Ultimate Sacrifice: Sgt. Billy Collins’ Life of Service Remembered

By Vickie Welborn
(Reprinted with permission)

A jokester. A protector. A girl dad. Man of courage. Honorable. A lot like an M&M.

Those are just a few of the words used Friday morning to remember 53-year-old Deputy William Earl “Billy” Collins Jr., who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty on the night of July 9.

The Webster Parish sheriff’s deputy and Doyline police officer responded to a disturbance call of a suicidal man and stepped in to shield a woman when he was fatally shot.

“He served and protected until his very last breath,” said the Rev. Gevan Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Haughton.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from throughout Louisiana and from other states joined Collins’ family and friends in celebrating his life in a funeral service at First Bossier.

The service was preceded by a series of photographs of Collins and his family, giving glimpses of Collins’ life. There were photos of him and his wife with their daughters through the years, images of Collins and his family enjoying vacation spots and even a young Collins as a Boy Scout.

“I know this will be a sad day. But the family wants everybody to know that this is a celebration of Billy’s life today. And I can hear him now, ‘Sheriff, boss, all this ain’t necessary.’ My reply back to Billy, ‘Buddy you deserve every bit of this. Sit back, pop you some popcorn and enjoy the show,’” Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker said. “He was not an easy man to blush, but we’re going to make him blush today.”

Parker said there were not enough words to eliminate the pain of Collins’ loss, but words could bring a smile. He recalled after he was elected Collins approached him with some thoughts on improvements at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center, where Collins worked as a supervisor. “What I got was a five-page report that I know Billy didn’t type,” Parker said to laughter.

Parker said he was so impressed with Collins’ details and some of his suggestions on how to build on the operations and be more efficient and productive were implemented. Collins was “a man who loved his job and his community,” Parker said.

Without hesitation, Collins answered the call to serve and protect – a duty he held to the highest esteem.
“As much as he loved his family and God, he did his part to … respond to those in need, even in harm’s way,” Parker said. “That’s what he did last Friday … when he responded to someone in need.” Collins’ “selflessness” prevented someone else from taking a life, Parker said.

“Billy was a man of courage,” he added. “He will forever be celebrated for his sacrifice, for his loyalty, for his courage, for his love for his fellow man. Thank you, Billy. We love you brother.”

After the song “I Can Only Imagine,” a contemporary Christian song about Heaven, was played, Collins’ teenage daughter, Danielle, shared about her father.

Danielle Collins said he raised two strong daughters and always made sure his family was taken care of. She told stories of how he liked to joke to lighten the mood, including his rating of restaurant bathrooms. And she brought smiles by referencing the photographs over her shoulders of him wearing his full Doyline uniform with a boutonniere. That was the night of her prom but even though he was patrolling that night, he stopped to escort her while in his uniform.
“He chose everyday to wake up and put on that badge,” Danielle Collins said. “The Lord has a plan,” she said, ending with, “Thank you for being my dad, my friend and most of all my protector. I love you daddy.”

Doyline Police Chief Robert Hayden said Collins always told him he would make him shake in his boots one day. “He’s getting his wish today.” Hayden was in Wisconsin at his son’s wedding Friday night when he got the call about Collins, who worked part-time for the small police force. Collins and two Webster sheriff’s deputies responded to the disturbance call. “It was a nightmare in my little village,” said an emotional Hayden.

At the request of Collins’ family, Hayden recognized Lt. Chuck Clark and Sgt. Coby Barton, along with Deputy Tommy Maddox and Parker. Collins started working for the Doyline Police Department over four years ago. He wanted to serve his community and get to know everyone. Hayden did some checking before hiring Collins and said his coworkers at BDCC described him as “hard-headed” but with a “heart as big as this room.” The next obstacle, though, was getting the approval from Collins’ wife, Teresa. Hayden shared that on July 19, 1999, Teresa Collins lost her grandfather, Oklahoma Deputy Vernie Roberts, in the line of duty. Because of that, she was hesitant for Collins to work the streets.
But Hayden said he told her how long he had been doing the job and he didn’t think anything would happen inside the one square-mile village of Doyline because “we are good people.” Teresa Collins gave her blessing. It didn’t take a few weeks before Hayden started getting phone calls from Doyline residents about Collins. Most complaining about “this new man” writing speeding tickets, Hayden said with a smile. After a few weeks, the complaints stopped. Everybody started calling the new man, “Mr. Billy.”

Hayden offered words of encouragement to Collins’ wife, his mother and his two daughters. He knew them because Collins talked non-stop about them. But Hayden became emotional again when he said he learned “shots fired” and “officer down” rang out across his little town in North Louisiana. Then he remembered the conversation he had with Teresa Collins four years earlier and the “nightmare” she lived before and what he told her about Doyline. “It will always haunt me,” said a distraught Hayden.

“Serving the people is what he loved to do. He never complained about going out day or night. … It did not matter if he knew them or not. His only desire was to help any way he could. Today, I thank God for the time I had with Billy Collins,” Hayden said.

“Where do we go from here?” Hayden asked. “Myself and all the others who wear this badge and uniform, will leave here today and go out and serve and protect and do the very best job we can in our communities because that’s what God called us to do. …. Billy, you were my friend, my brother, fellow officer. I love you, will miss you, but I will see you again one day.”

Pastor Spinney offered words of comfort to Hayden and those who may feel responsibility for what happened to Collins. In the Bible, God says “all of the days of our lives” are known. “July 9, 2021. I don’t like that it was Billy’s last day but that’s the day God had written in his Book. So, it’s not your responsibility,” he told Teresa Collins and others. “It takes the weight off of us to know God has a perfect plan for our lives.” Billy Collins was a man of deep but private faith. Then again, he was a lot like an M&M, joked Spinney. He had a hard candy shell but inside was sweet – “with a heart as big as this room.”

Many in the room dabbed tears during the End of Watch call by the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Your sacrifice will never be forgotten. Officer Billy Collins is 10-7.”

Webster deputies and Doyline officers filed past Collins’ casket at the end of the service, then were joined by the multitude of other law enforcement officers. Some stopped to salute, others simply touched the flag-draped casket as they passed by.

Their departure from the church sanctuary was to a 1969 rock hit called “Spirit in the Sky.”

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky

More than a mile-long procession of law enforcement, fire and EMS vehicles left the church along Texas Street to Hill Crest Memorial Park, where the graveside service was held. But just before getting there, the hearse was stopped so that Webster sheriff’s deputies, who were his pallbearers, could move the casket into a horse-drawn carriage.
A helicopter flyover, 21-gun salute and presentation of flags ended the service around 2 p.m.

Officer’s killer dies in hospital

Louisiana State Police Troop G has reported the suspect that shot and killed Doyline Police Officer and Webster Parish Sheriff’s deputy William “Billy” Earl Collins, Jr. has succumbed to his injuries at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport. The suspect is identified as 59-year-old Mahlon Taylor, of Doyline. Taylor was pronounced deceased at approximately 6:39 p.m. today (Saturday, July 17). It is unknown if he killed himself or was shot by law enforcement officers answering the call.

Taylor killed Collins Friday, July 9, when Collins went to Taylor’s residence in answer to a call concerning a suicidal man.
Collins was laid to rest Friday, July 16.

Minden juveniles shoot local teen

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Two juveniles, ages 17 and 15, have been arrested and charged with attempted second-degree homicide in the shooting of 17-year-old Tyquan Morris.

Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper said his department received a call around 5:48 a.m. Sunday in reference to a shooting at Chateau Normandy Apartments.

“Upon arrival, officers located a young male victim lying in the breezeway, just outside his grandmother’s apartment where he resided,” said the chief. “The victim – later identified as Morris – had multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body. He was transported by ambulance to Minden Medical Center.”

Cropper said during the investigation, officers located several shell casings at the scene.

“Deputy Josh McCormick, who resides in the neighborhood near the apartments, was walking out of his home to get in his patrol car, when he observed two young males running down his street,” Cropper said. “He entered his patrol car and drove to Lewisville Rd., after taking mental note of the clothing the two men were wearing.”

McCormick reportedly observed the Minden police units responding to the apartment complex. He then followed them to the scene when he discovered there had been a shooting.

“After informing the officers of the young males he had seen, McCormick was asked to go try and relocate them,” said the chief. “During the search, McCormick observed a vehicle driving down Park Hwy. without headlights. He made a traffic stop, and in the backseat of the vehicle were the same two men he had observed running down the street.”

Lying on the backseat between the two young males, he reportedly noted a semi-automatic pistol. Cropper said the two were detained, and the pistol came back as a stolen weapon. He said the caliber of the pistol was the same as the shell casings located at the scene where Morris was shot.

“One of the juveniles admitted to the shooting of Tyquan Morris,” Cropper said.

Both teens were transported to Ware Detention Center. The investigation is still ongoing.

Minden High’s Wilson earns doctorate

By Josh Beavers

A Minden educator has reached the highest level of academic achievement.

Minden High Principal Rebecca Wilson has earned her Doctorate of Education from Northwestern State University. Wilson, who has been an educator for 12 years, earned her Ed.D after four years of study.

Wilson’s research focused on career readiness practices, perceptions, and understanding for teachers.

“This is exceedingly important as educators are tasked with playing so many roles in the lives of our students,” Wilson told The Journal during a Monday interview. “Teachers must have high and realistic expectations for students in all parts of their education and their lives. This is nourished through authentic relationships.”

Wilson said she believes serving in education is a calling, and she is thankful to serve the community, parents, and students.

“My hope is to exemplify for our students, faculty, and staff the immense value of education and promote a culture of goal and vision-setting that will positively affect students, their families, and our community,” she said. “Minden is a wonderful place to live. Our children are blessed to call it home. The education that our students are receiving at Minden High School is superb. There is truly a place for everyone at Minden High. Our faculty and staff are very supportive and they truly believe in investing in our students. I am fortunate to serve Minden High School and the Webster Parish School Board.

She continued: “When asked, ‘How are you?’ I often say, ‘I’m living the dream.’ Of course there are hard days, and days when you don’t think you did enough to help a student, but truly, I am living the dream. I get the privilege of having the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life everyday.”

Arrest Report

Linda Jennine Heidleberg, 31, of Elm Grove, was arrested by Louisiana State Police Troop G at a Minden Truck Stop. She had warrants as a fugitive and for possession of Sch. I.

Jessie Jones, 30, of Shreveport, was arrested by Webster Parish Sheriff’s deputies for contempt of court.

Glenn Holiday, 57, of the 1300 block of Sheppard St., Minden, was arrested by Minden Police for unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.

Jeanette James, 54, of Homer, was arrested by Homer Police as a fugitive from justice.

Brad D. Buchan, 44, of Quitman, was arrested for domestic abuse battery.

Randy Landingham, 58, of Homer, was arrested by Louisiana State Police for driving while intoxicated, failure to yield, illegal passing on left and vehicular negligent injury.

Cory Joe Davis Oglee, 38, of Bobby Davis Rd., Shongaloo, was arrested by Springhill Police as a fugitive from Webster Parish and simple burglary.

Kevin Luke Migues Jr., 37, of the 300 block of Johnson St., Doyline, was arrested by Webster Parish Sheriff’s deputies for domestic abuse battery.

Jeremy Youngblood, 24, of the 100 block of Machen Dr., Springhill, was arrested on an active warrant. He is being held at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center on a $50,000 bond.

United Christian Assistance Program releases needs

(UCAP) is a partnership of local Christian churches in the Minden area. The charity/non-profit can provide emergency prescription drugs, food, clothing (includes school uniforms), rent assistance, and emergency utility bill assistance when funds are available. Overnight shelter and other related services as deemed appropriate by trained counselors may also be provided. 204 Miller Street, Minden, call (318) 377-6804.

UCAP Needs for Week of July 19:

 Food: crackers, biscuit mix, cornbread mix

 Household Goods/Toiletries: king and queen sheets, towels

UCAP is open Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. for food, utility and rent assistance. They give out clothing on Wednesdays only.

Thanks to the community for your support.

Plain Dealing man dies in crash on Dorcheat Road

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A one-vehicle crash has claimed the life of 27-year-old Joshua Montgomery, of Plain Dealing.
Louisiana State Police Troop G said the accident happened around 1:40 p.m. Sunday on Dorcheat Road , in the 1000 block, south of Allen Drive.

The initial investigation revealed that a 2008 Pontiac G6, driven by 24-year-old Darien Moore, of Minden, was traveling southbound on Dorcheat Road. For reasons still under investigation, the vehicle traveled off the road, collided with a utility pole, and then a tree.

Neither man was wearing a seat belt. Moore was transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Montgomery was pronounced dead at the scene.

Impairment is not suspected, but routine toxicology samples were taken and will be submitted for analysis. The crash remains under investigation.

City official deems burned out property to be dangerous

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A Sullivan St. residence that recently burned, is the subject of a special Minden City Council meeting at 10 a.m. today (Tuesday, July20).

According to Building Official Brent Cooley, the house burned July 11.

“It is a total loss with portions of the second story standing dangerously,” Cooley put in his report. “It needs to come down soon.”

According to City of Minden Ordinance Sec. 22-233, “In case of a grave public emergency, the city council may condemn the building after 24 hours’ notice served upon the owner of such building, his agent or the occupant and the attorney at law appointed to represent the absentee owner.”

A certified letter dated July 14 was sent to Larry Davenport, owner of the property, who resides in Shreveport.

The burned house is located at the corner of Sullivan and Marshall streets, located in District B.

Repeat performance lands one in jail

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A repeat performance of domestic abuse landed a Minden man behind bars and his girlfriend in the hospital.

Gabriel Jose Maldonado, 39, of the 800 block of Center street, was arrested July 15 by Minden Police and charged with felony domestic abuse, aggravated second-degree battery with a child present and resisting an officer.

According to Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper, his officers Lt. Tokia Whiting-Harrison, Sgt. Donald Brice and Lt. Christopher McClaran arrived at the Center Street residence where they were aware that Maldonado had battered his girlfriend of 12 years inside their shared home.

“They have been together for 12 years and have an 11-year-old special needs child,” Cropper said. “The victim said Maldonado accused her of cheating on him and began striking her. She said he hit her with a baseball bat, a hatchet with a hammer affixed to it and then shot her with a pellet rifle.”

All three weapons were reportedly recovered inside the residence, the investigating officers said.

Medics subsequently treated the victim for an apparent fracture in her hand, possible broken leg, lacerations and contusions, and transported her to Willis-Knighton South.

“Upon initial contact, officers heard arguing and a loud ‘thump’ noise from inside the house,” Cropper said. “Officers heard Maldonado speak to them from inside the house, asking ‘who is it?’ Officers identified themselves and Maldonado told him they were all right. Officers ordered him to open the door and he replied ‘no!’

“Eventually, Maldonado exited the front door after multiple commands,” the chief continued. “He was taken into custody. Officers observed blood spatter throughout the inside of the home.”

According to records, April 4, 2021, Maldonado was arrested by Webster Parish Sheriff’s deputies for domestic abuse battery with child endangerment. That case was dismissed.

Church opens doors for Back-to-School prayer vigil

It’s that time of year again! The students, teachers and staff of the Webster Parish School System and Glenbrook School will very soon begin the 2021-2022 school year.  

Once again, First United Methodist Church, 903 Broadway, will be hosting a Back-to-School Prayer Vigil in the Sanctuary from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 10. 

This new school year brings some changes for the public school system as they begin year round schooling.  This will certainly create new issues and concerns for everyone involved, not the least of which, are the concerns surrounding the COvid 19 virus.  So – prayers are needed. 

Please come by the sanctuary and spend some time lifting all those connected to our school systems before the Lord.  Prayer guides will be available.  If you have specific requests or have a family member that you would like to have prayed for by name, please call the church office at 318-377-1483, and we will list them for prayer.

Local couple in custody for drug use, child endangerment

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Involvement of a concerned citizen may have gone a long way in protecting a young child.

Minden Police responded to the call in the 900 block of Hinton St., where they located a couple with a five-year-old child.

Chief Steve Cropper said when Heather Johnson opened the door to her home, officers smelled “an alarming” odor of burnt Marijuana.

“Heather allowed officers to enter her residence and check on her son,” Cropper said. “While inside the residence, Heather was advised of her rights and asked about the smell of Marijuana.”

Lt. Chris Cheatham, Ofc. Shane Griffith and Lt. Chris Hammontree reportedly entered the residence where Heather Johnson provided a small amount of Marijuana in a small purple flowered wooden container with a rotating top.

“A family member was then contacted to come pick up the child, so he could be removed from the situation,” Cropper said. “While talking with Mrs. Johnson, she mentioned a search warrant. At that time, all occupants were removed from the residence, the search warrant was obtained and executed.”

During the search, multiple syringes were located, some loaded with liquid, according to police reports.

“A drug field test kit on the liquid inside of the syringes, tested positive for Methamphetamine,” said the chief. “Located also were two small plastic bags with Methamphetamine residue and approximately seven grams of natural Marijuana.”

In addition, multiple smoking pipes were reportedly located in different locations inside the residence, along with a shotgun inside a bedroom closet.

“Keith Johnson claimed ownership of the firearm and claimed knowledge of the illegal narcotics in the residence,” Cropper said.

Keith Charles Johnson, 38, and Heather Renee Johnson, 37, were charged with possession of Marijuana, possession of Methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and use of controlled dangerous substances in the presence of a minor. Keith Johnson was also charged with illegal carrying of weapons.

Both Johnsons were booked at the Minden Police Department and transported to Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center.

Advocacy for one is advocacy for all

Staff Report

Below is a heart-felt letter written by Sibley Mayor Jimmy Williams pointing out what he feels is a lack of response to the needs of Lake Charles.

Lake Charles, the city America forgot

By Mayor Jimmy Williams, Town of Sibley

The June issue of the Louisiana Municipal Review is one that should stir each of us as municipal leaders, to action. In 2018, many of us gathered in Lake Charles for LMA’s 81st Annual Convention. The LMR editorial board placed a beautiful sunset image of Lake Charles with a welcome letter from Mayor Hunter on the July 2018 cover. His warm letter to our membership painted a vivid picture of “sparkling Lake Charles next to our beautiful lakefront Promenade, Marina and our unique 9-11 Memorial.”

We were enticed to visit the “extraordinary Millennium Park, built solely by area volunteers,” and to “travel a little to the north and stop by our recently expanded Veterans Memorial Park, commemorating all branches of the United States Armed Services.”

Mayor Hunter’s 2018 welcome letter prepared us, while in southwest Louisiana, “to sail, ski, swim, sunbathe, game, ride in horse drawn carriages, play golf, tennis or beach volleyball, crab and fish, dine on fine foods and soak in the friendliness of our people and the southern hospitality so prevalent in our area.”

Lake Charles welcomed us with open arms, and we had a wonderful time. No, in their time of need, we can use our voices to help usher this incredible region and its residents back to their splendor.

Here we are nearly three years later, and Lake Charles is on the cover of this publication again; but this time, the image and message are starkly different. Still reeling from an onslaught of natural disasters, this picturesque American city on the lake now seems to the city that America forgot.

By the time you read this, it likely will have been more than 300 days since Hurricane Laura hit in August 2020, and there is still no supplemental disaster aid for this region in sight. It is unthinkable that any American city would be forsaken for so long – actually, for a record-setting amount of time.

Just recently, $46 million in funding from FEMA for debris removal reimbursement was announced. While we are grateful for every step forward, that only scratches the surface for a storm that caused an estimated $8 to $12 billion in damage, and which left Lake Charles with a current housing need of more than $230 million.

Consider the four additional federally declared disasters that hit the region over the past 14 months, and it is not hard to see why federal aid is critical.

We should all be alarmed by this snail’s pace in providing supplemental disaster aid and by the lack of urgency from Washington DC. As a Gulf Coast state facing increasingly severe weather events, this could happen to any of us and we must ask ourselves: Could my city survive 300 days afer back-to-back major hurricanes, a winter storm, a 1,000-year flood and a global pandemic? Are we fiscally secure? Do we know how to get maximum reimbursement from damage repairs? Do we have a solid game plan?

We have now crossed into hurricane season, and the warmer Gulf waters become, the less time we have to get prepared. Make sure you are taking all the right steps to secure funding available for municipal governments under the American Rescue Plan Act. Lastly, it is critically important for us to remember that our collective voices can extend beyond the borders of this state. Our colleagues in southwest Louisiana need us to rally DC for swift action. None of us can afford to sit idly by while they fight to recover with finite resources and growing needs.

Advocacy is our mission and now is the time for all of us to take action – not only for the recovery of Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana, but for the future needs of our entire state.

(Reprinted with permission)

Tider Line camp about more than dance routines

By Josh Beavers

If there is just one lesson longtime educator Lessie Brown wants members of the Minden High Tider Line to learn during their time as part of the team it is that you must prepare for everything in school life and beyond.

As part of that lesson, Brown oversaw the annual Tider Line camp last week which culminated in a Saturday retreat where team members completed vision boards of their lives five years in the future.

A vision board is a visual representation of a person’s goals. These poster-sized visuals contain images and text that represent something a person is trying to accomplish.

“They practiced routines they learned but then worked on their vision board,” Brown told The Journal during a telephone interview Monday morning “In five years where will you be? They had to consider what plans they needed to make now so they could achieve their goals.”

Brown, who has been teaching Spanish at MHS since 1999 and an educator for 47 total years, said the team worked on their boards for several hours. “They need to know they have to put all they can into their future. You say you want to be a nurse, but what steps do you have to follow to get there?”

Prior to Saturday’s retreat, Brown said the team participated in a week-long camp at Minden High. At camp, the team was instructed by Coach Willie Miller and Coach Teshia Lincoln with Pro Styles Elite and Delta Phi Delta Dance for Eternity, Inc.

Brown said the camp was intense as the presenters taught six dance routines as well as proper procedure for performing in pep rallies, field shows, and parades.

“It was an effort to introduce new techniques,” Brown said. “They showed them what they were doing right but how to adapt and adjust for what they were doing incorrectly. Toe point here, flex here. It was an explanation, demonstration, practice – really something the girls needed.”

Brown, who has sponsored the Tider Line since 2010, said the team must give everything during performances because they represent Minden High School and the City of Minden.

“It’s not just about you, I tell them,” she said. “You are always on display. Our presenters reinforced that. It’s not just about athletics. It’s about who you are and who you represent.”

The team has been preparing for camp all summer. The team gathers at 5 a.m. daily to run, lift weights, stretch and practice.

“We are full force,” Brown said. “We are intense and want our girls to be the best they can be every time they step out to represent their school.”

Court delays Duck sentencing

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Sentencing for Michael Wayne Duck, 54, of Webster Parish, has been delayed due to the death of a family member of Judge Michael Craig.

According to a court official, Duck, who was found guilty on one count of first-degree rape of a child under 13 years of age and one count of second-degree rape, must have sentencing passed by the judge presiding over his trial.

Sentencing was scheduled for Wednesday, July 7. A new date and time have not yet been set.

Message is one of prayer by the patriot

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Patriotic prayer is one of the strongest in the world, according to Former Dist. 36 State Sen. Ryan Gatti.

“When we think about patriotism, we think about how much we love our country,” Gatti told a large group gathered at Eagle Park by Turner’s Pond on Lewisville Road Saturday morning. “Three hundred and sixty-five times in the Bible, God says ‘Fear not.’ Fear is not a part of being a patriot.”

Patriotism comes from our patriarchs, he pointed out.

“Some people don’t want you to praise God on a day like this,” Gatti said. “The power of prayer a patriot possesses is wonderful … it’s extreme. God hears the prayers of the patriot because of the sacrifices they have made.”

Abraham, Moses and Noah prayed for their people, rather than their country because that is the calling of a patriarch, he said.

“Pray, pray for your fellow man, especially the ones you think are tearing the country apart,” Gatti said. “As long as our flag waves, freedom is available and salvation can be spoken about in churches. As long as these flags fly, patriots have a conduit to God. Pray for the people you think are lost. God listens to the prayer of the patriot.”

The celebration, sponsored by Wiley Pevy Post 74 American Legion, concluded with the changing of the flags over Eagle Park – one representing each branch of the military service, as well as the POW/MIA flag and the American flag. At the end, ‘Taps’ was played by Charles Waters.

Photos by Bonnie Culverhouse

Sibley making a splash

By Bonnie Culverhouse

For five years Sibley Mayor Jimmy Williams has been working toward a dream for the citizens of his town.

Thursday evening, that dream came to fruition with the opening of Sibley’s Splash Pad, located behind Sibley Town Hall.

“Every year, I put a certain amount in the budget under ‘parks’, and we’d buy equipment here and there,” Williams said. “We got pretty close to what it was going to take, and then some generous citizens got us the rest of the way.”

Williams was talking specifically about Glenn Warren, with CW&W, Kyle Swain and Jack and Don Tharpe.

“Thanks to them, we were able to complete it,” Williams said. “Glenn Warren saw it as a good project, and he built a lot of it.”

Williams said all the comments he’s heard have been very positive.

“It shouldn’t be that our kids have to go to Bossier, Haughton or Minden to have something to do,” he said. “It’s been a great success, and I’m proud of it.”

Williams said there is more to do. A canopy is coming at the end of the month, but the long-range plan is to “regroup, try to get some grants and build a playground beside it,” he said.

Total cost of the splash pad was around $75,000, Williams said. The playground may come in at close to $100,000, if they build a small one.

Arrest Report

Alexander Gonzolez, 23, of the 1500 block of Shreveport Rd., Minden, was arrested on two outstanding bench warrants.

Pamela Autry, 39, of the 100 block of N. Middle Landing, Minden, was arrested on a criminal warrant for theft.

James Roton Jr., 47, of the 600 block of Doc Steed Rd., was arrested on two outstanding warrants.

Knijadia Washington, 22, of the 100 block of Squire St., Minden, was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

Amelia Coleman, 28, of the 600 block of Leary St., Minden, was arrested for two outstanding warrants.

Anitra Coleman, 22, of the 600 block of Leary St., Minden, was arrested on a warrant for simple battery.

Ronnie Hemphill, 32, of the 200 block of Cadillac St., Minden, was arrested on three outstanding warrants.

Lorenzo Harris, 31, of the 700 block of Sibley Rd., was arrested for disturbing the peace.

Dmairus Gill, 30, of the 1400 block of Harper Rd., was arrested for driving under suspension.

Rickie Seamster Jr., no age available, of the 1200 block of Bonnie Ln., Minden, was arrested for domestic abuse battery.

Terrance Rhodes, 41, of the 1300 block of Sheppard St., Minden, was arrested on a bench warrant for open container.

James Hammond, 57, of Park Highway in Minden, was arrested on a bench warrant served at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center.

Michael Johnson, 46, of the 300 block of Lee St., Minden, was arrested on a bench warrant served at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center.

Kristal Gail Bolyer, 45, of the 1300 block of Dorcheat Rd., Minden, was arrested by WPSO deputies on a civil bench warrant.

Crystal Chatman, 30, of the 1500 block of Fuller Rd., Minden, was arrested by Minden Police for theft, after allegedly stealing more than $30 worth of merchandise from Family Dollar.

Dexter Maurice Morris, 42, of Cotton Valley, was arrested by CVPD for theft of a lawn mower and resisting an officer.

No more making Hay in work release program

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center inmate is back behind bars after walking away from the work release program.

Matthew Wayne Hay, 36, of the 1400 block of Franklin Rd., Heflin, is charged with simple escape after leaving his job at Smith Marine without permission.

Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker said last Wednesday, around 1:30 p.m., Hay’s girlfriend arrived at the business and picked up Hay in her vehicle.

“Later, Minden Police Officer Kendale Booker observed Hay driving his girlfriend’s vehicle on Lee St.,” Parker said. “The officer initiated a traffic stop for failure to wear a seatbelt, failure to use a turn signal and obstruction of view.

“While on the traffic stop, Off. Booker observed a .380 pistol in the center console and a case of beer in the backseat,” the sheriff continued. “He also observed an open can of beer on the floorboard on the passenger side of the vehicle.”

Off. Booker reportedly learned that Hay is currently incarcerated and contacted Work Release Director Randy Culpepper. He was taken to Minden Police Department and collected by a WPSO deputy who transported Hay back to BDCC.

“Hay had a strong odor of alcohol coming from his person,” Parker said. “A handheld breathalyzer was used and Hay’s results were .097G %. Hay admitted to having two beers, and also that he was never given permission to leave his work release job, which he allegedly has done a few times before.”

Sentencing this week for Webster Parish man found guilty on two counts of rape

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A Webster Parish man, found guilty of rape charges, will face sentencing Wednesday, July 7.

After three hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury found Michael W. Duck, 54, guilty of one count of first-degree rape of a child under 13 years of age and one count of second-degree rape.

He was remanded to the custody of the sheriff awaiting an investigation, which was scheduled to be concluded before sentencing by Judge Michael Craig.

“The judge wants to know prior criminal history,” Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker said. “He wants as much information about his background before sentencing. This man doesn’t have a lot in his background, so there won’t be much to investigate.

“I think justice was served,” he added.

The sentence for first-degree rape is a mandatory life sentence. Duck faces up to an additional 30 years for the charge of second-degree rape. He was represented by Eric Johnson and Eric Whitehead of the Johnson Law Firm.

Duck was arrested in 2016, following an extensive investigation by the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office when one of the minor victims contacted the WPSO and reported that her stepfather had been sexually assaulting her.

During the course of the investigation, multiple other family members revealed they were also sexually assaulted by Duck.

The jury heard testimony from Detective Teresa Rogers and Detective Heather Boucher, both experts in the fields of clinical psychology, DNA analysis and sexual assault examinations as well as from multiple other victims who came forward during the investigation.

The cases allegedly took place in the Sarepta area, according to Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Jimbo Yocom and Hugo Holland. District Attorney Schuyler Marvin thanked the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office for their hard work and dedication finding justice for these young children.

“It is the height of evil that Michael Duck would stand before you and ask that you find him innocent when innocence is the very thing he stole from these young children,” Assistant District Attorney Jimbo Yocom told jurors.

Local 12 year old competing in national rodeo finals

Lots of kids spend summer break indoors on video games, outside in the water, or earning a little extra cash via a part-time job. But Levi DeHart isn’t like most other kids, and while they are whiling away the hours, he is actively competing against other competitors from across the nation in rodeo events.

Levi, who is 12 and entering seventh grade at North Webster Junior High, is in Oklahoma this week competing in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA) Finals.

“As a mom the best part is the character rodeo creates in kids,” said Brandi DeHart, Levi’s mom. She spoke to The Journal via Facebook Live from Oklahoma. “The drive that Levi has for rodeo amazes me. I never have to tell him to practice; I never have to make sure his gear is together. He’s early and knows when and where to be and at what time. When we head out to a rodeo Levi says,’let’s go, everything is loaded’.”

Everything includes horses, saddles, gear, hats, boots and “whatever is coming to that particular rodeo. Levi has it loaded.”

Brandi describes her child as humble and dedicated. “He never complains. We just came in from a 12-hour-drive, and the first thing Levi did when we got home was practice.” He then went on to clean stalls, ride his horse and take care of his 4-H pigs. “Rodeo keeps Levi humble. He’s learned how to deal with wins and loses all while keeping the right attitude. He knows there’s another rodeo and another chance to do his best.”

Levi began his rodeo career at only nine years of age. He cut his teeth in the Southwest Arkansas High School Rodeo Association. In addition to qualifying in the NLBRA event, Levi also qualified for the 2021 National Junior High Rodeo finals in bareback steer riding.

For the 2020-2021 year, Levi placed in the state Top 5 in that same event. From the state finals, Levi qualified for the national finals in Iowa. That competition is considered by industry insiders and enthusiasts of the sport as being the best of the best.

“It is one of the largest rodeos with 46 states,Canada and Mexico competing for money, buckles, saddles and scholarships,” Brandi DeHart said. “Levi Made a qualifying ride in the first go. In the second go, Levi needed four tenths of a second to make a second qualifying ride.”

He came up just short of the championship round, but let’s not forget the young man was a sixth grader in his first competition at such a high level.

Check back with the Journal next week. We will have an update on how Levi fared in the NLBRA Finals. The event ends Sunday.

Valiant Minden All-Start teams fall short of state tourneys

By Josh Beavers

Two Minden teams were in action over the weekend during the annual Dixie Youth All-Stars tournaments. Unfortunately, both squads came up short in bids to make it to the state tourneys slated for later this month.

Our local Recreation Complex played host to the 10U Triple A District tourney while Shreveport hosted the AA Coach Pitch Tournament. Eight teams were in town for the 10U Triple A tournament.

In 10U action, Minden stumbled in the first game and lost against the Shreveport Nationals. On Saturday morning, the local boys rallied to defeat Union Parish by a score of 8-5, but that night Minden lost in an elimination match against Blanchard. The defeat knocked Minden out of the tournament and ended the season for our local boys.

Coach Kent Staggs said bright spots for Minden included Colton Cooper’s excellent pitching in the second game. Tate Lowe also pitched well. Mikie Parker got two hits and an inside-the-park home run. John Hollas Robinson struck out seven in his game. Other excellent performers included Kingston Harris.

Over to the west in Caddo Parish, the 8U AA Coach Pitch Tournament was the scene of a marathon stretch of games for the Minden boys. All totaled, Minden played in nine games during the tournament and narrowly missed making it to state competition.

Bossier defeated Minden by a single run (11-10) to take the final spot in the state field.

Coach Clint Powell said he could not be more proud of the way the team played and responded to so many games in such a short period of time.

“Most of these boys had never played two games in a single day, but on Saturday we played five,” Powell told The Journal during a phone interview on Monday afternoon. “They showed a lot of poise to go as far as they did in the tourney.”

Powell said the squad was young, composed of an equal number of seven- and eight-year-olds, whereas most other participants fielded teams exclusively consisting of eight-year-olds.

“Eleven out of 12 of our kids had never played travel ball,” the coach told The Journal. “The other teams were used to what went on. Our boys should be congratulated for giving it their all and making it as far as they did.”

Standouts for Minden included Jayden and Jordan Hartwell, a pair of twin outfielders, as well as shortstop Ryder Hollingsworth. Also earning special recognition was Bentley Nealy who was a consistent hitter and made plays in the field.

State tournaments for six Minden teams begin later this month. One more event is slated at the district level, and it’s being held right here in Minden. The 12U O-Zone tourney begins Thursday.

Check The Journal every Tuesday and Thursday for All-Star recaps and previews of upcoming action.

PHOTO: The 8U Minden All-Stars played nine games in three days over the July 4 weekend. A one-run loss to Bossier denied Minden a spot in the state tournament.

Move to LHSAA ranks has its doubters in Glenbrook School community

By Regan Edwards and WPJ Staff

There’s ample advantages to Glenbrook School’s move into the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, after being in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools for many years.

That doesn’t mean there’s across-the-board agreement among the Glenbrook community.

Yes, there’s no question that travel costs for teams will be greatly reduced.

Yes, there’s no doubt that area interest, and perhaps support and enrollment, in Glenbrook will be ramped up because the Apaches are playing nearby schools in Haynesville, Homer, Arcadia, Bossier City and many other surrounding communities – including, hopefully, the Webster Parish public schools.

Yes, playing those schools should significantly increase gate receipts at home games.

Yes, the chances are soaring of Glenbrook teams’ highlights showing up on Shreveport TV stations, and on other media platforms such as the wildly-popular Tim Fletcher Show on KWKH-AM radio each weekday morning. Having high-profile coaches David Feaster (athletic director/football, former highly-successful coach at Minden, Parkway and Many, among other stops) and Cheryl Ford (girls’ basketball, former WNBA star) ramps up the media appeal in the Shreveport market.

But the unknown is hard to swallow for more than a few former players, alumni and supporters contacted by the Webster Parish Journal. Nobody wanted to be quoted, but there’s certainly plenty of concern about the LHSAA move.

The MAIS is all Glenbrook alumni and supporters have ever known. Nearly every rivalry will end, and new ones will take time to develop.

The Glenbrook teams will not be eligible for the playoffs in the 2021-22 school year as the school completes a probationary period required of all incoming LHSAA members. The Glenbrook baseball program, MAIS champions in May, will not reach postseason next spring.

There’s a lot of doubt expressed, privately, by some who worry that Glenbrook teams will not measure up competitively to their LHSAA neighbors, and scoreboards will show it.

There are some who prefer not to take the field against the public schools at all.

There are some who fear that the local public schools will not want to play Glenbrook because of a perception that the Apaches, being a private school, could effectively recruit and bring in talented athletes from outside the school’s traditional Minden-area base.

Spinning off that suggestion, there are those who wonder if, in fact, Glenbrook will follow in the footsteps of Shreveport’s Evangel and Calvary Baptist in Bossier City, private schools that have certainly broadened enrollment access resulting in great athletic success. If that develops, some speculate it could happen at the expense of some of the young people who have been advancing at Glenbrook to take their presumed places in lineups of Apache teams in 2022 and beyond.

Glenbrook’s leadership carefully weighed the options before choosing to make the move. Along with travel costs was the reality that some MAIS schools were switching to eight-man football to save costs and deal with enrollment declines, which created schedule challenges and much more travel for the Apaches, who are committed to playing standard 11-man football.

The WPJ welcomes comments from anyone who cares to share their perspective on this hot-button issue that is simmering below the radar around Glenbrook this summer.

New ordinance will help fill vacant buildings

By Bonnie Culverhouse

As part of his job, Economic Development Director Phillip Smart works to bring new businesses to town, but while he is concerned about property for new construction,  he is also concerned with the many vacant buildings here.

“We have people with downtown structures that are vacant,” Smart said. “I don’t even know off the top of my head how many there are. The owners don’t want to sell them; they don’t want to lease them. They just sit there.”

So in order to move things along, Smart has created a Vacant Structure Ordinance, which he presented to the mayor and four members of the Minden City Council during an agenda workshop Friday.

“If you have a vacant structure and you’re not doing anything with it, within six months if it’s still vacant, you have to file it with the city and notify them that you have a vacant structure,” Smart said. “You have to have an overall projection of what you are going to do within the next six months.”

Whether the owner inherited from a death in the family and doesn’t yet know what will become of the property, or if they plan to renovate it to lease or sell, the owner will be required to let the city know, he said.

“Basically, it lets us put it on a list that says, ‘OK, this is available,’” Smart said. “Whether it’s for sale or for lease, you tell us all the information. Who it’s listed with, project manager or property manner. So, we have that contact information.”

The owner must also prove insurance on the property – a liability policy, he said, for safety’s sake.

After the six-month period, if the property isn’t sold or rented, a penalty will be assessed.

“And if it’s not marketed at fair value, you have to pay a penalty,” he said. “Fair market value is determined from the City of Minden, Webster Parish Assessor and the property owner.”

Rental works the same way.

“If it’s over the rental square-foot amount, you will be penalized,” he said.

The concern over vacant buildings includes more than just downtown Minden, as there are darkened doors on Homer Road and other parts of town.

“If it’s zoned business or commercial, it is part of it (proposed ordinance),” Smart said.

And in an effort to bring more pride to the business community, Smart said the buildings cannot have plywood on the windows.

“If you do, you can only have it for 30 days or you’re penalized,” he said.

Smart cited two businesses that recently wanted to lease buildings downtown, and rent was so high or the property owner didn’t want to lease or sell it, neither business owner could relocate to Minden.

District A Councilman Wayne Edwards expressed concern about the extensiveness of the proposed ordinance.

“What do you think will be the position of the people who own buildings downtown?” Edwards asked Smart during the workshop. “This (ordinance) is pretty extensive on what has to be done. It’s going to force people to sell their buildings. Is this what we want?”

Smart replied the hope is that owners will upgrade or sell their buildings, so they will no longer be vacant, overgrown and boarded.

Edwards agreed with a proposal by District E Councilwoman Pam Bloxom that would mean hosting a town hall meeting that will include all business owners – those present and the ones that do not live in town, so the ordinance can be explained in full to all.

A date and time have not yet been set.