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DA releases Grand Jury Report

Henderson County District Attorney R. Scott McKee reported the July Term, 2012, Grand Jury met on Dec. 27 and returned 96 True Bills, including the following:
1. Frankie Lee Pratt, W/M, 45, from Tool, indicted for Theft of Property Over $1,500;
2. Gary Lee Hopkins, W/M, 42 from Murchison, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
3. Barton Louis Royse, W/M, 47, Eustace, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
4. Sean Issac Harrell, W/M, 19, from Hillsboro, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
5. Gregory Scott Hill, W/M, 45 from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
6. Paul Wayne Simpson, W/M, 54, from White Oak, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
7. Cody Tramaine Carter, B/M, 21, from Athens, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
8. Michael Lee Wooton, W/M, 52, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
9. Bolton Daniel Patterson, W/M, 30, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
10. Bobby Joe Ross, W/M, 53, from Eustace, indicted for Burglary of a Building;
11. Rickey Ramone Jackson, B/M, 30, from Athens, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
12. Shawn Michael Gautney, W/M, 29, from Mabank, indicted for Evading Arrest with a Motor Vehicle;
13. Donna Arrender Schultz, W/F, 44, from Eustace, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
14. Donna Arrender Schultz, W/F, 44, from Eustace, indicted for Tampering with Physical Evidence;
15. Trude Fay Welch, W/F, 36, from Athens, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
16. Windell Robert Robinson, W/M, 53, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
17. Kenneth Leonard Givens, Jr., B/M, 26, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Prohibited Substance in a Correctional Facility;
18. Amy Suzanne Lewis, W/F, 46, from Eustace, indicted for Prohibited Substance in a Correctional Facility;
19. Reina Gay Cole, W/F, 46, from Athens, indicted for Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information;
20. Reina Gay Cole, W/F, 46, from Athens, indicted for Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information;
21. Jacob Edward Kovarik, W/M, 33, from Frankston, indicted for Failure to Appear;
22. Jacob Edward Kovarik, W/M, 33, from Frankston, indicted for Failure to Appear;
23. Jacob Edward Kovarik, W/M, 33, from Frankston, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
24. Ervin Wren Bynum, W/M, 37, from Canton, indicted for Intoxication Assault;
25. Jay Martin Legallee, W/M, 62, from Caney City, indicted for Aggravated Assault Family Violence with a Deadly Weapon;
26. Jay Martin Legallee, W/M, 62, from Caney City, indicted for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon;
27. Jay Martin Legallee, W/M, 62, from Caney City, indicted for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon;
28. Jay Martin Legallee, W/M, 62, from Caney City, indicted for Burglary of a Habitation;
29. Craig Mylan Lovell, W/M, 25, from Mabank, indicted for Evading Arrest with a Motor Vehicle;
30. Laura Joann Mannon, W/F, 45, from Athens, indicted for Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information;
31. Laura Joann Mannon, W/F, 45, from Athens, indicted for Credit Card/Debit Card Abuse;
32. Donald Ray Green, B/M, 50, from Malakoff, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
33. Donald Ray Green, B/M, 50, from Malakoff, indicted for Tampering with Physical Evidence;
34. Lisa Ann Bambeck, W/F, 32, from Elkhart, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance, Drug Free Zone;
35. Lisa Ann Bambeck, W/F, 32, from Elkhart, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance, Drug Free Zone;
36. Lisa Ann Bambeck, W/F, 32, from Elkhart, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance, Drug Free Zone;
37. Timothy James Cubine, W/M, 44, from Athens, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
38. Helen Delena Tedder, W/F, 50, from Kemp, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
39. Joleta Amber Malone, W/F, 33, from Chandler, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
40. Gerald Wayne Sandidge, W/M, 57, from Payne Springs, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
41. Ty Jon Neal, W/M, 51, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
42. Eugenia Kay Neal, W/F, 55, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
43. Desmond Wayne Pugh, W/M, 60, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
44. Jeremy Lee Nelson, W/M, 21, from Mabank, indicted for Burglary of a Habitation;
45. Jeremy Lee Nelson, W/M, 21, from Mabank, indicted for Burglary of a Building;
46. Jeremy Lee Nelson, W/M, 21, from Mabank, indicted for Burglary of a Habitation;
47. Jeremy Lee Nelson, W/M, 21, from Mabank, indicted for Burglary of a Building;
48. Jeremy Lee Nelson, W/M, 21, from Mabank, indicted for Burglary of a Building;
49. Daniel Lee Christian, W/M, 28, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Burglary of a Habitation;
50. Douglas Wayne Cousin, W/M, 53, Frankston, indicted for Evading Arrest with a Motor Vehicle;
51. Renato Olvera-Zuniga, W/M, 33, from Kemp, indicted for Assault Family Violence;
52. Wayne Dale Martin, Jr., W/M, 36, from Tyler, indicted for Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information;
53. Ray Calloway Terry, W/M, 41, from Fling, indicted for Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information;
54. Steven Joe CLowdus, W/M, 30, from Mabank, indicted for Burglary of Habitation;
55. Shannon Paul Ramsey, W/M, 31, from Athens, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
56. Alejandro Quintana Montes, W/M, 24, from Athens, indicted for Driving While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger;
57. James Russell Powell, W/M, 63, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Theft by Check Over $1,500;
58. James Russell Powell, W/M, 63, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Theft by Check Over $1,500;
59. James Russell Powell, W/M, 63, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Theft by Check Over $1,500;
60. James Russell Powell, W/M, 63, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Theft by Check Over $1,500;
61. Richard Evan Cernoch, W/M, 46, from Bullard, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
62. Elasha Jo Berry, W/F, 32, from Eustace, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
63. Jesse Dean Jones, W/M, 57, from Athens, indicted for Forgery;
64. Justin Curtis Daniels, W/M, 31, from Nome, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
65. Justin Curtis Daniels, W/M, 31, from Nome, indicted for Tampering with Physical Evidence;
66. Sharonda Rochelle Sparks, B/F, 40, from Malakoff, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
67. Dennis Joe Vaught, W/M, 37, from Athens, indicted for Burglary of a Habitation;
68. Henry Lee Evans, W/M, 26, from Kemp, indicted for Theft of Property Over $1,500;
69. Michael Shane Hickman, W/M, 32, from Chandler, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
70. Crystal Nicole Rodgers, W/F, 29, from Palestine, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
71. David Clarence Musick, W/M, 51, from Athens, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
72. Amye Michelle Brown, W/F, 40, from Mabank, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
73. Savannah Rae Marlan, W/F, 26, from Mabank, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
74. Roger Dale Cullum, W/M, 63, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance;
75. David Wayne Donaldson, W/M, 42, from Athens, indicted for Burglary of a Building;
76. David Wayne Donaldson, W/M, 42, from Athens, indicted for Theft of Material Over $1,500;
77. David Wayne Donaldson, W/M, 42, from Athens, indicted for Unlawful Use of a Criminal Instrument;
78. Brandon Derrell Nemons, B/M, 29, from Teague, indicted for Tampering with Physical Evidence;
79. Hibby Marie Zelanick, W/F, 31, from Athens, indicted for Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger;
80. Hibby Marie Zelanick, W/F, 31, from Athens, indicted for Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger;
81. Justin Ryan Smith, W/M, 18, from Grand Saline, indicted for Criminal Mischief Over $1,500;
82. Richard Gerald Eckert, Jr., W/M, 34, from Longview, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
83. Richard Gerald Eckert, Jr., W/M, 34, from Longview, indicted for Tampering with Physical Evidence;
84. Toby Wayne Risinger, W/M, 17, from Trinidad, indicted for Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle;
85. John Patrick Tuttle, W/M, 20, from Chandler, indicted for Burglary of a Habitation;
86. Jeffrey Glen Stokes, W/M, 49, from Malakoff, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
87. Keith Allen Beasley, W/M, 49, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Possession/Transport Anhydrous Ammonia;
88. Billy Shane Day, w/M, 31, from Gun Barrel City, indicted for Credit Card/Debit Card Abuse;
89. Yvette Michelle Manios, W/F, 27, from Mabank, indicted for Possession of a Controlled Substance;
90. Rodney Allen Broach, W/M, 44, of Seven Points, indicted for Theft of Property Over $1,500;
91. Bryson Demond Bowman, B/M, 17, of Athens, indicted for Robbery;
92. Bryson Demond Bowman, B/M, 17, of Athens, indicted for Aggravated Kidnapping;
93. Lamontoe Daquon Rodriguez, B/M, 18, of Athens, indicted for Robbery;
94. Lamontoe Daquon Rodriguez, B/M, 18, of Athens, indicted for Aggravated Kidnapping;
95. Al Gene Fulton, B/M, 29, of Athens, indicted for Robbery;
96. Al Gene Fulton, B/M, 29, of Athens, indicted for Aggravated Kidnapping.

First baby of 2013

The first baby of the year. (Courtesy Photo)
The first baby of the year. (Courtesy Photo)

Story courtesy Toni Garrard Clay

ATHENS — The OB department at ETMC Athens delivers about 70 babies a month, but Ciara Kastner’s son falls into a unique category. At 6:07 p.m. Jan. 1, 2013, Ciara’s son took the distinction of being the first baby to be born at the hospital in the new year.

Clear-eyed Seth Roger Smith came into the world at a respectable 6 pounds, 8 ounces, measuring 18.25 inches in length. In addition to his mother, Seth is welcomed by his 1-year-old sister, Kailyn Smith, and his father, Josh Smith. The family makes their home in Mabank.

Seth was due Jan. 7, but decided to make his entrance a few days early.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Ciara of her son’s first-baby-of-the-year designation.

During her pregnancy, Ciara was under the care of Dr. Kathleen Knopp, and the baby was delivered by Dr. Jaspreet Sidhu. Ciara said before she went into labor, like most women great with child, she was very eager to deliver. “But when it was time to push, I was like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I felt the baby was safer in there,” she said with a wry grin.

Her sudden reluctance is understandable in light of the tragedy that struck two years ago after Ciara and Josh lost their infant daughter, Savanna Rose, to an illness. But now, with a healthy daughter at home and a healthy son just delivered, Ciara is feeling “normal.”

“I love being a mother,” she said with great enthusiasm. “The way they look up to us and the love we get from them … It makes me feel important.”

Ciara said her hopes for Seth are simple. “I want him to be successful, to not give up on his dreams,” she said. “I want him to go to college.”

Simple aspirations can sometimes be the most profound.

Top Stories No. 1: County budget struggles

(Editor’s Note: Henderson County Now will be counting down the Top 5 stories of 2012, with one story each day starting Friday, Dec. 28 and ending Tuesday, Jan. 1. … No. 5 – Changes to Ag Child Labor Laws Dropped … No. 4 – West Nile Hits County … No. 3 – Nativity Scene Controversy … No. 2 – Redistricting Scrambles Election.)

It might not surprise anyone that our top story of 2012 involves money.

Henderson County Commissioners’ Court struggled through the summer with its budget for the coming year before keeping the current tax rate: .472658 per $100 valuation.

“We did come up with a budget that did not increase taxes. I think that is very important in this day and time, with all the people who are hurting trying to make ends meet,” County Judge Richard Sanders said at the time.

The decision was popular, but not easy.

Factors like slower than normal tax collections, declining revenue from the jail, and increases in health insurance and retirement created a deficit for the county. Even something as universally praised as the senior citizen tax freeze has had an impact. In 2013, the county will lose an additional $180,000 in revenue because of new senior citizens, said Pct. 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney.

In order to balance the budget, the county eliminated the equivalent of 14 personnel slots, some full time and some part time. Counted in human terms, eight people who were on the county payroll in 2012 are not there today.

“Everyone on this Commissioners’ Court took it very seriously,” Sanders said. “We tried to cut everywhere else you could possibly cut before we considered any personnel cuts, whether it be part time or full time. I believe we did that to the fullest extent that we could.”

Commissioners also warned that keeping the status quo with money did not equal the status quo on services.

In August, McKinney and Pct. 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin issued a report detailing the relationship between income and cost within the county budget. The McKinney-Geeslin Report covered five years and included topics such as revenue, tax collections and tax rates, personnel costs by department, and the cost of road materials.

The two commissioners found what they expected: The shrinking “purchase power” of the Road and Bridge fund is cutting into their ability to repair roads and provide services to their constituents.

As Geeslin says only half-jokingly, “Unless we get some relief for Road and Bridge we’re going to have to have a part time clerk just to keep up with the call volume of the folks complaining about the lack of services. The way Road and Bridge has been able to stay afloat is we take money out of road material and we plug it in everywhere else, so therefore the amount of work (is down).”

The report covers five years, from 2007 to the present, McKinney said, “because that takes into account the (economic) crash and everything, and gives you a good balance.”

“Well, in that amount of time, gasoline has gone up 125 percent,” he said.

Diesel fuel, which is mainly what is used at the precinct barns, has gone up 68 percent since 2007. The price of material for the routine way the county maintains roads, which is also the least expensive (seal coat and pea gravel), has more than doubled over the past five years. Health insurance and retirement has gone up 26 percent and 23 percent respectively for workers at the precinct barns.

The McKinney-Geeslin report says income for Road and Bridge during that same time has gone up about 9 percent.

“We only have a couple of shots of getting the truth out there,” Geeslin said. “We live in a world of propaganda that is repeated and the truth seldom is repeated. I want the people of Henderson County to understand that we can pass a budget this year with no tax increases, but there will be consequences and I don’t want them to think the Road and Bridge operations are just becoming lazy and just don’t want to do anything. I want them to understand that if we can’t respond and the fix the roads the way they are accustomed to seeing them fixed, it isn’t because our desire isn’t there. It is because the funds aren’t there.”

Commissioners have already started meeting to discuss next year’s budget, which figures to be just as difficult.

Top Story No. 2: Redistricting problems

(Editor’s Note: Henderson County Now will be counting down the Top 5 stories of 2012, with one story each day starting Friday, Dec. 28 and ending Tuesday, Jan. 1. … No. 5 – Changes to Ag Child Labor Laws Dropped … No. 4 – West Nile Hits County … No. 3 – Nativity Scene Controversy.)

Who knew it would be so hard to count and organize?

In 2011, the Texas Legislature went through the once-every-10-years process of redistricting — the redrawing of governmental subdivisions (like House and Senate districts) based on census data.

The driving principle behind the exercise is the idea that districts need to be of similar size to be truly representative.

Of course, the meaning of “representative” is sometimes up for grabs when it comes to politics, and in 2012 redistricting went to court. Multiple courts, actually.

The upshot for the average Texan was that the primary election was pushed back .. and back and back … all the way to May 29.

Locally, it meant officials were conducting elections almost continually from April 30 to July 31. Those included municipal and school elections, the primary, and a couple of primary runoff elections.

And as if that didn’t cause enough problems, Henderson County officials also had to deal with its own redistricting plus the Legislature split the county into two House districts for the first time.

For Elections Administrator Denise Hernandez, that meant reducing the number of voting boxes from 31 to 27. Also, officials had to shuffle voters around Cedar Creek Lake into either House District 10 or House District 4.

The split by the state caused plenty of confusion for voters, particularly in the Malakoff and Cross Roads area, where commissioners had to move some folks out of Box 1MN (Malakoff) into 1CR (Cross Roads).

“This is a direct effect of splitting Henderson County,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Hall. “I am frustrated to no end. This is not a good scenario, but there is no perfect scenario.”

Top Story No. 3: Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene

(Editor’s Note: Henderson County Now will be counting down the Top 5 stories of 2012, with one story each day starting Friday, Dec. 28 and ending Tuesday, Jan. 1. … No. 5 – Changes to Ag Child Labor Laws Dropped … No. 4 – West Nile Hits County)

Coming in as our No. 3 Top Story of 2012 is the one story guaranteed to make everyone’s list: The nativity scene controversy. After all, it put Henderson County into the national spotlight twice.

The controversy split into separate prongs this year. The first is the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which started everything in December 2011. The second is San Antonio atheist Patrick Greene. We’ll take each one in turn.

The FFRF and The Banner

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is the Wisconsin-based organization that demanded the county remove a nativity scene from the Christmas decorations on the courthouse lawn last December. Later, the foundation shifted its focus from removing the nativity to allowing one of its banners.

In April, the FFRF formally requested Henderson County commissioners allow one of its atheist banners on the courthouse lawn for this December.

The proposed banner read: “At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds.”

“What we are trying to do is directly counter the theology of the nativity display,” FFRF Co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said at that time.
They didn’t get the chance, at least not this year. In October, County Judge Richard Sanders denied the FFRF request.

County Attorney Clint Davis said, “(The banner) is merely a rant against religion. When you look at the overall goal of the county, which is to make the town center attractive through seasonal decorations, you have to ask if their banner does that.”

The FFRF wasn’t happy with the decision.

“Henderson County’s decision to deny our permit is appalling,” Gaylor said. “County officials have continually given FFRF the run-around in an attempt to stonewall our application which they had no intention of approving. Using government power to promote religion and hinder criticism of religion is tyrannical, and is precisely what our secular Constitution prohibits.”

Although the FFRF took no other action in 2012, there is a good chance the group could file a lawsuit in 2013.

“At this time we are considering legal action,” said FFRF attorney Stephanie Schmitt after the banner was denied. “Had a message of our choosing been approved, litigation would not be necessary. It was pretty obvious that no matter what we proposed, our banner – anti-religious or not, was going to be denied. They are trying to exclude any nonreligious viewpoint.”

Atheist Patrick Greene

Henderson County residents were between the FFRF uproar of last December and the banner request of April when they first heard the name Patrick Greene.

The San Antonio atheist, who is not part of the FFRF, became interested in Henderson County in February 2012 after watching video of a Christian nativity rally held on the courthouse square. He sent a letter to Commissioners’ Court threatening a lawsuit if the nativity scene was not moved to private property for this December.

Then things got weird. Greene changed his mind because he believed he was going blind.

A group, led by Sand Springs Baptist Church, collected $400 and sent it to the struggling Greene and his wife to help with expenses. Greene responded by flirting with converting to Christianity, although he reverted back to being an atheist fairly quickly. Still, the atheist-helped-by-Christians story went viral, garnering the county national attention.

Greene was then quiet for nearly eight months, before bursting back onto the scene in December with a lawsuit against the City of Athens.

He said he filed against the city because the city pays Keep Athens Beautiful $10,000 annually. The lawsuit read: “These funds were partly used for the upkeep of a life size Christian Nativity display, thereby violating Article 1, Sections 6 and 7 of the Texas Constitution.”

Greene withdrew that lawsuit less than a week after it was filed when Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked the Bexar County District Clerk for a copy. Greene also said he was afraid of Christian violence.

But to prove that you can never be sure of what Greene will do next, he closed out the year by filing another lawsuit, this time against County Judge Richard Sanders.

In that lawsuit, filed Dec. 28, Greene claims Sanders, “abused his position as judicial head of Henderson County, by giving official governmental permission to private citizens to display this Christian Nativity scene. This also violated Article 1, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution; ‘No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by lay to any religious society or mode of worship.’”

Greene said he wants the nativity scene moved to private property.

The one thing we can be sure of in 2013, is that Patrick Greene isn’t going to just disappear.