Local News

Autopsy shows Audrii Cunningham died from blunt force trauma to her head – February 23, 2024

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office has released autopsy results which say that 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham died as a result of blunt force trauma to her head. Audrii disappeared on Thursday, February 15th and her body was recovered on Tuesday, February 20th in the Trinity River below the Highway 59 bridge. Don Steven McDougal, 42, is charged with capital murder in her death. However, the Polk County District Attorney’s Office has not yet said if they plan to seek the death penalty. Investigators say McDougal was a friend of the child’s father and he had been allowed to live in a travel trailer behind their home on the east shore of Lake Livingston. An arrest affidavit said that after killing the child, McDougal used a rope to tie a large rock to her body in order to weigh it down in the river.

Lufkin police arrest 2 in drive-by shooting that struck man inside home – February 23, 2024

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) – Lufkin Police Department arrested two men on Thursday morning in connection to a drive-by shooting. The shooting happened on Ross Avenue Wednesday night. According to Lufkin PIO Jessica Pebsworth, Chey Venegas, 18, and David Brown, 17, are both charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the incident. According to Pebsworth, at 8:30 Wednesday night Venegas and Brown drove by a home on Ross and shot toward a home. A male inside the home was struck in the legs by the gunfire. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Man found with Alissa Sandefer has now been charged – February 23, 2024

The Newton man who was found with 15-year-old Alissa Sandefer in Jasper County on Wednesday morning has now been charged. He has been identified as 25-year-old Bradley Le Blanc, and he’s charged with Harboring a Runaway Child and Burglary of a Habitation. LeBlanc was arraigned before Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mike Smith who set bond on the harboring charge at $500,001.00 and $25,000.00 on the burglary charge. Alissa went missing from her home in San Augustine County on Saturday, February 10th. She was found on Wednesday morning with LeBlanc in a house on County Road 89 in northwest Jasper County when a search warrant was executed there.

Man rescued after getting stuck in mudhole – February 23, 2024

KEITHVILLE, La. — Caddo firefighters joined family members Thursday night in rescuing a man trapped for hours in thick mud. The rescue happened around 6:30 p.m. in the 11000 block of Sungate Drive.  Caddo Fire District 4 firefighters arrived to find the man stuck in the mud from the knees down. He had been in the mudhole in a field for almost two hours.  Capt. Freddie Martin and members of CFD 4 C-Shift immediately began digging him out. They were joined by family members who used hand tools and a tractor as a sling to pull him from the hole without injury.

Natchitoches police seek suspect in overnight shooting – February 23, 2024

NATCHITOCHES, La. — Natchitoches police have issued an arrest warrant for a man wanted in an overnight shooting.  The warrant charges X’Zavierre Charles, 28, with attempted second-degree murder and aggravated criminal damage to property.  Natchitoches police responded to a report of gunshots in the 1100 block of Berry Avenue just after 8 p.m. Wednesday night. Officers found a crime scene and collected evidence, according to a news release. No other details about the shooting were released.  Charles is considered armed and dangerous so officers say no one should approach him. Instead, call the Police Department at 318-352-8101.  Anyone with additional information is asked to call Det. Rudy Glass at 318-357-3878.

Woman’s body recovered from the Sabine River – February 23, 2024

The body of a woman who jumped to her death from the Highway 190 bridge over the Sabine River last week was recovered early Thursday afternoon. Newton County Sheriff Robert Burby has identified her as 83-year-old Virginia Alvis Perkins, of Vidor, and he says her body was found on the shore of the Texas side of the river at a railroad bridge, just under a mile downstream from where she jumped. She was witnessed jumping off the bridge on Wednesday, February 14th. Burby said deputies found her vehicle nearby along with evidence which identified her and also told of her intentions. The search had lasted eight days, and involved volunteers using their own boats and others who flew drones.

Auto theft suspect at-large, vehicle recovered – February 22, 2024

An auto theft suspect was at-large in north Jasper County on Wednesday, and a stolen Ford F-250 pickup truck was recovered after he abandoned it. According to Jasper County Deputy Karli Cherry, the truck was stolen last week from an oil well site. Cherry said at about 11:00 Wednesday morning, someone saw the stolen truck being driven on County Road 200 and started following it while calling 911. As deputies were responding, Cherry said the suspect stopped in the area of County Road 200 and Farm to Market Road 1007 and then fled on foot into a wooded area. Cherry said Jasper County deputies and also a Jasper Police Department K-9 were searching for him, but the suspect remains on the run. He’s described as a white male who was wearing a gray tank-top shirt and dirty blue jeans with oil stains. If you see him in that area, you’re asked to call 911.

Candlelight vigil held for 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham in Livingston – February 22, 2024

LIVINGSTON, Texas (KTRE) – Wednesday night, the community of Livingston lit candles to remember the light that was Audrii Cunningham. The 11-year-old girl never made it to her bus stop on February 15. Sadly, her body was found in the Trinity River, after an extensive search by law enforcement and the community. “It’s hard, especially when your baby comes home and says, momma did they find her,” says a friend of the family. The main suspect in the death of Audrii, Don Steven McDougal, has been charged with Capital Murder. An autopsy is being conducted to determine the exact cause of Audrii’s death, but the candles lit tonight signify the lives she touched. “People from out of town that I met today at the bridge, leaving balloons. It affected everybody, Audrii is missed. She had a smile, oh my God,” says a friend of the family. Audrii was a 5th grade student at Livingston ISD. Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins says she lit up the lives of her teachers and classmates with just her smile. “When I look into the eyes of our staff and students, I know the impact that she made because I can see the pain,” says Hawkins. Livingston ISD released a statement following the announcement of Audrii’s death, saying they are heartbroken, and offered counseling to those who need it.

Drunk driver convicted of vehicular homicide in Natchitoches Parish – February 22, 2024

NATCHITOCHES, La. — A woman who killed a motorcyclist while driving drunk pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide Tuesday in Natchitoches Parish District Court. Heather De Los Santos, 36, was sentenced to serve time in a state prison. Santos was driving over the legal limit of alcohol when she turned in front of Rickey Smith, who was on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The crash on the Highway 1 By-pass happened on April 4, 2021. Smith died on April 17, 2021 of his injuries. Natchitoches police investigated the crash. Santos surrendered to authorities on June 7, 2021 and faced multiple charges. The state attorney general’s office prosecuted Santos.

Elderly couple die after crashing into downed tree on state highway – February 22, 2024

SALINE, La. — An elderly couple lost their lives Tuesday evening after crashing into a tree that had fallen across a state highway. State troopers identified the victims as Clois Williams, 82, and Mary Williams, 78, both of Saline. Neither was restrained. Both died at the scene.  Two other drivers also hit the same tree. They suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.  The crash happened just after 6:30 p.m. on state Highway 9 at the Bienville/Natchitoches parish line.  Troopers said their preliminary investigation indicated Clois Williams was driving south on the highway when he hit the tree that blocked both lanes of travel. Mary Williams was his passenger.

Missing San Augustine Co girl found safe and sound…man arrested – February 22, 2024

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Department has announced that a missing San Augustine County girl, 15-year-old Alissa Sandefer, has been found safe and sound.  According to Deputy Karli Cherry, Jasper County and San Augustine County deputies along with Jasper Police and the U.S. Marshal’s Service executed a search warrant at a camp house on County Road 086 in the north end of the county and found her there. Meanwhile, Cheery said a 25-year-old Newton County man was arrested on multiple charges, which included Harboring a Runaway Child. He’s currently in the Jasper County Jail, but his identity has not yet been released pending formal charges at arraignment. Alissa went missing on Saturday, February 10th. Her case was initially treated as a runaway, but the sheriff’s department later bumped her status up to be a missing person. Early on, investigators in San Augustine County said that she had ties to Jasper County and was known to be here quite often. That prompted local law enforcement to follow several leads in this area which finally panned out on Wednesday morning.

Thousands report AT&T cell service outages early Thursday; Verizon, T-Mobile also report disruptions, per outage-tracking site – February 22, 2024

SHREVEPORT, La. – There were more than 31,000 reports of outages involving AT&T customers early Thursday, according to outage-tracking site DownDetector, with outage reports dwindling to approximately 25,000 since the peak. Most customers could not make or receive calls, but texting appeared to be working. There also have been about 1,000 outages reported by both Verizon and T-Mobile customers in the same time period, the website indicates. If you were impacted, your iPhone likely entered SOS mode or no-service state. iPhone’s SOS mode kicks in when your cellular connection has been severed, meaning you can only complete SOS calls or texts to emergency services. People owning an iPhone 13 or earlier devices didn’t get the SOS indicator but saw a “No service” indicator, instead. It’s unclear what led to the service disruption.

Body of missing 11-year-old Texas girl found in a river – February 21, 2024

LINGSTON, Texas — A young girl reported as missing has been found dead. Audrii Cunningham. 11, disappeared last Thursday as she was on her way to the school bus in Livingston, Texas. Authorities located her body in a river on Tuesday. A man described as a friend of the family is expected to face capital murder charges. Don Steven McDougal, 42, was being questioned as a person of interest after being arrested Friday in an unrelated assault case. According to police, he lived in a trailer behind the family’s home. Authorities said Cunningham’s cause of death hadn’t been determined as of Tuesday evening. The Polk County Sheriff said McDougal admitted leaving the house with Audrii the morning she disappeared, but wouldn’t say what happened next.

Bunkie Woman and Marksville Man Killed in Avoyelles Parish Crash – February 21, 2024

Avoyelles Parish On February 20, 2024, at approximately 12:50 p.m., Louisiana State Police Troop E responded to a one-vehicle crash on Clyde Smith Road. The crash claimed the lives of 34-year-old Carrington Ramos of Bunkie and 30-year-old Elliot Charles Jordan III of Marksville. The initial investigation revealed that a 2008 Acura RDX, driven by Ramos, was traveling south on Clyde Smith Road. For reasons still under investigation, Ramos’ vehicle left the roadway, traveled down the ditch embankment and struck a tree. Ramos, who was not restrained, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Jordan, who also was not restrained, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Routine toxicology samples were obtained and submitted for analysis. This crash remains under investigation. While not all crashes are survivable, proper use of seat belts can greatly decrease an occupant’s chance of death and may greatly reduce the extent of injury. Always ensuring every occupant is properly restrained can often mean the difference between life and death. In 2024, Troop E has investigated five fatal crashes, resulting in six deaths.

Duncan says deputies following leads in case of missing San Augustine County girl – February 21, 2024

Early on in the case of a missing San Augustine County teenager, the Sheriff’s Department there noted that the girl, 15-year-old Alissa Sandefer, had ties to Jasper County and was known to be in and around Jasper often. Jasper County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Scotty Duncan says he and his deputies have been following leads in the case. On Monday Duncan said, “We’ve gotten several leads, matter of fact we got some leads this morning that we’re working with the sheriff’s office on and we’re following out at this time.” Sandefer has not been seen or heard from since Saturday, February 10th. She was initially considered to be a runaway, however, the San Augustine County Sheriff’s Department has since changed her status to be a missing person. Last week there were some ground searches with volunteers in the area where she lives, but they turned up no sign of the girl. Alissa Sandefer is a white female, she stands 5’04” and weighs 120 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes. If you have any information about the location of Alissa Sandefer, you’re asked to call the San Augustine County Sheriff’s Department at 936-275-2424, or any local law enforcement agency. You do not have to give your name.

Marshall police ask public to avoid road covered in chicken guts – February 21, 2024

MARSHALL, Texas (KLTV) – A truck carrying chicken guts spilled its contents on a Marshall road Tuesday morning. According to the Marshall Police Department Facebook page, a “chicken gut truck” left a “trail of blood and gore” on U.S. 59 just south of the S.H. 80 intersection. They asked that motorists avoid the affected lane while HAZMAT cleans the area. They also noted that drivers should consider keeping their windows rolled up while passing the scene.

Two arrested after former church was burglarized – February 21, 2024

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Department says two men are in custody after they burglarized an old former Catholic Church in Buna. Deputy Karli Cherry says the burglary-in-progress was reported at about 2:00 Tuesday morning in the 35,000 block of Highway 96. Cherry said deputies arrived to find electric wire rolled up on the ground, and as they were searching the building they found both suspects hiding in the attic. They’ve been identified as Deric Blankenship, 36, of Buna and Steven Massey, 46, of Jasper. Both have been charged with Burglary of a Building and Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity.

Alissa Sandefer remains missing from San Augustine County – February 20, 2024

A teenage girl from San Augustine County is still missing. Alissa Sandefer, 15, has not been seen or heard from since Saturday, February 10th. In the past week there have been organized searches with volunteers in the area where she lives, but they turned up no sign of the girl. She was initially listed as a runaway, however, the San Augustine County Sheriff’s Department updated her status to missing. It was also noted that she is known to frequent the Jasper area. Alissa Sandefer is a white female, she stands 5’04” and weighs 120 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes. If you have any information about the location of Alissa Sandefer, you’re asked to call the San Augustine County Sheriff’s Department at 936-275-2424, or any local law enforcement agency. You do not have to give your name.

One person is dead following several early morning crashes between jasper and Pineland – February 20, 2024

One person has died and others injured as the result of the series of accidents that occurred at about 8:00 Monday morning on Highway 96, between Brookeland and Pineland. The combination of smoke from controlled fires in the area along with heavy fog caused near zero visibility and is being blamed for the accidents which involved numerous vehicles. One elderly person died upon arrival at Sabine County Hospital in Hemphill. That person was a resident of Legacies Nursing & Rehabilitation in Hemphill and was a passenger in the nursing home’s van. The Texas Department of Public Safety says the preliminary crash investigation indicates that at approximately 8 a.m., a 2020 Dodge Caravan was traveling south and following a Ford F-150 and a Chevrolet Equinox. It is reported that there was heavy smoke in the area and the driver of the Caravan failed to control speed and struck both the Ford and the Chevrolet. After the crash, a truck tractor semi-trailer traveling north struck the Ford and pushed it back into the Caravan, causing the Caravan to then strike a Ford F-250 towing a trailer traveling south. The driver of the Caravan, identified as a 64-year-old woman from Bronson, and one passenger, were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. A passenger in the Dodge Caravan was also transported. She died at the hospital. She is identified as 80-year-old Patricia Ritter of Pineland. The nursing home released the following statement; “The Legacies” transportation van was involved in the pile up on 96 this morning caused from thick smoke. We are asking for prayers for the staff members involved, and the family of our dear resident that did not survive. Our Legacies Family is grieving.” The Highway had to be shut down and did not reopen until almost 11:00 as workers cleared the wreckage from the highway.

Resident of Sour Lake dies in Beaumont crash – February 20, 2024

A man from Sour Lake died in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 10 in Beaumont. Beaumont Police are still investigating the crash. It occurred in the 100 block of Interstate 10 North eastbound near Classic Acura early Sunday morning The crash shutdown exits from Interstate 10 and the Eastex Freeway onto Interstate 10 East. Preliminary investigations revealed that the motorcyclist, James Bolt, 56, of Sour Lake, was traveling east and was apparently attempting to close his saddle bag that opened on the motorcycle. Police say he lost control, hit the concrete divider, and was ejected from the bike. Bolt landed in the westbound lane, where he was struck by an unknown 18-wheeler. EMS pronounced him dead at the scene.

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