EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A Ponchatoula woman is enjoying her freedom, after a case of mistaken identity led her to leave her honeymoon in handcuffs.
Sara Saucier was on a Carnival cruise ship returning to New Orleans from Cozumel when U.S. customs agents pounded on her door at 6:40 a.m. Monday. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office filed an arrest warrant in November 2017, claiming Saucier did not return a leased vehicle.
Authorities, though, had the wrong person. The detective who filed the warrant logged the birth date of a different Sara Saucier, rather than that of the suspect. The mistake went unnoticed for 36 hours, as Saucier sat in the Orleans Parish Jail.
“I thought they would realize the mistake, and they would let me go,” Saucier said in an interview Thursday. “At one point when no one was listening to what I was saying, about me being innocent, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m really going to be in here for a while.”
Saucier said she passed time singing worship music and speaking with others detained.
“I prayed and said, if they do have to take me to prison, that I would be able to be used through His glory for being there,” she said.
Deputies realized the confusion Tuesday, as they relocated Saucier into their jail. They released her that afternoon.
“I am sorry that such an error was made that caused an innocent woman to be put in such an upsetting situation,” East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said in a statement. “I am fully committed to reviewing, updating and improving policies, procedures and training. I will do all I can to put every possible safeguard in place to attempt to prevent this from happening again.”
The sheriff’s office added checks and balances to ensure the accuracy of its filings in 2018, roughly a year after it drafted the Saucier warrant. An office spokeswoman said the agency continues to audit active warrants.
The detective who erroneously filed the 2017 warrant retired in 2019 after more than 30 years on the job.
“I am thankful that they have apologized,” Saucier said. “Unfortunately that doesn’t take care of everything that happened while I was there. I’m not saying it’s their fault at all, but somebody made a big mistake.”
Saucier added that she has hired an attorney to consider further action.