BRUSLY, LA (WAFB) - Authorities are looking for an inmate who left his work release job site on Valentine's Day and has not been seen since.
The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office reported Mertis Wade, 24, walked off from doing dishes at Louisiana Bayou Bistro in Brusly on Tuesday.
The US Marshals agents and members of the WBRSO Fugitive Apprehension Task Force have been combing the area since Wade's disappearance.
"When they're on a job site, the company we have a contract with, it's in the contract that the company is responsible to supervise these work release inmates," said Col. Richie Johnson with WBRSO.
It could have been a hot date or something else entirely when Wade went missing Tuesday.
"We don't know. There's a myriad of reasons that he could have left. We don't know what the reason is at this point," Johnson added.
While deputies don't yet know why he left, they are zeroing in on how it was possible. Johnson said an internal investigation into the inmate's disappearance has uncovered new clues into what happened that night, saying at least one employee within the department did not properly keep track of Wade's whereabouts.
"When the crew from that site came back into our facility, the count wasn't conducted properly upon their re-entry, so that delayed our office knowing for about six hours that we had an issue with someone walking off," Johnson explained.
Johnson confirmed that a WBRSO employee has been suspended for two weeks without pay. He said Wade was not properly accounted for Tuesday night and said WBRSO was not alerted until about six hours later.
"Would it have made a difference in apprehension? Quite possibly, but we don't know that but, of course, with anything in law enforcement, the quicker you know the information the quicker you can react to it, so any delay is not good in our minds," Johnson added.
The investigation is only about halfway complete at this time and Johnson said more discipline could be handed down to others if the probe finds more proof of negligence.
"We probably have another two or three days of investigation to do. We're pulling some videos and making sure some other head counts were done properly as far as how many times we should have caught what we didn't catch," Johnson said.
Records show Wade was sentenced in Orleans Parish in 2013 for simple robbery and has been on work release in West Baton Rouge Parish since November 2015.
WBRSO added Wade is a DOC inmate who was moved to West Baton Rouge Parish for the Transitional Work Release Program.
Anyone who sees Wade is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867.