Man Executed in 1996 Tyler Slaying
HUNTSVILLE (AP/Staff) – 57-year-old Robert Ladd was executed Thursday night in Huntsville after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop the execution. Ladd was convicted of strangling and beating Vickie Ann Garner, 38, before setting her body on fire in her Tyler apartment in 1996. Lawyers claimed he was mentally impaired. 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 said juvenile records show that a psychiatrist determined a 13-year-old Ladd had an IQ of only 67 and that he couldn’t fully function on his own.
Robert E. Lee on Lockdown for over Two Hours Thursday
TYLER — A lockdown was lifted Thursday afternoon at Robert E. Lee High School. Officials say the campus went on lockdown at approximately 11:00 a.m. Thursday after a fight broke out among several students. Administrators felt it was necessary to take the precautionary measure until the situation was resolved, according to a statement from Tyler ISD. Students remained in the classroom and classes were in session until the lockdown was lifted at approximately 1:30 p.m. Further details on the case weren’t immediately given out by the school district.
Grand Jury No-Bills Suspects in Jail Record Falsification Case
TYLER — Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith (pictured) says he plans to focus on future prevention now that a no-bill has been returned in a jail records falsification case. It was learned this week that a Smith County grand jury had declined to return indictments on over a dozen jail workers who had been implicated. According to accusations, the jailers faslely indicated they had performed regular cell checks. The case dates to last August. Read more …
Motion Filed to Dismiss Theft Charge against Bernie Tiede
CARTHAGE — The attorney for convicted killer Bernie Tiede argues in a motion filed in Carthage that a pending theft charge against him should be dismissed because the former assistant mortician’s homosexuality played against him some 15 years ago. “Times have changed greatly since Mr. Tiede was charged with this theft,” attorney Jodi Cole argues in her motion filed in the 123rd District Court, according to KETK and the Longview News-Journal. Among other things, Cole’s motion cites evidence she says reveals a deal offered Tiede to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a 20-year sentence to avoid the release of details regarding his homosexual relationships in Carthage. Read more …
Tyler Man Sentenced for Drug Trafficking
TYLER – A 39-year-old Tyler man has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales Thursday. Micol Jauron Sears pleaded guilty on Sep. 3, 2014, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Sears was sentenced to 168 months in federal prison Thursday in Tyler by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider. Sears was also ordered to submit to forfeiture of $25,000. According to information presented in court, on Apr. 9, 2014, a federal search warrant was executed at Sears’ residence during which law enforcement officers located 1.8 kilograms of crack cocaine, six firearms, and a safe containing $39,900 in cash. Sears was indicted by a federal grand jury on Mar. 26, 2014.
Kilgore PD Seeks Person of Interest in Murder Investigation
KILGORE — The Kilgore Police Department is currently searching for Marcus Demois Whitaker, 35, of Kilgore. KETK reports Whitaker is considered a person of Interest in the shooting death of Franciosa Jackson on December 28, 2014, in Kilgore. Whitaker is currently wanted by Texas Pardons and Parole for an alleged parole violation stemming from a burglary charge in Gregg County. Whitaker should be considered armed and dangerous and the public should not attempt to approach or apprehend him, according to officials. Read more …
Official Cause of Mineola Restaurant Fire Deemed “Undetermined”
MINEOLA — The cause of a fire at a beloved Mineola restaurant has been deemed “undetermined” after an official investigation. Last December 2, six fire departments responded to a blaze that caused heavy damage to the Ranchero Country Buffet. The initial call came in around 12:30 a.m. The Mineola Volunteer Fire Department and the other units battled the flames at the restaurant in the 1000 block of North Pacific Street for about an hour. Mineola Fire Marshal David Madsen tells KETK the investigation has come to a close and officials weren’t able to learn how the fire started. Madsen also said there is no indication arson was a factor in the blaze. No injuries were reported, but the restaurant remains closed.
Tyler Police Issue Scam Alert
TYLER — The Tyler Police Department has received information of a possible scam. According to a police news release, individuals are receiving phone calls from someone indicating that the individual has won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes and then requesting personal information. The Police Department reminds you never to divulge personal information to anyone you do not know.
Gohmert Co-Sponsors Regulatory Overreach Protection Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert is again targeting the Environmental Protection Agency. In a statement regarding the introduction of H.R. 594, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, Gohmert says, “It is critical that this bill is brought to the House floor for passage then sent to the Senate for passage then on to the President. This bill is critical to reining in federal agencies who have engaged in a power grab to snatch Constitutional rights away from property owners, as well as local and state governments. The EPA is attempting to illegally expand the Clean Water Act (CWA) and grasp jurisdiction over water that is currently under control of states and private ownership.” Read more …
Wanted Sex Offender Captured in Marshall
MARSHALL — A man wanted for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender was captured at a Marshall home Thursday afternoon. According to KETK, the Marshall Police Department says at 12:45 p.m., officers searched a house in the 1800 block of South Street in an attempt to locate a wanted felon. Police found Damon Covington, 36, inside the home. The suspect had been wanted for over two years. Covington is required to register annually as a sex offender because he had sexually assaulted a juvenile. The suspect also had an outstanding Marshall PD warrant for assault family violence with previous conviction and also a warrant out of Harrison County for criminal non-support.
UTT Breaks Ground on New Musical Arts Center
>TYLER — The University of Texas at Tyler has begun construction of a two-story addition to the R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center that will become the future home of the UT Tyler Center for the Musical Arts, President Rodney H. Mabry announced. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday to celebrate the occasion at the Cowan Center White Lobby. Expected opening date of the $6.5 million addition is Spring 2016. Read more …
BBB Announces Award, Scholarship Recipients
TYLER — The Better Business Bureau Serving Central East Texas held its 2015 Awards Ceremony Wednesday at The Ornelas Activity Center in Tyler. The organization presented the BBB Awards for Excellence to three companies and one nonprofit organization that exemplify ethical behavior and display integrity in all aspects of their operations, according to a news release. Winners are chosen by an independent panel of judges. “Today more than ever it’s necessary that we spotlight and celebrate companies in our region who operate with integrity in all aspects of their operations,” according to Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. Read more …
Filings for Longview City Elections
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 Wednesday for the District 1 position were Ed Moore, 60, and Jearl P. Morris, 79. No one has yet filed for the district 2 spot. One person filed Wednesday for the unexpired term in District 5. He is Ben Stone, 34.
UT Chancellor Writes GOP Leaders to Oppose Campus Carry
AUSTIN (AP) – The new chancellor of the University of Texas System is telling Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republicans that concealed handguns at colleges will make campus less safe. William McRaven is a former Navy admiral who directed the special forces operation to kill Osama Bin Laden. He took over the lead of the University of Texas System this month. So called “campus carry” has been a hot-button issue for lawmakers in recent years and has strong backing from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. A Senate bill filed this week allowing campus carry already has 19 co-sponsors, the precise number needed to pass out of that chamber. McRaven wrote Abbott, Patrick, and House speaker Joe Straus on Thursday, telling them students, parents, faculty and police all don’t want concealed weapons on campus.
Abbott Calls to Abolish Perry’s Pet Fund for Texas Startups
AUSTIN (AP) – Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is planning to abolish Rick Perry’s pet program that gave $200 million in taxpayer dollars to Texas startups and was beset by bankruptcies and transparency issues. Abbott said Thursday that the Texas Emerging Technology Fund should be eliminated. The decade-old program was one of Perry’s signature initiatives and one the potential 2016 presidential candidate often used to extol the strengths of the Texas economy. An Associated Press review of the fund last year found that some of the high-risk startups had undisclosed business troubles and reported questionable job-creation figures. Abbott wants to use money currently set aside for the tech fund to launch what he calls his University Research Initiative. He says it would provide matching funds to Texas universities to recruit nationally recognized faculty.
Dozens of Protesters Heckle Texas Muslim Capitol Rally
AUSTIN (AP) – Hundreds of Muslims rallied Thursday as part of their biennial Texas Capitol lobbying day – but a small group of counter-protesters tried to shout them down. As organizers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations began the event, a woman grabbed a microphone erected on the Capitol steps and proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ. The microphone was wrestled back and the rally continued peacefully. But nearby hecklers yelled things like “assimilate or go home.” Council Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll said the event began in 2003 and never drew opposition before. But this year, online threats prompted the council to contact the FBI. Added police presence around the event was also conspicuous. Last week, hundreds of protesters gathered outside a Muslim group’s conference in a Dallas suburb and heckled participants.
Public Corruption Prosecutors Close Paxton Case
AUSTIN (AP) – State public corruption prosecutors have closed their investigation into possible ethics violations against new Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton without filing charges. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who oversees the unit, said in a statement Thursday that investigators “did not find any additional criminal activity over which our office has venue.” She referred the case to prosecutors in Collin and Dallas counties.
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Authorities Investigating West Texas Toddler’s Injuries
ABILENE (AP) – Authorities are investigating how a toddler in a medically induced coma at a Lubbock hospital suffered her injuries. Fisher County Sheriff J.A. Robinson told the Abilene Reporter-News that the 18-month-old was taken to Lubbock last week. A deputy previously told the newspaper that the girl was “severely bruised and bleeding from the ears” when she was initially brought to an emergency room in Sweetwater. No charges have been filed. The child reportedly was at her mother’s boyfriend’s house between Sweetwater and Roby when she was injured. Sheriff’s officials have questioned the girl’s mother and father and also the mother’s boyfriend. No names have been released. Robinson says investigators want to search the boyfriend’s house. The Texas Rangers are assisting in the investigation.
Clean-Shaven Fort Hood Gunman Hasan Could Get New Lawyer
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas (AP) – The gunman who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009 may receive a new attorney to handle his appeals, which could complicate an already-delayed review process. Nidal Hasan appeared in court Thursday at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is on military death row. He no longer has the beard he wore during his August 2013 trial, having been forcibly shaved in prison. Hasan’s lead defense counsel, Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, began work as a judge after Hasan’s trial. Hasan said he wanted to retain Poppe. The trial judge, Col. Tara Osborn, said she was concerned that Poppe now served under her even while representing Hasan. She did not make a ruling Thursday. The review is one of several mandatory steps in military death penalty cases.