Category: Local News Archive

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Man Pleads Guilty to Possessing Short Barrel Shotgun

Federal Courthouse-ATYLER — A Van Zandt County man man has pleaded guilty to possessing a short barrel shotgun. Michael Jack Callaway, 36, of Wills Point, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. Magistrate Judith Guthrie’s court. He is facing up to ten years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine. A sentencing hearing date has not been set.

A federal grand jury indicted Callaway for the offense last November. He admitted that on August 22, 2012, members of the Van Zandt County Drug Task Force found a short barrel shotgun among numerous rifles, pistols, and shotguns, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition, during the execution of a search warrant at his residence. Callaway must forfeit the seized weapons and ammunition to the United States Attorney’s Office.

Fort Worth Man Sentenced for Drug Trafficking

TYLER — A 39-year-old Fort Worth, Texas man has been sentenced In Tyler federal court to 51 months in prison for drug trafficking violations. Ray Lee Ransom pleaded guilty on April 20, 2012 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hydrocodone, alprazolam and promethazine with codeine. Ransom was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider.

Federal prosecutors say from May, 2009 through 2011, Ransom conspired with others to purchase and distribute drugs. Ransom and his co-conspirators purchased these controlled substances at numerous pharmacies in cities located throughout the Eastern District of Texas and in other locations, utilizing fraudulent prescriptions. A federal grand jury returned an indictment on November 2, 2011, charging 5 individuals, including Ransom, with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute the drugs. All of the co-defendants have been sentenced.

Man Pleads Guilty to Being Felon in Possession of Firearm

TYLER — A 34 year old Fairfield man has pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Victor Vasquez pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. Magistrate Judith Guthrie’s court. He is facing up to ten years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

Vasquez admitted that on April 4, 2012 he was stopped by a police officer in Rusk for speeding. During the course of the stop, the officer determined that Vasquez had been drinking alcoholic beverages and Vasquez was arrested for DWI. Following the arrest, the officer inventoried Vasquez’s vehicle and found a 7.62×39 mm, semi-automatic rifle and ammunition for the rifle. The next day, a Rusk detective determined that Vasquez had a prior felony conviction in Kansas for Attempted Aggravated Burglary. A search warrant for Vasquez’s vehicle led to the discovery of a short-barrel, 12 gauge shotgun and a dozen 12 gauge shotgun shells under the back seat. Vasquez must forfeit the seized weapons and ammunition.

Tyler Power Outages Reported

electrical distribution2TYLER — For some 700 Tyler residents, power was out for a while yesterday. KETK reported the outage was near Loop 323 and West Gentry Pkwy. A blown transformer is believed to be the reason behind the outage.

Spring Break Traffic Enforcement in Longview

thumb_police-longview-shieldLONGVIEW — Spring Break for most area schools and colleges is next week. The Longview Police Department would like to warn motorists that police will be increasing traffic patrols during the Spring Break week in an effort to increase traffic safety during this high traffic period.

Additional enforcement will be accomplished using off-duty officers funded by the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant awarded to the Longview PD by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). The grant runs from October 1, 2012 – September 30, 2013. The grant allows the use of off-duty police officers to perform additional traffic enforcement. Officers working STEP will be looking for drunk drivers as well as those drivers committing speed and seatbelt violations. On-duty Traffic Officers will be focusing on these and any other moving violations they observe.

Seven Arrested in East Texas Drug Sting

old_tyler_rdNACOGDOCHES — Nacogdoches Police arrest 7 people this evening after a drug bust. The Nacogdoches County Sheriff office released a search warrant in the 2700 block of Old Tyler Road. According to KETK, Sheriff Jason Bridges stated that he had received several complaints from citizens in the area of ongoing drug activity. The investigation took place at three locations that were believed to be distributing crack cocaine. Deputies conducted several undercover purchases of crack cocaine from that area. A search turned up crack cocaine, digital scales, currency and drug paraphernalia. The suspects were booked into the Nacogdoches County Jail.

Monthly City Sales Tax Figures Grow Eight Percent

thumb_MarkMcDanielTYLER — Tyler’s sales tax revenues deposited for the month of March have grown 8.08% as compared to March 2012. The Texas Comptroller reports this has resulted in a cumulative year-do-date increase of 3.33%. The reported revenue of $2,776,953 comprises $1,851,302 general sales tax revenue and $925,651 half-cent sales tax revenue. The figures represent receipts from January 2012 collections as there is a two-month lag before taxes are reported and remitted back to the City from the State.

“We are pleased to see an increase in our sales tax revenue after experiencing very slow growth the last few months,” said City Manager Mark McDaniel (pictured). “At this point we do not have enough detailed information to determine which sectors of industry subject to sales and use tax might be up, since the comptroller only reports recent information in the aggregate. More detailed information will be available in approximately three to four weeks.”

Tyler Man Arrested for Burglary

Richard Kelly MooreTYLER — Two Tyler motorcycle officers have arrested a suspect in the burglary of the Army Navy Store in the 1200 block of the South Southeast Loop. The officers were riding by the store around 8:45 Wednesday night when they heard a burglar alarm. They found a large hole that had been cut into the back of the building.

As they were waiting for additional officers, they saw a man wearing black clothing exit the woods north of the building and cross the loop. As they detained the suspect he is said to have told them he had broken into the building. They found in possession of a pair of gloves and a flashlight stolen from the business as well as a small axe that had been used to cut through the wall.

The suspect was identified as Richard Kelly Moore, 20. He was transported to East Texas Medical Center for treatment of an unrelated cut on his leg and then booked into the Smith County Jail for Burglary of a building.

Search Continues for “Loan Ranger” Bandit

lone ranger banditUNDATED — The FBI and police in three states are continuing to seek a serial armed bank robber dubbed the “Loan Ranger Bandit.” The suspect is deemed responsible for ten robberies in Tyler and elsewhere in the state, along with Arkansas and Mississippi, from January 2009 till October 2012. The suspect allegedly robbed two Tyler institutions: Altra Federal Credit Union, 5523 Troup Highway, on August 31, 2011; and BBVA Compass 6910 South Broadway Ave., on May 17, 2012. During the robberies, the armed man, who does not attempt to disguise his face, displayed a note demanding 20s, 50s and 100s and received an undisclosed amount of money. To date, no one has been physically harmed, according to KETK.

The robber is described as a white male in his early 30s, approximately 5’7” to 6’0” tall, approximately 200 pounds, with a medium build. He has short light brown hair, wears glasses, and has a small mole or mark just above his right eye on the lower part of his forehead. His varied clothing styles have included athletic wear, jeans, and business attire. He was dubbed the “Loan Ranger Bandit” for the blue Texas Rangers baseball cap he has worn while robbing banking institutions where loans are offered. The suspect may drive a maroon Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with a thin white pinstripe around the truck bed.

The suspect is considered armed and dangerous. If you have any information concerning this case, you’re asked to submit a tip online at: or call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Man Pulled from Vehicle after Crashing into Tyler Bank

bank_pin_inTYLER — A man has been pulled from a vehicle and taken to a local hospital after crashing into a Tyler bank, according to authorities. The extent of his injuries is unknown at this time. The SUV crashed into the Citizens First Bank on the 2000 block of ESE Loop 323. The call came in just after 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Tyler Fire officials tell KETK the wreck happened in the drive thru area of the bank.

Two Injured in Smith County Shooting; Suspect’s Name Released

richard_hunt_mugARP — Smith County Sheriff’s authorities say the alleged shooter’s name in an Arp-area incident is Richard Lee Hunt. He was booked into the Smith County Jail Wednesday morning. According to authorities, Hunt was treated and released from a local hospital. The other man is still in the hospital in critical condition. Hunt allegedly shot him in the neck and chest, then reportedly shot himself accidentally in the leg. The incident happened shortly after 6:15 Tuesday night off State Highway 135. The investigation into the incident continues.

Victim Reportedly Recorded Pastor Accused of Sexual Assault

5136d3b675ee0.imageKILGORE — A Kilgore pastor arrested Monday and charged with sexually assaulting a child was reportedly recorded by his victim warning the boy to “cover for each other” in weeks leading to the arrest. According to KETK, the criminal complaint described acts that police said Glenn Douglas Barton, 62, pastor of Calvary Way Church, committed against a child starting in 2009. On February 21, the victim told workers at the Rusk County Children’s Advocacy Center that the assaults started with the pastor fondling the boy and placing his hands in the child’s pants, according to the complaint. After that, the victim stated Barton forced him to perform sex acts on regular occasions. Barton was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a felony offense, and was held Tuesday on $50,000 bond. Kilgore police spokesman Capt. Roman Roberson said there is no indication more than one child was involved in the assault. According to the church’s website, Barton is the senior pastor and has been with the church since 1999.

Group Denied Booth at Festival, Will Set Up Nearby

palestinecivilwarPALESTINE — Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have decided to set up their own booth nearby after being denied participation in the Palestine Dogwood Trails Festival later this month. A member of the group tells KETK the booth will be separate from those participating in the festival, a couple of blocks down from the actual event. The booth will be in a new plaza, which the group plans to dedicate in April.

The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce informed the SCV’s John H. Reagan Camp #2156 of its decision on Monday. According to a statement from the Chamber, “The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce is FOR building a stronger community. Our volunteers spend countless hours doing so. It is not in the community’s best interest to allow politically divisive groups to participate in the Dogwood Trails parade or to be a vendor at the Festival. We are charged with the responsibility to operate on behalf of the city of Palestine.”

Members of the SCV group said they were confused by the Chamber’s decision. They say they’re not meant to be “politically divisive.” According to one member, “We are a historical group. We’ve participated in past events without any problem.” One person speaking on behalf of the group says, “There is a lot of misconception out there. We just want to promote historical accuracy and act as educators in the community.” But members add that they’re not looking for a fight. The decision on where to set up the booth was made at a meeting Tuesday evening.

Community Development Block Grant Public Hearings

thumb_cityoftylerTYLER — The City of Tyler will be receiving approximately $870,476 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and approximately $313,627 in HOME Program funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2013. That’s according to information released by the city on Wednesday.

Officials say as allowed by federal regulations, the City will consider allocating a portion of its annual CDBG funds to assist non-profit organizations that provide health and human services. CDBG Public Service Funds may be used for operating costs for a wide variety of public services that benefit low-income citizens or special need populations, including, but not limited to, child care, health care, job training, recreation programs, education programs, public safety services, fair housing activities, services for elderly, homeless, or disabled persons, and drug abuse counseling and treatment. HOME Program funds are available to address affordable housing needs.

Information regarding the eligible uses of the funds and technical assistance to complete the grant applications will be provided. The workshops/public hearings will be held on the following dates:
For CDBG Funds Only
Date: March 14, 2013
Time: 10:30am
Where: City University, 212 N. Bonner Ave.
For HOME Funds Only
Date: March 15, 2013
Time: 2:00pm
Where: City University, 212 N. Bonner Ave.
Officials say the public is encouraged to attend and offer comment regarding the use of these funds.

Non-profit organizations that wish to apply for these funds must attend the appropriate mandatory workshop in order to receive an application and apply for this funding. It is highly encouraged that the person(s) writing the grant and a board member attend this workshop. Applications submitted by organizations that do not attend this workshop will not be accepted by the City of Tyler. Written comments regarding the use of these funds should be sent to Brenda Johnson, Neighborhood Services Department, City of Tyler, 900 W. Gentry Pkwy., Tyler, Texas 75702. Written responses will be provided if a name and return address are included.

All public hearings are held in facilities that are wheelchair accessible and provide handicapped parking. Interpretive services for deaf or non-English speaking citizens will be available with an advance notice of 48 hours. Arrangements for such services can be made by calling the City of Tyler at (903) 531-1303 or TDD at 1-800-735-2989.

U-T Professor Receives Award

Andrea D. EllingerTYLER — Dr. Andrea D. Ellinger of the University of Texas at Tyler has received the Academy of Human Resource Development’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Ellinger is a professor of HRD within the UT Tyler Department Human Resource Development and Technology. The award was presented to Ellinger at the 2013 AHRD Conference in Arlington, Va. and recognizes outstanding scholars who have demonstrated a continuing record of scholarly productivity and influence in the profession.

“Dr. Ellinger is an excellent example of the high quality faculty in our HRD program. She is continuously involved with research, publishing, teaching and educating others about the human resource development field,” said Dr. Harold Doty, The University of Texas at Tyler College of Business and Technology dean. She holds a Ph.D. in adult education with a functional concentration in human resource and organization development from the University of Georgia.

Before coming to UT Tyler, Ellinger served on the faculty at Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has published in more than 30 refereed journal articles and written numerous book chapters. She has also presented her research at conferences around the world. Among other awards and honors for her research, teaching and service, Ellinger has received the 1998 Malcolm S. Knowles Dissertation of the Year, the 2009 Emerald Literati Award and the 2003 and 2005 Richard A. Swanson Excellence Award, presented by the AHRD.

Currently, she is editor of the journal, “Human Resource Development Quarterly,” the co-editor of a book series that addresses innovations in adult learning and a member of several editorial boards in the HRD field.

TISD Announces Proposal for Stewart Campus

thumb_TISD_Logo_NewTYLER — Tyler ISD officials said Tuesday that if the May bond issue passes, they will work toward creating a new high school on the current Stewart Middle School campus. The school would be called A.T. Stewart Academy of Excellence. The academy would offer several different programs in college readiness, job readiness, math, technology, fine arts, language arts, mentoring, and science. The facility would be designed for what TISD calls “21st century learning” to help students thrive in college and the workforce, “carrying forward the legacy of excellence of Rev. A.T. Stewart,” for whom the school is named. Students would have to apply to be accepted to the school, and any student who graduates will get a diploma. School officials tell KETK that everyone will be encouraged to apply.

If the bond passes, the board would take two years to plan, design, and get community input on the project. During that time, students would stay at Stewart Middle School. If and when the new academy is built, students from Stewart would split and attend two different middle schools. “Stewart students who live south of Highway 31 will have option to attend a new middle school in the southwest quadrant of Tyler,” said TISD Superintendent Gary Mooring. “Students living north of Highway 31 would attend new Boulter Middle School.” Board members say a rumor about the Plyler Alternative School moving to the old Stewart Middle School is not true.

The new academy would be in addition to the Career and Technology Center, which is based more toward gaining skills to enter the workforce. The board says it would envision about 400 to 500 students at the new high school eventually. They are also considering adding extra curricular activities for those students if in fact this bond goes through.

A number of people in the neighborhood surrounding Stewart have expressed concern about plans to repurpose the school. Officials noted that the whole proposal would be subject to court approval. The also said the renovation and repurposing of Stewart would not require any additional funding on top of the bond proposal.

Dozens Laid Off by Trinity Mother Frances

thumb_MotherFrances-sign-2TYLER — Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics eliminated approximately 80 positions on Tuesday. The story was reported late Tuesday afternoon by KETK. “Trinity Mother Frances has a distinguished 75 year history. As we plan for our future service to the greater East Texas community, we will continue to place our emphasis on ensuring the highest standard of patient safety and providing the best and most compassionate patient care,” said Lindsey Bradley, President & CEO. “As the health care sector changes, so must we change to address the needs of today and tomorrow.”

“Our strategy is not just about cost-reduction; it is about positioning Trinity Mother Frances to grow in the ever changing health care market,” Bradley said. “I believe this is the best way for us to continue our commitment to serving the health care needs of people of East Texas.” Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Darin Szilagyi added, “It is not lost on anyone inside Trinity Mother Frances that we are impacting the lives of our staff.”

Execution Date Set for East Texas Murderer

Richard CobbEAST TEXAS — An execution date has been set for an East Texas man convicted of sexual assault, kidnapping and murder. According to KETK, Richard Cobb will be put to death April 25th. Cobb was convicted of killing Kenneth Vandever, 37, and kidnapping two women from a store in Rusk. One of the women was raped and all three were shot. Cobb’s accomplice, Beunka Adams, was executed last April.

Reward Offered for Arrest of Sexual Abuse Suspect

RUSK COUNTY — Rusk County authorities are searching for a man wanted for indecency with a child. Linden Hughes, 48, is wanted on several charges of indecency with a child, as well as burglary of a building. According to KETK, Hughes is 5’7 and weighs about 175. A $2,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest.

TJC, Wesley Foundation Announce Creation of Wesley House

thumb_tjc-signTYLER — Beginning with the Fall 2013 semester, students at Tyler Junior College will have the opportunity to live on campus in a residence hall operated by the United Methodist Church. The partnership between TJC and the Methodist campus ministry, TJC Wesley Foundation, was announced Tuesday. The Wesley Foundation sold its Baxter Avenue building to the college and signed a 30-year lease for a residence hall on Lake Street. The hall, currently known as West Hall, will become Wesley House and will accommodate about 40 students and be managed by the Wesley Foundation. The name Wesley House was selected in honor of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement.

“This is an exciting day for campus ministry at TJC,” said Rev. Sunny Farley, director of the Wesley Foundation. “We look forward to building a vibrant student community in the heart of campus.” The Wesley Foundation feeds students a free lunch every Tuesday and offers a variety of programs which will be open to all students, whether they live in Wesley House or not. Housing will be open to all students regardless of religious affiliation. “We will run Wesley House as Christians with a love for all people and a desire to serve God by serving others,” Farley said.

The Wesley Foundation has had a presence on campus at TJC since the college opened in 1926. The campus ministry and student organization has been in the Baxter Avenue building for more than 50 years. TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said the lease agreement will add to the college’s vibrant campus life and attract students who desire a nurturing living environment. Metke remarked, “The Wesley Foundation has done a great job serving students of TJC for many years. This new partnership will attract more students from East Texas and beyond, to live in a safe and caring educational environment.”

Dr. Metke said the College’s campus civility task force has worked with Campus Police to improve campus safety, civility and hospitality, and the addition of Wesley House is another step toward ensuring a pleasant learning and living atmosphere. The Wesley Foundation plans on making renovations to the facility, to include improvements to the resident rooms and the addition of offices and a large gathering space. For more information about Wesley House, visit or look for “Wesley House” on Facebook.

State Dept. Has No Major Objections to Keystone Pipeline

thumb_Keystone-Pipeline-map2WASHINGTON, D.C. — Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline continues. The State Department raised no major objections to the oil pipeline and said other options to get the oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change. The latest environmental review stops short of recommending whether the project should be approved. The report makes it clear that other methods to transport the oil, including rail, trucks and barges, also pose a risk to the environment. The pipeline’s route carries it through eastern Smith County.

Small Brewers Seek to Expand Market in Texas

thumb_Kevin_Eltife_2AUSTIN (AP) – Craft beer brewers are asking Texas lawmakers to expand the market for their products, and State Sen. Kevin Eltife of Tyler is part of the picture. Owners of brewpubs and small breweries made their case Tuesday to the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. In a recent report, an industry trade group counted 37 breweries and 41 brewpubs in the state. They say the state’s current alcoholic beverage laws give an unfair advantage to big national distributors. Eltife has filed bills that would let small breweries sell beer during tours and let brewpubs sell their beer in retail stores. A lobbyist for the trade group Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas spoke in favor of a rival bill. Republican John Carona of Dallas, the committee chairman, told the parties to work out a deal by next Monday.

Outdoor Burning Advisory Issued for Smith County

SMITH COUNTY — An outdoor burning advisory has been issued in Smith County today due to high winds. Windy weather increases the risk of fires to become out of control. Though outdoor burning is not prohibited today, it is not recommended — and officials say if you do decide to burn outdoors, use extreme caution. You may call the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office at 903-590-2652 for more information.

Texans Killed in New Mexico Plane Crash Identified

FAAANGEL FIRE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say four people from Texas were killed when their single-engine airplane crashed during takeoff at an airport in northern New Mexico. It happened Sunday 150 miles northeast of Albuquerque in the community of Angel Fire. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

New Mexico State Police identify the pilot as John Phillip Verhalen III, 33. Also killed were his sister, Sara Verhalen, 41, and her daughter, Chloe Marie Jameson, 13. The fourth victim is identified as the pilot’s girlfriend, Jennifer Woodward, 26. John and Sara Verhalen were formerly of Marshall. John was living in San Antonio and Sara resided in Dallas. The FAA says the plane was owned by a company in Scottsville, Texas, which is in Harrison County.

Kilgore Pastor Charged with Sexual Assault of a Child

KILGORE — A Kilgore minister has been arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. Arrested around 3:30 Monday afternoon in the 100 block of Woodlawn Street was Glenn Douglas Barton, 62. He is Senior Pastor at Calvary Way Church at 106 Woodlawn Street in Kilgore. KETK reports the investigation began a couple of weeks ago after Kilgore police received a report alleging Barton had sexually assaulted a child between the years 2009 and 2013. The investigation has so far turned up no other alleged victims, but the investigation is continuing.

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