Louisiana author’s Christmas dragons go viral after neighbors’ flare up

A Louisiana woman’s unusual Christmas decorations have gone viral after igniting a flare up with a neighbor who's reportedly afraid the woman might be involved in a “demonic cult.” Diana Rowland, a former police officer turned fantasy writer, has set up inflatable dragons in her yard to celebrate Halloween — and Christmas — for at least four … Continue reading “Louisiana author’s Christmas dragons go viral after neighbors’ flare up”

A Louisiana woman’s unusual Christmas decorations have gone viral after igniting a flare up with a neighbor who's reportedly afraid the woman might be involved in a “demonic cult.”

Diana Rowland, a former police officer turned fantasy writer, has set up inflatable dragons in her yard to celebrate Halloween — and Christmas — for at least four years.

She told Fox News during a phone interview on Tuesday that her husband got her the first dragon for her birthday several years ago and they put it up on Halloween.

“As a fantasy writer, they are right up my alley,” she said, adding the dragon was taken down after the holiday.

Rowland had initially put up three dragons but, not one to back down, added two more after her neighbor’s letter. (Courtesy of Diana Rowland)

That year, they decided to put it back up after Thanksgiving and included some more Christmas-related decorations around the dragons.

“People loved it…my immediate neighbors love them,” Rowland said. “They come up and take their picture…We are the 'Dragon House.'"

Some love it so much that one of Rowland's elderly neighbors even told her she should put a spotlight on the dragons so that people can see them better.

But this year, she's also dealt with other points of view. One of her neighbors apparently had enough with the "inappropriate" display and sent Rowland an anonymous letter asking her to consider taking it down.

In an anonymous letter, a neighbor told her that her dragon display was "inappropriate" for Christmas.

“Your dragon display is only marginally acceptable at Halloween. It is totally inappropriate at Christmas,” the letter said. “It makes your neighbors wonder if you are involved in a demonic cult. Please consider removing the dragons. May God bless you and help you to know the true meaning of Christmas.”

Rowland shared a photo of her dragons and the anonymous letter on Twitter late last week and it has since gone viral with more than 9,400 retweets and more than 36,000 likes.

“I had to read it twice and thought ‘really?’” she said. “I then ran to my daughter, who is 14, and told her, ‘Look, we have hate mail!”

She added: “The first line of the letter really set the tone for all of this.”

Not one to back down, Rowland added two more dragons to this year’s display — with some of them sporting halos.

“I don’t want to call it a war, but I can say that I won this round,” she said.

Rowland said she is “a little famous” from her books, but the last few days have been a different level of fame.

“It’s been interesting,” she said. “My family has been supportive. My daughter thinks it’s hilarious.”

Since the posts went viral, Rowland has been inundated with offers of donations to help her buy more dragons. Instead, she asks that people donate to charity.

“I can buy my own dragons,” she said.

At least one person has taken her up on her request, donating to a penguin rescue in honor of Rowland’s dragon army.

“It’s about spreading the joy – finding joy with the dragons,” Rowland said.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Alton Sterling’s eldest son charged with rape of 8-year-old boy

The son of Alton Sterling — the man killed in a controversial 2016 officer-involved shooting outside a convenience store — was arrested Wednesday for allegedly raping a child, police said.

Cameron Sterling, 18, is accused of taking an 8-year-old boy he was babysitting on Dec. 8 into a bedroom and raping the child, Baton Rouge police said.

The boy's mother asked Sterling what happened, and Sterling denied any assault took place, The Advocate reported, citing an arrest warrant.

Sterling’s mother told police her son suffers from severe depression and bipolar disorder and might have had a “mental episode” while babysitting, according to WBRZ-TV.

Sterling was booked into East Baton Rouge Prison on a first-degree rape charge, according to WAFB-TV.

Cameron is the eldest son of Alton Sterling, who was killed during an altercation with Baton Rouge police officers after they responded to a report of a man with a gun outside the business.

Video of the 2016 incident went viral and led to the firing of a police officer and the suspension of another.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Man in ‘cocaine’ shirt and hat spraypainted the word all over Bourbon Street, court documents say

A man from California is accused of having spraypainted the word “cocaine” in several spots earlier this month on Bourbon Street in New Orleans — while wearing a shirt and a hat with the word “cocaine” written on them, police said.

The suspect, identified as 45-year-old Sean Harrington, was reportedly captured Dec. 3 on security cameras spraypainting the word at spots along Bourbon Street, which is considered a historic landmark, according to a warrant for his arrest.

Court records cited by the Advocate of New Orleans indicate Harrington is originally from Pasadena, Calif..

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Around 2:20 a.m. Dec. 3 two patrol officers spotted Harrington wearing the shirt and hat, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported.

The officers later spotted the word "cocaine" spraypainted on the ground near Bourbon and St. Louis Street at least five times — on the side of a curb, and on several trash cans, according to the arrest warrant. Another man said he saw someone spraypaint the doors of 418 Bourbon Street, the warrant said.

Officers then found Harrington with a white spray-paint can allegedly in his possession, the arrest warrant stated. Authorities arrested Harrington two days later, after further investigation.

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Harrington faces two counts of criminal damage to property of a value less than $500 and one count of criminal damage to a historic building or landmark, the Times-Picayune reported. His bond was set at $500 and he was appointed a public defender, according to court records.

Jail records cited by the Times-Picayune say Harrington was released from custody Thursday, pending further legal action.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

Woman reunited with ring she lost in J.C. Penney parking lot: ‘God works in mysterious ways’

Timing is everything, and for two Louisiana women, they say it was God who made their paths cross amid the busy holiday shopping season.

Shirley Ross, from Shreveport, stepped out of her vehicle last Wednesday in the parking lot of J.C. Penney and her heart stopped. She looked down and found a sparkling diamond ring on the ground.

Instead of taking it to the lost and found of the store, Ross felt determined by something inside her to find the owner herself.

The ring belonged to Shelley Wells, also from Shreveport, who said she took it off to put on lotion in her car. Forgetting she took it off, she went about shopping that day, and by the time she realized it was lost, she went back to find it with no avail. So she turned to social media.

At 10:19 pm she posted a picture of the ring with a “special request” to help find the person who found it.

“I lost my 20-year anniversary ring in the parking lot of J.C. Penney,” Wells wrote on Facebook, offering “many blessings for your help!”

Her post was shared more than 3,000 times with people offering their prayers and support, but the woman who found the ring doesn’t have Facebook.

Fortunately, her daughter put a post on the social media platform, coincidentally within a minute after Wells' post.

And the next day Wells confirmed that her ring had been found!

“GOD is soooo GOOD!” she wrote. “I truly have been gifted a Christmas miracle!”

Ross agreed.

“God, he works in mysterious ways,” she told KTAL.

Years ago, Ross lost her wedding ring the same way Wells did, in a parking lot, putting lotion on her hands. Ross never got her ring back, but she considers this as part of her reward.

"I just raised my hand in praise and I just thought isn't this just wonderful," Ross said.

Caleb Parke is an associate editor for FoxNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter @calebparke

New Orleans looks underground as parts of city slowly sink

NEW ORLEANS – “I know where I live,” said Keith Daggett.

Daggett’s home sits by the London Avenue Canal. The floodwall along the canal breached during Hurricane Katrina more than 13 years ago. An outdoor exhibition now stands at the site of the devastation, marking the flooding caused by the failures of the canal.

“Yes, there is a flood risk here,” said Daggett, who recently moved to the neighborhood.

Tulane University environmental sciences professor Alex Kolker reiterated that the future of the area looks dire.

“The neighborhood lies eight to 10 feet below the canal, and that’s an enormous flood risk,” said Kolker.

Hydrogeologists said the city sinks 6 to 8 mm a year. A large part of the city is already below sea level, and the Gentilly neighborhood, where Daggett lives, is one of the fastest sinking areas.

Dutch-based company Deltares drilling in New Orleans. It’s part of a bigger project to make the city resilient in relation to climate change and sea level rise.  (Deltares)

Kolker is part of a team of researchers, which includes Dutch-based research institute Deltares and the Water Institute of the Gulf, trying to figure out which sections of the city are sinking, how fast, and why. They say subsidence was one reason why Katrina was catastrophic. Water flooded the low-lying areas and had to be pumped out.

“After having experienced the damaged city in 2006 and working there all those years after, New Orleans became part of me. This project helps to collect the missing information needed to take appropriate measures to ensure the [city] is a safe place in the future in relation to sea level rise and changing climate dynamics,” said Roelof Stuurman, a water specialist at Deltares.

The city-led project called “Reshaping the Urban Delta” is being funded by a $141.3 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It largely focuses on the city’s subsurface.

As the first comprehensive resilience district in the Gentilly neighborhood, the city said, the project includes over $90 Million in urban water management projects that largely focus on the city’s subsurface.

“We cannot manage what we don’t understand; so the first step is to ground truth the assumptions we’ve made from past studies and build upon the best available science,” said Tyler Antrup, urban water program manager from the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability.

Experts theorize the underlying geology could be one reason for the sinking, also known as subsidence.

Homes by the London Avenue Canal in New Orleans sit eight to 10 feet below the canal, a flood risk for residents in the area.  (Fox News)

“There’s a whole bunch of old swamps beneath the city of New Orleans and when these swamps dry out the ground they take compact and compress and the ground above them sinks,” said Kolker.

Cracked pipes could also play a part.

“Water and mud can flow into them and erode the ground around them. And then you'd create a hole, and that hole is almost a sinkhole,” added Kolker.

Stuurman believes managing the way water flows in and around the city could mitigate the rate of subsidence. Last week, Deltares led a group on several soil drilling operations around the city taking sediment samples, the first step of this study.

“The objective was to determine the ‘mean lowest groundwater level’ and the amount of organic material in the soil and clay saturation because these determine the subsidence risk,” said Stuurman.

New Orleans is not alone in this ordeal. Tokyo and even parts of the Houston-Galveston area have sunk as well, particularly in the middle of the 20th century.

The project will take about 18 months, culminating with the design and installation of an integrated water monitoring network.  (Tulane University)

“There, they did take a lot of effort to better monitor the rate at which they pulled out ground water. And, that did help slow the subsidence in (the Houston-Galveston area),” said Kolker.

Researchers said there’s an added sense of urgency as storms, especially in the Gulf Coast region, are expected to become stronger, thanks to climate change.

“New Orleans is one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States [due] to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. As we see more frequent and intense rainfall events, we have to adapt by living with water, reducing the subsidence of our soils, and preserving the quality of life and culture of our City,” said Antrup.

The entire study will take about 18 months, culminating with the design and installation of an integrated water monitoring network.

“Knowing that they are at least addressing the problem, to whatever degree,” Daggett said, “does give me some comfort.”

Madeleine Rivera is a multimedia reporter based in Houston, Texas.