Nude-photo blackmail scheme drove popular Texas A&M professor to suicide
Newly-released legal documents are shedding light on the mysterious death of James Aune — the well-regarded Texas A&M professor who leapt to his death from a campus parking garage in January, shocking students and colleagues alike.
Daniel Duplaisir, a 37-year-old Louisiana resident, has been arrested and appeared in a Houston federal court Tuesday for using an underage female relative to lure the educator into a sexual online relationship via the social networking and gaming portal MocoSpace.
Text messages reveal that Duplaisir was harassing the professor in the days and hours leading up to his suicide.
According to an FBI affidavit obtained by CultureMap, the young girl, whose name has not been released, told authorities that Duplaisir took nude photos and videos of her as part of an extortion scheme.
Working through a fake name and email account, she would collect phone numbers from male MocoSpace users. Duplaisir would finish the scam by calling the man under the guise of an angry father who needed money to pay for his daughter's therapy.
Text messages extracted from Aune's iPhone reveal that Duplaisir was harassing the professor in the days and hours leading up to his suicide.
Duplaisir sent text messages and emails claiming his daughter — who went by the name of "Karen" — was transgendered and in need of counseling after her explicit relationship with Aune. He threatened to go to the police and Texas A&M administration if the professor refused to pay $4,800.
Hours before Aune's death, Duplaisir went so far as to post an online professor review on Koofers.com, saying that Aune "taught Karen so much."
A minute before he jumped from an A&M parking facility, Aune texted Duplaisir one last message reading, "Killing myself now And u will be prosecuted for black mail." The suspect continued to send texts, eventually lowering his demand to $2,000.
The FBI documents also note that Duplaisir, who goes by the nickname "Smurf," was arrested in November 2011 for aggravated incest and oral battery after his daughter told social services he took naked pictures of her for a similar MocoSpace scam.
Watch the report from KHOU Ch. 11 in Houston: