Arrested in evacuee park check

3 arrested in evacuee park check - Sheriffs Office visited Baker site

Author(s): KIMBERLY VETTER Date: February 9, 2006

Section: Metro

Three unregistered sex offenders were arrested Tuesday night during an unannounced visit by the East Raton Rouge Parish Sheriffs Office to the FEMA trailer park on Groom Road near Baker. Sheriff deputies arrested Owen Barthelemy, 26, Catherine Caufield, 47 and Romalis

Jefferson, 29. Deputies had prior knowledge of Jefferson and found out about Barthelemy and Caufield after running their names through a database of convicted sex offenders, said Col. Greg Phares, chief criminal deputy with the Sheriffs Office.

Sex offenders who do not register with the state can be charged with a felony and serve up to five years in jail or pay up to a $1,000 fine, according to Louisiana law.

Other names and personal information voluntarily given to the Sheriffs Office by park residents will be run through such databases and more arrests could be made, Phares said.

The park's residents are people displaced by Hurricane Katrina and Rita.

"We were told that there is a large number of people on probation or parole from New Orleans who are unaccounted for as well as sex offenders," Phares said. "We have reason to assume some might be there (at the park)."

About 40 Sheriff Office's deputies and detectives knocked on about 500 trailer doors between 7 p.m. and midnight Tuesday.

The purpose of their visit was to gather information about the almost 2,000 people living at the park, also known as Renaissance Village, Phares said.

Deputies talked to about a third of the park's population, most of whom were cooperative, Phares said. However, "it's reasonable to assume that the third who talked wanted to; it's those who didn't answer and didn't talk that we want to talk to more," he said.

Park resident David Butts, 47, voluntarily gave his information to sheriffs deputies and said he hasn't had any problems at the park other than noise, which was taken care of by the park's security guards. "I feel safe living here," he said. "I walk my dog at 2 a.m."

The method the Sheriffs Office used to gather information does not appear to be a violation of the law, said Tommy Damico, a Baton Rouge lawyer. "They don't have the right to demand, they do have the right to ask," Damico