What’s It Like Now: 10th Judicial District Court

A lot of the operating procedures have changed for the 10th Judicial District Court in Natchitoches Parish to deal with the coronavirus and the state’s reopening guidelines under Phase 1. What what does it all mean and what does it actually look like for judges and their staff members?

The Natchitoches Parish Journal wanted to provide readers with a window into the world of the courtroom and how operations have adapted. The Courthouse as a whole is requiring citizens to wear masks upon entering the building. Temperatures are also being checked at the main entrance and upstairs before anyone enters the courtroom.

Bathrooms and the courtroom itself are being cleaned between uses. Even the microphones are being cleaned after each person speaks into them and pens are being cycled out. The number of people allowed inside is being restricted. A lot of daily business is being conducted via Zoom and teleconference calls.

This makes for a much more solemn atmosphere. The hallways aren’t bustling with people as one might be used to. But Judge LaLa Sylvester and Judge Desiree Dyess are adjusting to the changes and the increased use of technology to get work done.

“Court came to a halt for a few weeks in the beginning,” said Judge Sylvester. “But things haven’t slowed down at all. It’s put more on our workloads because it takes a lot more steps to make things happen but we’re impressed with how we’re all learning to be able to communicate in new ways.”

Dyess agreed by saying the technological advancements have allowed the court to continue through this pandemic. Particularly with drug and juvenile court, digital meetings have allowed the judges to maintain contact in a time when contact is important.

“Our staff has been working together to accommodate lawyers so they can continue to have full access to justice,” she said.

Perhaps a more visual representation of the safety measures being taken in the court room are the plexiglass sneeze shields that were installed as a barrier between the public and the court proceeding, the plaintiff from the defendant, the judge from the courtroom, and the staff members from everyone else. The number of people allowed to sit in the courtroom is also restricted and blue x’s taped to the back of the benches show where people are allowed to sit while still maintaining social distancing requirements.

It’s an impressive presentation geared toward the safety of everyone involved. What’s more impressive is that the 10th Judicial District Court is at the forefront of these actions. Judge Sylvester said they’re the first in the state to have the plexiglass shields installed and have been very proactive in trying to get the courts open again.

This has taken many meetings at the Courthouse between the judges and the other departments, so a unified operations plan could be put into place for the whole building. It also involved participating in a multitude of conference calls to see what was being done across the state, including the National Center for State Courts, the National Judicial College, The Louisiana Supreme Court, the Louisiana State Bar Association and more.

“I think everyone is happy the courthouse is open,” said Judge Sylvester. “We’re very pleased with how the public has handled our reopening. Their positive attitudes and cooperation has been amazing.”

Judge Sylvester added that she’s felt safe at the Courthouse through all this but recognizes the need for people to wear masks in public. Not knowing if you have the virus and being able to spread it makes this a serious risk for everyone.

At the end of the day, the 10th Judicial District Court still has a job to do in the midst of the pandemic.

“We took an oath to uphold the law and keep everyone safe,” said Judge Dyess. “It’s a delicate balance and we work hard to maintain it.”

Obit: John Garland Williams

July 08, 1944 – May 24, 2020

John Garland Williams passed away Sunday morning, May 24, 2020, at the age of 75.

He was born on July 8, 1944 in Jacksonville, FL and grew up on Cane River in Natchitoches. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s High School, where he played baseball and basketball. He studied Agriculture at LSU before entering Tulane Law School. In 1968 he graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, got married, and entered the United States Marine Corps, where he served as a Judge Advocate General.

He returned to Natchitoches in 1973, practiced law, served as assistant district attorney, and taught in the College of Business at Northwestern State University. He was a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and served as lector for many years. He was also a founding member of the Dirty Dozen Social Club.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Judge Richard B. Williams and Ora G. Williams, and his sister, Ann Williams Brittain.

He is survived by his wife Suzanne, daughters Brooke (Trini) of Natchitoches and Shelly of Hoboken NJ, and son Scott of Natchitoches, brothers Father Richard B. Williams of Lubbock, TX, Joe Payne Williams of Natchitoches, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

John Williams was a great husband, father, friend, and storyteller. He cheered for LSU, NSU, and the Saints (he was at their first regular season game) and never got tired of watching John Wayne movies. He was proud of his military service and his hometown, as countless strangers would inevitably find out. He greatly enjoyed teaching over the course of 47 years, sometimes teaching the children and grandchildren of former students. He loved traveling across the country as well as abroad with his family and friends.

A graveside service conducted by Father Craig Scott for family members will be held on Thursday, May 28. Pallbearers will be Trini Triggs, Jack Brittain, Jr., John Brittain, Payne Williams, Bray Williams, Bryan Picou, and Bryan Picou, Jr.

Honorary pallbearers include his longtime teaching aides Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Hobart Macgroniac, Lillie Lickskillet, and Susie Stepingofetchit.

A memorial service will be held at a later time for family and friends to reminisce, tell story after story, and share their memories of him.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the NSU Foundation, 535 University Parkway, Natchitoches, LA 71497 for the John G. Williams Memorial Scholarship in Business.

Harrington Law Firm can help with your Business Interruption Claims

Congress has stepped up to provide relief for small businesses across the country, but in many, if not in most cases the government relief is going to be woefully inadequate to compensate businesses for their CoVid-19 related losses.

However, many stricken small businesses may be able to find additional relief through their own insurance policies.

According to Natchitoches Attorney Eddie Harrington of The Harrington Law Firm, small business owners need to check their insurance policy to see if there is any “business interruption” or “loss of profits” coverage or any explicit exclusions from that type coverage.

Harrington says his firm has already reviewed several business insurance policies and have found that the coverage and exclusions differ wildly from policy to policy and insurance company to insurance company.

“You might think that there would be a ‘standard’ policy that all companies would use, but that is simply not the case,” said Harrington. “We were actually a bit surprised to see how many variations there are in the types of coverage and exclusions.”

Harrington said that there are several things to look for in a policy regarding coverage provided for these type of losses:

1. Does the policy specifically provide coverage for business interruption and/or loss of profits? Some policies lay this out with specificity, which can be beneficial to small business owners.

2. Some policies are silent as to business interruption and/or loss of profits coverage. Just because this coverage is not specifically laid out does not necessarily mean that these losses are not covered, according to Harrington.

3. Some policies contain exclusions for virus related losses. While at first blush this might appear to disqualify a business for making a CoVid-19 related claim that is not necessarily the case.

Harrington went on to say that the first thing a small business owner is to do is check with their insurance agent to ask their opinion whether or not their policy provides this type of coverage but cautions that small businesses should file a business interruption claim, no matter what.

The insurance company will almost certainly deny your claim,” Harrington continued, “but you have a limited amount of time within which to file a claim, and you certainly don’t want to be left out if this type of claim is later deemed to be valid.”

“We are all plowing new ground here,” said Harrington. “Neither the insurance companies, their agents, small business owners, nor we attorneys have any experience dealing with a global pandemic and its affect on a small business and the economy in general.”

“All we know is that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and if America is going to move forward from all of this, our small businesses are going to need all the help they can get from the government, from their insurance company, and from their customers.” Harrington continued, “Small businesses pay a lot of money in insurance premiums and if there is a benefit for them under their policy then they need it now more than ever.”

According to Harrington, a bill has even been filed in the Louisiana Legislation requiring insurance companies to pay CoVid-19 related small business interruption claims, but the bill has been tabled.

Harrington said that The Harrington Law Firm is offering free reviews of small business owners’ policies and attempt to help them navigate through these trying times. For a free policy review or for further information, email eddie.harrington@theharringtonlawfirm.com or C. Rodney Harrington at crodney50@yahoo.com or call The Harrington Law Firm at 318-352-5900.

McGrath retires from LSMSA after 32 years of service

Renowned mathematician, educator and mentor, Mike McGrath, is retiring from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) after 32 years of service as educator, department chair, and representative to the board.

“LSMSA is truly unique, and I am sincerely grateful for my 32 years there,” said McGrath. “I have learned so much from my colleagues and from my students, and it has been a pleasure to spend my career having the opportunity to be a small part in the lives of so many young scholars with so much potential. I will always be a supporter and ambassador for LSMSA.”

During his long career as an educator, McGrath has taught advanced concepts in every level of mathematics from Geometry to Calculus II, and for more than 20 years at LSMSA, he has served as chair of the Department of Math and Computer Science. He has achieved the school’s highest faculty rank of senior lecturer, and in 2013, he was elected by his peers to serve as the faculty representative to the school’s Board of Directors, a role in which he spent six years.

“Mr. McGrath’s service to the school has been an extraordinary part of our campus life throughout his long tenure here,” said Dr. Kristi Key, director of academic services. “As a professor, as a department chair, and as a member of our Board of Directors, Mike has regularly approached our campus needs and campus services with a thoughtfulness and professionalism that reflects his dedication and his convictions. He’s been a master teacher in his field, a leader among the faculty, and a generous mentor, and we’re going to miss his presence on campus very much.”

A native of West Virginia, McGrath received bachelor’s degrees in math and physical education from Pensacola Christian College and a master’s in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Before joining the faculty at LSMSA in 1988, he taught for eight years at Northside Christian Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, totaling a 40-year career as an educator.

In addition to delivering several talks at the Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics conferences across the state, McGrath has presented workshops and given talks at regional and national meetings of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Teachers Teaching with Technology, and the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics.

He served as advisor of the Student Government Organization for about 10 years and has regularly offered summer school courses for LSMSA students.

In retirement, McGrath hopes to travel more and spend time with his grandchildren. A reception in his honor is being planned for the fall semester.

Photo: From left, Life-long educator Mike McGrath instructs his favorite subject, Calculus, to former students Sneha Yadlapati and Nellie New. Photo credit: Thorn LaCaze


POSITION: Animal Control Officer

DESCRIPTION: Enforcement of the Animal Control Ordinance; maintain records and reports regarding impounded animals, animal bites, quarantines, investigations, citations and daily statistics; ability to operate Microsoft Word and Excel; clean and disinfect kennels and cages; provide animals with proper food, water, and medical care; must be available for after hours and weekend work.

EDUCATION: High School diploma or equivalent. Must be a licensed driver.

CONTACT: City of Natchitoches, Human Resources Department located at 1400 Sabine St. or P.O. Box 37, Natchitoches La 71458-0037. Applications may also be picked up upstairs at City Hall, located at 700 Second St., or you can download an application on line at http://www.natchitochesla.gov

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: Applications will be accepted through May 29, 2020.


Rebecca Runkle’s Papered Petticoat

By Brad Dison

Rebecca Runkle and her husband, W.J. Runkle, were wealthy landowners from Elkton, Virginia. One day at the turn of the twentieth century, Rebecca took one of her used petticoats to her sister, Mrs. Lou Davis, with the instructions that she put it in her travel trunk for safekeeping. In those days, people kept their valuables and sentimental items, things they rarely used but wanted to keep safe, in their trunk. Rebecca’s sister thought little of the request and followed Rebecca’s instructions without inspecting the petticoat. She placed it in her trunk and forgot about it.

On January 5, 1908, Rebecca’s husband died. Rebecca contracted pneumonia near the time of her husband’s death. With each passing day, her condition deteriorated. On January 12, 1908, a week to the day of her husband’s death, Rebecca died at the young age of 55.

As happens when someone passes away, families are left to determine what happens to the individual’s worldly possessions unless they leave explicit instructions in the form of a last will and testament. Rebecca and her husband, however, had left no such instructions. Normally, Rebecca’s and W.J.’s possession would have passed down to their children, but the couple never had children. W.J.’s and Rebecca’s brothers and sisters began the difficult task of dividing up their possessions, a task that can turn even the closest of family members against each other.

A week after Rebecca’s death, her sister remembered the petticoat Rebecca had given her to store in her trunk. She still thought little about the petticoat because it was just a nondescript undergarment with little, if any, monetary value. In the interest of being fair to her siblings, Rebecca’s sister removed the petticoat from the trunk to add it to the inventory. At first glance, it looked like any other well-used petticoat. When Rebecca’s sister picked up the garment, however, something felt out of place. The normally lite material was heavier than she thought it should have been. Parts of the petticoat were pliable while other parts were stiff. Rebecca’s sister ran her hands along the petticoat and felt rectangular objects within the folds of the cloth.

What purpose did these rectangles serve? Were they put there to alter the appearance of the wearer? Would they make the wearer look smaller, thinner, or maybe even larger? Rows and rows of these rectangles covered the entire petticoat. Rebecca’s sister knew that the only way to determine what the rectangles were made of was to remove the stitching, thereby destroying the very petticoat which Rebecca wanted to be kept safe.

Rebecca’s sister had to solve the mystery. She carefully removed the stitching around one of the rectangles. She was astonished to reveal a small stack of paper. She removed the stitching around another rectangle and found another small stack of paper. Rebecca’s sister removed stacks and stacks of paper. She thought she had removed all of the paper, which her sister had carefully sewn into the petticoat, when she realized the garment still hid some thinner stacks of paper. She continued to remove the stitching until the petticoat was little more than tattered rags. Rebecca’s sister knew that the reason Rebecca had sewn the paper into the petticoat was not to alter appearance. Rebecca wanted to keep the paper safe. She wore the petticoat under her dress for parties, dinners, and for many other occasions which required fancy attire. The rectangular stacks of paper Rebecca’s sister found in the petticoat was $4,000.00 in cash, which, adjusted for inflation, would amount to about $115,000.00 today. With this find, you can bet Rebecca’s family took a closer look at her remaining wardrobe.

Staunton Spectator and Vindicator, January 17, 1908, p.3.
Staunton Daily Leader, January 20, 1908, p.1.

BOM Sponsors NCHS Quarterback Club

Coach Wilkerson and the Natchitoches Central Quarterback Club would like to thank BOM for their generous corporate sponsorship. The Quarterback Club would also remind the community of their chicken cook out this Friday, May 29 at noon, in the Dixie Plaza parking lot. Deliveries are available to all office locations.

In the photo from left to right: Blaise LaCour (NCHS Alumni & BOM Marketing Assistant), Head Coach James Wilkerson and defensive ends, Ferman Walker and Jaiden Hare, Carrie Hough (BOM Senior Vice President & Marketing Directory, and Tyler Murchison (NCHS Alumni and BOM Executive Vice President & Chief Lending Officer). BOM is proud to be a Corporate Sponsor of the 2020-2021 NCHS Quarterback Club.

Ferman is a 6’4” 220lb all-district 1-5A senior, and is the son of Ferman Walker Sr. He plans to attend college to play football and would like to be a welder in the community. Coach Wilkerson has witnessed his confidence and leadership skills grow, and Ferman has helped him with the transition to Head Coach.

Jaiden Hare is 6’5” 210lb senior, and is the son Matthew Hare. He plans to major in mechanical engineering next year in college. Coach Wilkerson best describes Jaiden as a quiet young man who leads by example. Coach believes his athleticism and quickness will be a big asset in helping the Chief become one of the top ranked defenses.

UPDATE: Onterio Pier

On 05/25/2020 at approximately 2330 hours, Onterio Pier surrendered himself to the custody of the Natchitoches Police Department. Pier was charged with Second Degree Murder and placed in the Natchitoches Parish Detention center.

Original press release:
Natchitoches Police seek Onterio Pier for homicide on Jackson Drive

The Natchitoches Police Department is investigating a homicide that took place Sunday night on Jackson Drive.

On May 24, 2020 around 11:06 p.m., officers with the Natchitoches Police Department responded to the 600 block of Jackson Drive in reference to someone being shot in the area. Upon officers arrival they located Latrice Thomas (B/F, 28 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) suffering from a gunshot wound. Latrice Thomas was transported to the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced deceased from her injuries.

As additional officers were responding to the area they located Onterio Pier, the suspect, (B/M, 26 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) driving away from the 600 block of Jackson Drive. When officers attempted to stop his vehicle, Onterio Pier, led them on a vehicle pursuit and crashed in the 100 block of Harry Drive. Onterio Pier exited his vehicle and ran into a wooded area.

Onterio Pier is charged with Second Degree Murder.

The Natchitoches Police Department will release more details as they become available.

If you have seen Onterio Pier please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at (318) 352-8101 or Detective Trent Perritt at (318) 238-3914. Do not attempt to apprehend or detain this individual by yourself. Onterio Pier is considered to be armed and dangerous. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.

Anonymous Tips by Smartphone:

You may also provide tips that will be anonymous via our TipSubmit Product. Simply send the tip by using your smartphones (download the free application) or by texting (Text-A-Tip) to CRIMES (274637). Use NPDTIPS before typing your message. You can also submit a Web Tip from our Police Protection page.

Hofmann earns second-team All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Magazine

Logan Hofmann potentially was headed for a record-breaking season when the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic stopped college baseball in mid-March.

What Hofmann compiled in his four starts for Northwestern State was more than enough to make him the seventh All-American in program history as he earned second-team All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Magazine on Tuesday.

A junior right-hander from Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada, Hofmann finished the abbreviated season 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 28 innings, striking out 38 batters. Hofmann was one of eight players to finish the season with a 0.00 ERA, but no other pitcher threw as many innings as the Demon ace.

His four wins tied for second nationally while his 38 strikeouts led the Southland Conference and ranked 22nd nationally. Hofmann tallied two double-figure strikeout games in four starts, fanning 11 Eastern Illinois hitters on Feb. 28 and 10 North Alabama batters on Feb. 21. He never struck out fewer than eight hitters, a mark he set in seven shutout innings against Wichita State on Feb. 14.

“Logan was in the middle of having one of the best seasons we have seen on the mound at Northwestern State,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “His competitiveness is unmatched. He is very deserving of this prestigious award.”

Hofmann is the third pitcher in program history to earn All-American honors, joining Adam Oller (2016) and Reggie Gatewood (1994). He becomes the second Canadian Demon to be named All-American, joining two-time honoree Ryan Anholt (1998, 1999).

Hofmann’s selection marks the third time in the past five seasons in which a Demon has earned All-American honors, joining Oller and David Fry (2018).

Photo: Right-hander Logan Hofmann became the seventh All-American in NSU baseball program history. Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services


A traffic stop on Saturday evening led to the arrest of a Natchitoches woman on felony drug charges according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

On Saturday evening May 23 at approximately 11:00pm, Deputies assigned to the NPSO Special Task Impact Patrol Unit stopped a 2004 Honda passenger car on La. Hwy 6 near Hagewood for a traffic violation.

While speaking with the driver of the vehicle, deputies observed an open alcoholic beverage.

Deputies also observed a passenger identified as 24-Year-old Quanteria Allen of Natchitoches acting suspicious and attempting to hide something in her hand.

Deputies asked Miss Allen what was in her hand and she handed them a clear cellophane bag containing thirteen suspected ecstasy tablets and a suspected marijuana blunt.

Ecstasy (MDMA) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.

Quanteria Allen, 24, of the 300 block of Winnona Street, Natchitoches was placed under arrest, transported and booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with Possession of CDS Schedule I Ecstasy, Possession of CDS Schedule I Marijuana, and Possession of Alcoholic Beverages in a Motor Vehicle.

Natchitoches Multi-jurisdictional Drug Task Force Agents assisted following the arrest.

Deputies say Allen confessed to ownership of the seized narcotics which will be submitted to the crime lab for narcotics analysis.

A 10th Judicial District Judge has set bond at $5,500.00.

The driver was issued a traffic citation and released at the scene.

LDWF Schedules Drawdwn for Saline Lake (Natchitoches and Winn Parishes)

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) in conjunction with the Saline Lake Commission has scheduled a drawdown of Saline Lake (Natchitoches and Winn Parishes) for giant salvinia control, organic reduction and fish habitat improvement. The drawdown is designed to reduce the further expansion of salvinia as summertime temperatures promote maximum growth.

The water control structure is scheduled to be opened on June 1, 2020, and the lake should dewater at a rate of 4 inches per day. The water level will be lowered to a maximum drawdown level of 8 feet below normal pool stage, depending on the Red River Pool 3 water level. The Saline Lake control gates are scheduled for closure on October 1, 2020, to allow the lake to refill for fall, winter and early-spring recreational activities.

During the drawdown, an estimated 2,500-3,000 acres of water will remain in the lake. Boaters may still access the lake from the Mulligan Inn Boat Ramp with small craft. Boaters are advised to use caution when on the water as numerous obstructions that are normally not seen are present.

This action is a necessary component of LDWF’s integrated management plan to control overabundant aquatic vegetation growth and to improve access for recreational activities. An annual cycle of high and low water fluctuation can provide beneficial effects similar to a natural overflow lake system.

The current LDWF Saline Lake Aquatic Vegetation Control Plan can be viewed at: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/resources/category/freshwater-inland-fish/3

For additional information regarding the drawdown, contact Villis Dowden, LDWF Biologist, at (318) 357-3214.

Notice of Death – May 26, 2020

John Garland Williams
July 08, 1944 – May 24, 2020
Service: Private 

Denise Veuleman McAlpin
September 16, 1954 – May 22, 2019
Services: Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home Friday, May 29 at 11 a.m. The family will receive friends from 9-11 a.m.
Burial: Beulah Cemetery in Marthaville.

Alvin W. Mitchell
November 21, 1954 – May 09, 2020
Arrangements TBA

Emma Savell
October 6, 1924 – May 25, 2020
Arrangements TBA

Myrtle Eloise Thomas
February 21, 1928 – May 24, 2020
Service: Wednesday, May 27 at Oakhill Baptist Church Cemetery in Many

Lisa Ann Skipper
November 20, 1968 – May 25, 2020
Visitation: Thursday, May 28 from 5-8 pm in the Southern Funeral Home in Winnfield

Andrew Loudon Pedneau
May 3, 1972 – May 24, 2020
Service: Thursday, May 28 at 11 am at the Kinner & Stevens Funeral Home of Jena

Murlene Carpenter
November 24, 1928 – May 24, 2020
Arrangements TBA

John Lloyd Cannon
July 05, 1936 – May 21, 2020
Service: Wednesday, May 27 at 11 am at Antioch Bible Way Church

Amy S. Rowell Roark
August 1, 1965 – May 23, 2020
Service: Wednesday, May 27 at 11 am at Couley Double Church Cemetery near Winnfield

Sandra Jean Guin
December 21, 1947 – May 23, 2020
Service: Friday, May 29 at 11 am in Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery


LDH Update for 05/25/20; Natchitoches: 152 Cumulative Cases

Defend Against COVID-19

Stay home. Follow the Governor’s Stay at Home Order. Only leave your home if it is necessary for essential work or for essential items.

Defend Against COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Recognize the symptoms. Cover your cough. Wash your hands. Stay home especially if you are sick.

Maintain a Social Distance of 6ft. Social distancing means keeping 6ft. of physical space between yourself and others. This helps to prevent the spread of illness.

NOTE: The State did not report the number of Deaths for Natchitoches Pairsh (or any Parish) on this date.   State reports a “server” issue between May 23-24. See graphic above and below)


At 11:58pm Monday night, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies, and Natchitoches Parish Fire Protection District #2 are on the scene of a structure fire in 100 block of Ash Street in Goldonna, La. according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Firefighters are fighting the blaze at this time.

The home owned by W.O. Scallion appears to be a total loss.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown. There are no injuries.

NPSO: May 25, 2020