And Now You Know: Was Ivan Crochet murdered?

Published 10:54 pm Friday, September 14, 2018

By Mike Louviere

In 1950, the area across the Sabine River from Orange known as “East Orange” was a strip of nightclubs that ranged from establishments that could be considered the upper class to those that were “buckets of blood.”

Buster’s was billed as “The Place you should not miss.”

The Grove was an elegant nightclub that hosted big bands and had a “coat and ties” dress code.

The Showboat was noted for gambling. Reportedly those who operated the Showboat did not take kindly to those who tried to leave as winners from their night of gaming. It was a rough and tough place, there were fights, reports of people being “knocked in the head,” and occasionally a body found floating in the water around the boat.

East Orange was miles away from Louisiana law enforcement in Lake Charles. Louisiana authorities often turned a blind eye to happenings in East Orange. Since East Orange was in Louisiana, even though it was just across the river from Orange, Texas law did not apply.

A possible murder occurred in September 1950 when the body of 26-year-old Ivan Crochet was found floating in the river downstream from the Sabine River bridge in Orange.

Dr. E.L. Clements, the Calcasieu Parish coroner, made what Crochet’s friends considered a very haphazard investigation of the case. Clements ruled that death was due to asphyxiation due to drowning. He did not make a ruling on whether the death was accidental or otherwise.

Clements said the case was closed. A reporter from the Orange Leader contacted the Calcasieu Parish sheriff’s office and was informed that the investigation had been concluded and would not be reopened.

Other than questions of Ivan’s fate, this is all that remains of East Orange.

Crochet had attended the Jaycee Rodeo in Orange with two friends. After the rodeo, the friends took Crochet to one of the gambling clubs in East Orange and left him there.

Another friend stated that he had seen Crochet in the club at about 8 p.m. at a table and he was still gambling at 9:30. Another person said that Crochet was in the bar between 11 p.m. and midnight. Two other people that did not know Crochet personally told that a man answering his description was in the gaming room after midnight and was “way ahead at the table.” That was the last report on Crochet. The next morning his body was found floating face down in the river.

Louisiana authorities stated that his body was found about two miles south of the bridge near the mouth of Conway’s Bayou. Later, they said the body was found near Phoenix Lake, about a mile south of the bridge at Orange.

Crochet’s friends were not satisfied with the findings of the Louisiana authorities. They had a suspicion that Crochet was murdered because he had been a winner at the gambling table. When his body was found, there was no money on it. His watch had stopped at 9:25. One of the friends had said he asked the time at about 5:00 p.m. the day before and Crochet’s watch was working at that time. The body was discovered at about 1:30 p.m.

One of the friends who saw the body said it looked like the body had been dead several hours before it was placed in the river. The mortician who recovered the body agreed with the friend.

Crochet’s friends said that Dr. Clements had not “laid hands on the corpse”, and no autopsy was ordered.

The friends did not wish to be identified at the time of the report and the name of the club where Crochet had been was not identified. Conditions being what they were in East Orange, there was fear of retaliation if details were revealed too soon.

The friends were opening their investigation of Crochet’s death. They believed that his death had occurred sometime between midnight and 9:25 a.m. and he had been dead several hours before being dumped in the river. They believe he was murdered because he had been winning at the club and no money was found on his body.

They intended to conduct a private investigation of the death and then take their findings to Crochet’s family in Jennings, Louisiana and talk to them about petitioning Louisiana to reopen the investigation.

The death of Ivan Crochet was one of the many stories about the mysteries of East Orange.

“And now you know.”