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Police capture St. Landry fugitive

Pine Prairie, Turkey Creek officers aid high-speed chase
June 26, 2011
The Daily World

RAPIDES PARISH — At least 50 miles from where he slipped out of restraints and escaped from a St. Landry Parish Sheriff's vehicle, Matthew Keyes flew down rural Evangeline Parish roads in a stolen SUV Friday morning.

Pine Prairie police spotted the fast-moving vehicle at 9:40 a.m. and called in back up from the neighboring village of Turkey Creek. The chief of its two-person police department quickly responded.

"He left out of here, got in his car and took off out of here like a bat out of hell," Village Clerk Melissa Ferguson said of Police Chief Robert Moreau. He found the vehicle in his village at La. 13 and La. 167.

"He came at me head on and I swerved, turned around," Moreau said. Moreau regained control and was soon behind the black SUV clocking 105 miles per hour.

Moreau ran the vehicle's license plate and realized that the SUV had been stolen from Opelousas. He chased Keyes through rural highways into Rapides Parish. State police put up roadblocks, but Keyes pushed through those barriers.

Moreau moved in when Keyes approached Interstate 49, and tapped the SUV, causing Keyes to spin "five or six times." Keyes regained control and began driving southbound on I-49. Moreau tried to stop him again.

"Once I pulled up to him and was going to (hit) him again, he noticed, he pulled over. I pulled him out at gunpoint, no altercations, he gave me no trouble," Moreau said. There were no injuries and no shots fired, St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Jimmy Darbonne said.

When Keyes was caught north of Bunkie, 60 miles from where he escaped, he was wearing a gray T-shirt and shorts, different clothes from the ones in which he escaped.

Keyes, 24, was being transported from St. Landry Parish court to the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center when he escaped at 2:34 p.m. Thursday at the corner of the Evangline Thruway and Mudd Avenue in Lafayette. At that time, he was wearing a white T-shirt and dark pants.

Court records show that this was Keyes' fourth and most successful attempt to escape.

He was immediately taken to a Rapides Parish jail for booking and was moved from there to an Evangeline Parish jail and finally the St. Landry Parish Correctional Center on Friday. At press time, charges were still pending against the Opelousas resident, Darbonne said.

"It's undetermined what we're going to charge him with," Darbonne said.

Keyes was expected to be moved to the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center by Friday evening, where an earlier burglary charge and Thursday's aggravated escape charge were still pending.

There were still many unanswered questions Friday — how did Keyes get out of his hand and ankle cuffs, how did he make it from Lafayette to Opelousas to steal a vehicle and how many crimes did he commit along the way were among them.

"We want to know the answers to those questions also," Darbonne said, who added the investigation was still open.

Inside the stolen SUV, two car radios and two purses sat in the back seat, apparently stolen items. The window on the back seat driver's side was broken, but officers were unsure how.

Keyes has had many run-ins with the law and was listed as Matthew Q. "Keys" at the St. Landry Parish courthouse.

Among his 19 charges in St. Landry Parish alone were two for attempted simple escape and one for aggravated escape.

He tried to escape from Sheriff's custody three times in 2007. The attempts included breaking a window and light fixture and attempting to escape through a vent in the St. Landry Parish Correction Center. Another time, he removed the blade from his razor, but it was discovered before any incident. A third time, Keyes and another prisoner were found with a long screwdriver.

His arrests date to 2005 and mostly included theft, burglary and possession with intent to distribute marijuana charges. It was unclear how many years he was serving because his convictions overlap and are across multiple parishes.

Among the sentences was one where his mother prosecuted him for stealing a ring. He was sentenced to five years hard labor.

Prior to escape, Keyes was in St. Landry Parish Judge Donald Hebert's courtroom Thursday for sentencing in his most recent spree of burglaries of homes and business in 2009 and 2010. He was sentenced to a combined 20 years in prison for several charges.

In August, Keyes broke into a family's home, put on the resident's clothes and stood in the doorway of the homeowners' bedroom until they awoke, Hebert said. He told the homeowners he would shoot them if they moved, but the male victim fought back with his own gun.

Keyes ran through the four children's rooms to slow him down, Hebert said. He escaped through a little girl's window but was apprehended later that night, court documents showed.

"He shouted, 'shoot the kids now!'" Hebert said. The family was terrorized, and the children are not allowed to use their tent to sleep in the back yard. "I find that to be heinous. That makes you a menace to society."

Court records show Keyes did not have a gun, but a blow dryer wrapped in a black trash bag. The victims wrote impact statements.

"I continue to see his image in the doorway of my bedroom most nights as I get into bed, and in the morning, first thing, when I wake up.," one victim wrote. "More than once I have screamed aloud during the night and have been awakened from a dream by my own voice. No amount of reassurance, no home security system, nothing, can erase the fear and continued anxiety my family continues to feel in our own home."