Four days afterÂ three people were shot dead in a Crown Point home, relatives and residents of the small bayou community in Jefferson Parish are trying to sort fact from gossip as they seek to make sense of Friday’s violence.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s OfficeÂ investigators say Christopher Pike, 44, of Mandeville, killed his girlfriend, Melissa Daous, 43, and Daous’ cousin, Tonia Dardar, 44, at Dardar’s home in the 7800 block of Barataria Boulevard before Joseph Dardar Sr., 45, returned home and fatally wounded Pike in a kitchen shootout.
Pike was angry about a disagreement over the title of a van Tonia Dardar intended to gift to him and her cousin, Joseph Dardar said Monday (May 21).
While Pike had his issues, his father and Daous’ relatives said they find it unbelievable that Pike would ever kill her or her cousin. Some of Tonia Dardar’s family members have also expressed doubts about Joseph Dardar’s version of events.
But Sheriff’s Office investigators said Monday the evidence, thus far, supports Joseph Dardar’s account, which was also corroborated by a witness.
That witness was Tonia Dardar’s father, according to Joseph Dardar, who said he spent Monday finalizing his wife’s funeral plans and fending off speculation that he had a hand in her death.
“There’s so many rumors going around,” Joseph Dardar said.
Christopher Pike and Daous drove from their Mandeville home to the Dardar house Friday to pick up an older-model Chevrolet 2500 van because Pike’s truck had been having some repair problems, according to Joseph Dardar.
Tonia Dardar was extremely close with Daous, he said. The two women had grown up together, and Tonia Dardar was always trying to help her cousin in times of trouble, according to Joseph Dardar and his sister, Shannon Dardar.
“That’s what took her life,” Joseph Dardar said of his wife’s kindness.
Pike wanted to put the van in his own name, according to Joseph Dardar. But Tonia Dardar refused.
“He was very verbally abusive to her, and she told him that he needed to leave,” Joseph Dardar recounted. “He accepted that, and he was leaving.”
Joseph Dardar left his wife at the house to handle the van’s paperwork while he delivered a load of gravel rocks for the driveway of his father-in-law’s nearby home. He said he left his truck and trailer at the residence so he could spread the gravel in the morning. Joseph Dardar’s father-in-law gave him a ride back to the Barataria Boulevard home.
The two men were walking toward the side door, which enters the kitchen, when Joseph Dardar said he spotted Pike through a window, pacing back and forth inside the house with a gun. Joseph Dardar told his sister he retrieved his shotgun from a pickup truck parked under the carport by shattering the passenger-side window. He then moved back towards the kitchen door.
“When I seen him through the window, he aimed the gun at me and shot it two or three times,” Joseph Dardar said. “When he did that, I reacted as fast as I could, went through the door and he shot at me several more times. I took his life.”
HeÂ said he then saw the bodies of his wife and cousin. He said he tried to perform CPR on his wife until emergency crews arrived, but she and her cousin were pronounced dead at the scene.
The women and Pike died of multiple gunshot wounds, Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich said.
On Monday, bullet holes surrounded the kitchen door Joseph Dardar said he kicked in. There was a ricochet mark on the wooden floor.
The kitchen opens to a vaulted-ceiling family room that was empty Monday. Shannon Dardar motioned toward the floor of the now-bare family room, indicating the spot where Pike died.
Joseph set ablaze the couch that was once in the family room, Shannon Dardar said, because it had bloodstains. The ash and charred springs could be seen in the backyard.
In the dining room that also opens from the family room, more bullet holes pocked the wall and a hall leading away to the center of the house. Tonia Dardar and Daous were killed there in the dining room, Shannon Dardar said.
“The house is coming to the ground,” said Joseph Dardar, who can no longer stand to be in the residence.
Joseph and Tonia Dardar had been together for about 20 years and married for 12, he said. The couple had a 20-year-old daughter, and Tonia Dardar was stepmother to Joseph Dardar’s daughter, 20, and his son, 19, from his first marriage.
“She was a very positive person,” Joseph Dardar said of Tonia Dardar. “She had a non-profit, Who Dat Animal Rescue and Humanitarian Relief. She’s rescued countless animals.”
Tonia Dardar’s cousin, Patricia Bailey, described her as mild-mannered and having aÂ good heart. She fondly recalled playing as children. Tonia Dardar often pretended to be a teacher, instructing her cousins on their ABCs.
“She cared about other people and their stories and their lives and their kids and their families and their pets,” Bailey said.
Tonia Dardar grew up in Lafitte and graduated from Fisher-Middle High School. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University. She and Joseph Dardar shared several businesses, including a salvage operation and a construction company, he said.
Her passion, according to Bailey, was feeding and protecting feral cats. Daous often joined Tonia Dardar on night trips to catch the felines and have them spayed or neutered, Bailey said.
Tonia Dardar’s three children are devastated by her loss, relatives said.
Daous’ relatives could not be reached Monday, but her former mother-in-law, Debra Plaisance, was in tears as she recalled her last conversation with Daous.
“I just can’t think. My mind is just in a cloud,” said Plaisance, who is the grandmother of Daous’ oldest son. “I’ve been beside myself because I talked to her that day, that day she was killed. I talked to her, and I won’t hear her again.”
Daous grew up in Marrero and had three children, including two sons, ages 20 and 23. Her youngest, a 15-year-old daughter, lived with her and Pike along with Pike’s stepfather. Daous’ daughter is with her maternal grandparents, according to Plaisance.
“She was a good person, she really was,” Plaisance said. “Melissa just had some problems.”
Pike was a lovable young man who charmed everyone he met, his father, Michael Pike, 67, said. Christopher Pike battled issues with drugs, according to his dad, but he was no killer.
“For him to kill this girl that he’s been with for five-and-a-half years or so, everybody that I talk to said they were really in love and really were an item. None of this makes sense. It does not make sense,” Michael Pike said.
It was Tonia Dardar who introduced the couple, according to Christopher Pike’s father.
“I know that trio was very close,” he said.
Christopher Pike had been caring for Daous’ daughter since she was 9. He said he doesn’t believe his son would take the girl’sÂ mother away from her.
Plaisance said she heard as much from Daous’ daughter and son.
“My grandson said (Pike) would not have killed his mother,” Plaisance said. “(Daous’ daughter) said the same thing. Chris would have never killed her because he loved their mother.”
Michael Pike vowed to find the truth about the shootings.
“I’m not going to just bury my child and let it rest,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to get answers. I want the truth. I don’t care what the truth is, but I want the honest truth. It’s just not adding up right now.”
Tonia Dardar and Joseph Dardar had been having marital problems, according to her relatives. Tonia Dardar filed for a protective order against her husband in 2010, claiming abuse, according to Jefferson Parish court records. The couple separated in December, Bailey said.
Joseph Dardar admits they took a break in December, but said they were working through their issues. He was still living at the Crown Point home, Joseph Dardar said.
Since Friday, Joseph Dardar said he’s become aware of several rumors surrounding the shootings, including the suggestion that he was after his wife’s life insurance money — not true, he said. Someone also told his children he was responsible for Tonia Dardar’s death.
“It was devastating,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office is confident Dardar’s account is truthful, spokesman Lt. Jason Rivarde said Monday.
“You can only believe half of what you read and none of what you hear,” Joseph Dardar said.Â