Convenience Store Murder Suspect Now Charged With Jail Fire
Two inmates of the Washington Parish Jail have been re-booked into the facility for setting last week’s fire at the jail that led to the evacuation of dozens of other inmates and staff members.
Levi Lee, 18, and Medel Morales-Guzman, 32, are each facing one count of Aggravated Arson and one count of Fire-raising in a Correctional Facility. Each was already facing other criminal charges. Lee is awaiting trial for first degree murder, attempted first degree muder, and two counts of armed robbery. Morales-Guzman is awaiting trial for sexual battery.
Lee, of Carriere, Mississippi was arrested for the December 28, 2018 murder of a convenience store clerk in Bogalusa. He and his fellow suspects fled to Alabama, where they were arrested in Montgomery County. They were returned to Washington Parish on January 4, 2019 and Lee has been an inmate in the jail since then as he awaits his first-degree murder trial. He was 17 years old when the Bogalusa murder occurred.
Just before midnight last Sunday night, jail staff noticed smoke inside one of the facility’s cell blocks. While area firefighters worked to locate and suppress the source of the smoke, the cell block’s 34 occupants were evacuated. Additional areas were later evacuated as smoke spread. There were almost 175 occupants inside the entire jail facility at the time of the fire.
After an assessment of the scene, investigators were able to narrow down the origin of the fire to the cell block’s air conditioning unit.
Through further investigative efforts in collaboration with Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives and jail staff, which included obtaining surveillance video evidence, it was determined the fire inside of the A/C unit was intentionally set by the two inmates, Lee and Morales-Guzman.
Both were re-booked into the jail on the new charges on Thursday, July 25.
“This fire could have been so much worse had it not been for the diligence of the Washington Parish Jail staff, not only to notice the danger, but to act immediately and efficiently to prevent harm by following well-established and well-practiced fire drills and procedures,” said State Fire Marshal Chief Butch Browning, “I commend Sheriff Randy Seal and his staff for making safety a priority in their facility by always staying prepared for emergencies like this.”
Sheriff Randy Seal also commented, saying, “Our wonderful working relationship with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, our area firefighters, Franklinton Police Department and other agencies pays benefits over and over for the citizens of Washington Parish. I am so grateful for the assistance of all involved and I give a special shout out to our jail staff whose immediate action prevented bodily harm and perhaps even death.