With Damon Thibodeaux's conviction overturned, the question remains: Who brutally murdered Crystal Champagne?
The investigation into her death is once again an open case, Vince Lamia, chief of investigations for the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office, said recently.
Crystal's mother was "very much devastated by the release of Damon Thibodeaux," Lamia said. "I'm not speaking for her, but it opened up a new wound when quite frankly she believed there was closure. Now that's not realistic anymore."
Crystal's family declined to comment about Thibodeaux's release or the reopening of the case.
Lamia said District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. told Crystal's mother that he would not rest until the case was resolved. "He's living by that promise," Lamia said, but given the passage of time, "it's not going to be easy."
Lamia said there are a "number of persons of interest" but he declined to discuss the ongoing investigation in any detail.
Thibodeaux's confession was the only piece of "information evidence supporting the conviction," Lamia said. But once the confession was deemed unreliable, the case fell apart and Connick dropped the indictment.
"Based on years of review of the case, Mr. Connick felt … it was the right thing to do," Lamia said.
But prosecutors made no admission that Thibodeaux is "actually innocent," said Steve Kaplan, a Minneapolis lawyer who led Thibodeaux's post-conviction team. Thibodeaux's legal team has always been convinced that he is. "They normally don't let you walk out alive from death row unless you are," Kaplan said. "What bothered me was that Damon had to endure a public trial. He should have had the dignity of a public vindication."
For Thibodeaux, it's more personal. "What bothers me the most is that Crystal's dad died believing I killed his daughter," he said. "There's someone running around out there who killed a 14-year-old. And why? I served 15 years of this person's time."