Real Names: Thomas Hotard and Audrey Moate
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Laplace, Louisiana
Date: November 24, 1956
Date of Birth: November 24, 1925
Marital Status: Divorced
Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blond hair, gray eyes.
Details: Forty-six-year-old Thomas Hotard was a Louisiana native who was romantically seeing Audrey Moate, a thirty-one-year-old divorced mother of three from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The two of them regularly met each other, even though Hotard was married and 15 years older, but on the morning of November 25, 1956, Thomas was discovered dead from a gunshot wound fired at close range through the rear window of his car. No sign of Audrey was found, but evidence at the scene suggested that Audrey had fled the scene as another person in boots came after her.
Thomas worked for a local chemical company, which is where he met Audrey in 1952. Both were involved in scouting and often planned scouting trips together. Their romance was a deeply hidden secret. Audrey told her family that she had to work on Saturdays, but in reality, she spent her time with Thomas; he also told his wife the same lie. Thomas was also involved in Audrey's social life, but he was introduced as a friend of hers. A few weeks before she vanished, Audrey told her mother that if anything ever happens to her, she should take the kids (meaning Audrey's children) and leave the area. She never told her mother why she should do this, however.
On Saturday, November 24, 1954, the two met in Laplace, Louisiana, at around 7:30 am, and then drove to their secluded lovers' lane next to Lake Pontchartrain. At 9 am, a father and son spotted the two at the lovers' lane. The next morning, the same father and son discovered Thomas's body.
Investigators determined that Thomas had been shot once in the head with a sixteen gauge shotgun, fired at point blank range through a side window. At first, it was believed that Audrey had killed Thomas in a lovers' quarrel. However, further examination at the scene showed that the couple had apparently been surprised while together. Audrey's clothes were crumpled on the floor, the keys were in the ignition, and some of her personal items were on the ground next to the car. It appeared that Audrey had tried to flee the scene. Fifty feet away, Audrey's bare footprints were found, along with the heavy prints of boots. Another set of car keys were also found. Audrey and the killer's footprints ended at a single motorcycle track on a road to the main highway. Audrey's purse was never found.
Later that night, Audrey's car was found abandoned at the restaurant where she had met Thomas the previous day. The keys at the crime scene belonged to Audrey's car. However, no other trace of Audrey was found. Then, on December 6th, two weeks after Audrey's disappearance, her former mother-in-law received a strange phone call. The caller claimed to be Audrey; she said she was in trouble and needed help. Around the same time, a waitress told police that she had seen a disheveled woman matching Audrey's description at her restaurant. This was the last reported sighting of Audrey.
No new leads surfaced in the case until 1980, when a dying man named Ernest Acosta indicated to his family that his common-law wife, Caroline Schlesser (who died in 1979), killed both Thomas and Audrey, and that he helped dispose of Audrey's body. However, Ernest's daughter Marville suspects that he may have been involved in the murder, not Caroline. A new investigator on the case has searched for Audrey's body without success. As of now, the case remains unsolved, but her daughter hopes that she can find her mother's remains.
Suspects: Authorities first suspected that Audrey had killed Thomas in a lovers' quarrel and then fled. However, this was ruled out based on the evidence left behind at the crime scene.
Caroline Schlesser was named as a possible suspect in the case in 1980. Several months before he died, her common-law husband, Ernest Acosta, told his family that Caroline had committed the murders. The couple lived on the edge of the swamp, less than a mile from the murder scene. Both had bad reputations; Caroline slept with a gun at all times and Ernest apparently shot at anyone who came too close to the property.
Ernest's daughter, Marville, recalls that Thomas and Audrey had came to the property at least twice and had met with Caroline. Ernest claimed that the couple knew something about Caroline, but it is unknown what that exactly was. Audrey was also apparently related to Caroline in some way. According to Marville, Ernest was visiting his children on November 24, but that night, Caroline called him and he immediately rushed home. Ernest claimed that Caroline had killed Audrey and Thomas in their home, and that he and a neighbor had taken Thomas's body back to the murder scene. They then tied Audrey's body to an old Civil War cannon and dumped it in a swamp.
Marville, however, was suspicious of her father's story, since the evidence showed that Thomas was actually killed in his car. She, along with the new investigator on the case, believe that Ernest may have actually been the killer. It is suspected that Ernest was watching the couple making love on the shoreline and decided to attack them and sexually assault Audrey. It is believed that he shot Thomas and then chased after Audrey when she tried to escape.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the March 15, 1989 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
The "Bio" section has details only for Audrey, as Thomas's body was already found.
Results: Unresolved. In February 2011, remains were found that were suspected to be Audrey's. Her daughter, Dekki Moate, gave police DNA in hopes of identifying the remains especially because she has life-threatening cancer. However, the DNA test results have yet to be revealed.
- Audrey Moate at The Charley Project
- Audrey Moate at The Doe Network
- Audrey Moate at Find a Grave
- Montana Woman Hopes DNA Will Crack "Unsolved Mysteries" Cold Case