Issue 03: Coming Down In New Orleans Part 02

Ambiguities in the Zach and Addie case. 

Written By Josh Lami

“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.

You leave the same impression

Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”

― Sylvia Plath

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The Zach and Addie Show

Zach Bowen is the focus of every article, book, or television special made about the murder of Addie Hall. Accoladed with the tragicomic nickname, “The Katrina Cannibal,” Zach is no Charles Manson or John Wayne Gacy, in terms of infamy, but he’s quite the spotlight hog on The Zach and Addie Show. He left behind an eight-page suicide note, giving insight to the tormented mind and soul of this broken soldier.

Addie didn’t leave a note, she didn’t get that chance.

Thirteen years after her death and dismemberment, Adriane Mathias Hall remains an equivocation; one ambiguity shy of an enigma. Details of her pre-New Orleans life lie buried in the cerebral soils of long-convalesced friends and a mute family. Few inquire, because few care. Addie wasn’t the media headline. She wasn’t the maniacal psychopath. She was the mutilated stack of severed limbs in his bathtub; congealed viscera some poor bastard had to clean up; a seared torso found in an oven. The catalyst for Zach Bowen’s celebrity status, nothing more. As a whole, we humans unite on very little, but once upon a time, we all came to a demented agreement, to erase cadaverous strangers with moments of silence, leave their memories with crestfallen loved ones, and immortalize their destroyers. Never is the collapsing throat so intriguing as the hand that grips it.

Intuition

 

If you wish to be a writer or an artist, trusting intuition is a vital component—non-negotiable. To clarify, my usage of the word ‘intuition’ should not be associated with pseudo-scientific concepts, such as clairvoyance, or Extra Sensory Perception. What I’m referring to is more akin to intelligence, both cognitive and emotional. There are primal instincts. We know, without being told, to drink when thirsty, to reproduce, to fight back, or flee, from danger. Evolution has rendered living creatures with pre-installed software. An intuitive person has a kind of innate sense of direction and keen sense of abstraction. They notice and collect details in a given situation, then assemble them like puzzle pieces in the subconscious. Pieces begin to fit, and after enough of the edges are connected, the brain sends a message to your gut. So comes a knowing, inexplicable on the surface, but often enough, astute.

Everyone has it, few people trust it.

Great artists, scientists, and political figures followed their emotional and intellectual instincts and changed the world. The line begins to blur when you remember, intuition can be wrong. There’s no such thing as infallibility. The line goes completely out of focus when legalities are involved. A great detective must be intuitive, as does an investigative journalist, but both can fall victim to biases.

Bigotry, confused emotions, wishing something were so, and most disturbingly, spite are all demonstrable pitfalls within the world of law enforcement and journalism. It’s key to be confident in every endeavor you pursue, but it’s also compulsory to stop and question one’s self. Without confidence in their acuity, a detective can never solve a murder case, but even the strongest sense of knowing should not be favored over provable truths.

Then there’s the courtroom. Gut feelings and intuition have no business here. We convict or acquit based on factual evidence or lack thereof. At least, that’s the theory. In truth, we send people to prison every day based on broad generalizations, circumstantial evidence, and delusions of knowing how to spot a criminal just by looking at them. Jury of your peers? Eh. That’s too optimistic a concept for me. From my perception, you, the accused, will sit before a jury consisting of perhaps a few peers. Hope, pray, cast a spell… do whatever you deem necessary to ensure those peers of yours serving on the jury maintain their unwavering dedication to absolute justice. Lest these potential saviors forsake the absolution of empirical evidence after being browbeaten by an obnoxious juror with a hunch. Those peers of yours may well be deliberating with fellow citizens who just don’t like the look of you. It’s not a reality I’d have chosen for humanity, but it’s the one we got.

                With that thought in mind, I refuse to make any direct accusations at anyone in the Zach and Addie case without hard facts. What I will do, is discuss some of the questions I’m trying to answer. I’ll go over the discrepancies, the odd coincidences, and even some of the chilling implications I’ve pondered, but what I won’t do is accuse anyone of a crime. I’m not finished researching, I may never be, and even if I do find an end to this story, I’m fully prepared to accept that I may be wrong about everything. So to answer what may be a glaring question about this blog entry, am I going on intuition or factual evidence? Both. Intuition for the initial curiosity and for deciding which leads I determine most important to follow. Facts for what I report.

What about Addie?

Zach Bowen’s family has spoken out. They’ve expressed remorse for the atrocities that occurred on Rampart street in 2006. They were, as to be expected, shocked and devastated.  There’s a book called Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown which delves deep into Zach’s history and military service. The book does go into Addie’s history a little, but it’s broad, and nowhere near central to the story.

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I want to know more about Addie. Why? Two reasons.

First, the reason anyone is drawn to the world of true crime, good old fashioned morbid curiosity. Let’s just get that undeniable truth out of the way right off the bat. Why do people like horror films? True Crime? YouTube videos of guy getting kicked in the nuts? Poems by suicidal authors? They want a look behind the forbidden curtain. They want to see something bad happen without having to be involved. We could go on forever about why we’re so interested in all this horrible stuff, and perhaps someday we will, but not today.

Second, I want to know more about Addie because I think it’s important that a victim’s story be told. I think Zach’s story is probably as important as Addie’s, but to tell one in such detail without including the other, it just seems lopsided. Unfair. The moment I started researching this story, I made the decision to tell it from Addie’s point of view, if for no other reason than Zach’s was everywhere. Within a day, I realized part of why everyone defaults over to Zach’s story is the fact that it’s so much easier to piece together. The view into Addie’s past isn’t veiled, it’s opaque.

 Nearest I can tell, there’s no reliable source for information on Addie Hall. Here’s what there is:

1.      Friend accounts – Mostly unreliable. One of the few things we know about Addie is she was something of a party girl. The friends who have spoken up about her offer varying accounts of her demeanor and little, if anything, about her pre-New Orleans life. Another problem with friend accounts is that if you go to New Orleans and bring up either Zach or Addie to a local, they will say something to the tune of “Oh, they we’re actually friends of mine.” I quickly began to suspect a large number of people are claiming to have been close with Zach and Addie for purposes of seeking attention. The people who did know (or claim to have known) Addie vary wildly on their opinions of her. Some liked or loved her, others project furious hatred toward her. In fact, some of the information I’ve uncovered myself lend some credence to the idea that I may ultimately end up painting an unflattering portrait of the victim in this case. We’ll come back to the intense disdain for Addie Hall later.

 

2.      News Reports – Unreliable isn’t the word, more like imperfect. They’re often conflicting from one outlet to the next when it comes to little details. That’s true for just about any news story.

 

Sometimes facts just get confused, typos happen, miscommunications, any number of things can cause discrepancies. It’s innocent. That makes them imperfect, which isn’t tantamount to being unreliable. Generally, the major news outlets are reporting facts. The bigger the news source, the more likely they are to use broad strokes when reporting a story; the more likely they are to generalize. Sometimes news outlets spin a story to fit a narrative, it’s easy to do and good for increasing traffic. Sometimes news writers intentionally leaves out pertinent information. It happens at the request of law enforcement, some do it to better insinuate something they want readers to believe, other times it’s because they’re censored by an editor. The point here is, most news outlets (CNN, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and even Fox News) aren’t reporting made up stories packed full of abject lies. They can’t. That’s called libel and it ain’t legal. Every news outlet is reliable, to a degree, and every news outlet is “fake news,” to some extent. That’s why it’s important to read a story from numerous different outlets before coming to a conclusive opinion on it. Somewhere amid all those spins, your brain will assemble the puzzle (personally, I find NPR to be the least slanted and most reliable).

 

Local news outlets are more likely to have personal details of the victims or offenders, but are also more succeptible to emotional bias. This story happened on their front porch, after all. I’m much more equipped to cover a story about my neighbor’s murder than I am, say, the murder of a thirty-year-old woman from New Orleans. But I’m also more likely to be clouded by my own emotions or biases in a case so close to home. This isn’t to suggest local journalists in New Orleans can’t do their job. It’s just something I try to keep in mind.

 

Even still, details about Addie are scant in every news article or report I’ve come across—local or national.  They might mention she was a bartender, originally from my home state of North Carolina, a heavy drinker, a Katrina survivor, and a poet, but that’s about it. You find more information about Addie’s past in the comments section of these news articles, than in the articles themselves. Unreliable information, but information all the same. We’ll come back to news comment sections about Addie Hall later.

 

1.      Police – In my limited experience, they’re unreliable. The New Orleans Police Department? It’s an open secret that police withhold information—often with good reason. More to the point, is the notoriously unscrupulous NOPD not a monument to the systemic shortcomings of law enforcement in America?

 

I once saw a man vomit what looked and smelled like concentrated absinthe onto a sidewalk running along Bourbon Street, then sink to his knees, lean over, rest his head on the pavement, and pass out. Two police officers were having a conversation at the corner of this sidewalk, not more than fifty feet away. They paused and looked over, glared at the collapsed delinquent for a moment, and then resumed conversing. Their gratuitous display of irresponsibility brought about an emotional compound I’d never considered. Benumbed and wise to the fact that no one in the Quarter expects a hero, I was simultaneously outraged at this apathy by public servants toward a man potentially succumbing to alcohol poisoning. Somewhere betwixt these contradictory feelings, was a modicum of empathy for this fellow degenerate. I’d been there, and I’d be there again. Inebriated myself, there was little I could do to help. In truth, he probably just needed to sleep it off. Drunk people puke and pass out all the time, the survival rate of such an ordeal is high. With the help of a friend, I rolled him onto his side and propped him against a wall, stepped over a massive puddle of upchuck, and moved on with my life. The point here is, I, a passerby, was more motivated to do the job of the NOPD than they were. It thus occurs to me, the police probably didn’t give a shit then, and they sure don’t care now. They had to put on a concerned face for the press, but more than likely, they just wanted to be done with it. Furthermore, the Chief of police at the time, Joseph Waguespack, has made statements to the press that sources have told me aren’t exactly truthful. We’ll come back to the questionable police statements in the murder of Addie Hall later.

 

2.      Family – Unreliable, if they exist. There is no family to speak of for Addie Hall. Unlike Zach’s family, Addie’s did not speak out. They didn’t refute, they didn’t confirm, they didn’t hold a candlelight vigil, they didn’t say a goddamn word in public. That’s fair. Their daughter was murdered, chopped up in a bathtub, cooked and—according to the New Orleans Police Department—not eaten?  Whatever the case, something horrible happened to this family and their desire for privacy should be respected.

 

I don’t have children, but if you recall Season 1, Episode 26 of Obscura, I’ve stood in the presence of people who have just lost a daughter. They wanted to do many things at that time, but none of those things included speaking to a fucking news reporter. So I get it. I didn’t really even question it until I read an ABC News article stating “the remains have yet to be identified because of the state of the body.” The article was dated October 20th, 2006. Addie was murdered on October 5th, according to her grave. It is possible that they could have been waiting on DNA results or dental records, these things take time, but I started searching for any article or court document that might indicate when her body was identified. I got curious about her family life when I found out Addie’s remains weren’t claimed for months after her death. A few possibilities struck me, the first being; it might be expensive to transport human remains halfway across the country. Perhaps Addie’s family were of little means. Another factor may have been the need for police and investigators to keep the remains for any number of reasons to properly close the case. However, Addie was known to have been estranged from her family, and so, the possibility that no one gave a shit was hanging in the air as well.

 

I was searching for any sign that any family member gave any hint of a damn about Addie’s death. I found nothing. Not even a surviving family member name in an obituary. Again, their desire for privacy must be respected. I wasn’t planning to reach out, clearly, they don’t want to speak about this. I just wanted to know that someone out there loved her.

 

I’m still trying to confirm that.

What Parents?

Going deep beneath the surface in researching Addie Hall’s past is disturbing for a number of reasons. The first thing I noticed was how difficult it was to pin down a mother and/or father in her history. In fact, any relative with the last name of Hall, initially, was impossible to find on any kind of public listing. Since I started doing my research, I’ve noticed some Hall names have popped up on public databases, added, I assume, by people who have been doing similar research. When I first started searching, there was nothing. I had do some maneuvering to identify Addie likely-parents. It wasn’t difficult to do, but there are some glaring signs they don’t wish to be contacted, and thus, I’m not going to identify them here, I haven’t reached out, and I don’t plan to.

Coolcat          

            Back on the subject of comments sections of news articles, I was once perusing information on the Zach and Addie case and happened upon a number of comments that seemed potentially useful. People claiming to be cousins, childhood friends, etc… Maybe these people would be interested in speaking about her, if I could contact them and verify a connection. Then there was a remarkably long post from a person calling himself “coolcat.” He claims to have been her “lover” in New Orleans in 2003. When I mentioned earlier that some people seemed to despise Addie Hall, this is one example of that. I don’t want to legitimize this person who may well have just been a troll, but this guy was providing eerily specific details about Addie’s life. Unflattering ones.  Alas, other people corroborate some of it, indirectly. At one point he calls her a “part time prostitute” and claims to have contracted STDs from her. He also mentions that Addie accused her own brother of rape, and asserts she was destroyed that her family didn’t believe the allegations. It was taken with a grain of salt at first, but numerous other sources seemed to be confirming that Addie alleged sexual abuse before fleeing to New Orleans.  I don’t know who “coolcat” is, nor do I care, but seeing that post was eye-opening in seeing the extent to which people were going in an effort to slam Addie and defend Zach.

He mentions Addie carried a gun, which I had already confirmed via a police record. She was charged with possession of marijuana and assault upon a peace officer with a firearm on, or around, August 15th, 2006. She was due in court October 16th, but obviously didn’t make it to her court date.

 Whoever this was, I personally believe was someone close to Zach and/or Addie. The poster even calls Zach “more the victim” than Addie at one point. The cherry on top, was the accusation that Zach had been cheating on Addie, prior to the murder. I found a number of accusations stating the same.

In that same comments section was a post by Margaret Sanchez, someone who claimed to have worked and been friends with Zach and Addie. This wasn’t uncommon, in fact, she was quite prone to visiting online comment sections and posting emotional content, expressing her sadness and pointing out the fact that Zach and Addie were close friends of hers. I’ve found countless examples of this. Furthemore, she once appeared in a documentary, tearfully recollecting her friendship with the couple. At one point, she even offers up alternate scenarios, in place of those provided by police and investigators, for how and why the murder occurred.

Why would she do that?

As most people are aware, Margaret Sanchez was later convicted of murdering and dismembering a young woman named Jaren Lockhart. She was a dancer in the French Quarter.

Sanchez was sentenced to forty years in prison for her role in that crime.

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Katrina Cannibal?

A discreperency troubling me was the fact that, as previously stated, police deny the idea that Zach Bowen cannibalized Addie Hall. Supposedly he cooked her, but didn’t eat her. That may not be altogether true. I’ve heard from a number of sources, who have looked at the crime scene photos, that there were pictures of a fork in the remains and meat had clearly been pulled from bone with it. I had to see for myself. Understand, I didn’t want to see these photos, in fact I was dreading looking at them, but to answer that question, I’d have to at least try.

I requested all crime scene documents from the New Orleans Police Department, went through the proper channels, provided the proper credentials, and was approved. I was to remit payment of approximately $60 and they would electronically send the requested information, which included: crime scene notes, photos, the full suicide note, coroner’s reports, etc… I mailed the payment (in the form of a money order), as requested, but never received the promised information. I’d expected it to take a while, police departments aren’t known for processing things like this with any sense of urgency, but after quite some time, I inquired. The response I received said no one at their office had received anything, and they would send the requested documents once they received payment. I had taken photos of the envelope I sent and the tracking info, which I forwarded to the NOPD. No one responded. I wasn’t sure whether to continue waiting or cancel the money order and try again. Not wanting to shit myself out of another $60, I decided to just go back to New Orleans on my own and review the information in person; I needed to go back anyway. It will give me a chance to speak with some residents about the case in person, which is always better than phones or online. You get a better read on people when you’re in their presence.  That trip is scheduled for later this year.

            What does Margaret Sanchez have to do with this? Maybe nothing. This could all be a big coincidence. Why would the police lie about that one specific detail? I don’t know. I have my suspicions, but I don’t want to speculate publicly. To do so would be irresponsible. In the end, all of this could amount to absolutely nothing. There’s only one way to find out.

Bloody Mary

         

One of the more interesting aspects of this entire experience, to me, was the fact that someone was charging admission to Zach and Addie’s apartment. Bloody Mary, aka Mary Milan, the person behind Blood Mary’s Haunted Museum, asserts herself as misunderstood in all this. She states that they—her business—are telling the real story, and that no one else is. She says they give a portion of the profits from Bloody Mary’s Haunted Museum to charities supporting victims of domestic violence. Maybe that’s true. I conducted an interview with Mary about a year ago. The audio isn’t great and she spends a lot of it explaining her view of various spiritual entities. I listened to it back with a friend and we both agreed it was mostly irrelevant, at least so far.

The conversation was pleasant. I explained up front that I didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits, but wanted to hear her side of things. She, as anyone would, defended her business venture, but did so tactfully. Full disclosure, I never got any creepy or nasty vibes from her. She seemed as genuine as anyone else you might meet in this world. I work in true crime, after all, I know what it’s like to be accused of exploitation. I haven’t transcribed the interview, but will at the conclusion of my research.

 Besides, is what she’s doing any different from people charging for tours to go by the LaLaurie Mansion and hear stories of slave torture?

Yes, at least I think so.

It feels different… to me. At the end of the day, that’s a matter of opinion, and legally speaking, these people are well within their rights, so far as I know. From a moral and ethical standpoint, I can’t help but notice, a living relative of the deceased is far more likely to find out that someone is charging admission to the murder site of their loved one, than is a living relative of one of Madam LaLaurie’s victims. One is a historical site, the other, as of this time, isn’t. I suppose the concept of “too soon” is subjective. This just seems excessive, even for a place like New Orleans. Granted, it yielded a hell of an experience, and a story.

That said, nothing changes the fact that these people are dressing up Zach and Addie’s old bedroom up with creepy dolls as a cash grab. It’s, for lack of a better word, tacky; in extremely poor taste; highly insensitive—but such things aren’t crimes. I do think they could go to further lengths, however, to ensure people aren’t going into the apartment and taking photos like this:

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Why don’t we go to some of the poorer sections of New Orleans and show people where the most recently shot teenager was standing? Take some photos there of your girlfriend lying face down. Or would that be going too far? Where do we draw the line?

I’m not the only one who finds this uncomfortable. I’ve reached out to other tour guides in the area, none of them approve of this (and oddly enough, all of them were friends with Zach and Addie, go figure). There have been articles published speaking out against the “museum.”

Unlike the 19th century figures LaLaurie and Laveau, the couple has numerous surviving friends and relatives who, nearly 12 years later, have not gotten over how the lives of Bowen and Hall ended.

“It’s pretty despicable and atrociously exploitative,” said Capricho DeVellas, who was close to Hall and Bowen and described their deaths as “genuinely a troubling chapter in my life.”

But the company’s owner, Mary Millan, bristles at the notion that she is disrespecting the couple’s memories.

She said her company has been organizing an upcoming festival whose proceeds will partially be donated to the New Orleans Family Justice Center’s efforts to combat domestic violence. Hall was one of the main reasons for that, she said.

(Source: https://www.nola.com/news/article_c3ce800a-d335-5dc2-a310-1499c634a5cb.html)

You’ll note, on the Haunted Museum’s official website (https://bloodymarystours.com/new-orleans-haunted-museum/), they don’t advertise Zach and Addie’s apartment being part of the tour. Seems like this would be a hell of a selling point. In our interview, Mary cited this as proof that she’s not exploiting anyone, but I wonder if it might be proof that she’s not keen on being so out in the open about what she’s doing. A huge part of me wanted to keep the name of this location out of my reports completely. I don’t want to give these people anymore potential business, but it’s not difficult information to find. A quick Google search will lead anyone with half a brain right to this place, so why bother? Honestly, to omit it would make it seem like some kind of forbidden fruit. I’ll just state my personal stance is to not give any more of my money to said location, and I can’t recommend this place to any of our readers. That’s up to you, though. I can certainly see how it would be tempting to go check this place out. In the end, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you think Bloody Mary’s Haunted Museum is something you wish to support, should you find yourself in New Orleans at some point.

Conclusions

In the end, my main goal is to piece Addie’s history together and find out if there are any details in this case we are unaware of. My gut tells me there are. I’m curious as to how Margaret Sanchez may (or may not) fit into all this, and I’m curious as to whether or not the NOPD was being untruthful about the cannibalism in this case. And if so, why?

  This could take a while, as it’s not my only endeavor going on at the moment, but it’s coming along. No sense rushing. I’d rather take years and get it exactly right than hurry and do a half-assed job. That said, I have plenty of leads. I’m still talking with people, things are coming along nicely. Furthermore, I’m positioned in a great spot to speak with Addie’s friends and relatives, as I live in North Carolina. I’m told she spent a lot of time in Asheville, North Carolina, which is no more than an hour from where I now sit. She may have been born in Pennsylvania (difficult to confirm), but did a lot of growing up in Durham, North Carolina. That’s a little less than three hours from me, but not a bad drive to make on a weekend. 

If anyone reading this has any additional information they wish to share, please feel free to reach out via email. I can be reached at JoshLamiWriter@gmail.com. Please refrain from sending any harassing letters, if you can help it.

That’s it for issue 03 of the Obscura blog. That’s it for my Zach and Addie coverage—for now. I’ll get back to it when I have more to tell.

Starting now, I’ll be accepting your requests for true crime stories to cover on this blog, so feel free to reach out with any suggestions at the above email. If your suggestion is used, I’ll contact you first and, if you like, credit you right here on Obscura.

Thanks for reading, and as always… keep the fire burning.