Flashback: Mississippi Woman Murdered–Brandi Laurent
A month or so ago, I published the story of Brandi Laurent. She was the first blog subject of any substance I had done. Everything else up to that point was, well, pointless. I found out she was missing from her Kiln, Mississippi home. She had, what her husband said, left a blog on Myspace indicating she was leaving for another man. Not sure what’s in the water in Mississippi, but there are a lot of similarities between this case from 2007 and Nikki LaDue January’s which took place 5 years before just down the road in Pass Christian.
From October 2007 here is the interview I did with her husband while Brandi was still missing. Leo Laurent is now serving life in prison for her murder. His appeal for a new trial was denied yesterday.
Leo Laurent: I Believe Brandi Wrote the Blog
Leo Laurent is a changed man. His wife of nearly 10 years is missing. He has instantly become a single dad to their two year old daughter Peyton. He’s been accused of everything from not doing enough to find Brandi Laurent, missing since August 3, to possibly playing a role in her disappearance. I spoke with Leo this evening.
“I’m not going to sling mud,” he said. “Enough of that is being done to me and it does no good in helping find Brandi. I gave an interview with a local paper and they twisted my words. People ask why I don’t go to the media here. I’m not out there for them to twist my words and make my wife look bad. I just want to find my wife.”
So what led up to Brandi’s disappearance? “She had a lot of things going on in her life. And her drug problem was getting worse. She is bi-polar and manic and stopped taking her medication a while ago. Instead she turned to self-medicating–buying drugs from dealers and mixing them. I’ve talked to doctors who said that what she’s doing can cause hallucinations and make someone do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
The one person who Leo thinks knew where she was at the beginning is Pomeca Vaughn, a friend of Brandi’s.
“I know Brandi and Pomeca were making plans to go out Friday night (August 3),” Leo said. “Brandi had been up for 2-3 days but she wanted to go out. We argued. She could hardly walk. I told her it was the drugs or us. She said ‘it was over.” and left.”
“I packed the baby up (the older daughter was not at home) and began searching. I couldn’t find her. People say she left without her purse. That’s not true. She did take her purse. In fact, the insert of her purse was found in a drug dealer’s house. She had money with her when she left. As for her phone, she usually puts it in her purse but she left in such a hurry that I think she forgot it was on the kitchen counter.”
“She’s done this before, leaving for a couple of days. I was worried, sure, but I figured when she cooled off, she’d come home. The only thing different this time was that she never called. She always called even if it was just to talk to the kids.”
“I called the police Saturday morning and they told me I had to wait 48 hours to report a person missing. I waited until that night and called again. The officer told me that there was no 48 hour rule and I was given bad information”
“Pomeca came to the house Saturday morning looking for Brandi and I told her she was missing. She acted concerned, but not surprised. I asked if she was with Brandi the night before and she denied it. The police showed up and did the whole CSI thing in the house like it was a crime scene. I told them to look wherever they wanted, I had nothing to hide. I wanted them to clear me and start looking for her. They took statements and left.”
Later in the investigation, Leo was interrogated and given two lie detector tests. “They asked me questions for 6 hours,” he said. “I passed both lie detector tests. They said 100%”
On Saturday, August 4, someone logged into Brandi’s MySpace page changed something in her profile. Her profile indicates it was updated on that date.
“That day, after the police left, Pomeca, the girls and I went to Wal Mart to get some supplies. We were gone from 6-8 p.m. When we came home, the front door which was bolted shut when we left was wide open. We had a key hidden outside for our daughter Bailee so she could get in after school. The only other person who knew where that key was is Brandi. And there were clothes missing. I had just done laundry that day and when we got home I noticed some of her clothes were missing including her ‘going out’ clothes. Those included a black spaghetti strap shirt with sequins and another green spaghetti shirt. I know they were there before we left.”
On Sunday, August 5, a blog appeared on Brandi’s MySpace. “I know people can put whatever date they want when they post,’ Leo said. “I think she was in the trailer on Saturday while we were gone and wrote and posted it.”
Here is Brandi’s blog entry.
Current mood: exhausted
Category: Goals, Plans, Hopes
I have had a revelation and I believe I owe everyone an explanation and my famiy an appology. I have been the cornerstone of a lot of peoples lives all through out my life. I have been a leaning post for some. Everyone counted on me so heavily I never had time to count on myself. I have been a mother since 16 years old and stood as strong as I could to be the mother of the other children brought into my life. I have been loyal to my husband through our marriage and been a cornerstone there as well. I have watched everyone else in the process of life around me take chances and risks that I would never think of taking. I always stayed on the straight and steady path for my daughters. I watched my mom pack her belongings out of a hotel and move to a man on the internet with no knowledge of who he was. I watched my sister bounce in and out of a painful marriage to try and make it work. I have even watched my husband try to experiment by himself into a better situation. Well it is my turn. I am almost to Missouri now where I will set up with a guy friend I have been talking to for a while. An offer came out for school and a home and some stability. I regret the decision I have made for my girls, but I have not been without children my whole life. I believe It is my turn. I want to appologize to my family for mot contacting them sooner. I am sure you are all worried, but I left my phone behind because I did not want and remorse or consciece playing a part on my decision to think of ME for a change. I believe Leo will be able to take his turn with the girls until we return there. As soon as we finish the trip and get settled I will get a phone and start contacting everyone. I love you all.
For a week, Leo said, he searched for Brandi himself. “I’ve gone door to door looking for her knocking on the doors of drug dealers. It was difficult. These were some of the roughest neighborhoods around.”
The following week, Leo drove to Alabama to pick up Brandi’s mother Anita so she could help with the search. Brandi’s longtime friend Andrea, who is living in Louisiana, also joined in the efforts. They knocked on doors and handed out flyers.
“I was getting little help from the police,” Leo said. “They are convinced that Brandi OD’d somewhere and I have the information. But I think the person who does have that information is Pomeca. Pomeca and Brandi’s mother were talking and Pomeca let something slip along the lines of Brandi didn’t want to be found. Anita got very angry. Pomeca left and has actually left town.”
“The police told me from day one ‘we are not a missing persons finder’. So we contacted every agency we could including Nancy Grace and Montel. Once we did that, the police started to take an interest in the case.”
“I want to find my wife,” Leo said. “But no one in power wants to help me. No one listens to me. They are too busy looking at me and interrogating me. By the time they do something she could be dead. I don’t know where she is but she’s out there. I know I knocked on a door during my search and she was at–I just know it. I’ve gone to the seediest places looking and have even been shot at.”
According to Leo, the shooting incident occurred last Thursday in Diamond Head. He was in a park when shots came from nearby woods. He saw people jump into a car and speed off. “I think it was directed at me as a warning based on people I’ve been questioning. Just a day earlier, I had questioned a drug dealer.”
Kiln is a very small community and gossip and rumors run rampant.
“I’ve been coaching youth teams for 14 years. I’m a role model in this town. This is really blowing people who know me out of the water. The people that know me know these stories are not true. I read that I showed no emotion at the vigil. I couldn’t keep a dry eye. They waited for me to break. People have no heart.”
“I’ve got to keep the family together. Bailee was sent to her biological father and she calls me every day crying asking when she can come back. I tell her I’m seeing what I can do with my lawyer.”
“I do want to thank everyone who has stood by me through this, for their continued support. I’m trying to do what I can.”