ST. FRANCISVILLE — A corrections officer taken hostage during an attempted escape testified Wednesday that Angola inmate Robert G. Carley had blood on his hands when he held a crude knife to her throat to force her to relay the hostage-takers’ demands to prison officials.
Sgt. Reddia Walker was the first witness called in the first-degree murder trial of Carley in the Dec. 28, 1999, slaying of Louisiana State Penitentiary security Capt. David C. Knapps, 49.
Carley, 43, and four other inmates were indicted in the case. One of them, Jeffrey Cameron Clark, 50, was convicted of first-degree murder of Knapps and sentenced to death in May.
Some of the jurors reacted audibly Wednesday when prosecutor Lea Hall, of Caddo Parish, showed them a photograph of Knapps’ bloody, battered face during testimony by retired corrections officer Darren Bordelon, who was a lieutenant colonel at Angola’s Camp D where Knapps was slain during an escape attempt.
Bordelon said he had been a friend of Knapps for about 20 years but couldn’t recognize Knapps’ battered face as his body lay on the floor of a restroom in the camp’s Education Building, which inmates held for several hours.
“The top of his head was mashed in,” Bordelon said.
Walker, who now works at Dixon Correctional Institute, said she was pushed into the building when she went to the door to see why some inmates were running out of the door.
After she was taken hostage, Carley tied Walker’s shoelaces together and told her to put her hands behind her back as she lay on the floor.
“This is like St. Martinville,” Walker said Carley told her, referring to a takeover of a St. Martinville jail earlier that month by detainees held by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Walker said she realized that her hands were not tied, however, and she set off a “beeper” to alert the prison’s control center that she needed help.
She testified Carley said “all hell has broken loose” because he could hear officers being alerted over the prison radio network.
Walker said Carley used a radio to call the control center as if he were Knapps and report, “D-4 beeper under control.”
After Carley took her with a knife to her throat to an inmate property storage room, Walker testified, she talked briefly with officers outside of the building to report that she had not been harmed but was unaware of the condition of two other officers in the building.
Angola’s tactical team eventually stormed the building after Warden Burl Cain got the inmates to unlock an exterior door to accept a note assuring them no harm would come to them if they surrendered without harming the hostages.
Cain testified the idea of passing the note was the only way possible to get them to open the door. Inmates Joel Durham and David Mathis held Walker in the storage room as the officers rushed inside. Both were shot, but Mathis survived and also faces trial.
Prosecutor Hugo Holland, also of Caddo Parish, had State Police Crime Laboratory scientist Pat Lane lay the groundwork for expected testimony by DNA experts, investigators, a crime scene reconstruction expert, a pathologist and other state witnesses.
Lane identified numerous articles of clothing collected from Carley and from Knapps’ body, prison-made weapons and other evidence. He also narrated a video taken of the building’s interior, including the blood-spattered restroom where he said Knapps was slain.
“This was literally a fight to the death,” with blood splattered “from one end of the room to the other over a period of time,” Lane said of the restroom.