Category: State News

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Death of Texas Girl in Refrigerator Ruled Homicide

Ayahna CombHOUSTON (AP) — The death of a 9-year-old Houston girl whose body was left in a refrigerator for six months has been ruled a homicide. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said that Ayahna Comb died from malnutrition and dehydration and suffered from other ailments such as a bone infection. A neighbor called police after Comb’s sibling found the body in June. A Child Protective Services worker said Comb’s mother acknowledged putting the body in a fridge drawer after finding the girl dead in January. The caseworker said the girl had cerebral palsy and weighed just 14 pounds when she died. A Houston Police Department spokeswoman told The Houston Chronicle the agency expects to file unspecified charges against Comb’s mother. The mother declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper.

Suspect in Death of Alabama Pastor Caught in Texas

Brett Richard YeiterPANHANDLE (AP) — A suspect in the fatal shooting of his minister father-in-law at an Alabama church has been captured in Texas. The Carson County Sheriff’s Office says Brett Richard Yeiter of Jay, Florida, waived extradition Friday on a murder warrant. Yeiter remained in custody in Panhandle, about 25 miles northeast of Amarillo, awaiting transfer to Alabama. The Texas Department of Public Safety says the 46-year-old suspect was stopped Thursday afternoon on westbound Interstate 40 near Amarillo. Texas troopers were on the lookout for a pickup truck that Yeiter was driving. Officials say 69-year-old Pastor Paul Phillips was fatally shot Monday outside the Book of Acts Holiness Church in Sellersville, Alabama. Investigators believe the men had argued about unspecified family matters.

South Texas Man had More than 5M Porn Images

CORPUS CHRISTI (AP) — A South Texas man who acknowledged having more than 5 million pornographic images has pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. Terry Lee Clark of Corpus Christi faces up to 20 years in federal prison during sentencing scheduled for February. Prosecutors in Corpus Christi on Friday announced the plea from the 48-year-old Clark, who remains in custody over the investigation that began in July. Authorities received an anonymous tip and contacted Clark, who allowed them to search his home and examiner computer devices. Investigators recovered images and videos. Some show girls engaging in sex acts with men. Clark, as part of the plea deal, acknowledged possessing millions of pornographic images and downloading items from various websites. Further details on the images weren’t immediately released.

Woman Charged with Murder after Evidence Found

Laura KolbSANTA FE (AP) — A Galveston County woman has been indicted on a murder charge just days after her case was dismissed because evidence in the death of a 4-year-old girl had been misplaced. A grand jury Thursday indicted Laura Lea Kolb, 38, of Santa Fe. She was being held Friday at the Galveston County jail on a $250,000 bond. Investigators say 4-year-old Taylor Moore died in 2013 after Kolb drunkenly shoved the child while arguing with her boyfriend, who was the child’s father. Authorities say Kolb’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday but the state was unable to produce tissue samples from an autopsy of the girl. Attorneys say the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office misplaced the evidence. The samples were later found and prosecutors re-introduced the case to the grand jury.

Ex-South Texas Judge Accused of Accepting Bribes

Ismael Melo OchoaEDINBURG (AP) — A South Texas justice of the peace who resigned in early October has been indicted on bribery, money laundering and organized criminal activity counts. Ismael “Melo” Ochoa has been charged in Hidalgo County and released on a $40,000 personal recognizance bond. Ochoa served 24 years before his Oct. 10 resignation. He didn’t say why he was quitting. Ochoa didn’t immediately comment on the investigation into bonds allegedly lowered, since 2010, for some defendants. Prosecutors say bribes allegedly were paid by a bail bondsman linked to drug cases. The 68-year-old Ochoa remains unopposed on Tuesday’s ballot, even though Hidalgo County commissioners have already named a replacement. Penitas Mayor Marcos Ochoa is not related to the former JP. Ismael Ochoa agreed to decline the judicial job if he’s re-elected.

Austin Still Recovering from 2013 Halloween Floods

Austin Halloween floodsAUSTIN (AP) — A year after a fatal flood damaged hundreds of homes in central Texas, officials in Austin are still working to buy and tear down homes considered at risk for flooding. The 2013 Halloween floods, which reached up to 7 feet in some homes, damaged almost 660 buildings and killed three people in Travis County. Some houses near Onion Creek have been abandoned by homeowners, while other residents have tried to rebuild their homes, undeterred by the threat of future floods. The Austin American-Statesman reports that since the floods, Austin has three times approved money to buy out homes. The funds total $129 million to purchase 486 homes. As of late October, a city spokeswoman says Austin has bought 100 houses and demolished 63 of them.

Early Voting Sees Steady, But Not Surging Numbers

Early voting signAUSTIN (AP) — If voters are overly excited about electing the first new Texas governor in 14 years and wholesale changes across state government, the turnout so far hasn’t shown it. State elections figures released Thursday show that after 10 days of early voting, turnout is roughly similar to four years ago in the biggest Texas counties. That’s despite a high-profile race between Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis and major voter registration efforts from both parties. Early voting ends Friday. Election officials cautioned that the final day of early voting typically sees bigger numbers. Nearly 1.3 million people in the state’s largest counties had cast a ballot through Wednesday. That’s slightly up from the last midterm election in 2010, but is down in terms of total percentage of registered voters.

Hillary Clinton Cheers Van de Putte’s “Bold Ideas”

Leticia Van de Putte2AUSTIN (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton is praising the Democratic nominee for Texas lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte. In a post to Van de Putte’s Facebook page Thursday, the former secretary of state said the San Antonio state senator “has bold ideas and initiatives that honor veterans, respect women and value education.” Clinton, who’s considering a 2016 White House run, added, “I am proud to call Leticia Van de Putte my friend, and more importantly, the next Lieutenant Governor of Texas.” A pharmacist when she not in the Legislature, Van de Putte is an underdog against her tea party-backed Texas Senate colleague, Houston’s Dan Patrick. A Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994. But Clinton won the state’s 2008 Democratic presidential primary against Barack Obama.

5th Circuit to Hear Challenge to Health Act

5th Circuit Court of AppealsNEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court in New Orleans has scheduled December arguments on a challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care act. In this case, opponents of the act say it is unconstitutional because it imposes a tax, and all tax bills must originate in the House. They contend that the Affordable Care Act originated in the Senate. A federal judge in Texas rejected the suit in January. U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas said that raising revenue was not the overarching purpose of the bill. She also noted that the bill did start in the House, although it was stripped of its original language and altered to include the health act in the Senate. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments for December 2.

Justices Consider Texas Rape-Murder Case

Rodney ReedWASHINGTON (AP) — A black inmate on Texas’ death row who claims he had a clandestine relationship with a white woman but did not rape or kill her wants the Supreme Court to take his case. Rodney Reed says his trial lawyers did a poor job of defending him. Reed suggests that the victim’s fiancé, a police officer now in prison for a sex crime, could have been the killer. A judge has set Reed’s execution for January 14. Reed claims he had a secret affair with Stacey Stites, yet at first he denied knowing her. That’s one of the many unusual and sometimes conflicting aspects of his case. It’s aroused passionate support from those who believe he’s innocent, and equally fervent cries that he should be put to death.

Death Row Inmate Gets Execution Date

Scott PanettiHUNTSVILLE (AP) — A Texas death row inmate whose attorneys contend is so delusional he can’t understand why he was convicted and condemned has received an execution date. A judge in Gillespie County has signed an order setting Scott Panetti, 56, for lethal injection in Huntsville on December 3. The Hayward, Wisconsin, native has a history of mental problems and his case has been to the U.S. Supreme Court at least three times. The most recent was early this month when the justices refused to review his latest appeal. Panetti was convicted of fatally shooting his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado, at their Fredericksburg home 22 years ago in front of his estranged wife and young children. He served as his own lawyer at his trial, wearing a cowboy outfit.

Central Texas Coach Accused of Child Indecency

Timothy SheardCEDAR PARK (AP) — A boys cross country coach at a Central Texas high school has been charged with three counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact. Cedar Park police arrested Timothy Sheard, 50, who was released hours later on $75,000 bond. Sheard coaches at Cedar Park High School. A spokeswoman for the Leander Independent School District says Sheard has been on paid administrative leave since September 25. Police say the investigation began last month after a former student reported an alleged sexual incident with a school employee. Police also interviewed two other former students who alleged they were victims in similar incidents since 2003. No publicly listed telephone number could immediately be located Thursday for Sheard.

Ebola Victim’s Fiancée Struggles to Rebuild Life

Louise TrohDALLAS (AP) — Louise Troh hoped to be married to Thomas Eric Duncan by now. Instead, she’s grieving after his fatal bout with Ebola and trying to help her family refocus on the future. Neither is easy. They are trying to replace their personal belongings that were incinerated when authorities decontaminated the apartment where Duncan stayed. Finding a rental home is proving hard, and Troh blames the stigma of Ebola. She says prospective landlords are treating her “like a foreigner,” even though she arrived from Liberia 17 years ago and is now a citizen. Duncan died October 8 of Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Troh had taken the Liberian man to the hospital’s emergency room on September 26 but he was misdiagnosed with a sinus infection and sent home

Dallas Nurse Who Survived Ebola to Get Dog Back

Nina Pham's dogDALLAS (AP) — A Dallas nurse who recovered from Ebola will soon be reunited with her dog, which has been sequestered since his owner became ill. The King Charles Cavalier spaniel named Bentley is in quarantine at an abandoned Navy base in Dallas. His owner, Nina Pham, was diagnosed with Ebola earlier this month. She contracted the virus while caring for a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died October 8. City spokeswoman Sana Syed said Thursday that the dog has tested negative for Ebola and that his 21-day quarantine, the Ebola incubation period, ends Saturday. Pham was released from her own quarantine October 24. Syed says Pham won’t visit the dog sooner because he may become anxious if he sees her but is then left behind in isolation.

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