Neighborhood hopes to move beyond violence

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011



LAPLACE – The sister of one of four men killed in the same Reserve neighborhood in a violent three-month span said the recent arrest of two suspects in her brother’s killing is another step for the community to move in the right direction.

Eliza Eugene, whose brother Frank Lewis was gunned down in the 100 block of East 14th Street June 17, said the arrests of Kentrell Bailey, 27, and Carlton Brown, 36, Thursday are a welcome sign but still not a happy ending for a community rocked by the recent violence.

“It is still a losing situation,” Eugene said. “There is another family out there now who will be losing their sons to jail time and perhaps another son who is losing a father.”

Capt. Dane Clement, spokesman for the St. John Sheriff’s Office, said Bailey was arrested after a search warrant was executed at his home on Joe Parquet Circle in LaPlace. He said Brown was arrested later at the Criminal Investigations Division.

In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Bailey was charged with drug possession and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile as a result of the search warrant. Brown was charged with principal to second-degree murder. Both are being held at the Sherman Walker Correctional facility in lieu of bonds, which were set at $1.03 million for Bailey and $750,000 for Brown.

Investigators have not released a motive or any details about the arrests. A press conference about the investigation was set for Monday but canceled. Eugene said the shooting was a result of a dispute between her brother and a co-worker who was recently terminated.

Lewis’ murder was the third of four homicides that have occurred in Reserve this year, all of which happened in the same neighborhood, according to investigators.

The first two happened on May 6, when Jamar Vinnette, 23, was found shot and killed in a ditch in the 100 block of East 13th Street, and May 8, when Eliza Fleming, 29, was found shot to death inside his home in the 200 block of East 23rd Street. Sheriff Wayne Jones said forensic evidence from the crime scenes has linked the deaths of Vinnette and Fleming. Investigators also believe evidence from Lewis’ murder could link it to the other two.

The fourth homicide occurred July 18, when Lacohen Watson, 21, of Mt. Airy, was shot to death in the 200 block of East 14th Street. Detectives have said they do not believe Watson’s killing is related to the other three. Kevin Alexander, 17, of Reserve was arrested July 20 and booked with second-degree murder in that case.

Authorities also arrested Steven Ellis, 23, of LaPlace on June 28 on second-degree murder charges in connection with Vinnette’s death. No arrests have been made in Fleming’s murder.

Following Lewis’ murder, Jones announced he had assembled an 11-man task force that would focus on solving the three murders. Jones said the group is made up of experienced officers who are most familiar with the Reserve area where all three murders took place. He said investigators have also been aggressively working with the community to find witnesses or other information pertaining to the murders.

Eugene said the task force has been a big part of the investigation leading up to the recent arrests. She said the men on the force know the community and have been productive in getting residents to talk about what they know or what they could have seen.

“The violence was a cry for help for this community,” Eugene said. “Residents are beginning to take back their streets and sharing tips with the Sheriff’s Office so that they can make the right arrests. There is a new community spirit.”

Eugene said community spirit was alive Friday evening, when Jones and Sheriff’s Office Chief of Detectives Maj. Robert Hay joined her for a back to school event at the St. John Housing Authority’s Reserve housing complex. She said the event, which featured backpack and school supply giveaways, was part of an initiative she started to educate children about drugs and gun violence.

“Frank had his eyes donated for a transplant, and that motivated me to start this program, which I’ve called ‘Through a Vision of Love’ in honor of Frank’s donation,” Eugene said. “No one should have to lose anyone to gun violence. We need to take a stand and end the cycle.”

Clement said the investigation is ongoing, and anyone with additional information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives at 985-359-8769.