Grambling student found in park drainage ditch
LAFAYETTE — Alexandria Shelton’s extended family planned to travel to Louisiana to celebrate her graduation from Grambling State University in May.
Now they’re coming in from all over the country to help bury the 21-year-old, who was found dead in a Girard Park drainage ditch last weekend.
“You have everybody coming out here to celebrate and then this happens. There can be no celebration,” Shelton’s father, Norville Shelton, said Friday at his Ossun home on the outskirts of Scott and Lafayette.
Alexandria Shelton was the youngest child of six for Norville and Lucretia Shelton. She would have turned 22 on May 15. Grambling, where students and faculty also are mourning her death, will award her degree in criminal justice posthumously at the May 9 graduation.
Lafayette police, citing the preliminary autopsy report and scene investigation, have ruled Shelton’s death an accidental drowning.
“There are still things being conducted in the investigation,” Police Cpl. Paul Mouton said Friday. “Nothing so far in the investigation refutes the findings of the (Lafayette Parish) Coroner’s Office.”
Still to come are the toxicology results that might indicate whether drugs or alcohol contributed to her death.
Alexandria Shelton’s friends, alarmed when she didn’t show up at a party Saturday night on Stewart Street in Lafayette, called her cellphone.
The phone was answered about 11:30 p.m. by two people in Girard Park who said they found it lying on the ground. Police located the woman’s body in a drainage ditch early Sunday morning. Her car was in the parking lot.
“I’m not going to let this go,” Norville Shelton said. “Accidental? There’s no way in hell.”
Shelton questioned why she was in the park when she planned to be with a tight-knit group of friends with whom she grew up. He said Lafayette officers told him his daughter had no trauma marks on her body, meaning she didn’t hit her head and get knocked out as she fell into the shallow-water ditch.
“Why didn’t she stand up?” he asked.
Also, her keys were in her purse, which was found in her car.
“You keep your keys with you,” Shelton said.
He said for now he’ll let the official investigation run its course, and he’s asking again for anyone with information to call Lafayette police.
Shelton talked about his daughter at his kitchen table Friday. He smoked cigarettes as he bounced among the hard facts of her death and the warm memories from her life. Her good looks. Her smarts. Her warmth. Her ambition. She was headed to law school.
“I explained to her last year: One DWI can derail law school,” Shelton said.
Alexandria Shelton wasn’t perfect, he said. The father was sure she’d dabbled in alcohol and marijuana the way most college students do.
But “she had no drug or alcohol issues,” he said, and there were no mental troubles or worries that weighed her down.
“Alexandria was trying to talk me into buying her a car. That was her biggest issue,” he said.
Alexandria’s funeral will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Lafayette, with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. at Melancon Funeral Home in Carencro. There also will be a memorial Monday at 6 p.m. at the Girard Park site near where she was found.
Lucretia Shelton, Alexandria’s mother, is not sleeping, her husband said. Shelton said he hopes visiting family can help her begin to cope with the loss and the unanswered questions.
“She has to pick something to wear on Tuesday,” he said. “We have to get her up and around.”
Shelton said he would try to view his daughter’s body on Saturday, believing he’d never make it through services Tuesday if he sees her in that state for the first time.
“We’re devastated, man,” he said. “The closer it gets to Tuesday, the less I’m able to handle this.”