Matthew Wade Bonnette
April 21, 1969- April 4, 2004
Described by his family as a “free spirit,” Matthew Wade Bonnette was a multifaceted person whose mindset to life was “just do whatcha wanna do.” Born on April 21, 1969, in Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, Matthew was one of seven children. He grew up in a large, middle-class Catholic family—what his older brother, Tony Bonnette, has lovingly described as “dysfunctional.” Since his death, Matthew’s father, Robert Adrian Bonnette (1937-2018), and one sister, Becky Perera (1958-2021), have also passed away.
Matthew was a well-behaved child and got along well with all his siblings. He was particularly close to his brother, James Bonnette, and the two of them loved to wrestle with each other as children. Throughout his childhood, Matthew developed friendships easily and is described as having been a leader, not a follower. In high school, Matthew had developed a close relationship with a foreign exchange student from France named Veronique Haluszka. His mother believes that she was Matthew’s first love.
Like his parents, Matthew attended Terrebonne High School in Houma, Louisiana. Matthew excelled in high school socially. Though his brother Tony said he wouldn’t necessarily have called Matthew “studious,” Matthew did pass all his classes and earn his diploma in the spring of 1987. In high school, Matthew also played junior varsity football and his team won their season during his sophomore year. In his senior year, Matthew was enrolled in Mrs. Paula Millet’s Speech II class, a class geared towards drama where the students were tasked with producing a play. Matthew had the starring role in the production, titled “Lovesick Computer” in which he played David, a computer genius, opposite his classmate Cherie Nelson. The play’s protagonist, David, developed a program that enabled the computer to talk and respond verbally. The computer was also capable of love and fell in love with the character David. In his senior year, Matthew was also a Duke on his school’s homecoming court.
After graduating from Terrebonne High School, Matthew enlisted in the United States military and worked in the Army as an imagery analyst. However, he never served overseas and according to his mother, he didn’t get along with his commanding officers. Matthew later moved to New Orleans and worked as a personal trainer at the English Turn Country Club and throughout the city.
Matthew was married twice. His first marriage was to a woman from New Orleans, but the relationship unfortunately ended in divorce. Matthew later married his second wife, Andrea Roohi Bonnette, and together they had one daughter, Hannah Grace Bonnette. Hannah Grace attended Mount Carmel Academy for high school and graduated last spring in 2021. She is currently attending college to pursue a degree in Musical Theater at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. While Hannah Grace and her mother are no longer close with his family, Matthew’s mother said that she adores her grandchild and is amazed at what a beautiful young woman she’s become. Hannah Grace was only one year old at the time of her father’s death. At the time of his death, Matthew and Andrea had been going through a separation and he moved out of their family home into an apartment in Algiers.
Matthew had a creative side and loved to paint. His brother Tony recalled that the walls of Matthew’s room were covered in paintings he had done. Matthew was also an animal lover and especially loved dogs. At the time of his death, he had three Shar Pei dogs.
According to his brother, despite being a popular guy, Matthew was an introvert. Tony suspects that being introverted was difficult for Matthew, who was someone who always wanted to be “out with the crowd,” stating “that [part of himself] kept him secretive about a lot of his demons, I believe.”
Matthew passed away in his cell around 5:00 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, April 4, 2004. His parents had been intending on driving to New Orleans from Houma the following day to bail Matthew out of the jail and take him home. His mother suspects that his drug and alcohol use may have increased Matthew’s suicidality, which ultimately led to the final decision to take his own life. Matthew’s mother recalled that when she heard the news of her son’s passing, their family had no idea how something like that could have happened since he was supposed to be on suicide watch. She believes that Matthew was afraid of what he would face and felt hopeless because so many things seemed to be going wrong in his life. She also said that Matthew was the type of person who couldn’t stand to be confined.
Matthew’s death was extremely difficult for his parents. His mother explained that Matthew’s father was in almost a coma-like state, and she was completely bedridden for three days following the news of their son’s passing. It was clear that Matthew needed help in the weeks leading up to his death. His brother Tony, who was an intake coordinator for a mental health hospital at the time, recognized the signs and tried to get his younger brother to seek out treatment for his substance abuse and depression. Matthew’s mother explained that she was upset for a long time about what Matthew did and couldn’t understand it. “It leaves a bad mark on your heart for a long time, but it heals. It just takes time,” she said.
Andrea Bonnette, who was married to Matthew at the time of his passing, filed suit on behalf of herself and her minor daughter, Hannah Grace, claiming that MCLNO committed medical malpractice and violated 42 U.S.C.A. § 1395dd, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), by transferring Matthew to the police without properly stabilizing him first. She ended up getting a large settlement as a result of his wrongful death, but no amount of money would ever be able to redress the loss that this family suffered.
Matthew was buried on April 8, 2004, in Grace Christian Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Houma, Louisiana where he may now rest in peace.
Author: Maria Frischling
- Telephone Interview with Barbara Morrison Bonnette and Robert “Tony” Bonnette (Oct. 29, 2021).
- Matthew Wade Bonnette Obituary, The Times Picayune (Apr. 7, 2004), https://obits.nola.com/us/obituaries/nola/name/matthew-bonnette-obituary?pid=2104343
- S., School Yearbooks, 1990-1999; School Name: Terrebonne High School; Year: 1985, Ancestry.com, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1265/images/1265_b986640-00134?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=XGK129&_phstart=successSource&pId=1497290736 (last visited Nov. 1, 2021).
- Bonnette v. State, 972 So.2d at 341.