The Crimes-Picayune

The New Orleans Trunk Murders

February 15, 2021
The New Orleans Trunk Murders
The Crimes-Picayune
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The Crimes-Picayune
The New Orleans Trunk Murders
Feb 15, 2021

With Mardi Gras being on Tuesday (February 16th) I wanted to bring you a story, or three, straight from the French Quarter. 

Show Notes Transcript

With Mardi Gras being on Tuesday (February 16th) I wanted to bring you a story, or three, straight from the French Quarter. 

Hey y’all! I’m your host, Peyton, and in honor of Mardi Gras being on Tuesday this week (the week of February 14th) I wanted to bring you a story, or three, straight from the French Quarter. This is The Crimes-Picayune. 

On Thursday, October 27, 1927, Nettie Compass arrived at the Creole-style home at 715 Ursalines Ave. in New Orleans to do a usual cleaning. 

Nettie walked up the stairs to the second floor of the Ursulines address and as she stepped into the Moity family home, her feet were met with blood-stained floors.

The housekeeper’s screams caught the attention of two men that happened to be walking by the townhome. Those two men then alerted a local reporter named George Healy. 

Healy recalled the horrific scene in 1976 stating, “We found red stains on the floor and saw a large trunk in a bedroom, partially open. When I pulled up the trunk lid, a woman’s body, arms, and legs severed from the torso, was exposed.” 

The house was shared by the Moity brothers, Henry and Joseph, and their wives, Theresa and Leonide (who went by “Lonie”)

Henry and Joseph were born and raised in New Iberia, LA

New Iberia is about 150 miles west of New Orleans and is about 20 miles southeast of Lafayette. 

The brothers would both marry and move to New Orleans with their wives and children in the 1920s.

At this time in history, the French Quarter in New Orleans was primarily home to working class individuals. 

According to an article by Dylan Jordan for the Historic New Orleans Collection, the warehouses and refineries caused the property value in the French Quarter to decline, resulting in the influx of working class individuals. 

Also at this time, prohibition was in effect all across the United States but, according to Samuel Hyde for 64 Parishes, “By December 1926, New Orleans had more padlocked speakeasies or saloons illegally selling alcohol than any city in the nation.” 

Even though the Crescent City was riddled with crime in the 1920s, the trunk murders found their way to the headlines of the Times-Picayune. 

That name probably sounds familiar :-) 

In 1837 The Picayune began publishing newspapers in New Orleans and cost one picayune, which is where the name of the paper originated. In 1914, the New Orleans Times and The Picayune became one and from then on was called The Times-Picayune. 

A photo of the front of the Moity home was featured in the Times in October 1927. The caption states, “In the apartment on the second floor of this building at 715 Ursaline St. police found the mutilated bodies of Mrs. Henry Moity and Mrs. Joseph Moity stuffed into trunks. The body of Mrs. Henry Moity was in the front room at the right. The body of Mrs. Joseph Moity was found in a rear room.” 

The women’s bodies were said to have been “expertly butchered.” 

They were decapitated, and their limbs had been amputated. 

Healy and another reporter found fingers in the trunk as well as on the bed. 

The coroner, Dr. George Roeling, believed that the women had been beaten with a lead billy club before they were dismembered. 

The women’s husbands were nowhere to be found. 

After word had gotten out about the horrific murders of the New Iberia women, Joseph Moity turned himself in that evening. 

Joseph told authorities that he and Lonie had separated because he had recently seen her with another man. He had moved in with his sister, leaving Lonie and their children in the Ursaline home with Henry and Theresa.  

So where was Henry? Surely he would be concerned about the gruesome death of his wife and want to help authorities find the person that did this, right? 

Well, authorities got word that Henry was staying at a boarding house just a couple of miles away on Camp St and had plans to leave by ship out of the nearby port. 

So the New Orleans superintendent of police alerted the ships to be on the lookout for a hairy tattooed stowaway passenger. 

Henry was quickly found about 45 miles away in Bayou Lafourche. 

Bayou Lafourche is a bayou that runs through 3 parishes and is over 100 miles long. It was, and still is, used as a mode of transportation to and from the Gulf of Mexico. 

When he was initially arrested, Henry claimed that a Norweigan man had forced him to participate but after several days he took ownership of the murders and provided police with a full confession. 

Over time, there have been different accounts of what happened the day of and leading up to the murders, but the motives reported as to why Henry murdered not only his wife but also his sister-in-law remains pretty much the same. 

Atlas Obscura claims that in a 1957 letter from a prison warden, Henry told him Theresa “is alleged to have flaunted a ten dollar bill in Henry’s face and bragged that she could make more in an hour (as a prostitute) than he could in a week.” 

The article continues, stating Henry had come home later and the two women informed Henry that they’d be moving out. Lonie and Theresa packed up their belongings into trunks and went to bed. 

This is when it is believed that Henry bludgeoned the two women in their beds before chopping them up with a weapon he purchased just that afternoon and placing them in the trunks they had packed just hours before. 

In March of 1928, Henry was tried by two separate judges for the murders of Theresa and Lonie Moity and was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences to be served at Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola. 

In his confession, Henry expressed his anger over his wife’s alleged affair with their downstair’s neighbor, Joseph Caruso, who was also the couple’s landlord. Henry believed that his sister-in-law, Lonie, was to blame for his wife’s actions and alleged affairs because of her previous misconduct in her marriage with his brother. 

In the back of Theresa Moity, a gold wedding ring was found within her flesh that had been slashed with, what they believed to be, a machete, a literal and figurative message that their marriage was over. 

Just six year after arriving at the prison, Henry became a “trusty” and was allowed much more freedom than the other prisoners. The prison would send him on errands around the city and on a regular trip to the post office in the summer of 1944, Henry hired a taxi to take him to Hammond, LA where he would catch the Panama Limited to Chicago, IL

The Panama Limited was a train service that ran daily from Chicago to New Orleans.

Henry would be on the run for two years until 1946 when he was stopped in St. Louis and officers discovered he was wanted out of Louisiana. 

He was returned to Louisiana and pardoned by Governor Jimmie Davis on March 26, 1948. Henry Moity was now a free man. 

Henry moved to California shortly after his release but would be arrested in 1956 for attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon after shooting his then girlfriend, Alberta Orange, in the chest at a Los Angelos hotel. 

He was to spend his 5 year sentence at Folsom Prison in California but his time there would be cut short when, after just a year, Henry suffered a stroke and died in the prison’s hospital. 

Joseph Moity died of unknown causes in 1966 and is buried at the Saint Vincent de Paul Cemetery in New Orleans. 

75 years later, another woman would also be found, murdered,in a trunk, in the French Quarter.

Rodney Hoover and his wife Kathleen Greer were clearing their property of debris caused by the storm and subsequent flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005. 

Kathleen’s daughter, Tracey, had been renting a second-floor apartment owned by her parents at 939 Elysian Fields Ave before she and her boyfriend, John Morgan, evacuated to North Carolina following the storm. 

John told Rodney and Kathleen “Just throw everything out because I don't want anything that’s in there” and the two began to clean out both floors of the apartment that sat in front of the townhome the couple lived in. 

Rodney and Kathleen had rented the second floor to Kathleen’s daughter and used the first floor, the ground floor, as a storage room. 

The floods of Katrina left 80% of the city underwater. 

Elysian Fields Ave, The street where Rodney and Kathleen lived, was left with about 5 feet of water.

Because the streets were filled with so much water, it made it difficult for people to be rescued. It took weeks for the water to subside and once it did, bodies emerged on the streets all over the city. 

By October 21, nearly two months after Katrina and about a month after another hurricane, Hurricane Rita, struck the southeast states, Rodney and Kathleen were still without power but Rodney got to work on cleaning out the storage room. 

About seven months prior to the storm, Rodney allowed John to utilize the storage room for two trunks that he brought with him when he moved in. 

One of the trunks remained unlocked. It was placed in the center of the storage room and held some of John’s clothes and blankets. The other trunk, however, was locked. John had placed this one in the corner of the bathroom and, according to Rodney, both trunks had “an odor to them that smelled like dead rats or a dead cat or something.” 

The smell was exigent. John blamed it on rats from his previous home. 

Rodney removed the two trunks from the storage room and brought them out onto the ground. Using a hammer and screwdriver, he popped the lock off and opened the trunk. 

Not knowing what was inside, Rodney dumped the contents of the trunk and there, on the ground in front of him, was a partially mummified corpse. 

Rodney alerted some soldiers that were there assisting with the hurricane rescue efforts before walking to a business down the street to use the phone to call the police department. 

Rodney and Kathleen had never seen the contents of the trunk and had no idea who the person was inside. 

New Orleans detectives found John living in an apartment with Tracey in Charlotte, NC. In November 2005, detectives drove to the apartment in NC and met with John to discuss the recent findings at his old place of residence in New Orleans. 

They showed him a picture of the trunk that was found but John said he used to own one that was similar but it didn’t belong to him. 

Before Tracey, John was known to date and live with a woman named Dana Pastori. 

The pair worked the night shift together at a deli in New Orleans called Quartermaster. 

According to court documents, “[John] admitted that he and Ms. Pastori did not get along and following an argument on his birthday in July 2001 or 2002, she left him saying that she was tired of him, of New Orleans, and of the Quartermaster. Approximately two weeks later he received a card from Ms. Pastori telling him that she was “fine.” 

Dana Pastori had moved to New Orleans in 1994 following a divorce. 

She felt like she was thriving in the city because everyone is so diverse: racially, culturally, the traditions, the atmosphere - everything made Dana’s free-spirited self feel at home. 

She did tarot card readings at Jackson Square

Jackson Square is the area around the St. Louis Cathedral where people set up tables to sell their artwork or do psychic and tarot readings. 

There she found someone that finally aligned with her beliefs, that someone was John Morgan. 

They began to date and eventually moved in together into a home in the French Quarter. 

But after living in the city for four years, Dana was ready to move on and pursue something she had always wanted to and that was to become a writer. On March 15, 2002 she put in her two weeks at the deli - and remember, this is where she and John worked together - but on the night of her last scheduled shift, Dana didn’t show up and didn’t call to let anyone know she wasn’t going to make it in. 

The next day, John went to the deli and told his coworkers that Dana had been in a really bad car accident and was at the hospital. When they asked him for the room number so they could go visit her, John said that she was in the ICU and couldn’t have any visitors. 

He would provide updates for the employees of the Quartermaster for several weeks until one day he told everyone that Dana’s parents had come into town and were going to bring her to get treatment. Then that turned into her parents had sent her to Prague and that she loved it so much that she had stayed. 

For years, Dana and her half-sister, Kathy, continued to communicate over email until August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city, taking out power lines. 

When the family learned that the power had been restored and they still hadn’t heard from Dana, Dana’s father, Peter - who was prior law enforcement - contacted authorities in New Orleans in hopes of finding the whereabouts of his daughter. 

Peter then contacted John. John said that Dana had taken the FEMA money she had received from the storm and had gone to Europe. 

This was frustrating for the family because they wished that Dana had told them that she was going to Europe, but at the same time they were relieved to know she was okay. 

I do think, though, this should’ve been a red flag for the family because the FEMA checks were only about $2,000. With inflation, that would equal a little less than $3,000 today in 2021. I know it’s possible to explore Europe on a budget, but I’m not sure how far the money would have gotten her. 

Around this time was when the body was discovered in the trunk in the storage room of John’s girlfriend’s parents home. 

His girlfriend’s mother, Kathleen, found a lock box that John had left behind. 

In the box were all different kinds of documents - from a driver’s license, to a birth certificate, a passport, a library card, and credit cards - all belonging to several different people, including Dana Pastori. 

With this information, Detective Hamilton with the New Orleans Police Department, contacted Dana’s family to inform them that they believed their daughter’s remains had been found and in order to confirm they would need a DNA sample to compare to the body they believed to be Dana.  

The samples were sent to a lab in Virginia because the one in New Orleans had been destroyed by the hurricane. 

The lab in Virginia was severely backlogged but in 2007 they were able to confirm that the body in the trunk was that of Dana Pastori and in February of 2008, John Morgan was arrested and later that year he was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison to be served at Angola. 

During an interview in 2008 right after he had been arrested, John claimed that Dana had a really bad temper and they would fight and argue, oftentimes ending with her leaving him. 

Around Mardi Gras of 2002, so shortly before she put in her two-weeks at Quartermaster, John originally claimed that they had gotten into an argument and that she had left him. 

He, again, used the line that he had received a card from her saying she was fine and that he hadn’t seen her since. 

His story would change several times depending on who he was telling it to.

The final version being that his drug dealer was actually the one to have killed her and he was just the one to dispose of her body. 

At the time of her murder, Dana and John had been renting a second-floor apartment in the French Quarter - the address of this apartment was 735 Ursalines Ave. It sits just 150 feet from where the Moity murders happened 75 years before. 

The landlord, Maria Barranco, testified that when she asked John about where Dana was, he said she had gotten a concussion from an accident where a tool chest fell on the back of her neck and she was recovering with her father.  

The landlord remembered John “updating” her on Dana’s condition several times. 

She recalled that in October of 2004, John was moving his things out of the apartment he was renting from her and a few weeks later when she pulled up to the home she smelled something that was so horrific she could smell it from the street in front of her home. 

In court, Maria explained that there was a Tupperware container that had yellow globs in it that looked almost like chicken fat and had an indescribable putrid smell. 

John claimed that the substance in the container was a dead rat, but Maria knew it was not a rat. 

As he was moving his things, John placed one of the trunks on a dolly and headed, on foot, to his new home. The home he now shared with Tracey. 

John never returned back to the house he rented with Dana so it was up to Maria to remove the rest of his belongings. 

That same putrid smell greeted her as she entered the apartment and got stronger as she neared the crawl space in the kitchen. According to court documents, inside the crawl space she found rugs that had a thick, gooey saliva-like substance on it. 

She explained the smell was so bad that she was unable to rent the apartment until after Katrina. It took almost two years for the smell to go away and she says that even now you can still sometimes smell it.

Dana’s cause of death was determined by Dr. James Traylor to be homicidal strangulation. 

Dr. Traylor conducted Justin Bloxom’s autopsy as well. I covered his case in an earlier episode. 

With her in the trunk was a beer can, moth balls, dead maggots, and pupa cases. Also found in the trunk was a curling iron. The cord of the curling iron was wrapped around her neck and is believed to have been used to carry out her murder. 

Dana’s arms and legs had been removed from her torso but her neck and skull were still attached. John told authorities in that 2008 interview that he had to tear her body apart in order for it to fit in the trunk. 

But according to Dr. Traylor’s findings, or lack of findings, the absence of blood and bodily fluids inside the trunk lead him to determine that Dana’s body had decomposed elsewhere and she was placed and stored in the trunk after she had already decomposed.  

As John Morgan moved into a new place and a new relationship, he brought the remains of his previous relationship along with him.  

The stories of Lonie, Theresa, and Dana are still being told today on the infamous haunted history and ghost tours in New Orleans along with the story of another woman that I haven’t told you about yet. 

In the mid-1800s, Hans Muller and his wife opened a sausage factory that quickly gained popularity amongst their French Quarter customers. But Hans soon found his eyes wandering to a younger, more attractive woman - one he wanted to have a life with. 

Hans believed that in order to live that new life, he’d have to rid himself of his old one first. 

One night as his wife was cleaning up the factory from that days’ work, Hans strangled his wife from behind with a cord until she collapsed onto the floor in front of him. 

Legend has it that Hans put his wife’s body through the sausage grinder and mixed her remains in with the other meats that he sold to customers. 

Hans Muller was placed into an insane asylum where he later took his own life. 

His wife, on the other hand, is still said to haunt 725 Ursulines Ave. 

I’m not sure who, or what, is to blame for the murders on Ursulines Ave, but 4 very similar deaths within 150 feet of each other, 150 years apart cannot just be a coincidence. And it’s not something I’m going to question.