Oct

12

Posted by : admin | On : October 12, 2017

Bryce Cook (left) and Tyler Spillman

Bryce Cook (left) and Tyler Spillman

By Bodey Cooper
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–The Trinity Valley Community College football team is mourning the deaths of two Cardinal players who were killed in a head-on crash Monday morning.
Freshmen Tyler Spillman and Bruce Cook were heading back to Athens early Monday morning when they collided head-on with an 18-wheeler.
According to the Department of Public Safety, the wreck happened on FM 488 around 3:45 a.m. north of the Fairfield area. They had been in the Houston area and left around midnight. They both had a team meeting at 9 a.m. Monday morning, followed by practice at 10:45 a.m., according to their coach, Brad Smiley. Players were allowed to go home that weekend since they had an open date on the schedule, he added.
Spillman and Cook were traveling northbound on FM 488 in Freestone County, approximately one-and-a-half miles north of FM 416, when their vehicle crossed the center median and into the path of a southbound 18-wheeler tanker truck which burst into flames upon being struck head-on, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The driver of the 18-wheeler was taken to Navarro County Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.
Spillman and Cook were pronounced dead at the scene.
For the year, Spillman had five tackles and 1.5 sacks as a defensive lineman. Cook had five tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass broken up.
Both young men were from Spring. Spillman graduated from Klein Collins High School and Cook graduated from Westfield High School.
TVCC released a statement on their Facebook page remembering both players and what they meant to the team as well as the campus.
“We are saddened by the news that Cardinal football players Bryce Cook and Tyler Spillman have passed away. Their leadership on our football team and overall presence on our campus will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s and Tyler’s families, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”

Oct

05

Posted by : admin | On : October 5, 2017

Randall Wayne Mays-death row
Special to The News
ATHENS–On May 17, 2007, Randall Wayne Mays took the life Henderson County Sheriff’s deputy Tony Ogburn and Investigator Paul Habelt, and seriously injured another, Deputy Kevin Harris.
The following year, Mays was convicted of Capital Murder and sentenced to die by lethal injection. In addition to his direct appeal, he filed writs and petitions which were heard in both state and federal courts, including the U. S. Supreme Court, seeking to overturn his conviction. Those attempts were unsuccessful at every stage, and his execution was scheduled for March 18, 2015.
The month before he was to be executed, lawyers from the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs based in Austin, (a state funded, Public Defender agency that represents death penalty defendants in post-conviction litigation), filed a “Motion Re Competency to be Executed,” claiming that Mays was currently (mentally) incompetent to be executed.
The Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution and remanded the case back to the trial court for the appointment of experts to evaluate Mays pursuant to the standards for competency to be executed in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 46.05. Those standards require that a person condemned to death understand that he or she is to be executed and that the execution is imminent. Additionally, the person must also have a rational understanding as to the reason that they will be executed.
Judge Carter Tarrance, 392nd District Judge at the time, appointed three experts to evaluate Mays for competency. Dr. George Woods, Jr., Berkeley, Calif., Dr. Bhushan Agharkar, Atlanta, Ga., and Dr. Randall Price, Dallas, all evaluated Mays and prepared reports for the Court, the last of which was received in May of this year.
Both Dr. Woods and Agharkar believed that Mays was incompetent to be executed while Dr. Price determined that he was competent under the applicable standards.
A three and a half day hearing was held before visiting Judge Joe D. Clayton of Tyler from August 9-12 where he heard testimony from all three experts in addition to five other witnesses. He also reviewed a voluminous amount of records and transcripts from the original trial, mental health records and records from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division that documented Mays’s history while incarcerated including correspondence from Mays to family and friends, and communications between Mays and prison officials.
Woods and Agharkar testified that while Mays understood he was to be executed, he did not have a rational understanding as to why, believing that he was suffering from pervasive delusions centered around his “green energy” designs for wind and solar powered equipment. They reported to the Court that Mays believed he was going to be executed because his design would cost the state and the oil industry billions of dollars, and since this was not a “rational” belief, he was incompetent to be executed. Mays never mentioned this to Dr. Price during his evaluation, but did indicate that he knew he had been convicted of Capital Murder involving three officers, and felt that his conviction and punishment were unfair because the deputies came onto his property
Likewise, Mays never mentioned in his correspondence or numerous grievances while in prison that his energy ideas had anything to do with his pending execution, a fact noted by Judge Clayton in his signed order finding Mays competent to be executed, which was filed on Monday, Oct. 2.
District Attorney Mark Hall, who was joined by First Assistant Nancy Rumar in arguing the competency case in August, said that he believes the Judge made the correct call. “Judge Clayton listened intently to hour upon hour of expert testimony over the course of the hearing; and while giving due consideration to the oftentimes complicated, and in my view, occasionally convoluted mental health findings, he was able to cut through the jargon and apply a strong dose of common sense to the issue.”
“I don’t think there is any question that Randall Mays understands exactly what he did, and what a jury found him guilty of, or the reason for which he received the sentence of death. He has been given every opportunity to contest his conviction and sentence, which I think was appropriate under the circumstances,” said Hall.
The District Attorney intends to file a motion for the Court to set an execution date, but anticipates that before it is carried out, Mays will make a motion that the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) review Judge Clayton’s order and enter a judgment of whether to adopt the order, findings and recommendations.
At that point, the CCA would determine whether any existing execution date should be withdrawn and a stay of execution issued while that court is conducting its review. Otherwise, the execution will be carried out as ordered.
“This has been a long, and sometimes frustrating road for the family and friends of these slain and injured officers, with each stage of the process renewing and reopening the feelings of sadness, anger and loss. But I have confidence in our criminal justice system, and that Randall Mays will soon face the sentence he received and deserved,” said Hall.

Sep

21

Posted by : admin | On : September 21, 2017

ETMC Hospital Athens

Special to The News
TYLER–East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System (ETMC) has selected Ardent Health Services (Ardent) and The University of Texas System (UT System), which includes The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UT Health Northeast), to form a new health system to benefit East Texas, officials announced Sept. 13. Ardent will assume majority ownership and day-to-day operations of the new system. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
The partnership will invest $150 million for improvements over five years and provide other resources to support the operation of this newly created health system.
Governance will be shared through a newly formed board of directors, which will include local physicians. Proceeds from the transaction will be used to create a local foundation to further the health and wellness of East Texans. The transaction is expected to close following the completion of due diligence and required regulatory approvals.
Based in Tyler, ETMC includes 502-bed East Texas Medical Center Tyler and a network of nine hospitals and 39 clinics, including regional hospitals located in Athens, Carthage, Henderson, Jacksonville, Pittsburg and Quitman. Additionally, in Tyler, two other inpatient facilities, the ETMC Rehabilitation Hospital and the ETMC Specialty Hospital, are included in the new health system.
Other assets include the Olympic Plaza Tower, 13 regional rehabilitation facilities, physician clinics, two freestanding emergency centers, regional home health services covering 41 counties, a behavioral health center and a comprehensive 7-trauma center care network, including a Level 1.
In February 2017, ETMC leadership began the search for a strategic partner to assist the organization in continuing its mission of improving the health and quality of life for East Texans.
“After a deliberate and thoughtful process, our Board of Directors is pleased to select Ardent Health Services and the University of Texas System as the right partners for ETMC to take up our mission of care,” said President and CEO of ETMC Elmer G. Ellis. “This acquisition will allow ETMC to grow and thrive in the East Texas region, with new partners who can best provide the necessary clinical expertise, operational proficiency, employee development and financial resources to deliver the best care possible for our patients.”
Once the board approves, the UT System will contribute its Tyler-based UT Health Northeast hospital and 12 physician clinic operations to the new 10-hospital system. The newly created health system will expand medical education, research and community health. It will be an affiliate of the world-renowned University of Texas System, one of the largest academic and health systems in the country.” This combination will bring unique synergies to the East Texas health-care landscape,” UT System Board of Regents member Kevin Eltife stated. “The great benefit of these three organizations coming together will be that East Texans will enjoy the best of all possible worlds. A great national healthcare system will be integrated with a regional powerhouse in healthcare delivery and a leader in health education and research.”
“We are delighted to partner with UT Health Northeast and the dedicated physicians, nurses and employees of ETMC,” President and CEO of Ardent Health Services David T. Vandewater said. “At Ardent, we strongly believe in the value of partnerships that bring out the best in each organization. We each share a focus on service and a commitment to providing quality care to the communities we serve. Together, we will continue the great legacy of ETMC.”

Sep

14

Posted by : admin | On : September 14, 2017

Jeff Weinstein (right) holds a proclamation making Sept. 23, 2017 "Unlce Fletch Festival Day" in the city of Athens. Mayor Monte Montgomery (left) read the proclamation and the council approved execution of an agreement with TxDOT for closure of State Right-of-Way for the festival.

Jeff Weinstein (right) holds a proclamation making Sept. 23, 2017 “Unlce Fletch Festival Day” in the city of Athens. Mayor Monte Montgomery (left) read the proclamation and the council approved execution of an agreement with TxDOT for closure of State Right-of-Way for the festival.


By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Disannexation of property around Lake Athens came before the city council once again at their Sept. 11 meeting. Landowner Tom Potthoff spoke briefly, thanking the council members and Fire Chief McQueary for consideration relating to the disannexation of his property, which the council voted in favor of initiating Aug. 14 in a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Toni Clay opposing the move. The first reading of the Ordinance took place at the meeting. The second reading is scheduled for September.
City Managing Director of Planning Barbara Holley presented a report to the council regarding the possible impact of disannexing property within the city limits, pointing out that the affected area could be as much as 106 acres total with some additional amount of the spillway acreage.
“Due to the changes in the legislation regarding annexation, it is less likely. Currently, our growth boundary is at 80 percent.” Holley also described a situation where a property owner on the outskirts of the city could possibly enjoy city services without paying city taxes.
“From a planning perspective, I don’t think disannexing is a good idea because we have a significantly contracted growth boundary at this point,” Holley said. She also informed the council that when disannexing property, there is a mandatory refund of all taxes paid on a property from the time it was annexed to the time it is disannexed. For the Potthoff property, the amount is around $400.
Mayor Monte Montgomery questioned the fiscal impact of not only the taxes, but the work it would take city staff to process requests if they begin coming in succession. Councilwoman Clay reiterated her opposition to disannexation, “For me it is not about tax revenue now. Our job is to have a vision for the future. I feel that 40, 50 or 100 years from now, we will have made the wrong decision by de-annexing this property, especially when it is so much more difficult to annex in the future.”
Mayor Montgomery said, “It will always be my stand that we should never go after tax money without providing services. If we annex property, water and sewer should be right behind it.”
The council then considered the request of James and Carolyn Ray to disannex 0.260 acres (F.M. Trimble, A-766). Stan Taylor spoke to the council in favor of granting the request as it will affect how the Ray’s build their new home. The proposed porch and firepit will be in the section of land currently within the city. The portion of the lot is 100 feet by 71 to 90 feet.
After discussion, the motion failed 3-2.
In other business, council members:
• Mayor Monte Montgomery read a proclamation making Sept. 23 “Uncle Fletch Festival Day.”
• Approved selection of Gallagher Construction Company, L for construction management services (Construction Manager as Advisor) for the Cain Center Project.

Sep

07

Posted by : admin | On : September 7, 2017

Anglea Davis

The News Staff Reports
ATHENS – A Larue woman was arrested late Aug. 31 for possession with intent to deliver a substantial amount of methamphetamine. Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said her original charge was compounded when more drugs were discovered when she was being processed into the jail.
Angela Davis, 42, was arrested around 9 p.m. in a parking lot of a business on State Highway 155 in Berryville.
Narcotic Investigator Josh Rickman noticed Davis with a small, clear, plastic bag containing a crystal substance suspected to be methamphetamine. She was on foot, approaching a parked vehicle.
For having more than four grams of the methamphetamine, she was charged with manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, a first-degree felony.
When she was booked into the Henderson County Jail, more methamphetamine was discovered on her person, and a second possession charge was added for having a prohibited substance in a correctional facility. She was released on bonds totaling $13,000 the following day.
“Our team is alert around the clock,” Hillhouse said. “That includes on the streets, at night and in the jail.”

Aug

31

Posted by : admin | On : August 31, 2017

By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
TRINIDAD–Trinidad City Council members have voted to raise rates to rent the city-owned Community Center, then later amended the policy to exclude non-profits and schools from the fee.
Council members also have had multiple discussions about the 2017-18 fiscal year budget, which is being currently crafted for consideration.
The vote to raise the Community Center rental rate to $250 for Trinidad residents, and $400 for non-Trinidad residents, came during the special meeting Aug. 10. Both rates require no deposit, are good for a full day of use and were effective immediately.
Anyone on the calendar who has already been scheduled to rent will pay the previous price for rental, which was $75 per day with a $50 deposit, totaling $125. The deposit was refundable if the center was left clean, upon inspection by an authorized agent of the City of Trinidad.
Then during the Aug. 22 regular monthly meeting, members of the council decided to amend the rental policy to exclude non-profit organizations, including schools, from paying the required rental rate.
Free use of Trinidad Community Center depends on coordination with Trinidad City Administrator Terri Newhouse, according to the adopted motion. Examples of school use include school dances and senior dinners.
Also during that meeting, Trinidad council members approved renewing a Partnership Maintenance Agreement for SC200 controllers and sensors at the municipal water plant. In addition, Valerie Hamrick of the Trinidad Public Works Department told council members that the department has completed road patchwork on East Carpenter and East Lawrence streets, along with West Street.
The Public Works Department also has installed 20 miles per hour speed-limit signs, as well as “Keep Community Clean” signs, Hamrick added. Hamrick told council members that she believed the signs have had a positive impact on the amount of litter along roads.
Furthermore, Trinidad council members on Aug. 22 continued discussing the municipal budget, including purchases using water/sewer and general fund revenue. Members also reviewed parameters set for the Texas Municipal Retirement Program for the City of Trinidad, in relation to the budget.
How to pay for it all remains a question that could be answered during a special meeting tentatively set for Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 5:30 p.m. to adopt the city budget and associated tax rate. “With less coming in and more going around, it becomes a challenge,” said council member Roy Stanfield.

Aug

24

Posted by : admin | On : August 24, 2017

A view of the east end of new construction work at Athens High School, which will house new classrooms, kitchen and cafeteria. The cafeteria is expected to be open by Christmas, and the balance of work at AHS should be finished in the summer of 2018. Students were greeted at the beginning of the school year with six brand new science classrooms and two new labs.

A view of the east end of new construction work at Athens High School, which will house new classrooms, kitchen and cafeteria. The cafeteria is expected to be open by Christmas, and the balance of work at AHS should be finished in the summer of 2018. Students were greeted at the beginning of the school year with six brand new science classrooms and two new labs.


By Toni Garrard Clay
AISD Communicaitons Coordinator
ATHENS–Athens ISD Director of Operations Barry Choate summed it up succinctly when he called the amount of construction that took place across the district this summer as “intense.” Major work took place at four of the five campuses and continues at the high school.
Inside the main building at the high school, six new science classrooms and two new labs greeted students on the first day of school. While the rooms are located in the same space as the old science hall, they are entirely new. “That space was bulldozed,” said Choate. “We dug up the floor and put new plumbing in and used a new configuration for the rooms.”
On the north end of the high school annex, a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) building now stands. The building is divided into four sections. It houses a brand new Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning class (HVAC) made possible through a joint venture with Trinity Valley Community College and a $350,000 equipment grant. It’s also the site of the machining and woodshop classes, and a powder-coating booth and oven for painting projects. “These classes are light years ahead of where we were,” said Choate.
The construction across the front of the high school’s main building will be completed in stages. On the east end, the new kitchen and cafeteria should open by Christmas. The old kitchen will be turned into classroom space. The old cafeteria will become two new classrooms and a lecture hall that is more than double the space of the existing lecture hall.
The high school’s new office space and the gym, as well as the balance of any remaining work, are projected to be completed during the summer of 2018.
The most visible completed project is at Bruce Field, where a new football/soccer field house and restroom/concession facility sit at either side of newly-installed turf. While the turf was the result of fire damage last spring, the construction across the district is the fruit of community support through the passage of a bond in November 2015.
At Central Athens Elementary, a beautiful new library has been built, as well as new office space. Both were severely undersized previously. At Bel Air and South Athens elementaries, new activity centers have been built to replace the too-small ones previously used.
“We’re grateful to the community for making these improvements possible,” said Superintendent Blake Stiles. “It’s sending a message to our students that they’re valued.”

Aug

24

Posted by : admin | On : August 24, 2017

DSC_0037

The News Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–The fun stopped abruptly for six passengers on a ski boat last Friday evening on Cedar Creek Lake when the boat hit what’s commonly called bird island, Seven Points Police Chief Administrator Raymond Wennerstrom told The News.
Henderson County Game Warden Gregg Johnson conducted the initial investigation and reported that of the six passengers on board, three were seriously injured and were transported to ETMC-Athens Hospital. However their condition was characterized as not life-threatening.
The crash happened between 9:27 p.m. and 10 p.m. and rescue operations were staged from Tom Finley Park with Seven Points Police and Fire Rescue responding. The scene was cleared at 4:53 a.m.
Passengers’ names have yet to be released by authorities, but one is reportedly a 28-year-old woman from Waxahachie, who was to undergo surgery on Tuesday.

Aug

17

Posted by : admin | On : August 17, 2017

Hensarling Meeting
By Tom Chapman
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Local citizens gathered Thursday for a town hall meeting with U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R).
After opening remarks and introduction by County Judge Sanders, Congressman Hensarling stated that he was honored to occupy the “citizen’s seat” and recognized that despite political or philosophical differences “our citizenship unites us.” He then talked about recent legislative actions in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hensarling informed constituents that the House had been busy, passing about 300 bills. He went on to say that “about 200 of them are sitting in the Senate awaiting action.”
After talking about challenges the country and Congressional District 5 are facing, including healthcare reform, actions on entitlements, fiduciary concerns he opened the floor for questions and comment.
Several citizens asked about healthcare reform, expressing frustrations that deductibles have risen along with costs. The congressman stated the house had been working on a reform bill which preserved choice in providers and made the healthcare exchanges more easily accessible.
Other citizens asked insightful questions about campaign finance, with the general consensus that the citizens thought there were potential conflicts of interest by Congress accepting monies from industries in which congressmen had regulatory oversight.
Congressman Hensarling has represented the 5th district since 2003 and currently chairs the House Financial Services Committee.

Aug

17

Posted by : admin | On : August 17, 2017

Clyde Jason Tennison

Special to The News
ATHENS–Three years from the date he brutally killed Deborah Denise Allen, and just days before he was set to begin his trial in front of a Henderson County jury, Clyde Jason Tennison entered a plea of “Guilty” to her murder before visiting Judge Joe Clayton Aug. 11.
In exchange for his plea, the 53-year-old Tennison, received a sentence of 45 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Institutional Division. He will be eligible for parole after completing half his sentence (22.5 years), with time served in the Henderson County Jail. He will be 73 before that time arrives, and “eligibility” for parole does not mean he will be released at that time.
On Aug. 2, 2014, Tennison claimed that he and the victim, who was his girlfriend, had been arguing in the days leading up to her death. He told investigators that on the that day, he had just informed her that he was leaving, and went to take a shower first. According to him, when he got out, he looked in her room and saw her body lying on the bed. He then left the house and traveled to the home of his parents, telling them that Deborah had committed suicide by cutting her own throat. He later told Sheriff’s Deputy Cayce Hampton that Allen had used his knife to cut herself.
Tennison and members of his family went back to the residence located in Gun Barrel City and determined that Ms. Allen was deceased before contacting law enforcement.
At some point, Tennison consumed and overdosed on Xanax resulting in him being admitted to ETMC the same morning after Allen’s death. He also tested positive for PCP.
As the investigation progressed, Tennison’s account of the events became less plausible. Investigators located the defendant’s wet clothes in the washing machine, yet they still tested positive for the presence of blood. According to lab results, he also had the victim’s blood under his fingernails, along with a distinct bite mark on the inside of his thigh.
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy believed that the wounds to the neck of Ms. Allen were unlikely to be self-inflicted. Physical evidence, and the position of the knife found in Allen’s hand were incompatible with the injuries and blood evidence.
Investigators believed that after bludgeoning and cutting his victim, Tennison attempted to stage the scene to appear as if it had been a suicide.
Several weeks after the murder, Tennison made an unsolicited comment to jailers that, “I never thought I would be capable of something like that. I slit her throat and watched her bleed out on the ground.”
During most of the plea, Tennison was quiet and reserved, however during the victim impact statement given by Ms. Allen’s daughter, he momentarily sobbed, and said that he was sorry.
Henderson County District Attorney Mark Hall, and First Assistant Nancy Rumar were set to prosecute the case beginning on Tuesday of this week. Hall said the plea agreement was one that ensured that Tennison would be in prison for a long time to come, and that the family of Ms. Allen was fully on board with the 45-year offer.
“This has been a long, hard road for the family of Deborah Allen, and I am glad that they can finally put this chapter behind them. Although the pain of her death will never go away, the fact that Clyde Tennison finally admitted his guilt in open court will help them deal with her horrible death,” Hall said.
“I want to thank the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Ranger Michael Adcock, D.A. investigators, and the other law enforcement agencies and personnel that worked this case and did such a thorough and professional job of sorting out truth from fiction.”