June 13, 2013
By Jennifer Bihm
LAWT Staff Writer
Drowning was the cause of death for Terrilynn Monette who grew up and attend high school in Long Beach, but whose missing body was discovered in Bayou St. John on Saturday June 8 in New Orleans.
Monette, who was teaching in New Orleans and the subject of bi-coastal candle light vigils, was found in the passenger seat of her car which apparently had been submerged in a Louisiana bayou since March, said city officials.
According to the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office there were no signs of trauma to her body, said John Gagliano, the coroner's chief investigator.
LSU forensic dentists confirmed Monette's identity through dental records, Gagliano said. Toxicology results are pending and the results will be ready in about two weeks, he said. New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) fatality unit will try to reconstruct the accident to determine what caused Monette's car to end up in the bayou, said NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden. Meanwhile, officers in NOPD's 3rd District are working to enhance all the video evidence in the case.
Monette was last seen at a bar in New Orleans where she had been celebrating a teacher of the year nomination.
"It was not the outcome we had looked for, but we did find her,” said State Rep. Austin Badon who had helped the family to organize the initial searches for Monette.
“It allowed the family to have some sense of relief and closure."
Monette’s mother Toni Enclade told reporters in New Orleans that she was “overwhelmed” at the discovery.
“I don't understand why it took them so long to find her car," she said.
"This is supposedly one of the first places they would have checked. It doesn't make sense."
Monette arrived in Louisiana in 2011 to participate in a program that connects teachers to students in low-income areas. On the night she went missing, according to a New Orleans police report, the 26-year-old had been drinking and announced to friends that she was going to sleep in her car before heading home. Some who knew her however, said that was out of character for the young woman.
“My sister and Terrilynn are VERY CLOSE. In fact they consider themselves to be best friends,” said Gaynell Diamond Robinson-Watkins via an Internet post in March.
“The two plus other educators including her former principal are always out together. That night, she chose to go out to hear her college friend who plays in a band. She did not go with her normal group of three to four but figured it was ok because he is a college friend that she looks at as a brother.
“Here's the issue, when Terri is out with her real friends she NEVER gets drunk. She's not a heavy drinker. One maybe two is always her max. She is always the one that reminds everyone that they are driving.
“Now true, we all make bad choices from time to time but none of us who know her personally believes that she would say she's going to sleep in her car. If she were to ever think that then she would not broadcast it. She lives 5 minutes away from the bar, 2 miles away.
“Believe me, she is a very nice, smart person, she's been here two years... She knows about the crime here in the city... She would never tell a stranger she was going to sleep in her car. Never. She would never get drunk knowing she was driving. NEVER… VERY RESPONSIBLE. Now if she did those things then that's because something may have been added to her drink... And I am not talking about a lemon, lime nor cherry. Bottom line is that friend said he played with his band then he left her… Friends don't leave friends especially if she appeared to be drunk…”
Law enforcement in New Orleans have not said whether or not they believe Monette was a victim of foul play.