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New Orleans community leader found dead


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New Orleans community leader found dead

published Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A New Orleans community activist and former grand marshal of Southern Decadence was found beaten to death in his home Monday, police reported.

Robin Malta, 43, was found by his sister Monica Thurmond, who had gone to his Marigny district home to check on him. He had apparently been dead for some time, a coroner's spokesman told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

On Tuesday morning, Malta's 1997 Nissan was found dumped in a Central City neighborhood, burned and its windows shattered.

Among those questioned by police is Shawn Curry, 36, an ex-roommate of Malta's, WWL-TV reported. Authorities said Tuesday that Curry is not a suspect, but they hope he can shed light on the killing, the fourth reported in New Orleans in as many days.

Malta and Thurmond, both third-generation NOLA residents, owned Salon d'Malta, a popular hair salon in the French Quarter. Famed for his generosity and good spirits, Malta raised tens of thousands of dollars for gay and other causes, including Food for Friends, the pantry of New Orleans' AIDS Task Force.

In 1998, he was named grand marshal of Southern Decadence, the massive gay event held every Labor Day weekend. After Hurricane Katrina, he gave National Guard members free haircuts in gratitude for their service.

"He loved everyone," Thurmond told WWL. "He didn't have an enemy anywhere."

Especially after Katrina, Malta spoke and agitated often against the rise of crime in his city and particularly in his neighborhood.

"Drive-by muggings -- I mean, there's guys riding around in vehicles just mugging people, jumping in their vehicles, going around the corner, mugging somebody else," he told WDSU-TV in October.

"I'd like to see the mayor actually walk Marigny Street, from Charters to Rampart Street, by himself at 3 o'clock in the morning. I guarantee you he'd get mugged."

Friends plan to organize a march on Malta's behalf. They ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the city's Crimestoppers program. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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