July 30, 2021

Murder on the Teche

METAIRIE, LA - Tom Aswell, journalist and author, will discuss his latest book, Murder on the Teche, A True Story of Money and a Flawed Investigation, at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 30, via video conference online. Visit for more details, including how to join the discussion.

The book focuses on the murder of Dr. Robert Chastant, a successful orthodontist in New Iberia. By all outward appearances, he was happy and successful. But cracks had begun appearing in his third marriage and his practice was feeling the effects of a dramatic downturn in South Louisiana’s petroleum-reliant economy, leaving him encumbered with debt.

On the morning of Dec. 13, 2010, Dr. Chastant was brutally murdered by his farm hand, an illegal Mexican immigrant named Ismael Viera Tobar. Viera was apprehended and confessed within a matter of hours. But there was an unexpected twist. He told authorities that Laurie, 25 years younger than Dr. Chastant, had paid Viera a thousand dollars to kill her husband.

His story seemed to gain traction with discrepancies in her timeline of events, the existence of a prenuptial agreement, a budding extra-marital affair, the unexplained discovery of a pair of checks for cash totaling exactly $1,000 dollars, missing evidence, and life insurance policies of more than a million dollars. All combined to create a possible motive and to cast suspicion on the young widow. Could the fact that her father was – and remains – a deputy sheriff in a nearby parish have influenced a less-than-thorough investigation regarding her part in the murder?

Could the fact that her father was also a retired Louisiana State Trooper who had worked with the Iberia Parish sheriff when they both were state troopers – serving in the same region - have led authorities in a different direction and allowed her to escape closer scrutiny?

Tom Aswell is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for more than two decades. His work has appeared in nine Louisiana newspapers, including the Baton Rouge Advocate and the Monroe News-Star. Aswell has always had a passion for music, and his study of Southern music began while working as a radio disc jockey during college. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is also the editor of Pelican's With Edwards in the Governor's Mansion: From Angola to Free Man. Aswell lives in Denham Springs, Louisiana, with his wife.

For more information regarding this presentation, contact Chris Smith, Manager of Adult Programming for the library, at (504) 889-8143 or

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The Jefferson Parish Library system consists of 16 locations that stretch from the Lakeshore Branch on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain to the Grand Isle Branch just steps away from the Gulf of Mexico. The library system consists of two large regional libraries and seven branches on each side of the Mississippi River. The East Bank Regional Library (4747 West Napoleon Avenue, Metairie) serves as library headquarters. The Jefferson Parish Library is the second largest system in the state of Louisiana. More than 200 employees work for the Jefferson Parish Library including librarians, administration and support staff. For more information, contact the library at (504) 838-1100 or

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Jefferson Parish Public Information Office

1221 Elmwood Park Boulevard, Suite 1002

Jefferson, LA 70123

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Gretchen Hirt Gendron, PIO