Manhunt in swamp nets 3

Published 10:37 am Monday, February 2, 2015

Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives conducted a manhunt in the Bogue Chitto swamp off Louisiana Highway 16 during the late afternoon and evening of Jan. 27.

The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office had contacted Washington Parish seeking assistance in locating Dennis O’Keefe, 31, who was allegedly in Washington Parish. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office had a warrant on O’Keefe for theft, and he was a suspect in several other thefts and burglaries in their parish. Washington Parish narcotics detectives were already investigating O’Keefe on suspicion of the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine.

Washington Parish detectives determined that O’Keefe was staying at a camp on True Light Road and were conducting surveillance at that location. They observed O’Keefe, accompanied by a woman identified as Naomi Manton, 33, and a 7-year-old male in a boat on the Bogue Chitto River. Detectives identified themselves and asked O’Keefe to return to the bank so they could talk with him. Instead, O’Keefe steered the boat to the opposite bank of the river, exited the boat and fled into the dense woods.

Detectives took a canoe on the bank of the river and used two makeshift paddles to cross the river in pursuit of O’Keefe. Meanwhile, Manton steered the boat back into the river and refused to yield to officers. The 7-year-old male was crying and yelling. Other officers on the scene were pleading with Manton to come to the bank, but she steered the boat to the middle of the river and proceeded upstream.

Louisiana State Probation and Parole Officers, along with additional Washington Parish detectives and deputies, arrived on the scene and boarded other boats and arrested Manton as she continued upriver with the 7-year-old male. The mother of the child, identified as Nancy Nimo, 33, arrived at the scene, and it was determined that both Manton and Nimo were on probation.

All the while, Washington Parish detectives were searching for O’Keefe in the dense woods and underbrush in the river swamp. St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived and assisted in the hunt since the search area was on the Washington/St. Tammany parish line. A canine team from Rayburn Correctional Center also assisted in the search.

The search was complicated by several factors. Darkness had set in, which made visibility an issue. In addition, the woods and undergrowth are very dense, making travel through the woods difficult. Also, there are numerous sloughs in the search area, and it was later determined that O’Keefe waded in sloughs to disrupt the tracking dogs. The search was suspended at approximately 9:30 p.m. with plans to continue it the following day.

As the search for O’Keefe continued, other officers searched the camp and property around it. They discovered several rifles both inside and around the camp. Also discovered were several bags and containers of meth lab cooking components. Both women were arrested and transported to the Washington Parish Jail. The 7-year-old male was turned over to the custody of his grandmother.

At approximately 4 a.m. the following morning, O’Keefe knocked on the door of a St. Tammany house in the area and asked to use the telephone. The homeowner did not let him in and called 911. O’Keefe fled as St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the location.

While deputies were enroute, O’Keefe went to another house and saw a male sitting in a truck with the engine idling. O’Keefe knocked on the window of the truck and asked for a ride. To O’Keefe’s surprise, the occupant of the truck was a St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office Jail Deputy who was preparing to go to work. The St. Tammany officer apprehended O’Keefe and had him in handcuffs when deputies arrived. O’Keefe was transported to the St. Tammany Parish Jail where he is being held on theft charges. It is expected that O’Keefe will be transferred to the Washington Parish Jail this week where he will face additional charges.

Manton is being held in the Washington Parish Jail with bond set at $50,000. She is charged with resisting an officer by flight, simple kidnapping, child endangerment and operation of a clandestine meth Lab.

Nimo is being held in the Washington Parish Jail with bond set at $100,000. She is charged with operation of a clandestine meth lab and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

“We are grateful to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana Division of Probation and Parole and Rayburn Correctional Center for their assistance in the search for O’Keefe,” Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said. “Law enforcement agencies throughout both parishes have a great working relationship, which is valuable to all during such situations.”

Seal also commended other officers.

“Our narcotics detectives and our other officers who assisted did a very good job. It’s tough to try and track a fugitive through thick undergrowth, woods and swamp, but they stuck with it as long as it was feasible to do so,” Seal said. “As good fortune would have it, O’Keefe sought a ride with a St. Tammany officer. He got a ride, but not where he wanted to go. Instead, he got a ride to jail. That’s the kind of story that you just can’t make up.”