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Deceased Realtor sued over sex-assault allegations

4-4-2012 Louisiana:

A lawsuit, filed days before a local Realtor was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head, alleges that he sexually assaulted a woman whose house he was trying to sell, court papers say.

Russell Soulet, 47, of Bourg was found Sunday inside an abandoned building he owned on West Main Street near Southland Mall, authorities said. His car was parked nearby.

Soulet, who worked for Mona & Co. in Houma, died of a single gunshot to the head, detectives said. A handgun was found inside the building.

Soulet, who also served on the Terrebonne Recreation District No. 5 board, was last seen Saturday afternoon leaving his house, police said.

The case is currently labeled a “suspicious death.” Suicide has not been ruled out, Terrebonne sheriff's Capt. Dawn Foret said, but questions must be answered before investigators classify the case.

The lawsuit was filed March 26 at the Terrebonne Courthouse.

Sheila Opal and her husband, Joseph, had Soulet helping them repair the living room floor at the home they owned on Bellaire Drive in Houma, the papers say. Soulet was to sell the home for them once the repairs were complete, the papers say.

“Instead of leaving when he was finished and after Ms. Opal had indicated several times that there was nothing more for him to do, Soulet sexually assaulted plaintiff,” the lawsuit says.

The abuse happened in September and caused the couple, who lived in Lake Charles at the time, severe emotional stress, according to the lawsuit. The Opals are seeking an unnamed amount of money for Sheila Opal's post-traumatic stress disorder and the skin rash she alleges she contracted from Soulet.

Soulet was served with the lawsuit March 29, court records show, three days before his body was found.

Sheila Opal did not file a police report after the alleged attack, said Terrebonne sheriff's Capt. Dawn Foret, declining further comment.

J. Courtney Wilson, the Metairie attorney representing the Opals, said it is not uncommon for sexual-assault victims to forgo a police report.

“I don't know why one wasn't filed” in this case, Wilson said. “By the time it got to me, there was nothing to be gained by filing a police report.” ..Source.. by Eric Heisig, Staff Writer

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