Category: Local News Archive

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Local Reaction to Boston Marathon Blasts

BOSTON — There are over 27,000 runners who participated in this year’s Boston Marathon, and a number of them are East Texans. That includes Tyler attorney Wes Volberding. He told KTBB’s Bill Coates that he had finished the race and was just blocks away when he both heard and felt the explosions that rocked the location this afternoon. Volberding says, “My immediate reaction was concern and recognition that it may be an attack.” Volberding says he immediately began moving out of the area, along with 80-year-old Tylerite Harold Wilson, leaving the situation up to responders. He said others around him reacted in a similar fashion. Wilson had also completed the race, and had actually won in his age group, when the blasts went off.

Dr. John Camp of Tyler’s Azalea Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic had also finished and was on his way back to a Boston hotel when the explosion happened. Camp told Coates he’s always felt secure at the marathon, but the explosions were “one of those things that unfortunately happens in this day and age.”

Autopsy Performed on Fire Victim

housefireTYLER — Tyler police say an autopsy was being performed to determine the cause of death of the victim in a structure fire at 2415 Rivera. According to police, the preliminary findings show that the woman appeared to have died from smoke inhalation. Police say the investigation remains open, and there was no more information as of late Monday afternoon. The townhouse fire happened around 7:45 Friday evening at Villa Ridge, off Old Troup Highway. Investigators believe the fire originated in the bedroom, but are not certain of the cause. The victim’s name has not been released.

Nacogdoches County Felon Sentenced for Federal Firearms Violations

thumb_dept-justice-sealBEAUMONT – A 31-year-old Nacogdoches man has been sentenced to federal prison for firearms violations. Lincoln Jerome Watts pleaded guilty on November 19, 2012, to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 90 months in federal prison Monday in Beaumont by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.

According to information presented in court, on November 13, 2011, law enforcement authorities responding to a report of a disturbance involving a weapon encountered Watts in the 100 block of Zula Street in Nacogdoches. Watts consented to a search and was arrested after an officer discovered a loaded pistol in Watts’ front pants pocket.

Further investigation revealed Watts was a convicted felon having been found guilty of aggravated robbery in Nacogdoches County; possession of a firearm while under indictment in the Eastern District of Texas; possession of a stolen firearm in the Eastern District of Texas; and burglary of a federal firearms licensee in the Eastern District of Texas, all in 2001. Federal law prohibits a convicted felon from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition. Watts was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 3, 2012.

Sheriff’s Office Responds to Person on Top of Tower

thumb_sheriff-smithcountyTYLER — Authorities report a person was spotted on top of a communications tower in Smith County, but finally came down more than two hours later. Smith County Sheriff’s Deputies and personnel responded to a call shortly after 11:45 Monday morning at a residence in the 11000 block of County Road 1121. They were told that a person who also lived at the location had climbed to the top of a communications tower on the property and that they were concerned about their well-being because of their emotional state.

Sheriff’s Office personnel talked with the person on the tower and were told that the individual worked in an industry that required climbing towers. Around 1:00pm, the person climbed down from the tower and was taken to a Tyler facility for a mental evaluation. No names are being released.

Source: Case Being Built in Kaufman County Slayings

21969049_BG1KAUFMAN (AP) – A law enforcement official says Texas authorities investigating the killings of a district attorney and his wife are building a case against a former justice of the peace prosecuted last year for theft. The official said Monday investigators are focused on 46-year-old Eric Lyle Williams, who’s jailed on a charge of making a terroristic threat. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation into the deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife. The official says at least 20 weapons found in Williams’ storage locker are being tested by ballistics experts. The official also says a car similar to one seen in the McLellands’ neighborhood on the day they died also was found at the locker. Williams’ attorney didn’t immediately return a call.

One Dead, One Hurt in Gregg County Crash

thumb_DPS-carGREGG COUNTY — One person is killed and one seriously injured in Gregg County. Shortly after 12:30 Friday afternoon, on Farm Road 2087, a car driven by Charlotte Coleman, 29, of Kilgore, was traveling southbound. KETK reports the car was hit head-on in the center of the road by Susan Thompson, 40, also of Kilgore, who was driving north. Coleman was taken to a Longview hospital, where she later died. Thompson is listed as in serious condition, having both legs and arms broken. According to officials, Coleman was not wearing a seatbelt during the accident. Authorities are still investigating.

Nine Displaced in Longview Fire

thumb_fire-dept-longviewLONGVIEW — A fire in Longview displaced nine and resulted in two being taken to a local hospital. KETK reports that shortly after 10:45 Sunday evening, fire crews responded to building #13 of the Belaire Manor Apartments on reports of an apartment fire. Officials discovered a large fire coming from the windows of the upstairs apartment #84. According to neighbors, the occupant of the unit exited from the upstairs window which caused injury and resulted in the person being taken to a local hospital. A second person was taken to the hospital for a medical condition that could have been caused or worsened as a result of the fire. Officials say the fire was brought under control very quickly saving the adjoining units of the building. Water damage was kept to a minimum due to the salvage operations of the fire crews. Two other units received some smoke damage.

The cause of the fire has been narrowed down to the area of the window air conditioning unit which was on in the living room. The Red Cross responded to the scene and assisted the 9 residents who were displaced as a result of the fire and the electricity being disconnected.

Two Fires in Smith County; One Destroys Home

thumb_firefightersSMITH COUNTY — Smith County firefighters answered the call for help on a couple of house fires, including one that destroyed the residence. KETK reports that happened along County Road 485. There was no immediate word on what sparked the blaze. Firefighters believe some sort of electrical problem caused an earlier fire along Lariat Circle. There was no immediate report on extent of damage. No one was home at either residence. Both fires were Saturday afternoon.

Law Enforcement Agencies Discuss Gang Activity

thumb_police-longview-shieldLONGVIEW — Longview police say 30 gangs operate in and around the city and are responsible for a wide variety of crimes, including murder. KETK and the Longview News-Journal report a recent statewide assessment found a variety of gangs are funneling illegal drugs through East Texas on their way to destinations in the north. The Department of Public Safety estimates there are more than 100,000 gang members in the state representing 2,500 gangs.

Tyler ISD Principal Submits Resignation

jtprincipal102TYLER — The Tyler ISD has agreed to accept the request of Michael Timms to resign from his current position as principal of John Tyler High School effective June 30. KETK reports Timms had been named principal of John Tyler in May of 2012, but was placed on administrative leave in March. Joe Coburn is serving as the interim principal and will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations of the campus. In a statement, TISD officials said, “Our focus is to provide a positive educational experience for the students at John Tyler High School. We appreciate the patience and support of staff, students and parents as we move forward.”

Pilot Burned in East Texas Ultralight Plane Crash

BURKE (AP) – An East Texas pilot has survived the fiery crash of his ultralight plane after the low-flying aircraft clipped some power lines. The Texas Department of Public Safety says the crash happened Sunday night near Burke, about 100 miles northeast of Houston. Angelina County Constable Tom Selman identified the pilot as Jerry Roy Morehouse, 59, of Huntington. Officials say Morehouse suffered minor burns when the plane hit the transmission line, split apart and fell to the ground. Witnesses helped pull the pilot from the wreckage. Emergency personnel treated Morehouse for burns to his right arm.

Early Morning Shooting Under Investigation

TYLER — Tyler Police continue their investigation into an early morning shooting. Officers were dispatched around 3:00 Monday morning to 3100 Highway 31 East in reference to a man that had been shot in the abdomen. An 18-year-old Hispanic male told authorities that he had been walking home from a gas station when a white car with black wheels pulled up next to him and shot him one time, then sped off. The victim was able to walk home and call 911. He was transported to a local hospital with what is believed to be non-life threatening injuries.

Periodic Lane Closures on Portion of Hollybrook Drive

longview-cityofLONGVIEW — West and East Bound Lanes of Hollybrook Drive will be having periodic lane closures from Eastman Drive (U.S. Highway 259) east to Loop 281 starting Monday, April 15, from 7:00am to 5:30pm and lasting around 30 days. The lane closures will be by flagman and both East and West Bound Lanes will have periodic delays. The periodic lane closures are for A.E.P. SWEPCO power pole relocation along Hollybrook Drive.

TxDOT Project Updates

TxDOT signTYLER — Here’s a quick look at other work planned in the Tyler District of the Texas Department of Transportation.

KILGORE — Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to conclude resurfacing operations on Farm Road 1252 between State Highway 135 and State Highway 42, then on Wednesday are scheduled to move to U.S. Highway 259-Kilgore Relief Route to make pavement repairs near Synergy Park. The work at Synergy Park will require a daytime closure of the bypass between US 259 north of Kilgore and Farm Road 349. A marked detour will be in place while work is in progress, sending southbound traffic past the US 259 bypass entrance and then left at the SH 31/FM 349 intersection, and then onto the bypass at FM 349. Northbound traffic will exit at FM 349, turn toward Kilgore, then north toward Longview at SH 31/US 259 intersection. The work, which is scheduled to take three days to complete, in preparation for a second project to add a turn lane at Synergy Park, which is scheduled to let to contact in August.

SMITH COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to continue base pavement repairs in various locations in both directions on Interstate Highway 20 between U.S. Highway 69 and Farm Road 14. Daytime lane closures will be in effect while the work is in progress. Motorists are encouraged to be prepared to reduce speed and merge in and around the work zone.

VAN ZANDT COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to perform surface-sealing operations on Interstate Highway 20 in various locations between Farm Road 1255 east of Canton and the Smith County Line. Elsewhere, contract crews are still at work making base and pavement repairs on Farm Road 773 between IH 20 and Ben Wheeler, and construction crews are at work on Farm Road 17 between IH 20 near Canton and State Highway 110 in Grand Saline, and on Farm Road 2339 between Farm Road 1861 and Farm Road 773. Daytime lane closures will be in effect in each location while the work is in progress, and flaggers and pilot vehicles will control traffic.

RUSK COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to continue base and pavement repairs on Farm Road 782 between Farm Road 1716 in Oak Hill and State Highway 149 near the Gregg County Line. Daytime lane closures will be in effect while the work is in progress, and flaggers will control traffic.

WOOD COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to perform resurfacing operations in various locations on Farm Road 1801 east of Mineola and on Loop 564 in Mineola. A second crew is scheduled to make pavement and edge repairs in various locations on Farm Road 779 northwest of Mineola. Daytime lane closures will be in effect in each location while the work is in progress, and flaggers will control traffic.

HENDERSON COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to continue resurfacing operations on Farm Road 773 at its intersection with State Highway 31 in Murchison. Daytime lane closures will be in effect while the work is in progress, and flaggers will control traffic.

CHEROKEE COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to perform pavement-texturing operations on U.S. Highway 175 in and around Frankston, and on Farm Road 855 between Cuney and Mount Selman. A second crew is scheduled to continue making base and pavement repairs on Farm Road 1911 between U.S. Highway 69 north of Wells and the end of state maintenance. Also this week in Cherokee County, construction crews are scheduled to continue work to add shoulders to State Highway 110 between U.S. Highway 79 in New Summerfield and U.S. Highway 84 in Rusk, and on State Highway 294 between Alto and the Anderson County Line. Daytime lane closures will be in effect in each location while the work is in progress, and flaggers will control traffic.

ANDERSON COUNTY – Texas Department of Transportation maintenance crews this week are scheduled to make base and pavement repairs in various locations on Farm Road 837 between State Highway 19 and Farm Road 315, and Farm Road 320 between Farm Road 645 to U.S. Highway 79. Daytime lane closures will be in effect in each location while the work is in progress, and flaggers will control traffic.

Former Kilgore College Football Coach Dies

Jim Miller2KILGORE (AP) — Championship-winning former Kilgore College football coach Jim Miller has died. He was 81. Miller’s son, Wade Miller, told The Associated Press that his father died in his sleep Saturday morning at home in Kilgore. He says his father had spent the day before fishing, one of his loves along with football. Jimmy Rieves, athletic director the two-year community college, told the Longview News-Journal that Miller “built a great tradition.” Miller, who had the longest tenure as football coach in the college’s history, joined the staff an assistant coach in 1967. He was named head coach in 1976 and retired in 1992 with a record of 97-66-2. The newspaper reports that he won a national championship and seven conference titles at the school. Services will be Tuesday in Kilgore.

East Texas Authorities Searching for Wanted Fugitive

PALESTINE — Authorities are asking for the public’s help in locating a wanted fugitive. According to KETK, around 8:30 Saturday night, Palestine Police responded to a disturbance call in the 200 block of Crest Drive. Officers said the received a tip that a wanted man, Jeorge Mendoza, was at the location and may be involved in the incident. Arriving officers noticed Mendoza jump from a vehicle in the driveway and run through the backyard into a wooded area.

Police searched the area and were not able to locate Medoza. Authorities from Palestine Police Department, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, DPS Troopers and Officers from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice helped in the search for Mendoza. TDCJ officers used tracking dogs to assist in the search for Mendoza and a helicopter was also used in the search. Police believe that Mendoza may be armed.

Mendoza was previously involved in another incident with police just over a month ago in Cherokee County. Mendoza is also wanted on several felony charges and should be considered armed and dangerous. He is known to frequent the Westwood area of Palestine.

Mendoza is a 30-year-old Hispanic male, 5’05” tall and weighs 160 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. Anyone with any information should call the Palestine Police Department at 903-729-2254 or CRIME STOPPERS at 903-729-(TIPS) 8477.

Inmate Sentenced to Life after Brutal Attack

PALESTINE — After 30 minutes of deliberations, an Anderson County jury handed down a life sentence to a Coffield Unit inmate Thursday for his involvement in the October 2009 assault of a corrections officer. According to the Palestine Herald, Benny Palomo, 31, was the second of three inmates to be convicted in the case.

On Oct. 19, 2009, inmate Raymond Sotelo, 26, had refused the order of corrections officer Eric Christiansen and the officer told him to returned to his cell. The inmate said “make me,” prompting Christiansen to cuff Sotelo. As he was doing so, Sotelo turned around and punched Christiansen in the face. Palomo immediately jumped in and the two took the officer to the ground. A third defendant also joined in, kicking the officer in the face and head repeatedly. During the incident, Christiansen received a black eye, bloody nose, abrasions to the side of the head and forehead and a slight concussion. The three fled and an extraction team came and took the inmates.

Sotelo was tried March 26 and 27 and was sentenced to the maximum 20 years. The trial for the third inmate involved in the case has been scheduled for June.

Officials Continue to Investigate Fatal Fire

housefireTYLER — One woman is dead following a townhouse fire in Tyler Friday night. It happened around 7:45 at Villa Ridge on Rivera, off of Old Troup Highway. Investigators believe the fire originated in the bedroom, but are not certain of the cause. The victim’s body has been sent for autopsy. Her name has not been released.

Navarro College Report on Post-basketball Game Incident

KILGORE — A Navarro College report issued Friday about a February disturbance after a Kilgore College basketball game says KC police were unjustified in pepper-spraying Navarro players. According to the Longview News-Journal, Navarro’s 29-page report sent to media outlets conflicts with an earlier report by Kilgore College Police Chief Martin Pessink, who concluded his two officers had used force necessary to address an escalating threat of violence. Pessink, and a private investigator who reviewed the Kilgore chief’s work, also concluded Kilgore College police should have controlled the crowd better. That report concluded the incident largely arose from the actions of a woman whom Pessink identified as a Navarro employee stirring up coaches and fans.

The Navarro report, however, said the after-game disturbance was the result of obscene, profane heckling by men whom Navarro staff thought were members of the Kilgore College football team, which lost a controversial playoff game to Navarro College a few months before.

During the Feb. 23 basketball match-up between the two schools, Kilgore defeated Navarro 88-78, leading to a celebration at mid-court. According to Kilgore College, the center-court celebration upset some players from Navarro, who “began verbalizing their disapproval which began to inflame the crowd.” Both teams by then were in their respective locker rooms. In its report, Kilgore College said Navarro College players were pepper sprayed after making threats against Kilgore College police officers who were restraining them.

In contrast, the Navarro report blamed the incident on misconceptions by Kilgore personnel. The witnesses indicated a crowd of 12 to 20 men, believed to be Kilgore College football players, heckled the team with obscene and profane comments which “went unabated throughout the game.” That heckling prompted Navarro coach Deborah Bonner to demand that it stop. Navarro witnesses said there was “apparent poor crowd control” and that several of the males involved in the heckling approached the Navarro bench — prompting a volunteer videographer to blow his whistle, as he feared a fight might break out.

Kilgore College spokesman Chris Craddock issued a statement in response to the Navarro report, noting there are two sides to any story involving a violent situation.

Ex-Fugitive Gets Life without Parole for Murder

Brian Allen TuckerSULPHUR SPRINGS (AP) – A man who was one of two inmates who escaped from an East Texas jail for two days has pleaded guilty to capital murder and drawn a life sentence without parole. Brian Allen Tucker pleaded guilty in a state district court in Sulphur Springs on Thursday. His attorney, Ronald Ferguson, told the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram that the plea came as a surprise. He attributed the plea to a desire to avoid a death-penalty prosecution. Tucker and another man escaped the Hopkins County Jail in Sulphur Springs on April 2. They were captured two days later in a barn in Cooper, 20 miles north of Sulphur Springs. Tucker was accused of strangling Bobby Riley to death in Riley’s Mahoney home in 2011.

Home Searched in Kaufman County Case; DA Appointee Shares Thoughts

Erleigh Norville WileyKAUFMAN (Staff/AP) — Federal and local authorities executed a search warrant Friday at a North Texas home as part of an investigation into the slayings of the local district attorney and his wife. Authorities were searching the home of former Kaufman County justice of the peace Eric Williams, who was prosecuted and convicted of theft by the Kaufman County district attorney’s office. Williams hasn’t been named a suspect in any of the deaths. Kaufman County authorities say they’re receiving tips “on a fairly regular basis” as they move forward with the investigation of the murders.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Kaufman County district attorney says it’s time to step up. Judge Erleigh Wiley (pictured) vows to use her power to find those behind the high-profile killings that plague the community. She says the families of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse — who was killed outside the county courthouse in January — and D.A. Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, who were murdered in their Forney home, are constantly in her thoughts. Governor Rick Perry appointed Wiley as his choice to step in for the remainder of McLelland’s term. The appointment must still be approved by the Senate.

Felon Convicted, Sentenced in Rusk County for Gun Possession

thumb_Lady-JusticeHENDERSON — On Thursday, a Rusk County jury convicted and sentenced Jesse Ray Templin, 32, of Overton, for a third degree felony of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. KETK reports it was Templin’s fourth felony conviction. The jury sentenced him to two years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division. On May 11, 2012, Templin was riding as a passenger in his own car while it was driven by a man he met in the Bradshaw State Jail. During the traffic stop, officials say they asked Templin four times if there was anything dangerous in the car. Templin reached into his glove box and pulled out a semi-automatic handgun. The arresting officer found a fully loaded clip for the gun in the glove box.

Former Longview Councilwoman Arrested, Accused of Beating Roommate

karenhaileylnjLONGVIEW — A former Longview city councilwoman was arrested about 1:00 p.m. Thursday after Longview police said she beat her roommate with a golf club for several minutes. According to KETK and the Longview News-Journal, police said Karen Baker Hailey, 59, started yelling at her roommate when he went to leave the apartment in the 2000 block of Toler Road. She then allegedly started hitting him repeatedly with both open hands and closed fists. Hailey then picked up a golf club and started hitting him repeatedly with it for several minutes before the victim finally called the Longview Police Department to report the incident, according to arrest records.

Police said the victim had red marks and bruising on his arm and his back that were “consistent with being struck with a long, skinny object.” Hailey was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon family violence and was being held in the Gregg County Jail on a $7,500 bond.

Parking Lot Maintenance at Tyler Public Library

TYLER — Weather permitting, portions of the Tyler Public Library parking lot will be closed Sunday, April 14, for maintenance and repairs. Parking will be available across the street from the Library in the lot at the corner of South College Avenue and Elm Street. Parking meters around the Library building are available for handicapped visitor parking at no cost on weekends. For further information, call (903) 593-7323.

Substitute Teacher Arrested; Additional Charges Filed

Jamar BallardNACOGDOCHES — Additional charges involving a second Nacogdoches High School student have been filed against former Nacogdoches Independent School District substitute teacher Jamar Ballard, 29. KETK reports Ballard first was arrested Thursday and charged with improper relationship between an educator and a student after a student told an NHS staff member that Ballard had acted inappropriately toward her. A second student has now said that Ballard acted inappropriately toward her. In this alleged second incident, Ballard has been charged with sexual assault of a child and improper relationship between an educator and student.

“We are saddened and outraged at the thought of an adult having improper relations with students,” said NISD Superintendent Fred Hayes. “We will see this investigation through to the end.” NISD Police Chief Doug Ploch said that any student or teacher with further information can contact the NISD Police Department. Ballard was terminated as an NISD employee, arrested in Lufkin, and booked into the Nacogdoches County Jail on Thursday.

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