An Avoyelles Parish correctional officer’s decision last week to make an unscheduled stop in Paincourtville and let one of the Assumption Parish inmates she was transporting to jail buy illegal drugs backfired when the inmate never returned with the drugs and escaped instead.
When inmate Felicia Daigle did not return, Avoyelles correctional officer Michelle George, 47, sent a second inmate to look for her. When that inmate couldn’t find her, Assumption Parish deputies said, George came up with a cover story, saying Daigle had bolted from the van several miles from where the inmate actually had gotten out of the vehicle, which caused deputies to search for her in the wrong place.
Daigle was found more than three hours later at her home in Labadieville, deputies said.
Questions around the escape set off investigations by Assumption and Avoyelles parish deputies that resulted in George’s arrest Wednesday on malfeasance in office and other counts, authorities said.
Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said Wednesday the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport has long housed Assumption Parish’s female inmates and transports them back and forth to his parish for court. He said Assumption’s jail in Napoleonville is not set up to house women long-term, only men.
Maj. Steven Martel, chief deputy for Avoyelles Parish, said George had been with the Avoyelles Sheriff’s Office since Oct. 22 and was fired Monday when deputies picked her up on a warrant from Assumption Parish.
George initially told Assumption Parish deputies about 6:40 p.m. March 26, the day of the escape, that Daigle, 30, had opened the door of the transport van, jumped out and started running near the intersection of La. 69 and La. 70, known as Gator Corner as is a gas station at the intersection.
At the time, Daigle was being taken to the Avoyelles jail with two other Assumption Parish female inmates and a St. Mary Parish inmate, Waguespack said.
Daigle had been arrested earlier that day on theft charges.
But Assumption sheriff’s investigators said Wednesday what really happened is that Daigle convinced George to let her out to find the drugs.
As they were driving, George had complained about having bad headaches, Waguespack said. Daigle told her that she could get painkillers and Waguespack said she agreed with those in the van to share the drugs with them.
Though it was pointed out that no one in the van had money to pay for the drugs, Daigle told them she knew someone in Paincourtville who owed her a favor and she could get them for free, Waguespack said.
George detoured from her route between the two parishes and drove to Davis Street in Paincourtville, an area known for drug activity.
Waguespack said George gave Daigle the keys to her handcuffs and then went outside the van to open the back door to let Daigle out.
Daigle walked to nearby Pugh Street for the drug buy, Waguespack said, but he said it is not clear if Daigle ever found the drug dealer she supposedly knew in the area, because she never returned to the van.
Once the second inmate sent to find Daigle returned without her, George started to look for the missing inmate, also with no success, deputies said.
George then told the inmates in the van to get their stories straight and went to the Gator Corner gas station, which is a few miles from Paincourtville, to meet someone who knew one of the other inmates in the van, Waguespack said.
While at the gas station, George ran into an Assumption Parish deputy conducting a traffic stop and reported that Daigle had escaped, deputies said.
A search was started and Daigle was found about 10 p.m. that night hiding at her house on La. 1012 in Labadieville, deputies said.
Daigle, 394 La. 1012, Napoleonville, was booked on a count of simple escape, deputies said. Her bail has been set at $200,000.
Deputies also said Wednesday that Julie Troxclair and David Landry were arrested March 26 after they helped hide Daigle once she left the van.
They were each booked on single counts of being accessories after the fact to simple escape. They are each being held on $10,000 bail, deputies said.
George, 7228 La. 451, Moreauville, was booked Wednesday in Assumption Parish on counts of assisting escape, obstruction of justice and malfeasance in office, deputies said.
George, whose bail is $250,000, had been on administrative leave from the Avoyelles Sheriff’s Office since the escape, Martel said.
Waguespack said the incident is the first of its kind with Avoyelles Sheriff’s Office. He said one mistake by one deputy won’t change the relationship between the two parishes.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter @NewsieDave.