The Cruel Death of Stephanie Lynn Hebert
by Robert A. Waters
Thirty-five years ago, an unknown killer abducted a child from Waggaman, Louisiana.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune described the child: “Stephanie, whose 6th birthday is June 30th, was last seen wearing pink shorts and a pink checkered top, her father said. Also, she was barefooted and wearing blue framed glasses, he said, adding that she had blond hair, is about four feet tall and weighs about 45 pounds. Last month she graduated from kindergarten at Live Oak Manor Elementary School near her home.”
An ice cream vendor told detectives from Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office that she’d sold cotton candy to a child and an older woman sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. The vendor claimed the little girl looked like Stephanie. (Despite a massive search, the two were never located.)
Thousands of searchers scoured the surrounding country-side, including a heavily forested area near the missing girl’s home. Helicopters buzzed overhead, focusing on the nearby Mississippi River. Investigators, including FBI agents, meticulously searched the Hebert home while Stephanie’s parents met with reporters to plead for their child’s return. Psychics opined on where to locate Stephanie, but those avenues proved unsuccessful.
Finally, on November 29, 1979, twenty-one miles from Waggaman, a hunter found the child’s skeletal remains. Stephanie, tied to a tree, had been dead for approximately six months, likely since the time she went missing. Ropes had been secured around her remains, and her clothing and eye-glasses lay on the ground nearby. Animals had scattered many of her bones.
The child’s killer was never found.
Numerous questions remain. Why did the kidnapper tie Stephanie to a tree? Was she still alive when left in those lonely woods? Did she succumb to the elements or animal attack?
After 35 years, is the killer still alive?