This story has everything, conspiracy, cults, murder and mystery. It is also incredibly sensationalized, even at the time that it occurred. This makes it very hard to find concrete details, as each source cites different dates. But I have done my best to try and get the details as accurate as I possibly can
The Andrus - Raymond Barnabet
On the morning of February 25 1911 in Vermilionville LA, the Andrus family of four were found in their home, having been brutally murdered, with an axe.
This wasn't the first massacre in this way. From 1910-1912 there was an upsurge in murders committed by axe across America. Some are still unsolved, many have been attributed to "The Man from the Train" who was thought to have killed between 59-100 people from late 1800s to early 1900s
But in Louisiana the murder of the Andrus family in February 1911 had a lot in common with two other cases:
Just a month prior to the Andrus murder was the Jan 24 Byers family of three from Crowley, but even earlier on Nov 13 1909 the Opelousas family of four in Rayne LA
All were killed with the same level of violence and malice, woman, man and child alike. The modus operandi reported between the three massacres were shockingly similar. All killed with an axe. In all cases, there doesn't appear to be any struggle and it seems the families were killed in their sleep
And another factor,
and probably the biggest reason you have likely never heard of this, is that
all of these families were black
Race plays a big part in this and in many ways it's almost a miracle these crimes were investigated and reported on at all. This was the time of severe segregation, the Jim Crow era. Where black persons couldn't gather in groups larger than three without a police chaperone or risk getting arrested. All public places were segregated and it was illegal to cross those sometimes invisible, but also frequently physical lines.
Lynchings were terrifyingly common and while we know that thousands occurred between 1900-1930 the data is very skewed as many law enforcement agencies, especially in the south didn't treat lynchings as what they were: homicides
Disenfranchisement was built into the law. While the 13th amendment of 1865 abolished the grand majority of slavery, it left a loophole wherein someone could be enslaved if they committed a crime, which was heavily abused and is still legal in some states.
Systemic racism is a huge topic and not one we have time get into today, but know that this is the era we're talking about and I want you to keep that in mind as we discuss this case, as nearly all of our sources come from the general media which were almost entirely white owned and/or operated at that time, especially in the south. This also meant that the grand majority of law enforcement and court system were also white.
Eight months after the Andrus murder, October 21 1911, a suspect was convicted and given the death penalty: A black man named Raymond Barnabet, who lived nearby
Raymond had been a suspect from the get go, but law enforcement couldn't find any evidence that could tie him to the murders and were unable to keep him. It wouldn't be until September, after a fight with his family, would his own family turn on him
Clementine and Zephirin Barnabet took the stand, telling the horrific story of how their father had come home in a rage between 2-4am the morning of Feb 25 where he forced the family out of their beds to help him dispose of the evidence he had carried with him after the murder.
Both children testified that their father had been covered with blood and gore, he then made his daughter wash his clothes and threatened both with death if they were to ever say anything.
After the conviction, Raymond's lawyer pushed an appeal, claiming that his client had been too inebriated to properly defend himself. The appeal stayed Raymond's execution, but unable to afford bond, Raymond remained in jail awaiting retrial.
A month later in Lafayette LA, on the morning of Nov 27, a nine year old girl of the Randall family returned home from a sleepover at her uncle's to find her father, mother, three siblings and cousin butchered, in the same manner as the Andru family.
They were, as according to the Crowley Post newspaper "one of the best [black] families in the city"
This was puzzling as Raymond Barnabet, the man that had been convicted of murdering the Andrus was in jail, so he couldn't possibly have committed this crime. What no one expected was that within a couple hours, it would be Raymond's 19 year old daughter, Clementine that would be arrested.
Interviewed as a possible witness, living close enough to the Randalls that at the very least she could've heard/seen something, but could also be a suspect
Law enforcement questioned her and searched her room, where they found a gore soaked apron, dress and undergarments in her closet, immediately triggering the arrest of the young woman. Zepherin, her brother would also be taken in for questioning, police believing that Clementine wouldn't be able to move the bodies on her own
Sheriff Louis Lacoste was convinced from early on of Clementine's guilt and immediately suspected her involvement in the Andru murders, as Norbert Randall had been the brother of Minnie/Mimi Andru, telling papers that he believed he had sufficient evidence to charge the woman. But Clementine claimed innocence
Aside from the bloodied clothes, Officers would also find the latch on the gate of the her home soaked in blood, further adding to their conviction that she was the killer. Gregory Porter and Edwin Charles would also be arrested, having claimed to have been with Clementine the night of the murder.
On November 28, While the Sheriff Lacoste took her clothes to New Orleans to have a lab inspect them, officers attempted to get her to talk to no avail, Clementine maintaining her innocence. While she couldn't give a satisfactory answer as to why her clothes were bloodied, others came forward to testify that Clementine had "ran the streets" that night so couldn't have possibly killed the Randalls
But a Reverend King Harris/Harrison would be arrested and attested that he had encountered Clementine near the Randall home the night of the murders. According to some reports, she warned him away from the area, claiming a murder had occurred
On Jan 17 1912 the district attorney received the blood analysis report from New Orleans. The report confirmed that the blood and brain material on Clementine's clothes was indeed human, not menstrual, and was the same as a sample from the Randall family. It's important to note that DNA analysis in any significant way would not arrive for another 70 years, but at this point forensic chemists could identify if a blood sample belonged to a human and they could also identify blood types.
So by "being the same" I have to assume that the blood type was the same. There are 8 different blood types and while most are rare, the two most common make up 34% and 38% of the overall population, but for black people one type dominates half of the population. So there's a 50/50 that this blood would be the same, if both sources were from a black person. But that's only half of the equation, it's easier to explain the presence of blood, but the presence of brain matter is a bit more difficult.
Warner and Broussard Murders
The next night (Jan 18) Marie Warner and her three children were found murdered in Crowley LA, by, of course, an axe. With both Clementine and Raymond in jail, the police turned to the last Barnabet, Zepherin and arrested him, despite him having an alibi, believing he had done it on behalf of his sister and/or his dad.
Then two nights later, on the Jan 20, 50 miles away in Lake Charles LA, the family of Felix Broussard, consisting of his wife and three children were killed, again, with an axe.
This one had a couple interesting details though. In the bedroom where the father's body was found, there was a bucket beside the bed that was half filled with blood. It's entirely possible the bucket had been there prior to the murders and simply became filled with blood based on the circumstances, but law enforcement and journalists alike seemed to believe this was a sign that the killings had been part of some ritual
This theory is backed up by another piece of evidence: written on the door in pencil was a quote "When he maketh inquisition for blood, he forgetteth not the cry of the humble." This is a misquote of a verse from the ninth psalm, it would be easy to dismiss the error as that and nothing more, except that this exact misquote was seen in the novel: Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin was an anti-slavery novel published in 1852 which is said to have laid the foundations for the abolishment of slavery, becoming the 2nd best seller of the 19th century, beat by only the bible.
While mostly remembered now for the number of negative stereotypes about black people and becoming the origin of the term "Uncle Tom", the book was a pillar for revolution in the late 1800s. The book was also particularly reviled in the south, many ex confederates or former slave owners associating it with the bitter loss of the civil war, their "economic power" and "luxurious lifestyles"
In the book this phrase was used as a warning against those that committed the sin of slavery as they would face divine punishment. What this means if anything is hard to say, but curious to be found at the murder scene of a black family
It is said after the quote were the words "human five" though this is not consistently reported it is also sometimes reported this was all written in blood, but I more frequently saw it was written in pencil
In some reports, below the quote it was signed with
the name "Pearl
Ort" it's noted that the name
appears to be in different handwriting and police
theorized, based on its placement that it was written earlier and was not a
part of the writing of the quote.
The Effect on the People
With so many murders of black families occurring in the area, the entire black community was on edge. It was reported that many families kept their lanterns burning all night, the adults staying awake to watch over their families in case the mysterious killer were to make an appearance. It was reported in one scenario a black woman heard something outside her door and she shot through the door with a gun.
General interest in the murders was on the rise. Where the first couple murders were barely reported on, by this point every murder was reported on by all local papers, and even papers in other states. This had even begun to baffle the white population who could not figure out any reasoning for the acts of violence. To quote the Crowley Post "In at least a majority of the cases the victims were respectable and inoffensive [black people]"
It had gotten to the point that Governor Sanders of Crowley had put up a $500 reward for any tips that led to the capture and conviction of whoever was responsible for the murder of Marie Warner and her family. This is the equivalent of $15,000 today, so no chump change
Impacts of Interest
The rising interest and concern led to some interesting developments
- Additional Crimes: As people became more aware of what was happening in Louisiana, neighboring states began to wonder if crimes committed there may somehow be related. On Feb 18 the Dove family which consisted of the mother and her three children in Beaumont TX were killed in a similar manner
- Suspects: As with any major crime spree, suspects would make themselves known in the most unusual ways
- Feb 1 black preacher Abraham Nelson is arrested in Lake Charles after several reports over the last 3-4 days of him entering the homes in black communities around midnight. If caught, he would ask the family for coffee or tea and begin quoting scripture, thought to be a member of the Jennings Sanctified Church. It's unclear what he was doing, especially in such a tense climate, but it is noted that 3 years prior he had been in prison for a "serious crime". I would also like to note that Lake Charles is where the Broussard murders happened which had the scripture quote on the door
- Feb 26 Sheriff Fontenot received a letter wherein the writer claimed to have information that would lead to the arrest of who was responsible for the Andrus family murder in Rayne, the year prior
- "I feel that I am now on the right track at last, and am certain that our investigation will take a startling turn within three or four days."
- Though nothing ever seemed to come from this
- Black communities banded together
- Feb 11 150 black community members gather at the Good Hope Baptist church in Lafayette, drafting a public statement declaring their assistance in whatever manner law enforcement may require to stop the murders. They specifically mention being grateful to the white citizens of the cities and particularly Judge Campbell for their advice and suggestions for how they can help
- Feb 17 The black community in Crowley rally demanding better policing and appropriate street lighting
Despite all these strides and leads, little would be reported on the case again until Apr 1 1912 when things make a big shift. After two days of questioning Clementine gave a full confession to deputies Peck, Saul Broussard and Sheriff Fontenot
She claimed to be responsible for the murders of the Randalls, Byers, Andrus and even the Broussard family (despite being in prison when it occurred) totaling 17 victims.
It's said that the statement lacked any remorse for the awful murders as she described the events in graphic detail. She also told them that others would carry out her work all along the southern pacific railroad from New Orleans to San Francisco
Clementine allegedly claimed that she led a sect called "The Church of Sacrifice" an offshoot of a local holiness church, but one she fortified with the purchase of hoodoo charms. She claimed that there were four others dedicated to her cause, two men and two women, but refused to name them
It's claimed that the Church's goal was immortality and that the murders were sacrifices toward that goal
And naturally it's after this that journalism takes a huge shift in how they represent Clementine and the murders. While previously the murders were described with an emphasis on the violence, they were all pretty standard fair, but this confession combined with the strange factors of the Broussard murder made these killings get completely reframed as depraved, religious sacrifice
It seemed that once she made her initial confession, Clementine would happily regale her tale to whoever came asking and through this, we have a copy of one of these testimonies, as given to the New Orleans Item
Tuesday [April 2, 1912] she gave the following account of the tragedies to Mr. R. H. Broussard, reporter for the New Orleans Item:
"My name is Clementine Bernabet, I was born and partly raised near the town of St. Martinville, (La.,) and moved to Lafayette about three years ago when I began to lead a life of degradation. I have never been married. It was while in the company of two other women and two men, while in New Iberia, (La.,) that we met an old [black man] who told us that he could sell us 'candjas' (meaning by that hoodoos), with which we could do as we pleased and we would never be detected and would be protected from the hands of the law by the mere fact of these 'candjas' being in our possession.
"We bought them and paid $3 each [about $93 today] for them and left New Iberia the same night, returning to Lafayette, when we began to plan our actions. We had not yet decided on committing any murders, but it was while we were discussing our future plans that the question came up as to whether we could kill and be protected by the hoodoos. One of the gang was instructed to go to New Iberia and interview the hoodoo man, who said we were safe in any and all actions which we might do. Our lives would at all times be fully protected by the power of the hoodoos.
~ Drew Lot for First Murder. ~
"It was sometime during the year 1910, I believe in the fall, that I went to Rayne with my companions and we drew lots to know who would make the first attempt of the hoodoos in committing murders. The lot fell to me, and accordingly, I got to work that night. I went to my sister, who lived at Rayne, near the O. G. railroad depot, and later during the night went up town, disguised as a man, and securing an ax in a yard near the cabin where I killed the mother and four children."
"I saw that the light was burning and by that I could easily see inside. I saw the mother sleeping in her bed, then I decided that I would enter that house and there begin the work which we had planned.
"On entering the house, I struck the woman on the right temple and killed her instantly one of the children was awakened by the noise, and before he could raise his head from the pillow I struck him a blow somewhere near the left ear, then I struck the other two. I left the man's clothes which I wore in the house and left the house in woman's clothes, returned to my sister's house and later during the same night I boarded a night train for Lafayette arriving here about midnight. It was about 9 when I killed them.
~ Reported Deed to Others. ~
"On my return to Lafayette I reported the matter to the other members of the "gang" and we watched the development in the case with great interest. When we saw that we had not been detected we decided that the hoodoos had done their part and we were safe."
"In Crowley, I entered the house with one of the women, while the other kept watch, and as I had the ax in my hand I committed the murders.
I struck the man first and just as I did so the woman woke up, I struck her a blow in the face with the butt end of the ax and felled her. I then struck her once or twice to be sure that she was dead. Once this was done it was an easy matter to get rid of the two small children. We thought it was better to kill them than to leave orphans, as they would suffer."
~ Laid Plans for New Crime. ~
"From Crowley we came back as far as Rayne together, one of the three stopping in Rayne and the other two, myself and another, came to Lafayette. Later we were joined by the third, who told us how the officers had searched for the murderers all around her. We never spoke of committing any more murders until some time in February.
"The night before an election we knew that all the officers would be busy 'politicing' we went to the refinery and there we laid our plans, not knowing who would be the victim or victims.
"When we reached the rail-road crossing we saw a light burning in a cabin near Ramagosa's store. We decided that that was a good place, so went there; myself and one of the women entered the house and I struck Timi, the man, first, then his wife and afterwards his two small children, one of whom was an infant in a cradle near the bed. We had overlooked him until he woke up and began to cry. I turned around and struck him in the forehead, killing him instantly.
"We took the man and woman and placed them in a kneeling position and left the house. I was near the house the next morning when Timi's brother came to the house and called them, and not getting any answer he looked through the window and saw them dead. He began crying and I was one of the first to go to him and asked him what had happened. He told me and I went to notify their parents, who lived nearby. I helped to wash them and prepare them for burial.
~ Fourth and Last Murder ~
"It was on a Sunday night. [We went] out for a frolic, and we went to a meeting of the "God Sacrifice Church." After we left [the church] we secured an ax and [took with] us a bundle with old clothes which we carried with us. We met two of the night officers and when we saw them coming we hid the ax in the grass until the officers had passed us and went back to get it. We went a little way up the street and saw someone coming. I laid the ax behind a tree and when we saw who it was – it was King Harrison, the minister of the God Sacrifice Church – we told him that there had been two men fighting up the street as the officers would see him around there and arrest him. He did as we told him and he went around.
"This left us all alone in the street, so we crawled to the house and entered from behind and killed them. Once we had killed them, I took a pistol, which I had hidden under my dress, and shot at Norbert Randell, the man I had killed. I struck him somewhere in the breast or body. I got the pistol from my brother's house during the afternoon and returned it the same night. so as not to he seen with it should the officers catch me.
"After this we went up town to talk the matter over. I returned home about 2 o'clock in the morning and went to bed, where I stayed until I was awakened by the man I worked for the next morning about 5. I worked around the house until I was arrested by Mr. Peck, about 10 in the morning."
And as you can imagine, interest across the country dramatically increased
Law enforcement felt like this was their big break and thought with Clementine's confession they suspected they could arrest at least fifty potential accomplices.
While Clementine was now saying that her father was innocent and that the idea to throw him under the bus came from her stepmother and brother, Raymond wasn't as courteous
Unsurprisingly, Clementine's father would turn on her, telling papers and law enforcement that he believed her guilty. He claimed to remember the morning after the Andru [Alexon Arcenaux] family murder he found her sitting on the porch having not been in bed all night though she wouldn't tell him where she had been. He claims he found some of her bloody clothes. It's noted that she did not like her father
Public reaction seemed to vary, though it's hard to get a clear view on what these opinions were based on as most papers all seemed to report a similar atmosphere. Though one publisher mentioned that people weren't sure if they believed Clementine, having a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that one woman could do so many horrible crimes, at least not by herself .
While many seemed to take this as a nice, clean end to a horrific series of murders, there was good reason to doubt, the Daily Picayune reported that all of the information she'd given officers that implicated others were proven to be complete fabrications.
Sheriff Lacoste was not buying Clementine's story. The religious fanaticism, the hoodoo charms and claims of an organized movement all seemed like fantasy to him, this supported by the inconsistencies in her statement and the drama. She was reported to put her hand to her head and say "Oh, I want to tell you something, but I can't" seemingly suffering great mental anguish
There were a few reports that he had subjected Clementine to "many different tests" that led him to his conclusions, but that he wasn't ready to reveal their results and was playing his cards close to his chest, though he did suggest that her motive was jealousy
Clementine stoutly declared she had no hatred or jealousy against her victims and had no thoughts of robbery. She did, however, say that she had a "strong passion to fondle or embrace people at certain periods of the month and that when she killed the families in question she indulged in this to her heart's content"
Because of the complexity of the case and the continuing discovery of new leads the case would be put off going to trial until law enforcement could thoroughly investigate all of Clementine's claims. The contradictory statements of Clementine made it hard to rely on her confession as law enforcement had not been able to confirm these statements independently
While Lacoste was coming up empty he did claim to have sure evidence that would prove that Clementine at the very least killed the Randalls.
Louisiana law enforcement and the district attorney Bruner did not believe the Texas murders were related. A deputy was sent to investigate and found that those murders appeared to be robbery motivated. Though there were varying opinions about exactly which of the Louisiana murders Clementine was involved in
On Apr 4 the grand jury was assembled to review the charges, it was decided that of the 39 alleged murders committed by Clementine, she would only be indicted on the 6 murders of the Randall family. The judge determined that the court would not accept a guilty plea, despite Clementine's fervent and repeated confessions to whoever would listen.
Motive was still a big missing piece in the case against Clementine causing people to believe she was a true psychopath. Clementine allegedly had a history of trouble with law enforcement, officers claiming to have repeatedly driven her from town. Yet in other places I saw that she was considered "one of the good ones" who was "frail" and "mild mannered"
Despite seemingly completely off her rocker at times, law enforcement acknowledged her to be quite intelligent and cunning. Law enforcement feeling that the reason none of her confessions pan out is because she is purposely making them chase their tails and preventing law enforcement from tying the murders to anyone else
After this point, while similar murders continued to happen in Texas and Mississippi, the murders in Louisiana ceased.
What follows is a desperate bid to find any solid evidence that connected Clementine to the murders
With Clementine's claims of being involved in a "Church of Sacrifice" and purchasing "hoodoo charms" police naturally wanted to speak to those involved and they spoke to many among them were:
An alleged "voodoo doctor" that sold Clementine her hoodoo charms and who inspired her to commit the murders, was arrested by Apr 4. When asked about his trade Thibodeux claims to be a farmer and fortune teller. He treated people with roots and vines and tells fortunes by reading palms and with cards.
When confronted with Clementine he declared he had never met her before
Thibodeaux is well known in his community and was well liked and thought to be a kind and peaceful man. The community found it hard to believe he could be involved in anything like this
Apr 6 police arrest a preacher in hopes that he can tell them who Clementine's other victims are. It is said that he converted many to the church of sacrifice
A passage in his bible says "And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees, therefore, every tree which bringeth forth not good fruit is hewn down and cast into fire"
J S Anderson
Jun 10 preacher J S Anderson is arrested, found to sell "Paradise Pills" at $10 [$312 today] per pill and had an itinerary that brought him through towns and cities in both Louisiana and Texas, was though to be connected to the murders. Turns out that J S Anderson was actually S W Goodman a former baptist preacher of San Antonio who had escaped Huntsville Penitentiary after several months of a four year sentence and was known to be in the general area when the murders occurred, but nothing comes from this arrest
Clementine claimed to have four accomplices, two men and two women (Mary and Irene) and she seemed to not be worried in the slightest about their capture, claiming they were still under hoodoo protection so the police would never catch them. Many young people were brought in for questioning under suspicion that they might be these mysterious accomplices, but none ever panned out, despite the Sheriff claiming at one point to have all five members in prison
In one case they found a woman thought to be the Irene from Clementine's confession, a woman named Valena Mabry. While Clementine confirmed this to be Irene, police were dubious of this claim
By Apr 24 Sheriff Lacoste would announce that he believes he had all five members of the church in jail
"Those arrested are Raymond Barnabet, his daughters, Clementine and Irene, Ute Thomas and another who hasn't been named". Two days later a Mac Thomas would also be arrested as implicated by Clementine and her brother
Despite law enforcement's seeming certainty that Clementine was at the heart of these murders, suspects continued to be identified and questioned. Some even identifying themselves. Sheriff Lacoste received a letter from New Orleans from someone that claimed to be the killer, but ultimately only Clementine would go to trial over these murders
Murders Continue in Texas
While law enforcement dismissed any claims that the Texas murders were related, they continued to happen.
Burtons/Avers are murdered
Apr 12, In San Antonio, William Burton, his wife, two children and his brother in law Leon Avers were murdered in the night with an ax. Butcher knives were found stabbed in the bodies of all but the children
The Dashleil Family
On Aug 20 in San Antonio Texas, the Dashleil family were asleep in theirs when an assailant enter through an open window and attempted to slay the family with an axe. They had targeted the mother first who managed to defend herself, giving her husband enough time to wake up, grab and firearm and shoot at the attacker. While the shot missed, the would-be killer fled.
This family was twice lucky, as three months previous an unknown attacker had attempted to kill them, but also was deterred. While the family survived, what elements could be established from the attack did seem to be in theme all the other attacks that had occurred in the area over the last couple years.
Oct 7, Clementine goes to her first day of trial, the charges in this case being the murder of the Randall family of six, where her lawyer makes a plea of religious insanity.
"I do not care what they do with me - they can hang me if they wish" ~ Clementine [allegedly]
Oct 21 Clementine was assessed by Dr. E. M. Hummel of New Orleans, Dr. John Tolson and Dr. R. D. Voorhies
"Have found the subject to be morally depraved, unusually ignorant and of a low grade mentality, but not deficient in such a manner as to constitute her imbecilic or idiotic. We found in the case no sign of acquired insanity. It is therefore our joint opinion that said Clementine Barnabet is sane in a legal sense of the word" [statement]
Despite claiming not guilty, and despite the objection of her lawyers, she insisted that the jury be given her written confession
"I am the axe woman of the sacrifice sect. I killed them all, men, women and babies and I hugged the dead babies to my breast. But I am not guilty of murder" ~Clementine
She confessed to 17 murders and testimony introduced in trial suggested she had killed 22 instead and that the sect as a whole had killed 300 in the last 10 years. The testimony wasn't all in before the state rested, believing they had heard enough
It is said that if she was not found guilty, the black people of the community would've taken the law in their own hands and "lynched her", but it's unclear if there's any truth to this
She was a convicted guilty of killing Mrs. Randall, the rest of the cases against her were dropped. It is said she was indifferent to the results of the trial and had expected a much more severe punishment
Police hoped with Clementine locked away these Sacrifice Sect killings would cease.
On Nov 22 in Philadelphia Miss, William Walmsley, his wife and child were found dead, murdered by an axe. Police not only believed that this was the work of the Sacrifice Sect but also that the Walmsley family were ex members themselves.
It's thought that Clementine knew of these murders
Clementine went to prison and it's said when she arrived she was kept in close confinement and that the other inmates, particularly people of color were so afraid of her that the guards were scared to give her any liberty at all
She only made one escape attempt, on Jul 31 1913 but was caught the same day
On Aug 2 1913, it was reported that Clementine had gone under surgery at the hands of Dr Sterling, the physician at her penitentiary assisted by Dr Wyatt and a H Ingram. Dr Sterling believed that Clementine's desire to kill came from a "perversion of the sexual instinct" and petitioned the warden for permission to complete an operation that he believed would fix her
We don't know what exactly this operation entailed, but it is said she became one of the mildest prisoners incarcerated
Dr Sterling: "We have had the woman under observation ever since. She has lost all traces of her old desire to kill and sings cheerfully as she works in the fields with the other black folk. The cure is as complete as it is wonderful"
Lobotomies wouldn't come in vogue until the 1930s, though early experiments with similar procedures were known to occur in one off scenarios. There was a report from Russian surgeon in 1912 who experimented with this and said while it seemed effective the risk was way too high and he did not recommend this surgery.
It was strongly believed by medical professionals of the era that mental illness was rooted in a physical part of the brain like a tumor and if they could just remove that one part the patient would be "relieved" of their symptoms. We know now that it's not nearly as simple as that
It is very likely the surgery performed on Clementine was an early form of psychosurgery, but we'll never know for certain. We will also likely never know if Clementine was truly mentally ill.
Clementine was returned to general population and would be considered a model prisoner until, on Apr 28 1923, when, despite her life sentence, she was released
Little is know what happened to Clementine's family or the accomplices that were thought to have helped her
And once Clementine was released, she too disappeared
Did she do it?
Up until Apr 1912, Clementine had insisted upon her innocence, it was only then she performed a full 180, going for broke and claiming responsibility for all the murders, not just the one she had been arrested for and even some that occurred while she was behind bars
By the time she went to trial, she was insistent that she was indeed the killer and appeared to show no remorse for her actions and seemed almost gleefully happy to recount them.
What changed? We know very little about who Clementine was before this. Had she been mentally unstable? Had she been healthy and law enforcement and confinement wore her down? Did she really commit all those murders or just one or none? Was the Church of Sacrifice even real?
News reports were inconsistent, some bought into the tale wholeheartedly while others were more reserved. Some claimed certain events happened with certain peoples while others claimed the opposite. The information I presented here is based off the most common narrative and a series of reports written by a court journalist I was able to find.
While across the board details were inconsistent, one factor that seemed to come up frequently was that Clementine's story was also inconsistent. It could be all the different details reported by different papers at different times were the result of Clementine's ever changing story, or could be a paper just trying to distinguish themselves.
So time to review what little evidence we have
Up until Apr 1, Clementine maintained her innocence. But it's noted in several newspapers that she finally "confessed" after two days of questioning by the Sheriff Fontenot. Clementine had been in jail since the end of November, we have to assume she had been questioned several times between her arrest and this confession
So specifying two days seems significant. There have been several case where people were held for questioning, especially young people of color, end up admitting to a crime as they see that as the only way to get out of the room. These are what's called coerced confessions and today are not admissible in court. You confine and grill anyone long enough they'll own up to anything and by the point of her confession, Clementine had been held for five months with little evidence, she could've very well thought she was never getting out.
The mildest methods for doing this is relentless questioning, but historically we have heard all manner of things, from lying to suspects, screaming, sleep deprivation, denial of food and water, threatening or enacting violence and much worse. And while black people had their "freedom," many, in the south particularly, still considered them "lesser people" so may be willing to do less humane things. If you don't think a person deserves to even share a train car with you or that if a woman has even have the smallest drop of black blood she legally has to cover her hair as to not tempt white men or possibly be mistaken as white, what are you going to do to a young black woman you suspect of killing dozens of people?
So we have to look at law enforcement and consider their character. There were two primary sheriffs that worked this case: Sheriff Lacoste and Deputy Sheriff Fontenot. As few records exist from this era at least not online, my best bet to learn about these men was to check newspapers. Naturally, the papers are biased and curated, so we can only take so much from them
Lacoste appeared to be a fair man, looking at the reports of arrests he performed, they seemed to be 60/40 white/black, and at this point the populations were about equal in that area. I saw several instances where he pursued, arrested and convicted white men for crimes against black men, women and children. From the statements he made in relation to Clementine's case, he wasn't satisfied with just what was put in front of him. An elaborate confession like the one that Clementine allegedly made would make for a quick way to close several cases and satisfy the public. But he and his team appeared to value police work and despite having an easy win presented to them, they pursued every lead and attempted to hunt down any and all evidence
Fontenot we know less about when it comes to his involvement in the case, but it was him who had questioned Clementine for two days. But a week after her confession, he was quoted saying that he didn't think Clementine had anything to do with any of the murders in Rayne and Crowley, though didn't say why he believed that
So both Sheriffs and other law enforcement were quoted as saying they didn't believe or at least didn't fully believe Clementine's story. To me this is promising, that they were willing to be rational and consider all the facts despite the easy win practically being forced on them. This doesn't clear them of all suspicion in their treatment of Clementine and this case, but it does give me some hope
Regardless we still have to consider Clementine's full 180 and then almost feverish insistence on these (multiple) versions of events. It was reported as well that she seemed sane, at least prior to the confession, after which the journalistic integrity gets pretty shaky.
It was reported when the confession was first given, that law enforcement attempted to find evidence that supported Clementine's claims, but most were proven to be untrue. Yet it's said that other parts were true, but it doesn't specify if evidence was found to back up those claims or just that there was nothing that outright disproved them
The Bloody Clothes
The hardest evidence we have against Clementine is the bloody clothes belonging to her, that were found in her home. Testing in New Orleans confirmed that the clothing had blood and brain matter on it consistent with samples taken from a pillow case from the crime scene. It is confirmed that the blood is not menstrual
At first glance this is pretty damning, but during her trial, her attorney argued that the police had thrown her clothes in a bag with evidence collected from the crime scene and that Randall blood likely was transferred to them that way
The clothes were found and collected on the day of her arrest, and it was later that blood was found on the latch of the back gate. As far as I am aware, the blood on the gate was not tested.
If her clothes had indeed been stored in the same bag as evidence collected at the Randall's transfer would be very easy. But there had to be a reason the clothing was collected in the first place. I found it really interesting that it was specifically mentioned that the blood was found on her dress, apron and undergarments.
Clementine was 18, it's possible menstruation was still new to her. While it's typical today for women to begin menstruation between 12-15 years of age, that hasn't always been the case and there are many factors for that
Our bodies respond to our environments and circumstances. Things like poverty, malnutrition, substance use, pollution, violence, psychological wellbeing, illness and stress can all case big delays or irregularities in development
Menstruation is a sign that two X chromosome bodies are getting ready for the possibility of reproduction, but they will only do that if they think it's safe to do so. If you're not getting enough food or only get poor nutrition your body isn't getting the energy and vitamins it needs to initiate the process. Menstruation and creating a life take immense amounts of energy, and if it doesn't have that it will stall.
In the 18th century, London was going through a rapid expansion and became incredibly overcrowded. Analysis of the remains of women that died young it was found that 26% had not completed puberty before they died at 25 years of age.
Clementine lived in a segregated black community, that at the time were especially run down, under funded, and under cared for by the State. Everything about the Jim Crow era made it incredibly difficult for black persons to just live. To acquire the funds and food, to get and hold a paying job. Every aspect of living was purposely setup to be more difficult for a person of color.
The garments apprehended are all likely places for menstruation to wind up if it isn't adequately stymied at the source. Any period having person can tell you the first couple years are messy, you don't know your body that well, so you may not notice menstruation coming on. Menstrual cycles are not perfect clocks, they can start days later or days earlier, and again all those other factors can impact that.
Some persons bleed incredibly heavily, to the point of causing them to be anemic, a condition brought on by blood loss. And god knows that in 1911 you didn't have tampax. Menstruation was dealt with in all sorts of diy methods, from specific garments to homemade cloth pads to rubber underwear and sometimes even bandages.
As you can imagine access to the fancier gadgets wouldn't be high on the priority list for many black families at the time, and it's safe to assume most products used were made at home from spare fabric or old clothes.
Menstruating also requires planning, you have to know how long your product will hold out based on your current flow and readily have some on hand to replace it. Every menstruating person has found themselves somewhere without a pad or tampon when they really needed one. And every menstruating person has bloodied at least one pair of pants or skirts in their lives. It's gross but it's a reality us two X chromosome carriers have to deal with.
All this to say, it's possible that when the clothes were taken, there was blood on them, just not Randall blood, but would acquire that if it were tossed into the same bag as the other bloodied items.
Historically men have ran the other way at even the mention of menstruation, and knew very little about how it works. I met a guy once that though tampons were like parachutes, that's what the string was for. And we've come a long way. So the police men who found the bloody clothes likely didn't have menstruation as the first thing coming to their mind. And that's the less nefarious possibility
The other could be they knew that's what it was, but they wanted to arrest her anyways. As Lacoste had the clothes tested we have to assume that he intended to determine the truth, but if transfer is the reason for the Randall blood and brain matter being present, the question becomes whether or not this was intentional. Forensics was still very new, it's possible they didn't consider transfer or consider it a risk if they assumed the blood already present was from the murder
But that's all assuming that the transfer theory is correct. It's possible that didn't happen at all, the clothes were found that way
Was the Church of Sacrifice even a real thing? Information about this is really inconsistent. Throughout the investigation a half dozen preachers were arrested all thought to have ties to the church of sacrifice or voodoo.
Reverend King Harris/Harrison is often thought to the be the leader of the Church of Sacrifice. Their teachings are vague at best, but police seemed to think that the members of the church became so excited with the testament sacrificial ideas that they became incited to enact them.
According to the book "Dark Bayou: Infamous Louisiana Homicides" Reverend Harris told the police that he indeed lead a an unofficial sect of the Christ Sanctified Holy Church known as the Church of Sacrifice, but said he did not believe their teachings advocated for murder and nothing in it excused it.
Harris would say he had set up Sacrifice Sects in a small number of towns including Lafayette and Crowley, along the Southern Pacific railroad, but that the headquarters were located in Lake Charles, all locations where the murders occurred. But again all along the railroad.
It seems this sect was a real thing independent of Clementine and she was likely a member of this sect, but we have to assume that the official teachings of this sect had nothing to do with blood sacrifices. No one but the media claimed that the church had such teachings, not even Clementine, of course you wouldn't expect anyone to own up to such a thing but if the church was spouting such ideas, word would have gotten out and if the preaching had been so compelling more murders would've likely occurred. It is also noted that Clementine herself said that Joseph Thibodeaux, the man that had sold her the "hoodoo charms" was who inspired her to commit the murders, and he was not a part of the church.
Which brings us to "Voodoo". The term voodoo inspires images of animal sacrifice, dolls and zombies, but that couldn't be further from the truth
Originally known as "vodou" in the south, vodou has more in common in Christianity than it does most pagan religions. They have one god, known as Bondye and beneath that are a wide variety of spirits each with unique names, personalities and areas of focus and of course then there's your ancestors which are a vital part of vodou practice and prayer
Real vodou is not what we would call "black magic" it is a religion.
Vodou does vary a lot by family and region. Its roots are African, and its through the slave trade that it found its way to America and the Caribbean.
Catholic slave owners forcefully converted their slaves and the vodou practicing people were forced to either assimilate or adapt. Vodou was changed to be able to hide in plain sight. Images of saints were used to represent traditional vodou spirits and this is why Christian iconography is so closely linked to the vodou religion.
That is changing though. Many modern vodou practitioners have been stripping away the Christian adaptions and trying to get back to the roots of the practice. For others it's a little more complicated. This blended religion is what their parents taught them, as they too were taught by their parents. Many practicing vodouists will also attend Christian church services on Sunday.
Despite how far we've come since 1865, many American vodou practitioners feel the need to hide their worship in a popular culture so rife with horrific stereotypes about their religion.
Not only is vodou an important part of West African heritage it was vital in maintaining genealogies. Where as a slave you could be traded and sold dozens of times and live all over the world, losing contact with anyone you ever knew. The vodou practice of serving your ancestors gave them a way of remembering where they came from, internalizing that information and passing it down to their children. It's because of this that families with long lines of vodou practice are able to trace their lineage all the way back to what their original African homelands were, history that would've been lost otherwise.
One of the many reasons little is known about vodou outside of these communities is it's an oral religion. It had to be one to survive, so their practices, stories and traditions aren't all written down in a book you can buy from Amazon. This makes vodou a very intimate religion, one passed on only between trusted individuals and family. To become a true vodouist you have to be invited, to become part of a community that actively cares for each other and the less fortunate. Hosting regular ceremonies where the homeless and downtrodden are fed and cared for
Vodou actualizes many of the ideals that Christians are supposed to have, but rarely enact. It's important to note that in Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans there is a booming market of "voodoo" related anything, from restaurants, to bars, to gift shops etc. Businesses will slap voodoo on pretty much anything to make a buck.
So if you are looking for a genuine vodou experience or retailer, do your research, but one person I recommend checking out is Robi Gilmore, a multi generational ordained vodou high priest who offers tours with Free Tours by Foot in New Orleans where he talks about black history and vodou. Links will be included
In the early 1900s the mandatory secrecy of vodou meant that white folk only heard whispers and were left to draw their own conclusions, filling in the blanks with wild and outrageous ideas and becoming the perfect scape goat whenever someone wanted to cast doubt or suspicion on a black person.
Hoodoo on the other hand is not a religion, but a practice with roots in fortune telling, magic and herbal remedies. The name is thought to originate from the word hudu meaning "spirit work" and many of the practices are thought to originate from Central Africa. So if Clementine had sought charms to protect her and her friends, hoodoo charms purchased from Conjurer would be her best bet.
But still this whole idea of blood sacrifices has no connection to reality
While frequently reported that all of the murders mentioned were the same, they really weren't
The Opelousas family murder in 1909, the axe was the primary weapon, but they family had also been stabbed. Unlike the other families, this one wasn't killed in their sleep, neighbors heard screaming. The mother had been assaulted prior to her death, but all three children were still found alive, though gravely injured and would eventually succumb to their wounds. Neighbors rushed to help but were unable to catch the perpetrator, a black man was seen fleeing the scene
George Washington, his daughter and wife were arrested on suspicion of their involvement. The Washingtons were near neighbors to the Opelousas, and it appears that the two women were vying for the attention of the same man, to the point that they even got into a fight.
This is contrary to the descriptions of these cases that say there were no such events prior to the murders that could indicate a possible suspect.
As for the Byers, the doors were found locked from inside, the killer having entered and departed through a window. Bloody footprints were found in the house, and a washbasin of bloody water where it's suspected the killer washed their hands and appears they tried to wash the floor as well
Meanwhile with the Andrus, there is more than is generally reported. After the Andrus were killed, the killer "subjected them to indignities". The killer then remained in their home for some time, rearranging screens and even lighting a lamp. The husband and wife were moved into a kneeling position on the floor as if praying
It is also noted that prior to the murder, Raymond Barnabet had some trouble with the Andru family and had threatened revenge
It is also said that while in prison, Raymond, while insisting his innocence, made several other damning admissions. And while it is commonly said that Clementine, Zepherin and Barnabet's second wife Diane/Dina/Nina that were the ones that condemned him, there were allegedly three other witnesses
The Randall murder also had a difference, Norbert, the father had been shot in the head before being attacked with the axe. It's also noted that the Randalls were killed with the blunt end of the axe, while the Andrus were killed with sharp end
Clementine claimed that she had shot the father with a gun she had borrowed from her brother, but she shot him after he was already dead. When several reports make it clear that the police believed the shot occurred prior to his murder
It had been Raymond's wife that had told a friend about her suspicions of her husband's involvement in the murder, who then advised the police. When the case was brought to trial, Raymond's wife, daughter and son testified against him
But Raymond's family weren't the only testimony, the Stevens family, who were neighbors to the Barnabets also testified. It's noted that the Stevens had a good reputation "representatives [of] the best of their race, [who] were clean, modes, direct and uncontradictory" and that Zepherin and Clementine on the other hand had "very bad reputations" and "were filthy, shifty, degenerate examples of the lowest African type"
Sheriff Lacoste seemed to think even at this time that Clementine and Zepherin knew more about the murders than they let on
While the Stevens family did testify against Raymond I have been unable to find any records of what that testimony entailed, but one report said that their testimony had many contradictions with Clementine's
While it's commonly reported that Raymond's lawyer put in a plea for a retrial as his client had been drunk during the trial, there are also two more reasons a retrial was requested: the jury failed to follow the judge's instructions in deliberation and the prosecution failed to establish motive or acquire consistent evidence.
Some reports say she's sturdy, others say otherwise
It's telling that her father had been sentenced to death without any evidence but the testimony of his children and yet in Clementine's case, they allegedly had clothes covered in the blood of the Randall family, and the alleged blood on the front gate. Yet they just gave her life
Now this could very well be because Clementine was female. Historically women get lesser sentences in violent crimes.
She was also released after only serving 10 years, some argue that if they truly thought she was guilty they wouldn't have let her out. But it could also be argued, that her "operation" had made her so docile that the prison thought the general public had nothing to fear
After Clementine's release we know nothing about her.
She disappears. Serial killers don't stop
on their own volition, they may have stretches where they don't commit any murders,
but the prevailing pattern is they always return to killing. If she had actually committed the murders and actually believed in the cult of sacrifice and everything she allegedly
said she did, it would seem incredibly unlikely that she would just drop off
the radar and never be heard from again. She would've had to become incredibly adept at hiding her tracks. Or maybe
she just died young before she had a
chance to go on another killing spree
There's so many inconsistencies, so little evidence and a heavy cloud of dubiousness over the reporting of this case, it's hard to say what's true or what's not. But if Clementine isn't guilty then who killed all these people?
It's likely not the dad or brother. The Byers murder has also been attributed to the Man from the Train. The other murders don't really match that profile, as the Man's motives seemed to be sexual in nature and he was very organized. He also used the dull side of the axe to kill his victims, the Barnabet murders used the blade or butt
The Opelousas family were also attacked with a knife alongside the axe, and Norbert Randall was shot
There's thought that many of these and other axe murders at the time were copycats, inspired by the Man from the Train or other murders The same way we see more shootings occur after there has been one. The idea gets in people's heads and if you're already thinking of murder, why not use an axe? Most families had one and it's an effective weapon
From what little was reported about these murders, there are notable differences, so each one could possibly have a different perpetrator. But we will likely never know
While this story seemed to have got lost for the last century, reporting on it dropping off to the barest dribble after 1913, eventually the internet discovered this story attracting great interest and inspiring all new legends and stories, many happy to fill in the gaps with their own conjecture and ideas. But one of these claimed to know what happened to Clementine
In 2002 A user going by voodoogal11 told the tale of visiting her great grandmother in 1985. Her grandmother was celebrating her 103rd birthday and would go on to tell her granddaughter about a maddened killer that went on a rampage in 1911 in Louisiana. "was a black woman so beautiful with alabaster skin and eyes so piercing she would look at you and turn you to stone; her gaze was so wanton and enticing that no man could refuse her". Voodoogal asked her grandmother if any of that was true, but her grandmother just sipped her iced tea and said nothing else on the topic.
Later that year, voodoogal's great grandmother died and she would visit her home with her grandmother. Going through her things she came across a picture of her great grandmother when she was in her early 20s,
"She had alabaster skin, long black curly hair and very light eyes and then I started trembling"
This story is cited across numerous articles I read about Clementine, but none of them provide the actual source of this story. I don't know what website this occurred on and my attempts to find it have come up empty. So who is to even say if this story was even told, nevermind if there's any truth to it, but I like to imagine Clementine went on to live a good peaceful life.
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