LOCKPORT, La. (AP) — A nurse embroiled in a custody fight with his ex-wife killed his current wife before shooting his former in-laws and his onetime boss in a rampage that spanned two parishes in Louisiana, leaving three people dead and three wounded. He then fatally shot himself in the head, authorities said.
All three survivors remained hospitalized Friday, two in critical condition, Brennan Matherne, a spokesman for the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, said in an email. He said deputies are still investigating the motive.
Preliminary evidence shows that Ben Freeman, 38, first killed his wife, Denise Taylor Freeman, 43, before he went on a rampage and shot the others Thursday, Maj. Malcolm Wolfe, of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office, wrote in an email.
Denise Freeman's body was found in a bathroom of their house, and an autopsy showed that she suffocated and drowned, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said Friday.
According to investigators, Ben Freeman then drove to his former in-laws' home in Lafourche Parish, about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans. With a shotgun, he killed his former mother-in-law, Susan "Pixie" Gouaux (pronounced "go"), and wounded her husband, Councilman Louis Phillip Gouaux, and one of their daughters, Andrea Gouaux. His ex-wife, Jeanne Gouaux, apparently wasn't at the home.
About 20 minutes later, Freeman arrived at the home of Milton and Ann Bourgeois. Milton was the longtime CEO of Ochsner (OX-ner) St. Anne General Hospital in nearby Raceland, where Freeman had worked as a nurse until two years ago. Freeman shot Milton Bourgeois at close range, killing him, and shot Ann Beourgeois in the leg. She was in stable condition Friday.
Both Louis and Andrea Gouaux were in critical but stable condition following surgery Friday in New Orleans, Matherne said.
Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said Freeman had been fired from St. Anne. He said police previously had been called to the hospital after Freeman damaged a room. Freeman told officers he would seek mental help, Webre said.
But in a teleconference later Friday, Ochsner officials said Freeman had resigned voluntarily, citing personal reasons. The officials said he had worked at the hospital from May 1998 to April 2011, and that he was considered an on-call employee for another five months after that.
Freeman also had worked at two other hospitals, which along with St. Anne had been placed on lockdown for a time on Thursday.
Susan Gouaux — "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.
Randolph said she went to school at one time or another with Philip and Susan Gouaux, and that Susan Gouaux had 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, whom he married in 1997.
Jeanne Gouaux — also a nurse — had filed several protective orders against Freeman, who had pleaded guilty to harassment charges and was allowed only supervised visits with their four children, Webre said. The last protective order expired less than a month ago, he said.