The Deck - Desiree Michaud (Queen of Clubs, Connecticut)

Our card this week is Desiree Michaud, the Queen of Clubs from Connecticut.

In 1984, 18-year-old Desiree was violently killed in a motel room in southeastern Connecticut.

For nearly 40 years, her murder has haunted the community and stumped investigators as

they’ve chased down every promising lead that’s come knocking on their door.

But they have yet to find the answers they need to crack this case.

As many of you know, I’m on the road this week, bringing my investigation of a deck

case to a live audience.

So this week, we have a special guest host.

This is Kylie Lowe, and this is The Deck.

It was still dark outside in Groton, Connecticut, when Detective John Graves was suddenly awakened

by a phone call.

According to the day, it was barely 4 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, 1984, so he was a bit

confused about who would be calling and why, but he answered anyway.

Detective Graves was instructed to respond right away to a local motel.

The young woman had been found murdered.

Graves booked it to the flagship motel, and there, in room 114, Graves and several other

investigators began processing the scene.

The woman was sprawled out on the bed, nude, with a radio cord wrapped around her neck

and what appeared to be some kind of stab wound or puncture wound on her chest.

Throughout the small room, there were clothes, drink bottles, and food containers scattered


It looked like someone had been staying there for a few days.

While investigators kept combing through the room, looking for evidence to collect, other

detectives were interviewing the man who had discovered the crime scene, George Harris,

who went by Angel.

He was in his late 20s and identified himself as the renter of the room and the woman’s


He was clearly shaken up about everything, but he did his best to tell them what he could.

He said his girlfriend’s name was Desiree Michaud, and she was only 18 years old.

He found her lifeless body in their room just before 4 a.m.

According to Susan Zakin’s reporting for the day, when George entered their room, he

initially thought his girlfriend was sleeping, but then he saw the cord around her neck and

knew something was wrong, so he immediately ran to the front desk clerk and asked them

to contact authorities.

George explained to the investigators that the last time he saw Desiree alive was just

a matter of hours before that.

He said it was just before 10 p.m. when he saw her walking down the street in the little

town just across the river from the motel, New London.

That’s actually where she spent most of her time, because she was a sex worker there and

often worked an area called Bank Street, which was well-known to police at the time.

George gave investigators the names of some other sex workers he knew Desiree was close

with, who might have more information about where she was last night, what she was doing,

and most importantly, who she was with.

But before seeking those individuals out, police did a thorough canvas of the motel,

and there was just one guest in particular who said something that caught investigators


The woman who had been staying in room 113 said she called the front desk around 1 a.m.

because irate voices and lots of commotion were keeping her up.

She thought it was coming from room 114, but she couldn’t be sure.

Here’s Sergeant Heather Beauchamp, who’s on Desiree’s case today.

The front desk tried to call Desiree’s room and got no answer.

So number one, okay, was Desiree in the room at that time?

Number two, was she already deceased and couldn’t answer the phone?

Number three, they didn’t really go down to the room to check on anything.

No one called the police.

So that’s all it was, was a call to the front desk.

As investigators continued talking with other guests at the motel, they began to question

if that woman really heard those noises from room 114, or if they were coming from somewhere


There were multiple parties going on.

There was a party with high school kids, it was a party with Navy kids.

So to determine exactly what noise that this lady heard to spark her to call the front

desk was never really determined what the noise was and where it was coming from.

Whether what that lady heard was relevant or not was kind of a toss up.

But there was something a few guests saw that police definitely thought was important.

Apparently, several guests had seen a man standing outside of room 114 that night.

He stood out because supposedly he was dressed up like a cowboy, like faded blue jeans, plaid

shirt, a western jacket, cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and a bandana.

We’re talking the full getup.

Investigators asked one of the guests who had seen this man to work with a sketch artist

to create a composite.

But the person’s memory of the guy’s face was fuzzy at best.

So the artist ended up making two separate renderings of the man, and both were distributed

to local newspapers.

After clearing the crime scene and completing the canvas, investigators tracked down some

of Desiree’s friends.

The people they found said that they had seen Desiree in New London a couple of times the

night before on Bank Street.

So that area of New London, Bank Street, was very prominent for nightlife.

It’s the portion of New London, the downtown portion of New London, where all the bars

are and clubs and stuff like that.

So back then it was the same.

So it was also a prominent area for drugs, prostitution.

The last sighting of her was around 11 that night, when she and her friends went to a

house party in New London.

It’s not clear whose house party that was, but the friends said they didn’t see Desiree

after that, and they had no idea how she got from the house party to the motel.

We don’t have anybody who’s able to say, or we saw her get dropped off, or we saw her

get out of a car, or we saw her walking back, or we saw her getting out of a cab, or we

saw her walking into the room with somebody.

Nothing about her getting back.

Desiree’s friends said that even though she was young, she was smart about her business.

She knew sex work was dangerous, so she was pretty careful about the clients she took.

She definitely kept to a strict client base, per se.

She definitely had her own people, and she would stick to that.

So I feel like she, through the investigation, that she would take means to keep herself

as safe as she could.

It would be random for her to, you know, get in the car with someone completely that she

didn’t know, or not have her friends with her, and stuff like that.

So they definitely stuck close.

From Desiree’s friends, investigators got a list of all her usual clients, about half

a dozen men.

Police identified and interviewed them, and it seems like none of them were found suspicious,

because it appears they kind of just moved on with their investigation without really

zeroing in on any one of them in particular.

I don’t know if some of the clients remained persons of interest, and investigators just

decided to pursue other leads.

Sergeant Beauchamp was staying tight-lipped about it, but she did say they were never

sure if they truly located all of her clients.

Staying with friends and conducting interviews weren’t the only things investigators did

during the early parts of the investigation.

They also poured over the records on Desiree.

They had quite a few.

Desiree first appeared on law enforcement’s radar when she was just 13 years old.

From then until age 18, she was arrested 13 times on various charges, including charges

related to sex work.

The first arrest for this came when she was 16, which it’s worth noting that in today’s

world, we know better than that.

A 16-year-old can’t be arrested for sex work because they’re not an adult, which

obviously means they can’t consent, which means they’re a victim of sex trafficking.

But that wasn’t the only thing Desiree had fallen victim to in her short life.

At the same age, Desiree reported a violent sexual assault to the New London Police Department.

She told them that she was kidnapped at gunpoint, driven to a nearby town, and sexually assaulted

by a 24-year-old man who we’ll call Sonny.

A month and a half later, Sonny was actually charged with the crime, and it went to trial.

In our research, it wasn’t clear if Desiree testified at the trial or not.

I mean, she was incarcerated at the time, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t have.

Regardless though, Sonny was ultimately acquitted by the jury.

Of course, this stuck out like a sore thumb to police.

Of all people, it seemed like Sonny would have a motive for killing Desiree.

Even though he was found not guilty, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption to make that he

probably still harbored some kind of anger for the girl who accused him.

Investigators found Sonny, talked with him, and determined he simply wasn’t a viable suspect.

I don’t know why or how they determined that, and investigators today aren’t sure either.

But I have to imagine there was something solid to make him fall off the suspect list.

Like an airtight alibi, or maybe they just got interested in another potential suspect.

Because right about this time, they started looking hard at someone who had been right

in front of them all along.

The boyfriend, George.

It’s not like police were looking at George because they found his story fishy or anything.

It’s just there were a number of things about him that are traditionally viewed as suspicious.

I mean, he’s the one who found her dead, she was found in a room that was rented by

him, and he was her boyfriend.

Investigators asked George to submit to a polygraph, which he agreed to and ultimately


Although that didn’t automatically remove George from their radar, I would say it definitely

calmed the suspicion surrounding him, and once again, the investigation moved on.

By April 9th, Desiree’s autopsy was completed, and the medical examiner found her cause of

death to be asphyxia by strangulation.

But get this, for some reason, the examiner didn’t do any kind of testing to determine

if Desiree had been sexually assaulted by her attacker.

Like, they didn’t collect vaginal swabs or anything.

Of course, given how Desiree was found, this decision is something that leaves present-day

investigators dumbfounded.

I wondered too, you know, why wasn’t, why, what’s it gonna hurt, you know?

But it wasn’t done.

Sergeant Beauchamp said that her best guess is that because Desiree was a sex worker,

maybe authorities figured if they did find evidence of a sexual encounter, they wouldn’t

know if it was consensual or not.

But why not collect it just in case?

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, this was 1984.

They didn’t have all the DNA technology that we have nowadays, but still, even for

the 80s, this seems like a huge misstep.

I think maybe today it would have been different, but you can’t go back and say they should

or shouldn’t have done this, you know?

They’re working with what they were working with at the time.

The world I grew up in as a police officer is very different than the world that police

officers grew up in in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

So the way my mind may work is different than the way their minds may work in the sense

that I have more to work with, just like technology, forensic science, you know, the developments

in forensic science, phones, cameras, you know, there’s just an abundance of stuff now

that I have at my fingertips that they didn’t have at the time.

Investigators were now a few days removed from the murder, and there was one person

both police and the local media were leaning into hard.

The mystery man supposedly seen outside of Desiree’s room.

Seriously, almost every news story mentioned the man who was dressed in western attire,

saying that he was wanted for questioning as a witness or possible suspect, and the

two different composite drawings the sketch artist completed were circulating like mad

around town.

You might be thinking what I thought when I heard this.

How hard could it possibly be to find a suspicious-looking man dressed as a cowboy on the East Coast?

But Sergeant Beauchamp said cowboys in Groton aren’t as far and few between as you might


Now, take into consideration we are in a Navy town with a lot of people who dress in cowboy

boots and cowboy hats.

She told our reporting team that it was almost a trend back then to dress like that.

So even though a lead like that today might be easier to go off, in the 1980s in Groton,

it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Surprisingly, though, nearly a week into the investigation, police announced that they

had found that needle.

According to reporting from the day, investigators wouldn’t give up the man’s identity or

disclose how they found him, they just said that they found him and were questioning him.

What’s interesting is that after newspapers reported about this guy that investigators

made a huge deal about finally finding, investigators just kind of went, meh, we cleared him.

And everything about the mystery cowboy dropped out of the media coverage.

We asked Sergeant Beauchamp if anything ever materialized from finding the man and interviewing


And what she said was surprising.

The cowboy was never really identified.

There was a few people that we could track down and say, oh yes, this guy dresses like


But to say that was definitely the guy, I was never positive about that.

So basically, the cowboy they interviewed may not have been the cowboy.

For all they knew, he was just some other guy who was a fan of Western attire.

Sergeant Beauchamp said that to this day, she’s not convinced the cowboy lead was anything

from the get-go.

I mean, we know there was at least one party going on at the motel the night Desiree was

killed and there were plenty of people at the party.

So it’s possible the cowboy who was seen was just a partygoer who others mistakenly

remembered standing in front of room 114.

Whoever he was, if he even existed, we may never know.

Because just as quickly as the cowboy fell out of the media coverage, he dropped off

investigators’ radar as a dead-end lead.

Sergeant Beauchamp said she doesn’t blame investigators at the time for making such

a fuss about the cowboy because they were just working with what they had.

But back then, you have to think, when you get a lead like that in 1984, your best outlet

is media.

You don’t have social media, so you’re looking at the newspaper to get out whatever you can.

You give the newspaper a little bit of information and they’re going to put it all over the place.

So yeah, the cowboy was a very important thing and it was gone.

With their once-promising cowboy lead left in the dust, investigators decided to move

on to another lead from the motel.

The woman from 113, who reported hearing irate voices the night Desiree was killed.

But there was one problem.

She already told them everything she could remember about the night and the noises she


So police chose to do something a bit unconventional, hypnosis.

According to the day’s podcast, Case Unsolved, this is how it went.

After hypnosis, the woman recounted that she heard a man and a lady arguing, possibly

two men, but definitely at least one man and one lady.

The lady sounded super angry and was shouting at the man, like high-pitched short screams,

not surprised screams, but scared shrieks.

And then there was a thumping, as if something had been thrown.

The woman told the hypnotist, quote,

Sounds like a body being thrown, as opposed to an object.

Not a body, but a person.

Because an object has a hollow sound, and a body makes a bump, end quote.

She said the noises sounded violent and frightened her so much that she called the front desk.

After talking with the front desk, she heard the phone ring in the same room where the

noise was coming from, and then everything quieted down.

So she figured she was wrong and it was just bickering between spouses or something.

She can hear a voice and it’s very detailed, but then, you know, when you come down to

law enforcement and trying to solve a homicide, you can’t, you know, how far can you take

a hypnotism?

So she was detailed.

You can never differentiate what a hypnotism is.

Is it from something that already happened to this person?

Assuming that the woman’s recollection was indeed from the motel the night Desiree was

killed, though, it was certainly helpful for police.

Even though she didn’t know who the voices were, the scene she described didn’t sound

like a random attack from a stranger or even a new client.

With how she described the voices, it almost seemed like it was two people who knew each

other arguing.

When you also think two people having an argument, now, again, with her line of work, it makes

it tough, right?

Could be arguing over money, it could be arguing over whatever, but it makes it more like you

know that person, you’re arguing over something.

Again, this information was great to have, but investigators were still scrambling for

viable suspects.

The more time that passed with no arrests, the more rumors began flying around town about

who was responsible.

Gossip flooded the streets of Groton and New London with tales about how Desiree was killed

by a man who owned a houseboat.

Investigators thought she was murdered by a relative of Sonny’s, and many still clung

to the whole cowboy thing.

And of course, after the arrest of Connecticut serial killer Michael Ross in June of 1984,

many people speculated that he was possibly responsible for Desiree’s death.

If you’re not familiar with him, Ross murdered eight females who were between the ages of

14 and 25 in Connecticut and New York between 1981 and 1984.

The murders were random, and he sexually assaulted and strangled his victims.

Sergeant Beauchamp said the theory wasn’t taken super seriously.

She’s not 100% sure why, but perhaps it’s because Desiree’s murder didn’t completely

fit his M.O., or maybe because of the argument the woman in room 113 heard.

As the rumor mill continued, Desiree’s friends and other local sex workers called in tips

to police about clients of theirs who’d been violent, thinking maybe they were responsible.

But none of those leads materialized into anything.

It didn’t take long for Desiree’s case to go cold, but her story hardly slipped from

the minds of the community.

She was remembered for being a talented artist who showed an abundance of promise with her

murals and paintings.

Friends recalled how Desiree’s paintings belonged in a museum, and they all knew she had a bright

artistic future ahead of her.

At least, that’s how it was supposed to be.

Desiree’s death had a big impact on the art community in Groton and New London, leading

to other local artists to create art pieces, and even a play, in part inspired by her.

I think one of the things that caught the public’s attention about Desiree’s case

was that she didn’t fit into the box society had created for sex workers at the time.

She was always conservatively dressed.

All of her friends at the time when we spoke to them said that she was a great person,

great friend, would never hurt anybody.

She was viewed as a nice young woman who’d just been dealt an awful hand in life.

A piece published by the day, on the one-year anniversary of Desiree’s death, detailed

the circumstances of her childhood, like how both of her parents were arrested before she

turned two.

After some run-ins with the law throughout her teen years, she dropped out of high school

at the age of 16, and that’s when she was trafficked.

It was widely known among Desiree’s friends that she didn’t want to stay on the streets

of New London or Groton forever.

She had big plans to save up some money to move to Chicago or maybe Canada, somewhere

away from it all.

She dreamt of taking up a career in dancing or modeling, both dreams she never got the

chance to follow through with.

Despite the community’s desire to see Desiree’s case solved, the investigation lost steam.

The tips that were once flooding in were long dried up.

So Desiree’s case sat there, collecting dust for years, until 2010, when the newly

formed Southeastern Connecticut Cold Case Unit decided they’d take another crack

at it to see if there were any items of evidence that could be sent for DNA testing, or if

there was anything investigators missed back in the day.

We would read the whole case, we would go over evidence.

So when we did, we had somebody at our state lab assigned to the Cold Case Unit.

So when you have 100, 200 pieces of evidence, you can sit down with a forensic examiner

at the lab and say, what do you think, by looking at the lab results, would be our best

evidence to resubmit for testing.

Sergeant Beauchamp said this was not a simple process.

Like she mentioned, they had so much evidence, but again, the crime scene was a messy motel


It was difficult or maybe impossible to know which of the things would have the killer’s

DNA on them, and which were there before the crime, and entirely unrelated to the murderer.

Now you may be developing profiles of somebody who was there before Desiree was there.

So, you know, in that sense, you also don’t want to deflect your case by developing profiles

that are unrelated to your case, which is another roadblock we ran into with this case.

I mean, if something happens at someone’s home, your sheets are your sheets, your blankets

are your blankets.

They ended up selecting about 15 items from evidence to test.

And while those were being tested, the cold case unit dove headfirst into revamping the


They tried to track down key people, but the New London Groton area was a pretty transient


Remember, there’s a naval base there, so people would come and go back then, and many of Desiree’s

friends were sex workers who weren’t anchored to that area either.

So finding the people they wanted to speak with all these years later proved to be a


We tried to stick in our investigation to the closest people to Desiree.

Her closest friends, you know, who now are kind of scattered around, and the people who

came forth and said they did see her on Bank Street that night.

We talked to them.

Where did you see her?

What time?

Where did you see her?

What time?

Where did you see her?

What time?

Because, again, they’re just constantly moving, constantly moving.

So it wasn’t, she was at this place for five hours and then went home.

Nope, she was seen here.

She was seen here.

She was seen here.

One of the people they were able to track down and talk to again was George, and his

story hadn’t changed.

Even 30-something years later, Sergeant Beauchamp said he still seemed genuinely upset about

Desiree’s murder, and he was still just as cooperative as he was on day one, further

solidifying the theory that he wasn’t involved in her murder.

After the Cold Case Unit revisited Desiree’s case, there was another few years again where

there was little movement.

And when the unit was disbanded in 2016 due to lack of funding, I’m sure there were fears

that the investigation was permanently halted.

But that wasn’t the case.

Sergeant Beauchamp stayed on Desiree’s case, ready to follow up any tip that she received.

And a few tips did trickle in, like one in Texas from 2017 that she actually ended up

going in person to investigate the following spring.

She wouldn’t elaborate on what the lead was, but she told Case Unsolved that she doesn’t

think it’ll be what ends up cracking the case.

And those tips were the last ones that police have received in Desiree’s case.

Although neither of the tips amounted to anything, it was encouraging to know people were still

thinking about Desiree and wanting to help.

And in the end, Sergeant Beauchamp knows that’s what’s going to close the case for good.

People coming forward with information they’ve kept quiet for nearly four decades.

There weren’t many people that knew she was there.

I feel like everybody knows about a homicide, other than who did it.

I always feel like somebody else knows besides the person.

Will that person ever come forward?

You just hope that something will break or you’ll get that call.

Desiree had big dreams for her future when someone selfishly decided to end her life

in 1984.

It’s been almost 40 years with no justice for her and no answers for her loved ones.

So please, if you know anything about the murder of 18-year-old Desiree Michaud on April

7th, 1984, please call the Groton Town Police Department at 860-441-6712.

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