Louisiana man confesses to raping, killing as many as 23 men over last 10 years; confession stuns community
A gay Louisiana man’s confession this week that he raped and killed at least 23 men over a 10-year period has left the LGBT community in the state’s bayou land stunned and concerned about public reaction.
Police arrested Ronald Joseph Dominique, 42, of Blue Bayou, on Dec. 1, on charges he murdered two men in Jefferson Parish in 1998 and 1999. In subsequent interrogations Dominique confessed to those murders and 21 others, including nine in Terrebonne Parish alone.
A task force has been investigating the string of unsolved murders that began in 1997. The victim’s bodies left in various stages of undress have been found in the parishes of Terrebonne, Lafourche and Iberville and in suburban New Orleans.
Most of the victims were asphyxiated.
Wayne Beasley, who met Dominique in a Houma gay bar in 1998 and occasionally played pool with the confessed serial killer, said members of southeast Louisiana’s gay community are spooked by the realization that someone they knew could have committed such horrific crimes.
“It gives you the sensation of ewww,” said Beasley, who was a 23-year-old oil field worker and had just come out when he met Dominique. “I guess that’s the best way to describe it. Like, I can’t believe I was shooting pool next to someone who turned out to be a serial killer.”
Beasley said the sensation is intensified by the recollection that Dominique seemed to be coming on to him. His disinterest in leaving the bar with the confessed killer may have saved his life, he said.
At the time Beasley met Dominique, the killings had already begun.
In the wake of the recent media coverage, all of Houma’s gay community which is described as cohesive but not visible is struggling to come to grips with the revelation they socialized with a serial killer, Beasley said.
“I talked with a friend of mine, and he put it the best I have heard it,” Beasley said. “It’s a black eye for the gay community. I’ve talked to several people who have met him and know him. That pretty much sums it up a black eye.”
The owner of the Drama Club, the gay bar Dominique frequented when it was known as Kixx, said he could not recall meeting the confessed killer, but he remembers one of the victims.
“It’s eerie,” said Randy Chesnut, who is a former Lafayette Police Department detective. “It’s hard to believe. This is the sort of thing you think of happening in New Orleans or Dallas, but not here.”
Chesnut said when police officers showed him pictures of the victims, he recognized one of them as someone who had recently visited the bar. He suspected the young man was a hustler, the bar owner said.
Police identified the young man as 21-year-old Christopher Sutter-field, who was found dead in Iberville Parish about two months ago.
Chesnut said many of his customers remember Dominique, but he was not well liked.
Although his customers were aware of the investigation of the murders before Dominique’s arrest, most felt little concern about their safety because they felt they did not match the profile of the victims, he said.
“I never heard anyone say they were worried about becoming a victim,” Chesnut said.
Dominique has confessed to targeting men who were alone and walking or riding a bicycle. He apparently approached men he thought would be willing to engage in sexual activity in exchange for money.
“They tended to be people who lived on the fringe,” Chesnut said. “They were the kind who were willing to do anything for a dollar.”
Law enforcement investigators said Dominique told them he picked up men with the intention of raping them after he tied them up. He killed them to prevent them from pressing charges against him, the officers said.
Dominique, who has never been married, told investigators that if the men appeared to be straight, he would show them a picture of a woman he claimed was his wife. He allegedly told the men he was looking for a sex partner for his wife.
According to the investigators, once Dominique took the victims home, he asked for permission to tie them up. If the victims refused, he let them go but if they agreed, they were raped and murdered, the investigators said.
He allegedly disposed of the bodies in remote areas he learned about working in jobs such as delivering pizza and reading utility meters.
Dominique told investigators he made the decision to kill his victims after raping them because he spent three months in jail in 1996 after he was accused of rape by a man in Thibodaux. The victim disappeared while Dominique was in jail, and prosecutors dropped the charges because he was not available to testify in the trial.
The people who knew Dominique are having difficulty reconciling what they are reading in the newspaper and hearing on television with the individual they encountered in Houma’s gay bar, Beasley said. Although no one liked him much, Dominique seemed harmless, he said.
“He and I got along pretty well,” Beasley said. “To me, he seemed like an ok guy, but you could tell he was a little off. You could tell that there was definitely something different about him.”
“From what I gather, he was kind of an outcast. He wasn’t popular in the gay community.”
Beasley said Dominique drank little and apparently was not a drug user.
Chesnut said he has heard people in the gay community referred to Dominique as “Miss Moped” because he won one of the vehicles in a contest at a McDonald’s and used it for transportation.
“I think he was teased a lot,” Chesnut said.
Beasley said he last saw Dominique in about 1999.
“I only knew him in the bar,” Beasley said. “He was going to the bar, and then all of a sudden he didn’t go out at all.”
Dominique had been living in a camper in Bayou Blue on property owned by his mother and sister.
He checked into a homeless center in Houma two days before his arrest, apparently because he became aware of police officers’ observation of him.
Investigators said a man who refused to let Dominique tie him up had mentioned the incident to his parole officer. The man could not remember the address, but he led investigators to where Dominique lived. Investigators put Dominique’s face in a line-up, and the witness picked him out.
Investigators said a DNA swab Dominique allowed them to take matched the two cases for which he was originally charged.
Dominique is charged with multiple cases of aggravated rape and first-degree murder. A Terrebonne Parish judge has set bail at $1 million for each case in which he has been charged in that parish, for a total of $8 million. Charges in other parishes are pending.
Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.
The concern that a serial killer was responsible for the deaths of the men was first raised by law enforcement officers in 2005.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 20, 2006.