IMAGE: Andre Dunn and family
Andre Dunn, right, and members of his extended family pose around the pickup truck that carried them to safety in September 2005 at a Red Cross shelter in Pearl River, La. John Russell, who was slain in New Orleans in late July, is seated on the truck, second from left, with his daughter in his arms.
By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor
msnbc.com
updated 8/28/2006 6:39:43 AM ET 2006-08-28T10:39:43

Andre Dunn, 38, married owner of a partly insured house worth approximately $150,000 on Urquhart Street, in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans. Now relocated to Lawrenceville, Ga.

For Andre Dunn, mounting debt and the lack of a job a year after Hurricane Katrina pale in comparison to a freshly minted tragedy — the shooting death of a member of his extended clan.

John Russell, one of 15 family members and friends that Dunn crammed into his pickup truck when he fled his hometown of New Orleans the day before Katrina hit, was killed in the Crescent City in late July, a shaken Dunn told MSNBC.com.

“The guy shot him in the back of the head,” he said. “That’s about all I know.”

Attempts to learn more about the circumstances of the killing, or if a suspect has been arrested, have so far been unsuccessful. The New Orleans Police Department refuses to release a copy of the police report until it can be “processed” and delivered to the city attorney’s office – a process that already has taken nearly a month. Russell’s name apparently did not appear in any media account of the crime.

The death of Russell, longtime partner of the Dunns’ daughter, Chrissy, and the father of her daughter, 16-month-old Johnnay, has dented Dunn’s usual sense of optimism that he will find a better life for his wife, Trennell, and their younger kids in Lawrenceville, Ga., a city of about 28,000 northeast of Atlanta.

“I’m looking for work, but I can’t find anything, not even at the temp services,” said Dunn, who will turn 39 next month. “It’s hard when you’re starting all over and you don’t know anybody.”

It also appears highly unlikely that Dunn will recover any money from the ruined four-bedroom “shotgun-style” home he owned in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, on which he had only “mortgage insurance” designed to protect the lender. The grace period that the bank gave him on the property ended in July, so he’s now supposed to make payments on both the new home in Georgia and the ruined shell in New Orleans, an impossibility in his present situation.

At the same time, creditors trying to collect on pre-Katrina debts have become increasingly aggressive.

“The money is gone. … We’re on our own,” he said glumly, referring to the federal assistance that helped the Dunns make ends meet for most of the past year.

But Dunn’s upbeat nature reasserts itself when asked if he fears he could lose the family’s new home.

“I’m not thinking that way,” he said. “I’m trying to get a job.”

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