If you don’t live in New Orleans and don’t spend time with me in real time, there is very little chance that you know what has been going on in my life. That being said, it’s been tragic, upsetting and infuriating.
October 16th, my best friend/brother in law, Shade Sanguis, left his apartment and disappeared.
We searched everywhere for him. I, personally, walked well over 35 miles in the next two months in our attempts to locate him. We called missing persons, the coroner, the hospitals daily in an attempt to locate him to no avail. The missing persons detective had all the information required to identify his body – the inscription on his wedding ring, his piercings, his tattoo and the extensive reconstructive surgery done on his ankles.
I was personally told by someone at the coroner’s office (on multiple occasions) that there were no caucasian John Does in the morgue. According to the missing persons detective, he called several times and was told the same thing. At one point – I was at his desk when he made this call, on speaker phone. She told him the same thing…
During the time we were searching for him, we discovered that a gun was missing from Shade’s home. The gun was a gift given to he and his wife by a friend who was concerned for their safety after a series of attempted and successful break-ins in their uptown apartment. The reasoning for the gift was that the police refused to make a report, take prints or (in one case) even come to the home (telling my sister that she was “just imagining things”). The person who gave them the gun had forgotten about it because a) he gave it to them, and he is the kind to give a gift and then never think about the item again and b) his home was all but destroyed by a flood and he lost several weapons. Please remember this fact. It becomes important later.
When we discovered that the gun was missing, we contacted the missing persons division and advised them of this fact giving them the make, model, description of the weapon and the fact that it has been loaded with brass casing jacketed hollow point rounds. I also called the person who had given Shade and his wife the gun to let him know it was missing.
December second of 2015, an investigator from the coroner’s office went out to the home of the person who had given them the gun. It turns out that the coroner’s office had sent the serial number to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The check returned the gift giver as the previous owner of the gun and they were tracking down the chain of custody on the weapon. This morning, he was advised that the gun had been used in a suicide. He called me. I called the coroner’s office and asked for the investigator. With a two minute conversation, we had an almost 100% ID on Shade.
It came to light that he had been found on October 25th, 9 days after he went missing… The visit to the gift giver’s (the gun) did not happen until December 2nd.
There were several other articles written about the case…
We wanted to pay our respects to Shade, and since we could not view the body, we had to go to the site. Finding the site was another ridiculous quest. We called. And called… and called… Had an attorney file a request for public records (which includes the initial police report and the coroner’s report). The coroner responded with the coroner’s report, but to this day, the NEW ORLEANS POLICE have NOT responded to the request. The Freedom of Information Act states that they have 10 days to furnish the requested information… We finally went to the precinct and requested the information, citing religious reasons and waited until they gave us the “600 block” of a specific street.
We set out to find the site. Let me start by saying that I do not know if a) the police officer’s accent made it impossible to understand him, b) he gave us the wrong street name (that rhymed with the proper one) intentionally or c) accidentally spoke the wrong street name, but it took us almost 6 hours to find the location.
Only the fact that we ran across one of the employees of the company that owned the property allowed us to find it. He directed us to the location. His body had been found within this building.
Now, I will tell you this… the coroner’s report stated that the cause of death was a contact range shot from a .380 caliber jacketed hollow point round that deformed upon entry and bounced off the inside of his skull, killing him instantly.
As we entered the building there were several things that were visibly evident. 1) it was clear where he was laying within the building – this was confirmed later by photos of the scene. 2) That there had been a great deal of blood spilled. 3) That the floor of the shack sloped downwards towards where his body was found – this was confirmed by a “pour test” (pouring water at a location and observing the direction that the water flows in). 4) that the blood pool extended to the entrance of the building.
I am not going to show photos of the inside of the building, as I do not wish to engage in grotesquerie.
The trauma was too much for my sister, she had a friend come out and get her, and a fellow scientist friend joined me.
We started to analyse what I was seeing… She proposed several theories and asked questions, all of which were countered by the pour test and other things on the scene. It was noted that the blood fall at the door was not entirely evident due to the site being open to the elements for 40+ days. A course of action was decided upon and supplies were ordered.
While waiting for the luminol and phenolphthalein to arrive (more information about what these are to follow), we dove back into the coroner’s report.
Several inconsistencies came to light. The number of piercings in his ears was wrong. There was no sign of heart attack when he’d had 4. So we began to question whether or not it was him. I started calling the coroner’s office again.
The luminol and phenolphthalein arrived and we went back out to the site. A little background on these two chemicals. They are what are referred to as “presumptive blood tests.” This means that you can use them to show the presence or lack of blood in an area. They both react with chemicals that are present in blood. They both also have substances that will cause a false positive. A false positive is when something other than the intended substance reacts with the chemicals in question. HOWEVER, the two chemicals share very few of the same false positive reagents – none of which would be present at a site like this.
We went out to the site and began testing this. I stated with the luminol. We chose to start with the spot where we knew his body had been laying. (see photo)
As you can see, the luminol fluoresces in the presence of a reagent. In this case, it was blood. this was our baseline test. We tested other surfaces in the shack and found evidence that supported my initial observation. There was blood leading up to the threshold… and, in fact, on the inside and outside of the threshold. (see pic)
Please note the small gap between the rubber seal and the door frame. I made a roughly one inch long incision in the rubber seal on the threshold and found more dried blood underneath. To eliminate the possibility that this was a false positive, I performed a phenolphthalein test on the dried blood underneath the rubber seal. The test returned a positive result. (see photo) Phenolphthalein turns pink in the presence of blood.
Now we have blood evidence at the door. We were curious so ventured outside of the building and performed some more tests. It had been 40+ days and many of those days were rainy. We were not hopeful. We did find some evidence of blood outside the building on a couple small rocks roughly 3 feet outside the building. (see photo)
It is faint, but that blue glow is a positive result. We attempted to get a phenolphthalein result from the stones, but with no luck. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a false positive, but is far more likely a result of the heme (the reagent for both chemicals) being diluted to the point that the wet swab used in the phenolphthalein test was not able to extract any heme to react with.
While we were collecting this evidence, we were startled by an individual who walked onto the property to see what we were doing. It turns out this man is the person who found the body. He confirmed that we were right about the location of the body. He also explained that he had found the door to the shack closed.
We also discovered that a flood light over the door had a broken mount. The light prevented the door from closing naturally. You have to lift the light and hold it in place as you close the door to shed. It IS possible to do this from inside the shed, but with the wound that killed him, it is unlikely that he lifted the light and closed the door behind him.
I eventually received a call back from a man named Mason Harrison. Mr, Harrison identified himself as the coroner’s “communications officer.” A cursory web search revealed the following information http://www.nolablackprofessionals.com/business-directory/23969/mason-harrison-l-l-c/. I will let his business listing stand for itself. Mr. Harrison asked why I had been calling and advised that he would, from then on, be my point of contact with the coroner. I advised him that we had doubts as to the identification of the body. He asked what he could do to alleviate these doubts. I advised him that Shade had undergone extensive reconstructive surgery on his ankles and an x-ray would confirm it was him. This was on December 15th.
On December 16th, Mr. Harrison called me and asked for a meeting. He provided photos of x-ray photos of Shade’s ankles. (see photo)
This was the absolute proof we needed. This was, indeed, Shade’s body. During this meeting, I expressed my displeasure with the situation, the police, the fact that it took 40+ days to tell us they had his body. (the date on the machine is wrong)
He advised me, at that time, that the police did not send over the missing persons reports as they came in and instead only did so at the end of the year. I had intended to keep my findings to myself, but upon finding this piece of information out, I suffered an emotional outburst and revealed everything we had learned in our own data and evidence collection.
Between this meeting and and the 19th of December, people started to come forth and tell me things. It came to light that he was sexually involved with a woman that was actually convicted of murder and sentenced to prison for same.
This period of time is marked by many calls to the police, many people coming forward with additional information about his last days, and delving into the coroner’s report as well as a visit to the homicide department and being allowed to view scene photos which corroborated all of our suppositions and deductions. All of this paints a picture that doesn’t align with the coroner’s declaration – that it was suicide. The following facts are gathered from our data collection, a meeting with a Sargent in the homicide division of the New Orleans police and the coroner’s report.
- Shade was killed by a contact range shot to the right temple with a kel tek .380. The bullet deformed and bounced off the inside of his skull with no exit wound.
- The insect evidence puts his death 3-5 days before he was found, leaving us with 3-5 days unaccounted for. There was massive maggot infiltration, but they were focused on his body and had not yet reached the late 3rd instar stage (referred to as the wandering stage) and were not moving away from the body.
- He was found in the middle (almost exactly 3 feet away from the door) of a 6×6 shack.
- There is blood outside the shack as well as inside and outside the threshold – a feat that is not possible if he shot himself where he fell, as the floor slopes down, away from the door.
- The hand that, according to the coroner’s report, he shot himself with was UNDER his body. As a result of the rendering and extensive decomposition of his body, a GSR test was not possible on this hand.
- His legs were splayed, and the gun was IN HIS LAP. There are many scenarios where this is possible, but none of them end with his hand under his body.
- He was involved, sexually, with someone who is known to have been directly (by the testimony in the trial) involved in homicide.. This individual was charged with murder one – plea bargained down to, convicted of and sentenced to prison for negligent homicide. We not only have this involvement from Shade’s own words before his disappearance, but from corroboration by his wife and one of his other close friends. We also have material evidence that proves he was in her presence before his death.
- The light prevents the door from closing on its own, and the door was closed.
- Certain personal possessions were missing from Shade’s body. He had a cell phone with him when he left the house on the 16th of October. His lighter was missing as well. Shade carried a boot knife in his boot at all times. This was not with his body.
When I shared this information with the homicide detectives, I was told that they would like to investigate, but they can’t because the coroner marked it a suicide. When presented with this data, Mr. Harrison either a) didn’t pass it on to our coroner or b) did and the coroner didn’t care. The upshot of this is that the city of New Orleans refuses to investigate.