Article photograph credit: Getty/RichLegg
Jody Plauche was a ten-year-old boy from Baton Rougue. Like many kids his age, Jody played a number of sports, one of which was karate. However, shortly after his 10th birthday, Jody’s karate teacher, Jeff Doucett, began a yearlong period of sexual abuse inflicted on the young boy.
Like many other predators, Doucett had charmed his way into the Plauche family and they entrusted him with their young son and eventually, Doucett was spending almost all of his free time with Jody. Doucett was even trusted to take Jody – and the rest of the karate team – to out of state tournaments. To the Plauche family, Doucett seemed like the perfect role model for their shy son. The only person who saw Doucett’s true colours was Jody. When he wasn’t molesting him, he was flying into jealous rages, accusing Jody of loving his father, Gary Plauche, more than him.
Then on the 19th of February, 1984, Jody went missing from his family home in Baton Rouge. Eleven days later, the FBI eventually tracked him down to a hotel room in Anaheim, California, where he had been held after being abducted by Doucett. They were alerted to the hotel room after Doucett called Jody’s mother and demanded she bring her other three children and join him in New York if she ever wanted to see her son again.
The FBI burst through the hotel room door and rescued Jody. His hair had been dyed black by Doucett as an attempt at a disguise. Doucett was arrested on kidnapping accusations. Jody was sent back to his parents in Baton Rouge where he refused to tell his parents what a medical examination had proved – that he had been systematically sexually abused. Jody later said that he had expected his parents to uncover the truth much earlier. “To me it was obvious. I couldn’t figure out why no one could figure this out,” he later said. “Even at age 11, I knew there was something wrong with the guy.” Jody said that no matter how bad things had got, he was too afraid to tell anybody his secret.
Doucett was extradited from California to Baton Rouge on the 16th of March. As he walked through the Metro airport alongside two officers, unbeknownst to them, Jody’s father, Gary Plauche, was standing nearby at a pay phone. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses and was carrying a concealed weapon. He was waiting for the man who had sexually abused his son for over a year and had finally abducted him and carried out unthinkable acts alone in that hotel room.
As Doucett walked past, handcuffed and assisted by a police officer, Gary spun around and fired a single gunshot into Jeffrey’s head, right above the ear. The entire ordeal was captured on camera by WBRZ-TV cameraman, Abram McGull. After firing the fatal shot, Gary said: “If it were your son, you would have done the same thing.”1 As blood was spurting from Doucett’s wound, Gary threw the gun to the ground and was tackled by an officer.
The killing sparked debate about vigilante justice across the nation with many applauding his actions. According to Gary’s lawyer, he believed he was acting on a “divine mandate” to protect his family.2Gary pleaded no contest to a manslaughter charge and received a suspended sentence of seven years in prison, five years of probation and hundreds of hours of community service. Over the years, the Plauche family received thousands of letters of support from all across the nation.3
Following the shooting, Jody felt as though he had lost a friend. “I was upset at the time,” he recollected. “He was like your best friend except that he had this one little problem that you wish he would just quit,” he said.4 As an adult, Jody went on to become a key speaker at state conferences on sexual abuse and molestation. He also worked as a sexual assault counsellor and volunteered at the Victim Services Center of Montgomery County. He said that a common mistake people make is assuming that strangers pose the greatest risk to children. “That’s not how it works, the dirty old man in the park,” he said.
Following his release, Gary went back to a life of normality. He returned to his old job as a heavy equipment salesman and continued to volunteer as a coach for children’s sports in the evening. He later lost a bid for a pardon which would have allowed him to carry a gun again; he said he had no interest in carrying a concealed weapon but had wanted to go hunting with his sons.
In 2014, at the age of 68, Gary passed away after lingering complications from a series of strokes. While to many, Gary was simply known as the Baton Rouge father who shot his son’s molester, his family remember him as a kind, fun and loving man – a husband, father and grandfather that was the life and soul of every party. “Everyone thinks of my dad as a killer,” said Jody. “This was not a killer. This was a wonderful man who was a friend to everyone.”5
- The Montana Standard, 19 March, 1984 – “Victim’s Dad Retaliates”
- Santa Maria Times, 22 March, 1984 –“Voices Guided Accused Killer”
- The Times, 26 June, 2005 – “Victim Turned Pain into Healing”
- The Advocate, 11 April, 1994 – “Victim Warns ‘It’s Not Only Strangers Who’re Molesters’”
- The Acadiana Advocate, 21 October, 2014 – “Gary Plauch, Man Who Killed Son’s Accused Molester, Dies”