Murder on the Rue Dauphine
A Shock to the City
In his 1952 book, Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, (Harper & Brothers, NY) Robert Tallant recorded the observations of a visitor to New Orleans from New England who wrote to his wife in 1849, "The corpse of a murdered man can lie in a New Orleans street for three days without the citizens paying it the slightest notice. Only the odor of decomposition stirs them into action."
When detectives discovered the identity of the dead man on the fifth floor of the Chateau Le Moyne Hotel, they knew the citizens of New Orleans were going to take notice.
Despite its reputation for debauchery, or perhaps because of it, New Orleans is a city steeped in its Catholic faith.
"New Orleans is a city of saints and sinners," says former New Orleans Assistant District Attorney Glen Woods. "During its history, fires have destroyed the French Quarter at least twice, and both times only two places were saved from God's wrathUrsuline Convent and Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. One place for saints and one for sinners."
Father Ramon Martinez's secret life may have revealed him to be more sinner than saint, but he clearly didn't deserve what had happened to him, and the detectives assigned to investigate his murder were determined to find his killer and to limit the damage to his reputation and to the Catholic Church.
The day after the killing, news of a murdered priest hit the city hard. New Orleanians are a hardy lot. They're used to violence and bloodshed. After all, the city has on several occasions been the nation's murder capital, scoring more killings per capita than murder metropolises like Detroit, Chicago, and New York City. But a priest killed in a hotel room, that was a bit much even for New Orleans.