Abduction — or sexual assault — of a child is almost every parent’s worst nightmare. Gary Plauché, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, father, went through both and then did the unthinkable: he tracked down the man who kidnapped his son and shot him in the head. Plauché’s act of vengeance became a national sensation after a cameraman caught the murder on tape.

Gary Plauche fatally shot his 11-year-old son’s alleged molester, Jeffrey Doucet. A local news crew documented the shooting. In March 1984, Doucet kidnapped Jody and drove him nearly 2000 miles from his home in Louisiana to a California hotel.

During his trial, Plauché drew even more media attention. Onlookers assessed his character as a judge decided his fate. Should he be charged with murdering another man or praised for bringing a dangerous criminal to justice?

Who was Gary Plauche?

Leon Gary Plauché was born in Baton Rouge on November 10, 1945. He was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force for a short time. Plauché worked as an equipment salesman and a cameraman for a local news station after leaving the army.

Plauché appeared to be destined for a quiet and ordinary life. Then everything changed one day.

On Feb. 19, 1984, the series of events that would change Plauché’s life forever began when his 11-year-old son Jody’s karate instructor picked him up for a ride. Jody Plauché’s mother, June, was promised that they’d be back in 15 minutes by Jeff Doucet, a 25-year-old with a large beard.

June Plauché had no reason to be skeptical of Doucet. He taught karate to three of their four children and was well-liked in the neighborhood. Doucet relished the opportunity to spend time with the boys, and they relished the opportunity to spend time with him.

Jody Plauché told his high school newspaper a year ago, “He’s all of our best friends.” June claims that her son gave up football and basketball to devote as much time as possible to Doucet’s dojo.

Jeff Doucet wasn’t taking Jody for a ride around the neighborhood, she had no idea. By the evening, the two had boarded a bus bound for the West Coast. Doucet shaved his beard and dyed Jody’s blond hair black on the way. He hoped to pass Jody off as his own son while also eluding the police, who were on their way to apprehend them.

Doucet and Jody Plauché stayed in a budget motel in Anaheim, California, just a few blocks from Disneyland. Doucet sexually assaulted his karate student inside the motel room. This went on until Jody requested and received permission to call his parents, which Doucet granted. Jody’s parents alerted police, who traced the call and arrested Doucet, while Jody was put on a flight back to Louisiana.

Mike Barnett, a Baton Rouge sheriff’s major who had assisted in the arrest of Jeff Doucet and knew Gary Plauché, took it upon himself to inform him of the karate instructor’s actions against his son. Gary “had the same reaction most parents have when they find out their children have been raped or molested,” according to Barnett.

Trial of Gary Plauche

Plauché remained tense despite the fact that his son had been found. He spent the next few days inside The Cotton Club, a local bar, asking people when they thought Doucet would be returned to Baton Rouge for trial. Plauché was out for a drink when a former colleague from WBRZ News informed him that the disgraced karate instructor would be flown in at 9:08.

Plauché flew out of Baton Rouge. He wore a baseball cap and sunglasses as he entered the arrivals hall. He walked over to a payphone, his face hidden. A WBRZ news crew prepared their cameras to record the caravan of cops escorting Jeff Doucet out of his plane as he made a quick call. Plauché pulled a gun from his boot and shot Doucet in the head as they passed by.

The WBRZ crew caught the bullet that Plauché fired through Doucet’s skull on camera. Over 20 million people have viewed the video of Doucet collapsing and Barnett tackling Plauché to the wall on YouTube. The officer yelled at his friend as he disarmed him, “Why, Gary, why did you do it?”

“If somebody did it to your kid, you’d do it, too!” said Plauche in tears.

Plauché told his attorney, Foxy Sanders, while in jail awaiting trial, “I don’t want him to do it to other kids.” Sanders claimed that the voice of Christ compelled him to pull the trigger. Plauché’s murder was still murder in the eyes of the law, despite the fact that he had killed a child molester. He had to stand trial, and it was unclear whether he would be released or sentenced to prison.

Once the world learned how meticulously Jeff Doucet had groomed Jody Plauché, Sanders was adamant that Plauché would not be locked up for a single day. Sanders also claimed that Jody’s kidnapping had pushed his father into a “psychotic state,” in which he couldn’t tell right from wrong.

Baton Rouge residents were not on board. They said Plauché was in his right mind when he killed Doucet if you asked them.

The locals had already “acquitted him,” wrote journalist Art Harris for The Washington Post that same year, “from strangers on the street to the boys at The Cotton Club, where Gary Plauche used to drink Miller Lites.”

Hero or Vigilante?

Plauché, according to one of these locals, Murray Curry, a riverboat captain, was anything but a killer. “He’s a father who did it out of love and pride for his child.” Curry, like his neighbors, contributed to a defense fund set up to help Plauché repay his $100,000 bail and keep his family afloat while he fought the case.

Plauché’s popularity soared as a result of massive public support. So much so that when it came time for Plauché’s sentencing, the judge decided not to send him to prison. He had stated that doing so would be counterproductive. Plauché, he was certain, had no intention of harming anyone except the already deceased Jeff Doucet.

Plauché was sentenced to five years of probation and 300 hours of community service after pleading guilty to murder. Plauché was back to living a relatively normal life under the radar before completing both. When he was in his late 60s, he died of a stroke in 2014.

He was described in his obituary as a man who “saw beauty in everything, he was a loyal friend to all, he always made others laugh, and he was a hero to many,” according to his obituary.

Jody Plauché, on the other hand, took some time to process his assault but eventually wrote a book called Why, Gary, Why? Jody tells his side of the story in order to help parents prevent their children from going through what he did.

Jody also enjoys cooking and enjoys sharing his hobby with others on the internet.

Jody still remembers the horrific events of his youth, despite his acceptance of what happened to him. That’s partly due to the fact that the internet constantly reminds him of it. “I’ll post a cooking video on YouTube, and someone will say, ‘Your dad’s a hero,’” he said in an interview with The Advocate. ‘That gumbo looks fantastic,’ they won’t say. They’ll just say things like, ‘Your father is a hero.’”

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