WALKER -- Social media, the cooperation of five other law enforcement agencies and “good, old-fashioned police work” led to the arrest of a Denham Springs man in connection with a number of Walker burglaries, Walker police said.
Cullen Pitre, 25, of Denham Springs, was arrested March 8, and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, said Capt. John Sharp, Walker police public information officer.
Sharp said Pitre is suspected of breaking into several homes, outbuildings and vehicles, as well as two City of Walker sewer lift stations in the Pendarvis Lane, Rebecca Drive and Brian Park areas.
All of this occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 19 before Pitre is accusing of stealing a pickup truck and fleeing the area.
“It appears that Mr. Pitre was a one-man crime wave,” Walker Police Chief David Addison said. “We expect that his arrest will clear a great many burglaries and vehicle thefts that my department has pursued and numerous other law enforcement agencies in Livingston Parish and surrounding parishes have been working to solve.
“In addition, we are aggressively pursuing other individuals involved with Mr. Pitre in the commission of these burglaries as well as those persons who helped Mr. Pitre evade capture by providing him with aid and assistance,” Addison said.
Pitre remains in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, Sharp said.
“Due to a parole detainer, Mr. Pitre is being held without bond on charges related to his unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of Schedule I and Schedule II narcotics, and on the Walker Police Pepartment fugitive warrant related to burglary charges,” Sharp said.
“In cases like these, where there are no witnesses, identifying a suspect can be tedious and time consuming,” Sharp said.
“Recognizing that fact, locating the stolen vehicle was a priority. Vehicles are identifiable and may contain physical and forensic evidence that can help identify an offender,” the police spokesman said.
“We immediately provided area law enforcement agencies with a description of the stolen truck, hoping it would be spotted. Our officers also processed the numerous crime scenes, collecting fingerprints, shoe tracks and DNA samples.
“Although fingerprints and DNA samples can be critical in solving cases, especially where there are no witnesses, matching a name with the fingerprints and DNA obtained at a crime scene can be a lengthy process,” he said.
The break Walker police needed came on Feb. 20, Sharp said, when the St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office found the stolen truck abandoned north of the Livingston-St. Helena Parish line.
Walker detectives processed the truck, finding items that appeared to be stolen property.
“Detectives found a single scrap of paper that was the clue we needed,” Sharp said, “a date and time-stamped receipt from the Dollar Tree in Watson.”
The receipt showed the transaction occurred around noon Feb. 20, before the truck was abandoned in St. Helena Parish, he said.
Detectives viewed the Dollar Tree store’s surveillance video, which showed the stolen truck pulling into the parking lot and two men getting out and entering the store, then leaving after making a purchase.
“Detectives obtained a copy of the video which was turned over to my department’s Special Investigations Unit,” Addison said.
“The SIU enhanced the video and prepared a 10-second clip of the men entering the store, as well as several still photos of each man to provide to my officers and to other law enforcement agencies. The SIU was then instructed to publish the video clip and still photos to our social media system and request assistance from the public in identifying the suspects.
“As soon as the video and photographs were posted to social media, the crime tips began pouring in,” Addison said, and within a few hours, police had a positive identification on both suspects.
Detectives located one of the suspects and after interviewing the man, they determined the investigation should focus on the remaining suspect, identified as Cullen Pitre, Sharp said.
Pitre, a convicted felon, had no permanent address and stayed with various friends and other known associates in the area, Sharp said.
The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office helped Walker police question people who knew Pitre. The Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office also helped Walker police question a close relative of Pitre.
Because Pitre was on parole, the state Office of Probation and Parole was contacted. Pitre had failed to check in with his parole officer and a parole detainer was issued for him.
Addison said the SIU released an updated social media advisory on March 7, with a warning to anyone who helped Pitre evade arrest could face arrest.
“Information developed during our investigation suggests that one or more people (were) providing aid and assistance to Mr. Pitre,” Sharp said.
“We want those persons to understanding that helping a fugitive avoid capture is against the law, that we are actively investigating that matter and that we intend to arrest anyone found to have helped Mr. Pitre.”
A member of the Louisiana State Police Violent Crimes and Fugitive Task Force saw the updated social media advisory and recognized Pitre. On March 8, the officer and the Fugitive Task Force visited a motel on Thomas H. Delpit Drive in Baton Rouge.
The task force found Pitre, with a stolen handgun with an obliterated serial number, a small quantity of methamphetamine and a small amount of marijuana.
Pitre was arrested without incident.
“We are grateful for the assistance provided by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, the St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana Probation and Parole and the Louisiana State Police Violent Crimes and Fugitive Task Force,” Addison said.
“Everyone involved did a tremendous job,” the police chief said. “We especially want to extend our appreciation to our social media community for circulating our advisories and for all the tips and information they provided.”