A former cab driver accused of repeatedly raping a young girl — including at least once at gunpoint — has been ordered jailed without bail in Plaquemines Parish, authorities said Tuesday. The allegations date back as far as 1999, when the girl was 7, according to investigators.
Phillip Wayne Constanza, 55, who lived in Belle Chasse before moving to the north shore, was taken into custody after a traffic stop last week and was booked on a count of aggravated rape. He faces up to life behind bars if convicted.
Constanza told the authorities he has no recollection of raping her, according to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office. But he added that she “was not lying and had no reason to lie,” said Cmdr. Eric Becnel, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
“He said he was abusing drugs and alcohol at the time,” Becnel added. “He said his mind was convoluted with drugs.”
The Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into the matter Dec. 16 after the young woman accused the man of raping her on many occasions and in various jurisdictions. An arrest warrant was issued about a week later.
Becnel said Constanza had been armed at times during the sexual assaults, which he described as “reportedly violent in nature.”
“On one occasion, Constanza pointed a pistol at the victim, ordered her to disrobe and subsequently raped her,” Becnel said in a news release, noting that Constanza previously was booked on attempted murder in Jefferson Parish. “During another incident, Constanza beat the victim with a stick before raping her. He punched the victim in the jaw during another rape when she tried to fight him back.”
According to the young woman, Constanza demanded the abuse remain “our secret.”
“The victim did not report the crimes to anyone until recently because she was scared of Constanza’s violent nature,” Becnel said.
The authorities said they had obtained “potential evidence” from one particular rape said to have occurred in November 2002 at a home in Belle Chasse. The Sheriff’s Office declined to elaborate, saying the material was being analyzed at the State Police Crime Lab.
The case follows an investigation earlier this year in Plaquemines Parish that led to the arrest of Joseph Gable Wood Sr., a convicted pedophile similarly accused of raping a young girl throughout her childhood.
As in that case, investigators say they believe Constanza “may have committed additional sex crimes” in the New Orleans area.
“There might have been victims involving fares he might have picked up” while driving his cab, Becnel said.
Authorities asked anyone with information to contact Sgt. Aaron Verrette at (504) 564-2525.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.