Rapides Deputies solve 38-year-old cold case

Two men now accused of murder, rape
Donna Brazzell, Leo Laird and Gary Haymon
Posted at 1:30 PM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 14:30:24-04

Rapides Parish Sheriff's deputies have solved a 38-year-old cold case.

Leo Laird, 64, and Gary Haymon, 54, both of Oakdale, are now accused of First Degree Murder, First Degree Rape and Aggravated Kidnapping in the 1980 slaying of Donna Brazzell, a spokesman for the sheriff said.

The investigation began in November 1980 when skeletal remains were found near La. 28 in the Gardner area. Detectives over the years scoured missing persons reports from Louisiana and neighboring states, and enlished the help of the LSU FACES lab to try to identify the body. The lab said the victim was a female who was between 16 and 21 years old when she died. She'd been dead for months, or maybe years, when her skeleton was found, the spokesman said.

The cold case was passed from detective to detective for years until 2014, when the sheriff's office received some information in the case. These new leads led to Laird and Haymon as suspects, the spokesman said.

Last month, more information was provided to deputies, this time about the victim's identity. FACES and State Police Crime labs helped with DNA testing, and the victim was identified as Donna Gayle Brazzell. She was 18 when she disappeared from the Alexandria/Pineville area where she had been living.

Detectives continued to follow leads, and obtained arrest warrants for Laird and Haymon. Laird was arrested on August 14 and booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center, where he remains in lieu of $1 million bond for the rape and kidnapping charges. No bond has been set on the murder charge, the spokesman said.

Haymon currently is in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections for convictions on Second Degree Kidnapping, First Degree Robbery, and Public Bribery charges. Haymon is currently serving a forty-nine year sentence and is currently projected to be released in 2047. Arrangements are in place to have Haymon booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center in reference to his new charges, the spokesman said.

Detectives state their investigation is still ongoing and additional charges may be filed.