Archive for September, 2009

Officials want to clear up career diploma misinformation

*published Sept. 30, 2009

The pros and cons of the state’s career diploma program were hashed out Tuesday by local and state officials at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Pat Deville, director of high school curriculum and instruction for Calcasieu Parish, talked about implementation of the program, which the parish has planned on a one-year timeline.

Deville said parents should be aware that students graduating under the program are not eligible for TOPS scholarships.

Roger Creel, parish director of technical and career education, said he wanted to rebut criticisms that the career diploma is a “watereddown curriculum.”

He offered a chart comparing requirements of the career diploma to regular core requirements for students who plan to attend four-year colleges.

Differences include that some core classes, such as math and English, may be tailored toward the specific vocation the student chooses. Another difference is that in place of LEAP exams, students have career technical education end-of-course exams.

Patrick Dobard, deputy director of governmental affairs for the state Depart–ment of Education, explained why legislators felt the program is important.

“We have a lot of companies who need welders and pipefitters and other skilled laborers,” he said. “So we want to put students on a track to the vocational and technical education that qualifies them for these jobs.”

Dobard said there will be accountability in the program because each school is required by law to have a dropout or mentor program.

James Strahan, a parish resident attending the forum, asked how officials plan to reach and educate parents.

No state funds are allocated to fund more counselors or personnel.

Deville said local school officials have planned meetings with counselors and an information campaign for parents to help them understand the program.

“We’ve had a lot of brainstorming sessions to make sure no one gets left out of the loop and that we can meet parents one on one,” Deville said. “It’s going to be a busy summer, but we can get it done.”


September 30, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Efforts to stem substance abuse topic of town hall session

*published Sept. 30, 2009


The parish’s top prosecutor urged the community to play a part in the effort to combat substance abuse and its associated crimes.

Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier was among area health and law enforcement officials talking about their cooperative endeavor to contain the abuse of controlled substances at a town hall session at the SWLA Center for Health Services.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on the legislation side,” DeRosier said. “But we also need the community’s involvement. People have to stand up and say they have had enough.”

DeRosier noted legislation that amends the seconddegree murder charge to apply it to when a person overdoses from someone else’s prescription medicine.

Judge Guy Bradberry of the 14th Judicial District’s Juvenile and Family Court talked about the district’s drug-free court.

The court works in-depth with 30 juveniles for 18 months.

“We begin intensive therapy, counseling, whatever we can do to stop this systemic cycle that keeps them in the justice system,” Bradberry said.

Bradberry said that once a week almost a dozen different agencies meet to discuss each child’s profile and progress.

“Another big part of this program is that we also get to go into the home,” Bradberry said. “Because you have to know that they have that stable environment.”

Other panel members included Calcasieu Parish Coroner Terry Welke, who talked about how legislation limiting the prescribing of pain killing medication in Louisiana and Texas has cut the number of overdoses in half.

Kayla Allison of the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, which focuses on HIV education and testing, spoke of talks to teenagers about the correlation between drug use and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.


September 30, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Area pair arrested in motel meth bust

*published Sept. 27, 2009

Two Lake Area residents were arrested Saturday morning on suspicion of operating a meth lab, according to authorities.

At around 11 a.m., the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Gena Leblanc-Bowdoin, 46, of Sulphur and Tommy Luther Carroll, 33, of Lake Charles after finding ingredients commonly used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Deputies were called at around 10:15 a.m. to the Oasis motel on Lakeshore Drive, according to spokeswoman Kim Myers, because of a suitcase found in a walkway.

Myers said the suitcase contained chemicals and equipment that could be used for a mobile meth lab.

Deputies questioned and searched people in the nearest rooms and found other chemicals in LeBlanc-Bowdoin’s and Carroll’s room.

Both are charged with two counts operation or creation of a clandestine lab, possession of a schedule II CDS and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bowdoin was additionally charged with illegal carrying of a weapon.

No bond has been set for the suspects.


September 27, 2009 at 6:36 pm

State tops violence list (Part 1 of 2)

*published Sept. 25, 2009

La. has highest rate of women murdered by men

Louisiana is at the top of yet another bad list. The Violence Policy Center ranked the state No. 1 in the rate of women murdered by men.

The study used FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data for the year 2007, the most recent data available.

In that year, 1,865 U.S. women were killed by a single male offender. In cases where relationships could be determined, 91 percent of the victims knew their killers.

Many of the crimes were not related to any other felony crime, such as rape or robbery. About 60 percent involved an argument between the man and woman.

Jennifer Couvillion, executive director of the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter, said she found the news “saddening and disheartening.” She said she follows the study, which is released every two years and had previously ranked Louisiana third and fifth.

Couvillion said a number of reasons may contribute to Louisiana’s unhappy climb. “We haven’t been hit as hard, but I think the economy may have something to do with it,” she said. “Any type of stress exacerbates domestic violence.”

She reiterated advocates’ definition of domestic abuse: “repeated manipulative and coercive behavior that one person uses to have control over another person.”

“You usually see a steady increase in aggression from verbal abuse on to physical and sexual abuse,” she said.

She said 75 percent of women are killed by an intimate partner when leaving or after leaving.

For the 2008-09 fiscal year, the shelter, which serves Calcasieu, Cameron and Allen parishes, housed 228 women and 198 children, and its nonresidential programs helped 818 women and 140 children.

Nonresidential programs include support groups and help from Southwest Louisiana Law Center legal advocates in preparing restraining orders and accompanying victims to court.

‘Victims are unique’

Detective Gerald Thomas with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office said he is seeing a steady increase in cases being reported.

“We first have more awareness,” he said. “A lot of victims feel they don’t have any options if, say, the abuser has the main source of income.”

Thomas said there are now more support systems in place so victims don’t feel stuck in abusive situations. Another reason, Thomas said, is that law enforcement has become more proactive.

“For a long time, we were just reacting, going to that call,” Thomas said. “Now we try to make sure victims know what services are available and that the deputies care.”

Thomas credited a lot of the changes to the domestic abuse task force, which comprises law enforcement officers, the District Attorney’s Office and legal advocates.

“We make sure that deputies know that the victims are unique,” Thomas said. “We let the deputy know, if you are called there seven, eight, nine times, it’s your job,” Thomas said. “It’s your job to be there for the victim.”

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier counts a change in policy as a way to reach more victims.

“We no longer automatically accept the victim’s affidavit of non-prosecution,” DeRosier said. In about 70 percent of the cases, he said, the victim wants to drop charges after the fact despite repeated battering.

This could lead to a worstcase scenario, where the victim drops charges and the abuser kills her, he said. “This isn’t imaginary. I’ve seen it happen,” DeRosier said. “So we want to make the defendant and victim to understand the seriousness of this situation.”

Counseling required

“For the defendant, on a first offense, we would require anger management as part of pretrial diversion,” said Brent Hawkins, a Calcasieu assistant district attorney.

Hawkins said pretrial diversion usually lasts six months, but that officials always examine the offender’s history. “If we find drug or alcohol use, we will require treatment for those addictions as well,” Hawkins said.

When victims ask to drop charges, they are required to go to the Women’s Shelter for a short training course. The women are counseled about the cycle of violence and taught how to develop a safety plan if they decide to leave.

“In rural communities, there is a greater tendency to say we don’t want to get involved,” Hawkins said. “But you have children who are seeing this and then they are going to school trying to learn, while having this emotional baggage.”

Nationally, the rate of women killed by men in “single victim/single offender” category was 1.3 per 100,00. Louisiana, with 57 women killed in 2007, had a rate of 2.53 per 100,000.

Of the 57 women, 37 were in a relationship with the killer; 22 slayings began with an argument between the victim and the killer. Rounding out the top five: Alaska, Wyoming, Arkansas and Nevada.


September 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Lockdown follows gun scare at Sulphur High

*published Sept. 24, 2009

Calcasieu Sheriff’s deputies converged on Sulphur High School Wednesday after a report that a student may have brought a gun to school. BY BRAD K. PUCKETT

Calcasieu Sheriff’s deputies converged on Sulphur High School Wednesday after a report that a student may have brought a gun to school. BY BRAD K. PUCKETT

gun scare led to a 2 1/2-hour lockdown at Sulphur High School on Wednesday, authorities said.

At about 11 a.m., Calcasieu Parish school deputies were told that a student may have brought a gun to school, said spokeswoman Kim Myers.

After a search of students and the building, the lockdown was lifted at around 1:15 p.m., she said.

“No one with a gun was found, and no one was arrested,” Myers said. “But the deputies felt this was a necessary precaution.”

School system spokeswoman Charlene Chiasson said the students and staff were cooperative, doing “everything they were asked to, and I’m sure that made everything move along much faster.”

Myers said lockdowns are instituted at deputies’ discretion.


September 24, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Arrests made in slaying

*published Sept. 24, 2009
Two charged in death of man at his Enterprise residence



Lake Charles police on Wednesday announced the arrests of two people in connection with the Aug. 5 slaying of 58-year-old Robert Cannon.

Police charged Phillip Cooks, 26, of Houston with second-degree murder. Antonia Marie Mills, 29, 4451 Fifth Ave., was charged with accessory after the fact to second-degree murder.

Police said Cannon was slain Aug. 3 in his residence at 1424 1/2 Enterprise Blvd. His body was found by the landlord two days later. Calcasieu Parish Coroner Dr. Terry Welke said Cannon died of blunt-force injuries to the head.

Police Chief Don Dixon said Wednesday that in the days after the crime his officers gathered evidence and got a material witness warrant for Cooks.

For several weeks, he said, fugitive task force members looked for Cooks in Houston and Lake Charles.

“We initially believed that he had gone back to the Houston area after the crime,” Dixon said.

Calcasieu Parish Coroner Dr. Terry Welke announces Wednesday during a news conference that Robert Cannon, 58, died of blunt-force injuries to the head. Two people have been arrested in connection with his death. BY BRAD K. PUCKETT

Calcasieu Parish Coroner Dr. Terry Welke announces Wednesday during a news conference that Robert Cannon, 58, died of blunt-force injuries to the head. Two people have been arrested in connection with his death. BY BRAD K. PUCKETT

Cooks and Mills were arrested early Wednesday at a Broad Street motel. No bond has been set.

Paul Cannon, the brother of Robert Cannon, expressed gratitude to Lake Charles police.

“I always had every reason to believe they were doing everything they could,” he said in a telephone interview.

He said lead detective Richard Harrell, along with others, kept him informed about what was going on. They also met with him when he came from South Carolina to Lake Charles.

“I can’t say I’m happy, because I can’t have my brother back,” Paul Cannon said. “But it’s comforting to know they caught the person who did this.”


September 24, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Gun safety for children starts with grown-ups

*published Sept. 22, 2009

An example of how a cable lock is fitted onto a gun.

An example of how a cable lock is fitted onto a gun.

The weekend shooting of a 5-year-old by his 6-year-old cousin serves as a “tragic warning” to people to make sure to properly secure their guns, said Lake Charles police Sgt. Mark Kraus.

At about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, the 6-year-old found a gun hidden in a couch at 2833 General Doolittle Ave. and accidentally shot his cousin.

“The owner put it there, thinking it would be safe,” Kraus said. “The children were playing and found the gun and were not aware they were holding a dangerous weapon.”

The 5-year-old is reportedly in critical condition at a local hospital.

NRA-certified firearms instructor Matthew Courtney, co-owner of Louisiana Shooters Unlimited, teaches a concealed weapons permit course.

“Before gun-proofing your kids, you need to kid-proof your guns,” he said. “Kids are very curious, and they can get to the point where they get into everything.”

Courtney said one of the rules of safe gun handling is to keep the gun unloaded until you’re ready to use it.

The most basic way to secure a gun is with a cable or padlocks, which can be run through the cylinder or barrel of a gun.

There are different ways to secure a gun — with the cylinder open, a lock can be placed around the barrel; the gun can be taken apart and the parts separated; or a cable lock can be run through the barrel and grip of the weapon. BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

There are different ways to secure a gun — with the cylinder open, a lock can be placed around the barrel; the gun can be taken apart and the parts separated; or a cable lock can be run through the barrel and grip of the weapon. BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Safes are just as effective. The most basic option would be to disassemble the gun and keep the barrel away from other parts of the weapon.

As children get older, Kraus said, parents should talk to them about guns in the home and explain the dangers of playing with a gun.

“With young children, like in this case, I think they are still imitating what they see on TV,” Courtney said. “In cartoons, guns don’t really kill people, and they need to know that it’s not the same in real life. Dead is forever.”

He said parents of adolescents who own guns should take their children to a shooting range. Shooting a gun in a controlled setting will help the children understand how powerful weapons are, he said.


September 22, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Single-vehicle accident kills man

*published Sept. 22, 2009

One man died Monday in a single-vehicle accident in the Holmwood area, authorities said.

The man — John R. Rentrop, 27, of 6547 Rossignol Road in Bell City — was traveling south on Fruge Road near La. 14 at about 7:45 p.m. when he crossed the center line, overcorrected and drove into the ditch, said Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kim Myers.

She said he was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Deputies didn’t know if he was impaired, but standard toxicology tests are being conducted, Myers said.


September 22, 2009 at 6:31 pm

12-year-old apparently drowns in Vinton pool

*published Sept. 21, 2009

A Opelousas boy apparently drowned in a apartment complex pool in Vinton Saturday evening, according to authorities.

Witnesses told Vinton police that Joseph Staton, 12, disappeared from a party in the complex in the 300 block of Courville Road and was found floating in the complex’s swimming pool.

Police were called to the scene at around 4:40 p.m.

Staton was pronounced dead at West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital at 5:47 p.m., said Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office lead investigator Zeb Johnson.

Johnson said no foul play is suspected at this time and that Coroner Terry Welke would perform an autopsy today, Sept. 21, to determine the definite cause of death.


September 21, 2009 at 6:28 pm

2009 DWI arrests on pace to surpass those of ’08

*Sept. 21, 2009

The number of DWI arrests in Southwest Louisiana for 2009 appears likely to surpass 2008’s.

State Police Troop D reported 1,026 impaired-driving arrests as of Sept. 15, 2009, compared to 1,102 for all of 2008. The Troop D area consists of Allen, Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard and Jefferson Davis parishes.

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office had 356 DWI arrests in 2008 and has 312 arrests so far this year.

Both agencies take proactive approaches when targeting impaired drivers.

Along with regular checkpoints, the Sheriff’s Office uses its Crime Deterrent Unit in its focus on impaired drivers.

The five-man CDU uses computer-generated statistics to target problem areas in the parish, whether for certain types of crimes or high numbers of alcoholrelated accidents. The unit is active on each 12-hour shift and does not answer dispatch calls.

Troop D Capt. Michael Leonards said the increase in arrests could be due to either more people driving while impaired or to the troop getting more troopers.

“DWI arrests are my thing,” Leonards said, explaining that he stresses DWI arrests to his troopers and shift supervisors, who track DWI arrests.

Troop D has conducted or participated in 11 DWI checkpoints that have resulted in 24 arrests.

For a conviction of driving while intoxicated, the driver has to have an in-car breathalyzer device installed in their car for at least a year.

The driver has to pay for its installation and maintenance.

This year, there have been more than 20 fatal crashes in the Troop D area, with five of them confirmed to be drugrelated and seven alcohol-related.

Also, a new law targets drivers who refuse to take sobriety tests. A driver’s license is suspended for one year on the first refusal, and for two years on the second and subsequent refusals.


September 21, 2009 at 6:22 pm

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