Triple homicide investigation yields ‘very good leads,’ police say
Posted on Jan 9, 2010 in Local Issues, NOPD
Three people, including a brother and sister, were fatally shot and another woman critically wounded late Thursday night in a home invasion in the St. Roch neighborhood.
Inside a bedroom, the suspects killed two women with an assault rifle and wounded a third woman. They used a handgun to execute a young man in the rear yard, authorities said. They spared only a toddler.
The attack took place shortly before midnight inside a shotgun double in the 2700 block of Urquhart Street, a tough, residential neighborhood with houses cheek by jowl.
New Orleans police officers, responding to a report of a burglary, found the door ajar. Inside they discovered the female victims.
Kewanda Harris, 30, was killed by an assault rifle in one of the bedrooms. Her partner, Karen Matthews, who is in her 20s, had been fatally shot as well, according to John Gagliano, the spokesman for the Orleans Parish coroner who released the identities. Relatives and a neighbor confirmed their relationship.
Another woman, 26, was found alive but severely wounded. She was taken to LSU Interim Public Hospital in critical condition.
Desmond Harris, Kewanda’s 23-year-old brother, had been shot in the head and fell face-down in the rear yard, authorities said.
Police believe that the motive in the slayings revolves around drugs, which were often sold from the house.
“It appears that the shooting involved the sale and distribution of narcotics from that home,” said Marlon Defillo, assistant police superintendent. “We are trying to determine whether it was a drug rip-off or something else.”
Defillo said Friday evening that detectives had worked through the night and were pursing some “very good leads.”
By midmorning Friday, the house had been cordoned off, its front door affixed with a sticker from the coroner’s office. Two homicide detectives huddled in the cold as crime scene technicians snapped photographs in the rear yard of the coffee-colored home, which had sheets covering the windows.
Next-door neighbor Wallace Welsh, 45, said people frequently sold drugs in and around the home, and that drug sales are an ongoing issue in the neighborhood. Welsh, who confirmed their identities and relationships, said he heard little at the time of the incident and learned of the shooting when police arrived. He said he is haunted by what he saw.
Karen Harris, 44, a cousin of both Desmond and Kewanda Harris, said in an interview that her relatives grew up in the Magnolia public housing complex and recently settled into the Urquhart apartment.
She added that Desmond was the outgoing sibling, a “hard-working and fun-loving man,” employed at the Cat’s Meow nightclub on Bourbon Street. A manager there declined to comment Friday.
She also said Kewanda Harris was quiet, respectful and very much in love with her girlfriend.
Karen Harris had no answers for the motive in the killing of her cousins.
“I’m trying to find out myself,” she said.
Brendan McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3301.