Category: State News
FORT WORTH (AP) – The Lifetime TV network has dropped a reality show about a Texas mortuary after eight decaying bodies were found and the co-owners face criminal charges. The network in June announced a show called “Good Grief” would air July 23 about the Johnson Family Mortuary in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Thursday that Lifetime canceled the show before it premiered. Lifetime Networks vice president Les Eisner, in an email, said the program featuring the Johnson Family Mortuary “has not and will not air on Lifetime.” Police on July 15 were summoned after the building owner, who showed up to evict the tenants for unpaid rent, found unattended bodies. Dondre Johnson and his wife, Rachel Hardy-Johnson, were arrested on abuse of a corpse charges. Both are free on bond.
HOUSTON (AP) – A Harris County mother will receive a tribute flag for her son more than nine years after he was killed while serving as a Marine in Iraq. Patsy Maciel says she received her son’s belongings and an official U.S. flag after he was killed in a helicopter crash in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005. She says she didn’t learn there was another flag until she recently received a Facebook message from a couple near Beaumont. Lanie and Walter Brown say they found the flag covered in messages for Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel at a Hemphill flea market. They’re meeting Patsy Maciel on Saturday to deliver the flag. Maciel says she can’t wait to read the messages to her son. Neither family knows how the flag ended up at the market.
AUSTIN (AP) – Austin police have arrested a man in connection with at least eight armed robberies. Thirty-year-old Marcello Douglas was being held Friday on aggravated robbery and parole violation charges. Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for Douglas, who was arrested Wednesday and held on $50,000 bond. Police say more arrests may follow. They have said a group of two to four men in their 20s committed the robberies in June and July. One of the men shot at a cashier and missed during the last robbery on July 19. Police say one of the men goes inside a store while the others drive a getaway vehicle or act as lookouts. Investigators say the men have robbed a liquor store, convenience stores and restaurants.
HUNTSVILLE (AP) — Texas prison officials say they plan no changes in lethal injection procedures in the wake of problems with an execution in Arizona. Unlike Arizona, which used a two-drug protocol of midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone for an execution Wednesday that took two hours, Texas uses a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark says the agency has used the single drug since 2012 for 33 executions without complication. At least 10 Texas inmates have execution dates scheduled in the coming months.
SANTA ANA, CALIF. (AP) — New federal data show Texas, New York, Florida and California are receiving the most unaccompanied children caught at the U.S. border. The data published Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families show those four states account for 46 percent of the more than 30,000 children who have been released to sponsors this year through July 7. The U.S. has been grappling with a surge in the number of unaccompanied children who have been fleeing violence in Central America and crossing into the U.S. because they believe they will be allowed to stay. Children are placed in government shelters and then released to sponsors while they go through deportation proceedings. In many cases, the sponsors are the children’s parents, other relatives, or a family friend.
AUSTIN (AP) — A legislative committee looking to improve the state’s foster care system is hearing from Texans who told lawmakers of abuse and trauma in the foster homes where they grew up. Some choked back tears Thursday during emotional testimony before the Texas House Select Committee on Child Protection. Committee Chairwoman Dawnna Dukes even said what she heard sounded “like prison.” The state’s 17,000-child foster system has been under scrutiny since seven children died of abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2013. This year, only one such youngster has died. But officials are investigating the July 6 drowning in Lake Georgetown of two siblings in foster care, ages 4 and 6. A recent review found child protective caseworkers only spend 26 percent of their job meeting with youngsters and families.
DALLAS (AP) — A North Dallas prosecutor is going to court to seek exoneration of a man who served 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to raping a 16-year-old girl. Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins will ask a state district judge on today to exonerate Michael Phillips because DNA tests identified another man as the culprit. Phillips, who’s black, has said he pleaded guilty in 1990 to raping the white teen at the advice of his attorney, who warned against putting his fate in the hands of a jury. Watkins says the tests identified another man as the culprit, but a Watkins spokeswoman says the statute of limitations allows him to remain free.
HOUSTON (AP) — Harris County authorities say a Texas inmate has confessed to killing a man 10 years ago. Sheriff’s officials say Thursday that Allan Eugene was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Richard Sepulveda in 2004. The two men had been arguing over a parking spot in southwest Houston. Sepulveda was 44. Officials say Eugene, 32, confessed after the investigation was reopened in 2013. Eugene was identified as a suspect during the initial investigation but wasn’t charged. Eugene is currently an inmate at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville for aggravated assault and possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver. Officials say he was scheduled to be released in April but will be transferred to Harris County Jail.
PASADENA (AP) — A Houston man has been charged with killing a 25-year-old woman whose burned body was found in a Pasadena field. Harris County jail records show Jose Valentin Noriega, 37, was being held Thursday on a murder charge. His bond was set at $70,000. Police say Noriega was booked Wednesday over the death of Rocio Montoya. He body was discovered Monday by firefighters responding to a blaze. A medical examiner lists the cause of death as strangulation with blunt force trauma to the head. Investigators did not immediately release a possible motive in the slaying.
McALLEN (AP) — The former chief of staff to former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino has been sentenced to 11 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to failing to report a crime. A federal judge in McAllen sentenced Maria Patricia Medina on Thursday. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa also fined her $2,000. The 40-year-old Medina could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison for her April 11 guilty plea. Prosecutors say Trevino received cash donations from a suspected drug trafficker in 2011 and 2012. Medina, as chief of staff and campaign treasurer, admitted helping Trevino conceal the donations by falsifying election records. Trevino was sentenced to five years in prison July 17 after pleading guilty to money laundering. He resigned as sheriff March 28.
HOUSTON (AP) — Former baseball star Chuck Knoblauch has been charged with misdemeanor assault after authorities in Houston say he hit and pushed his ex-wife. Knoblauch has been released on $10,000 bond. His first court date is set for July 30. The four-time All-Star previously served a year of probation after being convicted of hitting his previous wife in 2010. Knoblauch played for the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals during a 12-year career. He was set to be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame in August. The Twins issued a statement Thursday saying that “in light of recent news reports surrounding Chuck Knoblauch, as well as direct communication” with Knoblauch, they have decided to cancel the August 23 ceremony.
DALLAS (AP) — Formerly conjoined twin boys celebrated their first birthday with those who helped care for them at the Dallas hospital where they were separated. Emmett and Owen Ezell returned to Medical City Children’s Hospital for their celebration Thursday. The boys, who turned 1 last week, were separated at the hospital last August, about a month after their birth. The twins, who shared a liver and intestines when born, left the hospital for inpatient rehabilitation in April and finally were able to go home in June. The boys now breathe on their own but still rely on feeding tubes. Their mother, Jenni Ezell, says Owen is about to start crawling, and she thinks Emmett will soon be doing likewise.
IRVING (AP) — Texas and nationwide retail gasoline prices have slipped 4 cents this week amid lower crude oil costs. AAA Texas on Thursday reported the average price at the pump statewide settled at $3.41 per gallon. Motorists across the U.S. are paying an average $3.55 per gallon. The association survey found Amarillo has the cheapest gasoline in Texas this week at $3.32 per gallon. Drivers in El Paso have the most expensive gasoline in Texas at $3.49 per gallon. AAA experts say retail prices at the pump have continued to move lower due primarily to lower crude oil costs as global geopolitical tensions stabilize
AUSTIN (AP) — Charles Schwab Corp. is getting nearly $6 million in incentives from Texas to open an El Paso operations center and increase its presence in Austin, creating more than 1,200 jobs. Governor Rick Perry announced Thursday that the financial services company’s Austin expansion will create 823 jobs and should generate $210 million in capital investment over the next decade. The governor’s signature Texas Enterprise Fund offered $4.5 million to seal the deal. San Francisco-based Charles Schwab’s El Paso operations should generate 445 jobs and $21.5 million in capital investment over 10 years, in exchange for $1.45 million in state funds. The fund attracts top job-creators to Texas. Some legislators have worried about a lack of transparency, but Perry says it’s invested nearly $560 million and generated 75,000 jobs since 2003.