Cover Story: The Professor and the Blackmailer

Categories: Cover Story

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When Texas A&M professor James Aune jumped off a campus parking garage roof to his death in January, students and faculty didn't know what to think. A brilliant man, Aune -- who headed the Department of Communication-- left behind a wife and two adult sons. To anyone looking from the outside in, Aune's suicide was unfathomable.

But his widow, Miriam, knew what had been plaguing him in the weeks before his death: Aune had fallen prey to a low-level con artist who engaged the professor in sexually explicit online chats while posing as a 16-year-old girl. The con, a New Orleans-area housepainter named Daniel Duplaisir, then acted as the girl's outraged father, and demanded $5,000 from Aune in lieu of going to the police.

Aune eventually told Miriam what happened, and Miriam had sense enough to realize her husband was being played. But Aune, who had been self-medicating with alcohol and pills, wasn't lucid enough to accept this. On January 8, he went to to the top of the parking garage near his office and texted Duplaisir one last time: "Killing myself now And u will be prosecuted for black mail."

Two months later, when Duplaisir was arrested and the circumstances of Aune's suicide came to light, Aune's students and colleagues got a glimpse into into a dark side they didn't know was there.

But Aune's suicide didn't just expose his secrets; it exposed the double life Duplaisir had been living. Since 2009, Duplaisir had lived off and on as a woman -- "Danielle Mosvoni." He had undergone surgery in 2011 in the hopes of starting a new life; instead, he helped destroy one man's life, and has greatly derailed his own. On June 17, Duplaisir pleaded guilty to one count of extortion and is awaiting sentencing.

Once Aune and Duplaisir found each other, it was just a matter of time before tragedy would strike. This week's cover story, "Deadly Charades," explores their fateful meeting, and the damage left in its wake.

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