Just months before Jamie Croom allegedly shot and killed a deputy U.S. marshal, he was in jail on charges of attempted murder — until the case fell apart, and he pleaded guilty to lesser crimes.
On Tuesday, Croom was in a Baton Rouge hospital after he himself was shot by law enforcement. He faces a federal murder charge in the death of the deputy, along with a looming arrest in the double homicide that made him a wanted man in the first place.
In addition, four others — including three members of his family — have been arrested and accused of helping him carry out the February nightclub killing.
Croom has a violent criminal rap sheet and had only been out of jail for a few months before Tuesday’s shooting of deputy U.S. Marshal Josie Wells. His last stint in jail began in March 2014, when he was booked in Pointe Coupee Parish after he got into an argument with another man and opened fire at the man at his mother’s house, court records show.
No one was injured, but Croom was booked on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, as there were three people in the home. By last fall, Croom was still in jail while prosecutors built a case that relied heavily on the man’s mother, the records show.
But the case crumbled in November. The mother recanted the part of her testimony in which she identified Croom, according to a court transcript. Without that information, prosecutors opted to have Croom plead “no contest” in December to much lesser charges: aggravated assault and remaining on premises. He was sentenced to serve six months in the parish prison on each count, and both sentences ran concurrently. He got out the same day he was sentenced.
Further details about the case could not be provided, said Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton, of the 18th Judicial District Court.
“I have to defer all comments to the U.S. attorney general and federal investigators regarding any manner concerning Croom,” Clayton said. “At the appropriate time, we will release further details.”
But less than three months after Croom’s release, he was wanted in a double murder: the killing of a brother and sister at the Sugar Shack, a New Roads nightclub, on Feb. 18, in the early morning after Mardi Gras.
The shooting took the lives of Lechelle Rita Williams, 42, and Sinica Lee Williams, 38. At the time, a friend of the siblings said the incident stemmed from a fight that began inside the club and then spilled over into the parking lot about 12:30 a.m.
Authorities identified Croom as a suspect and issued a warrant for his arrest. On Tuesday, Croom’s attempts to evade capture ended when a U.S. Marshals’ task force attempted to apprehend him at a Baton Rouge motel. But authorities say that as they tried to arrest Croom, he shot and killed Wells, a 27-year-old deputy. Croom was also shot in the process, and his condition was unclear as of Tuesday night.
The Sugar Shack victims’ mother, Barbara Williams, of New Roads, said Tuesday she’s glad authorities were able to finally catch Croom but was hopeful that Croom won’t die — because she wanted him to face the consequences of what he had done in court.
“Dying is too easy,” she said shortly after hearing the news. “He took my kids’ lives for nothing.”
But Croom’s arrest was not the only development in that double homicide on Tuesday. Authorities also arrested four other people, along with three members of Croom’s family, but it wasn’t clear on Tuesday how these other family members were allegedly involved.
Eli Edwards, and Terry Billy Matthews, 30, of New Roads, were booked on counts of principal to first-degree murder. Matthews was rebooked since he was already in jail on counts of felon in possession of a firearm and had a probation hold.
Then, two others, relatives Eli Croom III and Shelly Croom, were booked on two counts each of accessory after-the-fact to first-degree murder. Edwards is also related to Jamie Croom, police said.
Croom’s sister, Latonia Croom Duncan, 37, said the shooting outside the Sugar Shack club in New Roads marked the culmination of a dispute that had been boiling for months.
“He didn’t just walk up to them and shoot them down,” she said of her brother. “He did it for a reason, because he felt threatened.”
Duncan said the feud began when a nephew of Sinica Williams, the man killed outside Sugar Shack, broke into Croom’s home months ago as part of a dispute over borrowed money.
Williams had once been a family friend, she said. But by the time of the shooting at Sugar Shack, Croom feared the entire Williams family. In one incident, a Williams relative shot Croom three times, including twice in the chest, Duncan claimed.
“There were threats on our whole family,” Duncan said, adding that the incidents were all reported to the Pointe Coupee Sheriff’s Office. As of Tuesday night, details on those complaints were not immediately available, said Capt. Steve Juge, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
The mother of the Williams siblings, Barbara Williams, said the two families had been friends in the past and that some family members were still friends, but she said all of Duncan’s allegations were untrue.
“Yeah right, whatever,” Williams added. “I know that wasn’t so.”
Before Croom’s most recent stint in jail, his criminal record contains arrests for other violent crimes.
In 2005, he was sentenced to five years in jail after he was booked on charges of battery of a police officer in a penal institution.
Before that, in 2000, he was convicted of robbing and carjacking a 17-year-old pizza delivery driver. Croom was accused of ordering the teen out of the car and to run down the street, according to the bill of information. He received a four-year sentence for that crime.
This story was edited after publication to change information about the conflict between the Croom and Williams families.