Inmates Arrested for Washington Parish Jail Fire
WASHINGTON PARISH- Two inmates of the Washington Parish Jail have been re-booked into the facility for setting a fire at the jail that led to the evacuation of dozens of other inmates and staff members.
Levi Lee, 18, and Medel Morales-Guzman, 32, are each facing one count of Aggravated Arson and one count of Fire-raising in a Correctional Facility. Each was already facing other criminal charges. Lee is awaiting trial for first degree murder, attempted first degree muder, and two counts of armed robbery. Morales-Guzman is awaiting trial for sexual battery.
Just before midnight on July 21, jail staff noticed smoke inside one of the facility’s cell blocks. While area firefighters worked to locate and suppress the source of the smoke, the cell block’s 34 occupants were evacuated. Additional areas were later evacuated as smoke spread. There were almost 175 occupants inside the entire jail facility at the time of the fire.
After an assessment of the scene, investigators were able to narrow down the origin of the fire to the cell block’s air conditioning unit.
Through further investigative efforts in collaboration with Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives and jail staff, which included obtaining surveillance video evidence, it was determined the fire inside of the A/C unit was intentionally set by the two inmates, Lee and Morales-Guzman.
Both were re-booked into the jail on the new charges on Thursday, July 25.
“This fire could have been so much worse had it not been for the diligence of the Washington Parish Jail staff, not only to notice the danger, but to act immediately and efficiently to prevent harm by following well-established and well-practiced fire drills and procedures,” said State Fire Marshal Chief Butch Browning, “I commend Sheriff Randy Seal and his staff for making safety a priority in their facility by always staying prepared for emergencies like this.”
Sheriff Randy Seal also commented, saying, “Our wonderful working relationship with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, our area firefighters, Franklinton Police Department and other agencies pays benefits over and over for the citizens of Washington Parish. I am so grateful for the assistance of all involved and I give a special shout out to our jail staff whose immediate action prevented bodily harm and perhaps even death.
PARISH MAN ARRESTED FOR SERIES OF BURGLARIES
Ryan Jefferson, 38, a resident of Jerry Moses Road near Angie, was arrested on July 23 by Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives for a series of burglaries which occurred in October and December of 2018. Through evidence collected at the scenes, Jefferson was identified early on as the person who committed the crimes at homes and businesses on Highway 21, Highway 10, and Mitch Road. Each of the crimes was initially investigated by responding Washington Parish patrol deputies who then turned the investigations over to Washington Parish detectives.
Detectives were unable to locate Jefferson because he had left the area and his location was unknown. The search did not lie dormant, however, and Jefferson was eventually arrested on July 23. During questioning after his arrest, Jefferson confessed to the crimes.
Jefferson currently is in the Washington Parish Jail with his bond set at $37,500, although he will remain in jail and not eligible for release until he has a mandatory court appearance. He is charged with ten counts of simple burglary, two counts of business burglary and one count of vehicle theft.
Jefferson was in the Washington Parish Jail previously in late 2010, also for multiple counts of burglary. After two months in jail, he posted a $30,000 bond and was released.
“Our officers never quit,” stated Sheriff Randy Seal. “Time may go by before they are able to put all the pieces together to solve a particular crime, but they keep on working with the goal of putting another criminal in jail. I’m so pleased to be associated with all of our fine officers.”
HUSBAND AND WIFE ARRESTED
A husband and wife, residents of Barringer Road in Lacombe, are in custody charged with sexual offenses against a child under the age of twelve. The arrests are the result of an investigation by Detective Demmie Rice of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and the St. Tammany Department of Children and Family Services.
Krystal Ezell, 33, who had a previous Washington Parish address on Plymouth Lane near Franklinton, was arrested by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office for the offenses which occurred in Washington Parish, and then brought to the Washington Parish Jail by the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office. She was jailed on July 20th, charged with three counts of first degree aggravated rape and contempt of court. Her bond has been set at $500,000.
Keith Allen Ezell, Jr., 38, who had a previous Washington Parish address on Dogwood Valley Road, also was arrested by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and remains in the St. Tammany Parish Jail charged with being a fugitive from Washington Parish and two misdemeanor offenses. When he is cleared in St. Tammany Parish, he will be transferred to the Washington Parish Jail where he will face three charges of first degree aggravated rape. His bond on those charges will be set once he is housed in the Washington Parish Jail.
“I cannot adequately describe my emotions regarding cases such as this,” stated Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal. “As a father and grandfather, I cannot imagine such despicable acts against children. I appreciate Detective Rice once again handling a very sensitive matter and putting the guilty parties in jail.”
NOTE: As per the very sensitive nature of these crimes against a young child, and in an effort to protect the identity of the child, no further information will be released.
FIRE FORCES PARTIAL JAIL EVACUATION
An electrical fire in the air-conditioning system of one housing unit of the Washington Parish Jail about midnight of July 21 forced the partial evacuation of thirty-four inmates to another jail.
Jail staff noticed smoke coming into the housing unit and immediately evacuated the thirty-four inmates housed there to a secure outdoor area. As smoke filled that one housing unit and spread to the hallways, threatening other housing units, the jail staff relocated all female inmates and other males in affected areas out of the jail to an outside fenced in area.
Immediately upon noticing the smoke, the jail staff sent out an alarm to the Franklinton Fire Department which responded along with firefighters from District 8 and District 9. All available Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies and Franklinton Police Department officers responded to provide security for inmates who were moved from inside the jail to the jail yard. Other agencies which responded were Washington Parish Director of Public Works Ken Wheat and his staff, along with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, and officers from Rayburn Correctional Center. Northshore EMS was on scene but no inmate required medical attention.
Rayburn Correctional Center dispatched a secure transport bus to the jail and the thirty-four inmates from the affected area of the jail were transported to another jail facility until their housing area is cleaned and ready for occupancy. All other inmates whose housing areas were not affected by the smoke were returned to their respective housing units.
Sheriff Randy Seal stated, “Our alert jail staff went into action immediately and removed inmates from harm’s way. Their quick decisive action was a key factor in making certain no inmates were harmed. I am so pleased with the excellent job they did. When I arrived on the scene after midnight, I was somewhat overwhelmed with the response from so many agencies which quickly responded to help out. Our parish firefighters, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies, Franklinton Police officers, Ken Wheat and his staff, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, Northshore EMS paramedics and staff from Rayburn Correctional Center swarmed the jail complex and quickly resolved the problem. I am grateful to each of these agencies and their fine staffs. Washington Parish is blessed to have so many dedicated public servants who are willing to respond to any need that arises.”
SHERIFF’S OFFICE MAKES DRUG ARREST ON HIGHWAY 10
Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office patrol deputy Norman Taylor was driving east on Highway 10 near Franklinton when he observed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. Deputy Taylor made a traffic stop near the Lawrence Creek Bridge, and upon his approach to the driver’s side window, he detected a strong smell of marijuana. When questioned, the female driver admitted that she had smoked marijuana recently.
A search of the vehicle revealed a quantity of marijuana, a digital scale, clear baggies which are commonly used to distribute illegal drugs, an open bottle of alcohol and a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol which was fully loaded. A further search of the driver’s purse revealed a quantity of illegal pills.
The driver, Kelsey Morgan Lewis, 23, a resident of Avenue E in Bogalusa, was arrested and transported to the Washington Parish Jail where she was booked on charges of possession with intent to distribute illegal drugs, possession of illegal drugs, possession of controlled dangerous substances with a weapon present and having an open container in her vehicle. She remains in jail with her bond set at $30,000.
“Another example of an alert patrol deputy,” stated Sheriff Randy Seal. “When our officers stop someone for speeding, they never know what the outcome will be. Thanks, Deputy Taylor, for a job well done.”
TRAFFIC STOP ON HIGHWAY 60 RESULTS IN DRUG ARRESTS
While patrolling on Highway 60, Washington Parish Patrol Sergeant Jay Dupre observed a vehicle being driven in an erratic manner. Sgt. Dupre initiated a traffic stop and encountered two female occupants. The driver, Kasey E. Woodard, 27, a resident of Highway 21 south of Bogalusa, had a suspended Louisiana driver’s license.
After obtaining permission to search the vehicle, Sgt. Dupre discovered a quantity of methamphetamine and Suboxone. Patrol Deputy James Gregorio arrived to assist and both the driver and passenger, Melissa Lee Miller Thomas, 40, a resident of Willa Villa in Bogalusa, were placed under arrest and transported to the Washington Parish Jail.
Both remain in jail with their bond set at $10,000 on charges of possession of illegal narcotics. Additionally, Woodard is charged with traffic offenses.
Each woman has been in the Washington Parish Jail several times. Woodard’s arrest record dates to 2009 and includes five arrests for various charges including forgery, drug offenses and burglary. Thomas has been in the jail at least eight times since 2006 on charges including numerous drug offenses, auto theft, burglary, firearm theft, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
“The future doesn’t look bright for these women,” stated Sheriff Randy Seal, “unless they can make a dramatic change in their lifestyles. Their choices thus far have produced nothing positive. Let’s hope they make positive future choices. Thanks, Sgt. Dupre, Deputy Gregorio and all of our officers, for all you do.”
FRANKLINTON AREA MAN ARRESTED FOR SEX CRIMES
Elisio Carbajal Perez, 35, a resident of C.E. Stafford Road near Franklinton, was arrested by the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office for sexual crimes against a victim under the age of twelve. He remains in jail no bond. Perez has been in the Washington Parish Jail previously, charged with aggravated assault and resisting an officer.
Perez is currently charged with two counts of 1st degree rape, aggravated crime against nature and sexual battery.
Further details of the charges against Perez will not be disclosed in order to protect the identity of the young victim.
Sheriff Randy Seal commented, “These sickening sexual assaults on young children are nothing less than pure evil. If anyone is aware of sexual crimes against children, please notify the Sheriff’s Office at (985) 839-3434. We will investigate!”
SHERIFF ANNOUNCES CORRECTIONS DEPUTY OF THE QUARTER
Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal announces that Corrections Deputy Kyle Stogner has been selected as Corrections Deputy of the Quarter. Deputy Stogner came to the Sheriff’s Office last year after an eight year stint in the United States Army, during which time he served two tours of duty in Iraq. Stogner has distinguished himself an excellent corrections deputy and will soon transition to the position of Patrol Deputy after completing the law enforcement academy.
“Kyle is an excellent example of a young man who is dedicated to the citizens he serves,” stated Sheriff Seal. “While working in the jail, he demonstrated initiative and leadership and was a great asset to Chief Miller and others working in the jail. I am so pleased to be able to present him with this award.”
PARISH MAN ARRESTED FOR CRIMES AGAINST JUVENILES
On June 26, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office detective Demmie Rice arrested Charles Michael Folse, 32, on multiple charges of sexual offenses against juveniles. The arrest involved a joint investigation with St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives who are expected to charge Folse with similar offenses there.
Folse remains in the Washington Parish Jail charged with four counts of aggravated crime against nature, two counts of indecent behavior with juveniles, sexual battery and two counts of failure to appear in court. No bond has been set at this time.
Folse has one previous stay in the Washington Parish Jail. In October 2006, he was jailed for reckless operation of a motor vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia.
“Words are inadequate to express my emotions and depth of concern for the affected juveniles and their families,” stated Sheriff Randy Seal. “Detective Rice handled this very sensitive matter with professionalism and dignity and I appreciate all she does to help protect families and children in our parish.”
LIVINGSTON PARISH FUGITIVE ARRESTED IN WASHINGTON PARISH
On May 21, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office patrol Sergeant Justin Blackwell and deputy Patrick Tomberlin were dispatched to Husser Road near Franklinton in an attempt to locate a felony fugitive from Livingston Parish. The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office drug task force officers assisted. The wanted subject was located and taken into custody.
Medhat Amon Alhashimi, 29, a resident of Hwy 450 near Franklinton, remains in the Washington Parish Jail until picked up by Livingston Parish law enforcement officers. Alhashimi has been in the Washington Parish Jail several previous times beginning with a May 2009 arrest. Previous charges include unauthorized use of a moveable, issuing worthless checks, possession of stolen property, drug charges, several theft charges and several charges of failure to appear in court.
While at the scene, officers also identified and arrested two other persons who had outstanding warrants in Washington Parish. Megan Hall, 31, a resident of Dave Thomas Road in Angie and Michael A. Ellis, 30, a resident of Jim Edwards Road in Mt. Hermon were transported to the Washington Parish Jail. Bond for Hall is $1,850. Ellis has been released after posting bond.
Hall and Ellis face charges of criminal damage to property and two counts of failure to appear in court. Hall faces an additional charge of contempt of court.
“Lagniappe is what we call it in Louisiana,” said Sheriff Randy Seal. “Our officers went out to arrest a fugitive and discovered two other individuals with outstanding warrants. Good job! I am pleased we were able to assist Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard by locating and arresting Alhashimi. We always enjoy our cooperative partnership with surrounding law enforcement agencies.”