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Arrested Again: Convicted killer continues to reoffend in Rapides Parish

Joseph Michael Elie, III (Source: APD)
Joseph Michael Elie, III (Source: APD)(KALB)
Published: Jan. 23, 2019 at 4:07 PM CST
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Joseph Michael Elie, III was 17-years-old when he and eight others entered the Kelly Street home of Rita Rabalais, 82, in October 1994 and beat and stabbed her to death.

Elie, who later ended up being represented by Mike Small, was indicted for second degree murder and ended up taking a plea deal for the lesser offense of manslaughter. He was sentenced to prison for 13 years in 2001.

But, he hasn't cleaned up his act. Just last week, now at age 41, he was arrested again.

The Alexandria Police Department said Elie beat his pregnant girlfriend unconscious and tried to set a home on Madeline Street on fire last September. He skipped town and went to Atlanta. But, police said he returned last week and sent that same home up in flames.

Elie is now facing attempted aggravated arson, second degree battery and aggravated arson charges.

"I read in the newspaper where Joseph Elie had been arrested," said Sharon Yarbrough, the niece of Rita Rabalais. "I was just flabbergasted."

To this day, Yarbrough is her aunt's most vocal advocate.

"Every time he gets out he has another chance to harm someone else," she told News Channel 5. "As a family, we don't want someone else harmed like our aunt was."

Elie's convictions pre-date his sentencing in 2001 for Rabalais' death. He was convicted twice of aggravated battery and once of simple battery between 1995 and 1996. His 13 year sentence for Rabalais' death ran concurrent with those convictions and his time was backdated to March 1995.

After he got out of prison, Elie's crimes continued. In 2007, he was convicted of simple battery. And, in 2010, he was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon.

That firearm charge was lumped in with an effort to classify Elie as a habitual offender. He received time for the weapons charges and life behind bars as a habitual offender. As he started serving his time, he appealed, and the convictions were vacated.

Here's why.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal said the trial court made an error when it allowed the jury to examine written statements during deliberations. And, Elie's lawyer was deemed ineffective when he agreed to letting the statements go to the jury. So, Elie was let out in March 2017.

Flash forward to March 2018 where Elie was indicted once again on a drug possession charge and another firearm possession charge. He was set to head to trial last November, but he didn't show up and a bench warrant was issued. According to court records, he wasn't captured again until last week after the fire.

The Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office said its committed to keeping him behind bars for good.

"We have only seen the narrative report so we don't know what the evidence is," said District Attorney Phillip Terrell. "We can't really comment on that until then. But, what we can tell you is that we are very cognizant of Mr. Elie's history and we'll do everything that is available to us to protect the public."

Rabalais' family is hoping Elie will finally stay off the streets.

"I am getting older every day so I have to depend on my children to help me out with fighting the system," said Yarbrough. "I just hope that it doesn't come down to the point where my grandchildren have to begin the fight."

Elie is currently being held in the parish jail without bond for not showing up to his trial. That trial is now scheduled for April 8. We left a message for comment for Chris LaCour, his attorney on that case, but we've haven't heard back.

We also did speak to a family member of the victim who was allegedly beat by Elie. That relative just wanted to clarify that the woman was never in an official relationship with him.

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