BY JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate staff writer
September 08, 2012
The wife and daughters of an Ohio businessman allegedly killed by two trusties who escaped last year from a work detail at the Louisiana State Police compound in Baton Rouge are suing State Police and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Ricky Wedgeworth and Darian “Drake” Pierce were serving time for armed robbery and attempted second-degree murder, respectively, and should not have been allowed into the “relaxed supervision” of the State Police Trusty Program, the lawsuit alleges.
The program “that allows inmates convicted of violent offenses to access and move about in an unsupervised manner was the direct cause and moving force behind the escape which led to the subsequent murder of David Cupps,” the suit contends.
Wedgeworth and Pierce are charged with kidnapping Cupps from a hotel in Vicksburg, Miss., and killing him after escaping from the State Police compound in Baton Rouge on March 4, 2011.
Lt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman, said Thursday the incident was a “tragic situation” but added he could not comment on the lawsuit because State Police had not been served with a copy of the suit.
Investigators said Cupps, 53, of Sunbury, Ohio, was attacked for his rental car and beaten and strangled. His body was dumped in Bessemer, Ala.
Cupps was in Mississippi to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant south of Vicksburg.
The inmates were caught March 14, 2011, after crashing a pickup in Memphis, Tenn. Police said that before their capture, the men tied up a county park worker and stole a government parks department truck from Madison County, Tenn.
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of State Police and a named defendant in the suit, has said a series of missteps by Department of Public Safety employees allowed Wedgeworth and Pierce to escape in a DPS van — with three hours passing before officials were notified the men were missing.
State Police instituted a number of changes immediately after the trusties escaped, including doubling the number of times trusties are checked during their workday and instituting random, emergency checks.
State Police announced May 31, 2011, after completing a series of investigations that four DPS employees should be disciplined and security protocols strengthened.
The suit, which seeks wrongful death and survival damages, was filed Aug. 20 and has been assigned to state District Judge Todd Hernandez.
Wedgeworth and Pierce were indicted in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., on charges of kidnapping resulting in death, carjacking resulting in death, conspiracy and transporting a stolen vehicle. They have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty in the case.
Wedgeworth, of Memphis, and Pierce, of Bogalusa, are scheduled to stand trial in November in Natchez, Miss.