Protest raises awareness of Mary
The Guardian-Journal photos /Michelle
Family members of Mary Nguyen protested
on her behalf on the Claiborne Parish Courthouse lawn Friday. Nguyen has been
incarcerated since at least 2008 on several charges and her case has not gone
to trial. Her trial date has been set for February 22.
Mary Foster, Mary Nguyen’s mother, reads
a passage from the Bible as they protest against the justice system who they
say has held Nguyen in jail without trial for nearly five years. The protest
was held Friday, January 20, on the lawn of the Claiborne Parish Courthouse.
Patsy “Patti” Helms sings a hymn while holding a “Free Mary” sign. Helms is
Mary Nguyen’s aunt, who says her niece has been incarcerated without trial for
nearly five years.
MICHELLE BATES, Editor
prayer protest was held at the Claiborne Parish Courthouse lawn on Friday in
protest for a woman who they say has been incarcerated for five years without a
Nguyen, who has been charged with criminal mischief and theft over $500 in 2007
and assault on a police officer with a firearm in 2008, has been behind bars
since the 2008 incident.
should have been worked out a long time ago,” said Patsy “Patty” Helms,
Nguyen’s aunt, during the protest. “It’s been too long and somebody just needs
to stand up for her. This needs to be resolved.”
to a psychological assessment rendered in April 2010, the doctor refers to a
police report by the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office, which states that on
January 10, 2008, Nguyen barricaded herself in her home after a bail bonds
agent came to her home to explain that if she got into trouble her bond would
be revoked. The apparent reason for the agent’s visit was because her bond had
she was told her bond would be revoked, she reportedly got the shotgun and some
shells and went to a building behind the residence and would not come out.
Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Deputies went to the home and Detective Randy Smith
spoke to Nguyen before she barricaded herself in the building. And when he
introduced himself, she reportedly went back into the building where reports
say Smith observed her in the building grabbing the shotgun by the barrel and
entry team from Lincoln Parish arrived on scene to assist and took Nguyen into
custody and the shotgun was collected and logged into evidence.
2007, she was arrested by Homer Police on the criminal mischief and theft
charges when they learned she’d allegedly sprayed inflammatory graffiti on
“David Newell District Attorney” t-shirts that were stolen and distributed on
several streets in Homer, around the Claiborne Parish Courthouse and at least
one other known location in the parish. There was a dispute as to whether
Newell had paid for the t-shirts, officials said.
it doesn’t stop there. Later in 2008, Second Judicial District Judge Jenifer Clason
ordered Nguyen to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether she was
mentally competent for trial on the assault charge. According to a letter from
George Seiden, M.D., Nguyen refused to participate in the interview for the
sanity hearing, saying she believed the proceedings “had something to do with
an inheritance that was supposed to be passed down through her family and
various people who wanted to label her in order to be able to take control of
also made a statement to the effect that this has something to do with the
KKK.,” the letter continued.
also the opinion of Medical Neuropsychologist S. Webb Sentell that Nguyen was
not fit to stand trial on the assault charges and recommended inpatient
September 15, 2008, Clason ordered her committed to the Eastern Louisiana
Mental Health System (ELMHS) -- Forensic Division in East Feliciana Parish, for
“custody, care and treatment as the law describes and to await further orders
from this court.”
April 14, 2009, she was admitted to ELMHS in East Feliciana Parish, and after
18 months of psychiatric treatment with medication, she was deemed competent to
time of her admission to the mental hospital, she had been diagnosed with
chronic paranoid schizophrenia and was “delusional,” according to court
daughters say before their mother’s “breakdown” Nguyen was a wonderful person.
They describe her as a wonderful mother, who was there for her children. She
drove a school bus for the Claiborne Parish School System for seven years. Her
daughters are both honor students.
couldn’t ask for a better mother,” Katherine Nguyen, Mary’s daughter said. “I
wouldn’t be the person I am today without my mom. She’s missed a lot of our
lives and we needed her.”
Her youngest daughter, Kallie,
said almost the same thing.
of people don’t know what she really had to go through,” she said tearfully at
the protest. “She’s a good person. I couldn’t ask for better.”
while family members understand Nguyen was sent to a mental health facility for
treatment, they say it’s time to put some closure on the case and don’t
understand what’s taking so long.
done nothing for her on her case knowing she’s very sick,” Mary Foster,
Nguyen’s mother said. “I’m very upset with the justice system.”
Kathy Mills, Nguyen’s aunt,
reiterated Foster’s statement saying, “We all knew she was sick and she was so
mentally ill she didn’t know what she was doing and her mother couldn’t control
District Attorney Jim Hatch, who is handling the case, explained that when a
defendant is found incompetent to stand trial, the case comes to a standstill.
is incompetent to stand trial, the case is suspended until such time as she could
be declared competent,” he said.
case, she was deemed competent following psychiatric treatment. She was
discharged from ELMHS on September 22, 2010, when she was returned to the
custody of Claiborne authorities. Within the next few months, the hearings on
the Sanity Commission were concluded, when she was officially deemed competent
to stand trial.
there are other circumstances, Hatch said, that could also be cause for holding
up on Nguyen going to trial. He said when a person is arrested and appears in
court for their first hearing, the judge assigned to the case is the one that
will follow the case all the way through. And in Claiborne Parish, there are
trial “sessions” where each judge has a set period of time to hear cases that are
set for trial. There are six trial “sessions” this year, and Clason has four of
Hatch said, it took a while to get Dr. Michael Blue, psychiatrist, to come to
Claiborne Parish to testify in the Sanity Hearing, saying he had to be
2011, Nguyen’s case came up for trial several times, but the matter was passed
on several occasions. Today, Nguyen still sits in a jail cell at the Claiborne
Parish Women’s Jail awaiting trial. Paul Garner is the attorney appointed to
her from the Indigent Defender Board.
her trial date has been set for February 22.
Boy struck by car
little boy was airlifted to Shreveport after he was hit by a car last weekend.
to Homer Police, they responded to a call on Pearl Street on Friday, January
20, around 6 p.m., in reference to the boy.
Chief Russell Mills said the six-year-old was playing basketball a couple of
houses down from his home when the ball rebounded going into the street.
to retrieve the ball from the street and was struck by a vehicle.
motorist said she was unable to avoid hitting him,” Mills said. “It was a
the boy had visible head injuries, he was airlifted from the scene by Pafford
Life Air and transported to Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
(LSUHSC) where he was kept for observation.
press time, there was no word of his condition.
Proposed alcohol ordinance introduced
Ordinance would reinstate alcoholic
ordinance reinstating a portion of the Homer Code of Ordinances regarding
alcoholic beverages has been introduced.
special called meeting on Thursday, January 19, the council met to discuss the
policies and procedures regarding high content alcohol within the corporate
limits of Homer. And questions didn’t arise so much about the reinstatement as
much as the procedures businesses needed to go through to make sure they
applied and received their permits correctly.
appointed Town Attorney Marcus Patillo explained that all they had to do was
make sure they filed with the town and the state within 24 hours of each other,
and if the state approved the business for a permit, then the town would do so
questions came up concerning the legal definition of an open container. A
restaurant owner, who intends to sell wine, asked about whether it would be
considered an open container if a bottle of wine was opened and re-corked by
the restaurant. Patillo said he would check into it to be sure, but the
definition states that if the seal on an alcoholic beverage container has been
broken or tampered with, it is considered an open container.
questions arose about mixed drinks. Restaurants within the corporate limits of
Homer will now be able to mix drinks and sell them with meals.
public hearing for Proposed Ordinance 11-912 will be held at 5:30 p.m. in
council chambers on Monday, February 6 before the start of the regular monthly
meeting at 6 p.m. If adopted, the ordinance will go into effect on Tuesday,
other news, the council also discussed rental fees for Homer City Hall’s
auditorium. A representative with the USDA came to Homer recently and advised
town officials that they would no longer be able to rent the auditorium or any
room of city hall for free. The town’s policy allowed nonprofits and schools to
rent city hall for free or for a reduced cost. The fee for renting city hall is
$250, and if they cleaned up after their event, they got a $100 deposit back.
4 Councilwoman Carlette Sanford made a motion to keep the rental fee at $250,
but that fee would be across the board with the entity or entities getting back
only a $50 deposit back if they cleaned up. It was seconded by District 3
Councilman Don McCalman and it was passed 2-1 with District 1 Councilwoman
Linda Mozeke the lone vote against. District 2 Councilman Michael Wade was
absent, and District 5 Councilwoman Patricia Jenkins arrived after the vote.
raised concerns about charging $250 for churches, schools and nonprofits,
saying she felt they should be able to rent city hall at a reduced price, at
least by half.
the agenda was amended at McCalman’s request to rename Homer’s Jaycees Park in
memory of Joe Joe Michael, who recently passed away. Michael was the mayor of
Homer for 20 years and was very active in the Homer community. If changed, the
name of the park would become the Joe Michael Memorial Park.
Mayor Alecia Smith said she would find out what needs to be done and come back
with that information at the February 6 meeting.
a public hearing on the proposed alcohol ordinance will be held at 5:30 p.m.
Monday, February 6, in council chambers. The regular monthly meeting will
follow at 6 p.m. For more information, or for questions, please call Homer City
Hall at 318-927-3555.
Tip leads to drug arrest
Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Pugh was dispatched to Dixie Mart Store in Athens
in reference to a tip the sheriff’s office received regarding possible drug
activity in the parking lot.
made contact with the vehicle in question and discovered a passenger in the
vehicle to be Demetrius N. Winzer, 20, of Athens. A subsequent search of Winzer
revealed a clear plastic bag containing a green vegetable material in the front
right pocket of Winzer’s pants.
stated that there were no more drugs on his person. Winzer was placed under
arrest for possession of marijuana.
being transported to the Claiborne Parish Detention Center, officers found six
clear plastic bags with a green vegetable material appearing to be marijuana in
Winzer’s right sock and a clear plastic bag containing a pink tablet identified
as Hydrocodone, and an off-white rock that appeared to be crack cocaine.
was set on the possession of marijuana charge (second offense) at $5,000,
introduction of contraband into a penal institution at $10,000, possession of
Schedule II CDS (cocaine) at $5,000, possession of Schedule III (Hydrocodone)
at $5,000 and possession with intent to distribute Schedule I CDS (marijuana)
Chamber banquet this Monday
Jubilee Players to present ‘An Afternoon
on the Square’
are still available for the 47th Annual Claiborne Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
held at Homer City Hall, the event will take place at 6:30 p.m., with Upper
Crust Catering providing the meal.
are $35 per person and all reservations must be paid in advance.
opportunities are also still available as well. All sponsors will be recognized
at the banquet and will be listed in the event program. They are as follows:
Diamond Sponsor ($1,000) receives special recognition, 12 tickets, and reserved
Platinum Sponsor ($700) receives 8 tickets and a reserved table.
Sponsor ($400) receives 4 tickets and a reserved table.
Silver Sponsor ($200) receives 4 tickets and reserved seating.
Bronze Sponsor ($100) receives 2 tickets and reserved seating.
return your reservation cards as soon as possible as seating is limited to 200.
Business dress will be appropriate for the evening.
this year will be provided by the Claiborne Jubilee Players. Based on
performances given at the Swamp Gravy conference in October, local individuals
will present stories from Claiborne Parish.
Steele, who has advocated story-telling theater in Claiborne Parish, said the
event is sure to be special this year because attendees will get a look at some
Claiborne Parish stories through a unique art form.
the players are excited and have begun rehearsals,” she said. “They are looking
forward to presenting these three stories.”
Jubilee Players will present “An Afternoon on the Square” inspired by the old
photograph on the cover of the museum’s pictorial history book, harkening back
to the days when folks gathered to play dominos on the courthouse lawn. Many
tales were swapped and the affairs of the world settled under the shade of
those old trees.
stories selected for the chamber banquet performance were first developed
during the Building Thriving, Creative Communities Conference held here under
the leadership of Swamp Gravy, an organization from Colquitt, Georgia, which
has transformed the economy of their region through the arts.
that one of our greatest resources which no other community possesses are our
stories, the Claiborne Jubilee is sponsoring this theater group as well as
developing a mural on the north side of the Kinnebrew Building on the Square in
Homer. It is hoped that this will be only the first of a series of murals
throughout the parish which will become part of a mural trail joining with
Magnolia, Arkansas, Haynesville, Springhill and Minden.
Players welcome all who would like to participate in future productions. No
previous acting experience is necessary.
needed are stories to use in developing new scripts and to inspire future
murals. Please contact Sadie Flucas at 927-6411 or Cynthia Steele at 927-2566.
The chamber’s theme of “Get on Board for Claiborne” is continued throughout the
show with the Players musical selections including “Just Tell Your Story and
Get On Board!”
more information on the banquet or for reservations, please contact the chamber
office at 318-927-3271.
Bond set high for drug suspect
Bond nearly $300,000
for a Homer man arrested last week has been set at nearly $300,000.
Knowles, of Homer, was arrested on Tuesday, January 17, on various drug charges
after police were given consent to search his home.
charged with possession with intent to distribute Schedule I CDS (marijuana)
with bond set at $60,000, possession with intent to distribute Schedule II CDS
(cocaine) with bond set at $150,000, possession with intent to distribute
Schedule III CDS (Lortab) with bond set at $60,000 and possession of
drug paraphernalia with bond set at $1,000.
to Homer Police Chief Russell Mills, bond was set based on the charges against
high bond amount is indicative of the amount of drugs he had,” Mills said.
to police, Knowles was found to be in possession of more than 28 grams of what
appeared to be cocaine, several baggies of alleged marijuana, weight scales and
at least 12 pills they believed to be Lortab.
Rockholt was also arrested at that time and charged with possession of
to Mills, he has since bonded out. Knowles is still incarcerated at the
Claiborne Parish Detention Center.
date Knowles was arrested, Mills was in the area of the 200 block of Lisbon
Street when he observed Knowles and another man, Richard Rockholt, on the
chief stopped the two and struck up a conversation with them, and asked them if
they had anything on them or if there was anything going on.
say Knowles told them no and gave the chief consent to search his home, which
is where they appeared to be coming from.
Van McDaniel was called to assist and upon arrival, both McDaniel and Mills
entered the home with the two men and began their search. Ultimately, the
search yielded the items referenced above, and the two were placed under
arrest. The items were collected and taken into evidence.
Photography workshop set for Saturday at
of a Louisiana Decentralized Arts Funding grant sponsored by the Shreveport
Regional Arts Council, the Ford Museum is eager to host a photography workshop
with Jeff Scott as the instructor. Jeff is an experienced photographer who has
spent over 25 years mastering his skill in his art. He began his career in
Dallas where he had the opportunity to photographed many well-known celebrities
from the sports world to the political arena. As an award winning photographer,
he uses his creative talents to photograph destination weddings and capture the
magnificence of African wildlife. Today he and his family live on Lake
Claiborne where he owns his own photography business.
Saturday, January 28 he will present a hands on photography workshop with
emphasis on portrait and architectural photography. Workshop participants will
gather at the Ford Museum at 9 a.m. for instruction before continuing to the
Old Homer Cemetery to practice skills taught and receive one-on-one
assistance. At the cemetery we will also experience monument rubbing.
for the workshop is $20.00. Each person who plans to take the workshop needs to
provide his own camera and will be responsible for printing his photographs.
more information call Linda Volentine at 318-927-9190 or email .
Closed primary election set for March 24
closed primary for the presidential election will be held in Louisiana on March
hopefuls for both the Democratic and Republican parties will be on the ballot for
the March 24 election with books closing on February 22.
address changes, party changes and names need to be done by February 22. And
more importantly, only registered voters that are Democratic can vote on the
Democratic Party, and only registered voters that are Republican can vote on
the Republican Party. All other parties will NOT be eligible for this election.
voting will take place the week of March 10-17.
ballot for the Democratic Party includes Incumbent President Barack Obama, “Bob”
Ely, Darcy G. Richardson and John Wolfe.
ballot for the Republican Party includes Michele Bachmann, Randy Crow, Newt
Gingrich, John Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Charles “Buddy” Roemer, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
though some candidates have announced their withdrawal from the presidential
race, if they have not formally withdrawn by letter with their Registrar of
Voters Office, then their name must remain on the ballot, Claiborne Parish
Registrar Patricia Sanders said.
the ballot for March 24 will be a 1 percent sales tax renewal for the Village
of Athens. Only those registered voters in the Village of Athens will be able
to vote on this proposition.
reads as follows:
of Athens Proposition
1% sales and use tax to be levied in perpetuity of the Village of Athens with
the proceeds to be used to support the general fund.
the Village of Athens, State of Louisiana (the “Village”), under the provisions
of Article VI, Section 29 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, and other
constitutional and statutory authority, be authorized to levy and collect a tax
of one percent (1%) (the “Tax”) in perpetuity from and after July 1, 2012, upon
the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption, and the
storage for use or consumption, of tangible personal property and on sales of
services in the Village, all as defined by law (an estimated $36,000 reasonably
expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire
year), with the proceeds of the Tax (after paying the reasonable and necessary
expenses of collecting and administering the Tax), to be used to support the
general fund of the Village?
open primary election for U.S. President, U.S. Representative, Lisbon Mayor and
Lisbon aldermen will be held on November 6. Qualifying period for this election
will be August 15-17, with early voting set for October 23-30.
general election will be held December 1 for the runoff for U.S. Representative
and Lisbon mayor and aldermen, if any. Early voting will be held from November
voting hours for March 10-17, October 23-30 and November 17-24 will be from
8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Education Week will also be held May 14-18.
more information, or for questions, please call the Claiborne Registrar of
Voters Office at 318-927-3332 or go to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s
website at www.sos.louisiana.gov.
Haynesville Rummage Sale set for
Town also gets good audit
community-wide rummage sale is set for Saturday, February 4, from 7 a.m. until
by the Citizens Advisory Committee in Haynesville, Bob McDaniel, CAC member,
said anyone interested in donating items for the sale may do so by dropping
them off at the Claiborne Parish Fair Complex on Friday, February 3, from 9
a.m. until 2 p.m. Also, Carla Smith, owner of Carla’s Cut N’ Curl, said smaller
items could be dropped off there. For those who have larger items to donate,
Haynesville Mayor Sherman Brown said to call City Hall.
booths are also still available to anyone for $15, payable to the Town of
Haynesville. Please make payments at Haynesville City Hall and please note
“booth space” in the memo section if paying with a check.
conjunction with the rummage sale, a bake sale will be going on as well. For
questions or to donate to the bake sale, please contact Linda Knox at
318-624-1606. For questions or more information about the rummage sale, please
call Brown at City Hall at 318-624-0911 or Martha Trinko at 318-624-0074.
this year will be used for this year’s Christmas Fireworks Display and other
special town projects.
other news, McDaniel also discussed the upstairs windows at the Haynesville
Police Department building, saying the weather has taken its toll on them.
During discussions at the last CAC meeting, McDaniel said he and Brown would be
looking at least closing them up to keep them from further deterioration.
elected District 11 Representative Patrick Jefferson also spoke during the
Haynesville Town Council meeting, saying he fully understands that he has some
big shoes to fill, following representation by the late Pinkie Newer and former
representative Rick Gallot. And following in their footsteps, he wants to make
sure that the constituency of District 11 is not only well represented, but he
wants to make sure it’s a collective effort, working together.
not about me,” he said. “I am truly a public servant. Whatever I do as a state
representative, it will not be about the next election. It will be about now.”
a public servant and a newcomer to the Louisiana Legislature, he said he feels
he has a front row seat for a hot topic right now -- education. He was appointed
as vice chairman of the Education Committee, and he said, through this avenue,
he wants to make sure that the district he represents is heard in Baton Rouge
when it comes to educating its children.
praised Roderick Hampton for his hard work and dedication, saying he would not
be where he is without him.
other news, Kenneth Folden, Kenneth D. Folden and Company, CPA, had nothing but
praise for the town and its employees. And while the audit itself was very
good, Folden spent a good bit of his time praising Town Clerk Penny Fields as
well as the town’s employees for their efforts in making sure the town’s
financial records are in order.
of our work with governmental entities is internal control,” Folden said. “Haynesville sets the town for how it should
continued to sing their praises, saying they are an honor to work with. In a
handout distributed to council members, Folden went over some highlights from
town’s net assets decreased by $759,766 for the fiscal year, which is year
beginning July 1 and ending June 30. The net assets of the governmental
activities decreased by $127,520 from operations and $495,610 in an equity
transfer to Claiborne Parish Fire District No. 3.
town’s net assets in total are approximately $6 million, representing both
governmental and water and sewer assets.
revenue for all funds for the fiscal year are approximately $1.9 million, down
$328,818 from the prior year because of a decrease in ad valorem taxes and a
decrease in charges for business services.
expenses for all funds for the fiscal year are roughly $2.3 million, down
approximately $92,000 from the prior year because of a decrease in general
government expenses and public safety expenses.
were several other good points to the audit, and Folden said the town received
an unqualified opinion, which is a good thing.
police personnel business, two police officers with the Haynesville Police
Department resigned, but it’s not a bad thing, according to Haynesville Police
Chief Anthony Smith.
aren’t leaving on bad terms,” he said. “They want to better themselves.”
one, it’s a “win-win” situation, as Brown put it. Adrian Malone will be going
to work for the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office, but will still be in the
Haynesville area doing nearly the same thing he was doing for the Haynesville
Nehls is going to work for the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Chief Smith
wants to move Officer Brandon Callicutt into a full-time position. With this
move, that still leaves one full-time position open and one part time.
Brown went over a few things for council members, including the Louisiana
Municipal Association’s Mid-Winter Conference to be held from January 31 until
February 2 in Baton Rouge. He also talked about their annual financial
disclosure statement as well as planning for the summer conference in Lake
public, he said the Louisiana Department of Transportation donated nearly 5,000
daffodil bulbs to the town and Keith Killgore with the Haynesville
Beautification Committee will coordinate planting them around town. Crew 10
will also plant some around the fairgrounds fence.
Haynesville Beautification Committee has also purchased Welcome flags and Crew
10 has put them up in front of the school.
next meeting of the Haynesville Town Council will be at 6 p.m., Thursday,
February 16, in council chambers, located behind City Hall. For questions or
more information, please call their office at 318-624-0911.
next Citizens Advisory Committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Monday,
February 6, in council chambers.