Archive for May, 2009

Man dead after being hit by car

Suspect faces hit-and-run, homicide counts

A Lake Charles man is in custody for a Sunday-night hit-and-run that left one man dead, authorities said.

At about 9:30 p.m., Gary Wayne Charles, 54, was traveling south near the 1000 block of North Shattuck Street in a motorized wheelchair when he was hit from behind by Ellis Thomas Charles, 43, said Sgt. Mark Kraus.

Ellis Charles, who is not related to the victim, was charged with vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated and hit-and-run.

Kraus said Gary Charles, who was ejected from his wheelchair, was taken to a local hospital, where he later died of a head injury he had suffered.

Kraus said a witness followed Ellis Charles after the accident and called 911.

Lake Charles police Officers Jason Landreneau and Michael Colloura found his vehicle within the hour and arrested Ellis Charles.

Judge Ron Ware set bond at $6,000.

The lead investigator is Sgt. Ted Trunick.

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May 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Meteorologist explains changes in measurements related to storms

*May 28, 2009

Weather forecasters explained new procedures they will have in place for the coming hurricane season as they met with local emergency officials on Wednesday.

Meteorologist Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles talked about changes to forms of measurement and how they will present information to the public.

The Saffir-Simpson scale — which determines a hurricane’s category — will only measure wind speeds and projected wind damage, Erickson said.

When the scale was developed in the 1970s, it only measured wind speed, but central pressure and storm surge measurements were later added.

“This began to create a problem,” Erickson said. He cited Hurricane Andrew in 1992, whose winds were equivalent to a category three storm, but the storm surge measurements were at category five.

He also stressed the importance of residents understanding the language forecasters use, using the difference between sustained winds and wind gusts as an example.

New tools the weather service plans to use include specific weather impact statements and graphics that show inland flooding and storm-urge measurements.

“People don’t always understand what 60 mph winds can do, so we are going to show them,” Erickson said.

Calcasieu Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion talked about the lessons his agency learned from the 2008 hurricane season and encouraged other OEP officials to make sure residents are informed.

“The meteorologists are experts on weather forecasting, we need to be experts on the impact of that forecast on the community,” Gremillion said. “We want people to know the elevation of their area and be able to explain what a 10-foot storm surge means.”

If your house is in a flood zone, you should have received an elevation certificate when you purchased the home. Gremillion also said people can call the OEP office to find out the elevation of their area.

He said the evacuations to north Louisiana shelters worked well, as did preregistering residents with special medical needs.

“We did have some communications problems with which shelters people were going to,” Gremillion said.

He said there are about 3,000 people in Calcasieu Parish without transportation.

“When evacuating people, we have to make that decision at least 72 hours in advance,” Gremillion said. That would avoid buses being on the road during tropical storm winds.

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May 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Three-vehicle crash claims teen’s life

*May 27, 2009

One person was killed and three others were injured in a three-vehicle accident Tuesday evening on La. 384 (Big Lake Road) just south of Country Club Road, authorities said.

At about 6 p.m., Artem Dubovoy, 17, was reportedly traveling north in a Ford Mustang when he tried to pass the vehicle in front of him and lost control of his car, which began sliding sideways on the damp road, said Louisiana State Police Trooper Stephen LaFargue.

Dubovoy’s car collided with a southbound Buick driven by Brister Rachel Soileau, 25, LaFargue said. The Mustang reportedly continued off the road and struck a ditch at the intersection of Big Lake and A. Miller roads.

A third vehicle, a Chevrolet Cavalier driven by Christy R. Decelle, 40, then rear-ended Soileau’s car, LaFargue said.

Dubovoy was reportedly pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Kevin O’Neal, 17, and Decelle were taken to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital with moderate injuries. Soileau was taken to Women & Children’s Hospital with moderate injuries.

All drivers were wearing their seat belts, LaFargue said. Standard toxicology tests are pending.

LaFargue said the initial 911 call was placed by the clerk in a nearby Valero station.

The accident occurred a short distance from the Lake Charles Fire Department Company 8 station. The firemen there heard the accident and assessed the situation, said LCFD Capt. Jeremy LeBlanc. He said the men extricated Dubovoy from the Mustang and assessed the others’ injuries.

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May 27, 2009 at 4:14 pm


*published May 26, 2009
SW La. honors sacrifice with flags, cheers, tears

At the 26th annual Avenue of Flags Memorial Day ceremony, community leaders encouraged residents to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“Too many people have forgotten the meaning and tradition of Memorial Day,” said state Rep. Chuck Kleckley. “Most people don’t even remember proper flag etiquette.”

Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, reiterated the claim that the display is the largest in the country with almost 800 flags. Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer, Jr., assistant adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard and a Houma native, gave the memorial address.

“First, it is a blessing that despite yesterday’s weather, everything cleared up to show this fantastic display of love, remembrance and patriotism,” Downer said.

He called the veterans and their families his extended family.

“We have all experienced the sacrifices this memorial represents,” Downer said.

Piggybacking on Kleckley’s words, Downer challenged everyone to remember Memorial Day as more than a holiday.

“We can never forget the true meaning of Memorial Day because that means forgetting the sacrifices that this flag represents have been made in vain,” Downer said.

He said many younger people don’t know the basic history of World War II or even who won.


The Avenue of Flags at Orange Grove-Graceland Cemetery was started in 1983 by the Sons of the American Revolution.

According to the group’s history, they started with 50 flags. This year, there were more than 700 flags lining the roadways.

Of the those flags, there were eight in a replica circle, which consisted of the eight previous official U.S. flags and the unofficial Betsy Ross flag with a circle of stars.

The flags are casket flags that were draped over the coffins of veterans who died in battle and donated to the Sons of the American Revolution for the event.

Local Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops put the display together.

About 50 of them had to begin the assembly at around 5 a.m. Monday because of the high chance of rain and three inches of rain that were dumped on the area Sunday.

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May 26, 2009 at 12:53 pm


Marlon Breaux wades through the high water on the 700 block of Franklin Street in Lake Charles on Sunday. Breaux, who was on his way to church, carries his dress pants and shoes to prevent them from becoming wet. According to Breaux, Franklin Street becomes impassable by car after every heavy rain. BY KAREN WINK

Marlon Breaux wades through the high water on the 700 block of Franklin Street in Lake Charles on Sunday. Breaux, who was on his way to church, carries his dress pants and shoes to prevent them from becoming wet. According to Breaux, Franklin Street becomes impassable by car after every heavy rain. BY KAREN WINK

Humidity abets storm system, its flooding rains
*published May 25, 2009

A large storm system that moved in from the Gulf of Mexico brought heavy rains and street flooding on Sunday. More of the same is expected today, which could create a soggy Memorial Day.

John Trares, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said the large, slowmoving storm has been soaking most of the Southeast since Saturday. He said heavy humidity created a semi-tropical environment that helped the system maintain it’s size.

The southern parts of Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis and Beauregard parishes had the heaviest amounts of rain — between four and five inches.

About three inches of rain fell at the Lake Charles Regional Airport.

The Weather Service’s Memorial Day forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain, which Trares says may be spread out through the day and will contribute to localized flooding.

The flooding will most likely be in the southern part of Southwest Louisiana, with some minor flooding near downtown Lake Charles.

Tuesday’s forecast calls for a 30 to 40 percent chance of rain. The chances of rain will continue to drop as the storm weakens and moves away on a northwest path.

Trares said late Sunday that the center of the storm was over central Arkansas and moving toward Tulsa, Okla.

On Sunday evening, a flood warning was in place along the Sabine River near Deweyville, Texas. It will continue into the afternoon.

The river reached the flood stage of 24 feet overnight, causing minor lowland flooding in southwestern Beauregard Parish.

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May 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Law enforcement officers target seatbelt scofflaws

*published May 20, 2009

Law enforcement officers on Tuesday announced their “Click it or Ticket” initiative, an effort to increase seatbelt use in the five-parish area through enforcement and education.

Statewide, 75.5 percent of drivers and passengers wore their seatbelts in 2008, according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, sponsor of the campaign.

In Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes, the average was 72.5 percent. The national rate is 82 percent.

“Nationally, we are all behind,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the commission.

Col. Michael Edmonson, state police superintendent, commended local agencies on their commitment to work together, calling it a win-win situation for the public.

Maj. Joel Smith of the Lake Charles Police Department, in stressing the importance of wearing a seatbelt, said, “You can turn on the television any day and see that a whole community is affected when someone dies.”

In Calcasieu Parish, 16 of 30 people killed in road accidents were not wearing seat belts, according to the safety commission. Statewide, 494 of 993 people killed on highways were not wearing seat belts at the time of a crash.

After the news conference, Trooper Gilbert Dardar Jr. used a vehicle-rollover simulator to show how a person who is not wearing a seatbelt or is improperly belted can be ejected from a vehicle traveling 40 miles per hour.

Dardar, public information officer for Troop C, uses the machine when speaking to elementary and middle school students.

“When we teach safety to children, we want them to act as the reminder to their parents,” Dardar said.

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May 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Parental ‘accountability’ subject of legislation

*published May 20, 2009

Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon on Tuesday at the state Capitol spoke in favor of legislation to toughen penalties for contributing to a minor’s delinquency.

He testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted to send the bill to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 243, sponsored by Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, would set a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for an adult who allows a juvenile to commit a felony.

“The penalties are strong because we want parents to be aware of what their children are doing and to know there are penalties,” Mount said.

Dixon said he asked Mount to sponsor the bill as a result of the Jan. 21 theft — allegedly involving two juveniles — of 25 guns from the Civic Center. Police have reported recovered seven of the firearms.

“I explained to the committee exactly what happened,” Dixon said in a phone interview. “The (suspects’) mother did nothing, and the father actually sold some of the guns.”

Police determined that the two boys — both already on probation for theft — and their cousin, David Bartie, 17, hid out in the Civic Center until night. They reportedly made at least two trips from the Civic Center to their house at 518 Fournet St. to move the stolen property.

The mother and father, Christopher Bartie, 44, and Stacy Lamb, 35, were charged with theft and possession of stolen goods.

“The mother saw the children bringing these things into her house,” Dixon said.

When detectives questioned Lamb about why she didn’t ask about the guns, her response was “that is their business,” Dixon said.

“A prudent, reasonable parent would ask these questions,” he said. “You can’t just turn your head and act ignorant.”

“I told the committee, ‘We can’t legislate responsibility, but we can legislate accountability.’ ”

Mount said the bill was carefully written when explaining situations in which the parents knowingly contribute to their children’s delinquency.

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May 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Single-vehicle accident fatal for Singer man

*published May 18, 2009
A Singer man is dead as a result of a single-vehicle accident Sunday morning.

According to a State Police report, at around 6:43 a.m. Scott Cooley, 22, was traveling north on Burge Road just east of Singer when lost control of his truck in a curve. The vehicle struck a ditch and flipped over. Cooley, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. Standard toxicology tests are pending.

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May 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm


The home of Dave and Debbie Savoie was one of four chosen for display in the Cameron Parish Tour of Homes on Sunday. BY KAREN WINK

The home of Dave and Debbie Savoie was one of four chosen for display in the Cameron Parish Tour of Homes on Sunday. BY KAREN WINK

Higher, stronger, smarter houses survive
*published May 18, 2009

CAMERON — Four Cameron Parish residents on Sunday showed that hurricane preparation can be stylish.

Their homes serve as examples of how houses in the area should be elevated and fortified against hurricanes.

The tour of the homes was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and the Cameron Parish Police Jury.

They were all built to satisfy residential building code hurricane resistance requirements after the original homes were destroyed by Hurricane Rita. All of the homes survived Hurricane Ike with minimal damage.

 Louisiana State University Extension associate Lilli Arning shows how ties are used throughout the housing framework to Katie, Angie and Butch Burgress of Longville during the Cameron Parish Tour of Homes. BY KAREN WINK

Louisiana State University Extension associate Lilli Arning shows how ties are used throughout the housing framework to Katie, Angie and Butch Burgress of Longville during the Cameron Parish Tour of Homes. BY KAREN WINK

In the first home — owned by Dave and Debbie Savoie — Lilli Arning, an extension associate with the AgCenter, showed off impact-resistant windows on the front of the house.

“This is very important because when the windows are blown out, there is a chance for uplift,” Arning said. “This is when wind comes in and can rip off the entire roof.”

Arning offered paperwork about tax credits, and Savoie talked about grants that helped her pay for part of the elevator she would need because her son, Jeremy, uses a wheelchair.

The Office of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities paid the $17,500 for the elevator.

Lower Cameron Parish resident Stephanie Rodrigue speaks to Helene and Gabbie Massey of Grand Lake during the Cameron Parish Tour of Homes. BY KAREN WINK

Lower Cameron Parish resident Stephanie Rodrigue speaks to Helene and Gabbie Massey of Grand Lake during the Cameron Parish Tour of Homes. BY KAREN WINK

“We want people to know you can live on the coast,” said Cynthia Richard, an extension associate with the AgCenter. She gave a tour of Cecil and Leslie Clark’s home.

“As long as they build their houses stronger and smarter, they won’t have to rebuild from scratch,” Richard said.

Richard and Arning both stressed the need to get insurance.

“The higher you build, the lower your premiums will be,” Arning said while explaining the need to build to certain standards.

Another feature is a strapping system in which the house is heavily bolted to the foundation of the home.

“The house isn’t just nailed down,” Arning said. “There is a continuous loadbearing path connecting each part of the house.”

Arning talked about the importance of having the house elevated and that it be safely connected to the foundation to fight water and winds.

Two other features common on all four houses were heating and air-conditioning systems completely elevated on the back porches, and ondemand water heaters.

The on-demand water heaters are more environmentally friendly and result in lower water bills, according to Debbie Savoie, but they cost more than traditional water heaters.

Nicky and Stephanie Rodrigue displayed pictures of their home after Hurricane Ike. The only damage seen was of the doors on the first floor and the breakaway walls, which the family credits with keeping the second floor from being damaged.

The walls on the first floor are secured with nails that are a half-inch shorter than the ones used on the second floor.

When they are hit with heavy wind or rain, they fall off. If they were connected to the second floor, a heavy wind could pull the entire side of the house down.

Stephanie Rodrigue estimated that about 30 people visited her home on Sunday.

Butch Burgess of Longville took the tour with his wife and daughter, Angie and Katie, simply out of curiosity.

Betty Anderson, who lives in Lake Charles, said she wanted to see the homes and the features that helped them withstand hurricanes.

“There is a lot of outside criticism about people who want to live so close to the coast,” Anderson said. “But this just shows that if you plan ahead and properly, your house will survive.”

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May 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm

JUST FOR JESUS: Rally goes off without a hitch

Bands perform during the Just for Jesus rally at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Thursday. BY BRAD PUCKETT

Bands perform during the Just for Jesus rally at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Thursday. BY BRAD PUCKETT

Security tight at event marred with past problems
*May 15, 2009

The Just for Jesus rally at the Lake Charles Civic Center attracted about 2,000 students Thursday — around half of last year’s attendance figure — and experienced none of the problems that have marred past gatherings.

The event, which in 2007 and 2008 saw incidents with students outside of the rally lead to violence and arrests, featured young artists performing Christian R&B and rap songs and a modern twist on liturgical dances.

A number of adults accompanied groups of children.

Nona Bryant said she has been bringing groups of children to the event the entire four years it has been held in Lake Charles.

“I’m going to continue to bring kids as long as they have the events,” Bryant said. “We need events like this for younger Christians.”

Bryant and four other adults accompanied a group of 15 students.

“I’m glad these children are able to express their faith with their own style,’’ said Patricia Galentine, a volunteer for the last three years.

During a break, organizer James Bertrand talked about the process of putting the event together, saying you have to deal with “people hating on you.”

He told the students that he didn’t want the few who do things “out of character” to be a reflection of the larger group.

About 2,000 students attend the Just for Jesus rally on Thursday. BY BRAD PUCKETT

About 2,000 students attend the Just for Jesus rally on Thursday. BY BRAD PUCKETT

In March, Bertrand told Contraband Days board members that he would have a “strong security plan” in place.

That included hiring 25 off-duty city officers and parish deputies. Officers from Baker and Slaughter, accompanied churches from their area.

Bertrand said he was upset the event was not held on the National Day of Prayer, May 7, and that he hopes officials will reconsider next year.

“They displaced good kids for businessmen,” Bertrand said. “I hope they use their collective voices to help these kids next year.”

The aftermath

On top of the 25 off-duty officers inside the rally, about 20 other city officers and parish deputies patrolled the Civic Center parking lots and surrounding buildings.

Both departments had mobile command units at the center.

It started raining, just as the event ended. During 15 minutes of rainfall, the students stayed under the front walkway while waiting for rides.

The deputies and officers spread out across the entrances to make sure people weren’t going in and out of the Civic Center.

When the rain stopped, about 40 students, in small groups, left the front of the Civic Center to walk the grounds and go to nearby restaurants.

Lake Charles Special Response Team members were on four-wheelers, keeping juveniles near the Civic Center until their rides came.

Two students were detained at a fast-food restaurant for an altercation.

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May 15, 2009 at 3:24 pm

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