'The pain never goes away': Community discussion on violence held at Donaldsonville courthouse

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
The crowd listens to a speaker during the Sunrise Community Group townhall meeting held at the Donaldsonville courthouse Aug. 10.

For Katrina Augusta, the pain of losing her teenage son never goes away.

Brandon Augusta, who was 15, was found dead Aug. 14, 2014. Ascension Parish deputies recovered his body in a wooded area along the bank of the Mississippi River in Donaldsonville.

"It really feels like yesterday," Katrina Augusta said. "The pain never goes away. You learn to live with it."

In April, seven and a half years later, a judge sentenced two men accused of brutally beating the teenager to death. As Augusta told Baton Rouge newspaper the Advocate earlier this year, she looked inward to her family, sought counseling for her younger son, and tried to move past her push for justice.

Katrina Augusta was among several speakers who addressed the crowd in attendance for the Sunrise Community Group's townhall meeting on violence at the Donaldsonville courthouse Aug. 10.

The group previously organized a Stop the Violence march and rally in the city Feb. 27. In a symbolic gesture, hearses from area funeral homes trailed the marchers.

Group members Glenn Price and Kurt Mitchell opened the discussion with some background on the organization.

Price said he returned to Louisiana about seven years ago from Atlanta. He was surprised by the changes he saw in his hometown.

"Donaldsonville really was a village," Price told the crowd. "You couldn't do anything in town and get away with it."

He said the elders were strict when he was growing up, but it was based in love.

Now, when he goes to Baton Rouge and other areas, he often gets negative responses when he says he's from Donaldsonville.

"The problem is, a lot of it is true," Price said.

According to data received from the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, the city has recorded 35 shootings year-to-date. Five people have died, including one murder-suicide. The city's population is an estimated 6,762.

Price also cited Census data that shows roughly 45 percent of the city's residents live in poverty. Of the other 55 percent, many live check to check.

"That's a constant struggle. That breeds crime," he said.

Price commended the city on the renovation of the Lemann Memorial Center, though he said the area could use a multipurpose community center like those in Napoleonville, Addis, Port Allen, and Brusly.

Several speakers talked about the importance of family support for young people.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, who was invited to be the closing speaker for the event, echoed many of the sentiments offered by the speakers.

"Tell them that they can be anything they want to be in life," Sullivan said of the children of the community. "We can make Donaldsonville better together. Let's leave here and go to work. Let's let our children know we love them."