Tacoma police are looking for a couple who allegedly murdered the man’s 65-year-old mother and hid her body inside the crawlspace of her East Side home earlier this month.
A bench warrant was issued Thursday for the arrest of Thomas Al Bienville, 39, and Austa Marie Bienville, 31, on charges of first-degree murder. Thomas Bienville has also been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree.
Police found the body of Laurinda Hughes on Wednesday at her house on the 1700 block of East 64th Street. Hughes died of a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office. An autopsy also determined that Hughes had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.
The suspects were living with the victim at the time of the homicide, detectives said.
Court documents gave this account:
Hughes’ coworkers at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle became concerned when she didn’t show up for work on April 16. A colleague called Hughes’ cell phone and spoke with a woman who said that Hughes was sick. Three days later, Austa Bienville called the hospital to report that Hughes was ill with laryngitis, so she could not talk on the phone.
On Tuesday, Hughes’ landlord contacted police, saying that the locks of the home had been changed. Detectives searching the house Wednesday found bloodstains on the floor and discovered Hughes’ corpse wrapped in a comforter and a black fitted sheet. Also wrapped with the body was a spent 9-mm shell casing, a pillow with an apparent bullet hole, the victim’s wallet and checkbook, and photographs.
Thomas Bienville is described as a black male 5 feet 11 inches tall and 230 pounds. Austa Bienville is a white female 5 feet 2 inches tall and 150 pounds.
Thomas Bienville is a registered Level 2 sex offender who was convicted of second-degree rape in 1993.