DeRidder Louisiana Gothic Jail
1928 HANGING IN GOTHIC JAIL
In 1928, Beauregard Parish was the scene of a double execution by hanging. It was the first time that a hanging took place and first time that the death penalty had been paid in our parish.
The murderers wanted money and planned to hi-jack someone on Saturday night, August 28, 1926. Their target was taxi driver J. J. Brevelle. The taxi driver agreed to take them to the John Miller place which was off what is now the Three Pine Church road for $1.50. After turning off Highway 26, referred to in those days, as the Sugartown Road, they stopped and bought some whiskey which was made by a moon-shiner. The whiskey was made from natural spring water which existed in a canyon adjacent to the road.
Joe Genna was in the back seat and Molton Brasseaux was in the front seat of the taxi. The plan was to hit Brevelle with a spring leaf that had been put on the back floor of the taxi by Brasseaux. Genna hit Brevelle the first lick with the spring leaf which then slipped out of his hand. Brasseaux grabbed the spring leaf and hit Brevelle a number of times in the head and side of the face. Brevelle said: “Moosey I didn’t think you’d do me that way. Take my money boys, if you want my money, and let me go.” Brevelle tried to stand up and tried to get away but the murderers held his hands while they continued to hit him.
It was estimated that Brevelle was hit 15 more licks after that when he said: “I’m dying boys, I’m through with; let me go; take my money; take my car or anything you want.”
Brasseaux cursed him and said: “I’ll knock your ____brains out.” At that time he stabbed him in the heart with a screwdriver, and cut his throat.
After Brevelle was dead, he was pushed to the right hand side of the front seat and Genna drove the back way via to post plant road through DeRidder and continued up Highway 171 North to Pickering. They crossed the railroad track, turned down a road by an old mill pond and stopped on a bridge. After taking money from Brevelle’s pockets, they threw him off the edge of the bridge into the pond. Brevelle’s mutilated body was found a few days later by an eight year old boy. The skull had been fractured in several places, there was a deep wound in the heart, and the jugular vein had been severed by a knife slash reaching from under the left ear to below the chin. The J. J. Brevelle tombstone which indicates he was a “Woodman of the World” is located in the Woodlawn Cemetery adjacent to Bilbo Street, DeRidder, Louisiana.
On the return to DeRidder Genna and Brasseaux had a flat tire before reaching Rosepine where they washed the blood off their face and hands.
In DeRidder, they picked up some clothes. Their trek by Brevelle’s taxi took them to Longville where they changed clothes and washed the car.
On the way to Lake Charles, they threw their clothes into the Calcasieu River from the Moss Bluff bridge. They went on to Lecompte, Alexandria and then to Tullos which is half way between Alexandria and Monroe, Louisiana. Just before arriving in Tullos, Brasseaux opened his suit case and got out a set of Texas license plates which he put on the car. They stopped at the Evans hotel in Tullos and met two girls, Katie and Edna Saddler.
After officers arrested the girls on Monday night, Brasseaux disappeared. Genna planned to go to San Antonio and helped the girls escape from jail by twisting the lock off the door. They headed back to Lake Charles and then to Orange where they had to stop for a ferry.
The girls got out of the car to walk on the ferry to Orange. Genna drove on down to the marsh where he decided to set fire to the car which still had blood all over the front seat. He met up with the girls after crossing on the ferry. Officers had heard that the group had traveled through Lake Charles on their way to Texas. After being in Orange for only one day, this led to the arrest of Joe Genna on Thursday morning.
When Brasseaux disappeared in Tullos, he hid in the woods for a while. He was broke and caught a series of rides which took him from Tullos to Monroe, to Columbia, back to Tullos, to Alexandria, to Lecompte, to Glenmora, to Oakdale, to Lake Charles, and then Sulphur. Brasseaux was arrested in his home town of Sulphur on Thursday.
It was partly through information given the Marshal of Vinton, that the death car was discovered. A traveling man who passed through Vinton notified the officer that a car was on fire in the swamp not far from the Old Spanish Trail. The Marshall had received the serial number of Brevelle’s car from Beauregard Parish Sheriff Frazar. The engine of the car had not burned and the number was still legible. Others had identified the car as traveling through Vinton and putting two and two together, subsequent arrest was made by the Sheriff of Orange, Texas.
The fight of the murderers to escape the gallows lasted more than a year. The process of appeal was taken from district court to the state supreme court and then to the United States Supreme Court, and finally to the state supreme court again. Application was made to the state pardon board for commutation of sentence which was denied.
In preparation for the hanging, haircuts were given to the men. Chicken dinner was prepared for their last meal but Brasseaux had only a glass of milk.
The scaffold, first ever to be built in the parish jail, was put together within the narrow space enclosed by the spiral staircase. Genna, age 25, was the first to mount the scaffold led by Deputy Sheriff Jim Crumpler. He was pronounced dead at 1:06 from a broken neck.
Genna had been weak, still suffering from his effort to end his life by swallowing poison the night before the hanging. It had been swallowed after eating a hearty meal and the nausea caused most of the poison to be thrown up. A trustee was called who summoned Doctors R. J. Love and Leroy Lambert to see the sick man. By using a stomach pump the physicians were able to same Genna for execution the next day.
Carrying an air of defiance, Brasseaux, age 26, was led out by Deputy Sheriff Gill. He took his place on the gallows, the trap was sprung and he was pronounced dead at 1:29, also, from a broken neck. They had reaped the harvest of their lives of sowing.”
The hanging, March 9, 1928, was the final chapter in the most atrocious crime episode ever written in or of, not only DeRidder and Beauregard Parish, but of the entire state as well. It hardly had a precedent anywhere.
Exemplified by the double execution is the fact that those who break the law of heaven by shedding man’s blood, must stand to answer in like kind. Bodies of both men, Genna and Brasseaux were moved to Calcasieu Parish for burial.