Every town has its' colorful cast of characters and Lake Providence is no exception.  From thieves to murderers, L.P. has seen it all through the years.  Here are just a few of Lake Providence's Infamous.  Disclaimer: All criminals...I mean, all persons, are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Jesse Caston

Jesse Caston fits squarely into the murderer (alleged murderer to be politically correct) category of infamous.  Jesse James Caston was born and bread in East Carroll Parish and he and his brother, Frank James Caston (get it?  Frank and Jesse James), have generally raised hell and terrorized the community ever since.  The two have served time in prison on various charges, including murder.  But, Jesse joined the ranks of "America's Most Wanted" when he allegedly murdered his wife and her friend April 10, 2000.  The story goes, Jesse shot his wife to death in her home and went to the friend's home with the intent of killing his own daughter who was staying there.  The daughter hid and when the friend wouldn't tell him where she was, he shot her while she was lying in her own bed.  He spared the life of her boyfriend, who stood by traumatized.

Caston then took his show on the road and was hiding from the police when 2 deputies happened upon him that same night.  He shot at them at close range but neither was seriously hurt.  One of the deputies, Renee Jones, is now our Chief of Police and is doing a very good job.  A few days later, Caston "kidnapped" a Lake Providence man and forced him to drive Caston to Texas.  After the truck broke down just across the Texas line, Caston reportedly walked away, leaving the man and the funky truck behind.  He then proceeded to evade capture for the next eight months.  In that time, Caston was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List (the 459th to be added to the list) and appeared on the television program, "America's Most Wanted."

On the morning of December 18, 2000, 2 bodies were found on the levee south of Lake Providence.  The two men, father and son, had been shot to death.  It has been determined that Caston had links to the two men and was supposedly in the area at the time of the killings.  He has not been officially charged with these murders but he is the number one suspect.

Two days after the discovery of the two bodies, FBI agents, Louisiana State Troopers and the Lake Providence Police and Sheriff's office happened upon Caston at the home of his father in Lake Providence.  He was reportedly laying on the couch watching television!  Caston brandished a semi-automatic rifle and an hour and a half stand-off ensued.  After much negotiation, Caston surrendered without incident and is now being held at the Angola Prison.  His home away from home.

It has been 4 years since the murders and Caston has yet to stand trial due to legal appeals and other under-handed-ness.  His trial is now set for August of 2004 and will take place in Tallulah, Louisiana.

*Update:  Before the selection of Caston's jury, his attorney entered a plea of guilty. He will serve a life sentence in Angola State Prison.

Former Sheriff Dale Rinicker

Greed and power are two qualities that can get humans in trouble rather quickly and that is exactly what happened to former East Carroll Parish Sheriff Dale Rinicker.  His abuse of his office for personal financial gain landed him in the pen and in the twisted history of Lake Providence.  Below is an excerpt, edited and in some portions paraphrased for this purpose, from court records explaining his crime, it can be found in its entirety

"In 1990, Dale Rinicker, then Sheriff of East Carroll Parish, asked Wyly (see below), to finance the construction of a private prison in the parish to house state prisoners.  Wyly agreed to construct a prison and lease it to the Sheriff's Office.  Rinicker testified that Wyly offered him 38% (later reduced to 30%) of the profits of the corporation (ECCS) that Wyly planned to form for purchasing and constructing the facility.  The corporation was formed by Wyly in April 1990 with himself as President and his 62 year old legal secretary, Dorothy Morgel, as secretary-treasurer.  35 of the 100 shares of ECCS were issued in her name (5 for her and 30 for Sheriff Rinicker) and the remainder to Wyly, his family members, and a local land-owner and businessman, Jack Hamilton."

"The Sheriff's Office entered into a lease agreement, wherein the Sheriff would pay ECCS (Wyly's corporation in which the Sheriff had hidden interest) 25% of the funds it received from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections for housing state prisoners."

"In order to conceal the Sheriff's interest in the corporation, Morgel opened a checking account in nearby Oak Grove and deposited the ECCS distribution checks in that account.  She would then make out checks to one of Rinicker's friends on behalf of Rinicker.  These checks were cashed, by Rinicker or the friend, at a Monroe bank where Rinicker's sister worked."

When the legislative office and the FBI got wind of the scheme and began questioning, everyone lied to cover-up the crime.  Finally, it was the friend who began spelling out the correct info to the authorities.

"Wyly, Morgel, ECCS, Rinicker, and Jackson (but not Rinicker's friend), were charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and money laundering.  The indictment sought forfeiture of: the prison, a certificate of deposit  purchased by ECCS, all funds in ECCS' bank account, all funds in Morgel's Oak Grove account, ECCS' assets and propertiey, and approximately $340,000 paid to Rinicker.  The charges on Rinicker's sister were dropped.

"Rinicker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine."  He served his time, was moved to a half-way house in West Monroe and eventually made his way back to East Carroll Parish.  He is, of course, barred from serving in any type of public office from here on out!

Captan Jack Wyly

Captan Jack Wyly is practically a legend in his own time in the parish of East Carroll.  A lawyer, who was known for his suits and hats that men had not worn since the '60s, he was a force to be reckoned with in Lake Providence.  His wealth was massive and he had the power and prestige to have his hand into ever aspect of the town's government.  Rumors of shady deals and a supposed ability to "beat" the common man out of his money and land did not dampen public opinion about him.  Captan Jack finally met his match when he became involved in the Sheriff Rinicker scandal.  He spent time in a minimum security prison in Texas and was barred from practicing law.  Now in his 80s, he lives with his daughter and her family in Lake Providence, and he is not seen much around town anymore.  There are speculations that he is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

Judge Alwine Ragland

Judge Alwine Mulhearn Smith Ragland had a reputation of being a strict, to-the-letter Judge, who kept a tight reign over her courtroom and the local attorneys on a short leash.  It is also said that she had the tendency to make up her mind on a case before hearing the evidence.  This resulted in many appeals during her time on the bench and many hard feelings.  But, this was a lady who commanded respect and had the accomplishments to back it up. 

She was born in 1913 in Monroe, Louisiana.  The fifth of seven children, Judge Ragland learned from an early age that hard-work was a necessity, particularly during the Great Depression.  Her family was hit hard but it did not stop the judge from graduating high school in 1930 and attending pre-law school at Principia College in St Louis, Missouri.  Judge Ragland continued her law degree at Tulane University.  She graduated 10th in her class in 1935 and was one of only a hand-full of women to attend college at that time.  In 1975, at the age of 62, she graduated from the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada.  With the completion of her schooling in 1935, she returned to Madison parish to set up her law practice. 

Unfortunately, business was not good.  Soon, she found herself working a job with a Vicksburg company as a debts collector.  It offered no pay but did get her the attention necessary to build up a client base for her practice.  She was soon representing the poor and the black in various legal situations.    She married Leroy Smith in 1947 and had 2 children with him.  Her son, Leroy Jr., is now a practicing attorney in Madison parish.  After Smith's death in 1970, she married Percy Ragland in 1978 and moved to Lake Providence with him.  After his death in 1991, Judge Ragland packed up and moved back to Tallulah.

In 1990, at the age of 77, Judge Ragland was declared the oldest sitting Judge in the state of Louisiana.  She had been a 6th Judicial District Court Judge for 16 years.  In 1990, she lost re-election to a young Felicia Toney Williams.  Judge Ragland continued to be involved in the communities of East Carroll and Madison Parishes after her retirement from the bench.  Judge Ragland died April 30, 2006, at the age of 92.

*Louisiana Supreme Court - and Article written by Tina Johnson

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