The search for a man believed kidnapped by a Natchitoches police officer in Sabine Parish was called off at nightfall, but regular patrols are on the lookout in the area where he is believed to have last been seen.
Extensive search efforts all day Wednesday in the Kisatchie National Forest west of I-49 in Natchitoches Parish turned up no signs of 25-year-old Tony Procell, missing since Tuesday morning.
34-year-old Robert Barthelemy of Robeline is charged with aggravated kidnapping in connection with Procell's disappearance. Police say he has told them that Procell was alive when he left him at a ranger's station.
"He was able to give us a specific location that he said that he last saw Mr. Procell," says Joe Dewil with the Sabine Parish Sheriff's Office, "but after searching that area we still have not been able to locate him."
The search Wednesday focused on the Long Leaf Trail area about 18 miles south of Hwy 6 off of Highway 117.
At a 3 p.m. briefing Wednesday, Dewil said the effort to find Procell at this point is still considered a "search and rescue effort." However, he says, "we've pretty much exhausted the search area." He did not expect the search to continue past nightfall unless new information pointed to another area. "If the area has been searched thoroughly, we don't have any more information, at that point and time, we would call off the search."
DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says his deputies, along with State Police, Natchitoches and Red River sheriff's deputies, were all involved in the high speed chase that ended with a brief standoff before Barthelemy's capture around 1:15 a.m. Wednesday morning on Hwy 177 in DeSoto Parish. "It was probably 30 officers down there and the subject just stopped in the middle of the road and after talking with him different people talking with him for about an hour and 45 minutes, he surrendered to authorities without any incident."
Barthelemy has been charged with aggravated kidnapping.
Sabine Sheriff Ronny Richardson told KSLA News 12 they are "fearing the worst" as the search for Procell wore on into the early afternoon. It's a large forested area. Heat and dehydration are of primary concern. Still, Dewil says Procell's military training and background could prove useful if he was left in the middle of the forest, and it's possible that he could use some of the many trails and roads within to find his way to the edge, where there are plenty of houses.
According to Richardson, the kidnapping was captured on surveillance video at the home where Procell was taken. The sheriff says Barthelemy can clearly be seen taking Procell at gunpoint.
Sheriff Richardson also confirms that his deputies were preparing to serve Barthelemy Tuesday with an order forbidding him from Procell's property, after his mother reported her tires had been slashed and other ongoing domestic issues allegedly involving Barthelemy. At that point, however, Barthelemy could not be located.
KSLA News 12 has also confirmed that the alleged kidnapping took place at the home he shares with a Louisiana State Police trooper on New Hope Road in Sabine Parish. The search for Procell began after the trooper came home and found Procell missing and the house in disarray.
Of the relationship between Procell and his alleged kidnapper, Dewil says "They knew each other. That's all I can say at this point in the investigation."
Barthelemy has been booked into the DeSoto Parish Jail and charged with aggravated kidnapping. He was turned over to Sabine Parish authorities late Wednesday morning and reportedly taken to the search area before he was taken to the parish detention center shortly after 1 p.m. The Natchitoches Police Department confirms Barthelemy, a 2-year-veteran of the department, has been placed on administrative leave.
Sheriff Richardson says Barthelemy's vehicle and weapons, including the gun believed to have been used in the kidnapping, have been recovered. They will be sent to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for testing.
Dewil says people are urged not to go out and search for themselves, saying it's not safe. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Tony Procell is asked to call the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office at (318) 872-3956.
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