Category: Local News Archive

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Panola County Felon Sentenced for Firearms Violations

TYLER — A Carthage man has been sentenced to federal prison for firearms violations. Kevie Lenn Johnson, 45, pleaded guilty on June 14, 2012 to possession of a stolen firearm. Yesterday, he was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis.

According to information presented in court, on January 26, 2012, Johnson took a .22 caliber rifle from a Carthage residence without consent of the owner. Further investigation revealed Johnson was a convicted felon, having previously been found guilty of multiple felony crimes including possession of crack cocaine, burglary of a habitation, and robbery. Federal law prohibits the possession of stolen firearms and further prohibits convicted felons from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 1, 2012 and charged with federal firearms violations.

Longview Restaurant Goes Up in Flames

uncsLONGVIEW — A Longview restaurant has been destroyed by a fire. Unc’s BBQ, located on the 2300 block of Highway 80, was reported ablaze shortly after 1:00 Wednesday morning. When firefighters made it to the scene, flames were shooting from the roof area. The Longview and White Oak Fire Departments began an “interior attack” on the fire, but were eventually pushed outside after the roof caved, according to White Oak fire officials. The fire marshal is investigating the cause of the blaze. A preliminary investigation shows the fire originating from the attic. Some of the eatery’s equipment was able to be salvaged.

Tyler Area Chamber Holds Business Expo

thumb_tyler_chamber_commerce_logoTYLER — 200 exhibitors display their wares and mingle with visitors at the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Expo. It’s going on today till 5:00pm at Harvey Convention Center. The event is free to the public and draws large crowds every year. Organizers say it raises awareness of local businesses while also offering visitors an opportunity to network with one another.

Two Plead Guilty to Nacogdoches Murder

Randy Lee EllinwoodNACOGDOCHES — Two guilty pleas in a Nacogdoches murder case on Tuesday. KETK reports 31-year-old Randy Lee Ellinwood (pictured) has pleaded guilty to the murder of Joseph Thibodeaux in April of last year. 27-year-old Erin Belz also pleaded guilty to the murder. Authorities say the two allegedly beat Thibodeaux outside of Belz’s house in Nacogdoches and left him to die in the back seat of his own truck. Thibodeaux was later found dead, parked in front of a drug store.

Dallas County Man Sentenced for East Texas Meth Conspiracy

Harold DickensTYLER — A Mesquite man has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking violations. Harold Dickens, 43, pleaded guilty on March 19, 2012, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was was sentenced yesterday to 210 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis.

Prosecutors say up until May of 2011, Dickens conspired with others to acquire methamphetamine for distribution in East Texas. Dickens admitted that he was responsible for the distribution of more than 150 grams of pure methamphetamine in the Eastern District of Texas. Dickens and six others were indicted on November 2, 2011 and charged with drug trafficking offenses. Matthew Dean Willis was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on June 12, 2012. David Christopher Wheeler and Raelene Dawn Ferguson were each sentenced to 46 months in federal prison on July 16, 2012. Terri Rhea Young was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison on July 23, 2012. One additional co-defendant is awaiting sentencing.

Smith County Jail Inspection Yields High Marks

Smith County Jail-SideTYLER — Smith County was awarded a certificate of compliance for receiving high marks in cleanliness and safety during its annual inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Officials say the inspection was held on December 18. According to a county news release, Smith County passed its surprise inspection without any deficiencies in the more than 650 compliance areas checked. Those included cell cleanliness, secure lock systems, proper medical screening of prisoners, proper staff training, adequate shower and toilet facilities, and sanitary food preparation within the jail system.

“We are very proud to receive such a positive report. These results are a clear indication of how former Sheriff J.B. Smith left the department,” County Judge Joel Baker said. Judge Baker added that Smith County’s record of positive inspections is notable because it has been done with the added burden of transporting inmates in and out of the county due to overcrowding. The executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Brandon Wood, said the certificate represents the outstanding leadership of the staff in complying with minimal jail standards.

According to the news release, newly elected Sheriff Larry Smith praised the hard work of the previous administration and said he looked forward to carrying on the tradition of excellence that has been established. “I look forward to working with the Commissioners Court and County officials to continue the superb work they have done to keep the Smith County jail running smooth and in compliance,” said Sheriff Smith.

Former AP Fashion Editor Dies at 91

Nadeane Walker AndersonAUSTIN (AP/Staff) – Former Associated Press fashion editor and foreign correspondent Nadeane Walker Anderson has died. Anderson, a native of East Texas, was 91. Anderson’s daughter said Tuesday her mother, who used her maiden name Nadeane Walker as her byline, died Monday in Austin. Anderson became AP’s European fashion editor in 1947, shortly after marrying AP correspondent Godfrey Anderson in Paris. She interviewed some of the biggest names in fashion at the time, including Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. Yves Lanvin even named a dress after her. Born in Canton, Anderson worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after graduating from North Texas Teacher’s College in 1942. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Corp and joined The Stars and Stripes newspaper in Paris in 1945. She also worked for the International Herald Tribune and the Dallas Times Herald.

Longview Man Charged in UT Southwestern Garage Slaying

Ferdinand Glen SmithDALLAS (AP/Staff) – Dallas police have charged a Longview man with murder in the fatal shooting of a University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center employee in a campus parking garage. Police on Wednesday arrested 41-year-old Ferdinand Glen Smith. The case involves Tuesday night’s attack on 40-year-old Karen Smith, who was an executive assistant at UT Southwestern. Online jail records also indicate Ferdinand Smith faces a charge of assault-family violence. Police did not immediately confirm any possible relationship between the Smiths. A UT Southwestern official described the slaying as an apparent isolated domestic incident. No bond was immediately set for Smith. Online jail records did not list an attorney for him.

City Council Votes For New Convention Center

TYLER — The Tyler City Council approved several items on the agenda at Liberty Hall Wednesday morning, including moving forward with a planned convention center. According to KETK, members approved changing the name of their comprehensive plan from Tyler 21 to Tyler 1st. They also launched a new city website, which is said to be more user friendly and interactive. The council unanimously passed a contract with Garfield Traub Development LLC to bring a new convention center to Tyler. They will now move into a pre-development phase, including document negotiations and construction.

Other items passed were: new traffic signals on Front St. and Broadway as part of the “Revitalize downtown” initiative. Speed limit change on Earl Campbell parkway from 30 MPH to 45 MPH. And reduce speed limit to 25 mph and add a new school zone on Shiloh Road near Cumberland Academy.

Also, City Manager Mark McDaniel announced several organizational changes. Keidric Trimble has been appointed chief financial officer (CFO). The position was vacant after the retirement of Daniel Crawford in May 2012; Trimble has been serving as acting CFO since Crawford’s retirement. Susan Guthrie has been appointed assistant city manager. Guthrie has worked for the City of Tyler for five years, most recently as the managing director of external relations. And Russ Jackson has been appointed manager of the Solid Waste and Vehicle Services Departments due to the impending retirement of Dan Brotton. Jackson has been with the City of Tyler since 1986.

State Agency Employee Accused Of ID Theft

Selena PatinoMOUNT PLEASANT — A Mount Pleasant woman accused of stealing hundreds of identities while working at the Texas Department of Health and Human Services has been arrested. According to the Longview News-Journal, Selena Patino, 38, was arrested at her home and charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information and credit card abuse.

Patino worked at the state agency in Mount Pleasant, where authorities said she stole the identity of clients who came to get vaccinations. Authorities said Patino used the client information and stolen or copied credit cards to apply for new credit cards — which she then maxed out. Titus County sheriff’s deputies said they began looking for Patino after they received multiple complaints from county residents during the first week of 2013.

Woman Injured In Tyler House Fire

chilton street fireTYLER — A woman has been hospitalized after her house caught on fire. It happened Tuesday night just after 10:00 along the 1600 block of Chilton Avenue. According to KETK, flames are said to have started in a bedroom. The first floor of the two story home was destroyed. One woman was burned and taken to a local hospital.

Athens Man Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Federal Courthouse-ATYLER — A Henderson County man has pleaded guilty in Tyler federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Frankie Darrell Durant, 50, of Athens, pleaded guilty Tuesday during a hearing before United States Magistrate Judith K. Guthrie. Durant was indicted by a federal grand jury on a 1 count indictment on September 12th.

According to federal prosecutors, on or about July 26, 2011, Durant possessed three firearms in Smith County. The firearms were located in a storage room that that he rented. Durant also admitted that the he previously had been convicted of possession of a controlled substance, a felony offense, in 2007. Durant faces no more than 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a term of not more than 3 years of supervised release. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

Beer and Wine Now Available in Three Bullard Stores

BULLARD — A portion of the city of Bullard now has beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption. KETK reports three businesses in Smith County Justice Precinct 2′s portion of the city got their licenses. Justice Precinct 2 and the city of Tyler approved beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption in the November election. .

Man Indicted in Death of Beloved Jacksonville “Coach”

moslyJACKSONVILLE— The man accused of killing a beloved Jacksonville coach has been indicted on a capital murder charge by the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office. KETK reports Jimmy Deshawn Mosley turned himself in on October 20, 2012. He is believed to have shot and killed “Coach” Stacey Hunter, 43, outside Stacey’s Club around 4:00 that morning. The alleged shooter was indicted on December 17. Authorities found Hunter dead inside the club, shot twice in the arm and chest. No other court dates have been set at this time for Mosley.

Hunter grew up in Jacksonville, playing for the Tribe football team in the 80s. Since then, he coached kids in everything from Pop Warner to Little Dribblers to little league baseball. Coach worked for Jacksonville Public Works for about 20 years, most recently as a code enforcement officer.

Straus: “Bold, Substantial” Action on Water Needed

Joe StrausAUSTIN (AP/Staff) – After overcoming a challenge from an East Texan, House Speaker Joe Straus (pictured) has started his third term in the powerful post by calling public education the priority of the new Texas Legislature. Straus also said Tuesday that lawmakers must take “bold, substantial action” in the next 140 days to address a mounting water crisis in the face of a rapidly growing population. Straus won re-election unopposed Tuesday after tea party favorite David Simpson of Longview withdrew his speaker candidacy during a defiant 10-minute speech to a packed House floor before bowing out. Simpson told lawmakers the House should operate without a “fear of retribution” from leaders in the chamber.

Straus is presiding over the most inexperienced House chamber in four decades. More than a quarter of the 150-member body are freshmen. One of those freshmen, Republican Matt Schaefer of Tyler, remarked, “If Rep. Simpson had been on the ballot, I would have voted for him. He pursued my vote with zeal, and I was persuaded by Rep. Simpson’s strength of character, conservative philosophy, and fresh ideas.” But in a statement, Schaefer continued, “The will of the House has been exercised and it is now time to move on, work together, and do the people’s business. I truly believe that Speaker Straus listened to the concerns raised by Rep. Simpson and those that supported him, and it is my hope that he will take those concerns to heart as we move forward.”

Jury Set for Trial in Gregg County Jail Inmate Death

MARSHALL — Two longtime teachers, a janitor, and a self-described housewife were among eight people selected Monday to decide whether Gregg County is to blame for the 2010 death of a jail inmate. KETK and the Longview News-Journal report the federal jury panel is to begin hearing evidence Jan. 22 in the wrongful death suit brought by the children and mother of Amy Lynn Cowling. U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap of Marshall sent the five-woman, three-man jury home Monday with strict instructions not to discuss their assignment, including on social media. Gilstrap said he expected the trial to run for about five days.

Cowling was 33 when she was brought to the Gregg County Jail Christmas Eve, after a traffic stop revealed two out-of-county misdemeanor theft warrants and some unpaid tickets. She died in a separation cell Dec. 28. Defense attorney Robert Davis told the panel during selection process that Cowling’s cause of death was “…a product of having abused drugs for years.”

A recovering opiate addict of seven years, Cowling was under a methadone regimen prescribed by a drug-addiction clinic in Tyler. She also was taking prescription medications. Those drugs, including the methadone, are not on the list of approved medications allowed by jail policy. Cowling’s family says the seizures and inability to communicate into which she lapsed were the result of withdrawal from her prescribed medications. Four jailers were fired within a week of Cowling’s death.

Elections Office Relocating

thumb_smithcounty-sealTYLER — The Smith County Elections Office is in the process of relocating to a new building within the downtown County campus. The new home of the Elections Office is at 304 E. Ferguson, just two buildings east of its previous location in the Smith County Courthouse Annex. The office is open and fully staffed while the transition is taking place. Anyone seeking the services of the Smith County Elections Office can visit the new location during normal business, 8::00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday, or call the Smith County Elections Office at 903-590-4777.

The renovated facility at 304 E. Ferguson also features a new multi-purpose facility space that can be used for large gatherings, town hall meetings, jury pools, and other future needs. Details of a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Elections Office and multi-purpose facility are soon to come.

Council Prepares for Presentation on Comprehensive Plan

Tyler City Hall-2TYLER — The Tyler City Council gears up to hear a presentation this morning on the status of the City’s comprehensive plan, Tyler 21. Tyler 21 was originally adopted by the City Council on November 14, 2007, after nearly 18 months of community involvement and input. Officials say the 20-year plan created a strategic framework for future actions for the City and is a community-based plan. According to a news release, it defines a vision for the future linked to overall goals and policies, and it contains strategies and action items for achieving the goals.

The plan calls for annual reports to City Council on the status of implementation as well as a comprehensive review every three to five years to revisit the vision, goals, and principles. “This month we will launch a comprehensive five-year review of the plan,” said City Planner Heather Nick. “We have already begun preliminary work and analysis and are eager to involve the community in updating the plan.”

“Tyler 21 was an unprecedented effort by the citizens, elected officials and City staff,” said Mayor Barbara Bass. “The plan’s success can be largely attributed to the extensive involvement of the community in its development. This plan is truly the vision of the people and we want to make sure it remains reflective of current opinions.” Go to for more information. You can visit for more information on Tyler 21.

Angelina County’s Child Facilities Cited By State

ANGELINA COUNTY — Of the 44 licensed and registered day care facilities in Angelina County, 30 have received citations within the past 24 months for not conducting proper background checks on employees, in addition to other state-weighted high-risk deficiencies. According to the Lufkin Daily News and KETK, inspection reports made available by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services indicated that many local childcare facilities were inspected and given citations for high-risk violations such as improper background checks, not having required fire inspections, improper CPR training, not having required immunizations, and unsafe playground equipment. Some were also cited for workers not demonstrating competence, good judgment and self-control in the course of their duties.

City Council Member Resigns to Work With New Senator

Jason Wright2TYLER — A Tyler City Council member has resigned to accept a job with newly elected Ted Cruz. According to KETK, Jason Wright will be the East Texas Regional Director for Senator Cruz. He made the announcement Monday afternoon. Wright said his new office will be in Tyler. Wright, a member of Grassroots We The People, was a big supporter of Cruz during the election.

Leverett’s Chapel Completes Safety Audit

thumb_school-teacher-parentsLAIRD HILL — Last month, a number of East Texas school districts made a list of districts not in compliance with school safety measures. One of those was Leverett’s Chapel. But on Monday, that district completed the paperwork to be in compliance. School officials tell KETK the safety audit was completed, but a miscommunication kept the audit from ever being mailed. But after last month’s Connecticut school shooting, the district took one more look before sending off the paperwork. Superintendent Donna Johnson says, “We felt secure enough, but we went back and did make some changes in our plan, and it’s gonna be like a living plan. We’re gonna add to it all the time.” The district mailed the audit off after a special school board meeting Monday afternoon.

Texans Sentenced in Mississippi Robbery

thumb_Evie_Mearlene_Herrin-2GULFPORT, MISS. (AP) – In a case with an East Texas link, U.S. District Judge Walter J. Gex III of Mississippi has sentenced a mother and daughter from Texas to prison terms on charges of bank robbery. The Sun Herald reports that Evie Mearlene Herrin, 58, and Amelia Darci Crew, 30, both of Cleveland, Texas, were fined $5,000 each. Gex sentenced Herrin to 5 years and 10 months in prison for using a BB gun to hold up a Regions Bank on U.S. Highway 49 in Gulfport, Mississippi, on March 26, 2012. Crew was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months.

Herrin and Crew pleaded guilty October 1. They are charged in Louisiana with robberies of a bank in Kinder, La., in February and another in Sulphur, Louisiana, in March. They are charged in a February heist in Henderson, Texas.

ETMC Unveils New Helicopters

ETMC Chopper3TYLER — The East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System Monday unveiled two new emergency transport helicopters, valued at over $9 million. Officials say they’ll provide patients in East Texas with critical, fast access to the region’s only level 1 trauma center at ETMC Tyler. The Eurocopter, EC135 P2+ helicopters will be stationed at ETMC Tyler and Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant. The EC135 that currently is stationed in Tyler is being upgraded and will be positioned at ETMC Athens. Officials say this allows ETMC to provide high quality care and rapid transport to residents within a 150-mile radius around each helicopter base, covering 38 counties in East Texas.

Art Chance, vice president of operations for ETMC, says, “Reducing transportation time to ETMC Tyler’s level 1 trauma center, helps severely injured or seriously ill patients arrive within the ‘golden hour,’ significantly improving their chances for recovery.” Operations coordinator Jim Speier adds, “The new helicopters have updated safety features, including a terrain avoidance warning system that gives an audible voice alert message if an obstacle appears along the flight path. They also have a traffic collision avoidance system to warn the pilot of another aircraft in close proximity.” Additionally, the helicopters have updated medical equipment, including a new ventilator. Other features include live weather radar, a black box recorder system, and more.

Longview Alcohol Petitions Collected

lv_alcohol_petitionsLONGVIEW — The Longview United for Growth Committee has turned in signed petitions to the City of Longview for verification. More than 9,000 signatures have been collected in the petition to get alcohol sales approved for the remaining dry portions of Longview. Longview United for Growth is the group heading up the push for alcohol sales. The group told KETK in December that it had reached the number of signatures needed to get the measure on the May ballot. The group began the petition in November, and within 6 weeks had gathered at least 6,000 signatures.

Longview United for Growth’s treasurer, Kimberly Fish, tells KETK, “I think everybody in the community understands that the way to get economic development to come to the area is to allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell beer and wine.” The City of Longview secretary now must confirm the signatures before the issue can be officially put on the ballot.

Residents Asked To Weigh In On Garage Sale Signs

cityoftylerTYLER — The City of Tyler is currently considering a request to change the ordinance dealing with off-site estate and garage sale signs. Residents can share their opinions through Tyler Speaks on the City of Tyler web site:

According to a release from the city, officials will read the statements and incorporate them into their decision process. The first discussion topic, off-site estate and garage sale signs, has been posted and residents may post their opinions on the page after registering.

The City of Tyler currently does not allow off-premise advertising of estate/garage sales. The City Council is considering a proposed Ordinance Amendment that would allow up to four off-premise directional signs on private property with permission
from the property owners.

To protect Tyler’s natural beauty, signs may not be posted on the light posts, traffic signal posts, sidewalk, fire hydrant, or any other public properties and rights-of-way.

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