State Police investigate alleged missing Youngsville police evidence

Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator has asked State Police to investigate allegations of missing and mishandled evidence at the city’s Police Department.

State Police spokesman Trooper Brooks David confirmed Tuesday that investigators are reviewing the allegations, but he had few details.

“They just started looking into it,” David said.

Viator said he decided to contact State Police following a June City Council meeting during which former Youngsville officers Christopher Navarre and Leonard Verni alleged problems in the way the department handles evidence.

“I don’t understand why evidence is walking off from the evidence room,” Verni told council members, according to minutes from the June 12 meeting. “I’m not going to go to prison for anyone, and that is what’s going to happen.”

Navarre left the department before the June 12 meeting, and Viator said Verni was fired within a few days after he spoke up about issues at the department.

Youngsville Police Chief Earl Menard did not return two messages left at the department Tuesday.

Viator and Menard have been at odds in recent years, but the mayor said his request for State Police to review evidence handling at the department was driven purely by concern about whether the city is following proper procedures.

“I don’t want anybody saying Wilson did this because of politics,” Viator said. “I did this to cover my butt.”

Viator said he met with City Attorney George Knox after the June 12 meeting, and they decided to send State Police a letter informing the agency about the allegations, as well as a transcript of the council meeting.

“I was very concerned about it when I heard about it,” Viator said.

There were no specifics offered at the council meeting on missing or mishandled evidence, and Viator said he was familiar with the allegations only in a general sense.

Navarre and Verni could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Their comments at the council meeting also delved into internal strife at the department.

“In the law enforcement community, people are scared of this place because they know how that office is run,” Navarre said, according to the minutes.

Viator, who has limited oversight of Menard because the chief is elected, said the city’s Police Department has had a chronic issue with staying fully staffed.

“He goes through police officers like a knife goes through butter,” Viator said.

Despite those issues, Viator said he hopes State Police investigators don’t find anything amiss in the department’s evidence room.

“That puts a black eye on everybody when that happens,” the mayor said.