Chris Ricker, the St. Tammany Parish work-release inmate whose escape in March led to the closing of the facility where he was living, pleaded guilty to simple escape and was sentenced by 22nd Judicial District Judge Richard Swartz last week to a year in prison.
Ricker, who was accused of kidnapping a former girlfriend, raping her and forcing her to drive to Tangipahoa Parish, initially faced much stiffer charges in that jurisdiction, including simple rape and attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.
But Don Wall, an assistant district attorney with 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux’s office, said the office refused the rape charge because the victim would not cooperate. He said the office refused the murder charge because prosecutors did not think they could prove that Ricker, 36, intended to kill the deputy when he ran into him with the getaway car.
The deputy testified in a preliminary hearing that he didn’t think Ricker intended to kill him.
Ricker still faces a charge of aggravated flight from an officer in the 21st Judicial District and will go to court on that charge next month.
Ricker’s escape from the Northshore Workforce LLC center was the last in a string of incidents at the facility, which St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain shut down hours after Ricker escaped.
Many of those incidents — detailed in a series of news stories based on a joint investigation by The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV — exposed lax oversight at the work-release program, which was run by several people with close ties to Strain, including his former campaign treasurer Marlin Peachey.
Northshore Workforce, one of the largest such programs in the state, at times housed as many as 230 inmates and had about 150 at the time it was closed.
It also had the most escapes — nine — of any program in 2013. Ricker’s escape was one of three that happened this year.
The closure came a month after a Department of Corrections raid on the facility turned up 13 positive drug tests among the inmates.
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street also opened a probe into Northshore Workforce. That investigation is ongoing, Street said Monday.