Archive for May, 2010

Body of LC man found in front of mobile home

36-year-old suffered trauma to his head
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a Lake Charles man whose body was found Tuesday in front of his mobile home.

A relative found the body of Paul Edward Lee, 36, just before 6 p.m. at 3175 La. 14 E., said Sheriff Tony Mancuso.

“Family members had been calling with no response and came out to check on him,” Mancuso said.

Mancuso said Lee had suffered trauma to the head.

His death has been ruled a homicide. An autopsy will be performed today.

No weapons were initially found at the scene, and K9 units were searching there for evidence late Tuesday night. This is the Sheriff’s Office’s first homicide of the year. Anyone with information is asked to call detective Billy Spees at 337-491-3753.

link: http://bit.ly/bSJaWf

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May 26, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Wanted: Public input

Turnout disappointing for new LC authority meeting
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Members of the Lake Charles North Redevelopment Authority want the public’s input.

Speaking at the authority’s second meeting, Kathleen Bellow made a plea for more attendance, saying any change would have to involve the residents of north Lake Charles.

The second meeting saw a much smaller turnout than the first, which attracted an audience of about 30 people.

“We know that the people have to be involved, which is why this is a public forum and why we need the ideas of the community,” said Bellow, a board member and principal of Sacred Heart School.

“Unless people buy into helping themselves and the process is open to all the stakeholders, it won’t be real community development.”

Board member Rick Richard said he had been in contact with George Swift of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance for suggestions on how to get businesses to build in north Lake Charles.

“The Corps of Engineers’ recent study shows that north Lake Charles is really the place to build,” Richard said.

He said a lot of the work will be education and “just showing people that this is the place to be.”

A recent study laid out areas for building a warehouse district, a marina with condos and a walking path. Most of the development would be along Fitzenreiter Road.

Assistant City Administrator Adrian Wallace said the board’s legal council, Terry Manuel, was drafting the cooperative endeavor agreement with the city of Lake Charles.

Residents can send queries to the board at 326 Pujo St., 9th Floor, Attn: Lake Charles North Redevelopment Board, Lake Charles, LA 70601.

The board’s next meeting will be Monday, June 28.

link: http://bit.ly/9Ls42a

May 25, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Teacher arrested; illegal drugs found in her classroom

*published May 25, 2010
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

A Fairview Elementary School teacher resigned and was arrested last Friday after bringing illegal prescription drugs to school, authorities said.

Kelly McMichael Fontenot, 38, of Ragley, was charged with two counts of possession of a Schedule IV drug, one count of possession of Schedule III drug, having drugs near a school, and obtaining a Legend drug by fraud.

Charlene Chiasson, Calcasieu Parish school system spokeswoman said Fairview Principal Lorette Bass “noticed some suspicious activity and contacted the superintendent.”

Chiasson said Bass was told to follow up on her suspicions, and Fontenot was given the option to resign.

Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kim Myers said Fontenot had several hydroco–done and Soma pill bottles in her purse but had no prescriptions for the drugs.

Deputies found more prescription pills in a container under her classroom desk, Myers said.

“We don’t do random drug testing. It’s only when teachers are entering the system,” Chiasson said. “But when officials suspect strange behavior, we want them to look into it as they feel the need.”

link: http://bit.ly/9eNl5R

May 25, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Emergency Supply Kit (video)

May 30, 2010 – Hurricane season begins June 1st and Louisiana is having it’s Hurricane Preparedness Tax Holiday May 29th and 30th. Here are a few things you should have in your kit and what is tax exempt.
To view the video, CLICK HERE.

May 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Seat belt and child restraint advocates: Enforcement important part of prevention

*published May 21, 2010
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

This fact is clear: There is a correlation between surviving a traffic accident and wearing a seat belt.

According to a state university study, 64 percent of all drivers killed in Louisiana automobile crashes in 2008 weren’t wearing seat belts.

“Less than 1 percent of belted occupants were killed in accidents during that year,” John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, said Wednesday at a seminar for law officers. The event focused on the importance of issuing seat belt and child restraint citations.

The study, by the Highway Safety Research Group at Louisiana State University, also found that higher fines increase seat belt use.

Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researchers found that increasing the fine for not wearing a seat belt to over $100 could increase seat belt use by about 8 percent.

Current Louisiana law says violators are subject to a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $50, plus court costs, for subsequent violations.

LeBlanc said he plans to use the data to lobby for a fine increase during the 2012 legislative session.

Other data from the study showed that the lack of seat belt use in Louisiana resulted in crash costs of more than $1.2 billion in 2008 — about $432 for every licensed driver in the state.

Tammy Ryden, in telling the story of her daughter, said law officers should understand that seat belt and child restraint citations aren’t minor tickets. “The driver was a 40-year-old adult, and he didn’t make my daughter buckle up,” she said.

Ryden is the Region 6 spokeswoman for the NHTSA’s Teen Seat Belt Project. Her 15-year-old daughter, Rachel, was killed in February 1999 when she was ejected from a truck after a head-on collision. None of the vehicle’s three occupants was wearing a seat belt.

“Her boyfriend’s father (the driver) said they just never wore seat belts,” Ryden said. “I truly believe she would have survived the crash if she was wearing her seat belt.”

Ryden said the second vehicle rolled over up to eight times, but that three of its four occupants were restrained and walked away from the accident. The unbelted occupant was ejected but survived and spent about six months in the hospital.

Ryden said she always made her daughter and other two children buckle up when they rode with her, but that she didn’t stress to them that they should wear a seat belt no matter who they were riding with.

“Her boyfriend and his father didn’t buckle up and didn’t say anything, so it probably never came to mind,” she said.

“Her death was so senseless and so preventable, and I think any parent who loses a child in that way, the most we can hope for is that death counts for something and matters.”

More local statistics
Louisiana remains below the national average in seat belt use. The latest state highway commission data, from 2008, show the national average is 82 percent and Louisiana’s is 75.5 percent.

In the Lake Charles region — Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard and Jeff Davis parishes — seat belt use is below the state average, at 72.5 percent.

This was a slight improvement from 71.3 percent in 2007.

In 2007, 993 people were killed on Louisiana highways. Of those, 494 weren’t wearing seat belts.

That same year, 30 people were killed in traffic accidents in Calcasieu Parish. Of them, 16 were unbelted.

In 2009, Calcasieu Parish had 41 accident fatalities, with 18 of those victims unrestrained.

link: http://bit.ly/9gdyEr

May 21, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Crime rate steady

*posted May 12, 2010
LC crime up less than 1 percent in 2009
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Statistics for 2009 released Tuesday by the Lake Charles Police Department show a less than 1 percent increase in crime. This follows a decrease in 2008 of 15.7 percent. “I knew we’d be up this year, but (it’s) really less than I thought it would be,” said Police Chief Don Dixon.

“We would love to be able to show a dramatic decrease every year, but we indicated that it was going to be difficult to do that next year,” said Mayor Randy Roach.

There was an increase in all violent and property crimes except auto theft. There were six homicides in 2008; there were 11 in 2009. The number of rapes by force went up from 42 in 2008 to 47 in 2009; robberies increased from 169 in 2008 to 224 in 2009; and assaults and batteries went up from 1,430 in 2008 to 1,454 in 2009.

Property crimes increased 10.2 percent, from 5,077 in 2008 to 5,596 in 2009.

“I think this is a reflection of what’s going on, not only here locally in our economy but nationally,” Dixon said, noting the trend of crime increasing during tough economic times.

Burglary was up 22.7 percent; larceny and theft up 4.6 percent; auto theft down 9.4 percent; and arson up 25 percent.

Dixon noted that daily reports from the first three months of the year indicated an increase in these crimes.

TO HEAR AUDIO FROM THE NEWS CONFERENCE, CLICK HERE.

Other criminal offenses — including property damage, DWI, disturbing the peace and trespassing — were down 9.9 percent.

Officials presented a breakdown of crime by 19 beats, or sections, of the city.
Across the board, Beat 6 reported the most violent and property crimes.

It is bordered by Broad Street to the north, First Avenue to the west, 12th Street to the south and Gerstner Memorial Drive to the east.

The computer-generated statistics are used to target areas like Beat 6 and assign officers to them.

“These officers don’t answer any calls while on duty; they just focus on these hot spots,” Dixon said.

He described an upward trend in juvenile arrests as “disturbing.” There was a 26.3 percent increase from 2008 to 2009.

“Some of the issues students are facing at home and school are the root of this criminal activity,” Roach said.

He said a May 6 meeting of residents and law officers at LaGrange High School was a good example of how parents can be proactive.

At the meeting, city and parish officials discussed signs and behaviors parents should watch for in their children.

“We want to keep doing things like this to make sure parents are aware of the problem and to give them the opportunity to be involved,” Roach said.

“We’re kind of now in a society that accepts violence, when you see the violent video games, the music and the attitude of ‘no snitching,’ ” Dixon said. “There is a change of attitude and it disturbs me, but it starts at home.”

link: http://bit.ly/9Wp5QA

May 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Public tips lead to arrest in LC bank robbery

*published May 11, 2010
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Lake Charles police have arrested a man for the May 5 robbery of the Cameron State Bank branch at Ryan and Alamo streets.

Officials said 36-year-old Byron Charles LaFleur entered the bank at 10:30 a.m., wearing a suit and tie and handed the teller a note demanding money and then fled on foot.

Police Chief Don Dixon said tips from the public led to LaFleur’s arrest. He said officers were able to recover all of the stolen money, but he wouldn’t disclose the amount.

LaFleur remains in the Calcasieu Correc–tional Center on a federal probation hold.

In an unrelated case, a Houston man suspected of committing 12 robberies in and around Houston was arrested in Lake Charles on Friday.

Lake Charles FBI agent Hall Jones said DeAndrian LaTroy Dently, 32, faces multiple robbery charges.

Dently reportedly committed robberies in Harris and Brazoria counties between October and February.

The last took place Feb. 5 at a bank in a Kroger supermarket in Katy, Texas.

Afterward, Houston FBI agents began featuring surveillance footage of Dently on digital billboards and offered a $15,000 reward.

Jones said Dently had been dubbed the “Billy Goat Bandit” because of a scraggly beard he wore during the robberies.

He was reportedly cleanshaven when he was arrested. Authorities say Dently may face additional charges.

link: http://bit.ly/bg6dUe

May 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

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