State Police have confirmed with KATC that 53-year-old Phillip DeWoody of Opelousas has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of Joyce Thomas of Ville Platte. DeWoody is facing one charge of Aggravated Kidnapping.
Arrest records show that DeWoody was arrested Friday morning and will be transferred to the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office. Louisiana State Police are now handling the case.
Saturday morning, State Police were present along I-49 between Sunset and Opelousas. We are being told by police that the activity was in connection with the search for the missing woman. There was a home and vehicle blocked off by crime scene tape, but there was no word from police on the status of Joyce Thomas. Police could not say why they were searching that location; their investigation ended around 10:30 a.m.
The home, located along the I-49 Frontage Road, is about 6.5 miles from DeWoody's listed address.
Ville Platte Police asked for the public's help in locating Thomas, who has been missing since Wednesday. Thomas cannot speak or hear, but does have methods of communication. The family believes she may be in danger.
Thomas' grandson, Kujuan Dwight, took to Facebook on Wednesday, asking for help in finding his grandmother. He posted photos of her, including a surveillance photo of a man the family says is the last person to be seen with Thomas at her apartment facility. State Police could not confirm if the man in the photo was DeWoody, according to The Advocate.
"Everyone that knows my granny, knows she's unable to defend herself," said Kujuan in his post. "She's strong but she's still my granny. I love you and want you to come back home."
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine sent a message to Ville Platte residents Saturday evening, reminding them that Thomas is still missing. She added that she has not taken her necessary medications in two days.
Thomas' family Saturday night is coordinating a search effort they're calling "Operation Bring Back Granny." They are asking anyone in the Opelousas and surrounding area to help search for Thomas. Family will be visiting truck stops, casinos, and other local businesses along I-49, eventually ending in Lafayette. They are also asking anyone who knows and/or understands sign language to assist or be on the lookout.
The family has set up a fundraiser for expenses needed in the search for Thomas. You can find that fundraiser here.
If anyone has any information, contact Louisiana State Police or the Ville Platte Police Department.