LSP says it won’t arrest driver who hit, killed children fishing

A State Police investigation has not found enough evidence to arrest the driver of a sport utility vehicle that plowed into a group fishing along Bluff Road in Ascension Parish, killing two young children, a state trooper said Monday

Trooper Jared Sandifer, spokesman for State Police Troop A, said the report is complete but has not been handed over to District Attorney Ricky Babin of the 23rd Judicial District for review. That will probably happen Tuesday, he said.

“In talking to troopers, we cannot find any conclusive evidence that she (the driver) is criminally negligent at this point, which is why we’re trying to take the findings to the District Attorney’s Office and put it in their hands,” Sandifer said.

Though troopers say they have not found enough evidence to make an arrest, the district attorney can review the evidence, conduct further investigation and choose to file charges in a bill of information if he believes the evidence warrants it. He can also put the evidence before the grand jury for possible charges.

Babin said there was some early discussion more than a month ago that the case could be brought to an Ascension Parish grand jury but he has not seen the report yet and does not know what else State Police may have found.

Babin said he wants to see the final report first before he decides whether to bring the case to the grand jury.

“I don’t know all the facts,” said Babin, who is district attorney for Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.

Troopers have said Shawnette B. Taylor, 47, of Prairieville drove off the side of narrow, two-lane Bluff Road in a curve June 24.

The 2004 Nissan Armada went down a steep embankment and continued about 100 to 200 feet, hitting the group fishing.

Sarai “Ladybug” Lanus, 9, and her brother, Daylon “Duce” Lanus, 6, both of Geismar, were fishing with their dad, David Lanus Sr., 30, and two of his cousins in the bayou, which runs under Bluff Road.

Sarai and Daylon died despite the efforts of bystanders at the scene with medical experience.

Shayla Lanus, 31, Sarai and Daylon’s mother and David Lanus’ wife, called news of the report’s findings unacceptable.

“Something is going to have to be done. I don’t know. Even if it wasn’t intentional and she wasn’t under any type of influence, she still has to be held responsible,” Lanus said.

“They are going to have to do something,” she added.

Lanus said her family is considering a lawsuit over the crash.

Husband David Lanus and the cousins, who were also fishing along the bayou, were injured in the crash and taken to a hospital. Taylor had minor injuries.

Family members and others have since said that David Lanus had picked up the children from summer camp earlier that day to go fishing. Fishing in that bayou and others in the area was regular activity for the father and his children.

The deaths prompted shared mourning in the Lanus’ Geismar neighborhood, where their children and home were well-known among other parents and youngsters in the area.

The fatalities also give rise to claims that Bluff Road, also known as La. 928, is a dangerous rural route overworked by commuter traffic for Ascension’s chemical plants, though state highway officials say accident data show the highway hasn’t had enough crashes to put it on the state’s so-called “abnormal list” for highways with a higher-than-average number of crashes.

Taylor, who lives in a subdivision off Bluff Road a few miles south of the crash site, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

A teenage son who answered the door Monday afternoon said she was not at home. Taylor’s husband has previously declined comment on her behalf.

Sandifer said a State Police captain has already signed off on the investigative report.

A copy of the report was not available Monday because Sandifer said the investigation is still ongoing and the report is not yet public record.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter at @NewsieDave.

Editor’s note: The State Police clarified late Monday, Aug. 18, that its investigative report into the wreck is complete. Earlier in the day, a spokesman had said the report was expected to be completed Monday or Tuesday.