Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office is saddened to announce the death of longtime major cases investigator James Michael O’Hern.
Known as Jim to his many friends, O’Hern passed away at home Wednesday morning (Feb. 20) with wife Belinda at his side, concluding a six-month battle with brain cancer. He was 65.
“Jim O’Hern was one of the finest law enforcement officers ever to commit his life to public service in New Orleans,” Cannizzaro said. “He was a man of unimpeachable integrity, dedication and kindness. He served his country with valor as a United States Marine, and brought that same sense of duty and honor to his work on behalf of public safety in New Orleans.”
O’Hern was born in Montgomery, Ala., and was raised both there and in Sierra Vista, Ariz., where he attended Buena High School. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17 and served the nation in that capacity for more than 20 years, retiring at the rank of Staff Sergeant.
O’Hern began his law enforcement career as a deputy with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. He moved to the New Orleans Police Department in 1997, and after many years honing his skills as an officer and detective, he was assigned as a liaison to the District Attorney’s office. He eventually retired from the NOPD and joined the DA’s office in April 2012 as a major crimes investigator.
O’Hern’s investigative expertise proved invaluable in the prosecution of dozens of major cases, including the racketeering case against Central City drug kingpin Telly Hankton, the serial rape case against former Saints safety Darren Sharper and the apprehension of murder suspect Robert Durst on weapons charges at a New Orleans hotel.
O’Hern always cut a dashing figure instructing young investigators and prosecutors at crime scenes in his dapper suits and assortment of fedoras, looking every bit the part of an old-school New Orleans detective. But he also enjoyed life in the city, spending his last several years living in the French Quarter, where he had dozens of friends
unrelated to law enforcement. He met the love of his life, Belinda Smith, and the two married on Aug. 25, 2017.
Nearly a year later, a partial loss of vision led to the discovery of a brain tumor. O’Hern underwent surgery on Aug. 20, 2018. Nine days later, doctors confirmed a diagnosis of glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.
O’Hern is survived by his wife Belinda, his son Patrick, his stepson Allen Smith, his stepdaughter Katherine Brunty Troth and her husband Austin, in-laws Gerald and Joyce Hurr, his brother Marshall and sister-in-law Barbara O’Hern, his brother Calvin and sister-in-
law Sharon O’Hern, niece Ariel O’Hern, nephew Hunter O’Hern, granddaughter Emily O’Hern, and cousin Rick and wife Gretchen Redmon.
He was preceded in death by his parents Hardman (Doc) O’Hern and June Redmon O’Hern of Mobile, Ala.; brother Phillip O’Hern; uncle Jack Redmon and aunt Grace Redmon.
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