Police: 4 dead after shootings in Louisiana

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LOCKPORT, La. -- A nurse embroiled in a custody fight with his ex-wife attacked his former in-laws, his onetime boss at a hospital that fired him and his current wife in a rampage that spanned two parishes in Louisiana, leaving three dead before killing himself, authorities said.

All three survivors remained hospitalized Friday, two in critical condition, Brennan Matherne, a Lafourche Parish sheriff's office spokesman, said in an email. He said deputies were still investigating the motive.

Ben Freeman, 38, first attacked his former in-laws with a shotgun in Lafourche Parish about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans, wounding parish Councilman Louis Phillip Gouaux and Mr. Gouaux's daughter, Andrea. Both were in critical condition after surgery early Friday in New Orleans, Mr. Matherne wrote. He said earlier that Mr. Gouaux's wife, Susan, was dead when deputies arrived.

Susan Gouaux -- "Pixie" to friends -- was a teachers' aide at Holy Savior Elementary School. She also was a talented needlewoman and knitter who designed the state bicentennial quilt square for Lafourche Parish and made scarves for friends, Parish president Charlotte Randolph said in a phone interview. The couple has six adult daughters.

Mr. Gouaux called 911 around 6:40 p.m. Thursday from his home in Lockport, telling dispatchers he had been shot in the throat, The Courier newspaper in Houma reported. Mr. Freeman was divorced from another of Mr. Gouaux's daughters, Jeanne, whom he married in 1997.

Jeanne Gouaux, also a nurse, had filed several protective orders against Mr. Freeman, who had pleaded guilty to harassment charges and was allowed only supervised visits with their four children, Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said. He said the last protective order expired less than a month ago.

"Clearly, there has been a very difficult and complicated divorce/custody issue going on," Sheriff Webre said Thursday.

Court records show Mr. Freeman agreed in June to pay Jeanne Gouaux $22,560 in overdue child-support payments dating back two years. A settlement filed in July showed the couple would sell three adjacent lots near her parents' house and split the $25,000 in proceeds; Mr. Freeman also agreed to pay her $39,000.

Jeanne Gouaux and the couple's children lived with her parents for a while after the divorce, said Rita Bonvillain, 83, a neighbor of the family for nearly 30 years. She said Andrea Gouaux, a nurse like her sister Jeanne, was visiting from Texas.

Ms. Bonvillain choked up and held back tears several times as she spoke of the Gouauxes.

About 20 minutes after the first shootings, Mr. Freeman arrived at the home of Milton Bourgeois, Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital CEO, in nearby Raceland, about 8 miles from Lockport. Mr. Bourgeois was shot and killed at close range; his wife, Ann, was shot in the leg and was listed in stable condition at a hospital, Mr. Matherne said.

Mr. Bourgeois had been CEO of the hospital in Raceland since 1988, Ochsner Health Systems spokeswoman Giselle Hecker said in an email. Mr. Freeman had worked at the hospital as a registered nurse before being fired in 2011, Sheriff Webre said. He could not say why Mr. Freeman was fired, but said police were called there previously after Mr. Freeman damaged a room. The sheriff said Mr. Freeman told officers he would seek mental help.

Mr. Freeman also had worked at two other hospitals that, along with St. Anne, were locked down for a time Thursday.

Mr. Freeman was found dead around 10:45 p.m. along U.S. Highway 90 near Bayou Blue. He had shot himself in the head with the same shotgun he'd used to kill his former mother-in-law and the hospital CEO.

Officers searching for Mr. Freeman found the body of his current wife, Denise Taylor Freeman, in the bathtub of their house, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said in releasing her autopsy results Friday. He said she suffocated and drowned.

Maj. Malcolm Wolfe with the sheriff's department said in an email that evidence indicates that Mr. Freeman killed his wife before going on the rampage that killed the others Thursday.

Neighbors in Houma, the Terrebonne Parish seat, said the house was originally hers. She had only recently married Mr. Freeman, but she and her son, Josh -- of elementary school age -- had lived there for years, said Glenn Cradeur, who has lived two houses down for 28 years. He said he believed the boy was not home when his mother was killed.

Mr. Cradeur said he saw no signs of trouble until about two weeks ago, when he saw police vehicles outside the home, responding to what he believed was a domestic dispute.


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