Des Allemands mother calls murder trial a nightmare

Still seeking justice for daughter found in burned car’s trunk

Jolene Dufrene released a butterfly in her daughter’s memory Sunday on what would have been Lindsay Nichols’ 33rd birthday. But nearly two years after her daughter’s brutal murder in New Orleans, Dufrene is still seeking justice after the murder trial was delayed for a fifth time.

“I’m just anxious for the nightmare part to be behind us,” Dufrene said. “I have to see it all hashed out in front of me – that will be hard.”

The Des Allemands mother, along with Nichols’ son, Peter Paul Rose Jr., attended the annual Butterfly Release and Picnic held by Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have lost children, at Lafreniere Park in Metairie. They released 350 Painted Lady butterflies in celebration of their children’s lives.

“It’s very emotional,” Dufrene said of the trial date recently delayed a fifth time to April 25. “I try to stay focused, but I know I’m going to hear things like the 911 call, which is very tragic, and it will be disturbing. I’m just wanting the darkness to be behind me.”

Dufrene is struggling with reliving the loss of her daughter.

“The waiting is killing us,” she said. “It’s the anticipation every time there’s a date and then it’s the letdown.”

From the day Dufrene received news of her daughter’s death on June 21, 2015, she has had to deal with gut-wrenching details of the case.

Nichols was found shot multiple times and shoved in the trunk of her black Honda. The car was set on fire in a remote area along Michaud Boulevard. Thayon Samson, 30, of New Orleans, was later indicted on one count each of second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and obstruction of justice in the case in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.

Calling the killing “horrific,” Dufrene was relieved Samson was in custody. Then she learned about Nichols’ frantic 911 call at 4:45 a.m. asking for help from an apartment complex at Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road. Despite the dispatcher’s notes saying she heard a clear threat to Nichols’ life that included a man telling her to open her mouth so he could put a gun in it, a police officer wasn’t dispatched for eight minutes. When the officer arrived, it was reported there was no one there and he apparently left.

Dispatcher Treva Sip resigned from the New Orleans Police Department and is under investigation for the police response.

A memorial made by family and friends now marks the roadside location where Nichols’ body was found in her car near the former Six Flags park.

Just after Mardi Gras, Dufrene was with family and friends cleaning up the site when people passing by stopped to offer condolences. Among them was the woman, who lives nearby, who identified herself as the 911 caller who reported Nichols’ vehicle on fire, she said.

Nichols’ son doesn’t ask her about these details.

“I know as he’s getting older, the kids talk, but he doesn’t want to talk to me,” Dufrene said. “He wants to talk to his friends.”

Dufrene said she thinks about her daughter all the time.“It just haunts me like a nightmare,” she said. “I feel bad for her son, seeing her friends with their children, and seeing him without his mother. I feel like he got cheated.”

Dufrene also worries about what’s ahead with Samson’s trial, particularly after talking to a fellow member of Compassionate Friends whose son was murdered. She told her that she endured several trials, including mistrials.

“We have a lot of support from family and friends, and my grandson keeps me going,” Dufrene said. “I can’t wait for the bad part to be done.”

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