Documents show signs of trouble years before killing spree

Ben Freeman (Source: Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office)
Ben Freeman (Source: Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (FOX 8) - More details have emerged about what may have led to a deadly rampage last week across two Louisiana parishes, as court documents reveal the troubling past of the shooter and his relationship with the victims.

When Ben Freeman, 38, of Houma, went on a violent rampage in Lafourche and Terrebonne Thursday, people were left wondering why.

"I didn't know of anything going on," said Rita Bonvillian, a friend of some of the victims. "If he was harboring, or if something triggered, I don't know."

Freeman shot and killed his former mother-in-law, Susan "Pixie" Gouaux, and then shot her husband, Lafourche Parish Councilman Phillip Gouaux. Before leaving the house, he also shot his former sister-in-law, Andrea. Freeman continued on to the home of his former boss, killing Milton Bourgeouis and wounding his wife.

Freeman's current wife, Denise, was later found dead in the couple's home. Police said she was strangled and drowned in a bath tub.

"I just think people just don't want to believe people will take these kinds of actions," said Mary Claire Landry, executive director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center.

Freeman's actions, long before the murders, may have been indicators of what would later unfold. Freeman married Jeanne Gouaux in 2007, but Gouaux filed for divorce in May of 2011. Custody exchanges of the couple's four children became heated, and Freeman was eventually granted supervised visitation with his kids.

Gouaux then began asking the court for restraining orders against Freeman. According to FOX 8 NEWS, a copy of one of the petitions for protection that was filed in May of 2013 was obtained.

"For over a year now, Ben has constantly harassed me via text messages," Jeanne Gouaux wrote. "Some days I can receive 20 to 30 messages from him. I just want the mental and verbal torment to stop. He is even texting me while he has visitation with our children. I am afraid of Ben because he has some mental health issues."

"I think the unfortunate thing, for law enforcement, you know, until he really commits the crime, there's really not a whole lot you can do. I mean, we can put these protective measures in place, but he was obviously determined that he was going to hurt several people," Landry explained.

In June, Jeanne Gouaux and her father filed a complaint against Freeman, and in October, he pleaded guilty to criminal telephone harassment charges. Freeman was placed on probation for a year. At the time, he was married to Denise. Trouble between them surfaced in November, when Ben Freeman was issued a citation for simple battery domestic violence. His court date was scheduled for Jan. 16, 2014.

Freeman had been working as a nurse and was previously employed at St. Anne General Hospital until he was fired two years ago for allegedly damaging a room. Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said at the time, Freeman promised he would seek mental help.

"The threats, you have to look at the history of the protective orders. You have to look at the history of the unemployment," Landry added.

Landry said Freeman's past is troubling and more needs to be done in the future to prevent something like this from happening again.

"This is a case where, I think, the systems really are not working together and are not really looking at what kind of interventions are needed in these kind of situations. There's got to be something else we can do until after the fact, when he's already done all of his damage," Landry said.

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