Covering Louisiana

Jul 8, 2014 5:40 PM by AP

Mom's fiance indicted in death of 12-year-old girl

Two days after an intensive search turned up the body of a missing 12-year-old girl, a grand jury brought a first-degree murder charge Tuesday against the fiance of the child's mother.

John Celestine, 43, was indicted in the death of Talaija Dorsey, District Attorney Ricky Babin told The Associated Press in an email. Celestine is the fiance of Talaija's mother, Emma Dorsey, and had lived with the family for years.

The one-sentence indictment did not cite any evidence and St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin would not talk about what evidence supports the charges - or any other evidence.

"I know this is going to be a critical case ... We're being extremely cautious we don't reveal evidence publicly," said Martin, whose headquarters are about 55 miles west of New Orleans.

Martin said investigators who questioned Celestine about his routine on July 1, the day Dorsey was reported missing, believed he was lying, based on other information they had learned. "Then he got to the point he didn't want to talk to us," the sheriff said.

He said that since finding the girl's body Sunday, he had called the state police crime lab every four hours or so to get the most critical items processed first and learn the results.

"At some point late last night or early this morning, the DA thought he had enough to go to the grand jury and get an indictment," Martin said.

A grand jury for the 23rd Judicial District, which covers St. James, Assumption and Ascension parishes, already was in session, and was presented with the evidence Tuesday, Martin said.

Celestine had been held on charges of obstructing justice and false communication since Wednesday, the day after Talaija Dorsey was reported missing. Bond for those charges was set at $100,000 each.

Deputies said the girl's slippers were found in a minivan on blocks in the family's front yard. The minivan was being used for storage and the girl's slippers were out of place there, Emma Dorsey's brother, Lawrence Smith Jr., told The Advocate.

Celestine had lived with Emma Dorsey for about five years and they had been engaged for two, her father, Lawrence Smith Sr., told the newspaper ( ).

Talaija Dorsey was reported missing after a friend stopped by her home to go to a nearby summer camp with her. One of her younger sisters said she had last seen her about 5 a.m., authorities said.

Hundreds of volunteers joined police and sheriff's deputies from numerous agencies in the search.

Her body was found in a wooded area near a highway and a sugar cane field. She apparently had been dead since about the time she was reported missing, the sheriff said.

Martin said he never got close enough to tell whether there were any obvious wounds, and would not say whether her body was on its front, back or side when he found it.

"Once I found her, I backed away from her immediately to make sure I didn't do anything to affect the scene," he said. "I didn't get within 10 feet of her."


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