Hancock County

A grieving mom wants to know why her daughter had to die

Darlene Deschamp with daughter Vanessa at Deschamp's wedding in April. Vanessa loved the blue dress she wore so much that Deschamp buried her daughter in it.
Darlene Deschamp with daughter Vanessa at Deschamp's wedding in April. Vanessa loved the blue dress she wore so much that Deschamp buried her daughter in it.

She wonders how she draws a breath when she wakes in the morning and the loss hits her anew.

Darlene Deschamp’s baby girl, 19-year-old Vanessa Mauffray, was setting crab traps with her boyfriend the morning of June 25 when another boat slammed into their boat and killed her.

The driver of the other boat, Eugene Butler Jr. of Hancock County, was by all accounts looking back at his engine after he rounded a bend in Bayou Caddy. Mauffray’s boyfriend told the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources he had no time to move his boat as Butler plowed toward them.

Vanessa’s boyfriend said he fell to the deck, but she was trapped in a chair with a back and had no time to move. Butler’s boat crashed over theirs and landed in the marsh.

Once a week, every week, a member of Deschamp’s family calls DMR to see where the investigation stands. Two weeks ago, for the first time, she managed to make the call herself.

“It's being worked on, investigated, and that's all they can tell me,’ she said. “They said they can't let anything leak out in case it ruins the case, if they have a case. They've been real nice, but that's all they say.”

The DMR’s chief of marine patrol, Keith Davis, told the Sun Herald that toxicology tests on Butler have been returned from the State Crime Lab. Davis said the District Attorney’s Office had some questions about the tests. He said the DMR plans to turn over the case to the DA’s office when the investigation is completed.

Davis said he could not discuss the test results or other details of the investigation. If the case is turned over to prosecutors, Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker said, it will be presented to a grand jury.

Butler has a criminal record, a felony conviction for possession of marijuana in 2009. According to Circuit Court records, he served three years on probation.

Deschamp said she just wants justice for Vanessa. She doesn’t want anyone to forget her daughter, an old soul in a teenager’s body.

Vanessa Mauffray's sister, Victoria McKinley, and mother, Darlene Deschamp, talk about their last moments Mauffray before she died from injuries sustained in a boat crash on Saturday.

She could not bear to decorate the family’s 8-foot Christmas tree without Vanessa this year. Instead, she bought a smaller tree. Her grandson, Cade, helped decorate it with angels. Vanessa was a second mother to Cade, the 3-year-old son of her older sister, Victoria McKinley. Vanessa had an older brother, too, Victor Mauffray.

Cade understands Vanessa has gone to heaven, where she is an angel.

Deschamp is just trying to get through the Christmas season while she waits for the investigation’s conclusion.

“It is horrible,” Deschamp said. “ . . . I have her pictures up all over and we call her our angel. But it's not going to be the same. She was the baby of the family. It's just very sad.”

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99