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Inmates charged in officer's slaying
By Times Picayune
Published: 03/16/2004

More than four years after a officer  was killed during an attempted escape from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, first-degree murder indictments were handed down against five inmates Monday by a West Feliciana Parish grand jury.

Jefferson Parish assistant district attorneys, who are prosecuting the case, will seek the death penalty against the inmates, who are already serving life sentences for murders, said prosecutor Roger Jordan.

Lt. David Knapps, 49, was beaten to death with a hammer during the failed breakout on Dec. 28, 1999.

The inmates charged in his killing are Barry Edge, 44, of Violet; David Brown, 32, of Algiers; Robert Carley, 36, of New York; Jeffrey Clark, 45; and David Mathis, 29, both of East Baton Rouge Parish. A sixth inmate was killed by officers during the incident.

Jordan said after the inmates are arraigned by Judge George Ware of the 20th Judicial District Court in St. Francisville, they will choose their attorneys during a hearing. No date for the arraignment has been set.

West Feliciana Parish District Attorney Samuel D'Aquilla recused his office from the case because one of the inmates had consulted with him before he was elected, creating a possible conflict of interest.

Carolyn Whitstine, Knapps' sister, who lives in the Angola community near the prison grounds, said her family doesn't understand why it has taken more than four years for the case to be presented to a grand jury.

She said family members spoke to Charles Shropshire, who was West Feliciana district attorney shortly after Knapps' death. "We tried to call him a few times after that, but we haven't heard anything or gotten any kind of explanation since then."

Shropshire, who was defeated by D'Aquilla in 2002, could not be reached for comment Monday.

After D'Aquilla recused his office, the state attorney general's office assigned the case to Jefferson District Attorney Paul Connick Jr.'s office.

At the time, Knapps was the first corrections officer killed at Angola in the line of duty since 1972. Prison officials hailed him as a hero because he refused to give up a set of keys that could have led to a successful escape. Two other officers were held hostage, but were rescued by co-workers.

Edge was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury of the murder of Clifford Stover in 1985. Brown pleaded guilty in Jefferson Parish in 1994 in the shooting death of Harvey Reese in Marrero in 1992. Carley was convicted of killing Chalmette gas station attendant Robert Esposito in 1989. Clark and Mathis were serving time for unrelated murders in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Inmate Joel Durham, armed with a homemade knife, was shot to death when he charged an officer when officers entered the hostage area, officials said. Durham was convicted in Jefferson Parish in 1994 for the 1992 murder of Leo Kern, the manager of a fast-food restaurant in Metairie. Mathis, who was serving time for choking his grandmother to death, was shot in the chin but survived.

Unless defense attorneys obtain a change of venue, Jordan said, the case will be tried in St. Francisville before a West Feliciana Parish jury.


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