WBRZ http://www.wbrz.com/ WBRZ Top Story Top Story en-us Copyright 2016, WBRZ. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Fri, 29 Apr 2016 10:04:56 GMT Synapse CMS 10 WBRZ http://www.wbrz.com/ 144 25 Investigative Unit: Coroner Files, where are the records? http://www.wbrz.com/news/investigative-unit-coroner-files-where-are-the-records-/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/investigative-unit-coroner-files-where-are-the-records-/ Top Story Thu, 28 Apr 2016 4:15:46 PM Chris Nakamoto Investigative Unit: Coroner Files, where are the records?

CLINTON - Tonight, there are allegations that the former Coroner in East Feliciana Parish broke the law as she left office this year.

All of this centers around missing documents in the coroner's office. The WBRZ Investigative Unit has learned Laura DeJohn, the former coroner, operated her office on a verbal basis and apparently kept no records during her nearly two years in office.

If you call any Coroner in this area, most will tell you they keep records of death certificates, autopsy reports and sexual assaults. The documents can go back decades if you ask. That's not the case in East Feliciana Parish where records don't seem to exist.

Tucked away in the quaint town of Clinton, you'll find this office space next to the Clerk of Court's Office. Inside, it's empty, except for some electronics on the floor. This vacant office used to be where Coroner Laura DeJohn conducted her business. It's what was inside that office and where it went that is a mystery tonight.

"Whatever happened before I entered office on March 28, I have no clue as to what occurred," Dr. Michael Cramer said. "There are some things that require paperwork from the previous administration and I can't fulfill that obligation at this time."

When Dr. Cramer took over in March, he noticed his job wasn't easy to do. This month, he sent a letter to Laura DeJohn requesting documents from her.

Part of it reads, "It is time for... you...to transfer all coronal records...to the current coroner."

"As the new coroner, I felt like I needed all of the documents to run my office," Cramer said.

Instead, DeJohn got her attorney from New Orleans involved who sent a five page letter in response.

Part of it reads,"The East Feliciana Parish Coroner's Office during Ms.DeJohn's tenure, where there was no secretarial help, was operated on a purely verbal basis...accordingly, no such documents exist." The letter repeatedly says the Coroner's office maintained no written records. It goes on to say records are kept at other agencies.

The new coroner wanted documents over a 20 year period. DeJohn's husband was the longtime coroner up there, before he died in office, and Laura DeJohn took over.

"Obviously people have died in East Feliciana Parish," East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said. "They've had sexual assaults, and we know that emergency certificates that were done. There has to be some paperwork generated even if there were no employees in the office."

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark finds it hard to believe that DeJohn couldn't produce any records to the new coroner from her time in office. He doesn't buy that Laura DeJohn doesn't have any records. Clark had no problem pulling files where DeJohn submitted bills on East Feliciana Parish Coroner letterhead after she vacated office, just a few weeks ago. DeJohn was trying to collect $2,200 from Clark and East Baton Rouge Parish taxpayers for work she claims she performed on patients with mental illness, where she issued a coroner's emergency certificate. Clark never paid her since DeJohn is not a doctor.

"Louisiana law states the only people who can do an emergency certificate is a coroner, either a physician, licensed psychologist or a mental health nurse practitioner," Clark said.

When asked if he believes laws were broken, Clark responded, "It seems to me based off of what I read of Louisiana law."

We wanted to question DeJohn about all of these issues. Her attorney said she refused to do an on camera interview. When we went looking for her in East Feliciana Parish, we reached her on the phone and found her trying to leave her house. But, the moment she saw us, she turned a small white car around and quickly drove back up her driveway.

"I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't be any records," Clark said. "It doesn't make sense to me. If you conducted the work of this office, or any parish of Louisiana, you'd want to document your findings. I'd imagine one of those cases was a crime and it would end up in court, and you'd have to present documents to the judge and jury and to the court."

But, with no records in East Feliciana Parish, questions are being raised about whether DeJohn broke state laws.

RS 42:321 states, §321. Outgoing officer to deliver records to successor

"Every public officer shall, upon resignation, removal, or upon the expiration of his term, deliver all the books, records, documents and writings appertaining to his office, without delay to his successor or to a person duly authorized to receive them."

The penalty for not doing so is also clear.

RS 42:322 states, §322. Penalty for failure to deliver records; application

"Every public officer who withholds or detains from his successor, or other person entitled by law thereto, any of the books, records, documents, or writings appertaining to his office, or who mutilates, destroys, or takes them away from the building or office where they are usually kept, shall be imprisoned not less than one year nor more than ten years.

The provisions of this Section apply to any person, who has in his possession books, records, documents, or writings, and refuses to deliver them to the proper authority, or who willfully mutilates, destroys, withholds, or detains them, or aids in their mutilation, destruction, or detention."

Tonight, new Coroner Dr. Michael Cramer isn't' issuing death certificates for people who died while DeJohn was in office since he has no records.

"Please give me the records," Cramer said.

We were scheduled to interview Laura DeJohn's attorney this morning in New Orleans. Late last night, he canceled the interview. Tonight, we've learned complaints were filed with the Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney about the lack of records in East Feliciana Parish.

The new coroner also requested information on how money was being spent or received, but DeJohn's attorney says she didn't' keep or maintain those records either.

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Investors meet to discuss emergency room in North Baton Rouge http://www.wbrz.com/news/investors-meet-to-discuss-emergency-room-in-north-baton-rouge/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/investors-meet-to-discuss-emergency-room-in-north-baton-rouge/ Top Story Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:09:52 PM Kristen Althouse, Brittany Weiss Investors meet to discuss emergency room in North Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE - Investors met with the #NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commission Thursday to discuss building an emergency room in North Baton Rouge.

Leaders of the healthcare company Next Health said if the money is there, they will waste no time building the new emergency room, and it could be open within the next year. Next Health operates Champion Medical Center, a specialized surgical hospital located in Howell Place and says the bones are there to build and receive patients.

"Because we have the infrastructure and the exterior already built, in a matter of months we could be up and open and seeing patients in a very, very, very quick manner," said Josh Ihde, the chief operating officer of Next Health.

To add an emergency room, it would take $6.5 million, and another three to $3.5 million dollars in operating costs annually.

Metro-Council member, Chauna Banks created the Blue Ribbon Commission, to advocate for the North Baton Rouge community. It has lost two emergency rooms in three years. Earl K. Long closed in 2013, and Baton Rouge General closed it's doors on their emergency room in 2015. In the little over a year since the last closure, the average response time to an emergency, has increased by a minute and 30 seconds.

If an emergency room was set up at Champion Medical Center, it would serve emergency patients, but would not be set up to handle long-term care situations.

"We'll have relationships with other facilities and hopefully partnerships with other hospitals in the city to transfer those patients for long-term care," said Ihde.

The emergency room expansion would add more beds to the center, with the possibility to take the eleven existing beds, and grow that number to 25.

Ihde said an emergency room at Champion Medical Center would except Medicaid, the state's healthcare coverage for the poor, and Medicare, a federal insurance program for the elderly.

Champion Medical Center has been open for ten years at its current location. WBRZ News 2 also learned a new charter school is in the works for the development at Howell Place.

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Police: Cabela's employee accidentally shoots himself with gun http://www.wbrz.com/news/police-cabela-s-employee-accidentally-shoots-himself-with-gun/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/police-cabela-s-employee-accidentally-shoots-himself-with-gun/ Top Story Thu, 28 Apr 2016 7:37:47 PM Hunter Robinson Police: Cabela's employee accidentally shoots himself with gun

GONZALES - Gonzales Police say they were dispatched to Cabela's Thursday afternoon after an employee shot himself in the hand while showing a handgun to a customer.

Investigators say the .22 caliber fired, sending a bullet through his palm and into the floor. He was treated at the hospital and is said to be in "stable" condition.

We contacted Cabela's in Gonzales who told us they would not be commenting on the situation. Calls to Cabela's corporate media relations office were not returned.

No one else was injured.

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18 animals have died at the Baton Rouge Zoo in 2016 http://www.wbrz.com/news/18-animals-have-died-at-the-baton-rouge-zoo-in-2016/ http://www.wbrz.com/news/18-animals-have-died-at-the-baton-rouge-zoo-in-2016/ Top Story Thu, 28 Apr 2016 6:02:28 PM Trey Schmaltz 18 animals have died at the Baton Rouge Zoo in 2016

BATON ROUGE - Federal officials are putting together a report on the deaths of animals at the Baton Rouge Zoo.

Since the start of 2016, eighteen animals have died. Most recently, a juvenile Malayan tiger died. The tiger, named Hadiah, died in mid-April.

"This death was much unexpected," zoo veterinarian, Dr. Gordon Pirie, said in a WBRZ and WBRZ.com report on the death. "(earlier in the day on the date the tiger died), we were performing routine rounds with a LSU veterinary intern and she appeared to be exhibiting normal behavior and in great health."

Zoo veterinary staff were able to review the tigers' behavior from the installed camera inside the cats' den. The footage shows the tiger entering the den as usual and then resting for a short period of time before showing obvious signs of distress. She died approximately 15 minutes later.

The zoo asked the USDA to come to the facility after the tiger died. A report from the USDA is expected to be complete and released soon.

The zoo released necropsies - autopsies of animals - for each case Thursday. Multiple fish, a duck, antelope, two giraffes, primate, cheetah, two bats, a parrot, turtle, wild cat, and frog have died. In all, 18 necropsies have been conducted. Officials are still awaiting a final necropsy on the tiger. A preliminary report showed nothing conclusive.

Thursday night we spoke to Zoo Assistant Director Sam Winslow about those reports. He says both the cheetah and serval were relatively old. The big cats are on long-acting birth control, and there are indications that the birth control may sometimes lead to uterine cancer. While neither the cheetah nor serval had uterine cancer, both had conditions related to their reproductive or urinary systems.

The sheep died of a ruptured bladder following a kidney stone. Winslow says kidney stones in sheep aren't treatable surgically, so the medical strategy is to treat them for pain and wait to see if the stone will pass on its on. Records show the sheep was treated for its pain.

The bullfrog and fish both died of conditions typical in the wild. The box turtle was part of a colony of turtles at the zoo that have mycobacterium, which they contract in the wild. They cannot be released back into the wild, otherwise the condition will spread.

Winslow also claims most zoos don't perform necropsies following all animal deaths.

"They might just you know take them out and bury them out in the back," he told News 2. "We care about our collection...If we know how they died [we can] survey their health and see if there is anything going on so that we can better take care of animals in the future."

Coincidentally, the deaths come as the zoo announced a controversial study of its future at its north Baton Rouge location. Officials are considering a $110 million upgrade that could include moving it to a different location.

Check back for more on the necropsy data later Thursday.


Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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