JACKSON, Miss. – A federal grand jury has indicted two men accused of escaping from a prison work program in Louisiana, then kidnapping a businessman in Mississippi and dumping his body in Alabama.
Ricky Wedgeworth, 36, and Darian "Drake" Pierce, 34, were indicted Thursday in Mississippi on charges including kidnapping, carjacking and conspiracy. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
There was an intense search for the men in several Southern states between the time of their March 4 escape from a Louisiana State Police compound and their capture March 14 in Memphis, Tenn.
They are charged with carjacking and kidnapping Ohio businessman David Cupps, 53, from a hotel in Vicksburg, Miss. Authorities found Cupps' body at a hotel in Bessemer, Ala. They said he had been beaten and strangled.
Cupps was from the Columbus suburb of Sunbury, Ohio. Authorities have said he was in Mississippi to inspect the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant.
John Dowdy, a U.S. Attorney in Mississippi, and Daniel McMullan, an FBI special agent in charge, said in a news release that Wedgeworth and Pierce kidnapped and carjacked Cupps for his rental car, a 2011 Buick Enclave.
Wedgeworth and Pierce escaped from a Louisiana State Police compound north of Baton Rouge. Wedgeworth was serving time for armed robbery, and Pierce was locked up for attempted second-degree murder.
In Louisiana, the Department of Public Safety uses about 160 inmate workers, known as trusties, for various jobs. They are housed in a prison facility on the Louisiana State Police training compound, said Lt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman. Wedgeworth and Pierce escaped from the facility in a Department of Public Safety van.
The men had been working as groundskeepers there and were able to get the keys to the van and drive off, Cain said. Before they escaped, Wedgeworth was set to be released in 2023, while Pierce was set to get out in 2024.
Authorities said the men were caught after crashing a pickup truck in Memphis. Police said that before their capture, the men tied up a county park worker in Jackson, Tenn., and stole a government truck that had markings for the Madison County parks department.
Cain said Wedgeworth and Pierce are now being held in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys.