Diane Ledet Vegas, 32, died from a single gunshot wound inside the restaurant she ran with her husband, Chester Vegas, Sr.

By Chris Harris
June 18, 2021 10:48 AM
Chester Vegas Sr., 78, of Cut Off has been charged with Second Degree Murder in the shooting that killed his wife, Diane Vegas
Chester Vegas, Sr.
| Credit: Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office

More than 40 years after his wife was gunned down inside the Louisiana fried chicken restaurant they owned and operated together, a 78-year-old man is free on $50,000 bail after being formally charged with her murder.

Diane Ledet Vegas was 32 on Oct. 10, 1977 - the day she was killed at the Chicken House, the Golden Meadow, La., restaurant, the couple ran.

Diane died from a single gunshot wound to the back.

Investigators arrived at the scene to find the restaurant's register had been rifled through. However, police were unable to determine if any money had been stolen.

According to a statement from the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office, Chester Vegas, Sr. - who now resides in Cut Off, La. - had long been considered a suspect in his wife's murder, but was never arrested.

The case eventually went cold, the statement explains.

But things started heating up last October, when a "detective re-opened the case and obtained new information that led to establishing probable cause for Chester Vegas' arrest."

The statement doesn't detail the new evidence, but The Houma Courier, citing sources close to the investigation, reports an alibi witness recently recanted their statement.

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"We hope this arrest can begin to bring some closure to the Vegas family who have been living with questions about Diane's death for nearly 44 years," Sheriff Craig Webre said in a statement.

"New information combined with the initial investigation helped us build probable cause for the arrest," he added.

After receiving the new information, police say they obtained a warrant last Friday, June 11, and arrested Chester the same day.

He posted bond soon after and was released, according to the police statement.

The police statement does not mention a possible motive for the killing, and Vegas did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

"Essentially, there are relatives of the victim who remained vigilant in keeping up with the case over the years and (they) led detectives to go back and look at it and reanalyze the evidence," Webre told The Daily Comet, in Thibodaux, La. "They then realized the case strongly, strongly pointed in one direction, and that direction was the husband."

It was unclear if Vegas had entered a plea to the second-degree murder charge filed against him. PEOPLE was unable to identify Vegas' defense attorney Friday.

Local KIRO7 reports that Vegas is due to make his first court appearance next month, where he faces a potential life sentence without parole.