Woman’s body found in vacant lot
Briceson Carter sauntered up to a woman on the Mississippi River levee in the Lower 9th Ward early on the morning of Oct. 13 and asked her for her number.
The woman declined his request, which he followed up with another one: “Well, why don’t you just give me your cellphone and money? If you don’t, I will kill you,” he said as he pointed a gun at the woman, according to New Orleans police and court documents.
After a lengthy ordeal, that woman was spared. Another one was not so lucky.
Police arrested Carter, 29, on Friday on a count of second-degree murder in the death of Brandy Keenan, 38, of Bogalusa. He was already in jail in connection with the armed robbery of the other woman.
Keenan’s body was discovered about 8:40 a.m. Oct. 17 in an overgrown lot near Choctaw Street and Florida Avenue.
The mother of five appeared to have been dead two or three days when police received an anonymous tip that led them to her body, authorities have said.
There were no obvious signs of trauma to her body, but investigators quickly classified the death as a homicide. Keenan wore a sleeveless lavender top and blue jeans, according to a police report.
She lay on her right side and was bound at the hands and feet, John Gagliano, the coroner’s chief investigator, said Friday. She had been shot multiple times.
Keenan carried no identification but was later identified through fingerprints and tattoos.
Dorothy Courtois, Keenan’s grandmother, said Keenan had been in New Orleans for about two weeks before she was killed.
“At one time, she was a wonderful girl. She was a wonderful mother,” Courtois said. “I don’t know what happened to her. I can’t say nothing bad about her, but she changed.”
Keenan was born in Mount Clemens, Mich., and moved to Bogalusa when she was 13 to live with her father. She graduated from Bogalusa High School and attended Southeastern Louisiana University, where she studied child psychiatry for two years before dropping out.
It was when her third marriage — to a man in Poplarville, Miss. — dissolved about 13 or 14 years ago that Keenan became a different person, Courtois said. Since then, she had trouble with the law, including arrests in St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes on traffic and drug charges. She most recently pleaded guilty in April 2010 to drug charges, according to Jefferson Parish court records.
Courtois said Keenan had recently served jail time, though she was not sure where or for what charges, and was prepared to move back in with her grandmother in Bogalusa.
“She had promised me she was going to come live with us, her dad, her two children, and take care of me,” Courtois said.
Keenan’s other three children live with their father, Courtois said.
But she met a man named Nick with whom she would travel to New Orleans. Keenan wanted Nick to live with her at Courtois’ home, something Courtois forbade, so Keenan left with Nick.
A phone number for the man known as Nick went straight to voicemail when dialed Friday night. A message was not returned.
“I really don’t know what they were up to,” Courtois said of Keenan’s actions with the man. “No good it looks like.”
Courtois said she last spoke to her granddaughter about a week before she received the news of the murder. “She seemed troubled. I suspected she was doing things she wasn’t supposed to and she was trying to hide it from us,” Courtois said. “The next news I get she’s dead.”
Detectives called the family Thursday night to notify them of the arrest but did not name the suspect. Asked Friday if she had heard of Carter before, Courtois said she had not.
Detectives Michael McCleery and Robert Bachelder identified Carter as a suspect after interviews, reviews of surveillance footage from the area and additional information from someone who knew Keenan, NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said.
It is not clear when, exactly, Keenan was killed.
A man who lives near where she was found said he heard what sounded like gunfire in the pre-dawn hours a few days before the body was discovered. He peeked out a window and saw a white pickup idling near the lot and then speeding away on Choctaw Street in the direction of North Claiborne Avenue.
Last Tuesday, as he mowed another vacant lot next to where Keenan’s body was found, he smelled a foul odor, he said. He did not, however, see a body in the nearby overgrowth, he said.
If Carter was responsible for Keenan’s death, he apparently killed her shortly before or after he allegedly robbed the woman on the river levee at the foot of Reynes Street on Oct. 13.
Police believe he approached the victim in that case about 7 a.m. and asked for her number before he robbed her and then made her walk with him to her home. Once inside, police say, Carter began to collect the victim’s belongings, stopping only to unload his gun, which he gave to the victim, whom he then asked to shoot him. No bullets fired.
Carter took back the gun, reloaded it and hit the woman with it when he ordered her to lie down on her bed. He then moved the victim to her kitchen as he continued to gather her belongings. When she heard Carter move to a room at the front of the home, she escaped out a back door.
As she ran down the driveway she heard a gunshot behind her but continued to run and reached a neighbor’s home, where she called police.
Officers eventually tracked Carter to an apartment in the 1900 block of Elysian Fields Avenue, using GPS on the victim’s cellphone.
Carter was handcuffed and put in the backseat of a police car to drive him to the victim’s home, in hopes she could identify him. Carter, though, was able to slip his cuffed hands from behind his back and tried to open the car’s door.
His first escape attempt was at Mandeville Street and St. Claude Avenue. After he tried once again to escape, this time while crossing the Industrial Canal, the officers decided to return to the Elysian Fields address. The victim arrived there about 9:50 a.m. and identified Carter as the man who had robbed and attacked her.
Placed again in the police car, Carter began to kick at the back window and back doors while en route to Orleans Parish Prison. He also used a lighter to burn a hole in the back seat as he tried to set the car on fire, according to court documents.
Carter was booked on charges of armed robbery, armed robbery with a firearm, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, aggravated assault with a firearm, attempted simple escape, simple criminal damage to property valued at less than $500, simple arson and resisting an officer, according to Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office records.
His bond for that arrest was set at $750,000.
Carter, who has a record in Orleans Parish of several drug, robbery and gun arrests and one prior second-degree murder charge for which he was found not guilty, was in court as recently as Oct. 3 on a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was out on $25,000 bail after that arrest in January.
After he was released on bail he fled to Mississippi, despite having signed a bond contract that forbade him to commit any new crimes or to leave the state. He was caught in Lawrence County, Miss., apparently growing marijuana, according to the county Sheriff’s Office.
He spent a month in the Mississippi jail and missed a court date in New Orleans. When he returned, an Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judge declined to revoke his bond and allowed him to remain free.
“After looking over this suspect’s extensive rap sheet, it’s clear that detectives McCleery and Bachelder have managed to get possibly one of the city’s most violent offenders off our streets,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a prepared statement Friday.
“One victim of crime is one too many. This suspect obviously made a practice of victimizing people.”