Public plays role in arrests

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Local law enforcement agencies are discovering how vigilant individuals play a big part in helping make arrests.

One alert Independence resident helped in the capture of a Destrehan murder suspect last week, an apprehension St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne attributes to the increasing power of social media that benefits law enforcement.

Bruce Bourgeois Jr., 34, was arrested Thursday night by the Independence Police Department in connection with the July 30 fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Mia Waite. Authorities said Bourgeois also stabbed Mia’s mother, Carmelina Waite, who is still being hospitalized from the attack.

Sheriff’s Office officials immediately named Bourgeois as a suspect, distributing his picture throughout cyberspace and to media outlets.

Champagne said hopes were that residents would familiarize themselves with Bourgeois’ face and aid in his capture. “That’s exactly what happened,” Champagne said.

Authorities said at approximately 7:13 p.m. Thursday, Bourgeois was seen by a shopper at Dollar General in Independence. The resident contacted the local police department, and Chief Frank Edwards III made the arrest without incident, which ended a 36-hour manhunt.

Champagne said authorities believe Bourgeois decided to hide out in his car in a wooded area in Independence. At some point Thursday, after sleeping in his car the night before, Champagne said Bourgeois made his way out on foot in Independence in search of food and clothing.

“Thankfully he was arrested and captured without anyone else getting hurt,” Champagne said, adding the case is in hands of District Attorney Joel Chaisson II.

The stabbing marks the second homicide of the year in St. Charles Parish.

“We don’t get many homicides here, and when we do, we put everything into it,” Champagne said, adding he was happy his department, with invaluable help from the public, was able to solve things in a timely manner.

Bourgeois was taken to the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center and booked on first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery charges. He is being held without bond.

Champagne stressed how important is it for residents to be alert and pay attention to media coverage detailing crime suspects.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, it’s been a little over a year since the Sheriff’s Office implemented a phone tip line, 985-359-TIPS.

St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre implemented the line to make it easier for members of the public to give crime information to authorities. Callers can choose to leave their personal information or remain anonymous.

One case St. John Sheriff’s Office detectives are asking for residents’ help in is the killing of Kentrell Bailey.

It was announced Friday that detectives obtained a judicial court-ordered arrest warrant for Alonzo Wilkens, described as 5’5” tall and weighing 120 pounds. His last known address is on Grant Street in LaPlace.

Wilkens is wanted for the second-degree murder of Bailey, who was found dead in a LaPlace ditch July 28.

Tregre said a high-tech addition to his office’s recently designed website aided in the identification of Wilkens as a suspect.

Residents who have personal security camera systems at their homes can register their cameras with the St. John Parish Camera Registry.

Tregre said authorities used footage from registered cameras, in addition to parish cameras, to identify Wilkens as the suspected person responsible for the killing.

“We’d love to have you be a working partner with keeping our parish safe,” Tregre said to residents who may be considering registering their cameras.

To Wilkens, Tregre said it’s simple, “You can run but you can’t hide.”

And to residents who know of Wilkens’ whereabouts, Tregre said penalties will be steep for anyone found obstructing justice, which could include a principal to second-degree murder charge.

Detectives are asking anyone knowing the whereabouts of Wilkens to call the TIPS line or Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.

Residents with information about this killing who call Crimestoppers do not have to testify in court and may qualify for a cash reward.

Residents can also submit tips on the Sheriff’s Office website at