A coincidence too striking to ignore is the discovery that a Kenner woman now held in the Tangipahoa Parish Jail was close friends with one dismembered young woman and the last person seen with another, Hancock County, Miss., investigator Steve Saucier said Friday.
Investigators believe the dismembered body of New Orleans dancer Jaren Lockhart, which washed ashore on several Mississippi beaches June 7, was dumped inside Mississippi state lines, Saucier said, but the events leading up to that point remain unclear.
Saucier and his team are still awaiting the FBI’s forensic analysis of evidence taken from the home of suspects Margaret A. Sanchez, 28, and Terry Christopher Speaks, 39, he said.
But in the meantime, they are poring over phone records and working to subpoena a video of Sanchez describing the brutal death of another New Orleans woman — Addie Hall — in an interview recorded just 15 months before Sanchez would become a suspect in Lockhart’s death.
Lockhart, 22, was reported missing June 6 after she did not return home from work at a Bourbon Street club. Her partial remains began turning up on beaches the next day at Bay St. Louis and elsewhere along the Mississippi coast, authorities said.
Oceanographers studying tide flow and wind currents determined Lockhart’s body could not have traveled into Mississippi waters from outside the state in the amount of time between her disappearance and the discovery of her remains, Saucier said.
Hancock County investigators are scrutinizing Lockhart’s cellphone records in an effort to reconstruct a timeline of events surrounding her death, he said.
The records indicate Lockhart’s last conversation was around the same time she left Temptations strip club in the 300 block of Bourbon Street at 2 a.m. June 6, Saucier said.
Video surveillance shows Lockhart departing with a man and a woman investigators believe to be Speaks and Sanchez, authorities said.
The Kenner couple are the primary suspects in Lockhart’s death, Saucier said, though neither has been arrested in the slaying.
Saucier declined to comment on whether Lockhart’s phone records revealed any communications with Sanchez or Speaks, but investigators have said they are reviewing the suspects’ phone records as well.
Other efforts to reconstruct events, such as studying business surveillance videos along the Mississippi coast, have revealed “nothing of evidentiary value” thus far, Saucier said. “But something of extreme importance could pop up at any time, so I certainly wouldn’t say any avenue is closed.”
In the meantime, investigators are working with New York authorities to subpoena the raw video footage of an interview ABC conducted with Sanchez about 15 months before Lockhart’s death, Saucier said.
Sanchez appeared on a July 4 episode of the network’s “Final Witness” series discussing the 2006 death and dismemberment of New Orleans resident Adriane “Addie” Hall, 30.
Hall was strangled and dismembered by her boyfriend, Zackery Bowen, 28, who later jumped from the roof of the Omni Royal Hotel and died, according to news reports at the time.
Bowen left a note in his pocket leading police to the couple’s apartment, where he had left Hall’s cooked body parts in pots on the stove and in the oven, according to news reports.
Sanchez told ABC she worked as a bartender alongside Hall in the French Quarter and called her “my best friend, my sister. ... Anything that a woman could be for another woman, she was that for me.”
Sanchez described Hall and Bowen as star-crossed lovers to whom life had dealt a bad hand that could have played out no other way.
“He just snapped,” Sanchez said of the night Bowen strangled Hall after an argument. “I can imagine, just shock. What am I gonna do to get rid of the body? That would be the first thought. What did I just do? How am I going to fix this?”
Hancock County investigators found Sanchez’s comments about the Hall case unusual and intriguing, Saucier said.
“The two cases are strikingly similar, with the dismemberment and beheading, and she (Sanchez) is best friends with the first woman and the last seen with the second,” Saucier said.
“We can’t really ascertain whether she had anything to do with this case based on the previous one, but it’s definitely something we want to go more in-depth with,” he said.
Sanchez and Speaks remain in custody on unrelated allegations following their arrest June 12 near Loranger in Tangipahoa Parish.
The couple were arrested after a traffic stop, during which Sanchez called Speaks by two different aliases and told officers she knew he had “a history or a warrant” in North Carolina, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Detective Mike Moore said.
Speaks had outstanding warrants in North Carolina, California and with the U.S. Marshals Service for failure to register as a sex offender, Moore said.
Speaks was extradited back to North Carolina, where he pleaded not guilty Tuesday on the failure to register count, federal court records show.
His trial has been set for Sept. 10 in Winston-Salem, N.C., court records show.
Sanchez pleaded no contest to a traffic violation and resisting an officer by misinformation July 12, but remains in the Tangipahoa Parish Jail in lieu of $35,000 bail on a count of harboring a sex offender, authorities said.
Judge Brenda Bedsole Ricks, of the 21st Judicial District, found probable cause to continue to hold Sanchez on the allegation following a hearing Tuesday.
Sanchez’s attorneys intend to appeal the ruling, Assistant Public Defender Allen Harvey said Friday.
The state failed to prove that Sanchez knew Speaks was a sex offender, knew he was required to register but had not, or even knew his true identity, Harvey said.