On November 24, 1956, Thomas Hotard was discovered murdered near Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana. His lover, Audrey Moate went missing the same day. Retired detective, Wayne Norwood, investigated the cold case and discusses his theories surrounding the case
Secrets and lies can kill relationships. In the case of Thomas Hotard and Audrey Moate, their secret may have led to the death of Thomas and the disappearance of Audrey in St John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana in 1956.
Thomas Hotard worked as an engineer for a local chemical company, Celotex, which is where he met Audrey Moate in 1950. She was working as a buyer at the company.
Thomas was a 51 year old, married father of two when he met Audrey, a 31 year old divorced mother of three. He and his wife, Beulah, lived in nearby Gretna, Louisiana.
Audrey had been living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana until there was a strike at their company. Thomas encouraged Audrey to move in to his family’s home for a few months, until the strike ended and she could get on her feet again.
Even after Audrey moved out, she and Thomas were very close friends and spent a lot of time together planning and overseeing scouting events.
Their romance was a deeply hidden secret. Audrey and Thomas lied to their families, saying they had to work on Saturdays. In truth, the lovers agreed to a romantic rendezvous in their favorite spot, Frenier Road, along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
They would meet, get into Thomas’s 1953 blue Nash Rambler, and travel down a desolate one lane gravel road to the lake. When they reached the lake, they would pass by a clearing with cypress trees around a swamp. There was a small clearing at the end of the road that provided Thomas just enough room to turn his car around and park near the water.
On November 24, 1956, a hunter, Mr. Henry Monaret, and his son, noticed a blue sedan parked at Frenier Road. Henry noticed a man and woman moving around in the back of the car so he moved on.
The next day, Mr. Monaret, and his son returned to the area to hunt and noticed the same car, in the same location. This was a secluded area and it was rare to see a car parked for more than one day. He decided to approach the car to see if someone was having car trouble.
As he approached the car, the woman was not in the area. He did notice the contents of a woman’s purse on the ground. Then, Mr. Monaret saw the right door was open and the right front seat was lying back. He was horrified to see a man lying face down covered with blood.
He looked around again, trying to see if the woman was in the area. But all he saw were traces of a woman having been there…with female clothing and shoes found on the floor of the car.
Mr. Monaret immediately left the area and went to the home of the local sheriff to tell him what he had found. When the sheriff and investigators arrived on scene, they discovered the man had been shot with a shotgun, and the pellets had passed through the side window, striking the victim in the back of the head.
Authorities made note of a few important things at the crime scene.
- The car keys were still in the ignition.
- Leading from the car, toward the woods were prints of bare feet, small enough to be a woman’s. The prints were spaced far apart, indicating the woman had been running. Mingled with these were the tracks of a man’s boots. Five feet away from the scene of the crime, was a place where it looked like a scuffle had taken place.
- On the ground, police found another set of car keys.
- The footprints ended at a road that leads to the main highway, and there investigators found a single tire track, possibly from a motorcycle.
- There were no other physical evidence.
10 hours after the initial discovery, Investigators found out that the woman who had been in the car was , Audrey Moate, who had been at a local cafe with Thomas Hotard on the day before. When police went to the cafe to investigate and search for Audrey, they found her car in the parking lot. The keys that had been found on the ground at the crime scene on Frenier Road? Those were the keys to Audrey’s car.
Audrey Moate has not been seen since November of 1956. Thomas Hotard’s killer has never been officially identified.
In 1980, there was a new lead in the case when Ernest Acosta made a deathbed confession to his family, that his common-law wife, Caroline Schlesser (who had died in 1979), killed both Thomas and Audrey. Acosta confessed to helping dispose of Audrey’s body. Ernest Acosta’s daughter, Marville, suspected that he may have been involved in the murder, not Caroline.
Investigators worked the case which led to a new search for Audrey’s body. But the case went again went cold.
There is someone who believes he knows who was responsible for Thomas’s death. Wayne Norwood is a former detective who worked the case and contributed to the book Dying to Know by Wendy Woods. Wayne joined me to discuss the case and why he does not believe Audrey survived the attack that killed Thomas. And who he believes killed Audrey and Thomas.
Authorities are still looking for answers. If you have any information about this case, please contact the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office at 985-652-9513
Dying to Know by Wendy Woods with contributor, Wayne Norwood. Wayne is featured interview in this episode
WebSleuths.com Thread About Audrey Moate and Thomas Hotard
Unsolved Mysteries Episode Details
Theme Song: “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use
Southern Man “Southern Man”, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution