BOSSIER PARISH, La. (WOOD) — A woman who was 13 when she found Carol Ann Cole’s body in some Louisiana woods more than 34 years ago told Target 8 she is certain her father had picked up the Kalamazoo teen hitchhiking about a month earlier.
Frances Aucoin is now 48 and lives in southern Louisiana. She said she believes her father John Chesson, already identified as a person of interest by investigators, killed the 17-year-old found dead in 1981.
Police say Cole was stabbed at least nine times. She had been dead for four to six weeks before her body was found. Until recently, she was known only as Bossier Doe.
Chesson is already serving life in prison for killing an elderly woman in 1997 — nearly 20 years after Cole’s death. That woman was also stabbed repeatedly.
“It needs to be known that he’s done this, and he needs to be accountable for what he has done,” Aucoin said of the Cole case. “You just can’t keep doing this to people.”
Bossier Parish detectives said Thursday that they interviewed Aucoin after Cole was identified as the victim last month, but that she didn’t reveal these details at the time. After Target 8 contacted detectives, they reached Aucoin and she told them the same story.
They said the details she revealed could be enough to send the case to a grand jury for a murder charge against Chesson. They were planning to meet with the district attorney.
‘I believe he led us there’
Detectives said Cole disappeared in late 1980 after running away from a home for troubled girls in Austin, Texas. Her last known whereabouts was in Shreveport, La. after running away.
In January 1981, the then-13 Aucoin and her older brother, John Chesson Jr., discovered the victim’s body in the woods not far from where they lived with their father John Chesson and their mom in the Princeton area of Bossier Parish.
Their dad had taken them out hunting, she said — something she had never done before — and told them exactly where to walk.
“He stopped and said, ‘OK, well, you all get out. I want you all to walk this way, and I’m going to stay on the road and go this way,'” she said.
“We weren’t too far into the woods when we stumbled upon her,” she continued.
They found a fully-clothed skeleton partially covered in leaves.
“We panicked, not knowing what it was, screaming,” Aucoin said. “I’m still confused as to where’s my dad. Looking back, he’s still standing on the road, looking at us.”
She said she is convinced her dad sent them to find the body.
“I believe he led us there to find her, to clear his conscience,” Aucoin said.
It’s a story she kept to herself until now.
When police came to talk to her dad after the then-unidentified body was found, she said, she was told to stay in her bedroom. She says she was afraid of him, that he had stabbed her in the back and once held a knife to her throat.
“I was told not to speak of it, that I was even there, stay in my room, something bad could happen to me too, so I never said anything. I never talked to anybody. I just kept my mouth closed and I kept it quiet,” Aucoin told Target 8.
‘I remember her being sweet’
Here’s another part of the story she didn’t tell: When she saw the photograph of Carol Ann Cole after police identified her last month, she had a “flashback.”
Cole was the hitchhiker her dad had picked up about a month before the discovery, Aucoin said.
“I just remember picking her up,” she said. “I think I was like the age of 13. She was on the side of the road. We stopped and picked her up. I remember getting in the middle of the truck, her getting in.”
“She had a bag. I remember her having a bag, like a satchel, like a purse, a hobo bag like,” Aucoin continued.
She said her mom was out of state at the time. She has since died. Her brother committed suicide in 2008.
The girl, whose name Aucoin couldn’t remember and who didn’t talk much, stayed for a short time in their mobile home, she said.
“I do remember her staying in my bed, with me, for a couple of nights,” She said. “She was very sweet. I remember her being sweet.”
Then, one day, as she recalled, when she came home from school, the girl was gone. She didn’t think much more of it.
She said the idea that the body could be the young hitchhiker never occurred to her.
“I never put two and two together,” she said. “I never sat there at the time we found her, I didn’t say, could it be?”
She said she didn’t make that connection until she saw Cole’s photograph.
A knife on the kitchen counter
Recently, she said, detectives showed her crime scene pictures — including one of the murder weapon left behind at the scene Cole’s body was found.
“When I saw pictures of the crime scene, there was a knife there that I knew we kept on our counter in the kitchen,” Aucoin said.
She believes it was the same knife her father had put up to her throat once before.
Aucoin said she hopes now to attend a memorial service for Cole. She said she feels she needs to apologize to her family.
“This man took this child’s life and he had no reason to,” she said.
Waiting more than 34 years for answers
Jeanie Phelps turned on the television the moment she walked in the door from work Thursday to hear Target 8’s report on what Aucoin remembered. She wanted to hear the new details of her sister Cole’s case for herself.
For the first time, she saw the person who found her sister’s body and was overcome by emotion.
“She would write letters to me and my family and then, all of a sudden, that contact stopped,” recalled Phelps of her sister.
In the more than 34 years Cole was missing, Phelps never stopped looking for her sister. Just days before detectives in Louisiana released the composite sketch of “Bossier Doe” that ultimately led to her being identified as Cole, Phelps talked to authorities in Arizona about filing a missing persons report.
She struggled for more than three decades not knowing where her sister was or what had happened to her, but within the past few weeks, she has learned her sister was murdered, who is the person of interest and now what may have lead up to it.
“He’s (Chesson) always been a person of interest, so they’re not just now getting this information. I don’t know why the girl would have kept it, or maybe she did suppress details,” Phelps said of Aucoin.