Disabled woman killed when home set on fire
Additional charges have been brought against two people arrested in connection with the violent murder of a disabled 88-year-old St. Rose woman.
Toby W. Beasley, 32, of 118 Thelma Lane in Hahnville, was originally charged with first degree murder and aggravated arson. Last week, the Sheriff’s Office filed additional charges including two counts of attempted homicide and simple arson.
Janna L. Firmin, 34, also of 118 Thelma Lane, was originally booked with principal to first degree murder and principal to aggravated arson. She is now being charged with two counts of principal to attempted murder.
Authorities say that Beasley kicked in the door of a home in the 600 block of Mockingbird Lane at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 11 and argued with a 16-year-old and 20-year-old who both lived at the residence. The argument escalated and Beasley poured an accelerant on the floor of the living room and then lit it, St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Dwayne LaGrange said.
The home at 628 Mockingbird Lane was fully ablaze within seconds, he added.
While the two young residents were able to escape with minor injuries, their 88-year-old grandmother, identified as Ophelia Shepard, was trapped in the house and died. Shepard had both of her legs amputated due to severe diabetes. She also suffered from arthritis, according to her family.
Shepard was the aunt of long-serving St. Charles School Board member John Smith.
“My aunt was a wonderful person. She grew up and spent her life as a Christian woman,” Smith said.
He said that Shepard was beloved by her Fifth African Baptist Church family in St. Rose, where she was a member and past choral director and organist.
He said that Shepherd has been disabled for about 20 years.
“She was bedridden for some time, but through all of that she remained a very faithful person who was always smiling and laughing. She was loved by her family and the community,” Smith said.
LaGrange said that Beasley knew Shepard’s grandsons, but refused to elaborate because a gag order has been issued on the case.
He said the investigation is still ongoing.
Beasley is being held without bond on the first degree murder charge. His bond was set at $100,000 for the attempted murder charges.
Firmin is now being held on a $850,000 bond due to the additional charges.