AMITE — Margaret A. Sanchez, a named suspect in the slaying and dismemberment of New Orleans dancer Jaren Lockhart, was freed from the Tangipahoa Parish Jail on Friday afternoon.
Sanchez, 28, left the jail shortly after 5 p.m. Friday after prosecutors decided not to try her on a count of harboring a sex offender, deputies confirmed.
Lockhart, 22, a native of Tangipahoa Parish, was reported missing June 6 after she did not return home from work at a Bourbon Street club.
Her partial remains floated ashore on several Mississippi beaches, beginning June 7 in Hancock County, authorities said.
Sanchez and Terry Christopher Speaks, 39, were identified as the same couple seen on a surveillance video leaving Temptations strip club with Lockhart around 2 a.m. the day she was reported missing, authorities said.
Hancock County, Miss., investigators have named Sanchez and Speaks, both of Kenner, as the primary suspects in Lockhart’s death, but have not made any arrests in the case.
“I’m just speechless right now,” Lockhart family friend and spokeswoman Kristina Murphy said after hearing of Sanchez’s release Friday. “It’s not fair for Jaren’s family, her friends and all the people who’ve reached out for her.
“I just pray there will be justice for Jaren,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, someone will come forward with new information.”
Sanchez was booked on the harboring count several days after her June 12 arrest near Loranger, where she was picked up in a traffic stop with Speaks, who had outstanding warrants in North Carolina, California and with the U.S. Marshals Service for failure to register as a sex offender, authorities said.
When the pair were arrested, Sanchez had 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 testified during a July 24 preliminary exam hearing.
Judge Brenda Bedsole Ricks, of the 21st Judicial District, found probable cause for Sanchez to be detained on the harboring allegation, but the District Attorney’s Office has rejected the case.
Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Williams notified the Public Defender’s Office, which was representing Sanchez in the case, by letter around 4 p.m. Friday that the DA’s Office would not prosecute, “based on insufficient evidence to prove the elements of the crime for which she was arrested,” District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said Friday.
“Harboring a sex offender was the only (allegation) we had on her, and we didn’t think we could prove that she knew or should have known he was a sex offender and that she knew he had failed to report for registration as required,” Perrilloux said.
“I think everyone was doing what they could and had the right intentions in place,” Perrilloux said, “but at some point, the DA’s Office has to make decisions whether to prosecute cases based, not on what might have happened somewhere else, but on what actual evidence we have of the allegation here in this jurisdiction.”