Clarence Chappell Jr. of Folsom lost two parents to homicides, 10 years apart. Questions are still unanswered in both tragedies.

Firefighters found his elderly mother and her brother dead, Tuesday, April 3, 2007, after a fire ravaged their home near Covington at four in the morning. According to the coroner, someone beat both people to death, and the police considered only one suspect, the woman’s husband who also died in the fire.

Investigators with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office theorized that Everette Simpson, 78, killed his wife, Estelle Simpson, 69, along with her brother, Allen Martin, 75, in the morning by repeatedly hitting them in the head with a blunt object as they slept in their beds, sheriff’s deputies told reporters one day after the fire.

Sheriff Jack Strain told reporters his detectives found no motive, no medical problems or financial hardships that could have sparked the killings, but felt certain that Everette Simpson, before dying of smoke inhalation, doused the home with gasoline and set it on fire to conceal the murders of his wife and her brother.

Simpson, deputies told reporters, took two fuel cans from a shed and poured gasoline throughout the house in the Lonesome Pines neighborhood off Louisiana 36 east of Covington. As he ignited the gasoline, they suggested, the fire and smoke overtook him. Firefighters found his body in a bathroom after extinguishing the blaze, following a 911 call from a neighbor.

Clarence Chappell Jr., Estelle Simpson’s only child from her first marriage, told reporters he wondered why his stepfather killed them.

“But only God knows, and he hasn’t given me a sign,” the son said.

Chappell said his mother married Simpson 10 years earlier after his father died.

“Stepfather was a private person,” he said. “He didn’t speak much, and no one knew very much about him.”

Clarence said his mother lived in New Orleans until three years ago when she built the raised cottage at 72172 East Sixth Street. “This was Momma’s dream home,” Clarence told a television news crew outside his mother’s destroyed home one day after the fire. “She worked her whole life for this house.”

Clarence said he knew of no marital problems between his mother and stepfather.

“I was real close with my momma,” he said, “But there were things she didn’t like to talk about.”

One of those things was the death of her first husband a decade earlier.

During the early morning hours of December 11, 1995, police in Folsom found the elder Clarence Chappell, 62, murdered in his wheelchair at 87178 McDougal Road, the local name for Louisiana 450, near the Washington Parish line. The coroner reported the man bled to death after someone shot him in the throat with a 38-caliber handgun.

Before finding Chappell’s body, police picked up a 30-year-old prostitute named Cassandra Morrow, walking naked in Chappell’s neighborhood with her clothes in her arms and two rocks of cocaine in her handbag.

Cassandra told police she shot Chappell after he tried to force her to perform oral sex. Today, she serves life in prison for his murder.

As a side note, in the 1991 unsolved kidnapping, rape, and murder of 56-year-old Folsom Jr. Food Store clerk, Jerry Monus, police named publicly only one person of interest, Clarence Chappell, Sr.

Although Clarence Chappell, Jr. remembered little about his father, he described his mother as “a sweet, church-going woman who would do anything to help anybody.” He said his mother invited her brother to move into her house last year after his wife died.

The brother, Allen Martin, celebrated his 75th birthday on March 26 with a dinner of fried fish and French fries, according to his niece, Freda Darby of Abita Springs. He told her he did not want anybody to make a fuss by giving him presents. But when pressed on the subject, he admitted he could use some T-shirts, she said.

“We bought him two packs of T-shirts and wrapped them up all fancy,” Freda said. “He was tickled-pink. It was always the simple things that made him happy.”

Her uncle, a retired construction worker and stroke victim, walked with the aid of a walker. Before their death, he and Clarence’s mother suffered multiple head injuries and, according to Coroner Peter Galvan, died before the fire started.

“They had no evidence of smoke or soot in their lungs,” he said. “I can say with a high-degree of certainty that they were not alive at the time of the fire.”

However, Everette Simpson had smoke in his lungs, Galvan said, showing he was alive when the fire started. It was on this bit of flimsy evidence that law enforcement found the man guilty and closed the case without further investigation.

“Families wonder why these things happen,” Sheriff Strain told reporters in 2007. “Unfortunately, that’s not a question we can always answer for them.”

Standing next to her cousin, Clarence, Freda Darby said, “Oh, my Lord! This is devastating,” clutching a crucifix on her necklace. “Our family never wanted to believe it was foul play, but today, we would at least like to know why.”

“Bayou Justice” is a weekly true crime column featuring notable South Louisiana crime-related stories, most still unsolved. If you have information that may help solve the case, contact Crime Stoppers or your local police agency.

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