missing boater’s body
ST. MARTINVILLE — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says searchers have found the body of a Baton Rouge firefighter who apparently fell into the Intracoastal Canal on Jan. 30 while loading his boat onto a trailer in St. Martin Parish.
Spokesman Adam Einck says the body of 28-year-old Jacob P. Lewis of Walker was found shortly after noon Thursday and turned over to the St. Martin coroner for autopsy.
Lewis’ wife told investigators they had been scouting for crawfish trap locations. He reportedly had backed their truck toward their boat and went to hitch it up. Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack has said the wife got out of the truck after realizing the boat hadn’t hit the trailer, and she saw Lewis trying to swim to the drifting boat.
La.’s per capita debt rises
BATON ROUGE — The amount of debt Louisiana carries for each state resident rose again over the last year.
A report to the state Bond Commission on Thursday showed Louisiana carried a debt load of $1,336 for every man, woman and child in the state as the books were closed for 2012. That’s an increase of $18 per person from the previous year.
Louisiana borrows money through bond sales to finance construction projects, like road work and building repairs.
The per capita debt has grown under nearly every year of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, and is nearing the record set in 2007 during former Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s term, at $1,369 per person.
DNR agents see foam, not bubbles, at Lake Peigneur
BATON ROUGE — The state Department of Natural Resources sent field agents to Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish to investigate reports of bubbling at the lake, where natural gas is stored in massive underground caverns scoured out of a large salt dome.
Residents in the area have reported sporadic bubbling in the past and have raised concerns that similar bubbling was observed in the Bayou Corne area in northern Assumption Parish before a large sinkhole developed there last year.
DNR spokesman Patrick Courreges said field agents did not directly observe bubbling at Lake Peigneur on Thursday but did see foam on the lake’s surface.
Clinton man gets life sentence in girl’s rape
ST. FRANCISVILLE — A state district judge has sentenced a Clinton man to life in prison after his conviction July 17 for aggravated rape of a girl under the age of 13 on his school bus.
District Judge William G. Carmichael held two earlier hearings on whether some jurors’ guilty votes were influenced by William Staton’s decision not to testify on his own behalf.
Carmichael upheld the verdict in December.
The 41-year-old Staton was accused of raping the girl in the summer of 2007 in East Feliciana Parish, but the trial was moved to West Feliciana Parish, in part, because Staton was a former police officer and firefighter.
Special ed plans to change
BATON ROUGE — Faced with criticism from local superintendents, state Superintendent of Education John White says he is changing plans to overhaul the way the state funds its 82,000 special-education students.
Under a proposal that White spelled out to superintendents on Feb. 14, Louisiana’s funding method would be revamped over three years to improve the state’s 29 percent graduation rate, which is the second lowest in the nation.
Under the latest plan, the state would roll out a limited tryout of the new funding method for the 2013-14 school year, then examine the results.
Whether the new funding method will take effect statewide in 2015-16 as initially envisioned is unclear.
White said the changes show that state leaders are listening to local superintendents.
Rural road work to start soon
BATON ROUGE — State officials have agreed to borrow $100 million, allowing work to begin on a number of rural road projects.
However, problems with the state’s debt limit and a dwindling capital outlay fund are preventing the state from moving forward on the entire list.
State Treasurer John Kennedy, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley and Senate President John Alario will sit down with the Jindal administration and other state officials to develop a solution to the problem.
In the meantime, the state Bond Commission’s action Thursday will allow roadwork to begin in multiple parishes, including resurfacing 6.8 miles of La. 413 in West Baton Rouge Parish and resurfacing 1.4 miles of La. 46 from the Yscloskey Bridge in St. Bernard Parish to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.
State promotes Citizens rebates
BATON ROUGE — Louisiana taxpayers are leaving tens of millions of property insurance rebates unclaimed each year.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said Thursday the reason is that nearly two-thirds of property owners are foregoing the rebates for the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. assessment.
Donelon said at the end of 2012, more than $255 million remained unclaimed.
He says property owners have a limited time to claim the rebates. The option to claim the rebate for the 2009 assessment expires after Dec. 31.
The rebates for 2009 to 2012 can be claimed on property owners’ Louisiana Income Tax Return as a tax credit; by going to http://www.revenue.louisiana.gov/file; online and clicking on “Citizens Insurance Rebate”; or by filling out Form R-540INS for individuals or Form R-620INS for businesses.
Lawyer, teen shocked over grand jury indictment
LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette grand jury has indicted Seth Fontenot for the first-degree murder of 15-year-old Austin Rivault and the attempted second-degree murder of two other Lafayette teens.
Fontenot’s attorney, Thomas Guilbeau, said he and his client were shocked over the indictments.
Fontenot has been in jail since his arrest on Feb. 10, the same day he is accused of firing a handgun at a truck passing by his home.
Rivault, a passenger in the truck, was struck and killed. Two other teens in the truck, also 15, were wounded but survived.
Fontenot said he was not trying to hurt anyone but was firing warning shots at the truck. He told police in a statement that he believed the truck belonged to someone who had been on his property.
Lafayette mall facelift includes changing name
LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette mall will return to its roots and change its name to Acadiana Mall as part of its facelift set to be completed in November.
The Mall of Acadiana has held that name for less than 10 years. It originally was called the Acadiana Mall from 1979 to 2004. Along with the new name will come with a new logo accented by a red and green flower.
The renovation at the Acadiana Mall is set to being within the next couple of months.
From The Associated Press.