HOUMA, LA — After 10 years, innumerable sexual assaults, and confessing to 23 confirmed murders, justice came at last for Ronald Dominique on September 23, 2008 — even it was only partial.
As part of a deal Dominique cut with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, the killer stood in a courtroom that day and pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder. District Judge Randy Bethancourt sent the 44-year-old Dominique to the Louisiana State Penitentiary for eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Ronald Dominique would never again be free to stalk, rape, and slaughter human prey out in society — but his dire deeds forever impacted the gay landscape of small town southern Louisiana and his lethal legacy will remain forever chilling.
Born in 1964, Ronald Dominique came of age in Thibodaux, Louisiana, a small bayou town where, by all accounts, he never found a place for himself. Bullied for being short, overweight, and homosexual as a teenager, Dominique reportedly also made few friends after growing up and doing “bad” drag performances at backwoods gay bars.
An acquaintance from that bar scene claimed some other gays in the area mocked Dominique for riding around on a motorized bike he won from McDonald’s, mean-spiritedly referring to him as “Miss Moped.” In addition, Ronald Dominique regularly ran into trouble with the law.
Between 1985 and 2002, Dominique racked up charges for everything from telephone harassment to drunk driving to, most forebodingly, rape.
In 1996, neighbors reported a near-nude young man leaping from the window of Dominique’s home, then screaming for help in the street and saying that Ronald had just tried to kill him.
Cops arrested Dominique, but when the court date arrived, his accuser didn’t show. In retrospect, his absence paints a grim scenario.
The body of David Levron Mitchell, 19, turned up first, in early 1997. Later that year, a passerby came across the remains of Gary Pierre, 20. Shortly thereafter, someone found the corpse of Larry Ranson, 38.
Horribly, the bodies just kept coming. All the victims had been strangled or suffocated and most appeared to have been raped prior to being dumped in a sugar cane field, a marshy bayou, or a random ditch.
Over the next nine years, the total known tally reached 23. In March 2005, law-enforcement officers from nine south Louisiana parishes assembled a task force to hunt down what they correctly concluded was a serial killer at work.
In late 2006, an anonymous tipster directed police to Ronald Dominique. The informant had apparently escaped from Dominique’s clutches just in time.
Officers arrested Dominique on December 1. He confessed to the 23 murders and, as Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter put it, “He stated how, when, and where they were killed.”
Dominique said he targeted men who appeared desperate — drug addicts, prostitutes, and the homeless.
He trawled gay bars for victims and offered money for companionship. If he thought a potential target was straight, he’d show a picture of a woman he said was wife and proposed they have a threesome.
Upon getting a man home, Dominique would break out a rope or other restraints, claiming it was part of sex game. Once he had the victim bound, Dominique proceeded to commit sexual assault and then either choke or smother his helpless victim to death.
Sheriff Larpenter laid out how Dominique described his mindset during the slaying:
“He [was] nothing on the street, a nobody. But here he had power. Once he got those ropes on them, they were his.”
Forensics connected Dominique to eight of the unsolved killings — the ones for which he eventually got eight life terms.
The total number of community members Dominique took from those seven rural parishes proved devastating, though. As one officer put it: “We don’t have that many homicides in a year.”
The final take on Dominique from Sheriff Larpenter says much:
“He said he killed them because he didn’t want to get caught. But I would think he discovered somewhere on the way to killing 23 that it was not just because of that. I think he discovered he liked it.”
Ronald Dominique, now 53, remains incarcerated at the State Pen in Angola. He is slated to die there.
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Main photo: Ronald Dominique [Louisiana Department of Corrections]