Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Natural Born Killers

The Shooting of Patsy Byers

With two hundred dollars of Bill Savage's money in their pockets, Ben and Sarah continued south on I-55 toward New Orleans, nearly 400 miles away. They partied in the French Quarter and apparently spent all or most of their money there. Heading north on I-55 on Wednesday, March 8, they knew they would need to replenish their funds at someone else's expense.

Heading north from its junction with I-10, about thirty miles west of New Orleans, the first twenty or so miles of I-55 are elevated above a vast watery expanse known as the Manchac Swamp. There are no sizable towns along this stretch. The first town one hits as soon as I-55 descends to solid, dry land is Pontchatoula. Ben and Sarah decided to strike there next.

Map of Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Map of Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Ponchatoula, Louisiana is a quaint community of early 20th-century brick buildings and a main street lined with antique and curio shops. A restored Illinois Central Railroad depot houses more antique and curio kiosks, and outside, on a siding, sit several old, restored railroad cars. In a nearby pool, an alligator with his jaw taped shut advertises a local alligator farm. The hub of a fertile agricultural region, Pontchatoula hosts an annual Strawberry Festival every April that draws well over 100,000 people to this town of only 5,000 residents.

Thirty-five year old Patsy Ann Byers was working the late shift at Time Saver, a convenience store in Pontchatoula, just off I-55. Sometime around midnight on March 8, when no one else was in the store, Sarah Edmondson entered and approached the checkout counter with a candy bar. As Byers prepared to ring up the purchase, Sarah leveled the .38 at her and shot her, point-blank, in the throat.

The bullet severed Byers's spinal cord, and she collapsed to the floor, bleeding. Sarah screamed and fled but, as she got back to the car, Ben asked her if she got any money. Forgetting the reason she had gone into the store, she returned and saw Byers lying on the floor below the cash register. She said, "Oh, you're not dead yet," and Byers pleaded, "Don't kill me."

Fumbling with the cash register, Sarah was unable to open it, and Byers, fearful for her life, explained how to get it open. Sarah fled with $105 from the register, leaving Byers lying on the floor to die.

Patsy Byers after her injury
Patsy Byers after her injury

Byers, however, did not die immediately. She was paralyzed from the neck down, unable to move any of her limbs. The wife of Lonnie Byers and mother of three children ranging from ages 4 to 18, Patsy was rushed to a local hospital, then later transferred to a rehabilitation clinic in Houston where she was kept alive on a breathing apparatus. More than two years later, she died of cancer.

The robbery and shooting were captured on the store's video surveillance camera. Full frontal shots of Sarah could be clearly seen and they were broadcast all over the news on New Orleans television channels. However, the police had no clues as to Sarah's identity and, for the next three months, the shooting remained an unsolved mystery.

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