Three men booked in Tammany slaying



Businessman killed in home burglary

09/09/02
By Paul Rioux
St. Tammany bureau/The Times-Picayune

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/newsstory/tamslay09.html

Louis Ferrari wasn't afraid to hire someone with a rap sheet, not even the handyman who was charged with breaking into Ferrari's own car two years ago, and who, police say, organized a burglary in which Ferrari was killed Thursday night.

"He always tried to find the good in people and to give them a second chance," Maj. Fred Oswald of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office said Sunday at a news conference announcing the arrest of Jerry Moore and two alleged accomplices in Ferrari's murder. "Unfortunately, that generosity ultimately led to his demise,"

Ferrari, 61, was shot to death in his Slidell-area home in a burglary masterminded by Moore, 43, of Gretna, Oswald said. Moore had a lengthy criminal record, including the arrest for breaking into Ferrari's car nearly two years ago.

The handyman for Ferrari's Corporate Cleaners chain was booked with first-degree murder Saturday along with Jesse J. Montejo, 23, and Montejo's half-brother, Eric M. Gai, 17, both of Slidell.

Moore knew Ferrari kept a large amount of cash at his home and usually left the doors unlocked, police said. He arranged for Montejo and Gai to burglarize the home, detectives said. The men decided to strike Thursday because Ferrari almost always dined out Thursday nights with his family, police said.

When Gai dropped Montejo off at Ferrari's home in the upscale French Branch Estates subdivision Thursday about 5 p.m., he attracted the attention of witnesses by slowly driving around the block in a blue van, authorities said. Montejo entered the unlocked house and was there when Ferrari stopped by to drop off groceries before meeting his family at a Slidell restaurant, detectives said.

Montejo shot Ferrari in the torso and the head with a handgun he had found in the house, detectives said. Montejo grabbed a bag of money and drove away in Ferrari's 2000 Lincoln Town Car, following Gai to a dead-end street in south Slidell, police said. The Town Car was found abandoned there the next morning.

Ferrari's wife, Patricia, went to look for him when he failed to show up at the restaurant and found his body about 6:30 p.m. Montejo was arrested the next day after detectives determined he owned a blue van similar to the one described by witnesses. Detectives picked up Moore for questioning the same day after Slidell police told them he had once been arrested for breaking into Ferrari's car. Both Moore and Montejo allegedly confessed to the burglary plot and implicated Gai, who was arrested Friday evening.

Detectives waited to publicize the arrests until Sunday so they could execute search warrants at the men's homes, Sheriff's Office spokesman James Hartman said.

Montejo told detectives he threw the gun into Lake Pontchartrain early Friday, Hartman said. Divers were scheduled to begin searching for the weapon today, he said.

All three suspects could face the death penalty if convicted. They are being held without bond in the parish jail in Covington.

Ferrari founded Corporate Cleaners with his wife more than 20 years ago and built it into a chain of about a dozen dry-cleaning shops primarily in St. Tammany Parish.

He hired Moore 10 years ago, authorities said, and kept him on even after Moore and another man, Steven Richard, were booked with breaking into his car outside a Corporate Cleaners shop in Slidell in December 2000 and stealing his wife's purse , Slidell police Lt. Rob Callahan said.

Police said Ferrari grew to trust the handyman over the years and had difficulty believing Moore would betray him.

Although Moore admitted his involvement to police, Ferrari decided to give him a second chance and did not fire him, Strain said.

Authorities said Moore has a long list of arrests in Florida, but details were unavailable Sunday. The outcome of the vehicle burglary charge also was unclear.

Detectives said the men developed their burglary plan after Moore sent Montejo, a subcontractor for Moore, to pick up $20 from Ferrari at his house. Montejo saw that Ferrari kept a large amount of cash in the house and later told Moore.

It's unclear how much money was stolen in the burglary, but Montejo told detectives he spent about $800 of his share on rent and bills, Oswald said.

"He said the worst thing is that he didn't get a lot of money," Oswald said. "That tells you a lot about his state of mind and character."

Montejo, who has a 24-page rap sheet of arrests for burglary and theft, was released from a Florida prison about two months ago after serving several years for a burglary conviction, Oswald said.

"Mr. Ferrari was the last person to believe Moore was involved in the vehicle burglary, and to the day he died he probably didn't believe it," Strain said. "That's a credit to Mr. Ferrari and his generosity. But it also allowed a person with no moral fabric to take advantage of him a second time."

. . . . . . .

Paul Rioux can be reached at
prioux@timespicayune.com or (985) 645-2852.



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