State clears town police in evidence case
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2000
FERRIDAY, La. – Charges regarding three pieces of evidence thought to be missing from the Ferriday Police Department in August 1999 and May 2000 are unfounded, according to the Louisiana State Police.
A revolver was reported missing from the department’s evidence vault in August 1999 but was found &uot;after a lengthy investigation,&uot;&160;according to Master Trooper Richard Ortego, who led investigations of the charges.
Two bottles of prescription drugs were also taken by Ferriday police from the vehicle of a woman killed in a May 2000 vehicle accident and held at the department for safekeeping.
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But it was later discovered that medicine had been released to the victim’s family, according to the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which received reports of the investigations this week. As a result, the charges have been determined to be unfounded and the cases have been closed, Ortego said.
&uot;I&160;have no reaction … and no comment&uot; to the State Police’s findings, said Eddie Newman, who was Ferriday’s police chief at the time the investigations were requested by the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Newman, who served as chief until Mayor Glen McGlothin took office July 1, is now Sicily Island’s police chief. Neither Bobby Sheppard, Ferriday’s current police chief, nor Ortego could be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The investigations started when Concordia Parish Chief Deputy Dennis Cowan advised state police in October 1999 that he had received a complaint that a handgun was missing from the Ferriday Police Department’s vault, according to Ortego’s final report.
Finley Hootsell, owner of Concordia Pawn and Gun in Vidalia, had reported in November 1996 that a .38-caliber revolver had been stolen from his pawn shop.
Hootsell was later notified that the gun had been recovered by, and was being held at, the Ferriday Police Department. Hootsell attempted to pick up the gun several times but was not allowed to do so.
In August 1999, Cowan contacted Assistant Police Chief Margaret Lawrence, who told him the weapon was no longer in the vault, according to the report.
&uot;After a lengthy investigation, the gun was discovered in the (vault) by Ferriday police personnel,&uot; Ortego wrote. &uot;They returned the pistol to (the) Vidalia Police Department and they in turn gave the pistol to me as evidence.
&uot;Due to the many discrepancies surrounding this case, it could not (be) determined if the gun was in the vault at any time after it was originally recovered,&uot; so the case has been closed, he added.
In the other case, Ferriday police investigating a vehicle accident fatality on May 9 took two bottles of prescription drugs, including a Schedule IV drug known as Klonopin, from the car of accident victim Florence Valentine.
&uot;The drugs were left at the (department) for storage in the evidence vault,&uot;&160;Ortego wrote. &uot;Before the drugs could be secured in the evidence vault, they disappeared.&uot;
But although the medication was returned to Valentine’s family without paperwork being filled out to record the transaction, according to the District’s Attorney Office, state police did not find any wrongdoing on the part of the department or its officers.
Sgt. Howard McKee, a public affairs officer with the Louisiana State Police, is not familiar with the investigation but said it is not unusual for such probes to take one year or more to complete.
&uot;Sometimes it’s just the high caseload we have,&uot;&160;McKee said.