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Former firefighter indicted, accused of murder in mother's death in fire

mary vidrine .jpg
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jul 10, 2024

OPELOUSAS, La. — A former firefighter has been indicted, accused of his mother's death.

Court documents allege John Christopher Vidrine left the 88-year-old woman in a house without electricity, running water, a phone, food or water on Christmas Eve; her body was found after the house burned down.

Vidrine, 59, was indicted by a St. Landry grand jury on charges of second-degree murder and cruelty to the infirm in the December 2023 death of his mother, Mary Vidrine. Also indicted with him, on the same charges, was Lucius Johnson Jr., 35, who officials describe as "a known cohort" of Vidrine's.

Mary Vidrine's body was found in her house, which officials described as "previously abandoned."

At the time, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office told us that they found a body when the house burned on Highway 190 West in Opelousas. They said the body was found in a bedroom, and deputies believed the fire started there. Because the house didn't have electricity, it's possible the fire started because she was trying to stay warm, they said.

About a week later, on New Year's Day, Vidrine was arrested in Lafayette and booked with stalking in a separate incident. At that time, St. Landry Parish put a hold on him for a cruelty to the infirm charge. He was arraigned on that charge back in March.

According to St. Landry Parish court records, a State Fire Marshal investigator swore out an affidavit alleging that Vidrine said he took his 88-year-old mother to her house - which she had not been living in - and left her there without food, water, transportation or a phone. The house had been vacant for weeks, had no electricity or running water, and was "infested with fleas and termites," the affidavit states. Mary Virdine also had several medical conditions that she was taking medication for, it states.

Some family members told troopers that John Vidrine was "hostile" toward his mother, and while Mary sometimes went to the house to check on her cats, she would never stay very long and wouldn't have voluntarily spent the night there.

Vidrine told police that he took his mother to the house, because she asked him to, on Christmas Eve. He said she had not been living at the house, but with a friend in Grand Coteau.

The affidavit was filed at the time of Vidrine's arraignment in March. Three months later, in June 2024, the indictment was handed up, including the cruelty charge and the murder charge.

As of today, Vidrine remains in the Lafayette Parish jail. A couple of weeks before the indictment, Lafayette Police booked him with terrorizing, criminal tresspass, littering, improper telephone communications, public intimidation, cyberstalking and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

When we asked Lafayette Police about the January stalking arrest, they told us that a victim called them from her workplace becaue Vidrine allegedly was causing a disturbance there. When officers got there, he already had left. The victim told officers that he had shown up at her workplace on New Year's Eve, and had been doing so for several weeks. He also showed up at her second job - which she had never told him about - and was talking erratically and asking her when her shift ended. He also was spotted driving near her home - but she hadn't told him where she lived, police said.

When we reached out to them this week about the June arrest, they told us the additional charges are related to different incidents with more alleged victims.

The two counts of aggravated assault stem from an incident in which police say Vidrine threatened harm to two victims with a weapon while holding a weapon.

On the criminal trespass and terrorizing charge, Vidrine had previously been banned from a business but had gone back and was causing a disturbance. While still there he threatened to kill the business owner, police allege.

For the incident involving improper telephone communication, public intimidation, and cyberstalking, Vidrine is accused of calling a local business and making threats to harm staff.

Federal court records indicate Vidrine had been a firefighter in St. Landry Parish for many years. He sued a St. Landry Parish fire department in 2012, accusing them of religious discrimination. He alleged that had worked there for years before he was demoted by department officials after he "shouted Bible verses in an intimidating manner" at a co-worker. The case went to trial in 2015; a jury decided that the department had not discriminated against him, and the case was dismissed.