• Former longtime Louisiana sheriff charged with rape, incest

    By: Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:
    COVINGTON, La. -

    A former longtime Louisiana sheriff has been charged with multiple sex crimes, including rape and incest, authorities said.

    Rodney Jack Strain Jr., 56, of Abita Springs, is charged with two counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated incest, indecent behavior with a juvenile and sexual battery, according to St. Tammany Parish Jail records. Strain, who goes by his middle name, is being held in lieu of $2.4 million bond.

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    Strain is in the same jail he once presided over as St. Tammany Parish sheriff. Warren Montgomery, district attorney for Louisiana’s 22nd Judicial District, said Strain faces life in prison on the aggravated rape charges.

    Montgomery said during a news conference Tuesday that Strain, who NOLA.com reported served as St. Tammany sheriff for 20 years, had been under investigation for 18 months after investigators with the Louisiana State Police, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service presented his office with evidence of the alleged sex crimes.

    NOLA.com reported the allegations surfaced during a separate investigation in which FBI agents were looking into an inmate work release contract Strain awarded in 2013. The company that was awarded the contract was in the names of the children of two of Strain’s deputies, the news site said.

    Both former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office captains pleaded guilty for their part in the business scheme in February.

    Meanwhile, the sex abuse investigation of Strain continued.

    “Over the following months, we conducted a joint investigation, brought in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and used the grand jury to confirm and corroborate the allegations,” Montgomery said. “The results of that investigation were presented to the grand jury, which returned an indictment this morning.”

    Watch District Attorney Warren Montgomery's news conference below. 

    Strain is accused of abusing a total of four victims, Montgomery’s staff said in a news release. He is accused of committing aggravated rape on one victim between June 1979 and July 1980, and a second victim between January 1975 and September 1981.

    The third and fourth alleged victims were relatives of his. He is accused of aggravated incest against both victims, one between 1996 and 2002. Strain is also accused of indecent behavior with the third victim, the news release said.

    The fourth victim, who was reportedly abused in 2004, was also a victim of sexual battery, according to Montgomery’s office.

    Strain’s indictment, which was obtained by NOLA.com, indicates two of the four victims were under the age of 12 when the abuse took place. Strain himself would have been 12 years old in 1975, when the time frame for one of the alleged crimes began, the news site pointed out.

    “I have a duty to pursue justice when a crime has been committed,” Montgomery said during Tuesday’s news conference. “The grand jury also has a duty, and when presented with evidence (of sexual misconduct by Mr. Strain) that made a determination of probable cause evident to them, they returned an indictment in this matter.

    “Mr. Strain deserves a speedy and fair trial by an impartial jury, and for that reason, I will have no further comment or answer any questions.”

    Strain, who started his law enforcement career with the Abita Springs Police Department, was first elected sheriff in St. Tammany Parish in 1996, NOLA.com said. He remained in office through 2014 before being defeated by current Sheriff Randy Smith.

    Smith issued a statement Tuesday, in which he said the allegations against Strain are “disgraceful and shocking,” NOLA.com reported.

    Residents of tiny Abita Springs also expressed shock in December, when the allegations against their one-time police chief first surfaced publicly.

    “We never saw him as that person,” resident Evette Randolph told the news site. “He was always a well-mannered guy to be around. From growing up around him, it just doesn’t sound like the guy we knew then.”

    Aside from the mandatory life sentence if convicted of the aggravated rape charges, Strain faces up to 20 years for each aggravated incest charge, up to 10 years on the sexual battery charge and up to seven years on the indecent behavior charge, according to Montgomery’s office.

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