By Bryn Stole
A former Plaquemine police detective wanted on drug counts — and wanted as a key witness in an upcoming Iberville Parish murder trial — surrendered Tuesday morning.
Chad Fonseca, who in 2012 led the investigation into the shooting death of Wilbert Myles, had been on the lam since he was accused of selling prescription painkillers to undercover Iberville Parish sheriff’s deputies on three occasions in September.
Plaquemine Police Chief Kenny Payne said Fonseca surrendered to agents with a joint Plaquemine-Iberia Parish drug task force about 9 a.m., hours after a front-page story in Tuesday’s Advocate about the hunt for the former detective hit doorsteps and computer screens.
Fonseca was booked into Iberville Parish jail on three counts of distribution of a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance. Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi said Fonseca is being housed in isolation away from other inmates; his bail is set at $60,000.
Prosecutor Tony Clayton, who’d expressed concern in Tuesday’s Advocate about whether Fonseca would be located in time to testify in the murder trial of Cordias Walker in the shooting death of Myles, credited the news coverage with the apprehension of the former police officer. Walker’s trial is set to begin Jan. 5.
The Advocate’s “article flushed him out,” Clayton said.
Stassi said he thought Fonseca delayed his surrender while trying to gather bail money but “ran into a little problem getting people to back him.”
Defense attorney Shannon Battiste, who’s representing Walker, said the drug allegations against Fonseca certainly raise some credibility issues in the case against his client but said talk about Fonseca’s legal trouble was a “smoke screen” for other weaknesses in the murder case.
“The state has some bigger problems with this case,” Battiste said. “The biggest problem isn’t Chad Fonseca.”
Walker has maintained that he shot Myles, 17, in self-defense following a drug dispute in the 58000 block of Allen Street in Plaquemine.
Clayton, though, said he feels confident in the case against Walker. The assistant district attorney said Fonseca’s testimony would focus almost entirely on the collection of physical evidence and that there’s no indication Fonseca acted improperly in investigating the case.
“Am I concerned about Chad’s credibility? Yes, but I’m not concerned about the evidence,” Clayton said. “When you have a former detective charged with three counts, I’m going to take a butt whooping on cross examination. When officers do what Fonseca did, it has a ripple effect. I’m not going to kid myself and say he hasn’t caused a problem.”
Clayton said Fonseca also worked as a detective in other pending cases in the parish, including “one or two more murders” and a number of drug cases.
Clayton said he intends to review those cases as well as previous convictions — particularly those on drug charges — that Fonseca had handled.
“I’d rather see a hundred people go free than have one innocent man go to jail,” Clayton said. “I’m going to do my due diligence on people that are doing time because of Chad Fonseca.”
Fonseca, who worked for the department for five to seven years, left the department in 2013 to take a job as an inspector for the city’s planning department, the police chief said. Payne told The Advocate on Monday that Fonseca was never reprimanded for drug use during his time with the department. Payne and Stassi both said there is no indication the drugs referenced in the counts against Fonseca were taken from city police evidence.
The sheriff said Monday it appears painkillers prescribed to Fonseca following a motorcycle crash had got the former cop into the “drug life.”
If Fonseca hasn’t posted the $60,000 bail by the time the trial begins Tuesday, Clayton and Stassi said, the former detective would take the stand in a striped jumpsuit and wearing shackles.
“If he’s held in jail and called to testify, he’d testify in shackles. We wouldn’t try to hide that, understand?” Stassi said. “If he bonds out before then, he can come how he’s dressed.”
Advocate staff writer Steve Hardy contributed to this report.