Louisiana news briefs

An aerial photo of the Bayou Corne sinkhole courtesy of the Assumption Parish government.

Bayou Corne sinkhole swallows 6 more trees
BAYOU CORNE, La. (AP) — Parish officials say the 29-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish swallowed six cypress trees Wednesday and had its first deep burp of gas and fluid since late August.
The event comes nearly two weeks after lead scientists investigating the sinkhole for state regulators said the hole seemed to be on the path to stabilizing.
The sinkhole slowly pulled down six trees about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday on the southwestern side of the lake-like hole, near an earthen well pad operated by Texas Brine Co.
"The trees went straight down this time," said John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Hydrocarbons could be faintly smelled in the Bayou Corne community near the sinkhole, parish officials reported.
Boudreaux said the smell is likely from oil-saturated earth around the sinkhole being stirred up. At one time, the sinkhole was producing a crude-like fluid.
Boudreaux said the sinkhole edge collapse, known as a slough-in, followed Texas Brine's efforts since Monday to reduce rising pressures in the failed salt dome cavern suspected of causing the sinkhole to form in August 2012.
Scientists believe the Texas Brine cavern was mined too closely to the outer face of the Napoleonville Dome, a massive salt deposit, and had a catastrophic wall collapse or breach that led to the sinkhole.

Mother arrested
in children’s fire deaths
HOUMA (AP) — Houma police say they’ve arrested the mother of two unattended children who died in a March 15 fire.
Police said Vaneisha Valentine was arrested shortly after midnight Wednesday at a car wash on Grand Caillou Road. She was booked on two counts of manslaughter and possession of marijuana.
Police are still searching for the children’s father, Romell Welsh Sr. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 1-800-743-7433.
The victims, 2-year-old Romell Welsh Jr. and his 1-year-old sister, Ro’Miyah Welsh, died of smoke inhalation.
The blaze occurred about 1:30 a.m. March 15. The children were pulled from the home after the fire was extinguished, about 30 minutes after firefighters and rescue workers arrived.

Murder trial to begin
in 12-year-old boy’s death
MANSFIELD (AP) — Opening statements are expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday in state district court in DeSoto Parish in the first-degree murder trial of a Keachie man accused in the death almost four years ago of a 12-year-old boy.
District Judge Robert Burgess said six women and six men from East Baton Rouge Parish were selected Wednesday to hear evidence against 37-year-old Brian Horn in the March 30, 2010, asphyxiation death of Justin M. Bloxom of Stonewall.
Horn, a twice-convicted sex offender, faces the death penalty if convicted.
The jurors were chosen in another parish because of extensive pre-trial publicity.

Panel: NO city councilman violated ethics rules
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board has recommended that New Orleans City Councilman James Gray be disbarred or have his law license suspended for at least three years for mishandling four of his private law cases, violating a dozen ethical rules in the process.
The final decision on punishment, if any, is up to the state Supreme Court.
The committee, which held three hearings about the complaints, found Gray didn’t provide “competent representation” and failed to communicate with clients or return their files. He also did not cooperate with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel that investigated him.
Messages to Gray’s office were not returned Wednesday. His attorney could not be reached.
None of the cases involved Gray’s work on the council.
Gray, 67, won his first full term on the council last month, taking 53 percent of the vote in the Feb. 1 primary. A Marine Corps veteran and chairman of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, Gray won his first election victory a year earlier to fill the seat vacated by Jon Johnson, who stepped down after pleading guilty to conspiring to funnel federal rebuilding grant funds to his 2007 state Senate campaign.

Lafourche Parish deputy hurt
THIBODAUX (AP) — A Lafourche Parish sheriff’s deputy was severely injured at the parish jail during one of two incidents involving the same inmate over the weekend.
The inmate, 18-year-old Jerry Cleveland Jr., of Raceland, was being escorted to another cell when he allegedly struck another inmate in the head resulting in the victim hitting the cell bars. The impact knocked him unconscious, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.
When the deputies intervened, a struggle ensued and the deputies and Cleveland fell to the ground. The sheriff’s office says Deputy Steven Pitts hit his head on a toilet inside the cell.
Pitts and the initial victim were treated and released from an area hospital. Pitts suffered a severe laceration, requiring several stitches and staples. Details of the inmate’s injuries were not released.
Sheriff Craig Webre said the attacks are a “direct result of deficiencies in our jail facility.”
“The jail’s antiquated ‘block’ design does not allow constant oversight and we continue to have serious plumbing issues throughout the facility. Whether it’s a veteran officer or someone fresh out of the training academy, our correctional officers face these types of problems every day, and it’s always unfortunate when incidents escalate to this level,” Webre said. “These are clear examples of why it’s imperative that we provide the safer jail that is needed for Lafourche Parish.”
Pitts said a lack of sufficient lighting in the cells made the situation even more dangerous.
Pitts, 44, has served as a law enforcement officer since 1999.

U.S. wildlife refuges to expand
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The U.S. Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved more than $3.8 million to expand a national wildlife refuge in northeast Louisiana, and another $2.8 million to expand refuges in Texas and California.
Duck stamps are providing most of the money for all five projects approved Wednesday in Washington, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In Louisiana, it’s expanding the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Union and Morehouse parishes. The service will buy 3,276 acres and expand the boundaries by a total of 18,711 acres.
The commission also approved a potential future addition of another 15,435 acres.
The purchase is the largest of five approved Wednesday by the commission. It also approved $2 million to buy land for three refuges in Texas and $782,000 to add 305 acres to the Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area in Kern and Tulare counties, California.

12 arrested for dogfighting
MANY (AP) — A dozen people were arrested when Sabine Parish deputies raided a dogfighting event in progress in the woods of a rural area of the parish.
Sheriff’s office Warden Joe Dewil Jr. said deputies arrested 10 adults and two juveniles during Saturday night’s raid, while dozens more fled from the scene.

Baton Rouge man booked
in girlfriend’s death
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a Baton Rouge man in the death of his girlfriend just two days after he told investigators she accidentally shot herself in the head.
Casey Rayborn Hicks, an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, says 32-year-old Jason Bringier was booked Wednesday on counts of second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, illegal carrying of a firearm and possession of marijuana.
Hicks say Bringier initially told detectives that 30-year-old Lucinda Ann White walked out of a bedroom about 1 a.m. Monday while playing with a handgun. Then, he said, he heard a gunshot and found her bleeding in another room.
Hicks said Bringier was arrested after he changed his story.

LSU police investigate restaurant fraud case
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Police say several employees of the McDonald’s restaurant inside LSU’s Student Union stole at least $30,000 from students over the past year in a fraud scheme possibly dating back several years.
LSU Police said four people were arrested Wednesday and police expect to make at least one more arrest.
Authorities say their investigation revealed cashiers and managers were overcharging students on school-issued debit cards, pocketing the difference and falsifying records to hide the thefts.
Capt. Cory Lalonde, a LSU Police spokesman, said that those arrested face theft charges.
From The Associated Press.

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