Search for St. Gabriel prison escapee centers on New Orleans

An inmate who escaped from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women on New Year’s Day may be hiding out in the New Orleans area, a state corrections official said Thursday.

Investigators believe Keana Barnes, 33, was given a ride to downtown New Orleans after she fled around 1 a.m. Jan. 1 from the prison at St. Gabriel on Iberville Parish’s east bank, state Department of Public Safety and Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said in a news release.

Barnes was serving a 25-year sentence on a manslaughter conviction.

Laborde said the Corrections Department has received reports of multiple sightings of Barnes in the New Orleans area, primarily in the vicinity of Marrero.

Barnes apparently has been receiving help to avoid capture, Laborde said. Barnes is a native of the New Orleans area and has relatives and friends there, the release says.

Rewards totaling $5,000 are offered for information leading to the capture of the fugitive. The Corrections Department and CrimeStoppers of Greater New Orleans both have posted $2,500 rewards, the release says.

Barnes, with dark brown eyes and “very short” brown hair, is 5 feet 4 inches in height, weighs 140 pounds, has the letter K tattooed on her left hand, a dragon tattoo on her back and two panther tattoos on her chest, the news release says.

Anyone with information about Barnes’ whereabouts is asked to call the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women’s Control Center at (225) 319-2300. Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at (504) 822-1111 or (877) 903-7867.