, especially rapping. To his Godmother, he was someone you could always rely on.
“If I just wake up and need something down, [I’d] pick up the phone, he’d get on his bike and he’s over there doing whatever I need done, never tell me no,” Alexander said.
For Davis, who shares a birthday with her son, knowing his killer hasn’t been caught is haunting.
“I fear for my life every day because I don’t know what they’re out there thinking, or what they’re doing, or what they’re planning,” Davis said.
In this small community nestled along the river in St. James Parish, there aren’t many strangers. If they’re not related, folks at least know each other. That makes not knowing who killed Gaudia tough.
“This is a small place; it’s supposed to be a community that always looks out for each other. When it came down to my nephew, no one wants to say anything. It’s like he was a stranger in his own neighborhood,” Alexander said.
The sheriff says his office isn’t giving up.
'We know they are afraid to come forward'
“I think we have the same problem that we see across this country. People are reluctant to get involved and help solve crimes,” Martin said. “We know we have eyewitnesses. We’re convinced of eyewitnesses, and we know that they are afraid of coming forward.”
“I miss him daily, every day,” Davis said.
For Davis, she holds on to the memories, but peace falls through her fingers.
“Everybody asks me, ‘How you are doing,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m OK,’ but I’m not OK. I’m not. That’s the only word that I can tell them, I’m OK, but I know I’m not OK,” Davis said.
There is a $5,000 Crime Stoppers reward in this case. Authorities and family members say they have no doubt that people are withholding information and may be scared to share it.
They stress the fact that anyone who gives information through Crime Stoppers, whether it leads to an arrest or not, will remain anonymous.
You can call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.
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