Prosecutor says evidence lacking now
LAFAYETTE — Charges will not be pursued against one of the men arrested by the Duson Police Department in the disappearance of a 15-year-old girl, who was last seen more than four months ago, 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson said Thursday.
Counts of second-degree kidnapping and simple rape were formally dropped against Leon Wilkerson Jr. during a hearing Thursday morning at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse.
The Sheriff’s Office said Wilkerson was released from custody Thursday afternoon.
“We didn’t believe that the evidence available at this time was sufficient to either warrant a formal charge or his continued detention,” Harson said in an email late Thursday.
Wilkerson was arrested in July in the disappearance of Keiosha Marie Felix, who was last seen April 30 leaving from the home of her aunt and Wilkerson’s girlfriend, Patricia Andrus.
Felix was in the state’s care at the time and was on a weekend pass at her aunt’s home.
Harson was not clear as to what would happen to the counts filed against three others who have been arrested in the case.
“We are essentially in the same position as to all three individuals,” Harson said. “We will await the results of the ongoing investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and then make a decision as to our next step.”
Andrus, her daughter, Portia Felix, and Wilkerson’s brother, Ronald Wilkerson, also were arrested in the girl’s disappearance.
Of the four arrested, only Leon Wilkerson had remained in jail.
Andrus was arrested on one count each of improper supervision of a minor and accessory after the fact to simple rape. Her daughter was arrested on one count of obstruction of justice. Ronald Wilkerson was arrested on one count of simple kidnapping.
Valex Amos, Andrus’ attorney, said earlier Thursday that he expected the charges against his client also would be dismissed.
“I think the Duson Police Department jumped the gun,” Amos said.
The prosecution is aware Felix is “probably a runaway,” Amos said.
He also referred to the arrest affidavit filed when his client was arrested as “false.”
That affidavit accuses Andrus of not reporting the alleged rape to authorities.
“My client denies any knowledge of this occurring,” Amos said. “If so, she would have taken the proper action.”
He said the alleged rape was based on hearsay and was said to have occurred up to two months before Felix disappeared.
Portia Felix’s attorney, Thomas V. Alonzo, echoed similar sentiments about his client’s innocence.
“My client is not involved in the disappearance of this child,” Alonzo said.
The case against Wilkerson was dropped two days after Duson Police Chief Frank Andrew told the town’s Board of Aldermen that his assistant chief, Lt. Gerald Credeur, had illegally arrested two people for kidnapping, given false testimony and made an illegal search and seizure during the investigation.
Andrew said the town faces potential civil liability as a result of Credeur’s actions.
At Andrew’s recommendation, and despite a vocal crowd who showed up in support of Credeur, the board voted unanimously to suspend Credeur, the former lead investigator in the case, with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Harson cited that issue as one of the reasons for dismissing the charges.
“It appears that due to the recent problems occurring within the investigating agency, we were not able to be provided a full report from the original detective assigned to the case,” Harson said.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office continues to ask the public’s help in identifying a man seen in surveillance photos from an AT&T store.
While not considered a suspect, the man is sought for questioning as he is believed to have information about Felix’s disappearance, according to Capt. Kip Judice, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
The man is described as being about 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches, 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.
Authorities still believe Felix is alive and it is possible she does not want to be found, Judice said.
Regardless of whether she wants to be found or not, “any 15-year-old who has not had some type of adult supervision for four months faces inherent dangers,” Judice said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Lafayette Crime Stoppers, at (337) 232-8477; the FBI, (337) 233-2164; or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, (800) 843-5678.
The FBI is offering a reward of $5,000 for information that results in the safe return of Felix.