Local News

John William King Had No Last Words Before his Execution for the Heinous Dragging Death of James Byrd Jr.

A man who helped carry out the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. — one of the most horrific hate crimes in modern American history — was executed by injection on Wednesday evening in a Texas prison.

John William King, 44, was one of three men convicted for the murder. He is the second person to die for the crime that made news around the world and helped inspire Congress to pass federal hate crime legislation.
King was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m. (8:08 p.m. ET) at Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville.
According to Jeremy Desel with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, King had his eyes closed and replied “No” to the warden when asked whether he had any last words.
King did give a written statement that said, “Capital Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment.”
Desel said the execution was delayed because the case went to the US Supreme Court before moving ahead at 6:56 p.m.
Clara Byrd Taylor said while watching her brother’s killer die she felt nothing.
“There was no sense of relief,” she said.
She called the execution a “just punishment.”
King showed no remorse, not Wednesday, not ever, she said.
The killer had his eyes closed the entire time he was on the gurney, Desel said, and only moved once, taking one deep breath as the execution started.
Byrd’s acquaintances told police they’d seen Byrd, who was black, at a party the night of June 6, 1998, that he’d left around 2 a.m. and was later seen riding in the bed of a pickup with three white men in the cab.
Authorities said King, Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Berry picked up Byrd and drove him to a secluded area where they beat him and spray-painted his face before tying a logging chain around his ankles and dragging him behind a pickup truck for almost 3 miles.
Brewer died by injection in 2011Berry was sentenced to life in prison and is eligible for parole in 2038.
While most murders are brutal, the viciousness of Byrd’s killing shocked the world. NBA star Dennis Rodman came forward to pay for Byrd’s funeral. Filmmakers produced multiple documentaries. Artists including Geto Boys, Drive-By Truckers and Will Smith referenced the violent saga in their songs. Maryland poet laureate Lucille Clifton penned an ode to Byrd.
Most importantly, the 49-year-old’s slaying spurred Texas and Congress to push through hate crime legislation. The federal act is often associated with the killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay student beaten to death in Wyoming, but the full name of the law is the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
King had long maintained his innocence, once sending a letter to the Dallas Morning News that would later be used against him. He had said the evidence presented in his case was circumstantial and that Berry was solely responsible for Byrd’s death.
King has repeatedly appealed his guilty verdict, claiming ineffective assistance from his counsel, but a federal appeals court upheld his conviction last year, and the US Supreme Court declined to hear his case in October.
Though the motive was never specifically outlined, race was a theme in King’s trial. Prosecutors presented evidence that King had been an “exalted cyclops” of the white supremacist Confederate Knights of America and regularly drew lynching scenes.
King was the third prisoner executed in Texas this year, after cop killer Robert Mitchell Jennings and triple murderer Billie Wayne Coble.

Vernon Parish Deputy Retires at Age 84

On Wednesday, the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Department honored a long-time member of their family at a retirement ceremony.

84-year-old Deputy Jim Wilson is known for his endless work-ethic and positive attitude. He spent more than forty years with VPSO, 34 of those full-time namely as a patrolman and in civil service. The Indiana native came to Vernon Parish in 1955 as a soldier during the post World War II Louisiana Maneuvers called Exercise Sage Brush. As the story goes, Wilson met a sweet country girl from Evans and has been there ever since.

Deputy Wilson said he always wanted to be a police officer and loved his job. Through the years as his colleagues retired, the running joke at VPSO was if Wilson would ever be next. “I’m 84-years-old and I just don’t want to stop,” he said.

The retiree isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “I’ve got plenty to do around my place. Gardening…keeping things in good shape like working on my house and things like that. That’s a never-ending job,” laughed Wilson.



Police Search for Runaway

Shreveport police are searching for a missing teen believed as a runaway.

On April 20, 2019, 15-year-old Rontreveus Norman was reported as a runaway. Norman was last seen in the 600 block of West 64th Street on April 16, 2019. He is 5’6” tall and weighs approximately 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing white jeans, white T-shirt, and Fila flip flops.

Detectives are asking for the public’s help to locate Norman. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to contact Shreveport Police immediately at 318-673-7300 option #3.


Suspect arrested in stabbing death of 67-year-old Oberlin man

Police in Oberlin are investigating a stabbing that resulted in the death of a 67-year-old man according to Oberlin Police Chief Grady Haynes.

The investigation began when officers responded to a call from a home on E. 5th Avenue about a man laying in a pool of blood on the floor, Haynes said.

Officers entered the home and found the body of 67-year-old Leroy Shallow on the floor. The two occupants of the home were taken into custody and questioned.

According to Haynes, after a thorough investigation, 26-year-old Serena Irene Reyes was booked Saturday night on one count of second-degree murder.

Reyes is accused of stabbing Shallow to death. Authorities said Reyes told them a verbal argument lead to her stabbing Shallow multiple times.

Reyes is being held in the Allen Parish Jail on a $300,000 bond.


2 Men Arrested for Burglary, Other Charges Following DeSoto Parish Search

A DeSoto Parish sheriff’s K-9 got a bite out of two burglary suspects who were on the run part of Sunday afternoon.

The two men – Christopher James Fitch, 37, of Mooringsport and Christopher Fisk, 41, of Pitkin – were arrested following a manhunt along U.S. Highway 171 between Mansfield and Grand Cane.

They ran after someone saw them shortly after noon trespassing on Marsha and Reimer Calhoun’s property. Descriptions of the men were provided to the sheriff’s office, which responded with deputies, K-9, helicopter and drone.

One man was captured quicker than the other. The search went on until about dark for the second one who finally stepped out of the woods near a road across from the airport.

K-9 teams were instrumental in both men’s apprehension.

In their investigation, deputies discovered the Calhoun’s home and outbuildings had been burglarized.

Fitch is charged with burglary of an inhabited dwelling, resisting an officer and possession of Schedule II drugs. His bonds total $45,000.

Fisk is charged with fugitive from justice, possession of Schedule II drugs, resisting an officer and burglary of an inhabited dwelling. His bond is also $45,000.


DPS: Suspects Attempt to Evade Law Enforcement, Drive into Toledo Bend Reservoir

The Texas Department of Public Safety said three Center residents Saturday morning were arrested following a pursuit that ended in Toledo Bend Reservoir.

According to DPS, the preliminary information indicates at approximately 12:30 a.m., a DPS Trooper attempted to stop a 2008 Cadillac passenger car for a traffic violation on State Highway 87 when the driver fled from the Trooper in the vehicle, a felony.

The driver evaded law enforcement through Shelby and San Augustine Counties before driving down County Road 2833 and into Toledo Bend Reservoir where the driver and two passengers were apprehended.

DPS said the driver of the vehicle is identified as 25-year-old Brent Denby from Center. Two passengers traveling with Denby were identified as 27-year-old Devin Jackson and 30-year-old Lindsey Bush, both from Center.

All three were transported to the Shelby County Jail for multiple felony and misdemeanor offenses. Jackson and Bush also had outstanding warrants out of Shelby County

The Center Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, and Shelby County Precinct One, Two, and Three Constable’s Offices assisted in this incident.


Former Leesville Officer in 2011 Felony Drug Case Charged with Retaliation in Texas

Charlie Gerard Lopez, a former Leesville police officer who was convicted in federal court in Alexandria in 2011 for two drug charges has been indicted for retaliation in connection to that case.

The Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches County in Texas reported last week that New Orleans resident Charlie Lopez was arrested and booked on April 15th on a second-degree felony for motion to revoke probation and a third-degree felony for obstruction or retaliation. The indictment states that in July 2018, Lopez allegedly threatened to kill a woman if she called police “in retaliation for or on account of her status as a witness who the defendant knew intended to report the crime.” In 2011, Lopez pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession of hydrocodone. Lopez also claimed he gave the drugs to former Leesville Police Chief Bobby Hickman in exchange for a promotion and overtime.



2 Rescued After Boat Starts Taking on Water on Sam Rayburn

Firefighters with the Etoile Volunteer Fire Department helped rescue a 12-year-old boy and an adult after their boat started taking on water at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

Nacogdcohes County Sheriff Jason bridges said the boat’s pump wasn’t working, an the high winds caused the boat to take on water.

Firefighters from the Etoile VFD helped rescue the duo and get them safely to shore.

Etoile VFD, the Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas Parks & Wildlife game wardens responded to the 911 call.

The adult and the boy did not need any medical attention, Bridges said.


Julie Anne’s Bakery & Cafe Co-Founder Dead at 76

Julie Anne Nelson, co-founder of Julie Anne’s Bakery & Cafe in Shreveport, has died. The 76-year-old suffered from complications associated with Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy.

According to her family, Nelson donated her remains to the LSU School of Medicine Anatomical Board, in hopes of finding a cure.

The bakery, which opened in 1992, is best known for their King Cakes and wide-variety of pastries.

Funeral arrangements have been made for 1:00 p.m. on May 18 at East Ridge Country Club.


Man Drowns After Boat Capsizes at Sam Rayburn Lake

One person drowned Thursday when a boat capsized at Sam Rayburn Lake.

About 8 p.m. Thursday, Texas Game Wardens were called out to Sam Rayburn Lake, near Rayburn Park in response to a drowning.

According to Texas Game Wardens Capt. Heath Bragg, when crews arrived on scene they found a 24-year-old man and a 58-year-old man. Crews were able to rescue the 24-year-old, who was wearing a life vest. The other man was deceased when crews arrived.

Bragg says conditions were rough and windy and the waves likely made it difficult for the boaters to stay on top of the water.

“With this spring, we’ve been having a lot of really volatile weather. I think it blew in on top of those guys and they tried to get out and they couldn’t,” he said.

No identities are being released at this time pending notification of family members, Bragg said.


Adult Killed, Several People Injured in Tyler County Church Bus Wreck

A church bus has been involved in a wreck in Tyler County.

Texas DPS Sgt. Stephanie Davis confirmed the crash occurred on Highway 69 just north of Warren at about 5:30 p.m. Davis said it involves multiple vehicles, and that there are injuries.

Sgt. Davis said initial reports indicated that First Baptist Church of Warren’s bus was traveling southbound on US Hwy 69 in Tyler County. According to witnesses, a passenger vehicle pulled out from a driveway in front of the bus. In an attempt to avoid colliding with the vehicle, the driver of the bus tried to maneuver around the vehicle, but lost control. The bus traveled off the roadway and struck a tree, Davis says.

At the time of the crash, there were nine occupants on the bus, including six kids ranging in age from 9-14.

The driver, 38-year-old Robert Craig of Wildwood, was transported to a local hospital with serious injuries. According to the church’s website, Craig is the minister of students at the church.

One of the adult passengers, 62-year-old Doug Sheffield of Warren, was flown to a Beaumont hospital with serious injuries.

The second adult passenger, 42-year-old James Craft Jr. of Woodville, was pronounced deceased by Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford at the scene, Davis said.

The children were transported to separate hospitals and their injuries are not believed to be life threatening. Two children were transported to Tyler County hospital; two children were transported to Baptist hospital and one child was transported St. Elizabeth hospital. The final child was transported by personal vehicle to a Beaumont hospital, according to Davis.

Milton Blades owns a meat market across the street from the scene of the wreck. He said he heard it when it happened.

“I heard the tires screeching and I heard them slam into the tree and I came out and my assistant manager and I ran across the road immediately, helping them get the children off the bus,” he said.

He said the experience was traumatic.

“We helped tear the back door open, because it was locked from the inside. We then helped get the children out. Ran around to the side and started trying to help the ones who were seriously injured.”

He said first responders arrived shortly after.

He said the wreck is upsetting most especially because children were involved.

“Very upsetting that the children had to go through this. I have grandchildren of my own and to see this happen is to those children is very hard.”

All northbound and southbound traffic lanes of US 69 were closed for approximately two hours, but have since reopened, Sgt. Davis confirms.

All information is preliminary as troopers investigate this fatal crash.


Arrest Warrant Issued for Second Student in Huntington Baseball Investigation

 UPDATE: An arrest warrant has been officially issued for George William Wagner, 17, after an indictment was handed down by a Grand Jury Wednesday.

A second student has been indicted in the Huntington baseball team hazing case.

According to Assistant District Attorney in Angelina County Ken Dies, the adult student is facing a charge of injury to a child, a third degree felony.

A warrant has not been issued at this time. Dies said he expects one will be issued later today or early tomorrow.

One student has already been indicted in connection to the investigation. Mario Martinez, 17, was indicted in March and later turned himself in to authorities. He was booked into the Angelina County jail and later bonded out.

He will be arrainged next Thursday.


Former Governor Kathleen Blanco Under Hospice Care

The Louisiana State Legislature announced Tuesday that former Governor Kathleen Blanco is under hospice care.

Blanco was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2011, and the disease reappeared during a checkup in 2017. In December 2018, she publicly said there’s “no escape” from the incurable cancer that has spread throughout her body.

“I think it’s biblical, and I think it’s practical that we pray for those that we know and love, that have served us together,” Sen. Long said Tuesday.

Legislative pool reporters also say President Bush has called Blanco during the recent news of her deteriorating health. Bush was president when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005. Blanco was serving as governor during the catastrophic storm.

“I’m asking all the people of Louisiana to pray for her and her family,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in an interview with WBRZ on Wednesday.

Blanco is a devout Catholic and says she’s made peace with the disease.


DPS Ramping Up Move Over/Slow Down Enforcement

Troopers in the Brazos Valley are increasing their enforcement of the ‘move over slow down’ law.

DPS periodically increases their enforcement throughout the year, in the Bryan district, officials will participate in those operations on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

The law requires drivers to move over or slow down when emergency and law enforcement vehicles and tow trucks are stopped on the side of the road with their emergency lights on.

In Texas, drivers must either get out of the lane closest to those vehicles stopped on the side of the road or slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit.

According to DPS, if the speed limit is below 25 mph, drivers are required to slow down to 5 mph.

“In light of the numerous vehicle crashes that occur in Texas and across the nation on a daily basis, and the unfortunate fact that many still violate the state law that has been in effect over 15 years, we are increasing our enforcement and education efforts related to this law,” said Director McCraw.

“In addition to complying with the law to protect those who work on the side of the road, we encourage motorists to show the same courtesy to fellow drivers stopped along the roadways. Let’s all get home safely.”

Depending on the situation, violators of the law can be fined anywhere from $200 to $2,000.

The fines increase when property damage and/or bodily injuries are involved.


La. Man Sentenced to Life in Prison in Connection with Killing of Soldier

Tobias Williams will spend the rest of his life behind bars in connection to the 2016 death of Fort Polk Capt. Jonathan Ellis.

On Tuesday, Williams was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and 40 years for obstruction of justice for his role in the shooting death of Ellis.

Last month, a jury unanimously found Williams guilty of both charges. The shooter, Wanda Gordon, is serving 40 years for manslaughter after taking a guilty plea last year. William’s then-girlfriend Dominischa Smith was in court Tuesday for a bond reduction hearing. Smith was arrested shortly after William’s trial for perjury.

Testimony revealed that Gordon shot Ellis in the back of the head on the night of Sept. 19, 2016. Williams admitted to burning the body for about three days. Investigators would later find the charred bone fragments of Ellis in a burn pile on William’s property and two other locations behind his house.

Ellis’ abandoned truck and his cell phone, which had been sold, led investigators to Williams and Gordon.