LAFAYETTE — Wade Lohse, a former fugitive who railed against Lafayette Parish prosecutors in a YouTube video while he was on a 22-day run from police, escaped a probable life sentence when he pleaded no contest to driving drunk and killing a 29-year-old mother in summer 2012.
Judge Kristian Earles sentenced Lohse to 20 years in prison on Monday, the day before the 43-year-old former Youngsville resident was to stand trial for vehicular homicide.
J.N. Prather, the Lafayette Parish assistant district attorney who prosecuted the vehicular homicide and other felony charges against Lohse, said Lohse will spend at least 18½ years behind bars.
Lohse’s plea deal also includes a 10-year sentence for one charge of felon in possession of a weapon, and one year for bail jumping. Those sentences are to run at the same time as Lohse’s 20-year sentence.
Prather and Thomas Alonzo, Lohse’s attorney, said Lohse had faced life in prison because of the multiple felony charges he faced and the felony convictions he’s received. Lohse’s record would have designated him a habitual offender in the court’s eyes, and opened up the probability Lohse would serve life in prison if he had been found guilty of vehicular homicide.
It was minutes from midnight June 10, 2012, when Lohse, driving drunk on the Youngsville Highway, slammed into a car driven by Cacie Barras McGrew.
McGrew, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was the mother of Karley Rae McGrew, now 6.
Alonzo said Lohse was remorseful about Cacie McGrew’s death.
“It was Wade’s decision” to make the plea deal, Alonzo said. “He decided he wanted to confront his drinking problem.”
Alonzo said Lohse has pledged to seek treatment for alcoholism while he’s in prison.
On March 25, as Lohse sat in Judge Earles’ courtroom awaiting his trial on the charge of felon in possession of a weapon, Alonzo and Prather were negotiating a sentence that would have combined the weapons charge with one on felony burglary and the vehicular homicide charge. Lohse, who was out on bond, told his attorney he needed to deposit coins in an outside parking meter.
Later, when he didn’t return to the courtroom, Earles issued a warrant for his arrest.
Lohse didn’t immediately leave the Lafayette area: Before slipping away on a multi-week run from police, Lohse broke into Lafayette restaurant Gator Cove and stole a frozen margarita machine.
Prather said McGrew’s mother, Cindy Barras, of Youngsville, was kept informed about Lohse’s trial and she was told Monday that Lohse had been sentenced.
After the sentence, Barras left town for a “much-needed vacation,” said Teddy Caulking, who answered the phone at Barras’ Youngsville home Monday afternoon.
Caulking said he is McGrew’s godchild and was living with her and her daughter when McGrew was killed last year.
“We were close. It was tough,” Caulking said.
Alonzo had sought to move Lohse’s trial on vehicular homicide outside Lafayette Parish, where “it is impossible for Mr. Lohse to receive the fair trial,” according to motion seeking a change of venue.
Alonzo said in the motion that a Facebook page, “Justice for Cacie Barras McGrew,” was launched in the weeks following her death and 1,251 supporters signed up. He wrote that officials, including District Attorney Mike Harson, made improper statements in the case.
Alonzo also sought to keep the YouTube video out of the trial, citing highly prejudicial content in the video that would make a fair trial impossible.
Prather said the District Attorney’s Office was pleased with Lohse’s plea and the sentence. Prather said the sentencing range for vehicular homicide is five years to 20 years in prison.
Alonzo said Lohse also was content to move on — albeit to prison until he’s in his early 60s.