NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — If you drive along the 2200 block of Pauline Street in the Ninth Ward, you’ll spot a home with unique décor and renovated school buses outside. Little did the people in this neighborhood know what was inside one of those buses.
“Well, they told me a lady was chopped up in the bus,” said a neighbor.
Tuesday, the New Orleans Police Department obtained a search warrant following a missing person report.
The ex-husband of 36-year-old Julia Dardar reported her missing at the end of December. He told police Dardar was living with 34-year-old Benjamin Beale.
“I’d see her come and go. I’d see her walking the dog too,” said neighbor Shavonda Lawton,.
Police say when they questioned Beale, he said he hadn’t seen Dardar in weeks. Beale told police Dardar was struggling with addiction, and that he thought she left and committed suicide. When police searched Beale’s property, they found the torso of a woman stuffed inside of a freezer in one of the buses.
“It’s just crazy. It’s just crazy. When they say it hit home, it hit close. It’s next door, you know,” said Lawton.
According to court documents, investigators also found a saw that appeared to have pieces of flesh on the blade. Inside Beale’s home, police made another disturbing discovery: a meth lab and the identification and credit cards belonging to Dardar. Neighbors are at a loss for words at what seems to be a house of horrors on their street.
“This part of the neighborhood is quiet. Like I said, that’s why we’re like really shocked that something happened, you know. Especially in this block, everybody knows everybody, just like we knew — well, we thought we knew – him,” said Lawton.
Lawton says she often had friendly conversations with Beale, who presented himself as a creative person.
“He’s an artist as you can see by looking at the house. That’s what he claimed himself to be. We never thought, you know, any wrongdoing or anything like that,” said Lawton.
Behind the so-called art was a gruesome secret that left a neighborhood wondering how this could happen.
Right now, the identity of the dismembered woman– and the cause of death– is unknown. Beale is facing several charges including obstruction of justice. He’s being held in the Orleans Parish jail on a $400,000 bond.