Authorities cannot find out what happened to the 22 kilograms of cocaine recently stolen from the East Baton Rouge Parish clerk of court’s evidence vault, Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White said Monday.
Two former clerk of court employees were among the five people arrested last week in the case.
“There’s no way of us actually being able to track the dope that was stolen from the vault and placed back on the street,” White said at a news conference.
“You know that drug dealers have a network of confederates that they use and operate with, so to say if it’s in the state or in the city, no one knows,” White added.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office will suggest auditing that evidence room and reviewing all policies for receiving criminal evidence, including possibly adopting a barcode scanning system to track evidence.
The lock system at the vault also has been changed, Moore said. The compromised vault has been locked so nothing can get in or out, and another office is being used to house any evidence for new cases.
Moore said as far as investigators can tell, no other evidence is missing from the vault.
“We only have begun to look,” he said of the ongoing, multi-agency investigation.
William Bates Colvin, 30, of Baton Rouge, and Debra Vicknair Bell, 55, of Maurepas, are the two clerk of court employees arrested. Colvin is the son of state District Judge Kay Bates.
Colvin and Bell were booked on one count each of theft, distribution of cocaine in excess of 400 grams and malfeasance in office.
Colvin and Bell were fired from the Clerk of Court’s Office on Friday, the office said Monday in a statement. Clerk of court officials declined further comment.
No other clerk of court employees have been implicated in the case, Moore said.
Also arrested were Bell’s son Colt Bell, 29, 7207 Comite Drive, Baker; Terrance Ramirez, 29, 6571 Kleinpeter Drive, Baton Rouge; and Deroy Joseph, 40, 2227 Edgewood Drive, Baton Rouge.
All three were booked with distribution of cocaine.
Colt Bell and Ramirez also were booked on a count of extortion.
Additional arrests are possible, White said.
Colvin, Colt Bell and Ramirez were still in Parish Prison as of Monday night, booking officials said.
Debra Bell was released Friday on a $30,000 bond, and Joseph was released Monday night on a $30,000 bond.
Affidavits by Baton Rouge Police Department officers say Colvin and Debra Bell recruited people, including Colt Bell, to distribute some of the missing cocaine.
Colvin told authorities he was temporarily entrusted with the key to the evidence vault in October and stole 7 kilograms, or 15.4 pounds, of cocaine from it, the affidavits say.
Debra Bell told authorities she and Colvin were romantically involved and that she received some of the money Colvin earned from the cocaine distribution.
She also said she knew that her son and Ramirez began extorting Colvin to get more cocaine from the evidence vault, the affidavits say.
An ongoing audit of the Clerk of Court’s Office has revealed that 48 pounds, roughly 22 kilograms, of cocaine cannot be accounted for, the affidavits say.
The investigation began several weeks ago after authorities began receiving information about missing cocaine, Moore said.
Investigators had hoped to prolong the case and build more evidence, but enough information about the case leaked publicly that agencies had to act last week, Moore said.
He said authorities believe the stolen cocaine is tied to one particular criminal case that has already been through state and federal appeals.
“I don’t believe that this will compromise any case that we have that’s been convicted,” Moore said.
He said he is confident proper safeguards were originally in place, but “obviously, it could have been better.”
“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances by somebody who was trusted,” Moore said.