FORMER PRISON ESCAPEES PLEAD GUILTY TO KIDNAPPING
Jackson, Miss - Darian “Drake” Pierce, 35, of Bogalusa, Louisiana, and Ricky L. Wedgeworth, 38, of Memphis, Tennessee, pled guilty in federal court today to one count of kidnapping, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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 7th, they assaulted, carjacked and kidnapped the victim, 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 8th 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 8th. 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 United States Marshal Service. The vehicle was later immobilized after it was struck by a police vehicle. While Wedgeworth remained inside of 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 (TN) Sheriff’s Department, Desoto County Sheriff’s Department, Memphis Police Department, and other state and local law enforcement agencies. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Helen Wall, Richard Starrett, and Jerry Rushing.
Wedgeworth and Pierce will be sentenced on May 30, 2013. They each face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
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