Baton Rouge police are hoping tips from the public will offer new clues after they came up empty handed Friday in a search of the woods and swamps near Ramah for Lyntell Washington, a school administrator who has been reported missing.
As of Saturday night, detectives still haven’t uncovered any solid leads as to where Washington, 40, may be after her 3-year-old daughter was found wandering alone in a parking lot Thursday morning. The girl, who was found near her mother’s blood-spattered car, told police that “mom’s in the lake,” according to a Baton Rouge Police Department report.
“We’re just hopeful we catch a lead or break on this case,” Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said Saturday, adding that several people have called, but with no useful information yet.
Police on Friday arrested Robert Marks — a 39-year-old assistant principal at the same Baton Rouge school where Washington was an instructional specialist — on counts of aggravated kidnapping and desertion of the child. Marks, who is married, is believed to have been in a relationship with Washington, who is seven months pregnant.
Marks requested a lawyer when detectives pressed him for information, McKneely said.
It’s still too early to say whether Washington is dead or alive, McKneely said. Baton Rouge police officers, along with those from several other law enforcement agencies, spent Friday combing a 15-mile area around Ramah in Iberville Parish on ATVs, boats and helicopters, but the effort was called off at dark.
“Without a specific area of where to go, we were kind of just out there. ... We pretty much did all that we could,” McKneely said.
Police were led to Ramah by records showing Marks’ and Washington’s cellphones were there for about 15 minutes Wednesday night. Police have also said the Baker-Zachary area and St. Francisville could be tied to the case.
A search will not resume in Ramah or anywhere else unless investigators get a specific lead, McKneely said.
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“We want to be sure that we go to where we need to go, and make sure we send our resources where we need to send them,” he said.
Anyone with information about the case should call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867 or the Police Department’s missing persons unit at (225) 389-8617.
- Updated by Olivia McClure
Original story from Saturday, June 11, 2016
Law enforcement officers combed a 15-mile area around Ramah on Friday after cellphone records and a 3-year-old’s statement that “Mom’s in the lake” led authorities to believe they might find a missing school administrator in the swamps, forest and fields near the Atchafalaya Basin.
As of nightfall, none of the dozens of lawmen in the search found any sign of Lyntell Washington, 40, said Baton Rouge police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, whose agency is leading the effort.
The search will not continue Saturday “unless we get new information,” McKneely said. “We’ve done all that we can possibly do. All we can do now is hope that someone will come forward with new information that can help us.”
Police talked to Washington’s daughter on Thursday morning, after the girl was found in Baton Rouge near her mother’s empty vehicle, the inside of which was splattered with blood, a police report says.
By Friday afternoon, police began their search across the Mississippi River and arrested 39-year-old Robert Jovantie Marks, an assistant principal at the Baton Rouge school where Washington also worked. Marks was booked on aggravated kidnapping of the child and child desertion.
Marks is accused of driving Washington’s child around Wednesday night and abandoning her before she was discovered alone Thursday morning in a parking lot. Marks, who is married, and Washington, who is seven months pregnant with Marks’ child, were believed to have been in a tangled affair, McKneely said.
It was too soon to tell by Friday afternoon if Washington is alive or dead, McKneely said from a staging location in Iberville Parish. The surrounding area, which includes the community of Ramah, is thick with overgrown pastures and trees, along with waterways.
Officers in boats, ATVs and a helicopter began searching a 15-mile radius near the Ramah boat landing about noon, but they were never able to narrow the search to a specific area, McKneely said. As a result, police divers didn’t deploy and officers didn’t engage in “dragging,” a practice in which a hook attached to a rope is pulled along in the water, he said.
Marks is an assistant principal of Brookstown Magnet Honors Academy, a middle school, but was placed on administrative leave Friday as a result of his arrest, said Adonica Pelichet Duggan, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. Washington has been an instructional specialist at that school for a year, Duggan said.
Washington’s child was found unsupervised but unharmed about 9 a.m. Thursday at 11832 Newcastle Ave. near Washington’s parked 2003 Toyota Corolla, which had a “significant amount of blood” inside, according to a Baton Rouge Police Department report. The car was stationed about a four-minute walk from Washington’s residence on Newcastle Avenue.
The girl told authorities “Mr. Robbie” hurt her mother and that her mother was “sleeping,” according to the report. The child told police she was with Marks and her mother when she heard a bang, causing her mother to shake.
“Mom’s in the lake,” she told authorities, adding that it was dark outside when the attack happened, the report says.
According to the report, Washington recently made threats about exposing their relationship to Marks’ wife. Marks admitted to the extramarital affair but claimed he last saw Washington at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Wednesday at a Wal-Mart in Baker, the document says.
Marks, 9759 Spike Ridge Drive, Zachary, asked for a lawyer when detectives asked him more questions, McKneely said.
Cellphone records show Marks’ and Washington’s phones were in Ramah at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday and remained there for 15 minutes before returning to Baton Rouge, the report says. The records show Marks then traveled to the Newcastle Avenue area.
McKneely added that police think the couple got into an argument Wednesday about Washington’s pregnancy.
The father of Washington’s 3-year-old child is someone other than Marks, McKneely said, adding that he believes the girl is now being taken care of by other family members.
A woman believed to be Marks’ wife hung up when a reporter called. Efforts to reach Washington’s family members by phone and at her apartment complex were not successful Friday.
Authorities are “looking for anything suspicious” in locations they believe could be linked to the case, including Ramah, Zachary, Baker and St. Francisville, McKneely said.
Law enforcement officers from the Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, State Police and Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office participated in the search.
Washington was honored with a Teacher of the Year award when she taught at Eden Park Superintendent’s Academy, Duggan said.
Marks is one of two assistant principals at Brookstown, where he is in his first year, Duggan said.
Police ask anyone with information on Washington’s whereabouts, especially hunters and fishermen in the Ramah area, to call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867 or the Police Department’s missing persons unit at (225) 389-8617.
“We can’t canvass the entire area by ourselves,” McKneely said.
Advocate writers Terry Jones and Danielle Maddox Kinchen contributed to this report.