New Orleans East man charged with second-degree murder
With this week’s arrest of a New Orleans East man, Jolene Dufrene may have gotten the answers she sought about her daughter’s murder.
The Des Allemands mother was still struggling with Lindsay Nichols’ death and the lingering questions about what happened to her when a sudden outpouring of information came from arrest records Tuesday outlining how she was brutally murdered June 21 by multiple gunshots, shoved into the trunk of her black Honda abandoned on Michaud Boulevard and set on fire.
The name of Nichols’ accused killer came, too.
Thayon Samson, 30, was booked and charged Monday (July 20) with second-degree murder and held on $2.5 million bond by Tuesday. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Aug. 12.
“I think they’re going to get him really good,” Dufrene said. “I’m glad he’s off the street.”
Dufrene said Homicide Detective Robert Barrere advised her over the weekend that he believed an arrest was coming and then called her to confirm it had been done.
Samson was identified as a barber from New Orleans east who told New Orleans police that he lives in the 13000 block of Chateau Court, according to court documents. This is less than a mile away from where Nichols’ body was found.
An autopsy later revealed Nichols died from “numerous gunshot wounds.” Court documents also state witnesses and anonymous tipsters saw someone matching Samson’s description “standing at the open trunk” of Nichols’ car around 7 a.m.
“It was pretty horrific, but I knew my daughter wouldn’t have gone down without a fight,” Dufrene said.
A Des Allemands native and mother, Nichols had recently returned from Texas, where she traveled to work as a timekeeper for a construction company. Dufrene said she had just moved into a new mobile home and went out to a New Orleans East bar with friends Saturday night to celebrate.
Nichols was last seen by friends leaving a nightclub on Downman Road around 4 a.m. after she met Samson and got his phone number, according to court records. Investigators recovered phone data showing Nichols placed two calls to Samson’s number at 4:11 a.m. and 4:18 a.m.
By 4:45 a.m., Nichols made a frantic 911 call, according to court documents. She asked for emergency assistance to an apartment complex at Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road.
Nichols told 911 a man she had only met once before was outside her car, holding her car keys and pointing a gun at her. “As the call progressed an irate male subject’s voice became audible and he began to scream profanities at her, accusing her of providing his address to another subject; (Nichols) moaned and sounded as if she were being attacked,” according to court documents.
That was the last anyone heard from Nichols.
Dufrene questioned whether anyone responded to that 911 call for help.
“Why didn’t they connect that enough to give it to the detective?” she said. “Why couldn’t they connect that call with the murdered woman two hours later?”
Nichols’ cell phone records helped break the case open because they provided the suspect’s location and that her daughter feared for her life, she said. However, Dufrene added they have not found her cell phone.
“Everything kind of came together after a while,” Dufrene said of mounting evidence that lead to the arrest. “They feel they have a pretty good case. There is a lot of hard evidence.”
When friends reported a burning vehicle found in New Orleans East looked like Nichols’ car, Dufrene said, “I knew in my heart that was it.”
By 9 a.m. Monday (June 22), Dufrene identified Nichols’ body based on her tattoos, clothes and petit build at the New Orleans Coroner’s Office.
Police had gotten a search warrant for her car. Barrere had found a partially burned plastic bag containing bloodstained clothing – a white tank-top undershirt, tube socks and a pair of red And 1-brand basketball shorts. The clothing was sent to the state police crime lab for DNA analysis.
According to court documents, Barrere also obtained Samson’s cell phone records, which put the man near the same cell tower as Nichols at the time of her 911 call, and twice at the homicide scene about eight miles away – first at 5:29 a.m. and again at 7:07 a.m.
Court records state when Barrere brought Samson in for an interview that he told him he had met Nichols at the nightclub hours before her death, but maintained he didn’t answer the phone when she called him twice. He also maintained he went directly home after leaving the nightclub, giving an address in the 6000 block of Chef Menteur Highway.
Samson also told police he had his cell phone with him all night and never entered Nichols’ car.
Barrere’s search of Samson’s social media accounts found a photo on Samson’s Instagram account showing him wearing red And 1 gym shorts “which were identical to the bloodstained pair located within the decedent’s vehicle,” according to police records. DNA analysis from the state crime lab showed Samson’s DNA was present on the bloodstained shorts found inside Nichols’ burned car.
Samson has previous convictions for illegal carrying of a weapon in 2002, burglary in 2005, and being a felon carrying an illegal firearm in Jefferson Parish.
Nichols’ death came in the middle of a busy Father’s Day weekend for New Orleans police, who were investigating an Upper 9th Ward murder-suicide involving an officer’s parents, searching for accused cop killer Travis Boys and responding to the separate killings of an Avondale music promoter and a Navy veteran.
For Dufrene, the waiting for answers she didn’t expect for weeks about her daughter’s murder are coming now.
“I think he thought he got away with it because he thought the car burned,” she said of Samson. “Her purse was in the car and his clothes were in a bag with blood on them.”
She’s also focusing on Nichols’ 9-year-old son, Peter Paul Rose Jr., who is getting ready for school and sometimes talks about the things he did with his mother.
“I think he’s trying to cover his feelings up a little bit,” Dufrene said of her grandson. “I think he doesn’t want to see me cry. He’s trying to be brave.”