My Aunt was born on October 31, 1911. She was murdered on October 24, 1994 exactly one week before her 83rd birthday.

Her name is Rita Sybil Juneau Rabalais.  She was raised in the small town of Moreauville, Louisiana.  She could vividly remember the "Great Flood of 1927".  She married Reid Rabalais and they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a church ceremony repeating their wedding vows.  He died within a year after this milestone in their life.  He had been very ill and homebound for years before he died. He had a type of lung disease that caused his lungs to be like leather. 

They had one child who died in his senior year of college at Louisiana Tech University located in Ruston Louisiana.  He belonged to a pilot's club at the university.  He learned to fly the small, one passenger planes.  He flew the plane home one weekend to take his uncle, Rita's brother, flying around to check out hunting places.  They crashed into pecan tree in the field where he planned to land.  He died instantly - he was 21 years old.  My uncle who was the passenger in the plane was hospitalized in the VA hospital for over a year, overcoming his injuries.  When my aunt finally got over the shock of her son's death and was able to get out and around people again, she never missed one day visiting her brother in the hospital.  

Rita Rabalais was an extremely devout Catholic.  She rose every morning early and prayed her rosary and said several novenas that she had promised to pray for other people's intentions.  Never did anyone ever ask her to pray for them that she ever refused.  I know that many times people ask me to pray for them and I assure them I will, then forget about it.  She never ever forgot anyone's prayer intentions. 

She attended mass every morning without fail.  She did all she could for the priest, at not only our church but also the surrounding churches.  She made the most beautiful priest vestments and altar cloths imaginable.  She did alterations for the priest.  She cooked many meals and had several priests from surrounding church parishes over for special dinners.  She was a member of the Catholic Daughters of America.  She was a member of the St. Rita Church altar society (our family's home church).  She and her husband were charter members of St. Rita Parish Church. 

Rita was a very talented seamstress.  She worked at some very well-known retail stores here in Alexandria, Louisiana.  She did alterations on very expensive wedding dresses, veils, etc.  She made my wedding dress for me.  In fact she made all of my clothes until I was out of high school. 

She volunteered her time to work at the Saint Vincent de Paul store our church operated.  (Clothes and household goods for the needy were sold cheaply or given to very needy people there). 

On the day she was murdered, she was not present at the 8:00 a.m. daily mass that she always attended.  This particular day, my mom went to that mass and was very concerned that Aunt Rita was not there.  She had an ill, eerie feeling during the mass and left as soon as it was over to go and check on Aunt Rita.  As I said earlier, she never missed daily mass. 

When mom arrived at Aunt Rita's home, she knocked on the door and at the same time noticed that it was just slightly ajar.  Mom called out for Aunt Rita and got no answer.  Mom stepped inside the house and called out for her again.  She checked her garage and saw that Aunt Rita's car was inside.  She returned into the house and called me and asked me to come over because something was not right. I called my son to meet me there. 

When we got there, we went in and I immediately noticed a chest of drawers that had been moved from where she had it and it was placed in front of her closet door.  I called the police department.  After the officer arrived, he and my son, who was not quiet 20 years old at the time, went into the house and looked around.  Eventually, the police officer had my son help him move the chest of drawers and as the policeman shinned his flashlight into the dark closet, my son saw his great-Aunt lying in a fetal position in a pool of blood.

It took from October until mid-December for the detectives to get enough leads to make an arrest.  They called and said they had arrested four black male teenagers.  The grand jury indicted them. 

Several months passed and five more were arrested for this murder.  

We had to wait a long time for the first one to go to trial.  He was found guilty by the jury.  The second phase of the trial was the sentencing phase, where the jury had to go back and decide whether he would get life in prison or the death penalty.  He was given the death penalty. 

The second killer to go to trial was also convicted of first degree murder of the elderly and he likewise got the death penalty. 

One killer received life in prison without possibility of pardon or parole.  The others got varying degrees of manslaughter.  So far, one is already back out on the streets.  He cut a deal with the DA and testified against the others.  Two of the killers will be eligible for parole around Christmas of this year. 

Aunt Rita was a very petite little lady.  She was about five feet two inches  and weighed about 100 -- to 110 pounds.  She had a hard life, losing her son and having to care for her very sick husband for so long.  But she never complained. 

Her favorite flowers were "Sweet Peas."  My dad planted some along his driveway and she marveled at their beauty.  She loved her little miniature poodle "Petite".  She cooked for him (boiled chicken--deboned).  She celebrated his birthday with him. She was an excellent cook.  She taught me everything I know about baking.  Every Saturday was baking day at her house.  When I was a young girl I would go over to her house (she only lived about 4 blocks away) and bake with her.  She baked her husband a cake every week, as well as cookies for the cookie jar for visitors like my brothers and me.


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