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West’s World: All hope for justice is not lost

A grand jury decision to indict two murder suspects and a detective with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office has left me feeling like all hope for justice is not lost.
The most surprising of the grand jury’s true bills was the one issued against EPSO Detective Caleb Stelly. However, it is the one that has proven progress, even in Evangeline Parish, is possible.
I was born and raised in this parish. Therefore, I, like many others I would bet, have heard the stories of corruption that has not only existed, but also controlled the way we operate in Evangeline Parish. You can get a glimpse into that world just by reading Clyde Vidrine’s book, Just Taking Orders.
However, when I started working at the Ville Platte Gazette three years ago I began actually getting an up-close and personal look at the inner workings of a parish that has seemed to play by its own rule book for decades.
The decision our District Attorney Trent Brignac made to even present evidence that a law enforcement officer may have committed a crime, is one that has truly made me proud. The reason why is because he in that instance threw the rule book for, like my associate editor Tony Marks calls it, the “Sovereign State of Evangeline” out the window, and acted as a true servant of the people.
Stelly’s indictment arose from an incident where he may have improperly investigated a murder that recently occurred in Turkey Creek.
When I spoke to the victim’s family it became very clear that one of their major concerns surrounding the unfortunate events that took place on May 18, 2018 was the fact that the detective appeared to have treated the situation like a petty theft crime instead of a murder.
Although it was clear that John Isaac Foret had just shot and killed a man, he was still released from the EPSO’s custody. He wasn’t even arrested and booked in jail even though there was plenty of probable cause to detain the suspect until further investigations took place.
In the past, it was this type of behavior that had been accepted. But, to now see that it won’t be tolerated by our D.A. makes me happy.
We have a lot of great law enforcement officers here in Evangeline Parish, but the stain one officer can leave on a department can ruin its whole reputation.
I do not know if Stelly is guilty. A jury will decide that. However, it is reassuring to know that our D.A. isn’t going to sit by and allow questionable things to occur at the hands of our men in blue.
District Attorney Brignac’s actions, for me, have started to build my trust in the police forces in our parish again, because I can now have faith that there is someone who will make sure “bad cops” don’t work in Evangeline Parish. What our D.A. and a grand jury have done, I truly believe is going to create a better relationship between the community and our officers, which might just make an officer’s difficult job a little bit easier.
It is my hope that we, the public, and all law enforcement officers, consider what our D.A. has done as a gift of opportunity for something better in Evangeline Parish.
District Attorney Brignac has started the progress so many of us have been longing for, so now it is our responsibility as residents here to help continue this trend and move our parish forward.

Evangeline Today

145 Court St.
Ville Platte, LA 70586
Phone: 337-363-3939
Fax: 337-363-2841