Tensas Parish inmate still in MainePublished 12:02am Wednesday, September 5, 2012
WATERPROOF— Tropical Storm Isaac may have swept a Tensas Parish inmate off the radar of Louisiana officials, but Sheriff Rickey Jones said they’re not letting the matter wash away unresolved.
In July, Benjamin Gottke, 43, drove a stolen unmarked police car 1,800 miles from Waterproof, La., to Houlton, Maine, before being arrested.
Since his arrest, Gottke contested his extradition back to Louisiana and remained in Maine waiting on a governor’s warrant to be issued.
Gottke appeared in Houlton Superior Court for his second extradition hearing Tuesday when a judge ordered Gottke be held without bail until Oct. 2 or until a governor’s warrant is used for his arrest, Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney Kurt Kafferlin said.
Kafferlin said Tensas Parish officials must get Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to request the governor’s warrant from Maine Gov. Paul LePage for the process to begin.
“I understand there’s been some delays for some of the offices in Louisiana because of the storms, so we’re just waiting on them,” Kafferlin said. “He’s being held here without bail awaiting the governor’s warrant.”
If the governor’s warrant hasn’t been issued by Oct. 2, Kafferlin said a judge can detain Gottke for an additional 30 days to allow the process to continue or release Gottke.
“Each time he appears, the judge has the decision to release him, but if the appropriate steps seem to be in motion the judge can continue to hold him,” Kafferlin said. “If the warrant doesn’t appear to be coming through, we would not be able to hold him on the fugitive escape charge.
“If he has other warrants, another arrest could be made, but we couldn’t hold him on that charge if the warrant isn’t coming through.”
Jones said his office, like many in Louisiana, has been occupied preparing and recovering from Isaac.
“All of south Louisiana got inundated with water and suffered damage, so this is probably not on the front burner right now,” Jones said. “But we’re not going to let it slide by.
“We definitely want to get him back.”
Jones said he would be in contact with the Tensas Parish District Attorney’s Office to check on the status of the governor’s warrant.
Gottke was working as a trusty in the Tensas Parish Sheriff’s Office kitchen on July 12, when he managed to acquire keys to the police car and escaped from the jail.
In two days, Gottke managed to drive the police car to Houlton, Maine, until arriving at the Houlton port of entry at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14.
Gottke was heading North on I-95 toward Canada, but turned around in a “no-man’s-land” between the two ports. Gottke then wound up in the lane coming back into the United States, and he was stalled after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers asked for identification.
After fleeing authorities at the entry port, U.S. Border Patrol agents located the vehicle an hour later abandoned at a local gas station.
Houlton Police Department officers found Gottke shortly after in a downtown street and had to Taze him twice before making an arrest.
Gottke is facing charges in Maine as a fugitive from justice and resisting arrest and charges in Louisiana of simple escape and theft of a vehicle.
Gottke was serving time for simple burglary and had about nine months left on his sentence.