Inside The Unsolved Murder Of Jessica Durning

On August 12, 2019, a woman named Maria received several frantic calls from her close friend Jessica Easterly Durning. As reported by Bayou Justice, Durning "didn't go into specifics." However, she did make it clear that she was frightened and wanted to leave her home. According to Justice 4 Jessica, Jessica previously confided in Maria that her marriage had become volatile, and her husband, Justin, had been physically abusive. Jessica said she was planning to leave her husband and ultimately end the marriage.

Bayou Justice reports Maria was unable to leave immediately to pick Jessica up. In addition to being two states away from New Orleans, where Jessica lived, Maria had to pick her children up from school. Instead, Maria made plans to pick Jessica up the following morning. Later that same evening, Maria received a text message, which she believed to be from Jessica, telling her she no longer needed her help.

On August 14, Justin Durning logged into his wife's Facebook account and sent Maria a chilling message. Justice 4 Jessica reports Justin told Maria that Jessica was missing.

Jessica Durning vanished from her home on August 14, 2019

In his message to Maria, Justin Durning said Jessica left home without any of her personal belongings, including her wallet, her keys, and her phone. According to Justice 4 Jessica, Maria was terribly concerned for Jessica's safety and contacted authorities immediately. When the New Orleans Police officers arrived at the Durning home, Justin confirmed Jessica had been missing for several hours. As reported by Uncovered, Justin said he last saw his wife sometime between 12:30 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. on August 14, 2019. He also told the officers that Jessica was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt.

Justin said he laid down for a nap and woke up at approximately 3:00 p.m. When he woke up, Jessica was gone. Although a missing persons report was filed, Uncovered reports Jessica's family and friends were not satisfied with the authorities' efforts to find the missing woman.

Her body was found two blocks from her home

On August 20, 2019, the New Orleans Police Department released a statement to the local media (via Bayou Justice), which stated that Jessica Durning vanished from her residence on August 14, 2019, and had "not been seen or heard from since." Durning's body was found two days later by her sisters, Amanda and Audrey, and their cousin Doug.

According to Bayou Justice, Amanda, Audrey, and Doug, were driving around Jessica's neighborhood looking for possible locations to search when they noticed a putrid odor in the air near a local park. When they got out of the car and walked further into the park, they found Jessica's body laying in the grass. The location was approximately two blocks from the Durning home.

Authorities were unwilling to positively identify the body based on appearance alone. Therefore, they collected DNA from the body and collected samples from Jessica's mother for comparison. Unfortunately, the sample from Jessica's mother was misplaced, and the identification of the victim was delayed until November 8, 2019.

Her cause of death was listed as undetermined

The coroner's report, which was released in January 2020, noted Jessica Durning had suffered a broken nose, jaw, and rib. Her C4 vertebra was also broken, which denotes a broken neck. As reported by Bayou Justice, despite the severity of her injuries, Durning's official cause of death was "undetermined." In a follow-up statement, the coroner's office cited advanced decomposition and the presence of bupropion and methamphetamine in Durning's system, which brought her actual cause of death into question. By the end of that same month, authorities determined the investigation into her death would be classified as a "cold case."

Justice 4 Jessica reports Jessica's family and friends were not satisfied with the coroner's determination or the authorities' decision to stop investigating her death. However, law enforcement officials said there was not enough evidence to prove she was murdered or to identify a suspect. To this day, nobody was ever charged in the death of Jessica Durning.

Jessica Durning's husband reportedly had a history of violent behavior

Despite authorities declaring their investigation into Jessica Durning's death a "cold case," her friends and family had reason to believe Justin was directly involved. As reported by Uncovered, Justin had a history of violent behavior. In July 2011, he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor after driving through a police barricade. In August of that same year, he was arrested and charged with domestic violence.

In January 2019, Jessica invited her friend, who was only identified as "Lo," to visit her and Justin and stay at their home. However, Jessica ultimately contacted Lo and canceled their plans. According to Lo, Jessica told her that she and Justin had been arguing for several days, and she was "scared." According to "Lo," Jessica told her Justin had been mentally and physically abusive and threatened to kick her out of the home. Just seven months later, Uncovered reports Jessica vanished from her home and was found dead.

On August 25, 2021, New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams appeared in a press conference, where he announced Jessica's death was being classified as a homicide and would be investigated as such. However, as of December 2022, Justice 4 Jessica reports no persons of interest were announced, and no arrests have been made.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Her murder remains unsolved

In an attempt to persuade New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams to follow through with the investigation into Jessica Durning's death, Jessica's sister, Audrey Schmidt, started a petition at In her petition, Audrey stated, "We fully believe that this case has not been taken seriously by local authorities ... it is our firm belief that once you examine the information we have gathered, you will agree that the evidence pointing to Jessica's murder is palpable ... the fact that it has been blatantly ignored by the law is nothing short of derelict to their duties to protect and seek justice for all members of their community."

In her petition, Schmidt also claimed her sister was "physically assaulted" by her husband on at least one occasion and "was fearing for her life" in the months and weeks prior to her death. Schmidt also disclosed other evidence that has led her and her family to suspect Justin of involvement in Jessica's death. As of December 2022, the petition has more than 95,000 signatures with a goal of 150,000.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.