Old Jefferson purse snatcher sentenced to 20 years in prison

A Jefferson man with a history of crimes of violence in the Houma area who was convicted this month of a purse snatching that occurred outside an Old Jefferson bar was sentenced on Friday (Feb. 24) to 20 years in prison as a habitual offender.

Eric Fitch, 37, has four felony convictions, three of which were crimes of violence that occurred when he was a Terrebonne Parish resident. There, he was convicted of a theft, tied to a purse snatching in 2013 and an attempted simple robbery in 2010. He also has a simple robbery conviction, for a crime in Lafourche Parish in 2004.

His latest conviction was for a Nov. 28, 2015, incident, in which he assailed a 64-year-old woman just before midnight as she was leaving a bar in the 3500 block of Jefferson Highway. The victim was getting into the passenger’s seat of a car when Fitch approached her asking for a cigarette.

When the woman responded that she did not smoke, Fitch pushed her into the car, grabbed her purse from the floor board and ran. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies were able locate Fitch by tracking the victim’s cell phone, which was in her purse.

Deputies found Fitch about an hour later. He was hiding in a large trash container behind a grocery store in the 3600 block of Jefferson Highway. He refused to voluntarily leave the container, leading Deputy Daniel Lassus to forcibly remove him. That led to his being charged with resisting arrest.

Deputies recovered the woman’s belongings, and she identified him on the scene as the purse snatcher.

A six-member jury found Fitch guilty as charged of purse snatching on Feb. 15. Judge June Berry Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court, found Fitch guilty of the misdemeanor resisting arrest charge on the same day.

On Friday, Judge Darensburg sentenced Fitch to 20 years for the purse snatching, the maximum punishment for that crime, and six months for the resisting arrest. She ran the sentences concurrently.

Fitch then pleaded guilty as charged of being a triple offender. Judge Darensburg vacated the 20-year sentence she gave him for the purse snatching and resentenced him to 20 years on the triple bill.

Fitch will not have the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

The underlying offense for the 2013 theft conviction was a purse snatching. In that case, Fitch grabbed a 55-year-old woman’s purse as she left a business in Houma. Her wallet fell from her purse as he ran. The woman picked up her wallet, but Fitch returned, grabbed it and fled with it, too.

Assistant District Attorneys Josh Vanderhooft and Thomas Sanderson prosecuted the latest case.

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