East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux announced Thursday the arrest of a suspect in the slaying of a Baton Rouge hairdresser whose burned body was discovered in the trunk of a car abandoned on the Mississippi River levee.
Gautreaux said events leading up to the murder began Sunday evening when the hairdresser, Roderick White, 33, drove himself to a mobile home in St. Gabriel to meet for the first time with Jason Mascarella, 34, a man he had been chatting with online.
The men had met on either Twitter or Facebook, said Todd Morris, a sheriff’s detective and lead investigator on the case.
Mascarella, who is unemployed, had just been released from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a $50,000 bond four days earlier, following an arrest on counts of home invasion, domestic abuse, battery, criminal damage to property, attempted simple escape and resisting an officer, booking records show.
Police found the burned remains of White’s body Tuesday morning in the trunk of his 1997 Buick Park Avenue abandoned on the levee near Gardere Lane.
Detectives believe Mascarella shot White on Sunday night in his mobile home, placed the body inside White’s car, then drove it to the levee near Gardere Lane before setting it on fire, Gautreaux said.
On Monday afternoon, Mascarella returned to his mobile home, which is located behind his parents’ house, and set it on fire using an accelerant, probably to destroy evidence of his crime, Gautreaux said.
On Wednesday night, authorities arrested Mascarella, 6695 Bayou Paul Road, St. Gabriel, and booked him into Iberville Parish Prison on a count of second-degree murder, Gautreaux said.
Morris said the victim’s roommate, who lived with White at 1251 N. Ardenwood Drive, reported him and the car missing on Monday. The victim’s remains were burned beyond recognition, but he was identified through dental records, Morris said.
The victim was openly gay, said his sister, Zoretta White.
Mascarella may have targeted White because of his sexual orientation, said Tony Clayton, special prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District, who said he is prosecuting the case.
“Typically, cases like this, they happen for a reason,” Clayton said. “I want to make sure this suspect is not a serial killer. I want to make sure he’s not killing people because of whatever their preferences are.”
Clayton said he will immediately request a DNA swab from Mascarella to send to law enforcement agencies in the region — “from Houston, Texas, to Mobile, Ala.,” — to check if any of their cold murder cases may be linked to Mascarella.
“This type of activity is abnormal,” Clayton said. “It’s the making of a person who this is not his first time killing.”
Clayton said predators often use social media to find targets.
“The person you’re communicating with could easily be the person who will suck the life out of you, and that’s real,” he said.
The victim’s sister said she hoped Mascarella would regret what he has allegedly done.
“I wish the authorities would give me 10 minutes with Jason, and I go and torture him and burn him today and every single day until the day he dies,” Zoretta White said. “I want him to suffer every single day he’s left on Earth. I don’t want him to have a moment for joy. I want him to wake up and go to sleep in total misery and turmoil.”
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