CLINTON, La. – A plumbing company owner is accused of killing three men and shooting a fourth in a string of attacks that began in July in a rural area north of Baton Rouge and ended this week with the death of a Boy Scouts employee.
Authorities announced the arrest of Ryan Sharpe, 36, of Clinton, at a news conference late Wednesday. Sharpe was jailed in Baton Rouge on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.
His alleged victims include Brad DeFranceschi, a 48-year-old Scouts employee who was shot and killed Monday while he trimmed weeds in front of his house on Boy Scouts camp property in Clinton.
DeFranceschi was the fourth middle-aged or older white man to be shot at their homes or on their property in the area since July. East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux would not comment on a possible motive or say whether Sharpe, also a white man, knew the victims.
Asked by a reporter if Sharpe was a "serial killer," Gautreaux said, "No, but I mean it could be categorized as anything, really. We've been open-minded in this whole investigation."
"Our citizens can rest easy tonight knowing that we are confident we have the right person," the sheriff added.
East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Jeff Travis said Sharpe "confessed" when investigators questioned him after his arrest, but the sheriff didn't elaborate.
Detectives found "significant physical evidence" linking Sharpe to the shootings, Travis said. The Louisiana State Police crime lab matched bullets found at two of the shooting scenes, according to a sheriff's office report.
Tommy Bass, 62, was killed on July 8 in East Feliciana Parish. Buck Hornsby, 47, was wounded on Sept. 12 in Clinton. Carroll Breeden, 66, was killed on Sept. 19 in Pride.
The sheriff's office report doesn't explain how investigators identified Sharpe as a suspect.
Earlier this week, DeFranceschi's wife told authorities that she saw a white four-door car with tinted windows near her home after she heard the gunshots that killed her husband.
Investigators were watching Sharpe's home on Wednesday afternoon. When he drove away in a white four-door Nissan Altima, they tried to pull him over but he led them on a high-speed car chase that eventually ended with his arrest. Authorities found a lever-action rifle in his car, authorities said.
A locked gate blocks the gravel road leading to the house where Sharpe lives. A sign at the gate says, "No Trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again."
Sharpe owns a plumbing company, according to records filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State's office.
The suspect's father is retired Louisiana Department of Public Safety officer, according to Maj. Doug Cain of the state police.
Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's office, said she doesn't know if Sharpe has an attorney.
A task force of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, was formed to investigate the killings.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com