Key witness shot and killed days after indictment alleging he staged 50 crashes with 18-wheelers

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NEW ORLEANS, LA A key witness in a federal fraud case was murdered on Tuesday, less than a week after being indicted. Cornelius Garrison, 54, expressed fear for his safety multiple times before his death.

Garrison lived in the Columbia Parc apartment complex on Foy Street in Gentilly. Despite living in the relatively quiet area he was gunned down in his home after answering the front door.

Garrison was involved in a fraud scheme that involved millions in payouts. The scheme involved multiple lawyers and defendants who worked together to stage accidents with 18-wheelers. Garrison is accused of staging 50 wrecks, where in just two cases the payouts totaled over $700,000. 

The scheme caused widespread issues for the state of Louisiana. According to the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon scams like these add $600 a year to insurance costs per family.

Truck drivers are also feeling the brunt of these fake accidents. The president of the American Trucking Association Randy Guilliot told 4WWL that truck drivers are always on guard when passing through New Orleans.

Garrison is accused of being the ringleader for the fraud scheme that has led to the indictment of over 28 people. According to multiple sources he has also been cooperating with the FBI and US Attorney’s office and is a key witness.

Public defender Claude Kelly, Garrison’s attorney, says that his client had been fearful for his safety for a while before his death. Garrison told Kelly about his fear as recently as Monday, the day before his death.

Kelly is adamant that Garrison was murdered to stop him from testifying about the fraud cases saying: 

“He’s indicted Friday afternoon and less than a week later, he’s murdered, you have to be the village idiot not to see the connection.” 

Local law enforcement are hesitant to come to this conclusion too soon though. Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission gave a statement saying the the investigation is ongoing:

“Mr. Garrison was indicted a week ago Friday, four days later he was murdered in his apartment, so, the Government doesn’t know yet if his murder was related to this Federal case but they’re engaged and they will remain engaged with the NOPD’s murder investigation until they determine if his murder is in any way connected to this Federal case,”

In a rare turn of events the FBI has stepped in to help with the investigation. In a statement to Fox 8 they said:

“FBI New Orleans has been in contact with New Orleans Police Department regarding the homicide of Cornelius Garrison as this is an ongoing investigation we have no further comment at this time.”

Robert Jenkins, a legal analyst uninvolved with the case, explained the severity of the situation:

If he was a federal witness and he was gunned down because of the info he was alleging giving to the federal government – or he was going to become a witness against lawyers and doctors and such – as I said earlier – it’s a capital murder offense.”

Garrison’s death will be a blow to the fraud case as he was described as a star witness.

In the meantime in Baltimore, we also recently reported on the silencing of witnesses.  A mother and son were murdered to prevent them from speaking with law enforcement. Now, after years of investigation, police have made an arrest:

BALTIMORE, MD – In 2015, a mother and her young child were murdered in Southwest Baltimore.  Over the years, the family members of these victim’s must have thought that justice would never be found.  That is, until recently, when police were finally able to make an arrest.

Federal law enforcement announced the indictment of the suspect, Andre Ricardo “Poo” Briscoe” on September 23rd

Police released shocking details regarding the case, including that Briscoe allegedly shot the child, Kester Browne, multiple times to prevent him from talking to police.  US Attorney Rob Hur said:

 

“These murders are shocking and unconscionable.  This indictment should make one thing crystal clear: If you touch a witness, especially a child, the full weight of federal law enforcement will be harnessed to find you and bring you to justice.  And we will not stop investigating until we bring to justice anyone else who was involved.”

An attorney for Briscoe, William Purpura, told the Sun that his client was initially questioned by law enforcement for his possible involvement in the case.  He wondered why the police would now bring any charges against him, because of the statute of limitations involved federal charges. 

Purpura said:

“It’s kind of perplexing and mysterious and concerning to Mr. Briscoe.”

Typically, there are no statute of limitations for the crime of murder, however, when federal charges get involved there must be another federal crime involved, i.e. drug trafficking. 

Briscoe was first arrested in May of this year for firearm and drug charges related to the original homicide.  As far as how those charges were related, that remains to be seen as they were not made public.

Judge Richard D Bennett looked at some of the facts of the case and determined that the mother, victim, in this case, Jennifer Jeffrey, “was a heroin dealer and that Defendant Briscoe was her weekly or twice weekly customer.”

Briscoe’s attorney’s alleged that he had been with his cousin on the morning of the murder, May 27, 2015.  At some point, he had been dropped off on Broadway Street near the Perkins Homes neighborhood in East Baltimore which would have allegedly, excluded him from involvement.

Purpura was confident on the 23rd that he would be able to show that Briscoe was nowhere near the homicide when it occurred.  Rather, he was in Cambridge, where he was living at the time.  He said:

“There’s going to be an issue of when the killings actually occurred.”

The mother and son were killed during the violence that followed in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray death.  42 people lost their lives in Baltimore that year in the month of May.

The small child, known as Tony, was murdered while still in his pajamas.  His principal knew him as a gentle child and a standout in the second grade.

Family members had initially stated that they believed whoever the murder was could have been identified by Tony which is why he was killed.  They believed that if that was accurate that the murderer had to be close to the area.

Briscoe is now in federal prison on his original charges and could face the death penalty for witness tampering murder, conspiracy to distribute and for possession with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of  heroin; and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Briscoe will remain in federal custody until his initial appearance on his new charges are decided.  He will face the US District Court in Baltimore on the new murder charges he is facing.

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