Evidence photos in the death of Louisiana mother Megan Parra


A young mother’s death is ruled a suicide, but her father believes she was murdered. See the photos he believes show evidence of homicide.

Megan Parra is shot in her living room

Megan Parra and her parents
Megan Parra, left, with her parents Steve and Missy Ducote.

Ducote Family

On June 28, 2014, in the tiny town of Cottonport, Louisiana, Steve and Missy Ducote discovered their 29-year-old daughter Megan Parra lying on her living room floor. She had a gunshot wound to the head.

Missy Ducote, a nurse practitioner, realized her daughter still had a pulse. When he arrived, Megan’s husband Dustin Parra, a nurse himself, also worked to save her.

As he rushed in, Dustin Parra slipped in his wife’s blood and stained his shorts.

A mysterious car crash not far from the Parra home

Megan Parra accident diagram
A diagram of Megan Parra’s car accident provided with the state trooper’s crash report. 

Louisiana Department of Public Safety

The day before her shooting, Megan Parra had a car accident. She was alone when she veered off a road and hit a tree. A state trooper noted that there were no skid marks indicating she had attempted to stop the car.

Megan Parra said it was an accident

Megan Parra crash site

CBS News

When asked about the crash, Megan Parra said she had tried to stop but her brakes didn’t work, and she hit the tree to avoid the river.

Documenting the evidence

Megan Parra evidence

Cottonport Police Department

David Blanchard was the first officer to arrive at the shooting. He took over 100 photos of the scene, including this one of a gun found near Megan Parra. It belonged to Dustin Parra.

A note left behind

Megan Parra evidence

Cottonport Police Department

This note was discovered on the kitchen counter and photographed by Officer Blanchard. It appears to be a note from Megan Parra to the couple’s two young sons, ages 4 and 18 months

Megan’s father Steve Ducote believes that someone else wrote the note. He insists it doesn’t look like her handwriting. 

Megan Parra: Nov. 7, 1984 – June 29, 2014

Megan Ducote Parra
“She was a kindergarten teacher. … She was the most amazing mother,” said Betsy Jeansonne. “She was my little sister … but I really looked up to her.”

Ducote Family

The morning of the shooting, Megan Parra was airlifted to a trauma center in Lafayette, Louisiana. After less than 24 hours on life support, Megan was taken off and passed away. Her organs were donated.

Case closed?

Christopher Knight

Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Department

Two days after Megan Parra’s death, Steve Ducote says the lead detective on the case, Christopher Knight, showed up at his house and told him that he had tested the gun that killed Megan Parra, and her fingerprints were all over it. Knight denies ever saying he tested the gun.

Within days, Knight declared Megan Parra’s death a suicide in a one-page report. Within weeks, an autopsy report also declared her manner of death as suicide. 

The gun was never tested

Missy and Steve Ducote
Missy and Steve Ducote were determined to find the truth.

CBS News

Steve Ducote soon learned that the gun that killed Megan Parra could not have been tested for fingerprints that quickly. Knight would later state that he had not sent it out for testing.

The husband’s alibi

Dustin Parra
Dustin Parra

Steve and Missy Ducote soon became suspicious of their son-in-law Dustin Parra.  He had been at a Walmart the morning of the shooting, though Megan’s family says he told different accounts of exactly where he was when Steve Ducote called to tell him Megan had been shot.

A fresh look at the case

Dan Schaub
Dan Schaub was commander of the Criminal Investigations Unit at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office. A judge asked Schaub to review the case.

CBS News

Four months after the shooting, Steve Ducote convinced a local judge that the case should be reopened. That judge asked Commander Dan Schaub of the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office to review the case. 

Schaub reviewed the photos taken at the scene along with Knight’s one-page report. 

Creating a timeline

Aerial shot of Parra home
Megan and Dustin Parra’s home, center, in Cottonport, Louisiana. 

CBS News

Schaub also spoke with two neighbors who thought they heard a gunshot that morning — but at two different times. 

Schaub says the neighbor to the right said she heard a very loud “boom” a little after 7 a.m. But the neighbor to the left said he heard a gunshot around 9:15 a.m.

Schaub found the neighbor to the left more reliable, so he created a timeline that assumed Megan Parra had been shot around 9:15 a.m. The question became could Dustin Parra have been home?

Where was Dustin Parra the morning of the shooting?

Parra Walmart receipt
Dustin Parra’s pharmacy receipt from the morning of June 28, 2014.

Louisiana Department of Public Safety

Dustin Parra told everyone that the morning of the shooting, he was at a local Walmart picking up prescriptions for Megan. Schaub found a time-stamped receipt showing that Dustin paid for the medications at 9:43 a.m. Schaub then released an eight-page report concluding that Dustin Parra was at Walmart when his wife shot herself.

Investigation photographs tell a story

Betsy Jeansonne and Steve Ducote
Betsy Jeansonne and her father Steve Ducote study the crime scene images. “We were on the computer researching and learning about ballistics, about blood spatter,” said Jeansonne.

CBS News

Although Steve Ducote was disappointed by Schaub’s conclusion, he now had something that would prove invaluable: copies of the photos taken at the scene by Blanchard. Steve Ducote and his eldest daughter Betsy Jeansonne began studying them.

Were there signs of a struggle?

Megan Parra crime scene evidence
Steve Ducote and Betsy Jeansonne believe several of the photos show signs of a struggle, like this wine rack seemingly out of place behind a chair.  

Evidence photo

Steve Ducote and Betsy Jeansonne believe several photos show signs of a struggle, like a wine rack seemingly out of place behind a chair.

Was the gun wiped clean?

Megan Parra evidence photo
“I would expect if the barrel of a gun is up against someone’s temple, that there would be blood and hair on that barrel,” Betsy Jeansonne said. “And there is not. “

Cottonport Police Department

Megan Parra’s autopsy report had noted that the gun had been in direct contact with her temple when it went off, but Steve Ducote says he noticed that in this photo of the gun, it looks clean. Had someone wiped it after the shooting?

A mysterious photo

Parra crime scene evidence
The picture of the Parra’s sons that Dustin discovered in Megan’s pocket. 

Cottonport Police Department

Megan Parra’s parents say that after Dustin Parra ran into the room and slid in his wife’s blood, he reached into her shirt pocket and pulled out this picture of their boys. Steve Ducote began to believe that Dustin Parra planted the picture. “If you gonna make it look like suicide, you’re going to do things like that,” Steve Ducote said. 

David Lemoine reviews the case

David Lemoine
Steve Ducote turned to an old friend, retired FBI agent David Lemoine, to help study the evidence compiled by the family.

Spencer Lemoine

Megan Parra’s family pushed for answers for years without success, until Steve Ducote called an old friend, a retired FBI agent now living in Nebraska named David Lemoine.  In 2018, more than four years after Megan  was shot, Lemoine flew to Cottonport, met with Ducote and spent the night reviewing a binder of evidence compiled by the Ducotes. By the next morning he came to the conclusion that Megan had been murdered. 

Two FBI agents come out of retirement

Zack Shelton
Retired FBI agent Zack Shelton was also recruited to help with the investigation.

Zack Shelton

Lemoine recruited fellow retired FBI agent Zack Shelton to help him investigate. In 2019 they were deputized as police officers by the Cottonport police chief. That allowed the former special agents to interview witnesses and record them on bodycam.

The original detective is interviewed

Det. Christopher Knight (center) is interviewed by Zack Shelton, David Lemoine and then-Assistant Police Chief Justin Chenevert, who recorded the interview on his bodycam.

Cottonport Police Department

On Jan. 15, 2019, David Lemoine and Zack Shelton interviewed Det. Christopher Knight.  He admitted that he should have investigated more thoroughly, citing his lack of experience as an investigator at the time. He told Lemoine and Shelton, “if I botched this, you know, then I mean … my fault, you know. But was it done — but was it done on purpose? Absolutely not.”

Dustin Parra questioned

Dustin Parra
Dustin Parra was questioned extensively for more than an hour.

Cottonport Police Department

Lemoine and Shelton also questioned Dustin Parra for more than an hour.  He admitted that not long before Megan Parra’s death, he had been having an affair, but didn’t think his wife knew about it. He insisted that he had nothing to do with his wife’s death.

“Maybe she shot herself in front of you. I don’t know, but you were there,” Zack Shelton said. Dustin Parra replied, “when she was shot, I was not there.”

A tragic death

David Lemoine

David Lemoine obituary

David Lemoine worked on Megan’s case for two years, but never got to see the resolution. Lemoine passed away on Dec. 28, 2020, after contracting COVID-19.

A pattern in the bloodstains

Dustin Parra's blood-spattered shorts.
Dustin Parra’s blood-spattered shorts.

Ducote Family

In April 2021, a still-determined Steve Ducote hired independent crime scene analyst Eric Richardson to look over the evidence.  

It was a photo of the shorts worn by Dustin Parra the morning of the shooting that caught Richardson’s attention. He noticed a fine mist of blood near one of the pockets that he says can only be caused by high velocity blood spatter. To Richardson, that means Dustin Parra had to be there when the gun went off.

A grand jury returns charges

Dustin Parra was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty. 

Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office

On Oct. 13, 2021, Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle took the case to a grand jury.  It returned a charge of second-degree murder.  Dustin Parra was arrested and pleaded not guilty. 

It was not an open-and-shut case says Riddle. He says state and local law enforcement experts were going to testify that the blood spatter on Dustin Parra’s shorts did not prove he was present when the gun went off.  Remember, Dustin had slid in Megan’s blood, and had worked to save her life.

A resolution to the case

Megan Ducote Parra
Megan Ducote Parra

Ducote Family

On March 24, 2023, just three days before Dustin Parra’s murder trial was set to begin, his attorney offered a deal. After speaking with the district attorney to discuss their options, Steve and Missy Ducote accepted the deal.

On March 26, 2023, Dustin Parra pleaded “nolo contendere” or no contest to negligent homicide in the death of Megan Parra.

Dustin Parra takes the stand

Dustin Parra court transcript
On March 26, 2023, Dustin Parra pleaded “nolo contendere” or no contest to negligent homicide, and D.A. Charles Riddle got to question him on the stand.

Court record

During the plea hearing, Dustin Parra had to answer several questions and admit that he had the gun in his hand during a struggle with Megan and it went off firing into her head.

“To us, as a family, him admitting to that, that was huge,” Steve Ducote says. Dustin Parra was sentenced to five years but will likely serve only 18 months in prison and the rest on parole.   

The resolution to a custody battle

Steve Ducote signs papers after he and Missy were granted full custody of Megan’s two sons.

Ducote Family

Megan Parra’s sons had been living with Dustin Parra ever since the shooting — but that changed on April 20, 2023.  After petitioning the court, Missy and Steve Ducote were granted full custody of their grandsons.

Remembering Megan Parra

Steve Ducote and  Megan Ducote Parra
Steve Ducote and his daughter, Megan Ducote Parra.

Ducote Family

For the Ducote family, life without Megan will never be the same. “Megan … was one of the most charitable people I knew,” Betsy Jeansonne recalled to David Begnaud through tears. “She was always so giving of herself … She was the most amazing mother … She was my little sister … but I really looked up to her.”

When asked what Megan would say to him if she could, Steve Ducote said, “take care of those boys, and probably say thanks for not giving up.”


2024-01-05 22:41:00 , Home – CBSNews.com

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