St. Gabriel escapee  caught in California

Keana Barnes
Keana Barnes

Keana Barnes, a convicted killer who escaped from a Louisiana prison more than two months ago, was caught Monday in California by Los Angeles police, authorities said Tuesday.

Barnes, 33, is expected to appear in federal court Wednesday in Los Angeles, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said in a news release.

Los Angeles police found Barnes in the “Skid Row” area of the city, Brian L. Lucio, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Middle District of Louisiana, said in a news release.

Laborde said police officers were giving Barnes a ticket for loitering when she apparently gave them a fake name.

Officers then took Barnes into custody without incident, authorities said.

As she was being transported to the Los Angeles Police Department, Barnes gave police her true identity and said she was an escapee from Louisiana, Laborde said.

Officers confirmed Barnes’ identity through fingerprints, Laborde said.

Los Angeles police had studied fliers about Barnes’ escape and thought they recognized her when they saw her, an LAPD news release says.

Barnes had been added to the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted fugitive list earlier this month.

At one point, Barnes traveled to Mexico before arriving in Los Angeles by bus less than 24 hours before her arrest, the LAPD release says.

Barnes escaped from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel on Jan. 1 after she broke a window in her dorm room, climbed out and then climbed a perimeter gate, Angela Whittaker, assistant to the secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections, has said.

Authorities could not confirm Tuesday if Barnes has formally been charged in her escape from LCIW.

Louisiana corrections officials are in contact with California officials and will initiate the extradition process if necessary, Laborde said.

“The Department of Corrections will bring Barnes back to Louisiana as soon as the court allows,” state Department of Public Safety and Correction Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said in Lucio’s release.

Lucio said Barnes was serving a 25-year sentence for manslaughter.

Barnes was arrested in March 2002 by New Orleans police for fatally stabbing James Robert Shepherd 17 times, Lucio said.

One year later in March 2003, Barnes shot and killed Perry Jennings Jr. while he slept in a New Orleans apartment, Lucio said.

Former New Orleans police detective Ron Ruiz Jr. has said Barnes escaped to Mexico sometime after shooting Jennings.

Authorities found Barnes in Mexico by tracking credit card transactions, Ruiz has said.

Barnes was returned to the United States and pleaded guilty to killing Shepherd and Jennings in exchange for the 25-year sentence, Ruiz has said.

U.S. Marshal Kevin Harrison said authorities believe at this time that Barnes again fled to Mexico after her LCIW escape before traveling to Los Angeles.

“Anytime you see someone like her be able to travel like that, there’s only a few things you can do to be able to do that,” Harrison said. “One of them is primarily to have some money or some sort of financing in order to be able to do that.”

“So we just have to figure out whether or not she generated that from committing other crimes or whether or not someone assisted or abetted her in that endeavor,” Harrison said.

Laborde has said law enforcement agencies initially had focused their search efforts in the New Orleans area because of Barnes’ connections there.

Lucio said Barnes also had prior convictions for aggravated assault, battery and theft.

Whittaker has said one prison officer was fired and another resigned in lieu of termination after officials determined a “supervision issue” contributed to Barnes’ escape.