Eddie James Sonnier completed the punishment for the 1977 murders of two Teche Area teenagers. Sonnier died Dec. 19 in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Sonnier, 57, was the younger brother of Elmo Patrick Sonnier, who was executed in 1984 for the murders of Loretta Ann Bourque, 18, of New Iberia, and David LeBlanc, 16, of St. Martinville.
“We are burying him (Sonnier) today at Angola,” Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot said Thursday. “This is not any different than any other funeral that we’ve had.”
Fontenot said Sonnier’s death was unexpected and that an autopsy was performed. The autopsy report should be complete in couple of weeks as results for toxicology tests are pending, said Jim Groody, of the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, who also works with the coroner’s office there.
Gary Young, a spokesman for the penitentiary, said Sonnier “got sick” at his work site, which is where the state prison incinerates garbage and other debris, and was taken to Angola’s medical facility.
On Nov. 5, 1977, the bodies of Bourque and LeBlanc were found off Crochet Road near Olivier. They had been shot three times in the back of the head with .22-caliber rifle. A monthlong investigation led to the arrests of the Sonnier brothers.
At the trial and in subsequent reports, it was stated the Sonniers had come upon the teen couple in a rural area of St. Martin Parish. Using a badge one of the brothers had from a previous job, the Sonniers posed as police officers and told the teens they were trespassing.
After handcuffing the two together, according to one report, they used the car Bourque and LeBlanc were in to drive the victims to Crochet Road, where LeBlanc was handcuffed to a tree while Bourque was raped by the elder brother, who went by Patrick Sonnier. After the rape, the teens were forced to lie face down and were shot.
Patrick Sonnier gained notoriety in the 1990s after Sister Helen Prejean, of the Congregation of St. Joseph, used his story as the basis of her best-selling book “Dead Man Walking” that was published in 1993 and made into a movie that was released in 1995. Prejean became Patrick Sonnier’s spiritual director after his sentencing and was with him when he was executed by electrocution.
The story from the Bourque family’s view was told in a paperback “Dead Family Walking,” written by D.D. DeVinci, in 2007. In a story in The Daily Iberian on the 30th anniversary of the slayings, Bourque’s brother Marty Bourque said his family had been hurt by the teens’ deaths being used for an anti-death penalty book and movie without speaking to the victims’ families.
“This book gives our family a chance to heal,” Marty Bourque said in the story.
Fontenot said about 25 inmates die at Angola each year. Some are given funerals with the religious denomination of their choosing.
Inmates are buried on the prison’s grounds when the family does not claim the deceased’s remains or when an inmate requests to be buried there. Fontenot said she did not know which was the case for Eddie Sonnier.