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SLEDGEHAMMER BANDITS

Louisiana smash-and-grab jewelry heist; 4 Texas men accused

HAMMOND, La. (AP) — Four Texas men are accused of smashing display cases with a sledgehammer and stealing $69,000 worth of jewelry from a Louisiana store, and Texas police are reportedly investigating similar heists. Hammond's director of administration says police in Houston and other Texas jurisdictions have been in touch with city police. Lacy Landrum says the men were arrested on Interstate 12 in Baton Rouge about 45 minutes after the robbery was reported Thursday evening. Three are from Houston and one is from a suburb.

RURAL REVITALIZATION

Louisiana governor creates 'rural revitalization' council

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards has created a study group aimed at identifying and responding to the decline in Louisiana's rural communities. Population in the state's rural areas has dwindled amid problems with job creation, infrastructure and education systems. The Democratic governor Friday signed an executive order establishing a Governor's Advisory Council on Rural Revitalization. The 34-member panel is charged with determining the needs of rural communities on a long list of issues and finding financing options to help address the problems. A strategic plan is due by January 2021. Edwards announced the plans at the Police Jury Association of Louisiana’s annual convention in Shreveport. The governor's former chief of staff, Ben Nevers, will serve as chairman of the advisory council.

LSU PROFESSOR-NAMESAKE HONOR

Recently discovered mineral named for LSU professor

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana State University geology professor now has a scientific namesake — a newly discovered variety of tourmaline. Barbara Dutrow says she's surprised and thrilled by the honor. She has studied the tourmaline gemstone family for years. Her scientific articles include “Tourmaline: A geologic DVD” and “The tourmaline diaries: An eye-catching mineral and its many facets.” A news release from LSU says Italian researchers named “dutrowite” for her because of her contributions to mineral sciences — especially how tourmalines incorporate their own geological  history.

STREET PREACHER'S LAWSUIT

Street preacher's claim of unconstitutional arrest rejected

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court has refused to revive a Louisiana street preacher's lawsuit over a 2015 arrest. Court records show Clarence Dean Roy faced a disturbing the peace charge after a woman accused him of verbally accosting her outside a bar in Monroe. Roy was acquitted. He later sued the arresting officer and the city. On Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's dismissal of the suit. The ruling said Monroe's disturbing the peace ordinance is constitutional, and the officer had probable cause for the arrest.

WRONG WOMAN ARRESTED

Honeymoon ends in handcuffs: Wrong Louisiana woman arrested

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A case of mistaken identity caused a Louisiana woman to leave her honeymoon in handcuffs and spend 36 hours in the New Orleans jail before it was sorted out. Sara Saucier of Ponchatoula was on a cruise ship returning from a trip to Cozumel with her new husband when U.S. customs agents pounded on her door, accusing her of not returning a leased vehicle in November 2017. But officials had the wrong person. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office detective who filed the warrant logged the birth date of the wrong Sara Saucier. The mistake went unnoticed for 36 hours, as Saucier sat in the Orleans Parish Jail. East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux apologized for the error and says he will work to improve safeguards.

PORT OF LAKE CHARLES-FUNDING

$46M in Army Corps funding to Calcasieu River project

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Port officials in Lake Charles are hailing $46 million in federal funding that is going toward a project designed to improve navigation to port facilities in Lake Charles. The American Press reports the money for the Calcasieu River and Pass Project was included in the Army Corps of Engineers' plan that was announced Tuesday. Port of Lake Charles Director Bill Rase told the newspaper that it was a “big deal for the community."

GRAFFITI HOTLINE

Baton Rouge mayor calls Crime Stoppers a 'graffiti hotline'

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Baton Rouge's mayor is trying to curb graffiti in Louisiana's capital city by urging people who want to report individuals vandalizing property to call the local Crime Stoppers number. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome is calling Crime Stoppers the city's “graffiti hotline.” She's asking anyone with photos or video of people spray painting graffiti or otherwise damaging property to notify law enforcement at www.crimestoppersbr.com or through the anonymous Crime Stoppers app. Broome's request comes after graffiti has been popping up around the city, including on the ground behind a new Mississippi River levee sculpture and on the sign of the historic Sweet Olive Cemetery. Her office says that citizen involvement helped lead to the arrests of two individuals for those unrelated incidents.

DRUGGED SEX SCHEME

Man accused of drugged sex robbery scheme in several states

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans man is accused of prostituting his girlfriend in numerous states and making her drug and rob men, including one who died. Arraignment is scheduled Tuesday for Randy Jonal Schenck. A federal indictment accuses him of posting sex ads with the woman's photo in places like California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Georgia. The woman pleaded guilty in December to identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A statement made as part of that plea says Schenck convinced her to work as an escort but later forced her into a “prostitution-based criminal operation.”