TYLER — Dr. Neil Gray has been elected vice president of the Texas Academy of Science, Dr. Martin Slann, College of Arts and Sciences dean at The University of Texas at Tyler, announced. A UT Tyler alumnus, Gray serves as professor and chair of UTT’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Texas Academy of Science promotes scientific research in Texas colleges and universities, encourages research as a part of student learning, and enhances the professional development of its professional and student members, according to a UTT news release. … Read More
KILGORE — Kilgore College has been announced as a finalist in Stanley Security’s “Together for Safer Schools” grant program and could receive up to $100,000 if it wins an online voting contest. The money would be used to purchase Stanley Security installed products and services to help secure students and facilities on KC’s campuses, according to a KC news release. From Jan. 19 through Feb. 13 students, faculty, administrators, parents, alumni and community members are encouraged to vote for KC daily via the website, SMS text messaging or Twitter. … Read More
BEAUMONT – U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced Thursday that the current head of the Mexican drug trafficking organization, the Gulf Cartel, or Cartel del Golfo, has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in the Eastern District of Texas. The case covered various U.S. locations, including a wide swath of Texas, and involved two Nacogdoches-based law enforcement agencies. Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, 23, of Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, pleaded guilty to distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Saenz-Tamez entered his guilty plea on Jan. 13, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone. … Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler was named Thursday as the Chairman of the Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Calling the appointment “an honor, Gohmert says in a statement, “The First Congressional District of Texas is not only rich in natural resources; it is the number one natural gas producing district in Texas, and I am proud to represent east Texas in this capacity in the U.S. Congress.” … Read More
SMITH COUNTY (Staff/AP) – Officials are investigating a suspected murder-suicide in Smith County. Shortly before 10:15 Thursday morning, a 911 call was received at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Operations Center regarding shooting victims lying in the roadway in the 23000 block of Smith County Road 244. Upon arrival of the responding sheriff’s deputies, two deceased victims were observed in the roadway next to a parked late model Buick sedan. The Buick sedan was later determined to be owned by the male victim.
Smith County Sheriff’s Office Detectives and the SCSO Crime Scene Unit responded to assist in the investigation. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the two deceased individuals were married and had recently separated. A passerby was driving by on County Road 244 and observed the male shoot the female with a shotgun, according to an SCSO news release. The couple are identified as Mechelle Evette Bell, 35, of Tyler and Delithro Rodriquez Bell, 41. Both had recently lived in the Jackson Heights area within several miles of the incident. Delithro Bell’s uncle is reported to live in the vicinity of the shooting. Delithro Bell played on Chapel Hillâ€™s 1989 state championship football team and later played football for the University of Houston.
All evidence and investigation at this time indicates the deaths are the result of a murder-suicide, according to Sheriff Larry Smith. But Smith says the investigation is continuing until all available witnesses have been identified and interviewed. Sheriff’s detectives have received additional information related to these two individuals which supports their suspicion of murder-suicide, according to Smith.
Smith County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Mitch Shamburger responded to the scene for an inquest and ordered autopsies on both victims. The autopsies will be performed at the Southwest Forensic facility in Smith County. Should you have information related to this or any other crimes, you’re asked to contact the Smith County Sheriff’s Office at 903-566-6600.
LONGVIEW — Two Longview brothers were arrested on drug charges Tuesday and a third was charged with assault when he became agitated after the initial arrests and punched an officer in the face, police said. According to KETK and the Longview News-Journal, Johnathan Fielden Jones, 22, is charged with possession of marijuana between 4 ounces and 5 pounds. Police say that’s after they pulled him over for speeding at about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. An officer smelled marijuana in the car, and a search of the vehicle revealed several packages of marijuana totaling about 1 pound and 3.5 ounces, a police report states. … Read More
KILGORE – The East Texas Council of Governments has announced that it was named as an award winner at the 2014 National Rural Transportation Peer Learning Conference held in Cincinnati on December 3 – 5. According to an ETCOG news release, the honor comes for ETCOG’S marketing and communications videos produced for EasTexConnects that were released last year. The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation and RPO America program recognizes noteworthy projects and practices in rural and small metropolitan areas that help meet regional needs through various program areas, according to the news release. Those program areas include bicycle and pedestrian planning, air quality, equity, project implementation, public involvement, safety, and transit. … Read More
HENDERSON — A fifth suspect was arrested Wednesday in a multi-county crime spree. KETK reports he’s Jorge Santos, 21. Thanks to a tip to Rusk County Crime Stoppers, he was arrested around noon at his home in Henderson. Santos and four other men are accused of stealing 30 large trucks and using them in “smash and grab” burglaries around East Texas. Property damage collectively is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $1 million. The sheriff’s departments of Smith, Rusk, Gregg, and Harrison Counties worked together for months to find and arrest the suspects.
TYLER – A Smith County inmate, found dead in his cell late last year, died of natural causes. That’s the results of an autopsy performed by the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Science. Robert Rowan, 27, of Tyler, was found unresponsive in his cell November 14th. He had been booked into the jail October 24th on a 180-day commitment for nonpayment of child support. KETK reports the Dallas lab found Rowan had heart complications, more specifically an artery ostia formed abnormally leading to compromised blood flow. This led to long-term heart damage, such as an enlarged heart, heart attack and abnormal heart beat.
LONGVIEW — Longview City Councilman Richard Manley announced Wednesday he will be running for mayor in the upcoming election. KETK reports he’s represented District 5 on the council for almost five years. Manley also says if he’s elected, his main objectives include making Longview the most business-friendly city in the state and a more biker-friendly community.
TYLER — An armed robbery suspect has been taken into custody in Tyler. At approximately 12:00 noon Wednesday the Smith County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call of an armed robbery at the LaMexicana Convenience Store located in the 4800 block of County Road 376. A male entered the store, exhibited a knife to the store clerk, and demanded money, according to a news release. The robber left the store on foot after taking the money and cigarettes. … Read More
LONGVIEW — A Longview man is $1 million richer after buying a $10 scratch-off. KETK reports Gene W. Hulen claimed the first of six prizes in the 50X The Cash game. The ticket was sold at Tigermart, located in the 1900 block of E. Marshall Avenue, and is now eligible for a $10,000 retailer bonus. The overall odds of winning any prize are one in 3.53. The scratch-off provides players with a chance to win more than $110 million in prizes, according to the Texas Lottery Commission.
QUITMAN — A trial date has been set for a Mineola man accused of killing a teenager in June 2014. KETK reports Jason Russell Walters, 41, will appear in the 402nd District Court for a pre-trial hearing on June 11, and trial is slated to start on August 17 at 9 a.m. Walters was booked into jail on Septmember 17 for the murder of Christopher James Griffin, 19, of Mineola. He was released on $250,000 bond. The victim was killed by a gunshot wound to his neck at a local gas sation on June 15.
ALPINE — The case of a murdered 28-year-old Kilgore man is expected to be presented to a Brewster County grand jury within the next month. According to KETK, the Brewster County District Attorney’s Office is still awaiting a return on Trey Sands’s autopsy and toxicology report. Meanwhile, all three suspects remain jailed on $200,000 bond: Keith McWilliams, 49, of Alpine; Rhonda Bloom, 42, of Terlingua; and Charles Morrow, 30, of Benbrook. … Read More
EAST TEXAS — Tyler and Longview are both honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the annual holiday in Dr. King’s honor coming up Monday. Activities in Longview are already underway, while Tyler has a big celebration planned for Monday morning. … Read More
LONGVIEW — Longview Police have identified the body of a man found at the scene of a Tuesday evening shooting in the 1600 Block of Hawthorne Street. According to KETK, the victim was said to be Philander Carlton Peters, 48, Longview. An eyewitness at the scene said they heard four gunshots and saw a black male running from the home. The shooting remains under investigation and police are treating the case as a homicide. Anyone with any information is asked to contact authorities.
TYLER — The Texas Department of Transportation is closing Smith County Road 46 at Prairie Creek Tributary as of Wednesday, January 14, for a bridge replacement project. The bridge replacement is part of a joint contract with the County Road 448 at Village Creek project. The CR 46 project is expected to take about three months to complete. Message boards notifying motorists of the closure have been in place for a week. Advance warning signs for the closure have also been installed. Local traffic has already started using alternate routes in anticipation of the closure.… Read More
TYLER – The assistant director of bands at Texas Christian University, Jeremy Strickland, has been selected as director of bands for Tyler Junior College. Strickland will begin his duties at TJC on June 1. He will lead the TJC band program, which consists of: Apache Band (marching band), three concert bands, two jazz ensembles, jazz combo, two percussion ensembles and indoor drumline. He has served as assistant director of bands at TCU for the past seven years. Prior to TCU, he served as both assistant and head band director at Springtown High School.… Read More
LONGVIEW — A Kilgore man remained Tuesday in the Gregg County Jail on $100,000 bond, charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. KETK and the Longview News-Journal report Jeffrey Lawrence MacDonald, 37, was arrested Friday after police say he was caught on video performing sexual acts with a boy under the age of 14. According to police, MacDonald’s roommate came forward earlier this month after he had reviewed video from the pair’s apartment from September and discovered footage of MacDonald engaging in a sexual activity with a 13-year-old boy. The video was used to store apartment surveillance and media, Armstrong said. Police verified the video, date stamped Sept. 19, 2014, and later arrested MacDonald, according to the complaint filed in Gregg County.
EAST TEXAS — Four suspects have been arrested and three more are at large following a multi-county investigation to capture the persons responsible for more than $1 million in lost property during a recent crime spree. KETK reports the offenses took place in Smith, Gregg, Rusk, and Harrison Counties, as well as the cities of New London and Kilgore. According to Rusk County Sergeant David Roberts, authorities there responded to several reports of “mash and dashes.” Criminals pulled into driveways and rammed vehicles into local homes. Stolen vehicles and ATMs have been reported throughout the area; in all, over 30 service related vehicles were taken across the East Texas area. All of the stolen automobiles have been recovered to date; most were destroyed or damaged, according to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. … Read More
TYLER — The Smith County Sheriff’s Office confirms Joshua and Krista Caulkins resigned from their positions last week to avoid prosecution. According to KETK, in return for no prosecution, Joshua Caulkins surrendered his peace officer license for life and will not receive pay for leave in January. He will also pay back any wages earned from his fraudulent degree, according to District Attorney Matt Bingham. The amount owed is around $4,300. … Read More
LUFKIN (AP) — An East Texas man has pleaded guilty to strangling a woman with an electrical cord and then dumping her body near the banks of a river last year. The Lufkin News reports that Justin Welch, 23, of Lufkin pleaded guilty to murder Monday in the April death of Elisha Henson, 30, of Pollok. A judge then sentenced Welch to 50 years in prison. His murder indictment says Welch killed Henson in a fit of rage because he was afraid she might have given him HIV. His attorney, Al Charanza Jr., said the plea deal was in Welch’s best interest. Charanza says his client “wanted the truth to come out.” A Lufkin woman accused of driving Welch to dump Henson’s body is awaiting trial on a murder charge.
LONGVIEW — Longview police officers say they’ve seen an increase in sex trafficking. KETK reports that in five weeks, Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch will open up in Kilgore. The center will provide a safe place for 130 women and children who have been victimized as well. Authorities say sex trafficking continues to be a big problem because individual situations are hard to identify. The Longview Police Department busted four sex trafficking cases in 2014.
ATHENS — On Monday, Robbie Glenn Smith, 66, formerly of Frankston, was sentenced in Athens to 40 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for continuous sexual assault of a child. According to KETK, Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee says Smith will never be eligible for parole because the 40 year sentence must be served day for day. Smith will be 106 when his sentence expires.… Read More
TYLER — On January 7, the Tyler Police Department completed distribution and training regarding all 135 recently-approved body cameras for the uniform officers within the department. According to a news release, officers have also been instructed on the policy concerning the proper use of the cameras. In November of 2014, the Tyler City Council approved the purchase of the devices to capture police and citizen interactions in full-sound and color videos. Taser International was awarded the bid for 135 body camera systems at a cost of $54,457.52. … Read More
WELLSTON, MO. (AP) – Students at an eastern Missouri high school will be offered 11 scholarships to honor Michael Brown, who graduated from the school days before he was shot to death by a Ferguson police officer. The scholarships were announced Monday at Normandy High School. They will pay for four years’ tuition at colleges and universities operated by three black Methodist denominations. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the scholarships will target students who want to go to college but might not have the chance. Brown’s parents were sitting with church leaders when the scholarships were announced. Their foundation, Michael Brown Chosen for Change, is partnering with the denominations to award scholarships to Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia; and Texas College in Tyler, Texas.
LONGVIEW – A Longview woman is arrested after she is said to have stabbed her boyfriend with a grilling fork. Sedalia Lashun Williams, 31, has been charged with aggravated assault/family violence. She remains in the Gregg County Jail on a bond of $20,000. The incident is said to have occurred during an argument over her being locked out of the residence.
LONGVIEW — Lane closures are underway as of Monday for the Magnolia Lane Widening Project between McCann and Judson Roads in Longview. The purpose of the project is to widen the section of road from two lanes to four lanes. Traffic will be limited to eastbound only from McCann to Judson. Westbound bound must use alternate routes. The closure will be effective through summer 2015. This project was approved by voters as part of the Capital Improvements Bond Election in May 2011. The project is being constructed by East Texas Bridge of Longview. If you have any questions related to construction, call the city’s project manager, Alton Bradley, at 903-237-1067.
SHREVEPORT, La. – Two men, including the son of two Smith County elected officials, are now behind bars following an investigation into an alleged sexual assault in Louisiana Sunday morning. KETK reports that just before 9:00 a.m. on January 11, Shreveport Police patrol officers were called to the 100 block of Lake St. on reports of an alleged sexual assault. In speaking with the victim, it was learned the woman was possibly assaulted by two men whom she met earlier while at a local hotel. Shreveport Police Sex Crimes detectives were called to the scene of the crime and an investigation was launched.
As authorities learned more details related to the accusations, two men at the hotel were taken into custody in connection with the assault. Detectives identified the men as Derek Phillips, 28, (pictured) and Spencer Pace, 28, both of Longview. Both suspects were taken to Shreveport Police headquarters where they were interviewed. Following the interrogation, both men were charged with a single count of simple rape. The men were booked into the Shreveport City Jail.
Derek Phillips is the son of Smith County Precinct 3 Commissioner Terry Phillips and Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips. He is a former Smith County deputy constable and resigned from the Hallsville police force about a month ago. This isnâ€™t Derek Phillipsâ€™s first run-in with the law. In 2009, he was investigated by the Texas Rangers for allegedly flashing a gun and badge at a party.
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Greg Neeley, 57, of Longview as justice of the Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals for a term to expire at the 2016 general election. Justice Sam Griffith announced plans last year to retire from the court. Neeley is an attorney in private practice. He is a past partner of Neeley and Blair LLP and Akin, Neeley and Mason LLP and past assistant district attorney for Gregg County. He is board certified in civil trial law and personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas. … Read More