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Beyond Forgetting

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It keeps cropping up, week after week, now year after year. Sometimes it's awkwardly put next to an ad for family dentistry or an Epicurean Tour of France.

There is a rigid accounting of the calendar, a march-of-time continuity that gives the whole thing an increasing power. "Two years and twenty-two weeks ago," begins the ad, and the precision of it all calls your head to the matter. And then the rest of the sentence calls your soul: "David Sexton was murdered."

There's a picture of Dr. David Sexton, his face lifted to the photographer like a toast, a mimosa to amiability. You might easily think: how fine a man.

Moving in the harsh axis of things, David Sexton was murdered by stabbing, steel roused from the sullen stillness to foray into flesh once, then again. Seventeen times again. Seventeen.

You've seen the ad in these pages. Naturally it reminds us that a human who could stab another human 17 times is still out there, and it asks our help in finding answers to who and why.

But it raises more questions than it can begin to answer. What did David Sexton take with him? What did he leave behind? Did he like jokes? Was he a good listener? What sort of a man leaves behind friends who mourn him unstoppingly for two and a half years?

"At first we used the ad to gather information," says Dr. Randall Scott. "Now it's like we just hate to discontinue it. It's mainly psychological help at this point. It continues to tell people that crimes like this happen. The sort of thing you don't want to forget."

Scott can't forget the day of Nov. 20, 1999, when he got a phone call asking if he had a key to David Sexton's newly renovated house on Hagan Avenue, near the Bayou St. John. Then another call and another doctor came by to drive Scott to the home of the man who'd hired him to the special-education faculty at the University of New Orleans.

"When we got there, the police had already cordoned everything," Scott remembers. "But standing in the street, you could see David's legs in the front doorway."

David Sexton began his last night on earth at a dinner party with friends, but he didn't go home after. He drove alone to a gay bar. In 1997, his companion of 20 years had died of lung cancer and friends said he'd had a rough time getting over it. A witness at the bar claimed he had left with one or two hustlers.

Sometime in the early morning, something had gone awfully wrong in the bedroom. Then in the hallway, the bathroom, the living room and the fight for life ending at the front door.

"Something happened in that bathroom," says Tommy Boudreaux. "The investigators use amino block to turn up footprints. That bathroom lit up pretty bright." Boudreaux is the owner of Clean Scene Services, a company that specializes in cleaning up homicide scenes. It took him eight weeks to clean up the Sexton home -- painting walls, replacing carpet. Blood was everywhere.

"I've been in this business five years," Boudreaux says. "This was a very traumatic death."

"More than likely the knife came from David's kitchen," says Edmund Prevost, a private investigator from Mandeville who did some pro bono work on the case for Sexton's mother, Mary Nell. "They say the blade is phallic and, of course, there's the element of penetration. These hustler types usually have issues: am I gay or am I straight? Maybe all it takes is one wrong word or one act requested."

Like Dr. Scott, Laurie DuBos had known David Sexton for almost 20 years.

"People ask why we don't give up on this after two and a half years," DuBos says. "Well, David was such a wonderful person, none of us wants to give up. He never judged people and gave unconditional love to his friends. His family taught him the value of an individual."

Dr. Scott remembers his friend as generous and funny.

"He was outrageously witty. He was the one who could break up the tension of a solemn moment with a quip. He liked to assign nicknames to people. He called Laurie (DuBos) 'Nurse Diesel' after the nurse in Mel Brooks' High Anxiety."

Then there was his work. He worked with and worried about children with disabilities -- and their besieged families.

"David was loyal to his own family," says Scott. "His mother had worked hard to get him to school, worked as a maid. David never forgot his roots."

Beyond forgetting. After David Sexton was killed, New Orleans police worked hard on several leads. But after a time, the leads turned cold. The main detective on the case changed jobs. So many killers, so little time.

"The case is being very actively worked," says Danny DeNoux. "Both by me and the NOPD. I wouldn't work on a criminal case without at least the tacit approval of the police."

DeNoux is a former policeman himself, and now he's a private investigator who has taken up the cause of finding who it was that stabbed David Sexton 17 times. And other things. ...

"You know often the family has questions, questions that may not be germane to the criminal investigation but things they want answered for their own satisfaction. But this is a very tough case, and there may be things that never get answered. And whatever happens, it's never fast enough."

"It's so totally unbelievable that this would have happened at the peak of everything in his life," says Dr. Randall Scott.

"I say my prayers every night and I pray that this case just doesn't fall through the cracks," says Tommy Boudreaux.

"This was a gentle man, a man from whom you could get what you want just by asking. Unfortunately, his killer seems to be a transient. But I'm real pleased that the case has moved beyond ego," says Danny DeNoux. "It's personal now, with me and the police force. We've had a productive member of our city stolen from us."

"It's not even justice; we just want to make sure this doesn't happen again," says Laurie DuBos. "We all have our David stories and in some way we've all gotten closer to each other with all this. But to think of him dying that way ...

"We're just not going to give up. That's the bottom line."

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