RUSK — A preliminary finding on the cause of an October 14 fire that destroyed the Rusk-area Atoy Baptist Church, from the State Fire Marshal’s office, concludes that the nature of the fire will be listed as undetermined. According to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the state fire marshal said a heater used to warm the water in the baptistry may have been left on when the water was drained. Officials say the fire apparently started in the baptistry, traveled into the wall space of the baptistry, climbed into the attic space, and continued to spread further into the church.… Read the rest of the article…
GILMER — A former Gilmer volunteer firefighter has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child. According to the Longview News-Journal, an Upshur County jury returned a guilty verdict Thursday against Christopher Alan Ray, 39. Ray had been accused of sexually assaulting the child in 2010 when the child was 8 and he was 34. The child finally told authorities about the incident at age 14 after attempting to commit suicide. In addition to the 25-year prison sentence, Ray also must register as a sex offender. He must serve at least half of the prison sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
BIG SANDY (AP/STAFF) — Nearly a dozen freight cars derailed in Upshur County, including two tankers carrying sulfuric acid. None of the toxic cargo spilled. Big Sandy police say nobody was hurt in Thursday morning’s derailment involving a 115-car Union Pacific train. Authorities say 11 cars derailed, including some that overturned. Officer Noe De La Cruz says authorities are trying to determine what caused the derailment. Hazardous materials experts were at the scene as crews worked to clear the tracks. UP spokesman Jeff DeGraff says the train left Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and was bound for Fort Worth.
TYLER — Three drug fugitives from Smith County have been arrested in Mexico. The U.S. Marshals Service made the announcement Thursday. The three were identified as Dawn Rae Barron (pictured), James Mitchell Zachary, and Brandy Yvette Rucker. They were all arrested on Wednesday in San Jose Del Cabo. Since it was determined they were living in Mexico illegally, they could be deported back to the United States. Baron fled to Mexico in 2010 after bonding out of jail on a Tyler narcotics case. She had also been wanted since February 2011 by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office for failure to appear on a felony possession of a controlled Substance case. Zachary and Rucker, associates of Baron, were both wanted for felony possession of controlled substance warrants.
EAST TEXAS — Law officers in East Texas had quite a busy day Thursday. DEA officers have been working on a special investigation, and KETK reports multiple businesses were raided in connection with K2, a form of synthetic marijuana. No arrests were made, but the investigation is ongoing. Law enforcement wouldn’t say who all is involved, but at least two of the locations were Brianna’s Stop N Shop in Clarksville City and A&W Deli at Palace Avenue and Bow Street in Tyler. Officials say the people targeted are those bringing the substance into the country, those in charge of breaking it up and putting it into packages for sale, and the people who are distributing it. We’re told Thursday’s searches were successful, with product and proceeds collected.
EAST TEXAS — Extensive wildfire activity in Bastrop County is affecting more than just Central Texas residents. KETK reports East Texas agencies are receiving reports of smoke in the area due to the Hidden Pines Fire. On its Facebook page, the Henderson County Fire Marshal’s Office reports, “We have received a lot of calls due to the smoke throughout the county, this smoke is due to the Bastrop County fire. We are learning more information about this situation and will publish more information as we receive it.” The Van Zandt County Fire Marshal’s Office reports, “There has been a increasing number of 911 calls reporting smoke in the air in Van Zandt County. This smoke is coming from the large fire in Bastrop County down south…We will have periodic episodes of this smoke blowing across the County until our winds change to the north (Friday) afternoon. There is no need to panic.”
LONGVIEW — Longview police say it was two Longview residents who were arrested when they served a search warrant on Wednesday. Dahvonte Rashane Devine, 25, and Eric Charles Reese, 40, have been charged with the manufacturing/delivery of a controlled substance. They were arrested after the Gregg County Organized Drug Enforcement Unit and SWAT team served the warrant in the 400 block of Glover Drive. The search turned up methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and two guns. Both remain in the Gregg County Jail.
TYLER — Speculation has swirled around Brookshire Grocery Company after a report from Reuters said the business was exploring a sale of its stores, according to an anonymous source. Our news partner KETK has learned from a source close to the situation that the company looking to purchase the Tyler-based business is H.E. Butt Grocery Company. A spokesperson for Brookshire Grocery Company declined to comment. Representatives from H.E.B. have not yet responded to a request for comment. The report from Reuters on Wednesday said Brookshire’s supermarkets could be valued at as much as $1 billion. The grocery company was founded in 1928 in Tyler and has more than 150 stores under the brands of Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, and FRESH by Brookshire’s.… Read the rest of the article…
LONGVIEW — A preliminary autopsy report offers no clarity as to the cause of death of a 19-year-old Longview man who died after apparently falling from a car this past week. Aaron Jacolby Morrow was taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center on Oct. 8 after police said it appeared he fell while trying to exit a moving car. A preliminary autopsy released Wednesday listed the manner of death as pending, depending on toxicology results and further investigation. Police responded about 7:50 p.m. Oct. 8 to the incident in the 800 block of Young Street. Officers were told a green, older model Ford Crown Victoria was traveling west on Young Street. When the car turned to go north on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the driver lost control and the car struck the west side of a convenience store, damaging the building.
BIG SANDY (Staff/AP) — A train derailed around 4:45 Thursday morning in Big Sandy between Pearl and Tyler Streets. According to KETK, the train was carrying sulfuric acid. Hazmat crews are at the scene. Police say there are no leaks from the Union Pacific rail cars and no evacuations have been issued. Authorities are not certain what exactly caused the train to derail. Drivers are advised to avoid the area. 11 freight cars derailed, including some that overturned. Two tankers carrying the sulfuric acid were among those that derailed. Big Sandy police say nobody was hurt in the derailment involving a 115-car Union Pacific train. UP spokesman Jeff DeGraff says the train left Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and was bound for Fort Worth.
LONGVIEW — Longview police have released photos of a car that may have been involved in a fatal hit and run accident. Killed in the October 6th accident in the 1300 block of Mobberly Avenue was Kevin Gene Moore, 50, of Longview. Witnesses say the vehicle was a dark-colored 4-door sedan. They believe it is a 90s model Cadillac Fleetwood or Buick Roadmaster in a darker color. The vehicle may also have a silver strip running along the entire bottom portion of the car. The car in the photo, is not he vehicle, but it is similar to the suspected vehicle. Anyone with information on this case is asked to call Officer Mike Grisham at 903-239-5516.
LONGVIEW — Longview police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a robbery suspect. A surveillance camera filmed the suspect as he robbed the Family Dollar in the 2400 block of South High Street on September 26th. If you have information about the suspect, you are asked to contact Detective Yates at Yates at 903-237-1198.
TYLER — A Smith County jury has sentenced convicted murderer James Calvert to death for the slaying of his ex-wife. KETK reports the jury came to the decision in the nearly three-year-old case around 3:15 p.m. Wednesday in the court of Judge Jack Skeen. The guilty verdict was turned in October 1, and the punishment phase began October 5. … Read the rest of the article…
WOOD COUNTY — East Texas officials have found the body of a missing Wood County woman. According to KETK, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office says they found Maria Garcia, 60, in a pond near County Road 1730. She went missing after she was last seen walking down County Road 1726 in Yantis. Garcia was believed to have suffered from dementia, among other health-related issues. Her body has been sent for autopsy. No foul play is suspected at this time. Contact the Wood County Sheriff’s Office at 903-763-2201 with any information related to this case.
MARSHALL — Harrison County District Attorney Coke Solomon says there is a criminal investigation involving a Hallsville High School coach on administrative leave who recently resigned. That’s according to KETK and the Longview News-Journal. Solomon said his office forwarded a request for information about Dean McDaniel to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office for an opinion on whether to withhold the information because he believes releasing it could interfere with the investigation. In the letter, Solomon wrote that release of the information could “interfere with the detection, investigation and prosecution of a crime.”… Read the rest of the article…
TYLER — City of Tyler citizens should be aware there is a report of a Tyler Water Utilities (TWU) bill scam circulating the area. Officials say if you receive a call about your water bill being past due, do not share any personal or credit card information. This scam call may originate from a 903 area code and will ask citizens to pay their past due amount over the phone via credit card. Residents should note that TWU does not call customers to notify them of past due bills. The TWU final notice prior to disconnecting service is a letter with red text. Any credit card payments are originated by the customers online, via telephone or in person.
HOUSTON (AP/Staff) – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has lifted its reprieve that blocked the scheduled execution this past summer of a 54-year-old Whitehouse man condemned for strangling his mother nearly 12 years ago. Tracy Beatty was within two days of lethal injection set for Aug. 13 when the court halted the punishment as his attorneys argued he had deficient legal help at his 2004 trial and during earlier appeals. The court Wednesday dismissed their appeal, saying in a brief order that it did not comply with the law. Beatty was convicted of the 2003 death of 62-year-old Carolyn Click. Her body was found buried near her trailer home outside Tyler. When charged, the recently paroled Beatty already was in jail on auto theft and weapons charges.
GLADEWATER — The Gladewater Police Department has found a man who was reported missing on Monday. According to KETK, police announced Darrius Markeith Lewis, 38, was found Tuesday evening after not being seen since October 2. Police said Lewis had a “diminished capacity.” They’re extending their thanks to local residents for their help in the search.
TYLER — Smith County Fire Marshal Jay Brooks says he’s stepping down from his position on Friday to spend more time with his family. Brooks says he’ll have more freedom to do that when he takes a new job in IT and software with a Tyler-based corporation. Brooks tells KTBB he’s not yet ready to give more details about his new company or his duties there, but he does say his background is in IT and software engineering. He announced his impending departure on Tuesday.… Read the rest of the article…
NACOGDOCHES — A suspected East Texas bank robber was arrested some 30 minutes after the robbery of Texas Bank in Nacogdoches. Robert Lee Kobe, 46, of Kountz, has been charged with robbery and was also wanted by the United States Marshal Service for violation of federal parole. He is currently being held in the Nacogdoches County Jail. The robbery occurred shortly before 1:45 Tuesday afternoon. Kobe reportedly approached a teller, demanded money and then fled with an undisclosed amount of bills. A witness reported seeing a vehicle leave a nearby parking lot a short time after the robbery. A San Augustine police sergeant spotted the vehicle on State Highway 21. The officer pulled Kobe over and he offered no resistance.
PALESTINE — Following a lengthy executive session, the Palestine city council placed city manager Wendy Ellis on administrative leave for an undetermined amount of time. The reason for the action was not disclosed. In the mean time, police chief Mike Alexander will be filling the position on a temporary basis. In June, during a city council meeting, there was a lengthy executive session concerning Ellis’ continued employment. After meeting behind closed doors, the city council announced that Ellis would keep her job.
GILMER — State district judge Lauren Parish has rescinded the contempt of court order she filed Monday against Upshur County Treasurer Brandy Vick. The order was filed Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, Vick was taken into custody after she refused to move her chair across the Upshur County Justice Center while handing jurors their payment for service. According to the Longview News Journal, the state district court judge issued the order Monday for Vick to be taken to jail. She was not to be released from the jail until she appears before the court. Vick had set up next to Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter’s office inside the Upshur County Justice Center to pay jurors for service of the 115th District Court. Vick said she was asked to set up there by Sheriff Anthony Betterton, who, Vick said, had told her that was the safest location in the building. But, when she refused to move, the judge found her in contempt.
TYLER — A Department of Public Safety Trooper killed in the line of duty has been honored in Tyler. Trooper Daniel Higdon was killed in 1983 after being crushed between two tractor trailers while conducting a traffic stop in Smith County. He and another trooper had pulled over two tractor trailers for traffic violations. As Trooper Higdon and one of the truck drivers stood between the two trucks one of them rolled back, crushing both men between the trucks. The DPS honors first responders that have made the ultimate sacrifice with handmade wood memorials, usually a chair, that is placed at the agency of that responder. Higdon was honored Tuesday with such a chair at the Tyler District office.
EAST TEXAS — I-20 repair work in Smith County wrapped up Tuesday afternoon and moved to Gregg County today. Motorists are reminded to slow down and use caution when traveling through these moving I-20 work zones, according to a TxDOT news release. Today’s work requires closing the eastbound outside lane at Mile Marker 593-594 for concrete repair work. Expect the lane closures to be in place till 7 p.m., which could mean delays for drivers. You’re also advised to look for electronic signage and personnel to guide traffic through this work zone while the roadway lanes are restricted. Law enforcement also has a presence in these I-20 work zones.
TYLER — The former wife of an ex-Whitehouse police officer has sued the city of Whitehouse and the town’s former police chief. KETK reports Jessica Johnson filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court of East Texas on October 9. Court documents reveal Johnson claims the defendants violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by violating her privacy and her right to be free of sexual assault. Johnson said then-Police Chief Craig Shelton assaulted her at her home on May 14 when she was separated from her husband, an officer on the police force. Shelton was indicted on an assault charge, but the charge was later dropped after Johnson admitted lying to a grand jury. The former police chief resigned from his position not long after the charge was dismissed. … Read the rest of the article…
LONGVIEW — Longview Police arrested two people in a drug raid Monday morning. KETK reports police took into custody Octavio Nigel Hollis, 38, of Longview, for manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Officers also arrested Ashley Nichole Britt. 25, of Longview, for manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance. At 10:19 a.m., officers and the CODE Unit served a search warrant on West Pliler Street. Authorities seized suspected cocaine and marijuana and found a gun under the cushion of a couch. Both suspects remain in the Gregg County Jail.
TYLER — As of Oct. 13, the City of Tyler will offer yet another way to access City Council meeting agendas digitally, according to a news release. Citizens will now be able to access the agenda from their smart phones or tablets by simply scanning a unique QR code posted at the entrance of the meeting. Officials say it’s about cutting costs and being environmentally aware. Chief Information Officer Benny Yazdanpanahi says further innovations of this type are coming soon, starting with digital agendas for Planning and Zoning meetings. To access the agenda using a QR code, simply download a code scanner app on a smart device, snap a photo of the agenda’s code, and you will be directed to the agenda online. For more information, contact Yazdanpanahi at email@example.com or (903) 531-1122.
TYLER — The Smith County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to implement a burn ban in the county. Fire Marshal Jay Brooks recommended the burn ban, according to a news release. He said the county has been lucky that it hasn’t had any large fires with no rain in the last several weeks. But since dry air began moving from the Northwest today, coupled with low humidity and wind, he said it was a good time to enforce a burn ban. Brooks said the KBI Index is at 734, and weather conditions were taken into account when deciding whether to recommend a burn ban. Brooks expects the dry air, wind and low humidity to continue throughout next week and possibly throughout the fall season. … Read the rest of the article…