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I have a feeling this will not be the last

May 17, 2012

Lawsuit filed over crime-scene thefts
By Eric Heisig
Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
Page 1 of 2
A Houma business owner shot by her husband, who later killed himself, is suing a man convicted of stealing more than $53,000 worth of items from her home when he was cleaning up blood left behind.
Nicole Blanchard, 31, was at University Hospital in New Orleans for several months in early 2011, recovering and undergoing reconstructive surgery after 57-year-old Larry Blanchard shot her in their bedroom on 102 Woodburn Drive, authorities said. After shooting his wife, police said Larry Blanchard killed himself.
Reports of marital discord between the two had surfaced shorty before the shooting, though no complaints were made to law enforcement, police said at the time.
In December, Blanchard, who remains the owner of several Body Elite gyms in Houma, filed a lawsuit against Benjamin Hornbeck, who was working as part of the Texas crime-scene cleanup company Aftermath. A detective’s report from the Terrebonne Sheriff’s Office said Hornbeck, of Cedar Hill, Texas, stole two bass guitars, a CD containing photographs, a watch and several valuable pieces of jewelry, among other items.
As Aftermath was cleaning Blanchard’s house, her family noticed several pieces of jewelry missing from the couple’s bedroom, the report says.
When questioned, Hornbeck, 30, admitted to stealing the bass guitars, saying he intended to keep them because he plays. However, Hornbeck did not admit to detectives that he stole the jewelry, but a jewelry box was later found in Aftermath’s van and in Burger King bags, the report says.
In April, Hornbeck pleaded guilty to one count theft over $500 and was given a three-year suspended sentence, according to court records.
Aftermath has not been named in the lawsuit because the company’s name was unknown when the suit was filed, said Damon Baldone, Blanchard’s attorney. However, the police report names the company as Hornbeck’s employer. An unknown insurance company also is named as a defendant.
The lawsuit was filed because restitution for the stolen items was not part of Hornbeck’s plea agreement. Several pieces of jewelry, including a 5-karat gold ring with six diamonds, worth more than $26,000, were not recovered, the police report says.
The lawsuit says Blanchard is seeking money for breaching a contract, as well as for mental anguish and suffering. She also is seeking damages “due to the loss of articles that had great sentimental value, and that represented a happier life now lost, and has resulted in mental pain and suffering,” the suit says
Baldone said the suit is in its early stages, and that Hornbeck, to his knowledge, has not been served with a copy.
Todd Joffrion, Hornbeck’s attorney for the criminal charges, said he was not aware of the civil case and has not been hired to represent him.
Hornbeck could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, Aftermath said it was unaware of any lawsuit against the company.
“We are incredibly disheartened about the situation,” the statement says. “Aftermath has a zero tolerance policy against any misconduct of this kind. Upon first learning of the incident, Aftermath took immediate disciplinary action regarding the individual involved, who is no longer with the company. We immediately contacted the family to provide any assistance that we could and also fully cooperated with the authorities.”
The company says its workers are “trained in appropriately working with families to restore their home after a traumatic event, and we make every attempt to ease the burden of an already difficult situation.”
Full criminal background checks are performed on all prospective employees, the statement says.
Staff Writer Eric Heisig can be reached at 857-2202 or Follow him on Twitter @TerrebonneCrime.


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One Comment
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