Suspect arrested in cold-case killing of Tulane graduate

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Suspect arrested in cold-case killing of Tulane graduate

A convicted felon has been charged in the cold-case slaying of a St. Louis man who was killed five years ago while visiting New Orleans to scout wedding venues, authorities said.

Ernest Weatherspoon, 34, was indicted this week on murder charges in the May 2016 death of Thomas Rolfes — a 25-year-old Tulane University student who was shot and killed during an armed robbery.

“They’ve been through a lot,” District Attorney Jason Williams said Thursday of Rolfes’ anguished relatives, NOLA.com reported. “They’re still going through a lot.”

Weatherspoon was also charged with armed robbery, Williams told reporters.

Rolfes, who returned to the Big Easy on Mother’s Day weekend to meet his fiancée Liz Fried and check out potential wedding venues, was allegedly shot by Weatherspoon who picked him out randomly and mugged him, firing at least one shot into his chest, a source told the outlet.

The St. Louis native graduated from Tulane in 2011 and later left New Orleans for South Carolina, where he worked as a construction project manager. Rolfes also served as an event planner for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during his 2012 campaign, NOLA.com reported.

Thomas Rofles
Rofles, above, was in New Orleans to look at wedding venues with his fiancée.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Offic

Cooperating witnesses and other new evidence tied Weatherspoon to the high-profile killing, according to Williams, who declined to elaborate.

The district attorney said he spoke to Fried on Wednesday.

“Liz told me she thought they would never get answers,” Williams said Thursday. “It’s a good day.”

Weatherspoon, who was arrested in Harvey, was serving three years of active probation after pleading guilty in New Orleans in June to aggravated assault upon a peace officer and illegally carrying a weapon as a previously convicted felon, NOLA.com reported.

DA Jason Williams speaking with the media.
‘It’s a good day,’ district attorney Jason Williams, above, said of the indictment.
AP

He was also freed after posting $1,000 bond in connection to a domestic battery charge, to which he pleaded not guilty in November.

Weatherspoon, who was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday in Rolfes’ slaying, faces a mandatory term of life in prison if convicted, the outlet reported.

The late man’s former fiancée, meanwhile, said the break in the long-unsolved case left her somewhat unsettled.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Fried told NOLA.com. “It brings up the sadness of the case. But we’re really happy that we’re finally closer to getting answers, and not living with uncertainty.”

Rofles, left, pictured with his fiancée Liz Fried.
Rofles, left, pictured with his fiancée Liz Fried.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Fried

It remains unclear when Weatherspoon will face trial, as Orleans Parish Criminal District Court has not summoned a jury in a murder case since the pandemic started last year, NOLA.com reported.

“I know that this is just the beginning of the road, and we will see what happens from here,” Fried continued. “But I’m just relieved that we’ve made it this far.”

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