Florida domestic dispute ends with mother of six shot dead in Kenner
Posted on Jan 22, 2010 in Local Issues
By Mary Sparacello, The Times-Picayune
January 21, 2010, 6:40PM
lanell_darden_scene_kenner.JPGBrett Duke/The Times-PicayuneAuthorities investigate the shooting of Lanell Darden near Granville T. Woods Elementary School in Kenner.
A mother of six, Lanell Darden moved back to her hometown of Kenner to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend. But he wouldn’t let her leave.
Police said Readus Williams drove 10 hours from his Florida home to shoot Darden dead Thursday morning in a parking lot, just steps from the elementary school where she had walked two children to class.
Officers chased Williams in a vehicle on Interstate 10 until he stopped and was arrested in St. James Parish. They booked him with second-degree murder.
kenkill.jpgBrett Duke / The Times-PicayunePolice investigate the scene where Lanell Darden was shot dead Thursday morning in Kenner.
The victim’s sister said Darden, 28, moved from Kenner to Orlando, Fla., after Hurricane Katrina and recently dated Williams for seven to eight months.
But the relationship soured, and Darden took out a restraining order on Williams after he “put his hands on her,” said Yolanda Darden, relating what she said her sister told her. The order didn’t seem to have any effect because Williams still stalked Darden, her sister said.
Yolanda Darden said she tried to reassure her sister that the woman would be safe in Kenner. “I didn’t think he would travel all the way here,” she said.
So Darden and five of her children moved back just a few weeks ago, into a Kenner Housing Authority apartment at 1013 31st St. The sixth child already was living with another relative in Kenner.
Still Williams called. As recently as Tuesday, Yolanda Darden said, he told her sister, “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want you to come back.”
Thursday morning, Darden walked her son and her sister’s son to Granville T. Woods Elementary School, 1037 31st. Returning about 8:15 a.m., she saw Williams, 49, in her apartment complex’s parking lot.
She ran behind another man in the lot, but Williams pushed him away and shot her as other students and parents were arriving at school, police said.
Numerous callers dialed 911. As officers rushed to the scene, witnesses described a man in a red Dodge Durango with Florida license plates speeding away. Officers quickly found the vehicle on 30th Street, but it sped off toward I-10 and headed west.
Williams stopped about 40 miles away in St. James Parish and surrendered without incident, said Lt. Wayne McInnis, a Kenner police spokesman. He had a map and directions from Orlando to the parking lot where Darden was killed, Police Chief Steve Caraway said.
He did not, however, possess a gun, McInnis said. Detectives think he pitched a gun off I-10 into Lake Pontchartrain as he crossed the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Divers combed the waters there Thursday afternoon, McInnis said.
The shooting had rattled Woods Elementary.
“The school immediately implemented lockdown procedures including gathering students who were still outside of the school building,” said Beth Branley, a Jefferson Parish public school system spokeswoman. In addition, the school system’s crisis team was dispatched to the school to work with students and staff.
“Since it’s elementary, many of the students were confused and upset about what was going on,” Branley said.
Yolanda Darden said her sister had planned to obtain a Graduate Equivalency Degree and had an application to work with her at Wal-Mart. She leaves behind six children ages 3 to 10, all of them now with their father, a former companion who lives in Kenner, Yolanda Darden said.
The family has set up a fund at Omni Bank to pay for funeral and help the children.