Archive for October, 2009

Sulphur women sentenced for conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants in Texas

published Oct. 30, 2009

Three Sulphur women were sentenced in U.S. District Court on Thursday on charges of conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants.

Carolyn Joyce Metcalf was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and three years’ probation; Terri Lynn Fields was sentenced to two years and three months in prison and three years’ probation; and Jean Morgan Vincent was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The maximum penalty is five years in prison.

According to court documents, the women were recruited by Joan R. Comeaux, also of Sulphur, to take illegal immigrants from the southern Texas border to other locations within Texas.

About a dozen trips reportedly took place between 2005 and 2007.

Comeaux, along with one or more of the three women, would drive to Harlingen, Texas, to coordinate with drivers who did the actual transporting of illegal immigrants.

On average, Comeaux paid the women $500 for each trip.

Metcalf said she and Fields made the trips without Comeaux at least five times in nine months.

During those trips, they drove to Houston in a personal vehicle, rented a different vehicle, and took three to eight immigrants from Harlingen to Houston.

Comeaux is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10.

October 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

Forecast: More rain headed this way

*published Oct. 28, 2009

Some locations may get as much as eight inches

Local officials are warning residents that the area could see more rain and flooding over the next few days.

The National Weather Service projects that 3 to 5 inches of rain will fall, starting late today.

And forecasters say some locations may see more than 8 inches of rain before the bad weather moves out of the area early Friday.

Tides are expected to be 1 to 2 feet above normal, with water across some roads near waterways.

Dick Gremillion, director of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, urges residents to be cautious around high water.

“You should do whatever you can to avoid high water,” Gremillion said. “If you don’t know how deep the water is, take an alternate route.”

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office said it had to dispatch deputies to respond to about a dozen calls about vehicles stranded because of the weather on Monday.

Gremillion said these kind of calls tie up law enforcement and fire department resources.


October 28, 2009 at 10:04 am

Vaccine myth busters

*published: Oct. 27, 2009
Local doctors address patients’ reluctance about flu vaccinations

As swine flu vaccines slowly make their way to states, local doctors are addressing patients’ reluctance to get vaccinated.

One concern is that H1N1 vaccine is a live-virus vaccine.

Dr. Kevin Mocklin, medical director for Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, said the nasal flu mist contains an attenuated — or weakened — version of the virus.

“That plays a role in people’s fears, but the (Food and Drug Administration) has deemed this safe for children,” Mocklin said.

Another concern is over the preservative thimerosal, which contains trace amounts of mercury.

Dr. Carlos Choucino, an infectious disease specialist for Lake Charles Memorial and Moss Regional hospitals, said the preservative is necessary for multidose vials of the vaccine.

“There have always been concerns about the connection between mercury and autism in children,” Choucino said. “But the FDA reviewed data, and there was no conclusive evidence to make that connection.”

Choucino said the nasal mist is not designated for pregnant women because it may contain the preservative. This is also why pregnant women have priority with the flu shots, but not the nasal

Mocklin said no hospitals or health units know in advance what form of the vaccine they will receive.

The concept of swine flu parties — similar to chicken pox parties — has been addressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though no evidence has been found that such events have been held.

Spokesman Tom Skinner said the CDC has received a large number of calls and anecdotal evidence about such parties.

“I have not been asked that, but parents should keep in mind that not every sick child has swine flu,” Mocklin said. “So they would be exposing their child on a theory.”

A carry-over apprehension from the seasonal flu is the saying “I will get the virus from the (injectable) vaccine,” said Choucino.

“That is not possible because it is a dead virus,” he said. “The reaction may be to components in the shot.”

Choucino also said it takes 10 to 14 days after the shot for the body to develop immunity, so patients could be exposed and fall ill during that time.

Mocklin and Choucino said swine flu symptoms are mostly similar to those of the seasonal flu but that people should go to the hospital if they have a high fever for more than 24 hours.

“In children, we have seen the fever accompanied by diarrhea,” Choucino said.

He also said people with respiratory issues or liver and heart issues are more susceptible.

“The most important thing to do is try to prevent from ever getting the virus,” Choucino said. “And the best thing people can do is get the vaccine.”

Mocklin added people should get the vaccines for H1N1 and seasonal flu, because each vaccine only combats one strain.

“People should practice proper cough etiquette and use frequent hand washing, along with the vaccine,” Mocklin said. “And if you are sick, stay home.”

As of Oct. 21, Louisiana had received about 187,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Additional shipments are expected every five to 10 days for the next two to three months, according to a DHH news release issued Monday.


October 27, 2009 at 9:34 am

Abuse victims share stories to give hope, raise awareness (Part 2 of 2)

*published Oct. 25, 2009

Domestic abuse is considered one of the least-reported crimes.

Denial by the victims that abuse has occurred is a factor in that, according to Jennifer Couvillion with the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter.

“Domestic abuse runs the spectrum, from verbal abuse like constant criticism and put downs, on to sexual and physical abuse,” Couvillion said. “It’s about control, and the abuse, physical or not, is to maintain control over that person and environment.”

Couvillion said there is no set timeline to track an abuser.

“The abuser may go from zero to 10 in a week or it may take years,” Couvillion said.

Three victims of domestic abuse agreed to talk to the American Press about their past situations, why they stayed and how they found the courage to leave.

Their names have been changed to protect their identities.

‘That was normal’

Mary, 51, said she grew up around abuse.

“My father abused my mother, and she eventually left,” Mary said. “Then we moved into a very poor neighborhood.”

Mary said her neighbor and best friend also lived in an abusive home.

“I remember running home in the middle of the night because after her father beat her mother, he would attack the kids,” Mary said. “Abuse was always around me, and I thought abuse was only physical.”

Mary also was in the military. Most of the decorations in her office are medals and pictures from her 25 years in the Navy.

In 1998, she became a liaison for abused sailors.

“I was in court every day hearing about physical abuse, and one day, a social worker came in and started naming all these things.”

Mary said the social worker talked about how a woman’s husband criticized her appearance and found fault in everything she did. He also pressured her to perform certain sexual acts.

“And I thought, ‘that’s my life,’ but because my husband wasn’t punching me, I didn’t think it was abuse,” Mary said.

Mary said after she learned the full definition of abuse, she didn’t leave.

“I had been in two wars. I just thought, ‘Why whine about it?’ Because this was normal to me to constantly be criticized and put down,” Mary said.

But she said she internalized everything he said.

“I found myself depressed when I was alone. I cried a lot.”

She said one event made her realize the situation would get worse.

“His mother had to come live with us because of her Alzheimer’s,” Mary said. “One day he got so mad at her, he shook her until her false teeth fell out,” Mary said.

“I thought, ‘If he will do that to his mother, what would he do to me?”

But she still didn’t leave.

Finally, during an argument, her husband threw her on the ground and put his foot on her neck and threatened to kill her.

That night, she gave her daughter from a previous relationship two garbage bags and told her to pack everything.

“I told her, when I pick you up from school tomorrow, we are never coming back to this house.”

Mary said it was very hard right after the split, and she wanted to go back.

“He was very well-respected in the community. We were both highly ranked officers. He was always in church,” Mary said. “But it was all a mask.”

Mary said she even thought about sending her daughter to live with her grandmother, thinking her husband wouldn’t be so volatile if she wasn’t around.

And it wasn’t until after her divorce, that she learned her husband was verbally abusive to her daughter.

“When I got married, she changed and was very despondent,” Mary said. The then 12-year-old’s father was in prison, and her stepfather constantly told her she would end up the same.

Her daughter said all of his comments made her feel like he didn’t approve of her. He called her spoiled and overdramatic, and his children from a previous marriage would say the same things.

“She also overheard the things he said to me,” Mary said.

“After the divorce, I spoke to his ex-wife. When I told her about the verbal, sexual and physical abuse, her only reaction was, ‘Oh, he’s back at it again.’ ”

That’s when she learned that he had choked and almost killed his first wife.

‘Swept me off my feet’

Beth, 42, said she grew up in a strict household where you didn’t show your emotions.

“Early in my life, I had relationships with very controlling people,” Beth said. “The guy would try to control how I dressed and my actions, and I just thought that’s what love was.”

She said she never saw domestic abuse as a means of control.

“When I first met my husband, he swept me off my feet ” Beth said. “He was very charming and everyone loved him.”

Beth said her situation made a turn for the worse after she had their son.

“He was dealing with alcoholism, and he put me down a lot,” Beth said. “He had me convinced that I would never be happy, and that I couldn’t do anything right.”

Beth stayed for 11 years.

Her son, now 9 years old, remembers his father’s temper.

“He remembers when my husband got so mad he shot our TV,” Beth said. She and her son, then 4, went into another room to avoid an argument. But her husband followed them, with a shotgun.

“It sometimes seems that I have to re-parent him, because he does sometimes try to be very controlling with me,” Beth said. “I’ve had to set boundaries because he would scream and try to order me to do things. He saw that.”

The breaking point was when his alcoholism got really bad.

“He started walking around the house with a loaded gun,” Beth said. “I really had dreams of things changing and would always say ‘if he wasn’t an alcoholic.’ ”

Beth said her ex-husband has been through detox.

“To this day, he says I should have known what to do to keep from making him mad. To this day, he’s never apologized.”

Her divorce was recently finalized. Beth has since had to file for bankruptcy and doesn’t have all the nice things her exhusband’s six-figure salary bought.

“But now I can go home and go to bed and sleep.”


‘I stayed for the good times’

Morgan, 54, grew up in a household where her mother was the aggressor.

“She would attack my dad because he cheated on her.” When her mother stabbed him, they divorced.

Morgan said when she was dating her husband, she thought he was perfect.

“He was funny and romantic,” Morgan said. “When we married and had children, he would cook and make sure the kids behaved and did their homework.”

Morgan said she remembered that he liked things his way a lot, but didn’t see it as controlling.

“When he didn’t want me to go somewhere, I thought ‘he loves me this much.’ ”

Her husband became addicted to drugs early in the marriage, and Morgan used that as another excuse for his behavior.

“And he would always convince me that I caused him to be controlling.”

When he got physical with her, Morgan fought back.

“I would tell myself that I’m doing the same thing as him, so I couldn’t complain.”

And Morgan had convinced herself that her marriage would last, unlike her parents.

“I had decided I would preserve my marriage at all costs,” Morgan said. “My dad was in my life growing up, but he wasn’t in the home, and I wanted my children’s father to be in their household.”

Over the course of 10 years, Morgan left and came back to her husband five times.

The final straw was an argument that took place in front of their youngest child.

“I threw a vase at my husband, and it broke all over the place,” Morgan said. “That’s when I realized, I can’t have my children thinking this behavior was OK.”

Morgan decided, for their sake, she had to seek a more stable life.

“When he was not being abusive, he was doing wonderful things, and this is your husband. You love him,” Morgan said. “And you always think things will get better.”


October 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Restraining orders forbid all contact

*published Oct. 25, 2009

When a victim of domestic abuse leaves her abuser, a restraining order can be filed to legally forbid the offender from contacting the victim in any way.

The Southwest Louisiana Law Center, a group of lawyers and advocates who help draft restraining orders for victims, accompany them to court hearings.

Alicia Hampton with the Southwest Louisiana Law center explained the process of getting a restraining order:

If police are called to a domestic dispute, they refer the victim to the law center or the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter, which has advocates to help with the paperwork. The forms, along with a police report, is taken to the Domestic Violence Division at the district courthouse.

A 20-day temporary restraining order is automatically filed. A court date is set within that period to request a full restraining order, which would be renewed every 18 months.

“The district attorney here takes restraining orders very seriously,” Hampton said.

She said collaboration on the domestic abuse task force has streamlined the process.

In Calcasieu Parish, the Sheriff’s Office Civil Division serves warrants. Spokeswoman Kim Myers said restraining orders are given priority status to get them served to the offender as soon as possible.

“The offender is told that he is not to contact her in any way or send a third party to relay a message,” Hampton said. “Deputies explain that the abuser can not harass, stalk or follow the victim.”

Hampton said in the restraining order, the victim can also request to stay in the home or keep a vehicle.

“If a person does violate the protective order, the victim should call the police each and every time to file a report, they also can file a rule for contempt against the abuser,” Hampton said. “There will be some people who won’t follow the restraining order.”

Hampton said even if the abuser leaves before police arrive, they should always file a report.

“If a neighbor saw the incident, ask them to file a witness statement,” Hampton said. “If the abuser is calling or texting, we have the victim bring the phone to court.”

Hampton said the task force consists of Calcasieu Parish law enforcement and advocates, but they are available to help victims in the surrounding parishes.

“Unfortunately, we know that in some rural areas, everyone knows each other and information may get out to the abuser,” Hampton said. “But we try to encourage the victim to follow through because we know how hard it is to take that stand.”

Hampton said women can call the law center during regular business hours and the women’s shelter has a 24-hour line.

Through October 2009, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office has filed 946 reports for domestic abuse, with 327 arrests.

Domestic abuse includes simple battery, aggravated battery, stalking, assaulting, harassing phone calls and violation of restraining orders.

For information, call the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter at 436-4552 or the Southwest Louisiana Law Center at 436-3308.


October 25, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Man killed in apparent shooting

*published Oct. 22, 2009

A man was killed Tuesday night in an apparent shooting in north Lake Charles, authorities said.

Lake Charles police, responding to a shots-fired call in the 1900 block of Cessford Street, found Nicholas Fuselier, 32, of 104 N. Prater St., lying partly in the road just after 9 p.m., said Sgt. Mark Kraus

He said police have classified the incident as a homicide but are still awaiting the results of an autopsy, which Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke performed Wednesday evening.

No preliminary information on the report was available.

The lead detective is Greg Single, who is being assisted by Detective Dustin Fontenot.


October 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm

LC woman killed in I-10 crash

*published Oct. 19, 2009

A Lake Charles woman died after being ejected from a vehicle in a Sunday afternoon accident on Interstate 10, according to State Police Troop D.

At around 2:30 p.m., Sharon Guidry, 42, of Lake Charles lost control of her utility vehicle when a tire blew out as she was traveling west between Vinton and Sulphur, said Trooper Stephen LaFargue.

She ran off the road, stuck a sign and flipped several times.

One of Guidry’s passengers, Courtney Guidry, 21, also of Lake Charles, was not wearing her seat belt and was ejected. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

The driver and three other passengers were taken to Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.


October 19, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Re-opening of Cameron Wildlife Refuge

*published Oct. 15, 2009

Video by Brad K. Puckett and Claudette Olivier
Editing and Voice by Vanessa C. Deggins

To see the video, CLICK HERE.

October 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Arrest made in Sulphur shooting

*published Oct. 15, 2009

SULPHUR — Sulphur police have arrested a man in connection with an Oct. 10 shooting in which two people were shot, one of whom was a woman who was six months pregnant.

Linus Cahee, 21, of Sulphur, was charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count each of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, said spokesman Mel Estess.

Judge Robert Wyatt set his bond at $335,000.

The shooting reportedly happened at about 8:45 p.m. near the corner of Alice and Elm streets.

“Detectives believe Cahee approached the front of the vehicle and opened fire on the occupants,” Estess said. “The woman was shot in the abdomen, and a male in the back seat was shot twice in the left arm and back.”

He said a third occupant was not injured. The mother and child and all of the occupants are expected to recover fully, Estess said.


October 15, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Two charged in Oct. 5 LC home invasion and robbery

*published Oct. 15, 2009

Two men have been arrested for an Oct. 5 home invasion involving a firearm, and an arrest warrant has been issued for a third man, authorities said.

Malcolm Jamar Sawyer, 20, of Oberlin, was arrested Tuesday by Lake Charles police for his involvement in a home invasion in the 1100 block of Tulane Street, said Sgt. Mark Kraus.

“We were led to the second subject, 20-year-old Lawrence Jacoby Bias of DeQuincy, through checking jail records,” he said.

Kraus said Bias was already in jail in connection with another home invasion.

According to Calcasieu Correctional Center arrest log, Bias was arrested Oct. 8 by Calcasieu Parish deputies, along with two other men, and charged with two counts of armed robbery and theft over $500.

Bias and two other males were involved in a “home invasion, where a robbery took place,” according to the log. It also says a shotgun was used to subdue the victims and that a vehicle, cash and electronic equipment were taken from the North Claiborne Street home.

Bias’ bond was set at $50,000 for those charges. No bond has been set for the additional charges.

Kraus said Bias matched the description of a man seen on security camera footage shot at the Tulane Street home.

“We learned that the victim of the home invasion had previously participated in the use of illegal drugs with one of the suspects,” Kraus said. “They later heard that the man now had a large amount of marijuana in his home and decided to rob him of it.”

Kraus said the men did not find the drugs and decided to take other items at gunpoint.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Joshua Brooks, 19, of DeQuincy.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts can call Detective Greg Single at 491-1311.


October 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm

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