Storm Of Murder

Breakdown Of New Orleans' Infrastructure Escalates City's Murder Rate

This story was first broadcast on Oct. 13, 2007. It was updated on Aug. 14, 2008.

Artists Dinerral Shavers and Helen Hill - he a musician, she an independent filmmaker - may not have known each other. But they both returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with a vision to revive the storm-ravaged city.

But as correspondent Erin Moriarty reports, they both fell victims to a storm of murder.



Exactly one year after Hurricane Katrina drove them away, Paul Gailiunas and his wife Helen Hill, full of hope, had moved back to New Orleans. "She embraced it. She really did. She loved everything about New Orleans," Paul remembers.

Helen's imagination was just one of the qualities that made her so endearing. "I think of that wonderful, smiling, sunshine face coming at me. She was always right there with you," remembers her stepfather, Kevin Lewis.

Helen was raised in Columbia, S.C. by her mother Becky and her stepfather, both college professors.

Helen was only nine years old when she discovered what she wanted to do with her life. "That's when she decided she wanted to become an animator," her mother Becky recalls.

Helen's first film won an award, and the quirky animated movies that followed always retained a sense of playfulness and wonder. "She wanted their films to have a childlike appearance. And wanted that to come through in her mature, adult films which were full of ideas," Kevin Lewis says.

When Helen was in college at Harvard, she met Paul Gailiunas. They were just friends when they moved to New Orleans after graduating, but there the friendship deepened into something more.

They shared a love for New Orleans as well, and after they got married made the city their home.

Paul, now a doctor, opened a clinic that served the poor; Helen taught and worked on her films at home. Life seemed complete when in 2004 Helen and Paul had a child, Francis.

It was about one year later that Katrina hit. The day before the storm arrived they bundled up their one-year-old son and their pet pig Rosie and drove to Helen's parents' house.

"We just thought we were gonna be back in about two or three days," Paul recalls. But things didn't turn out that way. It wasn't until weeks later that Paul was even able to wade to their house. They lost everything.

But Helen had no doubt what she wanted to do: "Helen was very, very determined to move back to New Orleans," Paul explains.

But Helen's mother had reservations. "Well I would have preferred her to stay here," she admits.

In fact, Becky begged her not to return, and even Paul had his doubts. "Well, I think he was … a little bit more cautious," Becky says.

And when Helen and Paul did go back, Paul was unnerved by how different the city felt. "There's huge areas that are kind of ungoverned," he says. "It's not a city where you can feel entirely safe anywhere."

It was Jan. 3, 2007, and Paul and Helen put two-year-old Francis to bed. "We stayed up and looked at these pictures of him and he just looked so cute. And we just laughed and laughed. And that was pretty much my last memory," he remembers.

The nightmare began around 5:30 a.m. "I was woken up by the sound of Helen's voice sounding very anxious and frightened and yelling, 'Get out, get out. Don't hurt my baby, get out right now,'" Paul remembers.

Alarmed, Paul grabbed his son. "I had Francis in one arm and I got up and I called out, 'Helen, are you okay?' And I saw right away that there was a man restraining her at the front door. And she was struggling and she yelled out, 'Call 911,'" he recalls.

But it was too late. Helen was shot. With his son in his arms, Paul ran to the back of the house and tried to hide. "And it was only a few moments later that I saw a man walk into the kitchen towards us, and he took a few steps towards us and held out a gun. At that point I turned my head down to protect myself and Francis. And I heard you know, two or three shots, gunshots," Paul remembers.

And then everything went silent. The gunman was gone but the horror for Paul was just beginning. "She was lying there and wasn't moving. And her eyes were closed. And there was blood by her head. And Francis saw it too," Paul says.

Helen was killed instantly by one gunshot to the neck. Paul too had been shot, three times. Francis had somehow escaped injury.

Helen's stepfather and mother were at home in South Carolina when they got the news. "It was just a awful day. I don't remember a lot about that time," Becky tells Moriarty.

"We haven't been able to explain why this happened to someone who intended so much good in the world," she adds.

"There are many angry people in New Orleans that took this personally and they want to find the person who did this to Helen," says Helen's older brother, Jake Hill.

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