NEW ORLEANS – Today, District Attorney Jason Williams announced the first grand jury indictment and arrest secured in part by the DA’s Office’s new Cold Case Unit.
Over Mother’s Day weekend in 2016, Tulane graduate Thomas Rolfes was in New Orleans with his fiancé to plan their wedding when he was robbed and murdered near Claiborne and Amelia Streets. Since that time, the family, law enforcement, and prosecutors have tried to solve the heinous crime.
“I vowed to the people of New Orleans that we would make neighborhoods safer by prioritizing the prosecution of violent crimes and solving cold cases where assailants remained on our streets,” said District Attorney Jason Williams. “We created the DA’s Office Cold Case Unit because too many mothers and fathers have gone too many years with their questions unanswered and justice denied for their sons and daughters. Thomas’ murder was one of the cases that inspired me to formalize this new unit, and my very emotional phone conversation with his parents and fiancé was a striking reminder of why the work of the unit is so important.”
Based on vigorous follow-up on new evidence that was developed in recent months, Ernest Weatherspoon was indicted by a special grand jury empaneled by the District Attorney’s Office. Under the stewardship of Assistant District Attorney Alex Calenda, NOPD Sgt. Andrew Waldron, NOPD Detective Barrett Morton, and DA’s Office Victim/Witness Advocates, this cold case is now headed to Criminal District Court.
The DA’s Office partnered with the NOPD in this investigation and thanks the department for helping to make a swift arrest following yesterday’s indictment.
DA Williams added: “I hope that today’s announcement is just one of many to come. I know that there are hundreds of other families still waiting for answers about the deaths of their loved ones. Please know that the DA’s Office Cold Case Unit is dedicated to finding those answers.”
A case is considered cold after two years of going unsolved. Every day that goes by in which evidence of a murder or other violent crime is not secured, the chances of the case ever getting to the DA’s Office, going to court, or resulting in a conviction is reduced dramatically – which means violent individuals remain in our neighborhoods to potentially re-offend. Since 1964, there have been approximately 5,400 unsolved murders in New Orleans. Adding to that the number of family and friends impacted by these unsolved murders, it is easy to understand the trauma and cycle of violence that has become all too common in our community.
The District Attorney’s Office will never forget those who have been killed due to senseless violence, will never forget their loved ones, and will remain vigilant in pursuing justice for them. We will continue to listen to and engage with victims and survivors while following all evidence and intelligence in order to pursue investigations that will secure justice and increase safety in our neighborhoods.
Watch DA Williams’ announcement of the indictment and arrest here: