The LeBeau Plantation house was destroyed in a fire early Friday morning in St. Bernard Parish. The Old Arabi landmark was built in the 1850s and was one of the largest plantations south of New Orleans.
The seven men in custody in connection with suspected arson of the plantation were looking for ghosts, according to St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann. The sheriff said the men had been smoking marijuana and drinking in the vacant house.
The men, between the ages of 17 and 31, arrived at the home late Thursday night, likely entering through a gap in the fence around the property that had been cut out by other curious trespassers over the years, according to Col. John Doran, who oversees the Sheriff's Office's criminal enforcement.
"They had been looking for ghosts, trying to summon spirits, beating on the floors," Doran said.
"We all heard the ghost stories while growing up," Pohlmann said. "In combination with smoking dope in there, it appears it was intriguing to them."
Doran said the men appear to have become frustrated when no ghosts materialized. Police believe that in a haze of alcohol and marijuana, one of them decided to burn the place to the ground.
Doran said the ringleader seemed to be Dusten Davenport, 31, of Fort Worth, Texas, who is suspected of having the idea to start the fire, and who began stacking up pieces of wood.
Davenport, along with Joshua Allen, 21; Joshua Briscoe, 20; Jerry Hamblen, 17; and Joseph Landin, 20, all of Grand Prairie, Texas, were arrested on Friday on charges of arson, simple burglary and criminal damage worth more than $50,000, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Kevin Barbe, 20, of Arabi, was arrested on charges of accessory to arson and criminal trespassing. Bryon Meek, 29, of Gretna, was arrested on a charge of accessory to arson.
It is assumed there will be deportation to Florida when the gentlemen has served out their sentences.