Murder on the Rue Dauphine
A Secret Life
At 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 1998, Ramon Martinez checked into the Chateau Le Moyne Hotel on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. The hotel sits one block north of Bourbon Street and two blocks east of Canal Street. He had parked his beige Mitsubishi around the corner on Bienville Street.
Ramon registered under his own name and listed his address as a post office box in the town of Port Sulphur, a hamlet 50 miles south of New Orleans, where he served as pastor of St. Patrick's Church.
Sometime that night, perhaps just before he checked into the Chateau Le Moyne, perhaps just after, Ramon hooked up with a 20-year-old street hustler named Robert Chidester. Chidester also used the name Robert Allen, as well as the nickname Joker. Ramon had met Chidester at least once before. Using the name "Mike," Ramon had hired Chidester to perform oral sex on him. Chidester, who aspired to be a writer, usually charged $20 for oral.
Inside Ramon's fifth-floor hotel room, something bad happened. Chidester later claimed Ramon tried to anally rape him. Chidester said he agreed to oral sex, but when Ramon tried to bend him over and sodomize him, the young hustler, who earned a living trading sex for money, was repulsed. Two men engaging in anal sex just wasn't right.
According to Chidester, when Ramon tried to force him to submit to anal sex, the street-savvy hustler pulled out a double-edged knife, which he happened to be carrying, and defended himself against Ramon's attack. In doing so, Chidester plunged his knife into the priest some 40 times.
Detectives later theorized the murder had less to do with Chidester's revulsion with anal sex and more to do with the $300 Ramon carried in his wallet.
Nor did the crime scene easily lend itself to an interpretation of self-defense. It was clear from the sex toys and used condoms lying around the room that the two men had had sexwhether oral or analat least once that night and probably more than once. When the maid entered the room the next morning, the nearly 40-year-old priest was naked except for a pair of socks.
It didn't take Lt. Columbo to figure out that Chidester's attempt at chastity came late in the game. And surely, had he truly been in fear of Ramon, he could have gotten away sometime before landing that 30th or 40th knife thrust. Another thing that didn't square with the self-defense claim was the priest's missing wallet. Rape victims who successfully fight off their attackers rarely steal their assailants' wallets.
Chidester fled the hotel room bleeding from a cut on his knee. Carrying Ramon's wallet and the bloody knife, he raced down the stairs to the street and plunged into the shadow world of the French Quarter.