Investigative Unit: Fetus stored in freezer for 6 years
LABADIEVILLE - The WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered disturbing details about a 16-week-old fetus that has been jammed in a freezer for the past six years in Assumption Parish.
Tonight, the newly elected First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge is under fire over the case.
Judge Guy Holdridge presided over the case that led to a conviction of a man for aggravated rape. The fetus was used as evidence in the case. But, six years later, that fetus remains in a freezer at the Labadieville Sheriff's Substation.
In the rural town of Labadieville, one main road slices through it. Just off that main road, is an old bank building converted into a substation for the Assumption Parish Sheriff's Office. Inside, there's a 16-week-old fetus, old enough to have a head hands and legs.
However, the human fetus is frozen in time and has been stuffed in a freezer for the past six years. The News 2 Investigative Unit obtained court records from 2008 showing the fetus was part of an aggravated rape case involving Leon Johnlouis. Johnlouis raped a 12-year-old, and the 12-year-old had a miscarriage. The fetus was evidence in the case against him, and court records show it was tested by the State Police Crime lab as a positive match with Johnlouis. That was in 2008. Fast forward to 2014, that fetus is still in a cooler in an iced state.
"Nobody wants to hold that type of evidence," Sheriff Mike Waguespack said. "A proper burial needs to be done. That would be my wish today, that we can do this tomorrow."
Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack kept extensive records on this case, detailing each time he spoke to someone about trying to bury the fetus.
"It's concerning enough to me and my evidence custodian that we took special time to completely document the timeline as to when we discussed this case," Waguespack said.
The notes Waguespack kept are two pages long. The papers show the Sheriff has been in contact with District Attorney Ricky Babin's office for years. Babin remembers those conversations.
"It takes a court order to dispose of evidence if you will, just like any other," Babin said.
Here is a timeline of events:
- The court ordered the Sheriff's office to hold the fetus for two years, after Johnlouis' conviction so he could appeal if he wanted.
- In 2012, the process began to give the fetus a pauper burial.
- The victim and the family wanted nothing to do with the fetus.
- But Judge Guy Holdridge would not sign off on the pauper burial, according to Waguespack and Babin.
"The court would not sign an order without permission and consent of the victim who was a minor," Babin said.
The district attorney says his office presented the order to the Judge to have the fetus disposed of three times. It happened in June, August and October of this year. Each time Judge Holdridge would not sign it.
Even more alarming, conversations began to emerge over the alleged reasons why.
Remember those notes that Sheriff Waguespack was taking... In July of this year, the Sheriff's Office documented the following conversation as it continued to note the reasons for holding the fetus.
"Judge would not sign it until after the August election."
The Sheriff says that statement referred to election qualifying.
We went looking for Judge Guy Holdridge at his home in Gonzales. We also left messages at his office. Tonight, the Sheriff's Office and District Attorney say they are in legal limbo, with a frozen fetus that deserves a proper and humane burial.
Babin was asked if it was concerning that politics could be standing in the way of getting this fetus taken care of.
"That would be very concerning if he said it," District Attorney Babin said. "I can't confirm he said it."
"I'm certainly not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but you have to understand the Sheriff can only do what he is ordered to do by a district court judge," Sheriff Waguespack said. "Until that motion is signed by the Judge, my hands are tied."
Judge Holdridge did finally get back to us saying he has never seen an order to destroy the fetus. During the past two weeks, he did set a court date to litigate the issue. Meanwhile, the convicted rapist is serving a 17 year sentence for raping the 12-year-old on at least two occasions.
Judge Holdridge ran unopposed as First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge. He's scheduled to be sworn in next year.