Jolene Dufrene says reliving her daughter’s brutal murder in a crime documentary will be painful, but she also considers it an opportunity to keep her daughter’s memory alive.
Los Angeles-based Renegade83 productions contacted Dufrene about featuring her daughter Lindsay Nichols’ case in an episode of a true crime documentary series for the Oxygen network. They’ve advised her the episode will focus on Nichols rather than the two men convicted in connection with her murder.
This is the third channel or production company that’s contacted her about featuring her daughter’s case. The Des Allemands mother said she’s been contacted by BBC America and ID Channel, both also researching a possible show about Nichols. Earlier, an episode of A&E’s docudrama “The First 48” did feature her case.
“She was in the prime of her life,” Dufrene said. “She had a son to raise that she loved dearly and it’s just not fair that somebody has to be taken in such a violent way … for no reason. We never found out why she had to die that way.”
The 31-year-old Nichols, a native of Des Allemands, was found beaten and shot to death in the trunk of her car in east New Orleans. The car was also set on fire.
Dufrene received the news on Father’s Day in 2015.
Nichols had been celebrating her return from a job in Texas a day earlier and was last seen by friends leaving a nightclub on Downman Road around 4 a.m. that night after she apparently met a man named Thayon Samsom and got his phone number, according to court records.
Phone records show she called him twice and then called 911 around 4:45 a.m. She told the dispatcher an irate man she’d met that night was standing outside her car aiming a gun at her. 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. This same dispatcher resigned for failing to give this information to police, leaving Dufrene wondering if this would have saved her daughter’s life.
Dufrene said she also hopes the show sends an important message about safety.
“Maybe some of these young people need to realize they need to stick together when they go out,” she said. “I think they think they’re invincible at that age … they trust too many people and there are predators out there, and they come in all forms.”
Samson was arrested soon after the murder, but Dufrene called the trial unbearable.
“We had to go through that trial and it was horrific,” she said. “Hearing the 911 call …and the coroner’s report … those things will never leave me.”
With all evidence presented, Dufrene has come to believe that Troy Varnado Jr., 30, may have been her daughter’s killer and Samsom was the accomplice. Varnado was arrested after Samson in connection with the case.
“She was in the prime of her life. She had a son to raise that she loved dearly and it’s just not fair that somebody has to be taken in such a violent way … for no reason.” — Jolene Dufrene
“That’s the way it appeared to some of us,” Dufrene said of Varnado. “It all changed to me. We were willing to give him a bargain, but he didn’t even come forward for one and he was sure he would get off.”
Samsom, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, second-degree kidnapping, obstruction of justice and solicitation for murder in September of last year, took a plea deal of 40 years in prison. Varnado was found guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and obstruction of justice in Nichols’ death.
Instead of expressing remorse over the murder of her daughter as Dufrene anticipated, she said Varnado told the judge he felt sympathy for Nichols’ family, but hoped the police found who really killed her.
As Dufrene contemplates her daughter being featured in a crime show, she reflects on the irony.
“You see these shows on TV and think it’ll never happen to you,” she said. “You watch Dateline and 20/20. Some of them are crazy, but that doesn’t happen to people you know or a family member. But it can happen.”
The Lindsay Nichols case timeline
- June 21, 2015: On Father’s day, Jolene Dufrene learns her daughter, Lindsay Nichols, was murdered in New Orleans. She left a son, who is being raised by Nichols’ parents in Des Allemands.
- Thayon “Bonafyde” Samson, a barber and exotic dancer from New Orleans East, was the only suspect initially charged with the crime. He goes on trial on June 12, 2017.
- May of 2017: Troy “Ville” Varnado Jr. is arrested and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and obstruction of justice in the case.
- September of 2018: Thayon Samson of New Orleans pleads guilty to manslaughter and guilty as charged to second-degree kidnapping, obstruction of justice and solicitation for murder in connection with the killing of 31-year-old Lindsay Nichols. Varnado is found guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and obstruction of justice.