AUSTIN (AP) – An appeals court has stayed the execution of a Dallas man so it can review his mental competency to be put to death for killing his two daughters. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday delayed next week’s execution of John David Battaglia after his attorney appealed a judge’s ruling last month that he’s mentally competent for execution. The Austin appeals court has asked Battaglia’s attorney and prosecutors to submit briefs on the competency issue within 60 days. Battaglia’s attorney, Michael Mowla, declined to comment Friday. A prosecutor handling the case for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Battaglia was condemned for shooting his daughters more than 15 years ago while their mother listened helplessly over the phone.
AUSTIN (AP) – A former Austin police officer will receive a payout from the city as part of a settlement stemming from the officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed, naked teenager early this year. KVUE-TV reports former officer Geoffrey Freeman will receive $35,000 under the terms of the settlement, and the police department will not be obligated to rehire Freeman, who had appealed his March firing. Freeman had responded Feb. 8 to reports of a naked man disturbing neighbors and running in the street. Seventeen-year-old David Joseph sprinted toward Freeman when he exited his patrol car. Freeman has said he feared for his life when he fired at the teen. Police officials have said Freeman overreacted, but a Travis County grand jury declined to indict him. A federal lawsuit filed by the teen’s family is pending.
DALLAS (ABC) – A macabre relic from a dark moment in recent history has gone up for sale. The asking price for a handwritten “book” by Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan is more than $1300. The 51 pages, reportedly titled “Man’s Duty to His Creator and The Purpose of Life,” seeks to explain Nidal Hasan’s logic in killing 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. Survivor Dayna Ferguson is puzzled. She says, “I don’t really understand why anyone would want to read that. I don’t.” Victims’ rights advocates are furious about the online auction, saying it highlights the need for federal laws against the sale of so-called “murderbilia.”
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Keys to the New Jersey lab where Thomas Edison invented the phonograph go up for auction in Dallas this weekend, along with some of the lightbulbs that he perfected. A Pittsburgh man acquired the items from his great aunt, who was married to one of the attorneys whose law firm represented Edison in patent lawsuits. Tags on five of the six keys list the doors that they opened, including the Menlo Park lab which Edison opened in 1876 that became known as the “invention factory.” It is where Edison was credited with perfecting the incandescent light for commercial purposes. He created two of the bulbs up for auction that were part of a collection used in patent infringement lawsuits. Heritage Auctions will open bidding at 10 a.m. CST Saturday.
FORT WORTH (AP) – A Mexican man must serve life in a U.S. prison for stalking and helping arrange the 2013 Texas slaying of a lawyer who’d been the acting head of a Mexican drug cartel. Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes was sentenced Thursday in Fort Worth. The case involved the shooting death of Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa in Southlake, near Dallas. Cepeda-Cortes in May was convicted of interstate stalking, conspiracy to commit murder for hire and tampering with documents or proceedings. Officials say the tampering involved efforts to destroy evidence on his computer. His cousin, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for hire and tampering and awaits sentencing. Prosecutors say the 60-year-old cousins used electronic devices to track the victim before he was killed by an attacker still at large.
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK (AP) – Opponents of a vast border wall championed by President-elect Donald Trump say it will impair tourism and conservation efforts at Big Bend National Park and beyond. They contend Big Bend was first envisioned in the 1930s as Big Bend International Peace Park, extending from Texas into Mexico, and that a wall will ruin the original vision for the park. But The Dallas Morning News reports that supporters of the wall say border security is paramount and that concerns it would threaten wildlife and undermine the park’s beauty are secondary concerns. The National Border Patrol Council, which represents Border Patrol agents, says building the wall elsewhere but not in the park will eventually lead smugglers to seek routes through Big Bend. The park extends along 118 miles of the border.
HOUSTON (AP) – A former Houston police officer is accused of organizing a murder-for-hire plot targeting his estranged wife and another woman. Clarence McNatt was arrested Wednesday in the Houston suburb of Pasadena. The 63-year-old man remains jailed Friday. He is charged with one count of solicitation to commit capital murder and two counts of solicitation to commit aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit sexual assault. Police say McNatt last month tried to hire two undercover officers masquerading as hit men to kidnap and sexually assault the women then kill his wife’s friend. Investigators say McNatt gave $100 and three gold rings as payment. Court records don’t list an attorney who can speak for McNatt.
AUSTIN (AP) – Top Republican leaders have approved nearly $150 million in emergency funding to hire 800 new workers at a troubled Texas agency that protects abused and neglected children. Under terms of the plan approved Thursday and promoted by Texas Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman, the hiring of the additional workers could begin this week. About 6,000 case workers also would receive a pay raise of $12,000, and approximately 1,100 managers and others were set to see salary increases. The nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board said in a letter to Whitman that t was approving $142.5 million for the moves through the end of fiscal year 2017. Texas Child Protective Services has long been plagued by high turnover and low morale among workers overwhelmed by rising numbers of children at risk.
TEXAS CITY (AP) – Family members of a Houston-area high school student who killed herself are rallying for tighter laws against cyberbullying. Brandy Vela’s family says cyberbullying pushed the 18-year-old over the edge, leading her to shoot herself in the chest Tuesday afternoon at the family’s Texas City home as family members watched. Her father, Raul Vela, said Brandy had been receiving abusive text messages for months from bullies using an untraceable smartphone application. Her father said someone made a fake Facebook page of her, creating another cyberbullying medium. Vela said the family reported the bullying to the Texas City school district and several law enforcement agencies. The father tells KPRC-TV of Houston that he hopes for stricter laws against cyberbullying and greater awareness of the problem.
TRINITY (AP) – A 7-year-old girl killed in a crash involving her school van has been identified as the daughter of a local sheriff’s deputy. The Trinity County Sheriff’s Office identified the child on its Facebook page as Journey Magness, daughter of Deputy David Magness. The crash happened about 7:30 a.m. Thursday on Farm-to-Market Road 1893. Witnesses say the van had stopped to pick up children when a truck struck it in the rear on a rural East Texas highway. Ten other students and the van driver were injured. Authorities in Trinity County, which is about 75 miles north of Houston, believe the uninjured 17-year-old driver of the pickup truck was temporarily blinded by the sun as her truck came over a hill.
AUSTIN (AP) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is promising to cut funds to public universities that become what he described as “sanctuary” campuses for immigrant students. The Republican provided no other details. Abbott tweeted the vow Thursday in response to a story about Texas State University students urging school leaders to declare the campus a “sanctuary” as immigrant students nationwide fear deportation under President-elect Donald Trump. Trump pledged during his campaign to launch a “deportation force” and end the practice of granting temporary status to students in the U.S. illegally. The University of Pennsylvania, Trump’s alma mater, has pledged to block federal agents without a warrant from removing students in the country illegally. Abbott tweeted that Texas “will not tolerate sanctuary campuses or cities.” Neither he nor his office has elaborated.
TYLER — Tyler Police have arrested a Dallas man for aggravated robbery. Officers responded to Rotolos Pizza, 8970 south Broadway, just before midnight Thursday. As the officers arrived, they noticed the described suspect leaving the scene in a red Chevrolet HHR. A chase followed ending when the suspect wrecked on Broadway at Loop 49. The suspect then attempted run and was apprehended after a brief foot pursuit. Freddy Criss, 54, Dallas was booked into the Smith County Jail, charged with four counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated assault and evading arrest. The stolen property was recovered. Officials said several victims at Rotolos sustained minor injuries during the robbery. Criss has a criminal history, including bank robbery. In July of 2009, Criss pleaded guilty to the April 30th, 2009, robbery of the First National Bank of Emory.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The chairman of a key House committee says congressional Republicans will change Medicare in order to save it. GOP Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, head of the Ways and Means Committee, insists Republicans won’t be deterred by the politics. Donald Trump won election as president on promises to protect the popular health care program for older Americans, and Democrats are already warning of a “war on seniors.” Brady tells The Associated Press that “Democrat tactics of `Medi-scare’ have been around a long time. They’ve stopped working.” He insists voters understand Republicans want to save Medicare for the long term.
TRINITY (AP) – Officials say 10 students and a driver have been treated and released from a Southeast Texas hospital after a school van was rear-ended by a pickup truck in a wreck that left one child dead. The Texas Department of Public Safety says the Trinity Independent School District van was struck Thursday morning about 75 miles north of Houston. Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace says a 7-year-old girl who was riding the van died at the hospital. Those injured were treated and released Thursday. The sheriff says the 17-year-old pickup driver might have been blinded by the sun as she drove over a hill and hit the stopped van.
COPPELL (AP) – Retail gasoline prices in Texas and nationwide are up 2 cents this week. AAA Texas on Thursday reported the statewide price at the pump was an average $1.93 per gallon. Prices across the U.S. rose to an average $2.15 per gallon. The association survey found that drivers in San Antonio have the cheapest gasoline in Texas this week at $1.85 per gallon. Dallas has the highest statewide price for gasoline at an average $1.95 per gallon. Experts say this week’s announcement by OPEC to cut production during 2017 could take a few days to impact retail gasoline prices.
LEAGUE CITY (AP) – A Houston-area mayor wants to fire a city manager who previously was dismissed as the top administrator in Joplin, Missouri, over the botched redevelopment of Joplin in the wake of a devastating tornado. League City Mayor Pat Hallisey and City Manager Mark Rohr have repeatedly criticized one another over various issues. The Galveston County Daily News reports Hallisey will seek Rohr’s firing at a Dec. 13 city council meeting. Rohr was fired as Joplin’s city manager in 2014. An investigation found he made no effort to have agreements with a developer reviewed by outside legal counsel. The developer had presented $800 million in projects to help Joplin rebuild from a 2011 tornado that destroyed a large swath of the city and killed 161 residents. But the developer later walked away.
AUSTIN (AP) – The U.S. Department of Education plans to send officials to tour Texas and take public comment on the state reportedly capping student enrollment in special education. Federal officials will visit Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley next month. Members of the public unable to attend sessions can leave online comments for department officials. The Houston Chronicle has reported that schools began denying special education services after the state imposed an 8.5 percent enrollment benchmark in 2004. In a subsequent letter to the Department of Education, the Texas Education Agency denied imposing enrollment caps. It said it had no evidence of a “systematic denial” of special education services to students with disabilities. Still, the agency said it will work to eliminate confusion by districts over enrollment.
CROWLEY (AP) – North Texas police say a teenager is charged with two counts of murder in the death of his adoptive parents at the home they shared south of Fort Worth. Crowley police Chief Luis Soler said at a news conference Thursday that 17-year-old Carl Edward Brewer was arrested a day earlier following a standoff at the home. Officers found the bodies of Troy and Mary Brewer after being called Tuesday on a welfare check. After footsteps were heard upstairs, a tactical team was called and the standoff ensued. Brewer exited the home several hours later after tear gas was deployed. He’s being held on a $200,000 bond. Police had responded to the home several times since 2010. It wasn’t clear whether Brewer has an attorney to answer the allegations against him.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities say two brothers from Texas have been sentenced for failing to pay more than $1 million in New York state sales tax collected at gas stations they owned in the Buffalo area. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that 51-year-old Latif Maredia and 53-year-old Ilias Maredia, both of Stafford, Texas, pleaded guilty to grand larceny and were sentenced to five years’ probation. Prosecutors say the brothers kept more than $1.2 million in sales tax from seven gas stations they owned in the county between March 2008 and June 2012. Officials say the Maredias have repaid $612,000 to New York state and are required to pay the same amount over the next five years.
FRIENDSWOOD (AP) — A Southeast Texas police chief says an officer fatally shot a 55-year-old man this week because the man had a box cutter with the blade extended and the officer “was in fear of his life.” Friendswood police Chief Robert Wieners told the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday that police were called when Toby Cummins stole a can of beer a day earlier from a convenience store. Authorities had previously declined to say what prompted the unidentified officer to shoot Cummins, described by Wieners as a transient from California. The shooting occurred along the side of a road southeast of Houston when the officer confronted Cummins as he was walking from the store. The Galveston County district attorney’s office will conduct an investigation to determine whether the shooting was justified.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dallas police chief who was praised for his response to last summer’s shootings of five law enforcement officers is working on a memoir. Ballantine Books announced Thursday that it had a deal with David O. Brown for a “deeply revealing” book, currently untitled, to come out next year. Brown, who retired in October, received national attention after a sniper killed five officers at a July protest. According to Ballantine, the book will reflect his “measured, motivating” approach to his work. Brown said in a statement that he hoped to emphasize the importance of trust and “other philosophies” he had developed over the years. Earlier this week, ABC News announced that he would join the network in January as a commentator on race, policing and other subjects.
GREGG COUNTY — A Longview woman was arrested Tuesday after the Texas Department of Public Safety said she was drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road. She reportedly had a 6-week-old infant improperly restrained in the back seat of her car when she almost collided with two cars. According to KETK, Gillian Ann Dooley, 32, was charged with driving while intoxicated third offense or more, abandoning or endangering a child criminal negligence, possession of a controlled substance in penalty group one measuring between four and 200 grams and possession of marijuana measuring less than two ounces. She was released Wednesday on surety bonds totaling $26,000.… Read More
CONROE (AP) – A male suspect shot dead by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy during an attempted holdup at a fast-food restaurant has been identified as a local high school student. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office identified the dead suspect Wednesday as 17-year-old Elijah Mark Cobb. Cobb was shot dead and two others suffered minor injuries during a Nov. 22 holdup attempt at a Raising Cane’s chicken strips restaurant in the Houston suburb of Shenandoah. Witnesses told investigators that an armed would-be thief entered the restaurant, grabbed an employee and demanded money. The deputy ordered him to drop the weapon, then shot the gunman when the gun was pointed at him. Family members told the Conroe Courier that Cobb had attended Spring Dekaney High School.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – A member of the Texas Mexican Mafia has been sentenced to five consecutive life terms for his role in the slayings of four fellow gang members and a San Antonio-area police officer. Federal prosecutors say 38-year-old Ruben Reyes was sentenced Wednesday in San Antonio. Reyes pleaded guilty in July to five counts of aiding and abetting the using and charging of a firearm in relation to a violent crime and five counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering. Prosecutors say Reyes admitted killing four Texas Mexican Mafia members and ordering the 2014 killing of Balcones Heights Police Officer Julian Pesina outside his tattoo parlor. Court records show that Pesina claimed membership in the Texas Mexican Mafia, had tattoos consistent with such membership and was selling drugs to gang members.
FRIENDSWOOD (AP) – Authorities say a theft suspect with a box cutter has died after being shot by a Southeast Texas police officer trying to arrest him. Police in Friendswood, southeast of Houston, say the suspect died Tuesday evening at a hospital after being shot earlier in the day. Police say the officer had been investigating a theft complaint when he encountered the suspect walking along a road. Police say the shooting occurred when the officer tried to arrest the suspect. Police didn’t say in their news release whether the suspect threatened the officer with the box cutter. Police said Wednesday they would not currently be answering follow-up questions. Police and the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office are investigating. An official in the district attorney’s office says they don’t comment on ongoing investigations.
EAST TEXAS — It’s Christmas parade time in East Texas, and Tyler’s and Longview’s are both set for Thursday. The Rotary Clubs of Tyler Christmas Parade will start at 6:00pm in downtown Tyler. The parade will be followed by the 31st Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the T.B. Butler Fountain Plaza. Lighting the tree will be this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Miracle Child, 14-year-old Destiny Miriah Williams. … Read More
HOUSTON (AP) – Texas A&M University says it will hold an event to highlight diversity and unity at the same time a white nationalist is set to speak at the College Station campus in December. The “Aggies United” event was scheduled after Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, was invited to speak on Dec. 6 by a former student, who can reserve campus space available to the public. A&M spokeswoman Amy Smith said Wednesday the event at the university’s football stadium will be a chance for the school and the community to “be unified with our disgust really for this person.” In a statement, A&M President Michael Young says Spencer won’t be prevented from speaking as the school values freedom of speech.
DALLAS (AP) – A Dallas man who held a sign of support outside a mosque says his “You Belong” message was prompted by hatred directed at Muslims as part of the recent presidential election. Justin Normand said Wednesday that he stood near the Islamic Center of Irving last weekend because he wanted to do or say something to make it better. Normand, who works for a sign-making business, produced a version that said: “You Belong. Stay Strong. Be Blessed. We Are One America.” He held the sign last Friday and Saturday, for about 90 minutes each day. The 60-year-old Normand said he didn’t know anyone at the mosque, but some members who saw his sign thanked him, even offering flowers. The Islamic Center of Irving previously has been the target of armed protesters.
RIO GRANDE CITY (AP) – Prosecutors say a 17-year-old has been charged in the shooting deaths of a man and his 3-year-old son, who were found in a bullet-riddled vehicle on a rural South Texas road. Jesus Angel Rebollar, charged with two counts of capital murder, was arraigned Monday and ordered held without bond. Jail records don’t list an attorney for him. Authorities have said 41-year-old Hector Garcia Jr. and 3-year-old Julian Garcia were gunned down Nov. 6 near Rio Grande City by several people in a truck. Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar says Rebollar is believed to be a shooter, but he couldn’t say how many individuals were involved. Escobar says Rebollar was served with an arrest warrant last week while in custody on unrelated charges. Escobar says he can’t comment on motive.
CORPUS CHRISTI (AP) – Prosecutors say two Fort Bliss soldiers face up to 10-year prison terms for trying to smuggle two immigrants through a South Texas border checkpoint. Marco Antonio Nava Jr. and Joseph Edmond Cleveland pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy-related human smuggling counts. A federal judge in Corpus Christi allowed the soldiers from El Paso to remain free on bond pending sentencing next year.… Read More