RPSO solves 1989 cold case, Alexandria man arrested for murder

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office has solved a cold case from 1989 involving the disappearance of two women, one of them the suspect’s wife.

Bobby Blair (RPSO) with victims: Marian Elizabeth Coutee (left) and Isabelle Mansell Blair (right)

Late Tuesday, investigators arrested Robert “Bobby” Blair, 71, of Alexandria, on two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Blair’s wife, Isabelle Blair, who was 34 at the time, and her friend, Marian Coutee, who was 31. (Bobby Blair was 41 at the time.)

According to the sheriff's office, in July 1989, Isabelle Blair, 34, split with her husband, Bobby Blair. She got into a Nissan truck with her friend, Marian Coutee, 31. The two were never seen again.

"You never forget," said Sheriff William Earl Hilton at a press conference on Wednesday. "These things haunt you for all of your life."

Evidence was limited. And, the sheriff's office spent the next 30 years trying to put the pieces together. But, they never could quite fit. But, about a month ago, they received information that would heat up the cold case.

"This case became cold after he (Major Mark Baden) had worked on it for quite some time," said Sheriff Hilton. "And, about two months ago, Major Baden received information that assisted him in reopening this case."

Last week, deputies, with the help of several other law enforcement agencies and the City of Alexandria, hit an object in a pond on private property. Contact was made with the new landowner, and as investigators told us, the property was previously owned by the family of Blair. As they began to drain the water, the mystery of the missing women and that missing truck started to rise up.

News Channel 5 received a tip that deputies were searching the pond off Highway 71 and we were there as a Nissan truck was pulled from the water. As we learned at a Wednesday press conference, that truck matched the descriptions of the vehicle Blair and Coutee were last seen in.

Blair was arrested Tuesday and faces two counts of first-degree murder. News Channel 5 was there as he was brought in to the jail.

We dug into Blair's marriage history through Rapides Parish Clerk of Court records. We learned that his marriage to Isabelle was his third in May 1985.

Court records filed in June 1989, in a petition for separation filed by Bobby, state that the two separated in March 1989 when Isabelle "without warning...abandoned the matrimonial regime and has refused to return despite repeated requests."

When Blair remarried in 2010, on the certificate, he stated that marriage would be his first.

Solving the case is bittersweet for some.

"It feels very good. I always work for the victim. You know, through my whole career, I always had the victim out front - the victim and their family," said Major Baden, who was assigned to the case back when the disappearance occurred. "What is really sad is both victims' parents are deceased now. We didn't quite make it in time."

The sheriff isn't saying if they have been able to get information from Blair about the location of the women's remains. He said the investigation is ongoing.

If convicted of murder, and the state doesn’t try for the death penalty on the charges, he faces an automatic sentence of life in prison.

The bond for Blair is set at $2,000,000.

Wednesday's press conference from RPSO:

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