Two 15-year-olds booked in murder of Wendy Byrne in New Orleans French Quarter
by Brendan McCarthy, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday January 20, 2009, 10:10 PM
Two 15-year-olds were booked with murder Tuesday by New Orleans police after their mothers noticed they resembled suspects sketched by a police artist after the killing of a French Quarter bartender and insisted they turn themselves in.
The two were booked with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the death of 39-year-old Wendy Byrne, according to NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley.
A third suspect in the case, also 15, has not been apprehended, but police say they know his identity and are trying to locate him.
The case will go to juvenile court while Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office decides whether to prosecute the teens as adults or leave the case in the juvenile system. A spokeswoman for Cannizzaro declined to comment on the case Tuesday.
Byrne, a well-known Quarter bartender and resident, was walking with an acquaintance at about 8 p.m. Saturday night near the intersection of Dauphine and Gov. Nicholls streets in the lower Quarter.
Three boys, including one with a gun, approached the pair and demanded money. Byrne did not resist, police said. Yet at some point one of the boys shot her
, and the teens fled the scene without her money. She died on the scene.
Riley refused to comment on where Byrne was shot or talk about the exchange between the boys and Byrne, saying only that she did not resist the robbery.
"She did not resist in any way
, " Riley said. "The problem is 15-year-olds running around with guns. Wendy Byrne should be here today."
Police said the three teens had robbed another man just minutes earlier near the corner of Gov. Nicholls and Bourbon streets.
Homicide detectives worked 20-hour shifts in the wake of the murder, Riley said, and with the help of two robbery victims developed the sketches.
"Without those witnesses, it would have been much more difficult, " Riley said. "The composite of the first subject with the dreadlocks was so close and so accurate, it's incredible. It was so close that the mother called and said, 'That's my son.' "
When police arrested the first suspect early Tuesday, he confessed to pulling the trigger on a revolver and shooting Byrne, Riley said.
Upon learning of the arrest of the first suspect, the mother of the second apprehended suspect called 911 and mentioned her son's role in the murder, police said. That boy also confessed after turning himself in Tuesday.
"In this case, these mothers ought to be commended for stepping up, for realizing that their 15-year-old kids were involved in this crime, " Riley said.
Byrne was a beloved bartender at French Quarter watering holes Aunt Tiki's and Starlight by the Park, according to friends and colleagues. They held vigils and mourned her death over drinks Sunday, placing bouquets of flowers, photos and cards at her murder scene and workplace.
Friends initially identified her as Wendy Burns, but police released her name Tuesday as Wendy Byrne. The coroner's office identified her Tuesday night as Byrne.
In a midday news conference at police headquarters, Riley said the arrested teens should be punished severely.
"Should these two young men walk the street again?" he asked. "In my opinion, no. No."
Riley noted that both teens had been previously arrested. The alleged shooter had been arrested for violating curfew. The other boy was arrested twice before for auto theft.
Police continued to investigate Tuesday whether the teens were responsible for other recent robberies in the area, Riley said.
Detectives were aided in the investigation by a private surveillance camera that captured footage of the teens fleeing the area, Riley noted. Though city crime cameras are mounted across the French Quarter, they did not play a role in the case.
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Brendan McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com