Alleged armed kidnapper who held ex-girlfriend hostage is in custody
Sheriff Greg Champagne confirmed the arrest of Jerry Celestine, the subject of a manhunt after he apparently kidnapped his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint this morning (March 14) before the car they were traveling in crashed near the Paradis library on Old Spanish Trail.
Celestine was arrested in Kenner and charged with second-degree kidnapping and second-degree aggravated battery, Champagne said.He is being held at Nelson Coleman Correctional Center.
He also said Celestine has had prior charges that have included domestic violence, battery and traffic violations.
"We are hopeful he will be vigorously prosecuted," the sheriff said at a press conference today (March 14).
Champagne said the incident began around 9:30 a.m. in Luling where Celestine approached his former girlfriend and carjacked her on Paul Frederick Street.
"He essentially carjacked her," Champagne said. "He jumped in front of the car with a weapon and forced himself into the passenger seat, and forced her to drive away toward Des Allemands."
They went up Paul Maillard Road and right onto Old Spanish Trail where they entered Paradis.
"The victim slammed on the brakes and was able to jump out of the car running toward the library," Champagne said. Celestine "jumped into the driver's seat and attempted to follow her and crashed the car in the ditch."
Celestine exited the vehicle and pursued her on foot as the woman ran toward the library. The librarians saw her coming and let her in, locking the doors behind her so he could not enter.
The woman had been pistol whipped, but had minor injuries and was receiving treatment, Champagne said. The two have 1 year-old child.
Leann Benedict, director of the parish's library system, declined to name the librarians, but did say they brought the woman to safety.
“They were able to get the woman in the library when they saw what was going on and the man ran on foot,” she said.
Celestine made no apparent attempt to enter the library, Benedict said. But she added the librarians reported seeing Celestine with a gun and they immediately called 911.
“Our staff thought quick on their feet and did what they needed to do,” Benedict said. “I’m thankful for that.”
Benedict also praised the Sheriff’s Office quick response to the scene. They cordoned off the area and initiated an immediate search for Celestine.
Champagne said Celestine is believed to have fled the scene on foot probably along the railroad tracks to Boutte. But he credited detectives with "resourceful" use of social medial that located him.
Initially, residents in the area north of Highway 90 in Paradis were asked to remain in their homes and call 911 if they saw anyone matching Celestine's appearance. He was wearing a blue shirt and grey jogging pants.
Also, as a safety measure, Benedict said the Paradis library remained closed until 12:30 p.m. today.
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