Antoinette Frank use to be a police officer in New Orleans and now she sits on Louisiana death row for multiple murders. According to court documents Antoinette Frank abused her power when she took part in an armed robbery that left three people dead including a fellow police officer. Antoinette Frank would be arrested and charged with the triple murder. The jury took less than an hour to convict her and less than half an hour to sentence her to death.
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After midnight on March 4, 1995, Frank and Lacaze visited Kim Anh, a Vietnamese restaurant run by the Vu family in New Orleans East. Frank had sometimes worked there off-duty as a security guard. As the employees cleaned the closed restaurant, Chau Vu went into the kitchen to count money and entered the dining room of the restaurant to pay Ronald A. Williams II, a New Orleans Police Department officer and a colleague of Frank, who had been working as the security guard that night. When Chau went to pay Williams, Chau noticed Frank approaching the restaurant.
Frank and Lacaze had been at the restaurant twice earlier in the night to get leftover food to eat. When Chau had let her out on the last visit, she could not find the front door key, and with Frank returning again for a third time, she sensed something was very wrong. Chau ran to the kitchen to hide the money in the microwave. Frank entered the front door using the key that she had stolen from the restaurant earlier, and walked quickly past Williams, pushing Chau, Chau’s brother Quoc, and a restaurant employee into the doorway of the restaurant’s kitchen. Williams started to follow in hopes of finding out what was going on when shots rang out. Lacaze had slipped behind Williams and shot him in the head, severing his spinal cord and instantly paralyzing him. As Williams fell, Lacaze shot him in the head again, mortally wounding him. As Frank turned back to the dining room of the restaurant, Chau grabbed Quoc to hide somewhere.
Chau, Quoc, and the employee hid in the rear of a large walk-in cooler in the kitchen, turning out its light as they entered. They did not know the whereabouts of their other sister and brother, Ha and Cuong Vu, who had been sweeping the dining room floors when Frank entered the restaurant. From inside the cooler, Chau and Quoc could partially see the kitchen and the front of the restaurant. Chau initially could see Frank looking for something in the kitchen. As Frank moved out of Chau’s line of vision, additional gunshots were fired but then observed Frank searching where the Vus usually kept their money. Frank and Lacaze had been shouting at Ha and Cuong demanding the restaurant’s money, but they did not know where Chau had hidden it. Frank pistol-whipped 17-year-old Cuong when he hesitated in revealing the location of the money. Frank got the money out of a microwave, then shot 21-year-old Ha three times as she knelt pleading for her life. Then, she shot Cuong six times. After Frank and Lacaze left the premises, Quoc emerged from the cooler and ran out the back door of the restaurant to a nearby friend’s home to call 911 to report the murders while Chau tried frantically to call 911 on her cell phone, but the cooler prevented her from getting a usable signal.
The robbers fled the restaurant, and Frank dropped off Lacaze at a nearby apartment complex, both knowing that there were witnesses left behind. Frank heard the 911 call on her portable police radio saying that an officer was down at the Kim Anh restaurant. She borrowed a patrol car and returned to the scene. Posing as a responding officer, she intended to kill Chau and Quoc in order to ensure there would be no witnesses. Parking in the rear, Frank entered through the back door of the restaurant and made her way through the kitchen to the dining room, where Chau waited for help at the front door. As Chau bolted through the restaurant’s front door to the safety of arriving officers, Frank immediately identified herself as a police officer. Chau told Frank that she knew what she had done and cried to the officers that Frank had committed the crimes.
Eddie Rantz, the homicide detective who worked the case, believed Frank and Lacaze planned the robbery to get revenge on Williams. Frank believed Williams was shortchanging her on hours and pay at the Kim Anh, and wanted revenge. Rantz subsequently described Frank as the most cold-hearted person he’d ever encountered in three decades as an officer.
Chau and Frank were questioned in detail while seated at different tables in the restaurant. Frank was arrested and charged with three counts of first degree murder. Lacaze was arrested and charged later that night. Frank was taken to police headquarters for additional questioning, where she later confessed to the crimes along with Lacaze. She was believed to be the first New Orleans police officer to have been charged with killing a fellow officer
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Rogers LaCaze, who was convicted with former New Orleans cop Antoinette Frank in the notorious 1995 murder of three people at the Kim Anh Restaurant in New Orleans East, was resentenced to life imprisonment on Friday.
LaCaze was 18 when investigators said he and Frank took part in the robbery and triple homicide, a case that came to epitomize the New Orleans Police Department’s dysfunctionality in that era. LaCaze was initially handed a death sentence, but a judge overturned it on appeal in 2015.
Ad hoc Criminal District Court Judge Michael Kirby said the evidence of LaCaze’s guilt was “overwhelming,” but he found that the trial was tainted by the presence of a juror who hid the fact that he was a commissioned law enforcement officer from the court.
Kirby said LaCaze should get a new trial. Higher state courts overturned that ruling and reinstated the conviction but not the death sentence Kirby had also reversed.
LaCaze was never formally resentenced to life, however. He remained on death row while his attorneys tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction.
They claimed that LaCaze’s confession to being at the restaurant was coerced and that the judge overseeing the trial should have recused himself. Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo’s name was on an order releasing a handgun to Frank before the shooting, although he denied signing the document.
In October 2018, the high court rejected LaCaze’s claim that Marullo should have stood aside from the case. It sent what was left of LaCaze’s appeal back to state courts.
Ahead of the hearing on Friday, LaCaze’s lawyers argued that his trial attorney, Willie Turk, was so ineffective that LaCaze was denied his constitutional rights.
Turk failed to hire an investigator, never reviewed physical evidence, didn’t probe alternative suspects and failed to seek a continuance that would have given him more time to prepare, they said.
But Kirby rejected LaCaze’s remaining grounds for appeal, and handed him the life sentence that has been hanging over him for years.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office did not seek to reinstate LaCaze’s death penalty. The office has pledged to keep LaCaze in prison, citing among other factors the testimony of a woman who came forward in 2013 to say LaCaze had confessed to her.
LaCaze’s only hope for freedom now is going back through the same lengthy appellate process that ended in defeat for him last time with the U.S. Supreme Court decision. One of his attorneys promised to continue the case.
“While we are thankful that Mr. LaCaze is now safe from an unjust execution, he was wrongfully convicted and we will continue to fight for a new trial. The resentencing today is another step in a long effort to secure justice for Mr. LaCaze,” said Blythe Taplin, who is representing LaCaze along with Cecilia Trenticosta Kappel.
Killed in the massacre at the restaurant on March 4, 1995, were Frank’s partner, Officer Ronnie Williams II, and siblings Cuong Vu and Ha Vu.
Frank remains on death row.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Antoinette Frank is currently incarcerated at the Louisiana State Prison at Angola
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Antoinette Frank is a former police officer who would murder three people during a string of armed robberies including a fellow police officer
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