Two Men Sentenced to Life in Kidnapping Case
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 30, 2013|
JACKSON—Darian “Drake” Pierce, 35, of Bogalusa, Louisiana, and Ricky L. Wedgeworth, 38, of Memphis, Tennessee, were sentenced in federal court today to serve a life sentence in federal prison before U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette, III, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both men were ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.
A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment against the defendants on September 8, 2011, charging them with conspiracy, kidnapping, carjacking, and transportation of a stolen vehicle.
On March 4, 2011, Pierce and Wedgeworth escaped from the Louisiana State Police Headquarters compound where they were both serving 25-year sentences. They traveled to the Fairfield Inn in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where, on March 7, they assaulted, carjacked, and kidnapped David Cupps, a businessman from Sunbury, Ohio. The victim died as a result of the assault by Wedgeworth and Pierce, and his body was found on March 8 in a field in Bessemer, Alabama.
The two escapees, still driving the victim’s rental car, were stopped by a Tennessee state trooper on March 8. During the encounter, Wedgeworth claimed to be the victim before fleeing the scene with Pierce. A high-speed chase ensued near Waverly, Tennessee, before the two men abandoned the vehicle and ran into the woods. When the vehicle was recovered, the victim’s blood and DNA were found in the vehicle.
On March 14, the escapees ambushed an employee at an equestrian park in Madison County, Tennessee, and fled in a county-owned Ford Ranger. The truck, driven by Wedgeworth, was seen later that day along Highway 78 near Olive Branch, Mississippi. Deputies from the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department and officers from the Olive Branch Police Department were dispatched to assist with the traffic stop. Deputies activated blue lights, but Wedgeworth failed to stop. A pursuit ensued towards Memphis, Tennessee. Deputies continued pursuing the vehicle until assistance was rendered by the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sherriff’s Office, and the United States Marshals Service. The vehicle was later immobilized after it was struck by a police vehicle. While Wedgeworth remained inside the vehicle, Pierce fled on foot carrying a pipe wrench. He ran into a nearby wooded area and fought with officers prior to being taken into custody.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, Louisiana State Police, Vicksburg Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Bessemer Police Department, Madison County (Tennessee) Sheriff’s Department, Desoto County Sheriff’s Department, Memphis Police Department, and other state and local law enforcement agencies.
“The sentences handed down today, which require the defendants to spend the remainder of their natural lives in prison, are a just and appropriate resolution of this case,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis. “I hope that today’s resolution of this case will help the victim’s family to take another step forward in the process of healing and recovering from this senseless tragedy.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of David Cupps,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen. “While the life sentences imposed today cannot bring him back, it is our hope that everyone affected by this heinous crime will have a meaningful measure of closure. I want to thank the prosecutors, the men and women of the FBI, and our partners in law enforcement who worked on this case for their dedication, professionalism, and integrity.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mary Helen Wall, Richard Starrett, and Jerry Rushing.