Language barrier slows investigation of Metairie murder, kidnapping

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 11:57am

Detectives working to solve a weekend murder in New Orleans say they ran into big obstacles because of a language barrier.

Early Sunday morning, two young boys found their mother, 24-year-old Heidi Monroy, dead in a bathtub in their apartment.

Investigators with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office went to work immediately, trying to interview the kids and neighbors

"We've had to bring in quite a few Spanish interpreters because this whole crime scene and the interrogation process involves people with Hispanic descent so therefore we're trying to do all that we can," said Colonel John Fortunato.

Fortunato says sometimes tracking down translators, especially on short notice, when time is of the essence, can be difficult.

Officer Cesar Cruz is one of eight translators with the Kenner Police Department.

"Constantly getting called. I'm always on call, 24/7," said Cruz.

Cruz says several years ago, the department made a concerted effort to improve communications with Hispanic speaking residents and now requires one of the eight translators to be on duty every shift.

"I come to the scenes, I go the jail, wherever they need me, whatever they need just to make the investigation better. That way we don't have that barrier, that language barrier."

Chief Michael Glaser's goal is to take away the fear factor so many have with officers.

"Don't be afraid of the police, if you're the victim of a crime, call the police."

But that might be easier said than done because of past experiences, according to Carolina Hernandez.

"Where they come from, their home countries, they already have a reluctance to trust government."

Hernandez says she's seeing local police forces make strides in their efforts to better communicate with Hispanic communities, but there's still a long way to go.

"I think the easiest thing they could start doing is just hiring bi-lingual staff."

While funding is certainly an issue for areas like Orleans Parish, Kenner is already looking to add to its force.

In fact, Chief Glaser says he's put the call out to the Hispanic community, looking for qualified applicants.

Heidi Monroy's estranged boyfriend is facing charges in her death.

Authorities tracked him down in Texas Monday, along with three children he took from the home.

The children are in the custody of Texas authorities.

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