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Investigation leads to ‘cold case’ arrest

Local man faces murder charge in 2004 missing person case
Nancy Bergeron
Friday, August 23, 2019
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Lari Talbert remembers her younger sister Cheryl Williams as caring, happy-go-lucky and full of life.

“She loved people,” Talbert said Thursday. “She was the life of the party. She kept people laughing.”

Williams, then 37, disappeared on July 20, 2004. After 15 years of working the case, Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday arrested the man they now believe killed her.

Lonnie Frazier, Jr., 70, of Ruston, remains in the Lincoln Parish Detention Center charged with second-degree murder. Frazier is being held on $1 million bond.

“(Wednesday) was a great day as far as we’re concerned,” Sheriff Mike Stone said. “You don’t often have a cold case this old that goes this good.”

Though Talbert called the arrest “a really big deal,” she said she wasn’t shocked “because it was the person we suspected all along.”

It was Talbert who reported Williams missing. Williams was last seen at her uncle’s trailer located in the Fellowship Community near Simsboro. At the time, a witness said she was running east from the trailer into a large, wooded area.

Williams had been known to drop out of sight for days at a time, but never as long as happened that July, family members said.

Talbert said Williams knew Frazier because Williams was friends with Frazier’s niece .

Frazier, who was 55 when Williams went missing, had been a person of interest since the original investigation, Stone said.

“We watched him real close,” Stone said. “He knew he was under our spotlight. I think he’s been sweating it for about 14 years.”

But until Wednesday, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to warrant arresting Frazier, Stone said.

Apparently it was Frazier himself who gave investigators the piece of evidence they lacked.

“It opened up some avenues that weren’t there before,” Stone said.

Frazier’s arrest was the result of a joint investigation between the LPSO and Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigation that began about six months ago.

“They did tremendous work,” Stone said, crediting especially LPSO Detective J. D. Driskill and LSP Investigator Stephen Taylor.

Stone said investigators reread case files and redid interviews. He praised the partnership between the two agencies and called the joint investigation “a beautiful job.”

Williams’ body has never been found. During the originally investigation, deputies drained a well on Frazier’s property on Mondy Road, but uncovered nothing.

After Frazier’s house burned, investigators brought in cadaver dogs, but still nothing. Talbert said her family wants to know how Williams died and why.

“We just want to know what happened,” Talbert said.

Stone said the investigation has “definitely not stopped.”

Stone, who will retire in June 2020, had been sheriff only a month when Williams disappeared.

“It’s always bothered me. I really wanted to dig in this one more time,” he said.

Though investigators are not looking for other suspects, Talbert said Williams’ family thinks other people may have been involved.

And while the family still has questions, Talbert said it’s “a relief to know (the case) has not been forgotten. For me it’s the beginning to the end. We still don’t have closure. We have hope. … We continue to pray, keep our eyes and ears open, because people are talking, hope for closure with at least the scenario of what happened.”