Girard Park death ruled as accidental drowning

No foul play suspected as Grambling student, aspiring lawyer was scheduled to graduate in May

“We lost a good, upcoming attorney and a very caring person. We will miss her smile around this campus.” Reller Jones, a Grambling criminal justice and first-year experience professor.

An autopsy revealed Monday that 21-year-old aspiring lawyer Alexandria Shelton accidentally drowned in the Girard Park drainage ditch where police found her body early Sunday morning.

Lafayette police Sgt. Randal Leger said the circumstances that led to Shelton’s drowning are unclear since the young woman was alone in the park.

“The coroner did rule it as an accidental drowning and there were no signs of foul play,” Leger said.

Shelton’s body was found just after midnight Sunday. The young woman was from Lafayette and Saturday night had planned to attend a going-away party for a friend on Stewart Street — about a mile from the park. When Shelton didn’t show up for the party, her friends called her cellphone, which was answered by a man who said he had found it in the park.

Her friends went to retrieve the phone and called police, who found her body in the canal. Police interviewed the two men who found Shelton’s phone, however, they were not suspects, Lafayette police Cpl. Paul Mouton said.

When reached Monday, one of Shelton’s family members declined comment and asked for privacy.

Shelton was a senior at Grambling State University and set to graduate during May 9 commencement ceremonies with a degree in criminal justice.

“We lost a good, upcoming attorney and a very caring person. We will miss her smile around this campus,” said Reller Jones, a Grambling criminal justice and first-year experience professor.

Shelton was a hard-working student who wanted to attend Southern University Law School, said Lurie Thomason, a Grambling criminal justice assistant professor and Shelton’s academic adviser.

Thomason said Shelton visited his office on his birthday — March 25 — to ask him to write a recommendation letter for Southern University Law School. He said he’d rank Shelton among the top 15 percent of students he’s taught in his teaching career — which spans three different universities and 20 years.

He also selected Shelton for a top student award in spring 2012 that he grants students based on their attendance, academics and professionalism.

“She was eager to share her talents to make other students better. She didn’t just want an A for herself. She wanted other students to do their best,” Thomas said. “She was a leader.”

Jones said Shelton was one of her first students when she began teaching at Grambling in 2012.

“I last taught her in 2012 and she never stopped coming by to see me and coming by to give me a hug. I will miss that for sure,” Jones said.

Jones said Shelton also participated in a service-learning program, Students Without Borders that raised money and supplies to help with relief efforts in the Philippines and in the Northeast following Hurricane Sandy.

On campus, she was a member of the Earl Lester Cole Honors College and maintained a 3.54 cumulative GPA.

Shelton attended classes Friday, according to the news release from the university. University officials encouraged Shelton’s classmates, faculty and staff to contact Lafayette police or Grambling campus police if they have any information that may be helpful to the investigation.

“We’ve just been in shock since we first heard early Sunday that the body of a young woman found in a Lafayette city park was likely one of our own,” Grambling President Frank Pogue said.

“We immediately reached out to the family and we’ve been cooperating with Lafayette police. We know how important the first 24 to 48 hours of a police investigation can be.”