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Louisiana Lovers: One dead and the other has been missing since November 25, 1956

Forty-six-year-old Thomas Hotard was a Louisiana native who was romantically seeing Audrey Moate, a thirty-one-year-old divorced mother of three from Baton Rouge.

Their romantic pairings were said to have taken place in the small town of LaPlace, Louisiana.

They regularly met each other, even though he was married and 15 years older, but on the morning of November 25, 1956, he was discovered dead from a gunshot wound fired at close range through the rear window of his car.

No sign of Audrey was found, but evidence at the scene suggested that she had fled the scene as another person in boots came after her.

Thomas worked for a local chemical company, which is where he met Audrey in 1952. They were involved in scouting and often planned scouting trips together. Their romance was a deeply hidden secret.

Audrey told her family that she had to work on Saturdays, but in reality, she spent her time with Thomas; he also told his wife the same lie. He was also involved in her social life, but he was introduced as a friend of hers.

A few weeks before she vanished, she told her mother that if anything ever happens to her, she should take the kids (meaning her children) and leave the area. She never told her mother why she should do this, however.

On Saturday, November 24, 1954, they met in LaPlace, at around 7:30am, and then drove to their secluded lovers' lane next to Lake Pontchartrain.

At 9am, a father and son spotted them there. The next morning, the same father and son discovered Thomas's body.

Investigators determined that Thomas had been shot once in the head with a sixteen gauge shotgun, fired at point blank range through a side window. At first, it was believed that Audrey had killed him in a lovers' quarrel.

However, further examination at the scene showed that they had apparently been surprised while together. Audrey's clothes were crumpled on the floor, the keys were in the ignition, and some of her personal items were on the ground next to the car. It appeared that she had tried to flee the scene. Fifty feet away, her bare footprints were found, along with those of boots. Another set of car keys were also found.

The footprints ended at a single motorcycle track on a road to the main highway. Her purse was never found.

Later that night, Audrey's car was found abandoned at the restaurant where she had met Thomas the previous day. The keys at the crime scene belonged to her car. However, no other trace of her was found.

Then, on December 6th, two weeks after her disappearance, her former mother-in-law received a strange phone call. The caller claimed to be her; she said she was in trouble and needed help. Around the same time, a waitress told police that she had seen a disheveled woman matching Audrey's description at the restaurant.

This was the last reported sighting of her.

No new leads surfaced in the case until 1980, when a dying man named Ernest Acosta indicated to his family that his common-law wife, Caroline Schlesser (who died in 1979), killed both Thomas and Audrey, and that he helped dispose of her body.

Family members suspect that he may have been involved in the murder, not Caroline.

This case remains unsolved.

If you have any information on this decades-old murder and disappearance you are urged to contact the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office at 985-652-9513.

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