by Howard Applegate
Personally traveling to Wilbur County for the announcement, Central Oregon Forensics Laboratoryâ€™s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Alicia Azura, confirmed that the bones found in a wash north of Germaine, were those of Charles Sevigny LaFontaine, a New Orleans jazz musician and WWII veteran who lived in Germaine briefly in the post war years.
Speaking at a news conference in the Wilbur County courthouse, Azura said, â€œThe evidence is conclusive. The remains are those of a young African-American male, closely related to our sample doner.â€
The donor, Rita Budreau, temporarily living in Germaine as a refugee from Hurricane Katrina, is the niece of Charles LaFontaine. Although a young child when LaFontaine disappeared, Ms. Budreau remembers the family stories and her motherâ€™s deep sense of loss.
â€œMama cried all of the time over Charles,â€ said Budreau. â€œShe knew heâ€™d been killed. He never would have just gone off and never wrote or nothing to anyone again. We were family.â€
Budreau has carried a letter with her all of these years from her Uncle Charley. The letter, dated 1949 and postmarked Germaine, Oregon tells of meeting a young woman, a fellow musician. It also mentions LaFontaineâ€™s fear of their relationship being discovered.
In 1949, Faith Chastity Applegate, a distant relative of this reporter, gave birth to Rochelle LaFontaine.
â€œCharles just up and disappeared a couple of days after Rochelle was born,â€ said Faith Applegate, â€œI hadnâ€™t seen him in weeks, and I just thought at the time that he moved on.â€
But Faith has never been totally convinced that Charles left. At least not alive. Now her fears have been confirmed.
â€œIâ€™m saddened, of course,â€ said Applegate, â€œand angry. But thereâ€™s been too much tragedy in my life to let it get under my skin.â€
Applegate was referring to the death of her and LaFontaineâ€™s daughter Rochelle, who died in a automobile collision in 1966. Rochelle was pregnant at the time, and the incident sent ripples through the town of Germaine. Facing a mental breakdown, Faith Chastity moved to Eugene, where she has lived for the past forty years.
Now, at the age of seventy-five, Faith has returned to Germaine. â€œI knew when I saw it in the Register-Guard it was Charley that they found. I knew it was time to come back and help put this story to an end.â€
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April 26, 2017
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