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Toll 49 Segment 3B Opens

thumb_loop-49SMITH COUNTY — The North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA) opened Segment 3B of Toll 49 Thursday evening at 6:00. Officials say it’s to allow holiday travelers the opportunity to use the entire 26 miles of Toll 49 just in time for the Easter weekend. They note that the toll road now connects to I-20 for the first time; the connection point is northwest of Tyler.

The Texas Transportation Commission approved the transfer of Toll 49 to the NET RMA from TxDOT in its February 28 meeting. With the opening of this segment, the NET RMA becomes the tolling agency responsible for operations, maintenance, and toll collection of Toll 49. As there had not been a toll rate increase since Segment 1 was opened in 2006, the toll rates now go up from 10 cents per mile to 12 cents per mile for passenger cars. All other classes of vehicle rates escalate accordingly as well. These rates are effective as of today. “This is a landmark day for East Texas. Revenues from Toll 49 will remain in East Texas to be used on future projects in the region,” stated Chair of the NET RMA Linda Thomas.

Gohmert Responds to D.C. Ticket Incident

thumb_louie-gohmert-3WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tyler Congressman Louie Gohmert is catching heat for an alleged dispute with United States Park Police officers over a March 13 parking ticket in Washington D.C. According to POLITICO, law enforcement reported Gohmert was “rude and irate.” It is also said Gohmert took the ticket off his windshield and put it on a police car along with his business card with a written message: “Oversight of Park Service is my job! Natural Resources Thus the Congressional Plate in window.” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Congressional Ethics office against the Texas Republican for poor behavior as a congressman, stated the Houston Chronicle.

In an interview with KETK, Congressman Gohmert gave his side of the story. The congressman said he’s been parking in the area for years with no problems. “I take a lot of the people around the Capitol, as I’ve got time, I take them to a monument or two,” said Gohmert. “I’m not always able to do that. I’m on the National Resource Committee and I go down to Lincoln Memorial. People have complained from East Texas about the film under the Lincoln memorial and bird poop. I go down there quite a bit. For 8 years, I’ve been told by the national park service people, ‘No, you can park anywhere we park. If we can park there, Congressman, you can park there.’ They’ve always been very gracious and I’ve always gotten along great with them.”

According to Gohmert, he was at the memorial between 11 p.m. and midnight for about 15 minutes before he returned to find a ticket under his windshield wiper. That’s when the congressman spoke to a park officer to discuss the matter. Gohmert claims he was not out of control as media reports have speculated. “I didn’t think I was irate,” said Rep. Gohmert. “I don’t believe from what I’ve been told before that I’m supposed to get a ticket.” After showing his congressional plate to the officer, he handed him a card and offered to talk with him at anytime.

The Texas congressman told KETK he believes he’s not in the wrong, but would pay the $25 fine if proven otherwise. “And by the way, so far, what we’ve been able to find is probably the D.C. Code applies there,” said Gohmert. “And the code says a member of Congress may park in any available space in the District of Columbia. If I’m wrong, I’ll pay the ticket. Nobody is above the law, I don’t care who you are. I certainly believe that.” As for the organization who filed the complaint against Mr. Gohmert, he’s not surprised, saying the “leftist group” only comes after Republicans. “I guess it’s an honor for them to think I’m worthy of coming after,” stated the congressman.

Car-Pedestrian Collision at University and Gail

thumb_police-tyler-car2TYLER — A pedestrian is hospitalized after being hit by a car. Shortly after 6:15 Thursday morning, the Tyler Police Department received information of the collision at the intersection of University and Gail in Tyler. Officers investigating the collision have determined that Jerry Daniel Chesshire, 21 years of age, stepped out into traffic and was struck by a vehicle. Chesshire was transported by ambulance to Mother Frances Hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the vehicle was not issued a citation. .

Activist Ed Bower Dies

LONGVIEW — A longtime Longview activist dies after his battle with cancer. KETK reports Ed Bower died Monday at 77. He spent years patrolling the streets in his Pine Tree neighborhood, keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior. Those who knew him said he was a concerned member of the community who thought it was his duty to help neighbors and law enforcement.

24th Annual TEDC Appreciation Luncheon

TYLER — The 24th Annual Tyler Economic Development Council Investors and Contributors Appreciation Luncheon is just around the corner. It will be held Thursday, April 4, at Green Acres Baptist Church, from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. Organizers say the purpose of the luncheon is to update investors and contributors on TEDC accomplishments and major activities during the past year. The featured guest speaker will be Tom Pauken, Immediate Past Commissioner representing Employers for the Texas Workforce Commission.

For additional information contact:

Tom Mullins, President/CEO
Tyler Economic Development Council
[email protected]
(903) 593-2004, x 246

Stephanye Petree, Admin. Assist.
Tyler Economic Development Council
[email protected]
(903) 593-2004 x 248

Smith County Standoff Ends in Arrests

2013-03-27_092502BULLARD — A Bullard man and his father are booked into the Smith County Jail following an altercation. After a standoff lasting several hours, Smith County Sheriff officials and Bullard Police officers arrested Justin Dewayne Davis, 29, Bullard, in the 21000 block of County Road 145. The incident started around 9:00 Tuesday night when a woman at the residence claimed that Davis was causing problems. Law enforcement arrived on scene and found Davis acting erratically. During the encounter, Davis threatened officers and deputies and then went into the house. Davis released two adult women and some children from the house, but refused to release two other children, ages six and seven.

After obtaining warrants, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team stormed the home and apprehended Davis without incident. The two children were unharmed and were released to their mother.

At one point, during the situation, Harold Dewayne Davis, 50, Davis’ father, attempted to pass through a roadblock in order to get to the house. He was arrested and charged with interference with public duties. His bond was set at $500.00. Justin Davis was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with additional charges pending. His bond was set at $750,000.

Officials Release Report on Kilgore Pepper Spray Incident

KILGORE — The Kilgore College athletic director anticipated possible trouble before a Navarro basketball game last month that culminated in a pepper spray incident. That’s included in a report on the incident issued by Kilgore College police and obtained through our news partner KETK. The report says a female Navarro employee complained about the behavior of some Kilgore students, remained angry, and was joined in her rant by other Navarro fans. Later, says the report, Kilgore students began to aggravate the Navarro bench — and Navarro players soon became angry, making verbal threats towards Kilgore fans. Authorities say the pepper spray was used by police after a Navarro player verbally threatened authorities.

In review, KCPD listed the following items as areas of improvement:
-Remove disruptive fans or employees from the gym
-Move non-basketball coaching staff closer to athletes for better monitoring
-Place more police officers at athletic events involving strong rivals, including an off duty Kilgore police officer
-Install cameras in the gym

Kilgore Police Try to Solve Robbery

thumb_police-1KILGORE — Kilgore Police are seeking information in a robbery that occurred on Tuesday. KETK reports officers responded around shortly after 5:00 Tuesday afternoon to the 1700 block of South Henderson Boulevard. According to witnesses, an unknown man, described as being 5’10 to 5’11, wearing jeans with a dark sweatshirt, forcefully took a money bag containing a large sum of money from a woman before running eastbound through a parking lot toward South Henderson Boulevard.

When authorities arrived on scene, police, along with the help of a K-9, began searching for the robber on foot and in the air. The K-9 teams tracked the alleged thief through a wooded area and across a creek until the dog lost the scent near the intersection of Dwain Drive and Hays Street in Kilgore. No weapons were involved in the incident and no further information is available at this time. There were no other victims. Anyone with additional information is regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Kilgore Police Detective Tim Dukes. Information can also be provided anonymously by using Tip411 or Crime Stoppers.

Purple Heart Found in Calif. Returned to Texans

purple heartTYLER (AP) – A 1941 Pearl Harbor victim’s Purple Heart found along a California road has been returned to his East Texas family thanks to a teacher and his students. Ken Hooper is a history and archives instructor at Bakersfield High School in Bakersfield, Calif. Hooper was on hand Tuesday in Tyler for the presentation to survivors of Robert Bates. Kris Wilson of Edom says the medal will help her uncle’s memory live on. Relatives say the USS Arizona sailor’s Purple Heart was likely given to his mother but lost after she died in 1945. The medal was found last month by a trucker near a Veterans of Foreign War Post in Bakersfield. Hooper’s students doing computer research also learned some casualty lists wrongly spelled Robert Bates’ first name – as Tobert.

Man Accused of Selling Fake Newspaper Ads

daviddixCADDO PARISH, LA. — A Minden, La., man is jailed for allegedly selling bogus newspaper ads in Louisiana and East Texas. According to Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, David Dix, 61, went to several businesses in Louisiana and told them he worked for a local newspaper. He then reportedly sold ads and told workers they would appear in the June edition of the paper. When the ads did not appear, businesses contacted the paper and discovered they had been duped by Dix, according to authorities. Some of the businesses reportedly used checks to pay the suspect. In turn, he allegedly altered the checks by adding his name and is accused of cashing them for his own personal use.

KETK reports Dix was booked into Caddo Correctional Center on two counts of theft and one count of forgery. His bond was set at $75,000. The accused thief was brought to CCC from Desoto Parish, Louisiana, where he was being held on similar charges. He is awaiting transfer to other jurisdictions including Bossier, Claiborne, Jackson, and Bienville parishes, and Harrison County, Texas.

Former State Investigator Guilty of Theft of Federal Funds

Melva BlakemoreBEAUMONT – A 62-year-old Diboll woman has pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds. Melva Darlene Blakemore pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with theft of federal funds on Tuesday in Beaumont before U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone.

According to information presented in court, in May of 2008, while Blakemore was employed as a Senior Investigator with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, she advised a woman receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance that she had been overpaid $2,520 on her Lone Star Card. Blakemore told the woman that if she did not repay the money, she would be indicted and prosecuted. Blakemore also advised the woman that if the money was paid in cash, with no receipt expected, Blakemore would send the money to someone she knew in Austin and that no charges would be filed.

The woman contacted local authorities who were able to observe her meeting Blakemore in a Nacogdoches parking lot. Blakemore left the parking lot and drove away with the money before stopping to deposit a portion of it into her bank account. The remainder of the money was found in her vehicle. Blakemore faces up to 10 years in federal prison and restitution of up to $31,008. A sentencing date has not been set.

City Council Elections Canceled

thumb_cityoftylerTYLER — The upcoming city council election in Tyler has been canceled. KETK reports that’s because all the candidates are unopposed. This won’t affect any other local elections, including the Tyler ISD bond election, which is scheduled for May 11.

JT Principal Placed on Administrative Leave

jtprincipal102TYLER — The John Tyler High School principal has been placed on administrative leave, according to Tyler ISD. KETK reports an interim principal has been named, but details are limited at this time. According to a statement from TISD, “John Tyler High School Principal Michael Timms is on administrative leave. As this is a personnel matter, state law limits the amount and nature of the information that can be shared at this time. Joe Coburn, director of secondary instruction, is currently serving as the interim principal at John Tyler High School. Tyler ISD wants to assure parents and the community that school has continued to operate without disruption.”

Officials: Smith County Dog Fighting Part of Multi-State Investigation

Pete Davis JrTYLER — Authorities say two Kansas men were arrested Friday by federal investigators for involvement in a multi-state dog fighting ring, including dog fights near Tyler. Saturday, according to KETK, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office was asked to help with the investigation by the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Pete Davis, Jr., 38, (pictured) and Melvin Robinson, 41, both of Kansas City, Kansas, were charged with one count of buying, selling and delivering dogs for participation in an animal fighting ring. The complaint says Davis and Robinson had as many as 60 dogs, mostly pit bulls, that they trained and took to dog fights. Officials say the dogs were kept at a farm in Harrison County, Missouri, and the suspects’ homes in Kansas City. The animals were reportedly taken to fights as far away as Dallas.

An FBI investigation that began in November 2012 allegedly revealed Robinson placed harnesses on dogs and chained them to a treadmill for several hours at a time to train them. Authorities say the treadmill was equipped with a plywood box to keep the dogs on the machine. Weights were also put on the dogs to strengthen them and there were caged live chickens in front of the treadmill as bait, according to officials. During the probe, law enforcement reportedly discovered dogs were killed during training and fighting and their bodies were thrown away.

On Sunday, March 17, the suspects reportedly held three dog fights involving six dogs at the farm in Missouri to prepare for a fight in Dallas. Robinson and Davis allegedly planned on betting $20,000 to $30,000 on a dog they were training for the fight scheduled for March 23. The fights are reportedly known as “dog shows.” After the dogs were collected by authorities, the ASPCA agreed to house and care for the animals.

Preliminary Autopsy Results in Madewell Death

Bobby Madewell JrLONGVIEW — Even as a lawsuit is contemplated in the death of a Gregg County Jail inmate last week, preliminary autopsy results have been released — and the report says, “There are no signs of notable trauma or foul play.” Tarrant County Deputy Chief Medical Medical Examiner Dr. Marc A. Krouse issued the report on Bobby Madewell Jr., 51. He says provisional pathologic findings include the following:

1. Superficlal blunt force injuries of head, face, torso and extremities; no internal injuries
2. Moderately severe single vessel coronary atherosclerosis
3. Hepatic steatosis with early cirrhosis
4. Mild nephrosclerosis
5. History of collapse following application of Taser (or similar device) and administration of haloperidol

Krouse says the cause of death is “pending follow up laboratory examinations and microscopic examination”; the manner of death listed as “pending.” Krouse adds, “Toxicology screens, laboratory testing (tryptase) and microscopic slide preparation have been ordered.”

Lawsuit Eyed in Inmate Death

LONGVIEW — The mother of a man who died this past week in Gregg County Jail custody has hired the attorney who successfully sued the county in the 2010 death of another inmate. That’s according to KETK and the Longview News-Journal. Jarom Tefteller, hired by Betty Madewell to represent her and and her son’s estate, said Monday his first task would be finding out more about what happened to Bobby Madewell. Officials have said Madewell died early Thursday at Good Shepherd Medical Center, where he was taken after jail staff subdued him with a stun gun.

“We need to get more information before we start accusing anyone,” Tefteller said. “If that leads me to believe they did something wrong, I don’t have a problem going to federal court and taking this case to a jury.” Tefteller was prepared to do that when he represented the family of Amy Lynn Cowling in a wrongful death lawsuit against Gregg County, which ended ended earlier this year with a $1.9 million out-of-court settlement. That lawsuit claimed Cowling died after being denied prescription medicines, including Xanax.

Betty Madewell said this past week that jail staff knew her son had a prescription for Xanax but would not give it to him because the anti-anxiety drug is not on the jail’s list of approved medicines. Bobby Madewell had become “erratic and extremely violent” when jail staff used a stun gun to subdue and restrain him, Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said Thursday in a prepared statement. The case remains under investigation.

Small Building Destroyed in Tyler Fire

tyler-fire-dept-logoTYLER — Two businesses were impacted by a fire at a Tyler gas station late Tuesday night. Tyler fire officials tell KETK, the fire broke out just before 11:00 at the Exxon station near the intersection of West Front St. and South Palance Ave. According to KETK, five engines and one Ladder Company, along with a district chief and an investigator, responded to the scene. The fire was in a 10×12 storage building outside the station. The storage building was destroyed, amounting to at least $400 in damage.

The residual heat from the fire also damaged another nearby business, Robertson Automotive. There were no injuries involved, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation. A store employee reported seeing someone around the structure minutes before the fire. Fire Investigators are interviewing witnesses and will continue to review area surveillance videos to help determine the cause of the blaze.

Smith County Man Sentenced for Federal Drug, Gun Crimes

Federal Courthouse-ATYLER – A 34-year-old Tyler man has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking crimes. Marco Aguilera pleaded guilty on September 4, 2012, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. He was sentenced Tuesday in Tyler to 40 months for the drug conviction and 60 months for the firearms conviction. U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider ordered the sentences to be served consecutively for a total of 100 months in federal prison.

According to information presented in court, in March 2012, Aguilera possessed and distributed methamphetamine in a Tyler apartment. He admitted to conspiring with others to distribute more than 150 grams of methamphetamine in the Tyler area. A federal grand jury returned an indictment on April 11, 2012 charging Aguilera with federal drug trafficking violations.

North Carolina Women Sentenced for Dealing Meth in East Texas

Sandra Christilov SylvesterTYLER – Two North Carolina women have been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking violations in the Eastern District of Texas. Chelsea Elizabeth McDowell, 27, of Hickory, NC, and Sandra Christilov Sylvester, (pictured) 41, of Lawndale, NC, pleaded guilty in November 2012 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. McDowell was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison and Sylvester to 66 months in federal prison yesterday in Tyler by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider.

According to federal authorities, up until January 29, 2011, McDowell and Sylvester conspired with others to assist in transporting methamphetamine and money obtained from selling drugs to East Texas. During that time, both women were arrested in the Eastern District of Texas for possessing methamphetamine. They each admitted to being responsible for distributing methamphetamine through East Texas to Atlanta, Georgia. A federal indictment was returned on April 11, 2012, charging them with federal drug crimes.

Cyclists May Use a Portion of Loop 49

TYLER — Cyclists who want to ride on Loop 49 have received mixed news. The Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority says cyclists will be allowed on Toll 49 from Highway 110 South, near Whitehouse, to Highway 155 South, near Noonday. However, they are banned from other parts of the toll road. But KETK reports, in order to ride on Loop 49, cyclists must raise $60,000 for striping and signage. And they need to raise that money by July

Alto Officer No-Billed in Fatal Shooting

ALTO — The Alto police officer who was involved in the shooting death of James Eric Griffin, 48, in January will not be charged by authorities. KETK reports Smith’s case case received a “no bill” from a Cherokee County Grand Jury. The Texas Rangers concluded their investigation in this case, and the Grand Jury reviewed evidence including surveillance video, crime scene photographs, forensic evidence and autopsy results, and concluded that officer Smith did not break any laws. According to Alto police, Smith is not yet back on duty. He will return to the Alto police department for duty pending police Chief Jeremy Jackson’s approval.

At around 4:40pm on Wednesday, January 13, authorities were dispatched the scene of an officer-involved shooting in Alto on Highway 69. An alleged thief, identified as James Eric Griffin, 48, attempted to rob the Pick N’ Go convenience store of cigarettes. The convenience store worker said he called 911 because Griffin had machete. According to the Department of Public Safety, Griffin allegedly charged an Alto officer with a machete in the 200 block of Highway 69 after leaving the store. The officer then shot Griffin as he was being rushed. Sergeant Troy Ansley of the Alto Police Department stated, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of the lost. It is time for our community to pull back together and work with one another.”

FedEx Moving to Lindale

FedExLINDALE — A big tenant is setting up shop in Lindale. The Lindale Economic Development Corporation sold more than 17 acres of its industrial park to Tyler’s’s FedEx ground office. Construction’s already underway for the 163,000-square-foot distribution center. FedEx says it makes more sense to have a location closer to Interstate 20. Tyler currently has two smaller distribution centers, but they’ll be consolidated at the Lindale location. No jobs will be lost in the process. According to FedEx, when the new facility opens, positions will transfer from existing stations in Tyler. The company says it could even add workers if needed to meet the high demand in the region. The facility is expected to be working by June or July, 2014.

Court OKs Inmate Appeal of Cell Phone Conviction

5th Circuit Court of AppealsHOUSTON (AP) – A Texas prisoner who got 10 years for a Nacogdoches County burglary has won a federal appeals court ruling that allows him to appeal an additional 25-year sentence for having a prohibited cell phone in his prison cell. Kenneth Richards, 45, argued his appeal to a federal district was within a required one-year time period but Texas prison officials didn’t mail it quickly enough. By the time it got to court in 2011, the time limit had passed and a judge refused it. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday with Richards, who contends the timing of appeals filed by inmates themselves is based on when they’re delivered to prison authorities, not when they’re received by the court. Richards’ burglary conviction was his fourth.

Authorities Trying to Identify Burglars

nachouseburglarsNACOGDOCHES — Two women were caught on a home surveillance system burglarizing a house in Nacogdoches County. Nacogdoches law enforcement tells KETK the burglary happened on January 11th in the western part of Nacogdoches County. The women forcibly entered the house during the day, but the house was equipped with a camera that caught the women in the act. Officials are now trying to identify the women involved.

If you have any information on the identities of these suspects, call Crime Stoppers at 560-INFO (4636), hit the SUBMIT A TIP icon on the Crime Stoppers Facebook page, or go to http://www.ncstips.com to send a tip on the web. All information is confidential, and you never have to give your name. If the information you give results in an arrest or grand jury indictment, you could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Power Back On in White Oak

WHITE OAK — If you live in the White Oak area and weren’t in the dark early Tuesday morning, you were one of the lucky few. SWEPCO told KETK a crash is what caused about 4,000 people to be in the dark. Workers got busy, though, and by early afternoon, SWEPCO was reporting all power had been restored.

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