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From left, Louisiana State Police Lt. JB Slaton walks alongside East Feliciana detective Kevin Garig, center left, and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office detective Leo Moore, right, escort Ryan Sharpe, of Clinton, from the VCU, on Oct. 11, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Clinton — Suspected serial killer Ryan Sharpe — who is accused of a string of four shootings in two parishes — was indicted Monday in three of the attacks by an East Feliciana Parish grand jury.

The grand jury voted after less than three hours of deliberation to bring charges against Sharpe, 36, of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the three shootings that occurred in that parish over four months in a 15-mile radius.

"It's kind of what we were expecting," said East Feliciana District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla. "The jury came back with the right indictments."

Sharpe was charged with second-degree murder in the July 8 shooting death of 62-year-old Thomas Bass, who was killed outside his house on La. 960. 

The attempted first-degree murder charge was brought in the Sept. 12 non-fatal shooting of Buck Hornsby, 47, who was struck by dozens of shotgun pellets in front of his residence, which is not far from Bass' home.

Sharpe was charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 9 slaying of 48-year-old Brad DeFranceschi, who was shot and killed outside his house near the side of La. 63. 

Sharpe has also been arrested by East Baton Rouge officials in the death of Carroll Breeden, 66, who was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting Sept. 19 in front of his Pride home, which is just over the parish line. Sharpe is being held without bail in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a count of first-degree murder, but he has not been charged in that incident. 

After their selection Monday morning, the 12-member East Feliciana grand jury heard evidence in the Sharpe cases presented by D'Aquilla behind closed doors. 

D'Aquilla said Sharpe did not testify before the grand jury, but the district attorney did use testimony from at least one East Feliciana sheriff's detective as well as "all the evidence that we had."

The grand jury later presented the indictment to 20th Judicial District Judge Kathryn "Betsy" Jones.

Officials from East Baton Rouge and East Feliciana parishes have said that Sharpe confessed to all four of the shootings; however, they have not identified a motive in the incidents.

East Feliciana officials had planned to bring the case to the grand jury in October, but delayed it in order to explore new information about Sharpe's motive. A source familiar with the investigation told The Advocate at the time investigators were looking into a possible link between the marriage of Sharpe's ex-girlfriend during the summer and the killings, which started in July after that event. 

However, D'Aquilla and East Feliciana Sheriff Jeff Travis said Monday officials continue to investigate Sharpe's motive for the crimes.

"There's some things about the investigation that are still ongoing," Travis said Monday after the indictment was announced. "Some cases it's hard to figure out what the motive is."

D'Aquilla said although investigators are still looking into the motive, he and Travis believe they have sufficient evidence to take the case to trial. D'Aquilla said he hopes to arraign Sharpe before Christmas. 

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he hopes to bring Sharpe to a grand jury for the fatal shooting in Pride in December. 

In the last three shootings for which Sharpe is accused, the men were all shot while they were in the front of their yards.

Officials said Hornsby was out exercising near the edge of his property, close to La. 63 when he was shot. 

Breeden, a former BREC commissioner, had been out spraying weeds in his front yard when a vehicle drove by and gunned him down, killing him in the 15200 block of Port Hudson-Pride Road, said East Baton Rouge sheriff's spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks at the time.

Travis said DeFranceschi was shot and killed in the front yard of his house in the 6800 block of La. 63, a house on the property of Avondale Scout Reservation. A neighbor said she had seen DeFranceschi, a 17-year Scout ranger, out trimming weeds shortly before the shooting. 

Authorities believe Sharpe fired from the road in these three cases, according to arrest warrants.

However, Travis said the circumstances of Bass' death differed from the others. Bass, an avid hunter and fisherman who worked at a gravel pit, was killed close to his house in the 600 block of La. 960, where the shooter would have had to pull up onto his property, Travis said.

In the small community where all the shootings happened, it's possible the victims' paths may have crossed with Sharpe's sometime before they were shot. However, family members of Bass' and Breeden's have said they don't know why their relatives were targeted by Sharpe and were unaware of any relationship between the men and Sharpe.

Hornsby said he never met Sharpe, though Sharpe had recently done some plumbing work for Hornsby's cousin, who lives nearby. 

It's unclear whether DeFranceschi knew Sharpe. 

Sharpe, of 14227 La. 959, had lived in Clinton for several years. While in his early 20s, he purchased 6 acres of land on La. 959 where he built his house — not far from the homes of the men he is accused of killing. Sharpe was a plumber and owned his own plumbing company, often working within the Clinton community. He grew up in Central and went to Central High School.

His father, Bill Sharpe, told The Advocate in October he was shocked by his son's implication in the four shootings. 

"I'm in the dark," Bill Sharpe said. "It's totally out of character for him."

Investigators matched bullets from the fatal shootings of Breeden and DeFranceschi to a rifle found inside Sharpe's home, according to his arrest warrant. 

Investigators also found at least one shotgun inside Sharpe’s home, according to the warrant. Both Bass and Hornsby were shot with a shotgun, the warrant states.

The source familiar with the investigation also told The Advocate the tip that led officials to suspect Sharpe as the killer came directly from Sharpe, who called the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office himself to admit his role in the string of shootings.

Travis has said that after they developed Sharpe as a person of interest, they began conducting surveillance on his home. When Sharpe left his house on Oct. 11 in a white Nissan Altima, which matched the description of the shooter's vehicle in the most recent fatal shooting, East Baton Rouge deputies pursued the vehicle. 

Sharpe led deputies on a chase across a number of parishes after he refused to pull over, according to a Sheriff's Office arrest report. He was finally apprehended on Lee Price Road in Clinton, armed at the time with a lever action rifle found on the passenger's seat, according to the report. Sharpe was the only person in the car at the time.

Sharpe is represented by Rhonda Covington, the public defender for East Feliciana Parish. Covington declined to comment on the case Monday. She said she has not yet met with Sharpe, but plans to do so Wednesday. Her paralegals and an investigator, however, have met with him, she said.

Covington said Sharpe has also been appointed a public defender in East Baton Rouge, though calls to the East Baton Rouge Public Defender's Office went unanswered Monday. 

Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.