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Louisiana broke the state’s record for the number of foster children adoptions within a year. 735 children were adopted by 532 families between October of 2015 and September of 2016.

Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters says she couldn’t be more thankful for these families.

“With the floods and the sessions and the shootings, it feels like it’s been such a hard year for the state and this is one of the really bright spots we can celebrate.”

Walters says all of the children in state care have a history of either abuse or neglect with a big majority being under the age of five. She says while it’s exciting so many children found foster homes, many are still without a family.

“There are still 200 children that are currently in the foster care system who have not found a permanent adoption placement and will spend Christmas in foster care this year.”

For information on adopting a foster child, visit the department of children and family services website. Walters says many people adopt more than one child with 109 families adopting two kids, 19 families adopting three and nine adopting four children. She says foster parents get so much out of adoption.

“They learn so much from these children. They fall in love with these children just as every parent should fall in love with their child and they get back so much from being a parent.”

 
 
 

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The first day of the murder trial for former-Saints star Will Smith was filled with emotional testimony. Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says the biggest surprise was that former running back Deuce McAllister took the stand early in the day to testify about his friendship with Smith and his time with the Saints.

“The reason it was a surprise to me is that the prosecution was trying to impress upon the jurors that this case was not about emotion and not about celebrity, but one of their first witnesses was all about emotion and celebrity,” Ciolino said.

Current and former Saints players Drew Brees, Steve Gleason, Roman Harper, and Jahri Evans were also in the courtroom showing support for Smith’s family. Ciolino says it makes a difference who the victim is in any homicide case, which is the biggest problem Cardell Hayes’ defense is facing.

“When you’ve got a homicide with very likable and very sympathetic victims, it makes any homicide case difficult for the defense and particularly one where it’s a self-defense case,” Ciolino said.

The prosecution is arguing that Hayes was the aggressor in the incident because he rammed Smith’s car. The defense says that Smith was the aggressor and that he was reaching for a gun. Ciolino says the jury being sequestered will make everyone want to get through with the trial as quickly as possible.

“I don’t think the sequestration order benefits the prosecution or the defense, but it certainly will cause the trial to go later into the evening to move along at a quicker pace,” Ciolino said.

Testimony is expected to resume at 9 am Wednesday.

 
 
 
 

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Some LSU fans are gearing up to head to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl later this month, but so far ticket sales are lagging a bit. That’s according to LSU ticket manager, Brian Broussard, who says so far only about 4,000 tickets have been sold and the school was allotted 9,500.

“We’re moving along. It’s been a little slower than we would have hoped, but we’re still excited and trying to get fans to make the travel arrangements necessary to get out to the game,” Broussard said.

The Tigers will face Louisville in the bowl game on December 31. Broussard says they still have over 5,000 tickets available through their ticket office and you can get a good seat at a good price.

“The seats are all in the lower level primarily. The better ones that we have available range from $140 down to we’ve got some tickets still available at $31 that are in the end zone in the lower levels,” Broussard said.

Broussard says this game will be a good matchup and hopes fans will come out and support the Tigers. He says LSU fans shouldn’t let the 11 am Eastern Time kickoff discourage them.

“It’s a little earlier than our fans are used to or like to have, but you can start early and continue throughout the night through New Year’s,” Broussard said.

 
 
 
 
 

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A Monroe woman is facing multiple charges after she was caught shoplifting with her children. Detective Chris Bates with Monroe Police says 33-year-old Shirley Mayes and her 9-year-old and 14-year-old were caught stealing from the Monroe Walmart.

“They went to the front of the store and attempted to go through the self-checkout and attempted to check out some items and not pay for the total amount,” Bates said.

Bates says security footage shows Mayes encouraging her children to steal items while she checked out the rest of the things in her buggy.

“The surveillance from the security camera had also picked up that she had allowed her children to place some clothing up underneath their own clothing as she watched on,” Bates said.

The value of the items the family tried to steal is reportedly $575. Bates says the 9-year-old child tried to flee on foot when police arrived.

“She ran through the store the way the report states. I think she just took off running through the store when she got scared. Of course all the children were released to a family member,” Bates said.

Bates says Mayes faces charges of misdemeanor shoplifting, criminal conspiracy, and three counts of contributing to child delinquency.

 
 
 
 
 

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Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held a press conference this morning to announce the arrest of 54-year-old Ronald Gasser, the man accused of killing former NFL player and John Curtis star Joe McKnight in a road rage incident last week. Normand explained the charge against Gasser. 

“We felt that manslaughter was the charge that most appropriately fit the evidence that we have at this time. This case is still maturing.”

Authorities say Gasser admitted to shooting McKnight in a busy intersection last Thursday. He was questioned that day and released. Normand says his detectives took their time with the investigation, conducting 160 interviews and working with 70 business owners to receive video footage.

“Justice has no time period, justice is not a sprint, it is a marathon. These investigations are marathons.”

Normand says they took their time with the investigation because of different eyewitness accounts of the shooting. He defends the sheriff department’s decision for not arresting Gasser immediately, even though there were groups calling for Gasser’s arrest last Thursday.

“It’s not about the right thing, it’s not about justice and it’s not about the process. It’s about what we want and what we want now.”

 
 

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Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne paints a bleak fiscal picture to lawmakers during a budget hearing this morning at the State Capitol. Dardenne says not only does the state have to address a $313 million deficit for this fiscal year, there’s also another $300 million shortfall looming. He says that means state agencies will have to cut back even more.

“You’ll be seeing very real cuts proposed to deal with these shortfalls. These agencies and departments don’t just spend willy nilly. They spend based upon the dollars that you’ve allocated in their budget,” Dardenne said.

Dardenne says once again higher education and healthcare are on the chopping block. He says these agencies need to be setting priorities and preparing for realistic reductions.

“The reason you’re going to see, unfortunately, recommendations in LDH in particular that cut hospitals and cut waiver services is because that’s where the dollars are,” Dardenne said.

Dardenne says the administration plans on presenting next year’s budget to legislators in February, and some of the proposals won’t be easy to swallow.

“You’re not going to see recommendations designed specifically to get everybody all stirred up. They’re going to be recommendations that are very real based upon where the dollars are spent,” Dardenne said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Fort Polk has moved the first round of horses off their land because there are safety concerns about wild horses roaming the Vernon Parish army base. Fort Polk spokesperson Troy Darr says they sent 50 horses to the Humane Society of North Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He says they plan to rehome the remaining 650 horses in the same manner.

“The plan, according to the environmental assessment that we conducted, is to gather up about 10 to 30 horses each month for the next three years or until all the horses are gone,” Darr said.

Advocates have expressed concerns that the horses could be sent to kill buyers or unfit owners, and the groups have called on Fort Polk to let the horses stay on their land. But Darr says the horses aren’t safe on the Army training grounds.

“They’re not our horses. They’ve been here on the land that we use for a long time. On a regular basis they do end up getting killed here on the training area because it’s not a safe place for a horse,” Darr said.

Darr says the activists’ fears were eased when they announced where the horses were going. He says anyone interested in the welfare of the horses should contact the Humane Society of North Texas.

“Adopting horses and giving a good home for the horses, that’s going to be what they can do to ensure that the horses are safe and happy,” Darr said.

 
 
 
 
 

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We can expect to see some Louisiana leaders working in the Trump Administration either in the cabinet or administrative positions, according to Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, who led the Trump campaign in Louisiana. He says federal lawmakers from this state are recommending Louisiana residents to the transition team.

“The congressional delegation is making a very large effort to coordinate recommendations to Washington for people who are qualified in Louisiana,” Skrmetta said.

Skrmetta says the President-elect has chosen strong leaders for the positions he’s filled so far, including appointing Dr. Ben Carson as the Secretary for the Department of Housing. Skrmetta says he’s even thrown his hat in the ring for available positions in the new administration.

“I’m interested in serving in the administration. There were several positons I put myself in the name for outside of Louisiana and other things in Louisiana,” Skrmetta said.

Former-governor Bobby Jindal’s name has come up in discussions about cabinet positions since Trump’s victory. But Skrmetta says we’re not likely to see Jindal in Washington come January.

“From what I’ve seen out there and the players in the game, is he qualified? Absolutely. Is he going to be far enough up the list? I don’t know, but I would not think it likely,” Skrmetta said.

 
 
 
 
 

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In a new ad, Governor John Bel Edwards asks residents to vote for Democrat Foster Campbell in Saturday’s US Senate race. In the 30-second spot, Edwards says Campbell could be the deciding vote against substantial cuts to social security and Medicare. ULM political science Professor Dr. Joshua Stockley says as popular as the governor is, this ad likely won’t do much to help Campbell.

“Foster Campbell appears to be substantially behind John Kennedy at this point. I think all signs point to a Republican victory in this race,” Stockley said.

Campbell will face Republican John Kennedy in the December 10 runoff. The governor says in the ad that Campbell supports equal pay for women, and he will bring tax dollars home for roads, bridges, and coastal restoration. Stockley says while the ad is a nice gesture, it’s probably too little too late.

“Foster Campbell will take it, but he’s going to need more than an endorsement from the governor at this point if he’s going to pull off the upset victory,” Stockley said.

 
 
 
 
 

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New Orleans will now be featured as part of the 2017 Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Local Representative for Dick Clark Productions Gary Solomon says this is the first time in the show’s history that there will be another countdown in the Central time zone. He says it’s a real game changer for the Crescent City.

“Dick Clark’s is really going to show off New Orleans, our culture, our having a good time New Year’s and kind of year round with things like featuring the Allstate Sugar Bowl Parade.”

Solomon says a number of celebrities will perform and the biggest feature will be the crowd having a good time in the French Quarter.

“We can be on the same playing field as Times Square in New York, that Jackson Square in New Orleans is the next time zone over and the obvious pick, is a real win.”

Solomon says Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin' eve will cut to New Orleans throughout the five and a half hour nationally televised show. He says viewers will feel like they’re a part of the New Orleans culture.

“We come to New Orleans for a very extended duration of approximately 10 minutes or so where there is a great performance in New Orleans and then we watch the Fleur De Lis on top of Jack’s Brewery drop.”

 
 

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The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has received 21 Whooping Cranes from Maryland in the last week, giving the Bayou State a total of 25 large birds that have been delivered to this state this year.

LDWF Biologist Sara Zimorski says the Whooping Cranes will be spread out between two facilities.

“We have a pen at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area. Because we have a large group, the groups have been divided up and we’ll have birds at both of those locations.”

Zimorski says currently, there are released 38 birds in the wild and the new arrivals will be counted into the population in a few weeks. She says it’s so important to receive these shipments given the low number of the Whooping Cranes in the state.

“They are an endangered species and because they were a species that was historically found in Louisiana, we would like to get a population established here again.”

The Whooping Crane was considered extinct in Louisiana in 1950, but for the last six years the state has been working to restore a solid population of these large birds back into the state. Zimorski says once released, the birds are encouraged to stay by being fed, but eventually they branch out on their own.

“We will continue to monitor them with their transmitters and through observation to document what they’re doing, where they’re going, if they’re foraging on natural foods.”

 
 

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Senator David Vitter gave his farewell speech on the Senate floor Monday, as he will leave the office he’s held since January 2005. Vitter says as a Louisiana state legislator he worked to impose term limits here, as well as authoring the leading term limits measure for Congress. He says that’s why he’s imposing one on himself.

“Congress can only be an effective representative body when it lives under the same laws it imposes on the rest of the country, and one major way to support that is through term limits,” Vitter said.

Vitter says in his tenure he’s worked to protect 2nd Amendment rights and the right to life. He says he’s helped stopped automatic pay raises in Washington and worked on Obamacare reform to make the healthcare more patient oriented.

The outgoing Senator thanked embers of his team, his colleagues, and friends in Washington. But he says he owes the most to his wife, Wendy.

“Through it all Wendy has been so supportive and understanding, not to mention being the life of every Team Vitter party, leading the rounds of fireball shots,” Vitter said.


 
 
 
 

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LSU star RB Leonard Fournette made it official by announcing he will enter the 2017 NFL draft after the Tigers’ bowl game on December 31st.
 
Fournette made the announcement on Twitter and said he plans to play in the Citrus Bowl, despite a nagging ankle injury.

Fournette entered his junior campaign as a candidate to win the Heisman Trophy, but he never fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered during preseason camp.
 
The New Orleans native failed to rush for 1,000 yards this season and scored eight touchdowns in seven games.
 
He set the school's single-game rushing record with 284 yards against Ole Miss in October. That record was broken in the regular season finale when Derrius Guice rushed for 285 yards against Texas A&M.
 
Fournette has 3,755 yards for his career, which is the fourth highest in LSU history.
 
Despite injury issues, NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier says it's possible that Fournette could be the number one overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Detillier says Fournette is second highest ranked player on his draft board and Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is number one.  

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A new survey out of Tulane reveals US Senate candidate Republican John Kennedy has a healthy lead in the race against Democrat Foster Campbell in the runoff. Brian Brox, associate professor of Political Science, says they found 59% of respondents said they would vote for Kennedy, while 40% said Campbell is their choice.


He says the Republican has always been favored in Saturday's race.

"December 10th will be a low turnout affair," said Brox. "And the unusually timed affair, most of those voters tend to have more Republican and conservative characteristics."

The survey found that, when the presidential vote of the respondent is considered, nearly 83 percent of Trump voters said they plan to vote for Kennedy.

Brox says it's interesting that just 69 percent of Clinton voters said they would vote for Campbell. He attributes that to people that voted for Clinton because they didn't want to vote for Trump.

"These are perhaps people that where either Republicans or conservative Democrats, who just couldn't vote for Trump," said Brox. "But now that he's no longer on the ballot they feel comfortable voting for Kennedy in the runoff."

Brox says supporters of the Senate candidate who did not make the runoff are splitting along partisan lines. He believes many voters feel that voting for the Democrat in this race means choosing the minority party since Republicans will control the Senate.

"So electing a Republican would that person in the majority party," said Brox.
 
 
 

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Only 171,000 of the state’s 3 million registered voters cast their ballots during the early voting period. Pollster John Couvillion, with JMC Analytics, predicts turnout for the runoff to be 35%, at the most. He says a runoff during the holiday season has always been bad for turnout, plus this Senate race isn’t exciting voters.

“Now that it’s in the runoff, where in 16 parishes the Senate race is the only thing on the ballot parish wide, I just think people aren’t really engaged on this one.”

Couvillion says early voting data showed Democratic enthusiasm is lacking, with the percentage of black voters lower than in the primary. He says the only exception to this is in East Baton Rouge Parish, because of the hotly contested mayoral race.

“For the Presidential race, 37% of early voters in East Baton Rouge Parish were black, it was 40% as of Saturday night and so that extra few percentage points clearly benefits Sharon Weston-Broome.”

Former State Senator Broome is facing Republican State Senator Bodi White in the Baton Rouge mayoral election. Only six percent of the state’s registered voters hit the polls for early voting. Couvillion says he was very impressed with the number of early voters in the primary, but….

“The lack of volume in the runoff has been just as surprising and it’s the worst I’ve seen since the 2011 statewide races when you had a 37% turnout.”

 
 

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Officials with the Camping World Independence Bowl in Shreveport are excited about their December 26th contest that pits North Carolina State versus Vanderbilt. Bowl Spokesperson Stefan Nolet says the ACC and SEC matchup marks the second time in three seasons the two conferences have played each other in this bowl. He says both teams finished the season strong.

“So we’re expecting a really good game. Historically, 12 of the past 17 games here at the Independence Bowl have been decided by seven points or less so chances are it’s going to be a really great game here.”

Kick off for the Independence Bowl is at 4 p.m. Nolet expects Vanderbilt fans are excited because they haven’t been to a bowl since 2013 and seem to travel well. But he says traveling on the day after Christmas can be tough, but…

“We hope that the people here locally and regionally are able to make it out with the day after Christmas being a federal holiday.”

Louisiana Tech is also excited about its bowl destination. The Bulldogs will play 25th ranked Navy on December 23rd in Fort Worth, Texas in the Armed Forced Bowl. Athletic Director Tommy McClelland expects this will be a high scoring game. He says the kick-off is at 3 p.m. and predicts tons of fans will attend, like in past bowl games.

“It’s an easy drive, get in your car that morning to drive over to Amon G. Carter Stadium at TCU, watch the game and be able to drive back, so we do anticipate a large crowd.”

McClelland expects anywhere from 500 to a thousand students will attend the game. He says they were presented the option to play Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl or a top 25 Navy team, so they selected the team that would give players another new experience.

“We feel like that’s the better opponent for our team that we have, we have a pretty good team. We selected a better team, a better matchup. And also it would be a third bowl in three years.”

 
 

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It’s a cold, rainy day across the Bayou State, and state climatologist Barry Keim says this is typical for winter in Louisiana. He says a storm is tracking across the southern part of the state today, bringing more of the wet weather we saw all weekend.

“Over the past few days the entire state has had substantive rainfall already occur, with parts of southwest Louisiana receiving over 10 inches, and there’s more rain to come today with the potential for anywhere from one to three and a half inches,” Keim said.

Flash flood watches are in effect until 3pm in southwest and central Louisiana parishes. Keim says there’s also the potential for severe weather today in south Louisiana as warm air is colliding with cold air.

“Once that happens, the threat does go up, and there’s always a chance for hail, tornados, and high winds to occur under those conditions. So we just need to be smart about it,” Keim said. 

Keim says the rain should finally move out of the state today and then we can get ready for our real dose of cold weather before the weekend arrives.

“We can expect some clearing by very late tonight into tomorrow morning and milder temperatures by Tuesday and Wednesday across the state, but we have much colder air headed our way for Thursday and Friday,” Keim said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The jury selection in the trial of Cardell Hayes, the man accused of killing Former Saints defensive end Will Smith, begins today. A judge has determined that the jury will be sequestered for the entire trial. Legal Analyst Chick Foret says it will be hard for people to leave their families during the holiday season.

“We’re going to have a number of difficulties in selecting the jury but there are plenty of jurors who are going to be there and I’m confident that Judge Buras will have a jury no later than mid-day on Tuesday.”

Foret says it’s important to make sure that the jury hears testimony from the witnesses, the evidence and nothing else.

“They’re not going to be influenced through legal analysts, or reporters or journalists and they’re going to be influenced by exactly by what the evidence is and what the law is as given to them by Judge Buras.”

Jurors will not have access to TV’s or telephones. But Foret says Judge Buras has promised to move the case along quickly and trial testimony will be heard even on weekends.

“There will be seven or eight days of trial that the jury will be sequestered and the trial will take place. It’s going to take, in my estimation, a week to try this case.”

 
 

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The 20th ranked LSU Tigers will get a chance to spend the final week of 2016 in sunny Florida where they'll play 13th ranked Louisville in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on December 31st. 
 
It will be an early start on New Year's eve day as the game will kickoff at 11 AM eastern, 10 AM central time.


The Bayou Bengals bring a 7-4 record to Orlando, while the Cardinals are 9-3. It will be an interesting match-up between the Tigers defense, which gave up the fourth-fewest points in the country against a Louisville offense that's led by a potential Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Lamar Jackson. 
 
Jackson set an ACC record with touchdowns in a season as he threw 30 passing TDs and scored 21 times rushing the football.
 
It will be the first ever meeting between Louisville and LSU on the football field. It will also be Coach Ed Orgeron's first game as the full-time head coach for the Tigers.  
 
The Tigers will make their fourth appearance in the Citrus Bowl. The last time they played in Orlando was in 2010 against Penn State in a game that was marred by poor field conditions, because of a heavy downpour.  

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The Saints appear to be heading towards another losing season as New Orleans played poorly in a 28-13 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Black and Gold committed 10 penalties and Quarterback Drew Brees threw three interceptions. Detroit jumped out to a 10-0 lead, which did not please Coach Sean Payton.


"Obviously we looked sluggish, it looked like we were coming off a short week," Payton said.
 
The loss drops New Orleans record to 5-7.The Black and Gold are heading towards their fourth losing season in the last five. 
 
"We've been up and down, last week, came out and played well, this week, it was poor, poor start," Payton said.
 
Payton also denied a report the Saints are interested in trading wide receiver Brandin Cooks during the offseason. 
 
"It's a false report, it's an agent picking up the phone, there's nothing to the report."
 
New Orleans will visit Tampa Bay next Sunday.  
 
 
 

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