IMAGE: Ronald J. Dominique
Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office  /  AP
Ronald J. Dominique, shown here in a handout photo from the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office, is accused of killing Oliver Lebanks in October 1998 and Manuel Reed in May 1999 and of raping Reed, the state attorney general's office announced Friday.
updated 12/1/2006 9:27:59 PM ET 2006-12-02T02:27:59

A multi-agency task force investigating as many as 21 stranglings arrested a 42-year-old Houma man on Friday and booked him in connection with two of the earliest ones.

Ronald J. Dominique is accused of killing Oliver Lebanks in 1998 and Manual Reed in 1999, and with raping Reed, state Attorney General Charles Foti's office announced.

Both men's bodies were found in suburban New Orleans, about 60 miles east of Houma. Reed's was found in Kenner and Lebanks' in Metairie. Reed was 20, LeBanks 27.

Dominique was accused of first-degree murder and aggravated rape in Reed's death, and with second-degree murder of Lebanks.

"Due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing and there is a possibility of more charges, no further information is available at this time," the news release said.

According to The Courier of Houma, Dominique was picked up at a homeless shelter run by the police department about 3 p.m. and taken to the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office for questioning.

The task force had been investigating the deaths of men, mostly between the ages of 18 and 40, for more than a year. The first killing was in 1997.

None of the usual signs of struggle
Many of the victims were poor; some were willing to prostitute themselves for drugs. The victims had been strangled, but none had the bruises or broken bones that would indicate a struggle.

Houma Police Chief Patrick Boudreaux was one of the first to investigate them as serial killings. The killings weren't like the usual drug killing, with a victim shot and left to die.

Three victims were found in the same sugar cane field. Some were missing their shoes.

Until Friday, many authorities — including Foti — shied away from saying southeastern Louisiana had its third serial killer investigation in a matter of years.

There had been no DNA evidence, like that which led to the conviction of Derrick Todd Lee and the arrest and reported confessions of Sean Vincent Gillis in the two earlier cases.

Nine of the unsolved cases were from the late 1990s. The others, since 2000, included many victims with ties to the Houma area.

‘High-risk’ lifestyles
Because most of the victims led what authorities termed "high-risk" lifestyles, the killings caused less public unrest than those of the college and professional women whom Lee was accused of killing between April 1998 and March 2003. He was sentenced to death for first-degree murder of a former Louisiana State University student in Baton Rouge, and sentenced to life for second-degree murder of a West Baton Rouge woman in 2002.

Authorities said DNA had linked him to the deaths of five other women.

Prosecutors have said that Gillis confessed to killing eight women. He has been booked in seven of the cases, and charged with first-degree murder of one, Donna Bennett Johnston. Her body was found by a roadside on Feb. 27, 2004. Gillis was arrested about two months later. Authorities have said DNA and tire tracks linked him to the crime.

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