Gun violence top 2015 story
Civic leaders, clergy and local officials urged creation and support of programs and policies to reduce street violence, following a spate of killings – mostly drug-related – in Houma and other Terrebonne Parish communities. Concerns reached a crescendo when 18-year-old Cory Butler was killed Oct. 28 on Morgan Street in an incident that left three other young men wounded.
NEW LEADERSHIP IN BAYOU PARISHES
The year in politics saw some notable upsets, with the election of perennial candidate Jimmy Cantrelle as Lafourche Parish President, ousting long-time parish chief executive Charlotte Randolph.
Two incumbent state legislators, Lenar Whitney and Joe Harrison, were bested by challengers Tanner Magee and Beryl Amedee, respectively.
Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet, barred from a third try at office because of parish term limit laws, was replaced by former State Rep. Gordon Dove.
SAME SEX MARRIAGES
For the first time in history parish clerks of court in Terrebonne and Lafourche issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which found that state laws barring such couples from matrimony violates the U.S. Constitution. Rebecca Graham and Kada Howard were issued their license in Terrebonne on June 29 by Clerk of Court Theresa Robichaux; in Lafourche Parish Katelyn Hebert and Jamie Malgum Hebert of Cut Off were issued licenses at the court clerk’s satellite office in Cut Off.
A new emergency operations center, animal shelter and juvenile detention center are among projects now under construction on the La. 311 corridor in Terrebonne Parish, all cornerstones of the legacy outgoing Parish President Michel Claudet hopes he will leave.
DEPUTY CLEARED IN SHOOTING OF TEEN
Tension was palpable for months as authorities investigated the shooting death of a Houma teen, Cameron Tillman, by Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Preston Norman. Relatives question the necessity of the shooting, branding it murder, while authorities maintained that Norman acted by the book, and had no choice but to fire because he believed his life was in danger. Norman and other deputies were investigating a report of “juveniles” in an abandoned house on Kirkglen Loop in Houma. After knocking on the door and announcing himself, Norman was confronted by what appeared to be a pistol-wielding Tillman. The object he held, authorities determined, was a replica of a .45 caliber pistol.
A Terrebonne grand jury cleared Norman of wrong-doing but a civil lawsuit against him and Sheriff Jerry Larpenter is pending in federal court.
LOUVIERE’S LIFE SPARED
Former Terrebonne deputy Chad Louviere was spared the ultimate penalty for the murder of bank teller Pamela Duplantis and related crimes after more than a year of post-conviction relief hearings before District Judge Johnny Walker, 19 years after a 25-hour stand-off with local officers.
Prosecutors and Louviere’s attorneys reached an agreement halting any and all requests for a new trial in return for a one-way trip to the lethal injection table being permanently removed from the judicial table. Louviere made headlines again at year’s end when he was moved from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to new digs at a different prison.
NEW TOP COPS
Both Houma and Thibodaux got new police chiefs this year, but under contrasting circumstances.
In Thibodaux Bryan Zeringue, a former state trooper, took the reins of the city police department, following the retirement of Scott Silveri.
In Houma, Lt. Dana Coleman was selected to lead after the abrupt departure of former chief Todd Duplantis. Duplantis’ retirement, reporting by The Times indicated, was little more than a sugar-coated dismissal related to litigation brought by a department sergeant, Kyle Faulk. HPD officers appear to have rallied behind Coleman, who is also the city’s first black police chief.
NEW JAIL FOR LAFOURCHE
After years of debate and hard lobbying by Sheriff Craig Webre, Lafourche Parish officially approved construction of a new jail to replace its outmoded and unsafe lockup. Webre purchased 42 acres of land for the new facility once voters approved a tax initiative, and completion is expected in about two years.
A Jefferson Parish judge rejected claims by HTV president Martin Folse that a lawsuitsegment aired last year on his television station was an exercise in silencing his crusade to expose dealers of synthetic marijuana and insistence that locals avoid stores and gas stations not owned by “Americans.”
The decision paved the way for a lawsuit against the television mogul to proceed. It arose from a segment on the station reporting a 2014 dispute between a clerk at the Roadrunner store on St. Charles Street near La. Highway 311 and a neurosurgeon over a purchase of chewing tobacco that escalated into an argument about veterans.
Three workers were killed Oct. 8 and another died days after, in connection with an explosion at the Williams Pipeline company on Bayou Black Drive in Gibson.
A federal investigation of the blast continues, during which the Gibson facility, which dries and purifies raw natural gas pumped from the Gulf of Mexico to a 10,000 mile national pipeline network, remains shut down.
Lawsuits brought by families of the dead are pending in court. •
Crowds gather prior to a memorial for the victim of a fatal shooting on Morgan Street in Houma. 18-year-old Cory Butler was killed and three others wounded in a dispute characterized as drug-related on Oct. 28.
A firefighter looks on after a fire continues to smoke after an explosion at the Williams Pipeline facility on Bayou Black Drive in Gibson. Three workers were killed in the Oct. 8 explosion and another died days later.