Keana Barnes, the convicted killer who broke out of the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in January, hitched a ride to New Orleans with four people shortly after her escape from the St. Gabriel prison, according to new federal court filings.
The four suspects, who have admitted their involvement, could face federal charges as authorities try to piece together Barnes’ escape and her nearly three months on the run, U.S. Marshal Kevin Harrison said Tuesday.
“Once we do a more in-depth investigation and have an opportunity to interview and interrogate Barnes, then that information will be presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for consideration for federal charges,” Harrison said. “We’ve got a little more work to do before we get to that point.”
Barnes, 33, of New Orleans, was captured in Los Angeles last week. She has since appeared in federal court and is expected to be returned to Louisiana later this week, said Pam Laborde, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
“We are working out travel arrangements now,” Laborde said. “Because of security reasons, however, I will not be able to divulge any further details publicly.”
St. Gabriel Police Chief Kevin Ambeau said police will book Barnes with simple escape after she is returned to the prison. Barnes could face an additional two to five years in prison if convicted.
An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court offers new details of Barnes’ escape and law enforcement efforts to locate her.
Barnes, who was serving a 25-year sentence for manslaughter for killing two men, had been added last month to the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted fugitive list.
In the days following the escape, the affidavit says, authorities received several anonymous tips that Derrick Thompson, Cherie Breard, Jonathan Bringier and Brandon Glover had given Barnes a ride to New Orleans.
U.S. marshals located all four and they “admitted” their involvement, the affidavit says.
Thompson, 38, of Geismar, was booked by Ascension Parish sheriff’s officials with accessory after the fact to simple escape and obstruction of justice, Chief Deputy Tony Bacala said.
Thompson told authorities that he allowed Barnes to stay at his residence, loaned her some clothing and arranged for a friend to take her to New Orleans, Bacala said.
“He knew who she was,” Bacala said, adding that Thompson failed to notify authorities after encountering Barnes. “He did figure it out.”
Thompson told authorities that Barnes had been dropped off near Bourbon Street, Bacala added.
Authorities are still investigating where Barnes went from there and how she managed to elude capture for several weeks, Harrison said.
Los Angeles police have said that Barnes had traveled to Mexico before arriving in Los Angeles by bus less than 24 hours before she was captured. Laborde has said police officers there were giving Barnes a ticket for loitering when she apparently gave them a fake name.
The federal affidavit also shows Barnes mailed a greeting card from Houston on Jan. 18 to prisoners in St. Gabriel, confirming investigators’ suspicions that she had fled the state.
The card, which contained hand-written messages to Barnes’ friends, was sent under an alias with the return address of a prisoner in Tennessee Colony, Texas, the affidavit says.
The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab found Barnes’ left middle fingerprint on the card’s envelope, the affidavit says.
The arrest last week ended a search that began at 6 a.m. on Jan. 1, when Barnes was discovered to be missing from her cell.
Corrections officials have said they believe she shattered a window in her dorm using a padlock in a sock.
From there, the affidavit says, Barnes ran to an adjacent building, climbed a fence to gain access to the roof “and then made her way to another fence where Barnes was able to get over and leave the prison grounds.”
One prison official was fired and another resigned in lieu of termination after officials determined a “supervision issue” contributed to the escape, authorities have said.
The escape was not the first time Barnes has evaded law enforcement.
She fled to Mexico in 2003 after fatally shooting Perry Jennings Jr., according to Ron Ruiz Jr., a former New Orleans police detective.
After she was caught and returned to the United States, Barnes pleaded guilty in that killing as well as the fatal stabbing of James Robert Shepherd, according to court records.
Jennings’ mother, Marva Barnum, said Tuesday that she was “ecstatic” and relieved that Barnes is back behind bars. Barnum said she had been afraid Barnes would kill again and “go after” her family for speaking out against her in court.
“It was scary for everybody,” Barnum said. “They should throw away the key.”