IBERVILLE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - There's a mystery that has lingered too long in Iberville Parish. A missing person's case has turned into a murder investigation.
Is it tied to another murder? There are a lot of questions here. There are so many, in fact, that a national investigative television series has come calling to 650 square miles of land, trees, swamps and water. It can be a paradise for those who love the outdoors. The winding roads leading you to places all but off the map. It's a great place to get lost for a while ... or maybe for 25 years.
The winding roads, the woods and swamps can hide a lot, like a body. The Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office has been looking for one in particular for a quarter century and investigators say they have a very good idea who is behind the crime.
"No doubt in my mind," said Maj. Ronnie Hebert with IPSO. "I am one million percent convinced there is one person responsible for these crimes."
Detectives believe they know who did this, but we'll leave the suspect's name out of it for now. It's the case of Curtis "Cochise" Smith. He went missing back in February of 1991. Some strong leads led deputies to one man back then. They said that man admitted to killing Smith.
"He admitted to doing it, then he retracted that and said, 'Look, the deputies tricked me; I didn't want to say that,'" said Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi.
Investigators said the suspect even took them to where he said he dumped the body. They added he put it in a barrel, poked some holes in the barrel and then dumped it in the water down near Bayou Pigeon, which is south of Plaquemine. However, a body has never been found and no charges have been officially filed. So, it remains a mystery.
The mystery is now part of the Discovery Channel series "The Killing Fields." The hope is that the added attention and resources may be able to solve a crime 25 years old. For a family that has never given up hope, this may represent their best hope. Smith's sister thinks about their folks.
"They died trying to find their son," said Chrisanne Georgetown. "They went to their grave worried about where their child is at. They knew he was dead. They just wanted his body."
And how about his son? He was just five months old when his dad went missing.
"I still think about him," said Gerald Smith. "I got a picture of him."
And when he says he has "A" picture of him, that's what he means. There is only one picture that remains. When you see it, you can tell why so many people in the family say Gerald looks an awful lot like his dad. There are so many similarities.
Similarities, in fact, have the sheriff's office investigating another case. There is a murder that they believe the same suspect is responsible for.
George Barrett Jr. was shot and killed in his home in Plaquemine back in March of 2002 right along Intracoastal Road. His daughter remembers finding him that day.
"He came by every other day, just to drive by," said Dionne Riley.
Except, on that day, he didn't come by her house. So, she went knocking on his door. Nothing has been the same since.
The Discovery Channel and "The Killing Fields" began looking into this crime as well. They began looking at places like the old Ice House on Barrow Street in Plaquemine. The suspect used to run it, the victims used to work there and according to investigators, both were having issues with the suspect. But does that explain murder?
"He was an all-around guy," said George Barrett III, the victim's son. "For somebody to kill him that way, it's not understandable."
They are crimes that investigators have been trying to understand for years. Is now the time? There is so much beauty in places like Iberville Parish. You can fall in love with a place like that. It can take your breath away. Or, it can be the perfect hiding spot for somebody who has taken their last breath.
Will "The Killing Fields" give up their secrets? Or will all this beauty continue to hide so much pain? We left the name of the suspect out of the story, so that any new tips would be untainted by this story. If you know anything, give Crime Stoppers a call at 344-7867. You will remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.