Officials: Body found, 'possibly missing pregnant teacher'

Officials: Body found, 'possibly missing pregnant teacher' - 6 p.m.
Published: Jun. 14, 2016 at 9:59 PM CDT
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Robert Marks (Source: EBRSO)
Robert Marks (Source: EBRSO)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Investigators said a farmer found the body of a woman in a ditch Tuesday morning.

The Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office said the body was found in Rosedale past Gross Tete around 11:30 a.m. and is "possibly" the body of the missing pregnant Baton Rouge teacher, Lyntell Washington, 40, of Baton Rouge, who disappeared Wednesday. Deputies said the lead agency in that case, the Baton Rouge Police Department, has been notified and responded to the scene.

Cpl. L'Jean McKneely with BRPD said investigators from several agencies are assisting in processing the scene. The body was taken Tuesday afternoon to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office for an autopsy to identify the body and determine the cause of death. He added the body is "badly decomposed" and it would be premature to state whether it is Washington's body.

"We won't know who this actually is until DNA confirms. They'll do that later on today, hopefully they'll have an autopsy tomorrow," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

Moore said that the police department would decide the charges, but that he assumed a suspect would be arrested for first or second-degree murder and possibly feticide if the body is Washington's.

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Authorities began search efforts Friday for the missing woman who was once named "Teacher of the Year" and currently teaches at Brookstown Middle Magnet Academy. Crews were deployed in the air, on land, and in the water for much of the day Friday, searching five key areas across south Louisiana, including Baker, Zachary, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, and Ramah. The multi-agency search was temporarily suspended at nightfall on Friday.

Washington was reported missing Thursday morning after her 3-year-old daughter was found alone near her vehicle in Baton Rouge. Blood was found inside the vehicle.

The assistant principal of the Baton Rouge middle school where she works has been arrested in connection with her disappearance. Robert Jovantie Marks, 39, faces aggravated kidnapping and child desertion charges because Washington's child was left abandoned in a parking lot. District Attorney Hillar Moore said if the body that was found is Washington, then an additional charge will be added for the unborn baby.

A Good Samaritan discovered the girl and said he immediately knew something was horribly wrong.

"It was actually shocking, first of all, to see the little girl out there by herself, and it's kind of upsetting that no one was out there and then to see all that blood I just knew something had gone terribly wrong with someone, whoever she was with," said Leslie Parms.

Marks is married to another woman and police suspect he might have been fearful that his wife would find out that he had gotten the teacher pregnant, according to police records.

Police say cell phone records show Marks' phone as well as a phone belonging to Washington were in the Ramah area around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday. Both phones were in that area for about 15 minutes before returning to Baton Rouge, according to police documents. Investigators said foul play was suspected.

According to the probable cause report, the child told investigators that "'Mr. Robbie' hurt her mother and was now sleeping." It also revealed the child was with her mother and Marks "when she heard a 'bang' and after the bang her mom was 'shaking.' She also stated that her mom's in the lake and that it was dark outside when her mom got hurt."

McKneely said that detectives also learned that Marks took Washington's 3-year-old daughter for a ride on Wednesday night and left her unattended in a parking in the 11000 block of Newcastle Avenue.

Officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System confirmed that Washington was the 2014-15 Teacher of the Year. They also confirmed that Marks is the assistant principal at the same school and has been placed on administrative leave.

Washington's child was turned over to family members.

On Saturday, police said Marks had gotten a lawyer and refused to cooperate with the investigation.

"Lyntell was my friend and former coworker, very excited to leave Eden Park and start at Brookstown last school season," said Dr'Tamiara Wade in a statement Tuesday. "I can't help but wonder if she'd still be alive had she not accepted the position. I'd love to share her optimism that was evidenced from the day I first met her and the endless hours we spent talking about life and her daughter Derielle. She was an awesome science teacher and a loving, caring person with a sweet spirit."

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