ALPINE (AP) – The family of a missing Sul Ross State University student says the reward for information leading to her whereabouts or safe return has grown to $100,000. Alpine police say searchers in the air, on foot and on horseback are looking for Zuzu Verk, 22, of Fort Worth. The junior has been missing since October 12.
HOUSTON (AP) – Federal prosecutors say a 45-year-old woman from Honduras who was an owner of several Houston-area brothels has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson says Maria E. Gonzales Munoz was arrested after an undercover operation revealed she offered for sex an underage girl who was in the U.S. illegally.
FAIRVIEW, Ill. (AP/Staff) – The Defense Department has identified a U.S. soldier stationed at Fort Hood and an Army civilian employee from Oklahoma as those killed in an attack this week in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. The military says in a statement 26-year-old Sgt. Douglas J. Riney of Fairview, Illinois, and 40-year-old Michael G. Sauro of McAlester, Oklahoma, died in Kabul of wounds received from encountering hostile enemy forces. The statement says they died Thursday. NATO and an Afghan official earlier said a man wearing an Afghan army uniform had killed a U.S. service member and an American civilian Wednesday in Kabul. The Defense Department says Riney was assigned to Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Sauro was assigned to Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Oklahoma.
PALO PINTO (AP) – A Texas sheriff has been indicted by a grand jury on allegations that he used a tape recorder to secretly record a former girlfriend. Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer was indicted Thursday on two felony counts of unlawful interception of an oral communication. Authorities say the counts are based two separate incidents last year, one in January and the other in December. Mercer’s attorney, Tim Ford, told WFAA-TV in Dallas that the sheriff was surprised by the indictment and didn’t know a grand jury had deliberated this week. Mercer has served as sheriff of the county west of Fort Worth for about a dozen years. A new sheriff takes office in January. Mercer is allowed to continue in his position as his case proceeds.
AMARILLO (AP) – Authorities say two suspects have been arrested in the theft of ammunition from a Texas trooper’s patrol SUV parked outside the officer’s home. The Texas Department of Public Safety says one suspect was arrested Thursday in Amarillo, where the burglary happened hours earlier. Lt. Bryan Witt says the other suspect was captured in Canyon, where a car believe used by a fleeing man was found. Amarillo police say the incident happened Thursday morning as the trooper was heading for work, walked toward his marked SUV and found a man inside. The trooper ordered the man to surrender. The man jumped into a nearby car and sped away as the trooper opened fire. There were no immediate reports of anyone hurt. Witt says the suspect threw out the ammunition while fleeing.
CONROE (AP) – Police say three suspects have been arrested in a Houston-area jewelry store robbery attempt that left a suspect dead during a shootout with employees. Conroe police announced the arrest of three men on aggravated robbery charges in the October 3 holdup.
TYLER — Liberty Utilities held another town hall meeting for East Texas customers Thursday night. It’s in response to more than 1,000 people protesting a rate increase that would more than triple some customers’ monthly bills. According to KETK, around 100 people attended the meeting for customers who live outside the city limits. After seeing the community fight back, the company asked the Public Utility Commission of Texas to stop processing its rate application until further notice or December 31, 2016, whichever comes first.… Read More
AUSTIN (AP) – The government is appealing a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block an Obama administration directive on bathroom rights for transgender students in public schools nationwide. A one-page filing Thursday asks the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a preliminary injunction issued in August by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth. Texas and 12 other states asked O’Connor to halt the directive after the federal government told public schools in May that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with the gender they identify with. O’Connor’s injunction froze the directive, but more on procedural than policy grounds. Still, It’s since been cheered by top Republicans in Texas and elsewhere, who argue that the Obama administration was seeking to undermine school privacy safeguards.
AUSTIN (AP) – Private text messages show lawmakers wanting to help Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton by potentially halting payments to prosecutors over his criminal case. The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that five Republican lawmakers exchanged messages last week about convincing a county judge to stop paying three special prosecutors. The newspaper obtained the messages under open records laws. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of duping investors in a tech startup and could go to trial as early as next year. Taxpayers are footing the bill for Paxton’s prosecution, and a Tarrant County judge has ordered Collin County to pay prosecutors’ $300-an-hour fees. The text messages were sent between state legislators Jodie Laubenberg, Jeff Leach, Scott Stanford, Matt Shaheen and Sen. Van Taylor.
DALE (AP) – Police say about $90,000 worth of beer stolen from a Central Texas distributor has been recovered from a farm where two men were arrested on alcohol violations. Austin police Sgt. Maurice Forshee said Thursday that more arrests are expected in a ring allegedly trying to sell stolen beer online. An Austin distributor on Sept. 30 reported the alcohol theft. Forshee says an undercover operation led to a site near Dale, 30 miles southeast of Austin, where officers from several agencies carried out a raid Wednesday. Forshee says officers seized more than $100,000, about 20 firearms and 719 12-packs of beer. Two brothers were arrested on misdemeanor charges of distributing alcohol without a license. Forshee says most of the beer reported stolen last month was recovered during Wednesday’s raid.
WACO (AP) – A judge has refused to disqualify a Central Texas district attorney who’s prosecuting more than 150 bikers indicted in last year’s deadly gun battle at a Waco restaurant. District Judge Matt Johnson on Thursday denied a motion, on behalf of two bikers, to have McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna removed. Critics say Reyna overstepped his authority in having so many bikers arrested following the May 2015 shootout that left nine people dead. Records show 154 bikers face charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. Reyna is also the subject of lawsuits by some bikers alleging they were unlawfully arrested and jailed on bonds of $1 million. An attorney for one biker who sought to remove Reyna said he’s disappointed with Thursday’s decision and will evaluate his next step.
COPPELL (AP) – Retail gasoline prices across Texas are up a penny this week to reach an average $2.04 per gallon. AAA Texas on Thursday reported that compares with a 2-cent decline in nationwide gasoline prices, which settled at an average $2.23 per gallon. The association survey found that Corpus Christi has the cheapest gasoline in Texas this week at an average $1.96 per gallon. Drivers in Texarkana are paying more – an average $2.07 per gallon, while Dallas and Fort Worth each reported average gasoline prices at $2.06 per gallon. AAA experts say gasoline prices continue to wobble as parts of the country impacted by recent Hurricane Matthew work to replenish supplies.
GRANBURY (AP) – A Texas police officer has been honored for going out of his way to help save a little boy’s life. Police in the city of Granbury say Officer Chase Miller was scanning his radio’s EMS channel on Oct. 12 when he heard a dispatcher call for paramedics to respond to a 911 call about a 3-year-old boy who had stopped breathing. Police say Miller realized he was near the location and immediately responded. Video from Miller’s dash cam shows him performing CPR on the boy until he resumed breathing. The boys’ parents told the officer he had suffered a fever-induced seizure. He was later taken to the hospital. Miller was given the city’s Life Saving Award on Tuesday. He was joined at the ceremony by the boy and his family.
AMARILLO (AP) – Investigators are seeking a man suspected of breaking into a Texas trooper’s unoccupied patrol vehicle and stealing ammunition then fleeing when the officer started shooting. Amarillo police say the incident happened around 6 a.m. Thursday outside the trooper’s house as the officer was preparing to drive to work. The Texas Department of Public Safety trooper wasn’t hurt. Police are not sure whether at least one shot fired by the trooper hit the suspect, who jumped in a nearby car that hit the parked DPS vehicle while fleeing. DPS Sgt. Bryan Witt authorities are not sure if the suspect is armed or was wounded. Witt says the suspect cast aside some stolen items, including the ammunition, while driving away. Witt says no guns were stolen from the DPS-marked patrol SUV.
DALLAS (AP) – Prosecutors say a Texas woman has been convicted in a $1.2 million tax scam using stolen identities to get refunds and then buying and shipping used cars to Nigeria. LaTonya Carson of Dallas faces up to 191 years in prison in what officials say was a scheme since 2012. Some victims were in prison when their ID information was stolen. Carson was convicted Tuesday of multiple counts of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit theft of public funds, access device fraud and wire fraud. Prosecutors say Carson and others used the fraudulent tax refunds to purchase more than 200 luxury cars and ship them to Nigeria. Two suspects remain at large. Another pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
HOUSTON (AP) – A federal appeals court has refused an appeal from a Dallas man on death row for the 2005 slaying of an 11-year-old girl who was repeatedly sexually assaulted, strangled and then stuffed into a trash bag that was hidden under a trailer home in her neighborhood. The decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Steven Lynn Long affirms a similar ruling earlier this year from a federal district judge in Dallas. It moves the 45-year-old prisoner a step closer to execution for the death of Kaitlyn Smith. Long’s appeal contended he’s intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty and should be allowed a second evidentiary court hearing to contest findings that he deliberately failed previous mental assessment tests to lower his IQ score.
RUSK — A Rusk ISD school bus was involved in an accident Thursday morning leaving several students injured. According to the Department of Public Safety, the #7 school bus was traveling on CR 4274 approaching a sharp curve to the right. The bus then went off the roadway to the left and struck a tree with its right front. Seven children were transported to area hospitals in Jacksonville with minor injuries. The bus driver was not injured. The investigation is ongoing.
HOUSTON (AP) — Investigators say nine police officers opened fire on a Houston attorney who was fatally shot to end his neighborhood gunfire that left nine people hurt. Houston police on Wednesday updated the investigation into the Sept. 26 incident in which Nathan Desai was killed by officers. Authorities are trying to determine why Desai, who had a concealed handgun permit, randomly shot at people and vehicles. A police statement says officers and Desai exchanged gunfire for about 30 minutes as he took cover behind a tree. Police from Houston, Bellaire and West University Place shot at or fatally wounded Desai, who died at the scene. No officers were hurt. Desai, who wore a replica of a World War II Nazi general’s uniform, had no known criminal record or history of mental illness.
AUSTIN (AP) — Police are seeking an armed man who faked being a law enforcement officer to pull over a Central Texas school bus and quiz the driver about routes. Austin Independent School District police say the bus driver and the lone student on board were not hurt in Tuesday’s incident. Chief Eric Mendez says police will monitor routes amid the search for the suspect. The man had a gun, wore street clothes, drove a black SUV and flashed the headlights to get the bus to stop. Authorities say the driver declined to release any route information. The suspect fled after the bus driver demanded to see his law enforcement credentials. Officials are trying to determine if he’s the same person who earlier Tuesday was seen photographing students near an Austin middle school.
HOUSTON (AP) – Houston police say they are working to determine if any evidence in a property room freezer has been contaminated after a sprinkler malfunctioned, causing water damage to some cardboard boxes and envelopes that contained evidence. Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo says the sprinkler malfunctioned Tuesday afternoon and the incident was confined to a “relatively small area in the property room freezer.” Officials say property room evidence technicians are working closely with the Houston Forensic Science Center to ensure evidence is handled properly and to repackage all items that were affected. Montalvo says most of the evidence is contained in Ziploc bags or plastic containers placed inside boxes or envelopes for storage. The forensic science center has contacted the Harris County District Attorney’s Office about the incident.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Investigators say six suspects are now in custody in the fatal shooting of a man during a San Antonio-area home invasion. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday announced that four more suspects had been arrested to join 18-year-olds Jason Marino and Ethan Yoast, all charged with capital murder in the Oct. 9 slaying of 37-year-old Milton Miles of Schertz. The four were identified as 18-year-old Jai Lynn Jamaal Arnold, who was accused of being the triggerman, along with 22-year-old Jamarr Harrison-McNeil, 18-year-old Gabrielle Nicole Brightman and a 16-year-old girl whose identity was withheld because of her age. Investigators say a woman knocked on the door of Miles’ apartment. When the door was opened, two men stepped from behind her, one of them fired, then all fled.
BEAUMONT (AP) – A Southeast Texas youth football team has ended its season early after a player protest during the national anthem caused strife among coaches and parents. After last month’s protest in which players kneeled during the anthem to protest social injustice, the Beaumont Bulls team for 11 and 12-year-olds received publicity and threatening messages. The Beaumont Enterprise reported Tuesday that disagreements among coaches, parents and the team’s executive board also developed. The team’s board removed the coach, prompting some players to stop coming to games. Seterria Anderson, a parent who’s the team’s executive board president, says the team disbanded because it didn’t have enough players.
FORT WORTH (AP) – Texas Christian University plans to appoint a high-level administrator to promote diversity and inclusiveness after some minority students complained about race issues. A university statement Wednesday says school officials, over several weeks, held discussions with students about how the TCU culture addresses race on campus. TCU also plans to provide more training for students, faculty and staff on race-related issues. A group called Black Students and Allies of TCU issued 14 recommendations to promote cultural education and make sure that “black people are fairly represented and heard by administration.” The request includes a revised student conduct code to reflect zero tolerance for racially insensitive and hateful speech, establishing a $100 million endowment for minority students, plus offer majors in Asian American and Native American studies.
DALLAS (AP) – A carjacking suspect is dead after he was shot in what Dallas police said was an armed confrontation with an officer. A statement on the Dallas Police Department live blog said 24-year-old Anthony Garcia died after he was shot while approaching officers while brandishing a handgun. The shooting happened about 9:40 a.m. Wednesday in the Oak Cliff district about 5 miles west of downtown Dallas. Police say a plainclothes officer investigating a Tuesday night carjacking spotted the vehicle that was reported stolen. At that point, the driver of the vehicle emerged from the driver’s seat and approached the officer with a handgun. The officer to shoot him. The officer wasn’t wounded. Police say another person was reported to be barricaded in a house nearby, but officers found no one there.
BEACH CITY (AP) – Authorities say a 14-year-old boy has been charged in the fatal shooting of his grandparents at the Houston-area home where they all lived. The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office says the boy was being held Wednesday on two capital murder counts. Investigators didn’t immediately say whether they’ll seek to try the juvenile as an adult in the killings in Beach City, 30 miles east of Houston. No possible motive was immediately released. Sheriff Brian Hawthorne says the bodies were discovered Tuesday after the boy failed to show up for school and was reached by phone, at the home, in a truancy check. His grandparents couldn’t be reached. A deputy located the bodies. The name of the minor hasn’t been released. The sheriff’s office didn’t immediately provide additional custody or attorney information.
FORT WORTH (AP) – Lawsuits alleging two calf ropers rigged a 2015 Texas rodeo to share a possible $1 million bonus prize have been dismissed following undisclosed settlements. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports settlement details weren’t released in a rodeo promoter’s lawsuits against Tuf Cooper and Timber Moore. Tarrant County court records show the cases were closed Monday. RFD-TV Events in August sued over the March 2015 event at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in an attempt to recover some prize money. The lawsuit alleged Cooper and Moore intentionally let another competitor win first place in an effort to share some bonus money. Moore attorney Rick Hagen says the parties resolved the dispute to each’s satisfaction. He declined further comment. Messages left for comment Wednesday with RFD-TV Events and Cooper weren’t immediately returned.
PITTSBURGH (AP) – A former American Airlines operations manager who learned of the first Sept. 11 hijacking before the jet struck the World Trade Center has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on a federal interstate child-sex charge in Pittsburgh. Ray Howland, of Arlington, Texas, pleaded guilty in June in federal court. He also was ordered Wednesday to spend 10 years on probation after he serves his sentence. Howland was arrested near Pittsburgh International Airport in June 2015 by an undercover agent who posed online as a woman with a 10-year-old daughter who Howland arranged to meet for sex. Howland received some of the first panicked calls from employees at Boston’s Logan Airport reporting the hijacking of an American Airlines flight that hijackers crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
BAIRD (AP) – A West Texas husband and wife must serve 40-year prison terms for the 2015 slaying of an off-duty Abilene police officer during a robbery. Phillip and Violet Walter were sentenced Tuesday in Baird after being convicted of murder, robbery and theft of a firearm. Prosecutors say the couple texted each other about plans to commit a robbery. Investigators say the Walters met Officer Don Allen in August 2015 in response to a Craigslist posting. Allen was found strangled in his home in Clyde. Some personal and law enforcement items were stolen but later recovered as the couple tried to sell them. The Walters were each also sentenced to 20 years for robbery and 10 years for theft of a firearm, to be served concurrently with the 40-year murder sentence.
AUSTIN — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has overturned a Tyler couple’s conviction and prison sentence for injury to a child. KETK reports that Kenneth and Shelley Walker were sentenced to 25 years behind bars after being found guilty of placing their two-year-old granddaughter, Bridget Walker, into a bathtub filled with scalding water. The toddler was severely burned on her feet and ankles and was flown to a Dallas hospital for treatment. In September 2014, the two were denied their appeal by the Twelfth Court of Appeals and began serving their sentence immediately. The higher court concluded evidence in the case would “merely raise a suspicion of guilt” and evidence did not support injury to a child beyond a reasonable doubt.… Read More
GREGG COUNTY — A Chicago man is killed in a two vehicle wreck on Interstate 20 early Wednesday morning. According to the Department of Public Safety report, it happened around 1:20 on the eastbound side of I-20 near the Texas 31/U.S. 259 South exit. Officials said a 2016 International Cub Cadet truck tractor with towed semi-trailer was traveling east on I-20 in the outside lane when a 2002 Mazda Protégé entered the outside lane in front of the truck from the shoulder. The truck struck the Mazda causing it to hit the guard rail and then rebound back into the outside lane and become trapped between the truck and its towed semi-trailer. The Mazda and the trucks towed trailer caught fire. The driver of the Mazda was identified as Amando Vega, 77, Chicago, IL.… Read More