Inmates executed their escape plan with ease

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 17, 2003


LAPLACE – Managing their escape from the Raymond Coleman Correctional Center took a lot of planning but the execution of the plan went to apparent ease, according to a spoke-sman of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.

This was the first successful escape from the 20-month-old, 590-bed facility which opened in June 2001.

Calvin Couvillion, 21, who faces trial for the second-degree murder of a LaPlace teen-ager, joined Raymond King Jr., 25, who faces trial for the armed robbery of Roussell’s Jewelry, and Lamont Gross, 30, who faces trial for forcible rape of a juvenile, in the escape Monday night.

The three were rounded up without incident by St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s deputies in Edgard Tuesday morning.

Maj. Sam Zinna of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, who was project manager of the facility’s construction, re-ported the trio were housed in the maximum security area. In that cellblock is a video visitation booth, mounted in a hollow column with a motorized venilator at the top.

The three were logged at the 5 p.m. evening meal on Monday. Shortly thereafter, the trio re-moved the video monitor and climbed into the ceiling of the column, giving them access to the ceiling’s venilation system, Zinna explained.

Through there, Zinna continued, they made their way to an exterior wall, climbed out and gained access to the roof and crossed over to the carport area at the front, where they dropped from the roof beyond the fence line and made their es-cape on foot.

Zinna said the escapees were apparently making their way to Edgard, where an anonymous caller spotted suspicious people at the rear of East Seventh Street in Edgard at 8:30 p.m.

That person called St. John the Baptist Parish authorities, and Sheriff Wayne L. Jones alerted the shift on duty. Later, the 6 a.m. shift was updated on the situation.

Meanwhile, the correctional center remained unaware of the situation until notified by the St. John authorities, and a 10 p.m. roll call verified the escapes.

“We didn’t discover it ourselves,” Zinna confirmed, and he added the trio could have been on the run for more than three hours before their re-capture.

The St. Charles sheriff’s office used a reverse-911 system to notify residents in nearby Killona. However, Jones chose to add manpower to the overnight search and did not alert the public.

Finally, at 7:44 a.m. Tuesday, Deputy Kerry Borcherding of the St. John sheriff’s office spotted the trio hiding face down in underbrush and captured them.

Zinna said there were 36 such columns in the facility and all are being checked, and steps have been taken to prevent such an escape in the future.

They were booked as fugitives from St. Charles Parish at the Sherman Walker Correctional Center in LaPlace and transferred to St. Charles Parish to face simple escape charges.

Couvillion, 21, of Paradis, awaits trial for the Feb. 12, 2002 murder of James Rogers, 17, of LaPlace. He is charged in that crime along with Brandon Stein, 18, of Reserve; and Timothy Prudhomme, 16, of LaPlace.

Rogers, the son of La-Place veterinarian Dr. Wayne Rogers, was reported missing by his father when his son failed to return home Mardi Gras night.

Rogers’ remains were found – beaten, choked and tossed off the I-310 access ramp after a party near Paradis. His attorney is Randy Lewis of Luling.

King, 27, awaits trial for the Aug. 31, 2001 forcible rape of a juvenile. He was arrested on a warrant on Sept. 4, 2001.

Gross, 30, of Marrero, awaits trial for the Dec. 18, armed robbery of Roussel’s Jewelry in Boutte.

In that incident, he strolled into the store at lunchtime, confronted manager Anthony Rous-sel, and herded the manager and four women into a back room.

Meanwhile, one wo-man escaped out the front door and called 911, while the female “hostages” easily strolled out the back door, while Roussel was walked back up front to place a “Closed” sign on the door, then assisted Gross in loading up several thousands of dollars in jewelry.

When Gross stepped outside, three deputies already had the drop on him.

“It went down like textbook,” Champagne later said. “Everything was handled exactly perfect.”

Gross was charged with armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and second-degree battery on a police officer. He is being held at the Nelson Cole-man Correctional Center near Killona.

Gross was released from federal prison in May 2002, having served a sentence for bank robbery.