A 31-year-old man was found beaten to death Thursday afternoon inside a recently vacated house in the 2600 block of Wenonah Street, near Chippewa Street and Plank Road, police said.
Police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said the victim, Shaun Hartley, 31, 2424 Madison Ave., was a known transvestite who appeared to have been beaten to death with a two-by-four board.
McKneely said police classified Hartley’s exact cause of death as unknown pending autopsy results. East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark said Hartley’s autopsy would be performed Friday.
The residence’s front doorway remained wide open around 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
A broken front window had a bullet hole in it, and clothes, toys and trash lay strewn across the floor of the empty half of the duplex.
In a back room of the residence, trash and blood stained the carpet, and dried blood appeared to have been smeared across the walls.
“It was very bloody,” McKneely said.
Police have not yet determined what led to the beating; the investigation is ongoing.
Neighbors said they saw a man grab a board early Thursday and walk into the vacant residence.
“We didn’t hear anybody holler,” said LeRoy Watson, one of the neighbors who said he saw a man — not Hartley — walk into the vacant residence during Thursday’s early daylight hours.
Watson said the man casually walked out the front door sometime later without the board.
Watson added the man told him the person he was looking for had escaped out the back door. The man then walked down the street, and it wasn’t until police arrived several hours later that Watson learned something had happened at some point inside the duplex.
Another neighbor, Antonio Wagner, said the former resident of the vacant unit where Hartley’s body was found moved out no more than two weeks ago. He said he saw suspicious activity at the duplex later in the day, shortly after noon, and called police.
Wagner said he had just arrived home from work and noticed a truck pulled up to the duplex. As soon as it drove up, Wagner said, a man ran out the front door of the vacant residence and took off down the street.
Wagner said whoever first gained access to the duplex must have kicked down the door, because it had been locked ever since the previous resident moved out.
One of Hartley’s family members declined comment when contacted Thursday afternoon.
Police said anyone with information about the death can contact the Violent Crimes Unit at (225) 389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Sept. 13, 2013 to correct the spelling of Shaun Hartley’s first name.