BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Sources said the man arrested in connection with three murders and another shooting that left a man injured actually called and turned himself in to authorities and prosecutors explained that a fairly new provision in Louisiana's law books could be used on the accused serial killer.
The provision would make the difference between a maximum sentence of the death penalty or life in prison for Ryan Sharpe.
According to sources, Sharpe contacted the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office on the morning of October 11 and told deputies he was responsible for the latest string of shootings and killings. Had he not called, Sharpe was never a suspect.
Despite the doubt deputies had, they went to Sharpe's home, but Sharpe allegedly sped away, leading deputies on a high speed chase. He was taken down at gunpoint. His car was taken to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and deputies searched his East Feliciana Parish home.
That night, deputies made the announcement that Ryan Sharpe was indeed their suspect. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.
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But now, district attorneys in both East Feliciana and East Baton Rouge parishes said those charges may change and one count be downgraded to second-degree murder.
Tommy Bass was the first victim connected to this case. He was shot and killed in July outside his East Feliciana Parish home. Both district attorneys Sam D'Aquilla and Hillar Moore said Bass's murder would be a second-degree murder charge. One big difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder in Louisiana is a first-degree murder charge requires the killing to be during the commission of another crime.
"Both require specific intent to kill or do great bodily harm and someone dies," Moore said. "But for first-degree murder - if you killed a child certain age, killed somebody over a certain age, killed a police officer in the line of duty - that's when that turns an otherwise second-degree murder of a homeowner into a first-degree murder."
Moore added after that, the murders of Carroll Breeden and Brad DeFranceschi could be tried as first-degree thanks to a provision recently put in place.
"Since the [Sean Vincent] Gillis case, the statute was enacted, the paragraph was enacted in first-degree murder, which allows in this serial type of killing...that is if you killed and you have previously killed before in the same scenario with the intent to kill, then you are eligible to be prosecuted with first-degree murder and possibly get the death penalty," Moore explained.
Moore said it's too early right now to say he will or will not pursue the death penalty for Sharpe.
Serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis pleaded guilty in 2007 to second-degree murder and was convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder. These were two separate killings. He was sentenced to life in prison in both cases.