(KTAL/KMSS) – Many of the most-viewed and shared stories on ArkLaTexHomepage.com in 2019 unfortunately involved crime, loss, and tragedy. But there were big stories in weather, sports, and politics, too.
There was the deadly EF3 tornado that touched down in Ruston in April that took two lives and tore a path of destruction across the campus of Louisiana Tech. The battle over the removal of the Confederate monument outside the Caddo Parish Courthouse has continued through the summer and well into the fall.
President Trump’s November visit to Bossier City brought thousands to the CenturyLink Center to rally support for Republican gubernatorial challenger Eddie Rispone a week ahead of the election. It turned out not to be enough, however. Incumbent Governor John Bel Edwards won a second term in office, thanks in part to strong support from voters in Caddo Parish.
While the LSU Tigers’ triumphant season is more of a statewide story, locals and alumni everywhere are celebrating Joe Burrow’s historic Heisman win and cheering on the winning team as they head into the National College Football Championship on January 13.
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins faced his share of criticism and controversy in his first year in office, from his handling of the city’s insurance coverage to complaints that he did not offer enough support for the president’s visit to Bossier City. The first-term mayor also failed to drive enough voter support for an ambitious set of bond propositions totaling more than $186 million that would have funded a new police headquarters, as well as other police and fire upgrades and improvements to the city’s streets and drainage, parks, and public facilities.
Katie Bug’s Law was passed and signed into law in June, allowing officers to determine whether a driver should be tested for drugs in crashes that involve serious bodily injury. Previously, the law only allowed for post-accident drug testing when a collision resulted in an on-site fatality. The law is named in memory of Katie Grantham, who was critically injured in a 2017 crash in Bossier Parish.
But by far, the most-viewed story was indeed a tragic one and it came just days into the new year with the fatal shooting of Shreveport Police Officer Chatéri Payne. Payne was in uniform and getting ready to head into work when she was shot multiple times outside her home in the 1600 block of Midway Avenue on the night of January 9.
Trevon Anderson, 26; Lawrence Pierre, 21; and Glenn Frierson, 38, are all set to stand trial in March 2020 on charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in connection with her death. Police have said they believe Anderson, who was Payne’s boyfriend and the father of her child, shot and killed her and made up a story of her being killed by an unknown suspect.
If convicted, the three men each face a life term in prison without benefit of probation, parole or reduction in sentence. Frierson was sentenced to 12 years in prison in December on unrelated federal drug and weapons charges.
Throughout the year, a number of other violent crimes would come to dominate the headlines. Some have come to their conclusions with convictions and closure. Others remain unsolved, with questions unanswered. Others are working their way through the justice system. The following is a rundown of some of the most-followed crime stories we’ve covered this year, and where they stand now:
Before January 2019 was over, a surprise guilty plea from the Shreveport man accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend while on Facebook Live ended the need for a trial on dramatic fashion. The plea deal allowed Johnathan T. Robinson to avoid the death penalty for the April 2018 murder of Rannita Williams. In a show of faith and forgiveness that touched many, Rannita’s mother confirmed she approved of the plea deal, saying she didn’t believe in the death penalty – and that it wouldn’t bring her daughter back.
In May, the search for Maleah Davis came to a tragic end along I-30 in Fulton, Arkansas with the discovery of the 4-year-old girl’s body. Maleah had been missing since her stepfather reported her abduction during an alleged carjacking outside of Houston nearly a month earlier. Her cause of death has since been ruled homicidal violence. Derion Vence was indicted in October on charges of tampering with evidence and causing serious bodily injury to a child and remains held in custody. He’s due back in court in late January 2020. In November, a Hempstead County bridge was renamed for Maleah in her memory.
In June, 52-year-old mail carrier Antonio Williams was shot to death while delivering mail in Shreveport’s South Highland neighborhood. 32-year-old Michael Gentry remains in custody since his arrest on June 23, charged with second-degree murder in Williams’ death. A trial date has not been set.
In July, husband and father Roderick Gaut was shot to death in what police said was a dispute over a parking spot shortly after arriving home from the funeral of a relative. Ronald Parker was arrested the next day and charged with second-degree murder. Parker remains held at the Caddo Correctional Center on a $250,000 bond.
Also in July, 21-year old Louquandelyn Hargrove was fatally injured when she was intentionally run over by 21-year-old Shameka Ellis in what police said was an argument over a man. Ellis is charged with second-degree murder and remains held on $500,000 bond in Caddo Parish.
One-month-old Queen Dean was shot and killed by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting in Shreveport’s Sunset Acres neighborhood in early August. A reward of $2,000 has been offered but to date, no arrests have been made. Police are still looking for tips that could lead to an arrest.
The badly burned body of 23-year-old Kenneth Taylor was found in a drainage ditch in the Hollywood neighborhood in early October, the day after his car was found abandoned and burning just a few hundred yards away. Family members found Taylor’s remains as they continued to search after police failed to find him the night before. The Caddo Coroner’s Office determined he had died of a gunshot wound. There has been no word on any arrests in connection with his death.
Later the same month, a Bossier City police officer shot and killed 45-year-old Shannon Rupert as she waved a pair of scissors inside the lobby of the LaQuinta Inn and lunged at officers who had been called there for reports that the woman refused to leave the business. After an independent review, the Bossier District Attorney’s Office determined the fatal shooting to be justified and released the officer’s bodycam.
In November, Grover Cannon was finally brought to justice for the August 2015 murder of 29-year-old Shreveport Police Officer Thomas LaValley, when a Caddo Parish jury unanimously convicted Cannon of first-degree murder. Because the jury could not agree on whether he should get the death penalty, Cannon was sentenced to life in prison. He is expected to serve out his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, but for now, Cannon remains held at the Caddo Correctional Center.
And now, just as the year comes to a close, another officer has been gunned down. This time, a sheriff’s deputy in Panola County was fatally shot while attempting a traffic stop on a rural road near Carthage. 47-year-old Gregory Newson was taken into custody after a brief chase in Shreveport early Tuesday morning, just an hour after the shooting. He is now in a Shreveport hospital being treated for unspecified injuries. The Panola County Sheriff’s Office has said that they believe Deputy Dickerson was able to return fire before Newson fled the scene. Once he’s released from the hospital and booked on charges related to his attempt to flee Shreveport police, he’ll be sent back to Panola County, where he is wanted on a warrant for capital murder of a peace officer.