BREAUX BRIDGE, La. (KLFY) — Forty years ago, a woman was struck and killed while walking alongside Interstate 10 westbound near Breaux Bridge, but she was never identified — until now.
St. Martin Parish Sheriff Becket Breaux said the victim has finally been identified as Michele Elaine Oakes Boutilier, aka Michele Oakes-Gautreaux, of Cut Off, La. Upon her death on Dec. 5, 1981, she was 26 years old.
Breaux said back in 1981, investigators were unable to locate any sort of identification on her body, and they were also unable to identify or locate any family members. Thanks to St. Bernard Catholic Church and Pellerin’s Funeral Home, Boutilier was eventually laid to rest in March 1982.
Two local residents,Lester Guidry and Sophie Cormier, agreed to act as her mother and father, looking after her grave site until their deaths. Another unidentified person has now taken over to ensure she has not been forgotten.
As reported in 2017, a trucker stated she may possibly be from the Oklahoma City area and was traveling to Texas. He thought he may have encountered her prior to her death at a truck stop at the I-10/Henderson exit in La. (He saw the 10th Anniversary story and provided the information). However, it was never confirmed officially that it was, in fact, Boutilier. The trucker also stated that she had told him that she had been dropped off by a trucker and the trucker kept her purse. He stated that he bought her some lunch and gave her $10.
Breaux said law enforcement agencies in several states were notified of Boutilier’s death to see if she matched any missing persons, but no match was ever established. Eventually, her body was exhumed in 2006 to develop a profile and get a DNA sample. LSU’s FACES laboratory also created a facial approximation to help identify her.
“With the hope of utilizing social media to find a family member or friend, the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office created a Facebook post on December 14, 2017,” said Breaux. “Following that post, several hundred tips, inquiries, and well wishes poured in from across the United States and a few foreign countries.”
On Jan. 22 of this year, Breaux said a Facebook message arrived on his office’s page that led to a potential match. DNA samples finally matched Boutilier with other family members.
“We would like to thank Dr. Teresa Wilson, Dr. Ginesse Listi, and the LSU FACES Lab staff for their assistance, guidance, and direction over the last several years,” said Breaux. “We cannot express enough the appreciation we had for your accessibility and willingness to answer the many questions that we had. Thank you also to the University of North Texas Health Science Center for Human Identification and the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory for your assistance in reference to this case.”