Authorities in Plaquemines Parish have arrested a twice-convicted pedophile accused of raping a girl repeatedly throughout her childhood — a case that dates back more than 30 years.
Joseph Gable Wood Sr., a former Port Sulphur resident who recently was found guilty of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in Panama City, Florida, was extradited to Louisiana last week to face aggravated rape charges.
Sheriff Lonnie Greco said Wednesday that detectives believe Wood may have abused other victims from Morgan City to the Florida panhandle, and he urged them to come forward.
“He took advantage of innocent children who looked up to him, and it should have never occurred,” Greco said in a news release. “While there is no way to change what happened, victims can seek justice and help stop it from happening to someone else.”
The local investigation began last year after a family member of the victim reported the abuse to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office. The authorities said the abuse began in 1975 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and intensified after Wood moved to Port Sulphur.
“After each occurrence, Wood threatened the victim by telling her to keep her mouth shut and that he would kill her if she mentioned the abuse to anyone,” Cmdr. Eric Becnel, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said in a statement.
Specifically, investigators pointed to an incident in April 1985 in which they said Wood forced the girl to have sex with him “at an abandoned fishing camp in Plaquemines Parish.”
Becnel said detectives have evidence linking Wood to that crime, but he declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
Investigators received a warrant for Wood’s arrest in May 2014 and a governor’s warrant to extradite him to Louisiana. His return was delayed by the Panama City charges, for which Wood stood trial in January.
Wood worked on a tugboat during his years in Plaquemines Parish, Becnel said. He was born and raised in Apalachicola, Florida, but also lived for a time in Sandpoint, Alaska, and White Sulphur Springs, Montana.
Authorities in Florida charged Wood in 1992 with fondling a 13-year-old girl who had visited his home. He was convicted but won an appeal and a new trial. He later pleaded no contest in the case to two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct upon a child under the age of 16 and was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.
Wood is scheduled to appear in 25th Judicial District Court on Friday for a bond hearing. He faces life in prison if convicted of aggravated rape.
The Sheriff’s Office asked anyone with information about this case or others involving Wood to call Sgt. Aaron Verrette at (504) 564-2525 or Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.