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Is Baton Rouge's zoo on the move? $110M upgrade on table for 'old, small' facility

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- One of two pygmy hippos on exhibit at BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, Friday, June 3, 2015. The outdated exhibit features concrete and iron fencing with Plexiglas.

Seeking to boost attendance at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo and the impact the zoo has on the region, park system officials are mulling over a $110 million upgrade that could include moving it to a different location. BREC officials caution that no decisions have been made yet and say they don’t plan on seeking a tax… Continue reading →

Throngs of Baton Rouge soccer fans turn out for U.S. Women’s victory

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Soccer fans react to the United States' third goal in the 14th minute of the game as they pack the Londoner Grill in Baton Rouge, Sunday, July 5, 2015, during the Women's World Cup Finals between the United States and Japan.

If anyone missed their chance to wear clothes adorned with the American flag on Saturday, they got another shot on Sunday while celebrating the U.S. women’s soccer team. Patriotic enthusiasm spilled over from the Fourth of July holiday, as World Cup soccer fans — many attired in red, white and blue — turned out in force to… Continue reading →

Death of Zachary man still under investigation; ‘foul play’ suspected, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office says

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office continued on Sunday to investigate the death of a man in Zachary, but declined to release more information about the case. The man’s identity and cause of death will not been released until an autopsy is conducted Monday, but evidence at the scene indicated foul play, said Sheriff’s Office… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge man accused of raping woman he met through social media

Matthew Melancon, 25, was arrested Saturday on one count of forcible rape.

A Baton Rouge man accused of raping a woman he met through social media was arrested Saturday and booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Matthew Melancon, 25, is accused of pinning the victim down and having anal and vaginal intercourse with her despite her resistance, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office report says. He was… Continue reading →

Nearly 30 people booked on suspicion of DWI in East Baton Rouge from Friday-Sunday

. Authorities arrested at least eight people suspected of driving while intoxicated in East Baton Rouge Parish and booked them into Parish Prison between 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, booking records show. And authorities arrested at least 21 people suspected of driving while intoxicated in East Baton Rouge Parish — including one accused… Continue reading →

Ask The Advocate: Questions about the U.S. 190 bridge

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- A view of the Mississippi River and downtown Baton Rouge including the old US 190 bridge  Wednesday.

Editor’s note: We’ve received a number of questions about bridges. The first three involve the U.S. 190 Mississippi River bridge. Indira Parrales, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation and Development, provided these answers: QUESTION: Why was the decision to paint the bridge “battleship ship” rather than the original… Continue reading →

Boy killed in St. Helena in accident involving ATV-like cart

A 12-year-old boy was killed in a utility terrain vehicle crash Saturday evening that also resulted in the arrest of the vehicle’s driver, according to the St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were called out about 5:15 p.m. to Calmes Road, where the boy was riding a UTV driven by Joshua Tharpe, 36, who had made a… Continue reading →

Morgan City police warn of counterfeit money in the area

Police are warning people to be aware of counterfeit money in the area. Officers with the Morgan City Police Department responded Sunday to a complaint of possible counterfeit money distributed to a business on La. 182, according to a report by KATC-TV. Three men, whose identities have not been… Continue reading →

Art exhibit features photography, collage by homeless women

An upcoming art exhibit at Theatre 810 gives a glimpse of life seen through the eyes of Acadiana’s homeless women, with collages and photographs by the women of the Outreach Center for Women and Children. The exhibit, named “The Inner ‘I’: A Portrait of Emotional Expressions,” will be on display for only two days, opening on Friday… Continue reading →

Cyclists tackle conquer Louisiana terrain in ‘La Vuelta d’Acadiana’ road race

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO  - Bikers ride down a country road during the 8th annual La Vuelta d'Acadiana road race in Arnaudville Sunday, July 5, 2015.

ARNAUDVILLE Many cyclists arrived Sunday shortly after dawn to unload lightweight racing bikes and contemplate their impending attack on the flat St. Landry Parish terrain. Hours later, smeared with bug spray and sunscreen, the riders gently glided past the starting line along languid Bayou Fuselier, ready to battle a breezeless Acadiana morning… Continue reading →

Lafayette School Board looks to cut costs, but DA’s office not solution

Using the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office as the Lafayette Parish School Board’s lawyer is likely off the table as a cost-cutting measure as the board looks for ways to cut back on legal expenses, a board leader recently said. Instead, creating a staff attorney position or finding ways to limit expenses with the current general… Continue reading →

Ten years after forming a new city, Central leaders say their experiment in local government works for their community

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Central Mayor J.R. Shelton, at the welcome sign to the City's incorporated area.

When Central incorporated 10 years ago, leaders of the community north of Baton Rouge launched what has become a decadelong experiment in local government, running on a lean budget funded solely by a 2 percent sales tax. They vowed not to raise the tax, promising to keep costs low by contracting all services out to… Continue reading →

Severe thunderstorm warning in Baton Rouge area until 4:45 p.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for East and West Baton Rouge parishes and Livingston Parish Sunday afternoon until 4:45 p.m. The storm is capable of producing quarter-size hail, damaging winds in excess of 60 miles per hour, heavy rain and deadly lightning. As of about 4:00 p.m., the storm was located… Continue reading →

How Bobby Jindal will govern Louisiana in next 6 months: Help of cellphone, computer, aides

Republican presidential candidate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal greets local residents while walking in a Fourth of July parade, Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) ORG XMIT: IACN112

Even before officially joining the presidential sweepstakes, Gov. Bobby Jindal spent far less time in Louisiana than his predecessors. Since announcing June 24 that he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Jindal has been in Louisiana only one day, according to campaign news releases and the lieutenant governor’s records. And with just… Continue reading →

Sheriff’s Office investigating man’s death on South Vernon Road in Zachary late Saturday as a homicide

Zachary police found a man dead late Saturday in the 3000 block of South Vernon Road and the Sheriff’s Office is investigating it as a homicide, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said. Zachary police contacted the Sheriff’s Office around 7 p.m. about the man’s death, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, the spokeswoman.… Continue reading →

Same-sex marriage ruling spurs revision of state’s adoption policies, but advocates still seek anti-discrimination laws on employment, housing

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK --  Chelsea Hughes shows off her marriage certificate outside the Lafayette Parish Courthouse on Monday, June 29, 2015, in Lafayette, La.

Attorney Bernadette Lee represents a couple celebrating two major life events: the adoption of a child and their upcoming wedding. The adoption was finalized last month, before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage that will allow the two men to marry in their home state. That meant they faced a hard… Continue reading →

Louisiana bikers rally at USS Kidd as they escort flag on next leg of ‘Patriot Tour’ to raise money for wounded vets

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- From left, Nation of Patriots flag bearer Carl Landriault carries the American Flag with Eddie Mayard as they are led by Nation of Patriots Regional Commander Paul Aubert, during a Passing the Flag ceremony, Saturday, July 4, 2015 at the USS Kidd in Baton Rouge. The flag will make 100 stops in as many days, traveling through all of the lower 48 United States, both starting and finishing in Milwaukee, WI. The flag leaves Baton Rouge for Lafayette and Alexandria.

In the shadow of the USS Kidd and the Veterans Memorial, about 100 bikers and veterans from around Louisiana revved their engines to escort the American flag from Baton Rouge to Lafayette. Starting where Independence Day fireworks would light up the night sky hours later, the trip was part of the “Patriot Tour.” It’s become… Continue reading →

Barge cleaning facility on River Road worries some, but proposed move downriver seen easing concerns

While concerns remain about a proposed barge cleaning facility on River Road, some say a proposal to move it about a half mile further downriver from where they live, work and study could ease many of their worries. Opponents argued that a state permit should be denied the facility because it isn’t compatible with the surrounding… Continue reading →

Acadiana Regional Airport director says New Iberia facility could become hub of international commerce within a year

The executive director of Acadiana Regional Airport believes the vast air transport facility in Iberia Parish can be a hub of international commerce within a year. “Everything is in place. We’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the facility. We’re ready to go,” said Jason Devillier, who concedes he’s a “hopeless optimist.”… Continue reading →

Wasting no time, new Pointe Coupee superintendent sets ambitious agenda for improving parish’s schools

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- New Pointe Coupee Parish Schools superintendent Kevin Lemoine, left, talks Wednesday about physical changes occurring to the Livonia High School cafeteria, and possible procedural changes in the flow of students through the cafeteria, during a site tour with school principal Stacy Gueho, right, on Lemoine's first official day as the new superintendent.

In his first week as Pointe Coupee Parish’s new school superintendent, Kevin Lemoine has already toured all five of the district’s campuses, met with principals and key staff and started crunching numbers for the district’s next fiscal year budget. And it looks like things won’t be slowing down any time soon for the 51-year-old educator.… Continue reading →

Rain put a damper on Lafayette Fourth of July festival, but only for a spell as skies cleared and revelers returned

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO  - Ray Boudreaux performs at Uncle Sam's Jam celebrating Independence Day at Parc International in Lafayette Sat., July 4, 2015.

The inaugural July 4 Uncle Sam’s Jam at Parc International in Lafayette got off to a slow start on Saturday after torrential rainfall drove away the crowd for a spell. But by 5 p.m., the clearing skies and anticipation of the approaching fireworks show brought the Independence Day revelers streaming back.… Continue reading →

Netchex founders build online business after Internet bubble bursts

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD  -- Brad Caluda, left, Chris Dupuy, Patrick Ballard and Megan Woodruff brainstorm new Web features at Netchex, an online payroll and human resources company headquartered in Mandeville. The copany also has offices in Baton Rouge, Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta and Dallas.

With smoke still rising in 2002 from the ruins of the dot.com crash, amid the rubble of broken dreams and catchphrases like “new economy” and “new paradigm,” Netchex’s co-founders had a crazy idea. They would start a web-based company. College roommates at LSU, best friends and wannabe entrepreneurs Will Boudreaux and Stuart Ethridge… Continue reading →

Lafayette police blotter for July 4, 2015

Arrests posted Jul. 4, 2015, on the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s web site: MIKESHA NICOLE ARNOLD: 20, of the 1700 block of Virginian Colony, La Place. She was booked on misdemeanor theft and two counts of warrant/bench warrant. TONY LANE BEN: 33,… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge home catches fire early Saturday morning

A Baton Rouge home sustained $100,000 in damage in an early morning fire Saturday. Firefighters responded shortly after 1 a.m. to 9918 Rhine Ave., near BREC’s Mayfair Park, and found heavy smoke inside, said Mark Miles, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman. Firefighters determined the fire started in the attic, but the cause was unclear. Foul… Continue reading →

Fire breaks out on Baton Rouge General Medical Hospital roof

A small fire broke out Saturday morning on the roof of Baton Rouge General Medical Hospital off of Bluebonnet Boulevard. The fire was in a construction area on the roof over the area that houses ICU patients, said Eldon Ledoux, St. George Fire Department spokesman. A propane bottle that workers were using to heat tar caught on… Continue reading →

Many leaders pin hopes on Warren Drake to reverse discontent over schools that fueled push to create City of St. George

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The ascension of Warren Drake to EBR School Superintendent has raised hopes anew that he can do what others have failed to, to heal the breach in this city over public education that led to the St. George incorporation movement. Unlike past superintendents, Drake is a local son, a respected educator, a former principal of BR high school and former supt. of the top-rated Zachary school district.

As the fight over St. George shifts to the courts, many local leaders are pinning their hopes on new East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake to reverse the discontent over the schools that led to the push to create a new city with an independent school system. They’re hoping the 63-year-old Drake will be able to… Continue reading →

Denham Springs woman dies Friday from injuries after crash with 18-wheeler

A 19-year-old Denham Springs woman died Friday of injuries sustained in a collision with an 18-wheeler a day earlier, State Police said. Lolene Collyer was traveling westbound on Impson Street in Livingston Parish about 8:45 a.m. on Thursday when she turned left onto La. 1019 into the path of an 18-wheeler, State Police spokesman Trooper First Class… Continue reading →

Homicide stats for East Baton Rouge disturb some, but officials say key program spurring progress

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- EBRSO Deputies work the scene of a shooting on Summer Drive.

Murders in East Baton Rouge Parish in June came at a disturbingly steady pace, with 11 homicides that don’t even account for negligent killings such as the death of a toddler named Angel Green, who was left inside a hot car June 5. “I believe a lot of mothers got a wake-up call (last) month,” said… Continue reading →

‘Like being in a war zone’ pyrotechnics expert says as he prepares to light up night sky for Baton Rouge’s July 4th celebration

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Preparations continue for setting up the fireworks on the barge for the 4th of July fireworks display which will be ignited in the middle of the Mississippi River.

Some 1,200 fireworks will burst above the Mississippi River Saturday night — but not before a crew of eight meticulously loads each explosive into tubes and hooks them up to a special network of wires, a task they’ve been working on for days. The label on each pyrotechnic bundle, or “shell,” promises different versions of nature-inspired bombs… Continue reading →

More rain fell on Baton Rouge than usual during the last three months as frequent storms swept through, flooding streets

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Bonnie Budyach darts across Florida Street at Third Street, as as storms roll through downtown Baton Rouge in June 2015.

It’s not your imagination. Baton Rouge rainfall drenched residents and roads more than usual during the past three months. More than 25 inches of rain — 9 inches above normal —fell during that time at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. Of the 91 days in those three months, 46 have brought rain to the area. Normally,… Continue reading →

Feud simmering between four-year and two-year colleges over state funding distribution

State funding for Louisiana’s colleges and universities became a unifying force in the most recent legislative session, but behind the scenes, animosity has been simmering over a disparity in the way two-year and four-year institutions are funded. Leaders on the community college level say the state funds have been distributed to “keep doors open” at four-year colleges,… Continue reading →

Man accused of repeatedly raping woman over 15 years

Troy Batiste

A New Roads man accused of repeatedly raping a woman over the last 15 years was arrested Thursday after law enforcement officers responded to the latest alleged incident at the victim’s home in East Baton Rouge Parish, a Sheriff’s Office report says. Troy Anthony Batiste, 48, attempted to have sex with the victim Thursday morning at an… Continue reading →

Author, poet Henry David Thoreau thought decluttered life would lead to decluttered mind

Henry David Thoreau sought a decluttered life because he thought it would lead to a decluttered mind, The Advocate columnist Danny Heitman writes in a New York Times article. With household decluttering now a national obsession, maybe Americans should pause this Fourth of July and remember the nation’s original domestic minimalist. He moved to a small… Continue reading →