HUNTSVILLE (AP/Staff) – Attorneys for a twice-convicted murderer are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his scheduled execution today in a Tyler case. They say he’s mentally impaired. Robert Ladd, 57, was convicted of strangling and beating Vickie Ann Garner, 38, before setting her body on fire in her Tyler apartment in 1996. Ladd had pleaded guilty in 1980 to a similar slaying in Dallas, where a woman’s body was burned in a blaze that also killed her two children. Although he received a 40-year prison term, he was paroled after serving only about a third of his sentence. Ladd’s attorneys say juvenile records show that a psychiatrist determined a 13-year-old Ladd had an IQ of only 67 and that he can’t fully function on his own.
LONGVIEW — One person is dead following a shooting in the 1700 block of Sandlin Street in Longview. This is the fourth fatal shooting in Longview this year. According to the Longview News-Journal, the victim was identified as Garrett “G” Neal, by neighbors. The newspaper reports a neighbor noticed the door to Neal’s house was open and his dog was running around in the front yard Wednesday morning. The neighbor then went to check on Neal, walking through his house and calling him by his nickname, when she found him in the dining room with an apparent gunshot wound. “There was blood everywhere,” she said. The investigation continues, and there’s no word on any suspects or the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
LONGVIEW — The Longview Police Department has released the surveillance video and names of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of a teen in the department lobby. KETK reports that according to the video, (see below) last Thursday at 6:28 p.m., 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard entered the police station, picked up the after-hours phone, called public safety communications, and asked for help. When asked what she needed, she refused to tell the operator what the problem was. Police officers were dispatched to the lobby a short time later. When Officer Glenn Derr arrived, Coignard indicated to him she had a gun. According to police, the words “I have a gun,” were written on her hand. This resulted in a physical confrontation when Officer Derr attempted to secure Coignard. (more…)
TYLER — A McKinney man who was arrested for allegedly robbing Tyler’s Capital One Bank last August 11 will be in a Tyler court February 12 for a plea hearing. KETK reports a joint investigation between the Tyler Police Department and the FBI led to the arrest of Daniel River Burson, 37. Burson was a corporate security consultant-investigator for the bank. At 7:52 a.m. August 11, Tyler police received a 911 call of a robbery from an employee of the bank, located at Copeland and Loop 323. The bank employee said she and another female employee were walking back towards the drive-thru building door when they were approached by a man telling them to drop the black night deposit bag. The man then grabbed the bag and fled in a dark Mercedes Benz four-door sedan with no license plates. Burson faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
PALESTINE — A Palestine man is behind bars after being arrested on drugs and weapons charges. Shortly after 6:45 Tuesday evening, members of the Palestine Police Department Drug Enforcement Unit along with three DPS teams, ATF agents, and TDCJ K-9 units served a warrant in the 300 Block of Variah Street. According to KETK, officials say Daniel Cummings III, 25, was located inside the house when SWAT made entry. SWAT members were forced to chainsaw the door to make entry, as the persons inside barricaded the front entry door, according to authorities. Palestine PD Patrol Commander Jeff Powell said, “We had a lot of complaints about the activity there. We just continue to ask for the public’s assistance in identifying and ridding Palestine of these and other problem areas within the neighborhoods.” (more…)
MARSHALL — Authorities say they’ve rounded up an escaped prisoner in Marshall. Tuesday afternoon just before 3:30, members of the Marshall Police Department’s SWAT team assisted the U. S. Marshals Service in carrying out a warrant in the 200 block of Enola Mae Drive. KETK reports Orie Fuller, 19, was arrested on a charge of escape while in custody. Fuller was in a work release unit in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, and had been evading authorities since December, according to authorities.
LONGVIEW – There was a flurry of activity on the opening day to file for the Longview city elections in May. Five persons filed on the opening day Wednesday. Two of those are running for Mayor. They are Dr. Andy Mack, 54 and business owner Richard Manley, 60. The filing period runs through February 27th. Also on the ballot are council districts 1 and 2 and special election for the unexpired term of district 5. Filing yesterday for the district 1 position was Ed Moore, 60, and Jearl P. Morris, 79. No one has yet filed for the district 2 spot. One person filed yesterday for the unexpired term in District 5. He is Ben Stone, 34.
AUSTIN (AP) — Former Texas Governor Rick Perry says an ongoing felony abuse-of-power case against him won’t delay his preparations for a possible 2016 presidential run. The Republican said Wednesday “we’re moving right along as intended” and mentioned visiting Iowa and South Carolina this week. A day earlier, a Texas judge refused to quash two indictments against Perry on constitutional grounds. Perry’s defense team has promised a swift appeal. At issue is Perry’s threat and subsequent carrying out a veto of state funding for public corruption prosecutors in 2013. Perry says he’d issue the veto again if given the chance, saying he’s “proud to stand for the rule of law.” Perry was Texas’ longest-serving governor and left office last week. He plans to announce a possible White House run in May or June.
AUSTIN (AP) — Republican Governor Greg Abbott is ordering stricter rules for state contracts with private companies even before the new protocols become law. The directive Wednesday comes on the heels of a criminal investigation into $110 million in no-bid contracts awarded to an Austin tech company hired to help Texas root out Medicaid fraud. That contract was canceled and several high-ranking officials with the state Health and Human Services Commission have resigned. Abbott told state agency leaders in a letter that they “must” begin implementing proposed contract reforms immediately. That includes publicly disclosing all no-bid deals. Abbott is using a bill filed by Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson as his blueprint. The Texas Legislature convened only two weeks ago and the bill has yet to even receive a hearing.
AUSTIN (AP) — A Texas lawmaker has been provided security after his confrontation with gun rights activists led to panic buttons made available to House members. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Representative Poncho Nevarez received threats. The Democrat from Eagle Pass says Department of Public Safety officers have been assigned to him and to his family at home. DPS declined comment. Nevarez opposes a bill that would let Texans carry handguns openly without a permit. Nevarez on January 13 had a heated exchange with members of a pro-gun group in his office. A video posted online shows Nevarez asking the people to leave and having trouble closing his door on the group. The House the next day told DPS to make panic buttons, to summon help, available in legislative offices.
AUSTIN (AP) — A new study concludes that the Texas juvenile justice system’s shift away from housing youths in state-run detention facilities has coincided with a sharp drop in crime committed by young people. The report commissioned by Texas and compiled by the Justice Center at the nonpartisan Council of State Governments is being unveiled today in Austin. It tracked 1.3 million case records between 2007 and 2011. In 2008, lawmakers overhauled the system after pervasive reports of physical and sexual abuse. That helped the number of youths confined to state facilities fall by 65% between 2007 and 2012. Many were shifted to community-based, county programs. But the study found that, over the same period, crimes committed by youths declined 33%. It also says smaller state-facility populations saved Texas $150 million.
ARLINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing in North Texas on its proposal to tighten the national standard on smog. At the hearing today in Arlington, EPA officials will discuss the proposal to reduce the acceptable level of smog, or ground-level ozone, from 85 to 65 or 70 parts per billion. The American Lung Association says the EPA’s proposal doesn’t go far enough and that ozone levels shouldn’t exceed 60 parts per billion. The EPA’s air quality index shows the Dallas-Fort Worth area had the most days with unhealthy levels of ozone in 2014 in Texas. Areas with too much ozone will have until 2020 or 2037 to come into compliance. The EPA proposal is based on Clean Air Science Advisory Committee recommendations.
AUSTIN (AP) — Hundreds of Muslims, and dozens of protesters, are planning to gather at the Texas Capitol to rally and meet with lawmakers during the biennial Texas Muslim Capitol Day. Today’s gathering is sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll said the event began in 2003 and has never drawn opposition before, but this year online threats have prompted members to contact the FBI. An FBI spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny the threats. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, anti-Muslim sentiment has spread through Europe and parts of the United States. That includes the Dallas suburb of Garland, where hundreds of protesters gathered outside a Muslim group’s conference and heckled participants last week.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Bexar County district attorney will not pursue the death penalty against the man charged in the shooting death last summer of a police chief. District Attorney Nicholas LaHood on Tuesday cited Joshua Manuel Lopez’s mental health and lack of criminal record as reasons the penalty will not be sought if he’s convicted. Investigators say Elmendorf Police Chief Michael Pimentel was shot twice while making a traffic stop in August to serve a misdemeanor warrant for graffiti. They identify the 25-year-old Lopez as the shooter. Lopez is charged with capital murder and the only sentencing option now available if he’s convicted is life in prison without parole. The 64-year-old Pimentel had been police chief in Elmendorf, southeast of San Antonio, for about 18 months when he was killed.
TAHOKA (AP) — Deputies in West Texas have fatally shot a handcuffed man who allegedly tried to steal a law enforcement SUV. The Department of Public Safety identified the man as Joshua Omar Garcia, 24, of Lamesa. A Lynn County sheriff’s deputy on Monday morning tried to pull over Garcia’s car in Tahoka, prompting a chase. DPS Sgt. Bryan Witt says Garcia’s car collided with a patrol vehicle. Garcia hands were cuffed behind him and he was put into the front of a sheriff’s SUV. Witt says deputies were searching Garcia’s vehicle when he moved his hands to the front and started to drive away in the SUV. Deputies opened fire. Garcia died at a Lubbock hospital. Texas Rangers are helping investigate.
ROSENBERG (AP) — Two people have been killed and another wounded during early-morning gunfire at a Houston-area apartment and an unoccupied high school stadium. Rosenberg police say the suspected gunman was among the dead. Officers responded to reports of gunfire at some apartments around 2:00 Wednesday morning. Police found a woman fatally shot and a man wounded. He was transported to a hospital. Officers spotted a suspect and pursued him to Traylor Stadium, in the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District. Investigators say gunfire broke out and the suspect was killed. Rosenberg police didn’t immediately say if officers fatally shot the man or if he took his own life. Names of the victims and the suspect weren’t immediately released. Further details weren’t immediately available. Rosenberg is 25 miles southwest of Houston.
HOUSTON (AP) — A 42-year-old state prison inmate faces up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to mailing a letter containing a threat to kill a federal judge. George Yarbrough, a former Houston resident, pleaded guilty in Houston on Wednesday to one count of mailing a threatening communication. U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas scheduled sentencing for April 15. Besides the prison sentence, Atlas also could levy a fine of up to $250,000. In the letter, Yarbrough blamed U.S. District Judge David Hittner for ruining his life and causing him to lose his loved ones. Yarbrough is incarcerated at a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison in Anderson County, in East Texas. TDCJ records show Yarborough has a criminal record that includes convictions for theft, burglary and drug possession.
HOUSTON (AP) — A convicted felon from Texas who last year walked away from a minimum-security federal prison camp in Oklahoma has been captured in Mexico. U.S. marshals this week returned Ruben Galvan, 34, to Houston. The Houston Chronicle reported that a tip to Crime Stoppers indicated Galvan was living in Guadalajara, Mexico. Galvan last June was discovered missing from the Satellite Prison Camp in El Reno, Oklahoma. He was serving nearly 12 years on a 2011 Dallas conviction for conspiracy with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Galvan now faces possible escape charges and a tighter security lockup. Chris Burke with the Bureau of Prisons says inmates that return to the system typically are not placed in camps again.
MIDLAND (AP) — Attorneys told a West Texas jury that a freight train that slammed into a parade float carrying dozens of veterans and spouses came within 39 inches of missing the trailer. A Midland County jury heard opening statements Wednesday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 17 plaintiffs, including the families of three of the four veterans killed in the crash two years ago at a Midland railroad crossing. The Midland Reporter-Telegram reports plaintiffs’ attorney Dickey Grigg told jurors that had Union Pacific given better warning of the train’s approach and the train traveled at a safer speed, the float would have been safe. John Proctor, Union Pacific’s defense attorney, said a “perfect storm” of factors caused the crash, what he called “the combination of events that were totally unforeseeable.”
LUBBOCK (AP) — A Texas prison guard who was critically injured in a prison bus wreck that killed 10 people has been released from a Lubbock hospital and moved to a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said in a statement Wednesday that corrections officer Jason Self is receiving care in Abilene. Self and four inmates suffered extensive injuries January 14 when the bus slid off icy Interstate 20 west of Odessa, down an embankment and struck a passing freight train. Two guards and eight prisoners were killed. The four injured inmates have already been released from an Odessa hospital and moved to prison medical facilities. Self was initially treated at the Odessa hospital before being moved to University Medical Center in Lubbock.
BEAUMONT (AP) — A sinkhole big enough to swallow a vehicle has opened on a Southeast Texas street. Engineers in Beaumont say it could take a couple of weeks to repair the hole that opened Tuesday. Beaumont traffic engineer Zheng Tan Tan says a possible storm sewer line rupture probably caused the sinkhole in a neighborhood. Joyce Bodwin lives nearby and says she’s concerned about the safety of people who use the street, including buses that transport students to a nearby school. The area remains blocked off during repairs.
GUSTINE (AP) — A North Texas school district is investigating after about two dozen elementary students had to pull their pants down when feces were found on a gym floor. A parent says the children in Gustine were forced to expose their underwear for inspection. Maria Medina told WFAA-TV that boys were taken to one room and girls to another on Monday. Medina says she was furious after learning students were told to lower their pants so school workers could try to find the culprit behind the waste. Superintendent Ken Baugh says he does not condone the search and that partially strip-searching students went too far. He says the district is investigating. Gustine, with a population of about 460, is located 90 miles southwest of Fort Worth.