Baton Rouge (AP) - In death, executed murderer Elmo Patrick Sonnier
received what few Catholics ever achieve -- a funeral Mass conducted by a
bishop and burial within the shadow of graves of other bishops.
Sonnier's 27-year-old brother, also convicted in the 1977 lovers lane
murders of two teen-agers, attended the funeral Mass in chains. The Mass was
celebrated by Bishop Stanley Ott at a local funeral home.
Sonnier died in Louisiana's electric chair just after midnight
About 30 members of the family attended the services, at first crowding
around the plain gray steel casket adorned with a red splash of roses.
Eddie Sonnier, chained at the ankles and wrists and watched by three
Corrections Department guards, hovered over the opened casket, gazing at the
shaven head of his brother, weeping and consoled by Sister Helen Prejean,
spiritual adviser of the murderer.
"Patrick died for his brother," said Sister Prejean of the Sisters of St.
In December 1977, a month after the murders of Loretta Bourque, 18, and
David LeBlanc, 16, the brothers were arrested and both confessed that Elmo was
the one who pumped three .22-caliber bullets into each of the victims'
The brothers received the death penalty but the Louisiana Supreme Court
reduced Eddie's sentence to life because he was the youngest, was dominated by
his older brother and was not the triggerman.
After the sentence was reduced, Eddie changed his story and said he was
the triggerman, not his brother.
"Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy," Bishop Stanley Ott
of the Diocese of Baton Rouge intoned. "At the cross, Jesus said to the thief,
'today you will be with me in paradise.'"
Bishop Ott, who prayed for the victims and their families, said, "We live
in an imperfect world. We are all sinners.
"Jesus, who should have received mercy, did not. But he received God's
The bishop said Pope John Paul II noted that if people went by the
biblical phrase "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," the world would be
"Finally, there must be mercy," Ott said. "May the mercy of God be with
Sister Prejean said her friends in the order took on the responsibility of
burying Sonnier because his mother is infirmed and couldn't be at the
As for the bishop's presence, she said, "the bishops are taking more and
more stands for human rights. They are very much against capital punishment.
That's why he was here."
Sonnier was buried in a special plot at Roselawn Cemetery set aside for
Just across the narrow gravel road is the plot where bishops and noted
priests are buried.