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Forty years after she died, victim of accident has been identified

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jul 18, 2022

More than 40 years after she died on Interstate 10 in Breaux Bridge, a young woman has been identified.

The woman, who was walking on I-10 on December 5, 1981 when she was struck by a vehicle and killed, has been identified as Michele Elaine Oakes Boutilier aka Michele Oakes-Gautreaux, who at the time of her death was 26 years old. Her last known address prior to her death, was in Cut-Off Louisiana.

St. Martin Parish Sheriff Becket Breaux said the identification came after much work by many agencies over many years.

Upon initial investigation of the incident, law enforcement officers were unable to locate any personal identification in her belongings that may have assisted them in identifying her.

She was buried at St. Bernard Church in a plot provided by the church, with the tomb, casket and services all provided by Pellerin Funeral Home. Two Breaux Bridge residents looked after her grave until they died, and since that time an anonymous person has taken care of her grave to ensure she was never forgotten, the sheriff says.

Several local and federal law enforcement agencies in adjoining States were provided information both at the time of her death and throughout the years to see if any of their missing persons cases were linked to this case, however, no match was ever established. LSU FACES Laboratory also assisted in the investigation by creating a facial approximation in an attempt to identify her along with information about her case being entered into their database. Additionally, her body was exhumed in December of 2006 to develop an anthropological profile, and following the exhumation, DNA samples were extracted.

With the hope of utilizing social media to find a family member or friend, the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office created a Facebook post on December 14, 2017. Following that post, several hundred tips, inquiries, and well wishes poured in from across the United States and a few foreign countries.

After several years, that post finally paid off. On January 10, 2022, the sheriff's office received a Facebook message that ultimately led to a potential match.

DNA Samples were obtained from the parties involved and were sent to LSU FACES Laboratory, Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory and the University of North Texas Health Science Center for Human Identification for analyzation and comparison. Following extensive testing, it was determined to be a match.

"We would like to thank Dr. Teresa Wilson, Dr. Ginesse Listi, and the LSU FACES Lab staff for their assistance, guidance, and direction over the last several years. We cannot express enough the appreciation we had for your accessibility and willingness to answer the many questions that we had," the sheriff says. "Thank you also to the University of North Texas Health Science Center for Human Identification and the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory for your assistance in reference to this case."