NEW YORK (AP) – Darlene Cates, who played the housebound mother in the 1993 film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” has died. Cates died in her sleep Sunday morning at her home in Forney, Texas, according to her son-in-law, David Morgan. She was 69. Cates was cast in the film as the morbidly obese mother of Johnny Depp, in the title role, and his younger brother, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. She had been spotted by the film’s screenwriter, Peter Hedges, while appearing on the “Sally Jessy Raphael” talk show, where she discussed her struggles with her weight. The film, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, won acclaim for its sensitive portrayal of a troubled but loving family in a small Iowa town. Cates later appeared on episodes of the series “Picket Fences” and “Touched By an Angel.”
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union plans to move a regional center on border rights to El Paso, Texas, from Las Cruces, New Mexico. The ACLU says it will move the regional office 46 miles south to El Paso in September to expand its presence and influence in the region and that it’ll keep a small presence in Las Cruces. The office is a collaboration of ACLU affiliates in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and San Diego. ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson says El Paso is “an epicenter of border enforcement activity and all the civil and human rights problems that come with it. ” Simonson says ACLU of New Mexico is exploring whether to open a small office in Las Cruces after the regional office moves.
HOUSTON (AP) – A federal appeals court is allowing a 52-year-old inmate on Texas death row for nearly 25 years for a double slaying in Houston to move forward with an appeal and is upholding the conviction of a another prisoner condemned for the shooting deaths of four people in suburban Dallas in 2004. In the Houston case, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to consider whether trial jurors should have been shown Rick Allan Rhoades’ childhood photos, whether jurors improperly were told he could be released from a life sentence and whether two potential jurors improperly were disqualified. In the second case, the appeals court has rejected claims from 36-year-old Raul Cortez that his lawyers were deficient at his trial for the quadruple shooting in McKinney in 2004.
AUSTIN (AP) – A man who authorities had sought for decades in the death of a woman in Austin has pleaded guilty to a charge of murder and will be sentenced to 30 years in prison. Fifty-two-year-old Robert Van Wisse entered his plea Tuesday as part of an agreement reached earlier with prosecutors. Van Wisse was named in an arrest warrant issued in 1996, charging him with murder in the 1983 strangling of 22-year-old Laurie Stout. Van Wisse was 18 when Stout’s body was found in an office building where she worked the night shift. Investigators say he was known to have been in the building registering for a course. The former University of Texas student was born in Mexico and fled to that country after learning he was a suspect.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has sided with a Texas death row inmate who claims he should not be executed because he is intellectually disabled. The justices on Tuesday reversed a Texas appeals court ruling that held that inmate Bobby James Moore was not intellectually disabled. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her majority opinion that Texas’ top criminal appeals court ignored current medical standards and required use of outdated standards when it decided Moore isn’t mentally disabled. That ruling removed a legal hurdle to Moore’s execution for the shotgun slaying of a Houston grocery store clerk in 1980. The decision was the second this term in which the high court has ruled for a Texas death row inmate. In February, the justices said race improperly tainted inmate Duane Buck’s death sentence.
HOUSTON (AP) – Authorities have confirmed that a Houston veterinarian charged with attempting to orchestrate the murder of her ex-husband has leapt to her death the day before she was scheduled to appear in court. The Harris County district attorney’s office says 48-year-old Valerie Busick McDaniel jumped Monday from her seventh-floor condo. A court hearing was scheduled for Tuesday for McDaniel, who was charged earlier this month with solicitation of capital murder. She had earlier posted bail. Authorities say McDaniel and her boyfriend hired an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to kill their former partners. Her boyfriend, 39-year-old Leon Philip Jacob, is facing charges that include solicitation of capital murder and remains in the Harris County jail. Online jail records do not indicate an attorney to speak on his behalf.
DALLAS (AP) – Dallas is using police officers to help staff its 911 call center as the city contends with chronic staffing shortages that have contributed to long wait times for people calling about emergencies. City council members have expressed concern that officers are being taken off their patrols to staff the call center at a time when the police department is facing its own staffing shortfall. Officials say progress is being made in reducing the spike in wait times that have plagued the call center in recent months. There’ve been times when hundreds of 911 calls were placed on hold and it may have contributed to delays in emergency response for two people who died in separate incidents. Officials have previously said technological glitches were fixed and have helped reduce the spike in wait times.
AUSTIN (AP) – A bipartisan bill pumping $1.6 billion extra into classrooms as part of small but important changes to how Texas funds public education is headed to the full state House. Houston Republican Rep. Dan Huberty’s proposal increases per-student funding about $200 to $5,350. It also adds funding for transportation and educating dyslexic students. The bill seeks to overhaul the current “Robin Hood” system, decreasing some funding that school districts in wealthy areas share with those in poorer regions statewide. Huberty called the measure a positive “first step” as his Public Education Committee approved it to the full chamber Tuesday. He has said that sweeping school finance changes will take several legislative sessions. Lawmakers aren’t required to fix school finance because Texas’ Supreme Court declared it flawed but barely constitutional last summer.