Lutcher blaze suspects nabbed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2011



LUTCHER – Authorities in St. James Parish said this week that a Convent man and a Lutcher woman are in custody for their role in a November fire that destroyed the Lutcher High School football stadium.

The arrests of Adam Lambert, 21, 5754 Louisiana 44, Convent, and Lindsey Matherne, 18, 2303 Cypress St., Lutcher, were announced during a joint press conference Tuesday involving St. James Sheriff Willy Martin and State Fire Marshal Butch Browning. Lambert was charged with simple arson while Matherne was charged with accessory to simple arson, Martin said.

Martin added that Lambert and four other suspects are also being held on unrelated drug charges in connection with the operation of a drug lab operating at Lambert’s home. Martin said deputies uncovered the lab during a search of Lambert’s home as part of the investigation into the fire.

Martin said Lambert had been pinpointed as a person of interest in the arson investigation as early as two weeks after the fire happened. He said his office had received numerous tips from the public and added that someone also called the Crimestoppers hotline.

Investigators questioned Lambert several times, but he denied any involvement in starting the fire, Martin said. Authorities also questioned Matherne, who was described as Lambert’s girlfriend, and she too denied knowing how the fire was started.

Martin said a break in the case came during the search of Lambert’s Convent home. Deputies went to the address early last week looking for him, but residents of the home were not cooperative. Martin said during that initial visit, deputies spotted some stolen property linked to a theft case in neighboring Ascension Parish.

“At that point we were able to secure a search warrant for the home, and that is when the drug lab was exposed,” Martin said. “Lambert was among the residents of the home who were all involved in the drug operation.”

Once he was booked on the drug and stolen property charges, Lambert confessed to starting the fire at the stadium, which caused nearly $800,000 in damage to the home side bleachers, an old concession stand and storage rooms containing equipment, Martin said. Investigators still have not determined a motive in the fire.

Martin said Matherne was arrested for hiding information from detectives during the investigation.

Lutcher High School head football coach Tim Detillier said this week he was glad to hear of the arrests since it will help people in the community move on.

“People in Lutcher and all across the River Parishes are so passionate about football that news of the fire was almost like a death in the family,” Detillier said. “We have used that facility for graduations, track meets and other events, so it was a real part of our community. I think the arrests can give us all some closure so now we can come back and build things bigger and better.”

Detillier said demolition of the existing stadium should begin in the next two weeks and wrap up by the middle of February. He said a new $1.5 million stadium is in the works, and it is expected to be completed in August, just in time for the 2011 football season.