From the rape trial of a former Shreveport city official to the evacuation of an entire town due to improperly stored black powder, 2012 brought a range of news to the ArkLaTex.
In January, former Shreveport Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Rick Seaton stood trial for forcible rape and abuse of office. Seaton was accused of raping an 18-year-old woman inside Shreveport's Government Plaza following the 2010 Independence Bowl. Seaton was convicted Jan. 13 after a weeklong bench trial. He was sentenced in March to 18 years in jail. He says he is working to appeal his conviction.
Some news was cause for celebration, like the Oscar won in February by Moonbot Studios for "The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore" for Best Animated Short Film. It was the first Academy Award and nomination for the Shreveport-based film studio, and "Morris Lessmore" was their first animated release. Shreveport celebrated the win with a parade down Texas Street.
There was pajama drama in Caddo Parish, where Commissioner Michael Williams pushed for a ban on sleepwear in public. His controversial proposed ordinance was ultimately taken off the table by March for lack of support, but the issue would resurface in October with the Caddo Parish Commission's approval of an ordinance encouraging owners to ban pajamas at their businesses.
It was in February that it became clear that the Aryan Nations had set up their new world headquarters in Converse, Louisiana. Leader Morris Gulett confirmed his intentions to build a compound there, much like the one that existed in Idaho until 2000, complete with living quarters, a church and heavy security. Local pastors united to denounce the allegations of the self-proclaimed leader of the Aryan Nations that the white race is superior to any other race.
It was a triple tragedy in McCurtain County, OK in late February, when a father and his two young sons drowned in the Little River after their fishing boat capsized just north of Wright City. The bodies of Steve Lycklama and his 8-year-old son Devin were recovered the following day. 6-year-old Dylan's body was found after more than a week of searching.
A Texas couple's violent crime spree came to an end after a deadly triple shooting at a Joaquin motel in April. 42-year-old Bobby Grubbs and his wife Deedra were already wanted in connection with a home invasion and burglary in Montgomery County when police say they robbed the Country Inn Motel and shot three housekeepers. 37-year-old Martha Soceredoi was killed. Sam Watts and another housekeeper survived. Bobby Grubbs was charged with capital murder in Shelby County. Deedra Grubbs was charged with burglary of a habitation.
A 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck 3 miles east of Timpson in mid-May, causing minor damage and rattling residents as far away as Bienville Parish. A 3.7 magnitude quake had shaken the same area just a week before.
Also in May, two accused murderers managed to escape from the Miller County Jail using a hacksaw blade to cut the metal bars out of one small window, breaking the glass out of another and scaling 2 10' razor-wired fences. 23-year-old Cortez Rashod Hooper and 36-year-old Quincy Vernard Stewart were arrested four days later. Stewart's mother and brother were also charged, accused of smuggling the hacksaw into the jail.
June brought heartbreak for a Bossier City family, after 4-year-old twin sisters Aubrie and Angel Smith wandered off from the playground at Bellaire Elementary School, found a hole in a fence and fell into a pool. Angel died that day. Aubrie died a few days later. That followed the near-drowning of 9-year-old Shelby Patrick at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport. Patrick is now recovering and back in school.
On July 6, a crossover wreck on I-20 near Haughton claimed two young lives. Arien Manshack, 17, and Megan Mote, 16, were killed. 18-year-old Jonathon Bartley was severely injured. He suffered brain damage and is learning how to walk and talk again. A fourth passenger, Justin Venable, suffered a broken leg. In December, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced plans to install cable barriers along highway medians in Bossier and Webster parishes in an effort to reduce fatalities.
August brought stories of interest, beginning with the disappearance of Tech XX. It was a short-lived mystery that began with a plea to search for the beloved Louisiana Tech mascot believed to have been stolen. A $2,000 reward was offered. Just a day later, it was revealed that an employee of the veterinarian who cared for the English Bulldog had actually left him out for too long on a hot summer evening and the animal had succumbed to a heat stroke. The employee tried to cover it up and was fired. Charges were never filed. Louisiana Tech is still in the process of searching for a new mascot.
A 6-month-old infant was found dead in her father's SUV in the employee parking lot of the LSU Medical Center on August 22. The coroner ruled little Lourdes Marie Duvall's death from heat stroke accidental. The child's father was never charged.
Chimp Haven welcomed yet another baby chimpanzee into the Keithville sanctuary in August. Ginger, a 42-year-old former pet and research chimpanzee, gave birth to a baby girl. A sponsor would later step forward to name and "adopt" Natalie, committing to support the chimp for life.
Natalie, it turned out, was the third baby sired at the sanctuary by the potent Conan, who was vasectomized for a third time after Ginger's pregnancy was discovered. All the female chimps were also placed on birth control.
It was end of the line for Shreveport's GM plant. The last truck rolled off the assembly line there on August 28. After decommissioning, the property was turned over to the RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust. The trust was set up and tasked with cleaning up, maintaining and selling 89 former GM plants in 14 states in the wake of the automaker's bankruptcy.
August also brought Hurricane Isaac to south Louisiana, and hundreds of evacuees to shelters the ArkLaTex. A Shreveport native and member of the Louisiana National Guard was killed and another was injured in a wreck when their Humvee flipped after being rear-ended by an 18-wheeler on I-49 in Natchitoches Parish. The Humvee was part of a military convoy returning to Shreveport after helping hurricane victims in the Hammond area.
Four East Texas men were killed in a plane crash in Wyoming in early October. The plane went missing while en route from Harrison County to Casper, Wyoming on Tuesday, October 9. After a two-day search, the wreckage of the Piper PA-32 was found on a rocky ledge on the south face of Wyoming's Laramie Peak. Two days later, crews recovered the remains of 29-year-old James Morgan of Marshall, TX, 52-year-old Charles Ford of Marshall, TX, 21-year-old Maverick Cayce of Longview TX and 65-year-old Billy Gee of Karnack, TX. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash.
One of the biggest stories of the year in the ArkLaTex was the explosion inside a bunker owned by Explo Systems Inc. at Camp Minden in Webster Parish in mid-October.
The force of the blast was felt across a wide area, with reports of people feeling it in Shreveport and Bossier and beyond. Initial speculation included the possibility of a meteor strike. The event resulted in a flood of phone calls to the KSLA News 12 newsroom and to the Webster Parish Sheriff's Office.
The National Weather Service later confirmed a debris/smoke plume was captured on radar. Louisiana State Police say the investigation into that blast is what ultimately led to the discovery of some 6 million pounds of improperly stored M6 propellant on the Explo site and the evacuation of Doyline. Operations to relocate and secure the black powder are ongoing.
Word of the horrific ordeal of a young Winnsboro woman attacked in a city park and set on fire sparked outrage and speculation on social media that it was a hate crime, especially after it was confirmed by the Franklin Parish Sheriff that "KKK" was scrawled in the hood of her car, along with a racial slur.
20-year-old Sharmeka Moffitt underwent surgery at the Regional Burn Center at LSU Health and a vigil was planned in Winnsboro, but before it got underway, police made a stunning revelation: Moffitt had allegedly made it all up, setting herself on fire before calling 911. Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas said Moffitt's fingerprints had been found on a lighter and bottle of lighter fluid found at the scene.
Moffitt was released from the hospital in December and was interviewed by state police. Once their investigation is complete, they say the case will be handed over to the Franklin Parish District Attorney's office.
An apartment manager was shot to death on October 10 at the Lexington Place Apartments in Bossier City, allegedly by a fired maintenance man. Police say 54-year-old Robert Earl Walter showed up with a gun at the apartment office and shot 32-year-old April Fulghum before fleeing the scene in a pickup truck. Later the same day, Walter turned himself in to Shreveport police at their training academy on Greenwood Road. He is charged with second degree murder.
In late October, a woman was shot by her estranged husband in her car as police chased the man at the wheel. It was a pursuit that began in north Shreveport and ended in Caddo Parish, with Donnie Plater opening fire and two Shreveport Police officers who returned fire. 42-year-old Donnie Plater was killed. 34-year-old Cindy Johnson West was found dead in the car.
Christopher Cope was convicted October 30 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Shreveport Police Sgt. Timothy Prunty. It only took the jury just over an hour to come back with that verdict. The jury deadlocked in the sentencing phase of the trial, unable to come to a unanimous decision on life in prison or the death penalty. That resulted in mistrial and an automatic life sentence for Cope. There was more drama during the formal sentencing, when a nephew of Sgt. Prunty dove at Cope in the courtroom, swinging and missing before deputies pulled him away. He was not charged.
A jogger made a shocking discovery early one Saturday morning in November: A woman's body in a field in Southwest Shreveport. Police would later identify the victim as 68-year-old Rose Coleman and arrest Stacy Blount, 28. Police say Blount carjacked Coleman at a local casino and killed her. Blount and Coleman's car ended up in Natchitoches, where police arrested her. Blount is charged with second degree murder.
It was at the end of November that the Louisiana State Police revealed the discovery of what turned out to be at least 6 million pounds of improperly stored M6 propellant, a black powder used in artillery shells on property at Camp Minden leased by Explo Systems, Inc.
The discovery resulted in the evacuation of the entire town of Doyline while crews worked to move and secure the material. It was an operation that would stretch into December.
By November 30, the first civil suit was filed against Explo. The lawsuit was filed in Webster Parish on behalf of four local plaintiffs, claiming an expected loss in property values. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are also asking for class action status so that more local residents can join the suit.
The year came to a violent close for employees at a Marshall, Texas restaurant. Two employees were shot at the Domino's Pizza on December 7. 21-year-old shift manager Raymond Gomez was killed. 28-year-old manager Lottie Langer was injured. Police released surveillance images of the suspected gunman, which resulted in a flood of tips and led to the arrest of 25-year-old Eric Alexander Mills early the following morning.
A lot happened this year in the ArkLaTex, from crime and tragedy to outrageous and odd. As 2012 comes to a close, what do you think were the biggest stories of the year?
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