By jason brown
September 12, 2012
DUSON — The town’s Board of Alderman voted unanimously late Tuesday to suspend the assistant police chief with pay amid allegations of wrongdoing, including unlawful arrests, in the search for a 15-year-old girl believed to be alive while the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office is taking over the investigation.
Duson Assistant Police Chief Gerald Credeur also is accused of giving false testimony and making an illegal search and seizure during the investigation into Keiosha Marie Felix’s disappearance four months ago, Police Chief Frank Andrew said before a large crowd packed into the small town chamber.
Many in crowd began to chant “We support Gerald Credeur” when the board went into executive session and later emerged and voted in favor of the suspension.
Credeur has arrested four people, including the victim’s relatives, on counts of simple rape, kidnapping and obstruction of justice. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office is seeking a fifth person wanted for questioning, but not considered a suspect, in the case, authorities said Tuesday.
Felix was in the state’s custody and was last seen April 30 leaving the home of an aunt, Patricia Andrus, in the Duson area while on a weekend pass. Andrew has said police got a late start because some family members lied about having had contact with Felix and did not consider her missing until July 23.
Joslyn Alex, an attorney representing Credeur, said Tuesday was the first time she or Credeur had heard of the allegations and he was not told why he was on administrative leave for two weeks. She asked the board for additional time to review the allegations and to make the needed requests for information pertaining to the investigation.
The town’s attorney, Brad Andrus, said Alex could submit the necessary public records request and she could receive documents covered by Louisiana’s Public Records law.
Outside of the meeting, Credeur stood surrounded by several supporters. His attorney advised him not to speak about the allegations, but when asked by members of the news media whether he had committed any of them, Credeur shook his head and said, “No.”
At times during the meeting, there were testy exchanges between the town attorney and the crowd, who questioned the board’s decision concerning Credeur.
Another aunt of Felix’s, Lena Lewis, said after the meeting that Credeur was often the only person who kept her informed on the search for her missing niece.
“He’s worked so hard on this case and they let him go,” Lewis said.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Kip Judice, who did not attend the meeting, said Tuesday his office is trying to identify a man seen in surveillance photos from an AT&T store.
The man is described as being about 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a stocky build and a brown skin tone. The man was wearing a white T-shirt and a rosary type cross around his neck. He is not considered a suspect but he may have helpful information, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
Judice said his agency took the lead after consulting with other agencies, citing the resources the Sheriff’s Office has compared with the Police Department.
Investigators also said they believe Felix is alive, Judice said, because there is no evidence to indicate otherwise.
“Investigators are tracking leads that indicate she’s very much alive and in a specific area,” Judice said, declining to elaborate. “We don’t know if Keiosha wants to be found.”
That does not matter, though, Judice said.
“Any 15-year-old child who has not had some type of adult supervision for 4 months faces inherent dangers; I think it is the responsibility of this agency to make every attempt to locate Keiosha regardless of what her mind set is,” Judice said in an email Tuesday.
Judice said he could not comment about the four arrests Credeur made before his suspension. The arrests include Andrus; her daughter, Portia Felix; Andrus’ boyfriend, Leon Wilkerson Jr.; and Wilkerson’s brother, Ronald Wilkerson. Leon Wilkerson remains in jail.
Andrus was arrested on counts of improper supervision of a minor and accessory after the fact to simple rape. Portia Felix was arrested on one count of obstruction of justice. Leon Wilkerson was arrested on counts of second-degree kidnapping and simple rape. Ronald Wilkerson was arrested on one count of simple kidnapping.
Andrew said Credeur’s actions have made the town of Duson liable for the unlawful arrests of two people on kidnapping charges. Andrew said Credeur did not have evidence to support those charges, but rather made the arrests when suspects refused to talk to him, which was in violation of their Fifth Amendment rights. The police chief said Credeur also did not have warrants for the seizure of cellphones taken in the investigation.
Andrew also accused Credeur of providing false testimony, allegedly claiming that a judge and an assistant district attorney had signed off on warrants when they in fact had not. Andrew said Credeur also told other agencies that the chief did not want their assistance, which Andrew said was not true.
Anyone with information as to Felix’s whereabouts is asked to call Lafayette Crime Stoppers at (337) 232-8477, the FBI at (337) 233-2164 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678. The FBI is also offering a reward of $5,000 for information which results in the safe return of Keiosha Marie Felix.