Requesting D​.​A. Jason R. Williams to investigate the death of Jessica Easterly Durning.

Requesting D​.​A. Jason R. Williams to investigate the death of Jessica Easterly Durning.

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Audrey Schmitt started this petition to District Attorney Jason R. Williams

We the undersigned ask that the Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason R. Williams (#ThePeoplesDA) to investigate the untimely death of Jessica Easterly Durning.

Timeline of events:

*August 12, 2019: Jessica called Maria 3 times. She was frantic and afraid. She asked Maria to come get her and that she would tell her everything when she got there. Unfortunately, Maria was not able to go get Jessica that day (she lived 2 states away), but they devised a plan for Maria to get Jessica the next day, August 13th, after Maria dropped her kids off at school.  

*August 13, 2019: No calls from Jessica and no response back when Maria called/text Jessica. 

*August 14, 2019: Justin messaged Maria, through Jessica’s Facebook account, stating Jessica was missing. He told Maria Jessica left her phone, keys and ID card at home. Maria quickly called New Orleans Police Department to do a welfare check at Jessica’s home. 

* August 22, 2019: Jessica's sisters Amanda and Audra, along with their cousin Doug, went to New Orleans to talk to detectives. Before meeting with detectives, they decided to look around Jessica's Lakeview neighborhood to scout out places, so they could organize a future search party. While looking around the streets of Kenilworth and Orleans, they found Jessica's body, just 2.5 blocks from her house. They called the police and Jessica’s body was picked up by the coroner.

*September 1, 2019: Alabama police take swab of Mrs. Schmitt’s (Jessica's mother) DNA to send to New Orleans Police. NOPD says they cannot begin an investigation until the body's identification has been confirmed through DNA. Alabama police mail DNA to NOPD. 

*September 2, 2019: Justin finally calls Jessica's parents for the first time since her disappearance.

*October 2019: It is discovered that when NOPD received Mrs. Schmitt’s DNA, NOPD placed it on a desk without sending it to the lab. Reason given: "No one knew where it went." 

This delays confirmation of identity, which delays investigation for Jessica.

*November 8, 2019: Official confirmation received that the DNA from Jessica’s mother matched the body found. It is, in fact, Jessica. 

*December 2019: Justin creates two Go Fund Me accounts asking for help to pay for Jessica's funeral. One is under Jessica's legal name and the other is under a name used for their adult content: Vivianne. Justin says on the GoFundMe accounts: "If you donate, you will receive exclusive pics, videos, lingerie and even shoes." 

*January 24, 2020: Jessica's step father (Rick Schmitt) and sister (Audra) go to New Orleans to meet with detectives. They are told this is now considered a "cold case". 

Later that day, Justin is detained for a 24-hour observation after a woman in a bar (also named Jessica) is approached and given a note by Justin. She said he was acting "crazy" and that he told her his wife's name was Jessica and she committed suicide. He insists she take all of Jessica's clothes. Her coworker recognizes his name from online posts regarding Jessica’s death. 

*January 31, 2020: Coroner’s autopsy report is released. Jessica suffered a fractured nose, broken jaw, broken rib and a broken C4 vertebra (neck).

*March 15, 2020: A couple in the Lakeview neighborhood contacts Audra and tells her that they found Jessica's ID card and blanket. Audra calls detective and tells him what the couple found just 15 yards from where they found Jessica's body 7 months earlier. Detective says he wants to talk to the couple about where they found items.

*April 7, 2020: Audra calls Lakeview couple to follow up. The couple tells Audra that NOBODY has contacted them, nor has there been any police presence where they found ID and blanket.

*April 14, 2020: Audra files formal complaint with the Public Integrity Bureau for "Failing to Properly Investigate the death of Jessica Easterly Durning”.

*August 6, 2020: Finally heard back from the Public Integrity Bureau.( 4 months after filing the formal complaint, even though several phone calls and messages were left) Talked to E. Crayton. Informed that an investigation is being conducted for "not properly investigating” 

*September 1, 2020: The couple in Lakeview, who found Jessica's ID and blanket 7 months after we discovered Jessica's body, texts Audra and says Detective Lunn finally reached out to them about finding ID and blanket. (It took 170 days to reach out).

*September 13, 2020: Jessica’s body has been in the morgue since August 22nd 2019 (388 days) Far too long.

*October 20, 2020: Crime scene investigators were called to Jessica's house. They took samples of a futon that was thrown out for trash pick up. Waiting on results

*November 27, 2020: We are still waiting on forensics to come back from the futon and headboard that was in Jessica's room thrown out for trash pick up. We are hoping to have it back by the end of the year. Jessica has been in the morgue for 463 days.

*December 24, 2020: We are still waiting for forensics to come back. Jessica has been in the morgue for 490 days. 

*February 2, 2021: The coroner released Jessica to us, due to lack of contact with her husband Justin. My sister spent 530 days in the morgue!! My sister is HOME!! 

*February 16, 2021: Today we had a small get together with immediate family to say our goodbyes to Jessica. Due to covid, we will have a Celebration of Life for Jessica at a later date when it is safe to do so.

*March 20, 2021:  It's been 5 months and we are still waiting  on forensics to come back on the futon and headboard.

*April 14, 2021: Today makes 601 days(August 22, 2019-April 14, 2021) with no answers, no accountability, no arrests. My sister is just a case number. A box of files being stored  with dust on it.   #WE THE PEOPLE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FIGHT THE JUSTICE SYSTEM FOR JUSTICE. #FIXTHESYSTEM

We fully believe that this case has not been taken seriously by local authorities from the beginning, and this impression is based on the following elements of Jessica’s story, and the collective solid information that we have obtained over the course of its investigation. It is our firm belief that once you examine the information we have gathered, you will agree that the evidence pointing to Jessica’s murder is palpable, and the fact that it has been blatantly ignored by the law is nothing short of derelict to their duties to protect and seek justice for all members of their community.


First, the detective working the case has stated that he can do nothing further until the cause of death is ruled by the medical examiner as a homicide – it is currently ruled on the report as “undetermined”, as it was originally assumed by investigators that Jessica fell and somehow managed to cause all the injuries exhibited (fractured nose, broken jaw, broken rib, and broken C4 vertebrae in her neck) herself. However, the coroner specified that Jessica’s broken rib and broken neck occurred postmortem. So, our question then is how did she inflict those injuries herself after she was already deceased? And ultimately, how would her death be ruled “undetermined” with such extreme postmortem injuries? We are certain you can see the clear myriad of questions surrounding Jessica’s cause of death alone, aside from those concerning the individual(s) responsible.


We also have tangible evidence from Jessica herself in communications with her friend prior to her disappearance indicating she was being physically assaulted by her husband, and that she was fearing for her life and trying to hide. Her friend contacted police to do a welfare check that evening that she received those messages. We have been told since October 2020 that Jessica’s husband has elected to not speak to authorities without an attorney, and we are still waiting for an attorney to reach out and talk with detectives.


Jessica’s father in-law was not questioned until more than a year after her disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her remains. He stated that he had witnessed Jessica walk outside before she disappeared, but no home security surveillances in the vicinity showed Jessica ever leaving the house. Also, the house was never searched, nor were the vehicles. Police body camera footage also revealed that the officers who visited the residence for a welfare check on Jessica expressed concern to each other regarding her husband’s responses to them – one officer stating, “something isn’t right.” “His statements sound rehearsed.”


While there are several other pertinent facets to Jessica’s case, some of them have not yet been divulged to the public, and therefore cannot be included in this petition. However, if you are willing and able to contribute to this case, we will provide you with a complete and robust compilation of information that will easily support the endeavor.


It took 530 days for Jessica’s body to be released to her family. Our sister. Our daughter. Our friend. Jessica sat in refrigeration for five hundred and thirty days before we could take her home and say goodbye to her. Her husband did not provide a memorial, nor did he reach out and ask any of us for help to give her a proper funeral service. He instead left her to sit in a cooler until she was reduced to bones.


We love and miss Jessica more than we can put into words. She was a human being who did not deserve to die so young, much less by the hands of another person. Jessica was a living, breathing light, and she had dreams… a favorite food, a favorite song – she was smart and funny, and she loved with all her heart – sometimes to a fault.


I ask you, Mr. Williams, to put yourself in our place for a moment; how betrayed would you feel if the lack of acknowledgement, concern, and action that has occurred with Jessica’s case took place regarding an unresolved case for your loved one?


We implore you, #ThePeoplesDA, Jason R. Williams to please commence your own investigation of the death of Jessica Easterly Durning and bring charges and retributions to the individual(s) responsible. We the people should not have to plead with our own justice system to exercise integrity and accountability, and to strive to bring validation to the loved ones of victims, and yet so far Jessica’s life and our voices have fallen on deaf, apathetic ears.


Thank you for your time, and I look forward to working with you to finally resolve my sister’s case.


Audrey Schmitt                                                                 

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