HOMER, LA (KSLA) - Louisiana State Police say the body of Webster sheriff's Deputy Sulyn Prince, 69, of Homer, has been found and an arrest has been made in connection with her death.
Prince's body was discovered Monday night in a shallow grave in a wooded area behind her house.
Investigators and forensic examiners worked through Monday night processing the scene and following leads that later led to the arrest of Jermaine Johnson, 35, of Homer, on a charge of second-degree murder. Louisiana State Police Trooper Matt Harris, of state police Troop G, said Johnson lived in a house behind Prince.
If convicted as charged, Johnson could serve life in prison without benefit of parole.
The investigation is ongoing and could lead to more charges, according to state police.
"And I'm praying and hoping he isn't the one that did this crime," said Johnson's cousin, Ronnie Smith.
Smith told KSLA he doesn't believe Johnson could do this.
"Man, he's just laid back, you know? He doesn't have the type. He's not the type to do nothing like this," he said.
Johnson lived behind Prince. According to Smith, he would even lend an occasional helping hand.
"I heard he was working, helping the lady work! I'm not sure about none of that either," Smith said.
The inquiry began when Homer police were called to Prince's house about 8 a.m. Monday in response to reports that she was missing.
Officers say they found evidence consistent with foul play.
Homer police called in state police investigators and forensic scientists to process the scene.
"I saw all the tape around her house, and they won't let you in there," Prince's cousin Linda Wolfe said.
Several agencies spent all day Monday searching the area and even brought in Shreveport Fire Department cadaver dogs and the David Wade Correctional Center search team.
Webster sheriff's Chief Deputy Bobby Igo confirmed that Prince was as a master control operator at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center, a prison the sheriff's office operates just north of Doyline. A master control operator controls the prison's gates, doors and cameras
"She was just the sweetest person you would ever want to meet," said Delores Dooly, administrative assistant at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional. "She had a smile for everyone and always was upbeat."
Prince was at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional for 10-12 years. Previously, the mother of 3 worked at Claiborne Parish Detention Center at Homer and, before that, David Wade Correctional Center, a Louisiana Corrections Department facility about midway between Homer and Haynesville.
The arrest of Johnson "brings closure to a terrible tragedy, but it also sends a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and we will bring these violent criminals to justice," Col. Mike Edmonson, commander of Louisiana State Police, said in a statement.
It's a crime that's put this usually quiet Homer neighborhood on edge.
Neighbor James Wagg just moved behind Johnson's home this past weekend and said on Tuesday he's now worried about where he calls home.
"I didn't know he was found yet, so I took the day off because I didn't want to leave my family home alone," Wagg said.
Some law enforcement agencies lowered their flags to half staff Tuesday.
Jermaine Johnson is being held in the Claiborne Parish Detention Center.