Writing was Lauren Tanski’s passion — a vehicle with which she could poetically share her deepest thoughts.
Her web page, “flirtingwithtragedy: a monologue,” contains pages and pages of her prose, some of it accompanied by the photographs she snapped through her travels. Gritty and somewhat dark, they portray a deeply introspective young artist who seemingly found her literary voice and was beginning to tap her potential as a writer.
“My mind is observant, used as bait: To blame for all my inherited analytical crimes,” she wrote in one excerpt. “File this under things I’ll die trying to understand. Bury this next to your bedside.”
Last fall, the 26-year-old Colonie native moved to a neighborhood near the French Quarter in New Orleans, a place home to many aspiring artists. Friends said she hoped to stay there only long enough to experience the Big Easy and was already making plans to move to another corner of the nation she longed to discover.
But her aspirations were cut painfully short this week: She was beaten and strangled to death in an apartment where she was staying temporarily. New Orleans Police have since arrested Henry Dolliole, a 39-year-old ex-con, now accused of first-degree murder in connection with Tanski’s death.
“This suspect has a lengthy rap sheet, and it’s very disturbing that our officers arrested him multiple times — including for attempted murder — yet he was out of jail last Monday, and had the opportunity to bludgeon a woman to death,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a statement released Wednesday.
Investigators quickly identified Dolliole as a suspect in the case through interviews with neighbors. He was taken into custody after a resident recognized his picture and called authorities in Jefferson Parish, a suburb of New Orleans.
When interviewed by detectives Tuesday, police said, Dolliole admitted to getting into an argument with Tanski and subsequently killing her. Investigators said Dolliole was on probation for possession of heroin at the time, but had long history of arrests on violent criminal charges such as armed robbery and battery.
Raechelle Gonzalez, a friend from the Albany area who moved to New Orleans with Tanski, said she had only recently moved into a new apartment after they had spent several months sharing a room together. She said Tanski was excited to have her own room in an apartment she rented with Samantha Placek, their co-worker at the Corner Oyster House.
But Tanski’s excitement was quickly tempered by her new roommate’s tumultuous relationship with Dolliole, Gonzalez said. And while she didn’t talk about Dolliole much, Tanski told her she had already made plans to find a new place.
“She was planning on moving out the day after everything happened,” she said. “It was just really bad timing for her to be there.”
Co-workers reported spotting an agitated Dolliole at the restaurant late Sunday evening, shortly before Tanski’s frequent text messages to her friends abruptly stopped. Several hours later, her two roommates discovered her body.
“It doesn’t seem real,” said Gonzalez, who is now planning to move back to the Albany area.
Tanski graduated from Colonie High School and the state University of New York at Cobleskill. Friends described her as a petit girl with an distinct sense of humor, an infectious personality and an uncanny ability to deconstruct the personalities of the people she knew.
“She knew how to analyze people so well,” said Alexandra Bettini, a close friend still living in the Albany. “She was really good about talking to you about yourself.”
She also didn’t engage in arguments. That just wasn’t her style, Bettini recalled.
“Even if there was a disagreement, she’d go walk into another room,” she said.
Tanski’s true passion was in her writing and her photography — through which she could express her rawest emotions. Frequently, her friends found themselves incorporated into her photography.
“She expressed her art through her best friends,” Bettini said.
This week, nearly a dozen friends got a tattoo bearing the name of her website as a tribute, with others planning to follow suit. For Bettini, it’s a small way to keep her memory alive and start the healing process.
A vigil is planned in her memory at Albany’s Dana Park, a small wedge of green space across from Susie’s Pub on Delaware Avenue, a small bar Tanski used to frequent.
Friends also plan to raise money to help pay off some of Tanski’s crippling student loans. Bettini said some of them are due to be paid back even despite her killing.
“She even said there’s no way to escape them even if something were to happen to her,” Bettini said.