October is a very important month in our office, as Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins and we celebrate National Night Out.
In Caddo Parish, unlike much of the nation, we celebrate National Night Out in the fall rather than August due to concerns over the heat. Our office had staffers visiting many of the block parties being held across the city and the parish. Look for photos and observations on these events on our Social Media pages.
Our office represented in force at one block party, at Caddo Heights Math/Science Elementary School, 1702 Corbitt Street. Staffers wore bright yellow DA’s Office T-shirts. Popular local DJ “3 Feet” performed.
The month will end with Halloween, the time of tricks or treats. Make sure your children are safe when walking on our city streets and knocking on strangers’ doors. Do not leave your children unaccompanied. It is best to go to organized neighborhood or church Fall Festivals to celebrate Halloween.
In the middle of the month, our state will hold an election, with many city, parish and state elected offices, including the Governor, the Attorney General and the Sheriff, up for grabs. There is a parish tax issue on the ballot as well, with serious implications for law enforcement and reducing youth crime. Please vote, and please support the millage for our juvenile court system.
Your District Attorney’s office has not rested on its laurels. Our Grand Jury was active, as were our able Assistant District Attorneys. Here’s what happened in September:
The Caddo Parish Grand Jury returned six indictments in its session that ended September 27.
Two of the indictments were issued publicly. Both were for second-degree murders, in connection with recent slayings.
* Roderick Dewayne Smith Jr., 19, of Shreveport, was charged in connection with the June 2023 slaying of Jamani Dervon Johnson Jr. Mr. Johnson, 21, was shot outside his residence at the Jolie Apartments on Quail Creek Boulevard.
* Tremell Dexter Thomas, 54, also of Shreveport, was charged in connection with the March 19, 2023 slaying of Steve Graham Sr. Mr. Graham, 58, was shot several times.
One indictment was issued as a secret indictment, with no further details available.
Three indictments, all for crimes of a sexual nature, were returned under seal.
One charged Joshua Rashaud Carroll, 28, of Shreveport, with battery of a dating partner and first-degree rape. He was booked into Caddo Correctional Center June 17.
Harold Duane Brown, 42, of Shreveport, was charged with first-degree rape. He was booked into Caddo Correctional Center June 22.
Jordan Lane Stroud, 34, of Yukon, Oklahoma, was charged with aggravated rape. He was booked into Caddo Correctional Center July 11, where he remains under a million-dollar bond. He was arrested in Oklahoma County, Okla. June 22 on a warrant for flight to avoid prosecution in Louisiana.
In court actions:
In the close to a tragedy two years in the making, Shreveporter Ureka Rochelle Black, 34, who threw two tender-age children of hers into Cross Lake from the I-220 Bridge, was sentenced by District Judge Donald E. Hathaway Jr. to life-plus 50 years
* A woman accused of throwing her tender-age sons into Cross Lake two years ago, killing her 10-month-old and injuring his older brother, was found guilty in Caddo District Court Wednesday, September 13, 2023. The trial began Monday.
Ureka Rochelle Black, 34, served as her own attorney in the trial before District Judge Donald E, Hathaway Jr. Public Defender Elizabeth Gibson served as her stand-by counsel.
The three-man, nine-woman jury deliberated around two hours before returning its unanimous verdicts.
Black threw her son Joshua into Cross Lake September 24, 2021, and also threw her older son Elijah, then 5, into the lake as well. Joshua drowned, but first responders were able to rescue the older child. He identified his mother as their assailant, and she was apprehended at a rest stop in Texas near the Louisiana border.
Black received the mandatory life term in prison when she returned to Judge Hathaway’s court September 28.
Black was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Jason Waltman, Christopher Bowman and Kendra Joseph.
The case was docket No. 385368.
* A Shreveport man was sentenced to 14 years in prison September 26 for attempting to strangle his wife.
Joe Butler Jr., 31, was sentenced by District Judge Chris Victory for an August 24, 2021 assault on his wife during which he choked her to unconsciousness after she confronted him about smoking synthetic marijuana in their home. Butler attacked his wife in their bathroom, strangling her while three minor children, ages 11, 7 and 4, stood on the other side of the bathroom door, listening to her anguish. Their mother regained consciousness and escaped to a neighbor’s house, where she called 911.
Butler, who pleaded guilty to the charges in August, was sentenced to 10 years in prison at hard labor for domestic abuse battery with serious bodily injury, with a multiple offender provision. He was sentenced to four years on each of three counts of domestic abuse battery with child endangerment, to be served concurrently with each other but consecutive to the bodily injury conviction.
The court also granted permanent protective orders to the victim and the minor children.
Butler was defended by Dave Knadler. He was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Britney A. Green, Christopher Bowman and Ron Christopher Stamps.
The case was docket No. 386600.
* A Shreveport man charged with forcefully resisting arrest with violence and cursing officers who attempted to detain him, was convicted in Caddo District Court September 21.
The three-woman, three-man jury in District Judge Chris Victory’s court found David Windham, 36, guilty as charged on two counts of resisting with force or violence in connection with an offense that occurred December 8, 2020.
On that day, Ward 3 constables were returning from a Fraternal Order of Police meeting when their vehicle was nearly struck by Windham’s vehicle. Windham was speeding, driving erratically and moving in-and-out of the lane. Eventually Windham’s vehicle came to a stop. The constables exited their car and identified themselves as law officers, at which point Windham said “Constables? (Expletive) the constables” and shoved one of the officers. He then attempted to flee in his vehicle, dragging one constable a distance and hitting the other with the car door. Eventually, the constable in the vehicle was able to get the vehicle into park.
When Windham returns to Judge Victory’s court October 12, he faces up to three years in prison, with additional exposure as a habitual offender.
Windham was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Sam Crichton and Michael Anderson. He was defended by Dave Knadler and Stephen Folk-Cruthirds.
The case was docket No. 380099.
* A Bossier City man accused of committing lewd acts with a preteen girl was convicted in Caddo District Court September 20.
JaRoderick Harper, 32, faces at least 25 years in prison at hard labor, and up to 99 years, following his conviction for molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under age 13. At least 25 years of the sentence must be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
The two-man, ten-woman jury in District Judge Chris Victory’s court deliberated about three hours before returning its verdict.
The jury heard evidence that on January 16, 2022, the minor child reported sexual abuse by Harper to her mother, an acquaintance of Harper’s. The girl reported Harper showed her a pornographic movie, then pulled the girl into a bedroom and forced contact of a sexual nature on her.
Harper denied the allegations on the stand.
Judge Victory remanded Williams pending sentencing, set for October 11.
Harper was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Victoria Washington and Sam Crichton. He was defended by Michael Enright and Dave Knadler.
The case was docket No. 388840.
* A Shreveport man arrested earlier this year after a routine traffic stop turned up a firearm was convicted September 14 in Caddo District Court.
The seven-man, five-woman jury in District Judge Donald E. Hathaway Jr.’s court deliberated 20 minutes before convicting Justin L. Sloan, 33, of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Sloan was convicted of possession of the Schedule 4 dangerous controlled substance Alprazolam in 2015, forming the underlying crime for the charge.
Sloan, who had been stopped by police at Clarke Boulevard and Alto Vista Street June 4, 2023 for not having a vehicle inspection sticker, had smoked marijuana and possessed a loaded .40 caliber handgun that was found in the vehicle.
When Sloan returns to Judge Hathaway’s court October 25, he faces at least five years and up to 20 years in prison, without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
Assistant District Attorneys Briana Spivey and Jason Waltman prosecuted Sloan. He was defended by Carter Lawrence and Casey Simpson.
The case was docket No. 395769.
* A Shreveport man accused of sexually assaulting a family member the night before the teen’s high-school graduation was found guilty of second-degree rape in Caddo District Court September 13.
Christopher McKnight, 42, was unanimously found guilty in District Judge Ramona Emanuel’s court by the 11-woman, one-man jury that deliberated just over 35 minutes.
McKnight raped the victim May 13, 2022 in a motel room he had rented for the night. After the act the defendant went to the restroom and the victim turned on a cell phone voice recorder. On the recording, McKnight can be heard apologizing and requesting his victim to perform a sex act on him while asking specific questions about it, then apologizing again. The jury heard testimony from the victim’s mother, the victim’s boyfriend who had dropped her off to McKnight that night and the motel clerk.
When McKnight returns for sentencing November 8, he faces a prison term of at least five years and up to 40 years.
McKnight was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Arvie and Senae Hall. He was defended by Katherine Ferguson and Royal Alexander.
The case was docket No, 393736.
* A Shreveport man convicted of a felony weapon possession charge in absentia in Caddo District Court in April and fled captivity was sentenced September 7 to 18 years at hard labor in prison.
Ladarrius Hodge, 25, who was free on bond, was sentenced by District Judge Ramona Emanuel, whose court he fled April 25, 2023, one day after his trial on possession of a firearm by a convicted felon began. He was unanimously convicted a day after that, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He eluded law enforcement for several months but finally was arrested in late July in Bossier Parish.
Hodge was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by Shreveport Police April 2, 2021 for multiple traffic violations at Fairfield Avenue and 70th Street. Officers who stopped the car smelled marijuana smoke from the car and asked Hodge and the driver, his girlfriend, to exit the vehicle.
During a search of a backpack Hodge had, officers found a 9mm Hi-Point handgun with a high-capacity extended magazine. At trial, Hodge’s girlfriend attempted to testify the gun was in her possession, but under prosecution questioning she admitted the gun belonged to Hodge.
Assistant District Attorneys Christopher Bowman and Fernando Grider Jr. prosecuted. Katie Ferguson and Evan McMichael defended Hodge.
The case was docket No. 382125.
Also, in mid September, we also joined other District Attorneys across the state in opposing clemency hearings of death row inmates that did not follow the procedures outlined in law. Updates will come soon in this fight. But we will continue this fight for the real victims and their families who must still live with their loss, for as long as the fight takes.
October is also Wear Purple month, marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Our office is sponsoring or taking part in many events scattered through it.
Activities started with the lighting of the Long-Allen Bakowski Bridge linking Shreveport and Bossier City. Sponsored by local attorneys, the bridge was lighted in the color purple at sunset Monday, October 2. A brief ceremony behind the Shreveport Aquarium on the Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway counted down to the lighting. The purple lighting will continue all month. Purple is the color chosen to represent those who have experienced abuse and violence at the hands of those they trusted the most, and symbolizes peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence.
Light poles will don purple flags around the Caddo Parish Courthouse to commemorate the month, along with a Purple Box campaign for donations for victims of domestic violence.
The Purple Box Campaign offers a chance to fill a purple box with toiletries for victims of domestic violence. These can be home-made boxes colored purple and filled with unused toiletries. Boxes should be turned in to our office, 525 Marshall St., during normal business hours by Friday, November 10. Donations will benefit Project Celebration, Inc.
Also all month, the “Remember Their Names!” flower wall will be on display at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center, 1541 Kings Highway. The public can purchase $5 virtual roses in remembrance of domestic violence victims. People can scan the QR code on the wall to donate. Proceeds will benefit Project Celebration, Inc.
Ashley’s Tiers of Love Bakery, 420 Marshall St., in partnership with our office, will serve Purple Domestic Violence cupcakes all month long. A portion of the proceeds also will benefit Project Celebration, Inc.
A scholarship award luncheon celebrating the legacy of domestic violence advocate Petrina Gay-Jenkins will be at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, October 12, at Venecia Luxury Venue, 6350 Venecia Drive in Bossier City. I plan to speak on domestic violence in Caddo Parish. A scholarship will be presented to a survivor of domestic violence. Event honoree Petrina Lavette Gay-Jenkins, who died November 6, 2022, dedicated her life to giving a voice to the voiceless victims of domestic violence. She left an indelible mark on Caddo Parish and the cause of victims of domestic violence. She will not be forgotten,
Finally, on Saturday, October 21, spend a fun-filled day at the “Kick Against Domestic Violence” Kickball Tournament at Bill Cockrell Park, 4109 Pines Road. Kickoff is at 10 a.m..
Again, as noted at the start of this column, find more information on these events, as well as court cases and more, go to caddoda.com and follow our office on social media.
Hope to see you out on National Night Out!
At your service,
District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr.