PORT ALLEN — A Port Allen man jailed on charges he hired a hit man to kill a Pointe Coupee couple is now accused of making a second attempt, this time from behind bars, to bump off the man and wife.
Tommy Joe Gioele asked at least three fellow inmates to kill Manuel A. Persica and his wife, Camellia, who were involved in a 2007 business deal with Gioele that turned sour, Col. Richie Johnson, with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, said Monday.
Johnson said one of the inmates Gioele promised to pay to kill the couple had been released from the West Baton Rouge Parish Jail two weeks ago.
“This is the first time we’ve seen someone try to hire someone while they’re in jail for already trying to kill the same people,” Johnson said. “Sometimes people take threats lightly, but this guy is dangerous.”
Gioele, 37, 5242 Poydras Bayou Road, was booked June 12 on an additional count of solicitation of murder following an investigator’s discovery of the newest attempt.
Gioele’s $750,000 bail was raised by another $100,000.
Gioele was originally booked into the parish prison in December on two counts of solicitation of murder after a man he’s accused of paying $300 to buy a pistol to kill the Persicas instead informed the authorities.
Gioele blames Manuel Persica for manipulating him out of more than $800,000 in the 2007 sale of the Persicas’ Port Allen restaurant, Camile’s Cajun Cafe.
According to a lawsuit Gioele filed a year after the sale, Gioele ended up losing the restaurant in a sheriff’s sale when he was unable to keep or renew operating licenses due to several government-issued liens levied on the property because of back taxes Persica owed.
Persica could not be contacted Monday for comment. His son, Manuel Persica III, told The Advocate that he had nothing to say at this time.
Johnson said authorities stumbled upon Gioele’s attempts from behind bars to have Persica killed after receiving credible information from several sources inside the jail, including a letter written by an inmate Gioele had struck a friendship with.
In the letter, the inmate, whom Johnson wouldn’t identify, says Gioele had explained his strained history with Persica.
The inmate wrote, “Tommy said when he gets mad at a person he wants them dead. … He even offered me $5,000 to kill the people when I get out. … That he would pay me when he was released.”
In the next sentence, the inmate wrote, “He says if the people can’t show up in court to testify then he can’t be convicted.”
The inmate wrote that Gioele told him he had paid a guy $3,000 in the past to have his ex-wife killed.
“The guy disappeared and didn’t follow through,” the inmate said Gioele told him.
Johnson said Gioele was overheard in jail talking to other inmates about killing the couple. Gioele is also believed to have drawn several maps to the Persicas’ home in Pointe Coupee Parish, Johnson added.
“Because of all of this, he is now in solitary confinement,” Johnson said. “And he’ll be there until his trial date. It’s the only way we can protect the victims.”
Gioele is set to stand trial Oct. 19 on the original solicitation for murder counts. Court records show Gioele’s attorney Michael Distefano has asked for a bench trial.
Distefano did not return calls Monday for comment.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.