Christopher G. Peña

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Biography

Native Louisianian Christopher G. Peña is a writer and researcher. One of the foremost historians of Southeast Louisiana Civil War History, he has published several books on Louisiana history and written numerous essays and articles. Peña earned his history degree from Nicholls State University, where he also taught for several decades. He lives with his family in Knoxville, Tennessee.


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The Strange Case of Dr. Etienne Deschamps: Murder in the New Orleans French Quarter

Was Dr. Etienne Deschamps a vicious murderer, or insane? The French dentist made his home in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In addition to traditional dental procedures, he treated patients by using his supposed magnetic and hypnotic powers, frequently using chloroform. Dangerously obsessed with the lost treasure of Jean Lafitte, Deschamps began a search for the perfect spirit medium to guide him to its hiding place.

Juliette Dietsh was only twelve years old in 1889 when she was murdered in one of the most notorious crimes in New Orleans, Louisiana. The daughter of a poor immigrant, Dietsh’s family came to rely on a charitable dentist. Deschamps had found his medium. Over the course of several months, Deschamps repeatedly hypnotized, anaesthetized, and sexually molested Dietsh. Inevitably he made a mistake: too much chloroform, and Dietsh was dead.

This engrossing account traces the lives of Dietsh and Deschamps. It explores Deschamps’s many trials and mistrials as the courts tried to decide whether he deserved the death sentence or was not guilty by reason of insanity. Deschamps’s life and death present a dilemma that still haunts our justice system today.

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