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Charges upgraded to murder in Catahoula Parish case

Harrisonburg, La. — Two suspects arrested in connection to the killing and dismemberment of a Louisiana woman now face first-degree murder charges.

Law enforcement officials upgraded the charges Tuesday.

Daniel White, 36, of Sterlington, La., and Leah Marie Pontiff, 30, of Monroe, La., face charges in the killing of Gwendolyn McIntosh, 29, of Sterlington.

The motive for the killing is still unknown, Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelly said.

“There was enough evidence in the case and after discussing it with the District Attorney’s office, we determined it would be the appropriate charge,” Kelly said. “We’re still not completely clear on what exactly happened or specific details of the incident, but we do know that (Pontiff) was a principal to the crime and not just a witness.”

Pontiff originally visited the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office in late June and told deputies she could show them where a body might be buried that might be related to a missing person report filed days earlier, Kelly said.

Pontiff led the deputies throughout Ouachita Parish on the search, Kelly said, and eventually wound up in Catahoula Parish near Sicily Island.

Kelly said Catahoula deputies took over the case at that point and were eventually taken to a cornfield where Pontiff said a body had recently been buried.

Human remains were uncovered at the site and were transported to the LSU FACES, or Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services, Laboratory, which assists law enforcement agencies with the recovery and identification of human remains, among other things.

The remains were later identified as McIntosh. Kelly said investigators are still working to learn more about the victim.

McIntosh’s exact cause of death, Kelly said, has yet to be determined.

“The body was dismembered and dumped out in at least two different locations, and we’re not really sure any information on her until we’ve found all the parts,” Kelly said. “Pontiff not being familiar with the area, she had a hard time trying to lead us to where the other body parts were disposed of, so we’re still looking for that site.”

Kelly said McIntosh’s mother, who originally filed the missing persons report a week before Pontiff led deputies on the search, has been working with deputies.

Two CPSO deputies are traveling to Dallas this week to attempt to locate McIntosh’s father and collect DNA samples from him in hopes he might have useful information for the investigation.

“We’re continuing to check into every single angle we can,” Kelly said. “We’re not through here.”

White’s bond was originally set at $475,000, but was increased to $2,475,000 Tuesday.

Pontiff’s bond was originally set at $250,000, but was increased to $600,000.