By Steve Hardy
Plaquemine — Iberville prosecutors are missing a key witness in an upcoming murder trial: a former police detective who is on the lam evading arrest on drug counts.
In November 2012, Plaquemine police arrested Cordias Walker in the death of Wilbert Myles, who was shot in the 58000 block of Allen Street following a drug dispute. Walker, who is scheduled for trial Jan. 5, has maintained he was acting in self-defense.
Plaquemine police officer Chad Fonseca was the lead detective in the case, but he may not be available to provide testimony. On three occasions in September, undercover deputies purchased prescription drugs from Fonseca, Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi said. Earlier this month, his office identified Fonseca through social media as a wanted man.
Fonseca called a city detective from a restricted phone line and indicated he would turn himself in, Plaquemine police Chief Kenny Payne said. However, Fonseca made the call sometime before Christmas, and the chief isn’t sure whether Fonseca will be in custody by the time the trial starts next week.
Prosecutor Tony Clayton said he will do whatever he can to put Fonseca on the stand.
“I’m gonna bring him to court in shackles” if need be, the assistant district attorney said.
“He’s my main detective,” Clayton said. “He handled all the evidence. … He has created a serious issue for us.”
If Fonseca is still at large when the prosecution presents its case, Clayton said, the prosecution can introduce evidence through other officers involved in the case. However, defense attorney Shannon Battiste is already preparing to object to such a tack.
“I don’t know how they’re gonna introduce evidence that Fonseca collected without Fonseca,” Battiste said.
The defense attorney said his concern is less that the former detective has been implicated in a drug investigation and more that, should the DA’s Office present the evidence Fonseca collected, the defense would not be able to cross-examine him.
It’s possible the trial will be delayed. Two other murder trials are scheduled the same date. Prosecutors could request a continuance, which Battiste said he would fight. Or the two sides could try to strike a deal, an option Clayton said was offered before Fonseca went missing.
Battiste, however, still maintains Walker shot Myles only to protect himself.
“I think it’s the most perfect case of self-defense,” Battiste said. “Who’s going to plead guilty to defending himself at his own home?”
Battiste maintains that Myles attacked Walker at Walker’s home.
Payne, the police chief, said the DA’s Office has not contacted him about dropping the case against Walker or sending other officers to testify. According to court records, prosecutors have subpoenaed a dozen witnesses, and Payne points out that while Fonseca was the case detective, he didn’t investigate the shooting all by himself.
Neither the chief nor the prosecutor were immediately sure what effect Fonseca’s absence may have on other outstanding cases. Clayton does not believe the investigation of Fonseca will affect cases that already have closed.
Fonseca left the department in 2013 to take a job as an inspector for the city’s planning department, the chief said. Payne estimates Fonseca worked on the Plaquemine force for five to seven years and was never reprimanded for drug use during that time.
Payne and Stassi said there is no indication the drugs referenced in the counts against Fonseca were taken from city police evidence.
Stassi said it appears Fonseca had been in a motorcycle crash at some point and was prescribed painkillers, which got him into the “drug life.” Other particulars of Fonseca’s alleged crimes were unclear Monday, but he faces three counts of distribution of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance in relation to the three undercover Roxicodone buys in September, the sheriff said.
Payne believes Fonseca is still in Louisiana but not in the Plaquemine area.
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