Grand jury slams Breaux Bridge detectives

By Ken Grissom

St. Martinville — A St. Martin Parish grand jury this week returned two murder indictments in separate incidents in Breaux Bridge, slamming the police department for incompetence in one of the cases.

The grand jury indicted Freeman Joseph for first-degree murder in the shooting death of Lee Joseph Helaire last December, and Deraficus Wilfred Williams for second degree murder in the March shooting death of Clarence Hypolite Jr.

In their report, the members of the grand jury added their critique of the Hypolite murder investigation, saying the Breaux Bridge Police Department should have asked for help from an agency with better trained and more experienced investigators.

"We reached this conclusion after finding that the investigative work of the detectives of the subject police department was substandard, incomplete, and void of any semblance of professionalism," reads the report, issued June 18.

Hypolite, 35, died in a Lafayette hospital from a bullet wound to the stomach police said he received in an argument with the 25-year-old Williams on a city street in broad daylight in front of a number of witnesses. The bullet and the cartridge casing were not recovered. The murder weapon was not immediately recovered. Police, executing a search warrant, did seize a pistol some weeks later.

According to unofficial sources, the witnesses have given widely varying accounts of the incident.

"As such, we implore the appropriate officials associated with the City of Breaux Bridge to consider alternatives relative to the investigation of major criminal offenses occurring within that city," the grand jury wrote.

The other murder victim, 28-year-old Lee Helaire, had been missing for several days when his body was found in a rural area of Saint Martin Parish. The investigation, which also involved the Lafayette Police Department, resulted in the arrest of 27-year-old Freeman Joseph of Breaux Bridge, who shot himself outside of a home between Cecilia and Breaux Bridge and was hospitalized in Baton Rouge.

A controversy developed in that case when it was discovered that the suspect, who had been released in the custody of relatives because he was supposedly bedridden, was seen out in public.

Joseph was rearrested and remains in jail without bond.

Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars said he will seek the death penalty for Joseph.

The maximum facing Williams is life in prison.

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