Danette Cloud angered by vandals’ actions
By: CARISSA HEBERT
Three people are facing charges after a mother contacted the sheriff’s office for assistance in locating the persons responsible for vandalizing her son’s grave.
Many people say the hardest thing in life is for a parent to bury a child. Danette Cloud had to bury her son, Shay Cloud, who was 17 at the time of his death August 22, 2004, and his grave is a special place for her to visit and remember her son. Unfortunately, vandals struck and removed a memorial, paid for by Shay’s senior class.
Cloud was an athlete and an outdoorsman, who loved to fish and hunt. He was a friend to everyone, and his senior class at Pine Prairie High School raised money to erect a memorial next to Shay’s grave in his memory. It was an eternal light, which glows red at night through a solar panel. The base of the memorial, which is granite and houses the battery, is approximately 10 to 12 pounds. The top of the memorial is a lucite flame-like teardrop and weighs approximately eight to 10 pounds. The memorial also has a silver engraved plate with the names of Shay’s Senior Class of 2005 on it and the class’ motto.
Cloud said the family noticed the vandalism Easter Day when they went to put flowers on the grave. She said this is something they do every holiday. She had noticed the light was not glowing on the 17th, but she was busy and hadn’t returned to investigate. She knows the vandalism occurred within the last two to three weeks at St. Peter’s Catholic Church Cemetery, which is located on Hampton Dupre. Her son’s grave was not the only vandalized. She said several solar crosses had been broken.
Cloud called her niece, who is a member of the town council. Her niece contacted Mayor Terry Savant and a police report was made by the Pine Prairie Police Department.
Angered by the incident, Cloud said the lot across the street has been utilized by many for years as a place to congregate and drink. She said the owner posted the land, and those who congregate tore the posts down. “There’s no reason they should be congregating there. It’s a sacred place.” She said there have been fights there, and she wants the Pine Prairie Police Department to keep people off the lot. She said numerous calls have been made to the police department, but nothing is ever done. She said the chief knows what goes on at that lot, but they don’t stop people from loitering there.
She said because she didn’t believe she was getting anywhere with the Pine Prairie Police Department, she contacted the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office for assistance.
Pine Prairie Police Chief L.C. Deshotel said he didn’t know about the matter until Cloud’s nephew told him about it. It was a couple of days later he heard of the incident, and he said he immediately posted a $1,000 reward to help recover the memorial.
As of Tuesday, Deshotel’s department is now writing citations for those who are parking in this lot when no funeral exists. He said it will be strictly enforced, and the mayor has agreed no tickets will be fixed or dismissed no matter who it is.
“We’ll put a stop to it,” Deshotel said. Before this week, he said they did run off anyone found there when no funerals existed. Now, they will be issuing tickets.
Deshotel also said Cloud didn’t contact him, and he has a cell phone on 24 hours a day. He said residents can call him at any time for assistance or they can call 9-1-1 or the sheriff’s office to send an officer. He said Pine Prairie has an officer, 24 hours a day, working the streets.
Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Captain Keith Dupre, chief of detectives, was asked Monday by Cloud to investigate the incident. He discovered the memorial Tuesday evening, March 25, at a residence in Pine Prairie. Dupre returned Wednesday, March 27, and executed a search warrant on the residence.
The sheriff’s office discovered narcotics in the residence at 1522 Clark Street in Pine Prairie. As a result four persons have been charged.
Dupre said charges of desecration of a grave and cultivation of marijuana have been filed against Catherine McCullah, 19, 1522 Clark St., Pine Prairie; Sergio Michael Laughery, 18, 1277 Big Vic Road, Ville Platte; and Demetrio Laughery, 20, 1522 Clark St., Pine Prairie. He is expecting more charges in regards to desecration of a grave to be filed soon.
Inside the Pine Prairie residence, authorities located three pots filled with seven marijuana plants and some growing lights in a locked closet. In regards to this case, they have charged Gabriel Laughery, 21, 1522 Clark St., Pine Prairie, with cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana.
Besides the marijuana and Shay’s memorial, deputies recovered a cross, which lights up.
At press time, no bond information was available, and Dupre said the investigation was ongoing.
Sheriff Eddie Soileau said his department became involved when Cloud contacted them. “I will respect the towns and their respective chiefs,” he said, “but when we are called, we will go.”
Sheriff Soileau said he will answer all constituents’ calls. He said Dupre contacted him Tuesday and said he had information where the memorial might be. He said he told him if he knew where it was, then he should go and get it.
Cloud cannot thank the sheriff’s department enough for their work in locating her son’s memorial. She said, Keith and Todd (Ortis) were wonderful. The Lord was working his miracles.”
Now Cloud is working to have lights placed near the area, and some dusk to dawn lights in the immediate vicinity of the graveyard. She has spoken to the mayor and her local priest to make changes in the area to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
Cloud is married to Chris. They have two daughters, Ashley and Meghan.