NEW ORLEANS – Police have charged a man in the weekend kidnapping of a man and woman whose bodies were found Monday inside an abandoned house in a section of New Orleans east of the Mississippi River.
Fitzgerald Phillips and Calyisse Perkins, both 19, had been dead at least 24 hours before their bodies were discovered at 1:30 p.m. in the Gert Town section of the city after police received anonymous tip, Deputy Police Superintendent Marlon Defillo said.
Kenneth Barnes, 22, was booked with aggravated kidnapping, possession of stolen items and other crimes after investigators discovered property belonging to the victims, Defillo said. Police were looking for at least one other person in the case, he said.
Authorities released no motive, but Defillo said Barnes told detectives he and Phillips, a student at Southern University at New Orleans, sold marijuana together. Phillips, however, did not appear to have any criminal history in the city, police said.
Perkins, who had volunteered as a literacy tutor with AmeriCorps at a local charter school, "was at the wrong place at the wrong time," Defillo said.
Caltrise Smith, Perkins' sister, told The Times-Picayune newspaper that Phillips and Perkins met when they were freshmen Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. They moved to New Orleans so Phillips could attend SUNO after the spring 2008 semester.
About 20 police recruits had been searching for the pair before the tip was received. A cadaver dog alerted officers to the bodies.
Police said the victims were in Perkins' apartment when two men got inside, ransacked the residence and forced them to go to Phillips' house, where more was stolen. According to investigators, Phillips' family later received a ransom call. A car owned by Phillips was found Sunday afternoon near the French Quarter, several miles from where the bodies were found.
Autopsies were planned, and Crimestoppers offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of whomever was responsible for the crimes.
"There is no indication that these two young folk were involved in anything illegal," Defillo said.
Sheila Reneau, mother of Calyisse Perkins, said she couldn't make sense of the crime. Her family had never been victimized by violence, and "Calyisse last got into a fight in the first grade," Reneau told The Times-Picayune.