How The 'Bayou Strangler' Evaded Capture For Nearly A Decade

Photo of Ronald Dominique known as the The Bayou Strangler
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News & Politics
Sarah Guy

By all accounts, Ronald Dominique was a mild-mannered man who lived a quiet life in a small trailer park. Many knew him as someone who would offer assistance with yard work or would help them when they came back from the grocery store. However, what hovered below the surface was much more sinister than his meek persona signified.

Early Life

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Born in Thibodaux, Louisiana in 1964, Dominique seemingly lived a normal life for many years. During his time in school, he spent time singing in the choir and performing with the glee club. Those who knew him would have likely characterized him as a gentle person during this period of his life, but as the years passed, he slowly began fading into the background and started to struggle with finding his true place in society.

Public Perception Shifts

Photo of Ronald Dominique
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By the time he reached adulthood, the friendly exterior had reportedly been replaced by an off-putting aura, according to locals at the gay bar he frequented. Even though he reportedly spent quite a bit of time dressing in drag and moonlighting as a Patti LaBelle impersonator, those who regularly visited the bar started to feel uncomfortable around him. However, he still appeared harmless as he walked with a cane, suffered from a heart condition, and mostly kept to himself.

Calm Waters Become Rocky

Police car with flashing lights
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As the years passed, Dominique began to have casual run-ins with the law. Beginning in 1985, he was forced to pay a $75 fine for telephone harassment. Then, a few years later, he again faced legal trouble after he was arrested for speeding and driving under the influence. These first instances would later play an important role in the bigger picture of Dominique's life, but at the time they seemed like minor inconveniences.

Then, in August of 1996, he was arrested and charged with forcible rape. After convincing a man to come home with him, he allegedly asked to tie him up. When he rejected the idea, Dominique reportedly became violent. Ultimately, he was able to escape from a window, and charges were later brought against Dominique for the incident. However, convicting him was not so easy. When the trial took place, the victim did not show up to court to testify, which led to the case being dropped.

A Pattern Emerges

Photo of Ronald Dominique's victims
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Over the next nine years, police began discovering bodies in unusual locations, such as bayous, sugarcane fields and scattered along roadsides. While the locations sometimes varied, the cause of death did not. A considerable amount of the men had died as a result of asphyxia due to strangulation. Signs of sexual assault were typically present as well.

In addition to that troubling pattern, law enforcement started to see similarities in the background of the victims as well as many of them being homeless men between the ages of 16 and 46. This prompted Louisiana State Police to create a task force of sheriffs and members of the FBI so that they could start looking for a potential serial killer that they had started referring to as the "Bayou Strangler."

Avoiding Identification

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Throughout his nine-year killing spree, Dominique avoided capture by adhering to a specific plan. After offering the men a ride or convincing them to accompany him to another location, he would take them back to his home, tie them up, rape them, and, in most cases, kill them.

Clues emerged over the years that pointed towards someone who fit Dominique's profile. After the 1998 murder of Oliver LeBanks, a hair that belonged to a caucasian person was found on his body.

Then, in 1999, following the murder of Mitchell Johnson, a witness came forward and provided a description of a white man that had been with him before his death. This was later released to local newspapers and various establishments. While these pieces of evidence were taken into account, they failed to trace back to Dominique at the time.

Random Tip Provides Direction

Ronald Dominique entering a car
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A break in the case finally came when Ricky Wallace, an ex-con, told his parole officer about an odd experience. According to Wallace, he had accepted a ride from a man who had asked him if he would be willing to have sex with his wife and be tied up. While he initially agreed, he soon realized upon reaching the destination that he had been duped. After he refused to be tied up, Dominique allowed Wallace to be set free.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, that interaction would provide important clues that would lead to his capture. Wallace's account helped investigators find the trailer where he had been brought, which was owned by Dominique's sister.

After surveilling him for two months and learning of his previous arrests, they brought him in for questioning. At that time, he denied any wrongdoing and said that he had actually been the victim. Ultimately, Dominique agreed to provide a DNA sample, which traced back to several crime scenes and matched the hair that had been found on LeBanks' body.

Arrest And Sentencing

Ronald Dominique in police custody
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After confirming that Dominique was the man responsible for the series of murders, he was arrested in 2006 at a homeless shelter. Once in custody, investigators said that he reportedly began to quickly take credit for the crimes. Dominique confessed to 23 murders and agreed to lead law enforcement to where he had disposed of some of the bodies.

After pleading guilty to first-degree murder in an attempt to avoid the death penalty, he was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences on September 23, 2008. He is currently serving time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

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