Local News

Audit Report Alleges Former Clerk Bilked Oakdale of Nearly $1 Million

The long-awaited investigative audit into Oakdale city funds is out and the findings are not good.

The audit claims that before her death, city clerk Melissa “Lisa” Schaefer manipulated computer equipment to give herself close to a million dollars over about seven years.

Schaefer worked for the City of Oakdale from 2002 until her death in 2021. The mayor indicated records before 2014 were not available.

Officials say she manipulated electronic devices known as “tokens” to take money for herself from the city’s bank account. The two tokens were meant to be in the hands of two different city employees, but the audit says Schaefer had both.

Through this process, the audit says Schaefer received about $770,000.

And then, the audit says she received more money by using city checks to divert funds to herself and by reimbursing herself for credit card purchases that provided no benefit to the city.

Mayor Gene Paul says it’s sad for the city and its people.

“It’s a very, very sad time for all involved and the taxpayers of Oakdale – the citizens of Oakdale. It’s just a bad, bad shadow on this city,” Paul said.

“When you have someone that you put 100% trust in and you find out that they’re being dishonest, it’s a pretty good lick,” Paul said.

Paul says Schaefer created false records to make it look as though the funds had been reconciled with city books.

“And she was making fraudulent invoices to plug numbers to try to make it balance out,” Paul said.

Schaefer died March 11, 2021, the day after the mayor says he confronted her about the missing money.

“And she said ‘Mayor, I need to go home for a minute. I need to get something.’ I said, ‘Sure.’ And she left, and she didn’t come back,” Paul said. He says the investigation never revealed anyone else involved in the wrongdoing. “I think she was good at what she did. She didn’t wake up one morning and decide this is what I’m going to do,” Paul said. “I think she had this very well planned out, and I think she was good at what she did.” Paul says the city attorney is trying to recover the city’s money through the court system.

Paul also says checks and balances are now in place to try to prevent future wrongdoing.

He expects the council to hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday when they will discuss the audit findings.


Palestine Man Accused of Fatally Striking Pedestrian, Fleeing Scene Before Crashing Out

A Palestine man has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a woman who was killed after being struck by a vehicle.

According to a report by the Palestine Police Department, Kandy Sexton, 41, of Palestine was struck by a vehicle shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Saturday at the intersection of South Loop 256 and Old Elkhart Road. Sexton was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect, later identified as Colby Gholston, 30, of Palestine, was said to have fled the scene immediately following the incident. Later that evening, Palestine police said they were notified by the Texas Department of Public Safety that a vehicle matching the description of Gholston’s had crashed on State Highway 84 east of Palestine.

Palestine detectives responded to the crash scene and were able to identify the truck as being the same vehicle that struck Sexton. Gholston was placed under arrest and transported to the Anderson County Jail with a charge of driving while intoxicated.

An arrest warrant was later obtained for Gholston for intoxicated manslaughter with a bond of $1 million.

The investigation is ongoing.


Wild Weather: Possibility of Tornadoes Wednesday, Snow Thursday & Friday

The National Weather Service in Lake Charles is saying that this area has a possibility of tornadoes on Wednesday, followed by a possibility of snow on Thursday night and Friday morning.

According to Warning Coordination Meteorologist Roger Erickson, a strong cold front will come through Wednesday night through Thursday morning, bringing with it severe thunderstorms and a chance for isolated tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds.

This will be followed by very cold air moving in that could freeze lingering precipitation, resulting in a slight chance of snow, sleet, or freezing rain Thursday night through Friday morning.

Here is the forecast from the National Weather Service:

Wednesday – A slight chance of showers before noon, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between noon and 4pm, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 74. Southwest wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Wednesday Night – Showers and thunderstorms likely before 9pm, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm between 9pm and midnight, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37. South wind 5 to 15 mph becoming north after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Thursday – Cloudy, with a high near 44. North wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Thursday Night – A slight chance of rain showers and sleet before midnight, then a slight chance of rain or freezing rain between midnight and 3am, then a slight chance of snow showers after 3am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 26. North wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Friday – Mostly sunny, with a high near 43. North wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Friday Night – Mostly clear, with a low around 25. Northeast wind around 5 mph.

Saturday – Sunny, with a high near 49. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.

Saturday Night – Partly cloudy, with a low around 29.

Sunday – Mostly sunny, with a high near 54.


Authorities Asking for Public’s Assistance Investigating Elton Shooting

Authorities are asking for the public’s assistance regarding a shooting on Second Street in Elton last night, according to the Jeff Davis Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Deputy Chris Ivey says the shooting occurred around midnight on Jan. 17.

During the incident, authorities say a female victim was shot twice. She was later transported to a Lafayette hospital for treatment.

The Jeff Davis Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone who might have information on the incident to call them at 337-821-2100.


Family of Four Escape Fire on Vernal Lane

A fire on Vernal Lane in Shreveport Monday evening has destroyed a family’s home.

The fire occurred in the the 800 block of Vernal Lane, in the Southern Hills neighborhood around 3:08 p.m. Calls to the Shreveport Fire Department originated from multiple callers, including the home owner who noticed heavy black smoke exiting the structure.

Heavy smoke and flames visible from the front and left side of a one-story wood-framed structure were reported. Fire crews extinguished the blaze from the interior of the structure while, dealing with a gas leak. The home included two adults, two kids, and a dog, which were able to safely escape prior to fire units arrival.

One of the occupants stated the smoke was first noticed in the carport area. Neighbors stated they heard explosions prior to noticing the home on fire.

According to Battalion Chief Jackie Hutchinson the home is uninhabitable and will be a total loss, due to the heavy fire damage.  Fire Investigators will be trying to determine the cause of the fire and explosions.

There were no injuries to firefighters or citizens.


La. Department of Revenue to Accept State Income Tax Filings Starting Jan. 24

The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) announced Monday in a press release that it would begin accepting state income tax filings on January 24, the same date the federal Internal Revenue Service will begin accepting federal income tax filings.

Taxpayers will be able to file their taxes through the state’s official online filing website, using commercial tax preparation software, or by mail using printed official state forms.

LDR says those that file electronically can expect their returns to be processed within 45 days whereas those who file by mail can expect to their filings to be processed within about 3 and a half months.

LDR encourages taxpayers who have moved or changed their name since filing their previous return to fill out the online address change form.

Though it does not affect this year’s filings, LDR reminded residents that income earned in 2022 will be taxed at a lower rate in the state.

Those in the lowest of Louisiana’s three income tax brackets will see the smallest decrease going from an state income tax rate of 2.00% on money earned last year to 1.85% for 2022. Those who made $12,500 or less in 2021 qualify for the lowest bracket if they are filing as single; married filing separately; or head of household.

Taxpayers in the middle income bracket will pay a rate of 3.50% on money earned this year, down 0.50% from 4.00%. The middle bracket for single filers; married filing separately filers; and head of household filers ranges from $12,501 to $50,000.

Those in the highest income tax bracket, who paid 6.00% in 2021, pay 4.25% in 2022. Single filers; married filing separately filers; and head of household filers who made $50,001 or more qualify for the top bracket.

The 1.75% drop for those in the highest tax bracket is three and a half times the decrease in percentage points taxpayers in the middle bracket will get and more than 11 times the decrease in percentage points that those in the lowest tax bracket will see.

The income bracket thresholds for those who file as married, filing jointly or as a qualified surviving spouse are doubled for all three brackets.

Unless an extension is granted, state income taxes are due May 16, 2022.

La. Department of Revenue to accept state income tax filings starting Jan. 24

Lost Man Finds His Way Out of the Woods After a Cold Night

A man lost in a wooded area had a very cold night before finally finding his way out on Sunday morning.

According to Jasper County Emergency Corps President Billy Williford, a group of three people on Saturday were camped in the area where the Angelina and Neches Rivers converge in northwest Jasper County just above Steinhagen Reservoir. However, when they decided to leave, Williford said there was a disagreement among them on which direction would lead them out.

Williford said two people left and made it out without a problem, while the third man, said to be a resident of Santa Fe, Texas, went a different direction and also left his cell phone behind at their campsite.

Williford said the two that made it out reported their friend missing at about 7:30 Saturday evening, so Jasper County deputies and the Emergency Corps began a search that went until about midnight.

They resumed their search at 8:00 Sunday morning, and shortly thereafter they received word that the lost man had found his way out of the woods near Farm to Market Road 1747.


Lufkin Man Set Bed on Fire Because ‘He was Being Evicted, Had Nowhere to Go,’ Police Say

A Lufkin man is in jail after police say he confessed to arson.

A Lufkin police officer responded to a house fire scene in the 900 block of Weaver Ave. on Sunday night to assist with traffic control while firefighters worked to put out the fire.

As he was was working traffic control, the officer said a man approached him at around 9:50 p.m. The man, identified as Terry Tyrone Jones, 58, said to the officer that he had started the fire.

The officer asked him what he meant, according to a statement by Lufkin police. The man then said that he was being evicted from the home the next day and had nowhere to go, so he poured gas on his bed and lit it with a cigarette lighter.

After speaking with other witnesses, the officer spoke with a fire marshal investigator about the man’s admission. Jones was arrested for first-degree felony arson.

No one was injured in the fire. The incident is still under investigation by the Lufkin Fire Marshal’s Office.


Pineville, Vidalia OMV Locations Reopen Jan. 18

The Pineville and Vidalia OMV locations will reopen Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

Customers can schedule an appointment for the Pineville field office by clicking on the “Book Appointment” icon at expresslane.org. Appointments are not required at the Vidalia field office.


Sabine Parish Police Jury

The Sabine Parish Police Jury will Hold a regular meeting Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 9 a.m. in the Police Jury Meeting Room of the Sabine Parish Courthouse, 400 S. Capitol Street in Many, Louisiana.

Woman Driving on Flat Tire Causes Roadside Fires

Deputies, troopers, firefighters, and motorists all worked together on Monday afternoon to put out an approximately half-mile long stretch of roadside fires, and it was all caused by a woman driving on a flat tire. It happened at about 1:30 on U.S. Highway 96, between Evadale and Buna.

911 dispatchers began receiving calls reporting a woman driving a 2016 Nissan car northbound with a flat front passenger side tire and the vehicle was throwing sparks and flaming pieces of rubber onto roadside grass, setting it on fire.

A Jasper County deputy located the woman after her vehicle ran into a ditch next to the highway.

Sergeant Shana Clark of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that 42-year-old Christy Keith, of Buna, was issued a citation by a trooper for Operating a Vehicle in an Unsafe Manner.


2 Dead After Helicopter Crash in Louisiana Marshland, Officials Say

 A helicopter crashed in Louisiana marshland on Friday, killing two people on board, officials say.

A spokesperson for the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office says a caller reported seeing a helicopter go down on the west side of the parish near the edge of the levee system in Larose.

The call came in around 10 a.m. on Jan. 14, officials say.

Search crews spent hours circling an area south of Larose and spotted the wreckage deep in the muddy marsh, according to the sheriff’s office.

Parish President Archie Chaisson says the helicopter nosedived before crashing and is mostly submerged in mud and water. He says there are no survivors.

Officials are working to notify the family of the two passengers before releasing the victims’ identities.

A staging area for the search has been set up at the Bason Marina in Cut Off.


Barbay headed to Mansfield

KJAS Radio News has confirmed that Darrell Barbay, the head coach and athletic director of Jasper High School, has resigned and is headed to Louisiana.

Superintendent John Seybold confirmed Friday afternoon that he met with Barbay on Thursday evening and was told of the departure.

Seybold said Barbay explained that he had accepted the job of head coach and athletic director in Mansfield, and that they want him there next week. Seybold went on to say, “We hate to see him go, he has done a good job for us and will be missed.”

It had been rumored in recent weeks that Barbay might be making a move. Mansfield is a town of just over 5,000 located about 30 miles south of Shreveport in DeSota Parish.

Barbay, who came to Jasper in April of 2012, has 28 years of experience in athletics with an overall record of 160-85 as prepares to lead the Mansfield Wolverines.

Barbay came to Jasper from Anahuac, but had also coached at Hull-Daisetta. He is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.

Currently, Mansfield is a 3A school, but will soon become a 2A campus under the planned reclassification to take place in Louisiana.

In a letter to the administration, Barbay said “My family and I have been proud to be Bulldogs and are grateful for this chapter in our lives.”

Barbay went on to say, “I wanted to let you all know how much Ive enjoyed working with you throughout my ten years here and I wish you the best.”


Burkeville Resident Injured in Wreck West of Jasper

A woman from nearby Burkeville was injured in a two vehicle that occurred just west of Jasper on Friday evening. The crash occurred shortly after 7:00 on Highway 63 West at County Road 168, commonly known as Ryall Acres.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Shana Clark said Abby Fancher, 20, of Burkeville, was driving a 2019 Dodge SUV westbound and was followed by a 2007 Ford car, driven by Quinton Crow, 18, of Jasper.

Clark said Fancher slowed to make a turn into Ryall Acres and was apparently rear ended by the vehicle driven by Crow.

Sergeant Clark said Crow received a citation for Failure to Control Speed.


Calhoun Drug Arrest

Justin Jeremy Cahoun (age-34) of Many was arrested at Timbers Apartments in Many early Sunday morning for several drug charges. 

Sabine Parish Patrol Sergeant N. Sandel and Deputy J. Bridges responded to a disturbance call at the apartment complex just after midnight. Deputies noticed Calhoun run from his parked vehicle towards the woods near the complex. 

Deputies observed Calhoun throw a plastic bag when they caught up to him. Deputies discovered approximately 1 ounce of suspected methamphetamine, ½ ounce of crack cocaine, 3 ounces of marijuana, Clonazepam pills, and measuring scales in the bag. Deputies also found over $1000 cash in Calhoun’s pants pocket. 

Deputies seized the narcotics, cash, and Calhoun’s 2018 gray Volkswagen Jetta. 

Calhoun had several prior narcotics arrests according to his criminal history record. 

Calhoun was booked into the Sabine Parish Detention Center for Possession with intent to distribute schedule I (Marijuana), Possession with intent to distribute schedule II (Meth), Possession with intent to distribute schedule II (Crack Cocaine), Possession of schedule IV (Clonazepam), Possession of drug paraphernalia, Second or subsequent offenses, Flight from officer. 

No bond has been set at this time by the 11th Judicial District Court. 

Sheriff Aaron Mitchell wanted to recognize Sgt Sandel and Deputy Bridges for their quick action in this case to get these illegal narcotics off the streets. 

Sheriff Mitchell also wanted to commend all his patrol deputies who are out in the parish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep Sabine Parish citizens safe. 

Fire Destroys Sabine Parish Mobile Home

A mobile home in Sabine Parish was destroyed by a fire Sunday morning.

The fire happened around 8 a.m. on Pine Thicket Road off Louisiana Highway 1215. North Sabine Fire Units and Sabine Parish sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene. It appears no one was home at the time and no injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


JRTC Fort Polk Shares Information on the Renovations to the Middle School and Teen Center

JRTC Fort Polk announced construction on at $10.2 million renovation project to refresh the Siegfried Middle School and Teen Center has begun with the intent to create a fine arts area, music room, dance areas, multi-craft space, a gaming zone, and multiple recreational play areas. The estimated completion date is June 2023.

The current $1.8 million renovation of the outdoor basketball court and sports area adjacent to the middle school and teen center is on target to be completed this March.

The Middle School and Teen Center program and services will reopen on Tuesday, January 18, in Building 774, 7600 Utah Avenue and co-locate with t the new STARBASE program. School bus drop from the area schools to the new facility will continue and operational hours will remain the same: Monday – Thursday 2:30 p.m. – 7p.m.; Friday and Saturday 2:30 p.m. – 10p.m.). Shuttle transportation to the Youth Fitness Center for basketball and sports will be provided.


Police: Victim Suffered Scratches After He Struggled with Longview Man Accused of Pulling Knife

Longview police officers arrested a 59-year-old man Friday after he allegedly pulled a knife on another man because he was upset that a maintenance man hadn’t fixed something in his apartment.

Charles Emmett Leffel is still being held in the Gregg County jail on a felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. His bond amount has been set at $10,000.

According to Brandon Thornton with the Longview Police Department, the incident occurred at the Driftwood Apartments Friday afternoon.

Thornton said Leffel and another man allegedly got into an argument because Leffel was angry that the apartment complex’s maintenance man had not fixed something at his residence.

Leffel allegedly pulled a knife on the other man, who grabbed his arm in possible an effort to disarm him. During the ensuing scuffle, the victim suffered minor scratches to his neck and arm, Thornton said.

Thornton said the Longview PD officers that responded to the 911 call said Leffel was highly intoxicated. Leffel was arrested at the scene and taken to the county jail.


Shreveport Woman Accused of Stabbing Husband

A 46-year-old Shreveport woman has been arrested on a charge of domestic abuse battery with a dangerous weapon after she stabbed her husband in the hand, according to Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator.

Suzanne Holcomb Adams, 46, was booked Tuesday into the Caddo Correctional Center. Her bond has been set at $50,000.

Prator said Adams and her husband were engaged in a dispute and struggle inside a car when she gabbed a knife from the driver’s side panel door and stabbed her husband.

He was taken to Ochsner’s LSU Health for treatment.


Sunday Morning Fire Destroys Home North of Jasper

A heater is thought to have possibly sparked a fire that severely damaged and gutted a wood frame home just north of Jasper on Sunday morning.

The volunteers of the Jasper Fire Department were dispatched to the location about four miles north of Jasper on Highway 96, shortly before noon, when a passing motorist reported that smoke was coming from the attic of the single story structure. However, shortly after the Jasper Firefighters arrived, they immediately called for help form both the East End and Lake Rayburn Fire Departments.

The owner of the home, Stanley Sanchez said he was in the process of remodeling the residence. Sanchez said he went to the home a few hours before to work, but realizing how cold it was in the house, turned on the heater and left with plans of returning.

The firemen from all three departments were hampered by the wind and it took almost an hour to finally bring fire under control.

The fire was far away from any fire hydrants and the firefighters had to deploy a large drop tank at the scene, prompting the closure of the northbound lane of Highway 96 for some time.

No injuries resulted from the incident.


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