Fugitive student arrested in Ponchatoula woman’s death

Deputies wounded and arrested a high school student wanted on a first-degree murder count Wednesday afternoon, ending a helicopter-and-dog search and two tense days at local schools.

Ryan Pourciau, 18, was hiding under a bed in the home of April Vanderlinden, 39, whom he is accused of shooting to death the day before, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said.

“He appeared to be lying in wait” for other family members to return, Edward said.

The family did return to get personal items, after having been moved to a hotel for their safety following Vanderlinden’s death. Upon their return, the daughter of the slain woman spotted a bulletproof vest belonging to Pourciau lying on her bed, and the family quickly left the house, the sheriff said.

Deputies, who had escorted them home, then entered and ordered Pourciau to stick his hands out from under the bed. Instead, he stuck out a pistol, Edwards said.

The deputies fired several shots, at least one of which hit Pourciau in the shoulder. Deputies then disarmed the Ponchatoula High School student, who was taken to a hospital where he is expected to recover, Edwards said.

Ponchatoula High School, which is near the scene of Tuesday morning’s shooting death, had been put on lockdown Tuesday and was guarded by armed deputies Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ponchatoula Police Chief Bry Layrisson said patrols had been stepped up around all Ponchatoula schools as a result of the slaying coupled with the search for Pourciau.

Meanwhile, authorities had searched the area for Pourciau day and night with dogs and a helicopter equipped with heat-sensing equipment, Chief Deputy Dennis Pevey said.

Deputies had thoroughly searched the victim’s house twice, but Pourciau is believed to have entered the house from a hiding place in adjacent woods after the second search, Edwards said, adding that the means of entry is being investigated.

Pourciau lives at 18539 S. Brookfield Drive, which is 150 to 200 yards through the woods from the victim’s home, the sheriff said.

Court records show that the family of the victim had obtained a protective order prohibiting Pourciau from going within 500 feet of their home or communicating with their daughter.

Pevey said Pourciau had been accused of violating that order and that a warrant for his arrest was issued late last week.

Asked why Pourciau had not been arrested, Edwards said Pourciau often stayed in other towns and was not easy to find.

Tuesday morning, Vanderlinden was found shot in the backyard of her home on Brookfield Drive. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Investigators began looking for Pourciau as a “person of interest” in the case and authorities locked down Ponchatoula High School, which is near the shooting site.

After further investigation, they obtained a first-degree-murder warrant for him Tuesday night, Pevey said.

One of Pourciau’s classmates, junior Chris Collins, described Pourciau as quiet.

“He sat in the back of class and didn’t say much,” Collins said.

Edwards said the gun with which Vanderlinden was shot was a semiautomatic pistol that is believed to have been stolen about three weeks ago.

Edwards said the pistol in Pourciau’s possession Wednesday was the same caliber. The sheriff added that Pourciau did not fire the gun at deputies.

Upon his release from the hospital, Pourciau will be booked on counts of first-degree murder of Vanderlinden and aggravated burglary, Edwards said.

District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said that Pourciau, if convicted of first-degree murder of Vanderlinden, could face the death penalty.