It has been a hard wait for Jolene Dufrene, but she welcomed the news that the New Orleans man accused of brutally murdering her daughter in June has been indicted on multiple charges.
“I’m glad everything’s moving forward,” said the Des Allemands mother. “It’s been hard waiting for all this to happen.”
An Orleans Parish grand jury indicted Thayon Samson, 30, on one count each of second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and obstruction of justice in the case. Samson’s bond was raised to $4 million ($2.5 million for second-degree murder, $1 million for second-degree kidnapping, and $500,000 for obstruction of justice).
Samson pleaded not guilty to all charges on Nov. 10, according to the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. A trial date has not been scheduled.
Nichols, a Des Allemands native, had been celebrating her return to Louisiana from a job in Texas on June 20 and 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 made two calls to Samson’s number at 4:11 a.m. and 4:18 a.m.The series of events following these calls left Dufrene questioning, soon after Samson’s arrest, whether her daughter would still be alive if police had responded appropriately.
By 4:45 a.m., Nichols had dialed 911 trying to get help, saying she was in her black Honda Accord at an apartment complex on Chef Menteur Highway with a man threatening her with a gun, according to court records. The dispatcher’s notes from the call say she could hear a man telling Nichols to open her mouth so he could put a gun in it.
Despite hearing a clear threat to Nichols’ life in the call, NOPD dispatchers did not send an officer to the scene for eight minutes and when the officer got there and did not see anyone the officer apparently just left.
Dufrene maintained if police had responded immediately her daughter might still be alive, as well as might have gotten the help she needed if the responding officer had been told about the threat to Nichols’ life.
“They heard all that was going on and they finally sent someone, which was upsetting,” Dufrene said of the delay. “Then the operator was questioned about it and has since resigned. When she finally dispatched the cops, she didn’t relay the gravity of the situation at all and so when the cop got there and no one was there, the case was just closed. If she had told him what was transpiring, he might have looked for the car that she was driving.”
Dispatcher Treva Sip has since resigned from the NOPD and is under investigation for the very concern that Dufrene raised about what happened – or didn’t happen – in the police response.
“It was like they didn’t even try,” she said. “It wasn’t reported as an incident because no one was there.”Additionally, she said it was further upsetting to learn “they didn’t even recognize that the next day, when Lindsay was found, that was linked to that call.”
By 7 a.m. that morning, firefighters responded to a call about a vehicle fire and made the grisly discovery of Nichols’ partially burned body in the trunk of her car.
Police spokesman Officer Garry Flot said a caller reported the fire to police and soon after the coroner classified the death as a murder from multiple gunshots wounds.
Police also found a pair of gym shorts that they connected to Samson through Instagram photographs and DNA found stuffed in a plastic bag in the trunk, as well as a gun and Nichols’ body. A passerby also reported seeing someone matching Samson’s description standing over the trunk earlier that morning.
On July 20, Samson, identified as a barber and exotic dancer from New Orleans east, was booked and charged with second-degree murder and held on $2.5 million bond. Detectives told Dufrene that Samson told NOPD that he lives in the 13000 block of Chateau Court, which is less than a mile from where Nichols’ body was found.
When the indictment came on Nov. 10, Dufrene knew about it because the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office has been keeping her informed about the court proceedings. That’s when she learned the grand jury had additionally charged Samson with obstruction of justice and second-degree kidnapping.
“I know it’s in process and it’ll be a long process, but I think it’s moving in the right direction,” Dufrene said. “I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m ready for it to be over.”
She also isn’t convinced that Samson acted alone in her daughter’s murder and hopes to see more arrests in the case.
“I just want to know if there is anyone else involved because I know he didn’t walk away from that scene by himself,” Dufrene said. “There’s got to be more [people] or someone else. I’m sure there had to be someone helping him cover it up. Somebody knows something. Maybe someone else will come forward with more information.”
Dufrene also has joined a New Orleans support group, called Compassionate Friends, whose members also have lost children. They try to help each other cope with their loss.
“It’s as good as can be expected,” said a tearful Dufrene of coping with her daughter’s loss and of helping her grandson and Nichols’ son deal with his mother’s loss, which is particularly hard during the holidays. “We just take one day at a time.”
Through the group, she has bought a brick in her daughter’s memory for a memory wall and in spring will participate in a butterfly release.
“You think your story is bad, but you see a lot of sad people who lost their children,” Dufrene said, recounting fellow parents whose child was murdered or committed suicide. Their number is growing at every meeting, “We’re all grieving the same way.”