The Murder That Twenty Million People Watched
Gary Plauche was a doting father who shot a man in an airport and then received huge public backing.
Leon Gary Plauche waited in the airport, watching those arriving. He was looking for one person in particular. When he saw him being escorted through the airport; he calmly walked over to him and shot him in the head. The death was caught on YouTube and received over twenty million views. A fund was set up on social media for Plauche to raise money for his bail. The money was raised easily as most people sympathised with him; most thought he should get away with murder.
Leon Gary Plauche
Leon Gary Plauche, known as Gary to his friends, was born on 10th November 1945. He served in the army; when he left, he became an equipment salesman and cameraman. He married and had four sons; the couple settled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At the time of the murder, he was separated from his wife. As a doting father, he was having a hard time not living with his sons.
On 19th February 1984, he received a phone call from his estranged wife, which would forever change his future. His son Jody was missing; he had gone out for an outing with a friend, saying he would be fifteen minutes and never returned. His mother had called the police.
Jody missing sparked one of the biggest manhunts known and covered most of the United States. The friend Jody had left with was his twenty-five-year-old karate teacher, Jeff Doucet.
Doucet was a loaner who was said to have no close friends and family; however, he idolised his students. He considered himself a young father figure or older brother. He would take the students on skating trips and various other outings.
He was good friends with the Plauches, having taught three of their four children. He visited the house frequently for dinners and social occasions. However, the Plauches did not know that Doucet was also a master manipulator and dangerous paedophile who had been grooming the family so that he could abuse Jody. At the time of the abduction, he had been abusing Jody as much as twice a day and it had been going on for a year.
Doucet faced a court case for financial fraud and needed to escape quickly; however, he was not prepared to leave Jody behind. He picked Jody up from his mum's house and told her he was taking him to run errands that wouldn't take long. He then drove Jody two hundred miles, shaved off his hair and dyed it blond; if anyone asked, he told people Jody was his son.
Doucet made one mistake, to allow Jody to ring home to convince his parents he was okay. He rang his mother on the 29th February and revealed his location; the police raided the property and arrested Doucet. Jody was flown home and reunited with his family on 1st March. The authorities started to compile the paperwork to extradite Doucet to Louisiana. During this time, Gary was said to be distraught and not coping with the news his son had been abused.
On 16th March, Doucet flew into the airport under guard. The media coverage of him returning was high. Many television crew members were in the airport at the time, hoping to grab a glimpse of the accused as they escorted him through.
Amongst these was also Gary Plauche, disguised with a baseball cap and sunglasses, he waited by the payphones scanning the arrivals. As the police escorted Doucet, Plauche drew his 38 calibre revolver from his pocket and shot him through the head at point-blank range in full view of the media. Doucet was rushed to hospital in a coma and died the next day. Plauche did not attempt to run and was arrested on the scene.
Trial and Conviction
Plauche was charged with second-degree murder; his bail was posted and paid for by people who supported him. When his case came to trial, he accepted a plea bargain of manslaughter. The judge, however, was determined he should not serve anytime for the crime. Instead, he was sentenced to a seven-year suspended sentence, five years probation and three hundred hours of community service.
Plauche died in 2014 from a stroke but claimed that he had no regrets throughout this time. Jody, after much counselling, worked through his ordeal and became an activist for abuse survivors. He wrote a book about his experiences; in the book, he says he cannot condone his father's actions but understands why he took the law into his own hands. He states that he feels it is more important for a parent to be there to support a child through the trauma than be in a place of prosecution.
When asked why he did it on arrest, Gary Plauche cried, 'If somebody did it to your kid, you'd do it too.'