GONZALES — State Police detectives are probing allegations raised last month by a defense attorney of men accused in a 2014 shooting in Darrow that $175,000 disappeared from his client’s sport utility vehicle after it was taken into evidence.
Defense attorney Peter John told Judge Alvin Turner Jr. that the cash was in the SUV when Gonzales police pulled over the Porsche Cayenne sometime after the slaying of Isaac “Ike” Prestley on April 24, 2014. Prestley, 23, 39035 Saturn Drive, Darrow, was shot in the hip and later died at a hospital.
His death was one of the more dramatic shootings in Ascension Parish in recent years as sheriff’s detectives described a shootout after heavily armed men in the Cayenne and in two other vehicles rolled up near the Darrow home where Prestley and others were hanging out. Nearly 50 shots were fired.
“Detectives are actively conducting interviews and examining all evidence available,” Nicholas Manale, State Police spokesman, said in an email Tuesday of the missing cash allegation.
“The details of the investigation will not be available at this time as it remains active and ongoing.”
Manale confirmed the probe hours after John told Turner that two agencies are investigating the purportedly missing money. Contacted after the hearing, John refused to reveal the other agency.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley, meanwhile, said later Tuesday that he initiated one of the probes, but he also would not reveal the agency.
Meanwhile, attorneys tried in court Tuesday to organize the sprawling case with multiple defendants, all of whom have been charged.
Assistant District Attorney Robin O’Bannon said the 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office will again review the charges of all defendants but did not say why. Judge Turner agreed to hold off ruling on a batch of motions until mid-August.
Last month, John represented four defendants: Cprien Nicholas, 30; Demitoris “Big Tachi” Alexander Sr., 49; Anthony Marquette Clark, 24; and Tachi J. Williams, 29. But John is now representing two, Nicholas and Clark. Nicholas owns the Cayenne, a sheriff’s report says.
Other defendants are Delano Alexander, 29; Clarence Ruth, 20; and Bruce James, 26.
All seven men have been charged with one count of second-degree murder and four counts of attempted second-degree murder and face other charges.
In a push for sheriff’s personnel records, John also aired Tuesday alleged discrepancies in sheriff’s reports over the whereabouts of a bag John has claimed held the missing cash. Turner rejected the bid.
John said a sheriff’s photograph of the seized SUV shows the bag and that it contained something.
An accompanying sheriff’s report on the shooting notes the same bag but says the bag is empty, John said. An inventory of the SUV’s contents does not list the bag at all, he said.
John argued these conflicting reports should be enough to justify his obtaining personnel records from officers who wrote the reports and handled the shooting investigation.
John argued he needs those records for cross-examination at trial to test the officers’ truthfulness by being able to see if they had past suspensions or had other work infractions.
He claimed the District Attorney’s Office does not have a regular process to turn over that kind of information for the purposes of satisfying the requirement that defense attorneys receive information pointing to their clients’ innocence.
But O’Bannon, the assistant district attorney, countered that state court precedent requires John to show the information is specific, is relevant to the murder probe and would be admissible at trial. O’Bannon argued John didn’t meet any of those criteria and charged he was on a “fishing expedition.”
John said he will appeal Turner’s ruling.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.