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Fugitive free on bond in Louisiana


Fugitive free on bond in Louisiana

December 10, 2005

Mason Lerner

The Daily News

A Texas man who Galveston County authorities believe faked his suicide to avoid facing charges of sexual assault of a child in Bastrop was arrested in New Orleans on Wednesday.

But just as Texas authorities were trying to get him sent back to the Lone Star State, Louisiana officials let him go.

Reneé Lapeyrolerie, public information officer for the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that the 49-year-old Stephen Douglas James was arrested in New Orleans on Wednesday.

Authorities from Bastrop and Galveston counties spent Thursday and Friday trying to make sure that he didn’t post bond in Louisiana.

It didn’t work.

Lapeyrolerie said James bonded out Friday afternoon and was no longer in the Orleans Parish jail system.

“Once a judge issues an order, we follow it,” she said. “He bonded out.”

Galveston County authorities are interested in James because they believe he faked his suicide in Galveston County in August 2004.

Authorities in Galveston and Bastrop counties have been working to get a line on James’ location. They have been consistently thwarted in their attempts.

“It’s a different deal down there,” said Lee Nusbaum, child abuse investigator for the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department, about his efforts to get a definitive answer out of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office.

Details of what led to James’s arrest were murky. After that, it gets fuzzier.

“It looks like he was probably arrested on a Texas warrant,” Nusbaum said, “Then, it appears that Louisiana generated a new case based on extradition. It is possible that he appeared before a judge, the judge set a bond and he bonded himself out.”

Nusbaum was frustrated.

“It’s kind of like they said, ‘Too bad, Texas,’” he said.

Although there are no charges pending against James in Galveston County, Galveston County Sherrif’s Office Sgt. Mike Barry said officials here were following the case closely.

Barry said James was an avid fisherman who traveled to Galveston regularly for years. His severed finger was found in a Bolivar motel room on Aug. 6, 2004. A suicide note was taped to the door along with a picture of the millstone James claimed he would use to drown himself.

Investigators later found his kayak floating near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel. The body never surfaced.

“I never believed he was dead,” said Barry. “He went to too many extremes to show off that he killed himself. He overdid it, and he was stupid about it.”

Barry said he had no details of James’ activities in New Orleans.

“I haven’t talked to him, but I would like to,” Barry said.

He is discussing whether to file a criminal warrant for “false reporting” with the Galveston County District Attorney’s office.

Barry explained James would be facing only a Class A misdemeanor in Galveston County as opposed to Bastrop’s first-degree felony that could potentially incarcerate him for life.

“I don’t know if it’s worth the tax money of Galveston County residents to file charges,” he said.

Nobody wants to find James more than Bastrop County Criminal District Attorney Brian Goertz. He spent the better part of Thursday and Friday trying to make sure an Orleans Parish judge did not let James go.

All three of the officials The Daily News spoke with said they were having difficulty getting in touch with anybody in New Orleans who knew the whereabouts of James.

On Thursday, a Bastrop County judge issued a “no bond” warrant for James, meaning that if he is ever arrested in Texas, James will not be able to post bond.

“If they let him out, hopefully the next state that gets him will be more judicious,” Goertz said.

He said the case does have a little more “flavor” than the usual bail jumper, but that does not matter to him. He is staying focused on the fact that James is accused of aggravated sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl.

“The bottom line, I want him back in Bastrop County,” he said.

2005 Dec 10