Category: Local News Archive

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Former Longview Teacher Headed to Prison

Robert Craig VarnellLONGVIEW – A former Longview teacher has been sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault of a child. Robert Craig Varnell, 57, of Holly Lake Ranch, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Friday in 124th State District Court in Longview.. When arrested, Varnell was a high school science teacher and one of the district’s University Interscholastic League coordinators. Varnell started working for Longview ISD in fall 2009 and was in his second year as a teacher. Prior to working for Longview ISD, he taught at LeTourneau University. He resigned from his Longview job following his arrest in May of 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Manziel Passes First Test with Browns

Johnny ManzielCLEVELAND (AP) — Tyler’s Johnny Manziel spent his first weekend in the NFL hanging around other rookies and unsigned free agents. He’s about to take the field with the bigger boys. Manziel, who had a “positive” rookie minicamp with Cleveland, will practice this week with the club’s veteran players, including Brian Hoyer, the quarterback he’ll try to unseat as starter. Browns first-year coach Mike Pettine made it clear that Manziel and Hoyer realize what’s at stake and that their competitive juices are already flowing. Read the rest of this entry »

TISD Scores in UIL Arts Competition

TISD Logo5TYLER — Tyler ISD middle and high schools received high marks and top honors at University Interscholastic League (UIL) fine arts competitions this spring. Nine programs across four Tyler ISD campuses earned Sweepstakes honors. These programs include the Hubbard Middle School varsity choir; Moore MST Magnet School varsity choir, non-varsity orchestra and varsity orchestra; John Tyler High School varsity orchestra; and the Robert E. Lee High School varsity and non-varsity bands, as well as varsity and non-varsity orchestras. Read the rest of this entry »

Woman’s Disappearance Labeled Suspicious

christina_davison_from_lnjKILGORE — The Kilgore Police Department has labeled an East Texas woman’s disappearance as suspicious. KETK reports authorities are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Christina Rea Davison, 43, who has been missing since May 17. Police first learned of her disappearance when Davison failed to show up for work and co-workers reported her absence. After searching Davison’s home, police believe she may be missing under suspicious circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »

Eight Dogs Found Dead in Upshur County Creek

creekpictureketkUPSHUR COUNTY — Authorities are investigating the deaths of eight dogs found dead in southern Upshur County. They were found by a man Friday morning in a creek on Poplar Road off Farm Road 2685. Most of the animals were pit bulls used for fighting while the others were mixed breeds, including two small ones likely used as “bait” dogs. The Longview News-Journal reports some of the bodies were found Friday in garbage bags. The animals may have been in the creek for as long as a week.The burned animals were turned over to a local veterinarian. The doctor will attempt to learn more details surrounding the dogs’ death and possibly locate microchips to find an owner or owners. Upshur County Constable Gene Dolle described the cruelty involved in the deaths as “mind-boggling.” He says the discovery coupled with the smell was nauseating.

Human Remains Found in Northeastern Smith County

sheriffpic1TYLER — Smith County authorities are following up after discovering a carpet containing human remains in the northeastern part of the county. Shortly after 7:00 Friday morning, Smith County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch received a 911 call regarding an object wrapped in carpet which was smoldering and lying in the road on County Road 371 just north of Farm Road 1252. A deputy advised the burned carpeting appeared to be wrapped around human remains. Read the rest of this entry »

East Texas Law Officers Participate in Click It or Ticket

thumb_click-it-ticket-2TYLER – East Texas law enforcement agencies remind you they’re participating in the statewide Click It or Ticket campaign, with enforcement continuing through June 1. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office and Tyler Police Department are just two of the agencies taking part. “Safety belts save lives and the Smith County Sheriff’s Office will be working to emphasize safety this holiday weekend,” said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith. “Our deputies will continue to focus on responding to the needs of our citizens when they contact us for assistance, but during our routine patrols we will also be looking for citizens not wearing safety belts in both the front and back seats of the vehicle.” Read the rest of this entry »

Accused Wife-Killer Indicted

adrianmatamugTYLER — A Smith County man who police say shot and killed his wife has been indicted by a Smith County grand jury. KETK reports Adrian Mata, 29, was in court Thursday night according to judicial records and was indicted on the charge of first degree felony murder. At his Tuesday, March 11, court date, Ronnie Van Baugh was appointed as his public defender. The suspect is accused of fatally shooting Jennifer Mata, 30, in the head on Tuesday, February 25, at their home on County Road 333. When authorities responded to the scene of the shooting, Adrian Mata had reportedly fled in his car. He was later arrested at a home in The Villages subdivision. Mata is currently being held in the Smith County Jail on $1,000,000 bond.

Smith County Standoff Ends

Smith County Sheriffs DeptSMITH COUNTY – A suspect wanted in Collin County has been arrested following a standoff with Smith County authorities. Shortly after 6:15 Thursday night, the Department of Public Safety requested assistance from the Smith County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. The DPS was executing a search warrant out of Collin County and the suspect had barricaded himself inside a home on County Road 167 in the southwest part of Smith County. A SWAT team member was able to contact the suspect by phone and he surrendered around 7:15. His identity has not been released.

East Texas Suspect May be in the Longview Area

Terrence HouckLONGVIEW – A man wanted by police in Hughes Springs may be in the Longview area. Terrence Houck is wanted for assault family violence. He is accused of strangling and water boarding his wife after an argument over money. KETK reports he is from Longview and may be back in that area. He is driving a 1995 Dodge pickup, with Texas license plate: AG69100.The pickup is painted blue with painted silver stripes. You are asked to contact authorities if you see this man.

Early Voting in Primary Runoffs Continues through Today

thumb_voting-computerTYLER — Early voting polls in Smith County for the May 27 Runoff Election ends today at five locations. All early voting times and locations are listed below. Visit the Elections page of the Smith County Web site at to view sample ballots or look up your voting precinct. You can also call the Smith County Elections office at 903-590-4777. Read the rest of this entry »

Superintendents Publicly Criticize State Testing

thumb_TEA-texas-education-logoDALLAS (AP) — Several Texas superintendents, some from East Texas, are publicly criticizing the state’s standardized testing system in advance of the upcoming release of score results. Paul Jones, superintendent of the Paris school district says in a recent letter to parents that the tests known as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness are “punitive.” He criticizes a “one-size-fits-all” system. The Dallas Morning News reports superintendents in Longview and Van and the Dallas suburb of Coppell also recently sent letters to parents critical of the mandatory testing. Statewide STAAR results for grades three through eight are scheduled to be released next week. Critics of the assessments have argued that preparing for STAAR, including a concentration on test-taking strategy, has hurt classroom teaching.

Man Accused of Shooting Brother

kyeraibonmugTYLER – Smith County authorities have arrested a man accused of shooting his brother. According to information from the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Wednesday evening shortly after at 7:15, the sheriff’s office dispatch was contacted by Henderson County, which had received a 911 call regarding a disturbance. On the call, Henderson County authorities reported hearing a female yelling about a firearm and someone bleeding. The call was traced to Smith County, and shortly before 7:30, a Smith County deputy was dispatched to a residence in the 16800 block of County Road 1112, where the disturbance occurred. Read the rest of this entry »

Upshur County Man Sentenced for Indecency with a Child

mcclaincharlesupshurcoGILMER — An Upshur County sex offender was sentenced to 25 years in prison for indecency with a child. On Wednesday, Charles Douglas McClain, III, waived a trial by jury. The judge found him guilty of indecency with a child by touching after hearing evidence against the suspect. The crime occurred July 4th of last year at the Hidden Bend Apartments in Gilmer. McClain and his wife were staying with family members there, when a 12-year-old child awakened to the defendant inappropriately touching her. Read the rest of this entry »

Former Councilman Jailed for Theft

DocumentFragment_4474280KILGORE — The Kilgore Police Department arrested a former Longview city councilman on Monday on a theft of property charge. According to KETK, Thomas “Tommy” Finklea, 44, of Kilgore, was jailed after a warrant was issued by Gregg County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace B.H. Jameson stemming from a December 17, 2013, incident. It’s not the first time Finklea has been charged with this specific crime. He was also locked up September 3, 2013, for theft but was released the same day. Finkela, who served as the Longview District 6 councilman before resigning after a two-year stint in 2006, was released Monday on $5,000 bond.

Suspected Car Burglars Arrested after High-Speed Chase

LONGVIEW — Authorities chase two suspected car burglars from Longview to Shreveport overnight. According to the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, Longview Police were tailing the suspects early Thursday morning when the men took off on Interstate 20 traveling east. According to KETK, officers followed them and a high speed chase ensued with speeds reaching up to 100 mph. Eventually Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Deputies and Shreveport Police joined in on the pursuit. The chase ended when the two suspects jumped out of the car in a Shreveport neighborhood. Both men were taken into custody. Officers were able to recover several stolen items from the car.

10 Year Old Wrecks Grandfather’s Truck

police-car-lightsTYLER – A 10 year old boy escaped injury after wrecking the truck he had been driving at Tyler’s Discovery Science Place. Shortly before 6:00 Wednesday afternoon Tyler police received a call concerning a child driver. Officers say the child had been waiting in a doctor’s office waiting room with the vehicle’s keys and his younger sibling. Following an argument with his younger sibling the child decided to leave the doctor’s office. The child then drove his grandfather’s vehicle south on Fleishel Avenue and west on 5th Street where he was noticed by the caller. Read the rest of this entry »

Longview’s New School Superintendent Named

Horace WilliamsLONGVIEW – Longview school trustees have named an assistant superintendent as the lone finalist for the superintendent’s post. After a 2˝-hour executive session, the school board Wednesday named Horace Williams as the school’s chief officer. The district must now wait 21 days before making the selection official. The search for a new leader has been going on for the past six months. Superintendent James Wilcox announced last November he would be leaving the district by January 2015. Williams is a native of Leverett’s Chapel. Before coming to Longview last October, Williams was superintendent of Cedar Hill ISD.

Marshall Interim Police Chief Retiring

MARSHALL — A change is coming to the Marshall Police Department. Interim Chief Leland J. Benoit is retiring effective this Friday. Marshall’s acting city manager, Kenneth “Buzz” Snyder, says, “Obviously, I tried to talk him out of it. After a long period of time of visiting and trying to talk him out of it, he still made the decision this is what he wanted to do.” Snyder says a lengthy search for a Marshall police chief has been underway, but that process is expected to take at least another month to six weeks to complete. Benoit has been interim chief since 2013.

Sheriff Holds Town Hall Meeting in New Harmony

thumb_Larry-SmithNEW HARMONY – Sheriff Larry Smith will hold a town hall meeting tonight from 6:00 until 7:30 at the New Harmony Community Center, located at 10586 FM 724. The town hall meeting will be his eighth since taking office in January of 2013. Four were held last year and three so far this year, in Whitehouse, Lindale, and Chapel Hill. Sheriff’s spokesman John Moore says this evening’s gathering will be the last in the current series, though more will likely be scheduled later in the year. Moore says the event is “one of your final opportunities right now to have some face time with the sheriff, tell him what you think, ask questions.”

Lake Tyler Marina to Open Seven Days a Week

thumb_cityoftylerTYLER — The Lake Tyler Marina will be open seven days a week beginning today and continuing through Sunday, June 1, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tyler city officials say the Marina will be closed June 2 through June 4, and will resume operations on Thursday, June 5, seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. through the end of August. The marina has reopened and increased its hours of operation over the past several weeks. On April 4, the city announced it had terminated its lease agreement with the management team that had been operating the marina. The facility temporarily shut down after that announcement.

Officials: Man Captured after Escaping Trooper

ortegasmithcojailFRANKSTON — An anonymous tip Wednesday led Department of Public Safety Troopers to Frankston, where they arrested a Chandler man they say escaped custody last Friday in Dogwood City. According to KETK, authorities say Victor Jose Ortega had escaped after he was arrested following a traffic stop on Highway 155 South. Officials report Ortega, 33, was spotted in a vehicle traveling eastbound on Murchison Street in Frankston. A Frankston police officer stopped the vehicle, but authorities say the driver of refused to pull over and a short pursuit began. Troopers arrested the suspect in the Subway parking lot. Read the rest of this entry »

Heines Delivers First State of the City Address

thumb_Martin-Heines1TYLER — New Tyler Mayor Martin Heines had upbeat words Wednesday as he delivered his first State of the City address. Calling the state of the city “great,” Heines said he and other officials plan to continue the city’s solid financial management. He added that he’ll also be looking at ways to engage the public and private sectors together to create more jobs in what he termed “an innovation/entrepreneurial economy.” Heines said another important focus will be working on ways to improve public schools. The address was delivered during a luncheon at Harvey Convention Center. The event also featured recognition of three former mayors and the graduation of Leadership Tyler Class 27.

FSA Accepting Emergency Farm Loan Applications

Farm Service AgencyTYLER — The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is now accepting applications for emergency farm loans for damages and losses caused by drought April 1, 2013 through October 31, 2013. Smith County farm loan manager Joseph Grier asks farmers who want to apply for emergency loans to submit their applications as soon as possible. The deadline for application is December 23, 2014, but Grier says if farmers wait too long, a backlog will develop and cause delays. Generally, farmers who have lost 30 percent of their production or any physical loss due to drought are eligible for the emergency loans. The FSA office is located at 4209 Republic Drive in Tyler.

Smith County Identifies Suspect Wanted for Theft

tullyTYLER — The Smith County Sheriff’s Office identifies one of several suspects in connection with the theft and use of a credit card in the Flint/Gresham area. Officials first asked for the public’s help in locating the men on April 8. KETK reports a warrant has now been issued for Troy Tullis Swinney, 41, who also goes by the name “Tully.” He’s wanted for credit/debit card abuse. If you know the location of Swinney, call Detective Josh Gray at 903-590-2956, or call the Smith County Sheriff’s Office at 903-566-6600.

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