Louisiana news briefs
Mom charged with death of Down syndrome son
BELLE CHASSE (AP) — A Louisiana woman was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder after police say she injected hand sanitizer into the feeding tube of her 17-month-old son, a Down syndrome patient who died of alcohol poisoning in January.
Erika Wigstrom, 20, was arrested Tuesday and was ordered held without bond Wednesday, said Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Commander Eric Becnel. Wigstrom told detectives she wanted to end the child’s suffering, Becnel said.
She broke down in tears during an afternoon court appearance.
The child, Lucas Ruiz, died Jan. 24. Becnel said Lucas also had been poisoned with alcohol in October 2012 while hospitalized in Jefferson Parish for treatment of a heart defect. The child’s father, Cesar Ruiz, confessed in that instance, but Becnel said Wigstrom has now confessed that she injected perfume into the child’s feeding tube at that time.
Becnel said authorities believe the child was poisoned the second time on Jan. 23.
to Lafourche Council
MATHEWS (AP) — More than two months after he was injured in a shooting rampage, Phillip Gouaux has returned to serve on the Lafourche Parish Council.
A standing ovation welcomed Gouaux on Tuesday as he was brought into the Mathews Government Complex in a wheelchair by his daughters, Jeanne Gouaux and Aimee O’Gwynn.
“I’m not a quitter. I’ve got to finish what I’ve started,” he said.
It was Gouaux’s first meeting since a Dec. 26 shooting that put him in the hospital. Four were killed: Gouaux’s wife, Susan; the shooter, Ben Freeman; Freeman’s wife, Denise; and Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital CEO Milton Bourgeois.
Gouaux’s daughter, Andrea Gouaux, and Bourgeois’ wife, Anne, were injured.
New Orleans to begin replenishing Esplanade oaks
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration is looking for a contractor to start replenishing the diminished canopy of oak trees along the Esplanade Avenue neutral ground between North Rampart and North Miro streets.
The city plans to spend about $450,000 in federal grant money on the project, which should begin early this summer.
The city’s plan calls for adding 27 new oaks and removing nine considered to be in “major decline” and posing a hazard. The contractor also will remove dead wood from otherwise healthy trees, clear out other small trees and shrubs and lay down sod in some areas.
Former officer accused
of misusing credit card
CONVENT (AP) — A former Gramercy patrol officer is facing felony theft charges after officials allege she charged personal purchases, amounting to about $7,500, to a town-issued credit card.
The newly released financial audit for Gramercy’s 2012-13 fiscal year brought to light the former officer’s alleged misuse of the Fueltrac credit card.
Maj. Sid Berthelot, who heads the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division, says 45-year-old Evangeline Taylor of Convent was arrested last November on counts of malfeasance and felony theft.
She was later charged by prosecutors in St. James Parish with felony theft.
Ex-LSU athlete is a donor
for band’s trip to Ireland
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The LSU Tiger Marching Band is leaving Friday for Ireland — and the upwards of $700,000 trip won’t cost them a dime.
The band announced it would be taking all 325 members to Dublin to march in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Plans were to pay for the trip through proceeds raised at its annual Tigerama concert.
Then Houston businessman Ralph McIngvale pitched in $100,000.
Roy King, director of athletic bands, said McIngvale is a former LSU football player.
The stipends, funded by the LSU Athletic Department, usually come to the students at the end of the football season. The department paid $350,000 toward this trip.
New Orleans airport passenger traffic rose
KENNER (AP) — The number of passengers traveling through Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport increased in 2013 for the fourth year in a row, with more than 9.2 million passengers using the airport.
The airport says the number of passengers represents a 7.1 percent increase from 2012 and an 18 percent increase since 2009, according to the airport.
Southwest Airlines carried the most traffic to and from New Orleans, with its passengers making up a third of the total.
New service already announced for next year includes nonstop flights to Seattle and charter flights to Jamaica.
The new terminal is scheduled to be completed by 2018 to coincide with New Orleans’ 300th anniversary.
Growth fuels need for additional Lafourche schools
THIBODAUX (AP) — New elementary schools are on the horizon for Chackbay and Bayou Blue in the next two years.
The Lafourche Parish School Board approved the sale of $18 million in bonds Wednesday to pay for the two schools that are needed to address expected overcrowding.
The bond money will be paid off through the 15.2-mill property tax voters approved in 2012.
Bayou Blue has the largest amount of elementary students in the parish with 789 enrolled, and Chackbay has 328 enrolled. While Bayou Blue will have two K-5 elementary schools, the existing Chackbay school will be closed and a larger school will be built.
Superintendent Jo Ann Matthews said new housing developments in the Chackbay and Bayou Blue areas are why the schools are experiencing such rapid growth.
Businessman sentenced in 2 bribery cases
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans businessman, who said he tried to bribe former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and who pleaded guilty to bribing former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle in exchange for a contract, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Aaron Bennett was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval.
In addition to bribing Hingle, Bennett also accepted responsibility for bribing Nagin with a free plane ride to Chicago and Las Vegas in 2007.
Bennett had his sentencing pushed back several times until after the federal corruption trial of Nagin, although he wasn’t called to testify.
Bennett, who has been in custody for nearly eight months since his bond was revoked, will be given credit for time served.