HOUMA, La. — A man 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 of them in critical condition, Brennan Matherne, a spokesman for the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, said in an email.
“We are still investigating motive and trying to piece together the sequence of events along with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office,” he wrote.
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 Gouaux’s daughter Andrea. Both were in critical condition after surgery early Friday in New Orleans, Matherne wrote. Gouaux’s wife, Susan, was dead when deputies arrived, Matherne said earlier.
Susan — “Pixie” to her 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 all her friends, Parish President Charlotte Randolph said in a telephone interview.
She said that she went to school at one time or another with both Philip and Susan Gouaux, and that Susan Gouaux taught her grandchildren. The couple has six adult daughters.
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. Freeman was divorced from Gouaux’s daughter Jeanne; their community property settlement and declaration were filed in July.
Jeanne Gouaux had filed several protective orders against Freeman, who had pleaded guilty to harassment charges and was allowed only supervised visits with their four children, said Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre. The last protective order expired less than a month ago, he said.
“Clearly, there has been a very difficult and complicated divorce/custody issue going on,” Webre said during a news conference late Thursday.
About 20 minutes after the first shootings, Freeman arrived at the home of Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital CEO Milton Bourgeois in nearby Raceland, about eight miles from Lockport. 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, Matherne said.
“Milton Bourgeois was a good friend, as well,” Randolph said. “I’ve known Milton Bourgeois and his wife for 25, 30 years. This is a small community in spite of the fact that it’s 100,000 people.”
Freeman had worked at the hospital as a registered nurse before he was fired in 2011, Webre said. Webre could not say why Freeman was fired but said police had been called there previously after Freeman damaged a room. Freeman told officers he would seek mental help, Webre said.
Freeman also had worked at two other hospitals, which along with St. Anne had been placed on lockdown for a time on Thursday.
Ben Freeman was found dead around 10:45 p.m. along U.S. Highway 90 near Bayou Blue. He had shot himself in the head.
His current wife, Denise Taylor Freeman, was found dead in the couple’s home in a neighborhood of quaint middle-class, ranch-style houses in Houma, the Terrebonne Parish seat. Matherne said it was not immediately known how she died.
At the home, a man who did not give his name demanded that an Associated Press reporter leave his sister’s property.
She had only recently married Freeman, but she and her son Josh — of elementary school age — had lived there for years, said Glenn Cradeur, who has owned his house, two down from hers, for 28 years. He said he believed the boy was not home when his mother was killed.
“Denise was nice,” Cradeur said.
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.
He returned from a visit to out-of-town relatives to find police cars and emergency vehicles outside the house, and stunned neighbors gathered nearby.
“It’s shocking, and it’s sad,” he said.