May 9, 2014 10:55:49 AM
KENNER, La. -- An arrested woman's boyfriend remains a suspect in the death of a Bourbon Street dancer whose dismembered body washed up on Mississippi beaches in 2012, and Kenner police detectives have interviewed him since taking over the case, Chief Steve Caraway said Thursday.
But it was "very significant" information from at least three new witnesses who were located in the past two weeks by Kenner detectives that led to Wednesday's arrest of Margaret Sanchez, he said.
Caraway said Sanchez, who was arrested one week after her 30th birthday, has been booked with second-degree murder and obstructing justice in the death of Jaren Lockhart, 22. The obstruction charge, he said, is because investigators believe she helped dismember Lockhart and dump the pieces, probably from the U.S. 90 bridge at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Her bond was set at $750,000, according to an online jail roster. It was not clear whether she had an attorney.
Caraway said Terry Speaks and Sanchez were "boyfriend-girlfriend" in June 2012, when Lockhart was killed. He said he cannot rule out the possibility of other suspects but he does not know of any.
"We don't believe it was a kidnapping. What was the motive, what led to the stabbing, who knows?" Caraway said.
He said the charge against Sanchez is unlikely to be increased to first-degree murder.
"We're working closely with the district attorney and second-degree murder was the appropriate charge," he said. "As far as other suspects, we'll have to wait and see how that develops."
Caraway said that since the sheriff's office in Hancock County, Mississippi, turned over the case to Kenner two weeks ago, detectives from the New Orleans suburb have traveled to New York State to interview Speaks, 41, who is in a federal prison for failing to register as a sex offender after a conviction in North Carolina.
Speaks is scheduled for release in October, but Caraway said he's not worried that he'll go free while being investigated. "I believe we still have a detainer on him here for some other sex offender charges," he said.
Hancock County investigators first identified Speaks and Sanchez as suspects shortly after Lockhart's torso washed ashore in Bay St. Louis and other parts of her body and some clothing washed up within 10 miles east, in Pass Christian and Long Beach.
Caraway said license plate recognition cameras that are used to locate car thieves showed that a car tied to Speaks and Sanchez was in Kenner shortly after a surveillance camera showed them leaving a New Orleans strip club with Lockhart after her shift there on June 12, 2012.
"Some time later they were picked up going to Mississippi and returning here from Mississippi after staying in Mississippi for just a brief time," he said.
Kenner is west of New Orleans and about 70 minutes from Bay St. Louis, driving at the speed limit.
It's not clear where Lockhart was killed. Investigators believe the killers tried to clean up the crime scene and DNA evidence is not yet back from the FBI, Caraway said.
He said the FBI has assured detectives that they will get the remaining evidence.
"Obviously, this isn't the only murder case their lab processes. ... And there's new evidence that will be sent to them," he said.
The new evidence was collected at her parents' house, where Sanchez was arrested, Caraway said.
1. Sunday morning wreck claims three lives COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. 3 die in Lowndes County crash COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. One injured, another detained in Friday shooting STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Aldermen mull economic bond issuance STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY