Reported By: Lee Peck
For three months the doors to Tuten Park have been closed to the public following an undercover sex sting resulting in the arrest of 17 men. Undercover agents with the Calcasieu Sheriff's Vice Squad say the men tried to engage in lewd conduct or sex acts inside the park's wooded areas. All suspects have been charged with obscenity and two of them with crimes against nature.
"We're going to look at each one of the cases individually," said Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier.
DeRosier says his office is still reviewing each case, but expects the men to be arraigned within the next 35 to 40 days. Facing misdemeanor charges, none of the suspects will have to register as sex offenders if convicted.
"Many or most of them will probably be first time offenders, so we'll have to take a look at that to determine whether or not they're going to be prosecuted in a certain fashion or whether they will be eligible for our pretrial diversion program," said DeRosier.
Though the gates remain locked, plans are underway by the city to totally redesign Tuten Park and re-open it to the public. Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach says architects began working on the project back in June of last year because of hurricane damage, but that the arrests a Tuten park accelerated the process.
"The design incorporates some of the issues and some of the concerns that have been expressed by some of the residents as far as changes that could be made to the park to improve safety, appearance and to also improve its usefulness to the community," said Roach.
Included in the park's million dollar upgrade are new seating areas, open pathways and ponds, as well as a fully staffed nature center.
"The nature center will have controlled access to the park, where there would be only one way to enter the park and that would be controlled access into the park itself," said Roach.
Mayor Roach says the renovations will be done in three phases and will be budgeted for the new fiscal year beginning in October. Until then Tuten Park will remain off limits.