MANY, LA (KSLA) - The former Natchitoches police officer accused of kidnapping and killing Tony Procell has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Robert Barthelemy, 34, was indicted on September 9 on charges of first degree murder, second degree kidnapping and home invasion, three weeks after investigators say Procell was forcibly taken from a Sabine Parish home by Barthelemy at gunpoint.
Procell's disappearance set off a search for both him and Barthelemy.
Barthelemy was taken into custody the following morning after a high-speed chase and standoff that ended on Highway 177 west of I-49 in DeSoto Parish.
The body was found 5 days after Procell's disappearance, when Barthelemy's father-in-law came across a shovel caked with fresh mud near the edge of Saline Lake in the Kisatchie National Forest. It's an area where the father and son-in-law had hunted together in the past.
An autopsy later determined that Procell, a former fellow National Guard member, died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Barthelemy's appearance in Sabine Parish District Court Thursday morning was brief. He has been held without bond at the Caddo Correctional Center, where he was returned following his arraignment Thursday. A trial date has not yet been set.
Procell family spokesman released this statement following the court appearance:
"No words can adequately express the grief and sorrow we are feeling as we continue to mourn the loss of our son, grandson, nephew and friend, Tony. Today's plea is just the start of the legal process, which we believe will end with justice being served, and we know that the man responsible will be prosecuted. We do thank each and every person involved in the case for their hard work and dedication. We would also like to thank those of you within our community and across the country who continue to include our family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
Natchitoches Police Department Capt. Brad Walker confirms that the 34-year-old has resigned his position as an officer there. Barthelemy had been on paid administrative leave since his arrest, pending an internal investigation. He had worked for NPD for 2 years.
First degree murder is a capital offense, which means Barthelemy could face the death penalty if he is convicted.