Port Arthur mother asks for help in solving son’s 2014 killing

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, May 10, 2023

A Port Arthur mother is seeking closure in the death of her son who was fatally shot in the back almost a decade ago.

Lula Noel understands if people are afraid to come forward with information on the Feb. 14, 2014, death of Eric Darnell Noel, 29, but she carries hope and faith the crime will be solved.

“I understand that part, totally,” Noel said of people’s fear. “Just call in to Crime Stoppers. I understand people don’t want to talk. I don’t blame them. I’d be scared, too.”

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But Noel also had a hard time dealing with the manner in which her son was killed.

“Regardless of what people thought of him toward the end, the way he died, that’s what gets me,” she said. “Face to face, I would have been like, maybe? I would question it. But shot in the back, that just bothers me.”

The still grieving mother worries the Port Arthur Police Department has just laid the case to the side, saying she never really felt a connection to the detectives she worked with. Since Eric’s death there have been three to four detectives assigned the case, she said.

“Ever since the case started I wondered, did each one get to follow the leads, did they look into them, has anyone else been questioned? It’s frustrating,” she said.

Noel said she has been told the case is open, but then there are periods of time where she doesn’t hear from police and new cases are coming up.

“Am I on the back burner since it’s been nine years and so much is happening,” she said.

PAPD Det. Ahmaal Bodden said a person of interest was identified years ago, and in 2017 police asked the public for help locating him on a felony robbery warrant. The man was arrested twice on separate charges but did not make a statement regarding Eric’s death.

Bodden said he heard there were people with information on the homicide but they did not want to come forward. For now, there’s no cooperation from the public. Some, Bodden said, fear retaliation.

Crime & aftermath

Police received a call of a “man down” shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 14, 2014, in the 800 block of 9th Street. Police found the victim with a gunshot wound. He was sent to Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, where he later died.

Police said there had been several altercations in the parking lot at nearby BJ’s Food Store, 1201 Seventh St., and at some point Eric walked away. Within minutes shots were heard. When officers arrived, they found Eric down on the ground.

Noel said in a 2017 interview that she heard there was an altercation that night and a person told her Eric got into an argument with a man and then left.

He left walking toward his girlfriend’s house, as he’s done many times before.

“They believe the same guy went around the corner and opened fire, just like that. Over an argument,” she said in the interview.

Noel and her husband were in bed when they got the call. She said she couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. Police were trying to get information from her and had her son’s picture up. There was confusion. By the time she got to the hospital, he was dead.

There was no one there to comfort them, she said.

“I didn’t get to say goodbye,” she said earlier this week. “It was the way it happened. The only time I got to see him, he was already embalmed and I viewed the body and that was it.”

Coping with the loss

Eric’s aunt, Angela Lutz, remembers when Eric was younger. Lutz’ husband was in the U.S. Navy and the couple moved out of the state when Eric was a child.

“I moved when he was little. He was just a bubbly kid,” Lutz said.

The death has been hard on the family, and for her sister, Eric’s mother.

“It’s hard to think of your child laying on the road and you don’t know what happened.”

Noel is now raising Eric’s two children, a boy and a girl. She works to make sure his memory remains alive and the children know about their father.

She shows them videos of Eric acting silly or clowning around.

“His little boy is 12 now,” Noel said. “I show him pictures of his dad at his birthday. I tell him his daddy was an outgoing guy.”

Noel said she’s “hanging in there” in dealing with the killing of her son. Hope and faith keep her going.

“Hope, that’s the thing. Just hope,” she said. “Holding on to hope and my faith. I look at every (other) case and see other families who lost a loved one and that’s the one thing they say they hold on to – one day someone will say something and bring the whole case to light.”

People with information about the death of Eric Noel can call Crime Stoppers of Southeast Texas at 409-833-TIPS or by downloading the P3 Tips app on a smart phone. Tips are anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.