By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Jurors returned a guilty verdict in the trial of Stacie Marie Parsons, 27, who is charged with murdering her 4-year-old daughter, Victoria Wyatt, on July 21, 2014.
The seven-man five-woman jury returned a verdict after roughly 90 minutes of deliberation Nov. 17.
Juror Barbara Meyer told The News that the defendant didn’t exhibit any reactions or emotions during the 10-day trial that she could tell. She described the members of the jury as open-minded and able to render an opinion based on what was presented.
Meyer said what was the most convincing came from the defendant during several interviews with investigators recorded on video. “She confessed to the crime and believed she’d spend the rest of her life in prison,” Meyer said. “She didn’t show any diminished capacity to know right from wrong.”
173rd District Judge Dan Moore rejected a motion by Parsons’ defense team, pleading diminished mental capacity as a defense. Moore ruled that Parsons’ could not avoid criminal culpability on that basis. “It is not a defense under the criminal law,” Moore said.
In that case, Parsons’ lawyers claimed that Moore was denying Parson her Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel and that they were rendered ineffective. Moore said the two attorneys have been very effective at representing their client.
The defense is sure to seek an appeal since its evidence of intellectual disability and diminished capacity was disallowed from being presented to the jury, but was recorded in a closed session — as well as evidence of Parsons’ mental state or awareness of criminal activity at the time of its commission.
This evidence included depositions from those who have known Parsons, as well as from witnesses who testified as to her childhood and the IQ test she was given shortly after her arrest. Dr. Joan Mayfield found Parsons IQ to be 70. A score of 100 is considered average.
District Attorney Scott McKee told the judge the people were not seeking the death penalty for Parsons because of her mental disability. “Under the law, she does not qualify for the death penalty,” McKee said.
Parsons’ defense team entered a guilty plea by reason of insanity. A guilty verdict carries a sentence of life in prison.
Shortly after 9 a.m. July 21, 2014, Parsons walked into the Athens Police Department and stated she had killed her daughter and informed that the body could be found in the trunk of her car parked at an apartment building on Martin Luther King Blvd.
Police found the little girl with trauma to her head and chest. Later Parsons lead police to the place where the crime was committed under a bridge on County Road 1500. The girl’s father, Gary Wyatt, told news outlets that the girl’s mother had never acted violently toward their daughter before and that the couple had been together for six years. When Parsons left that morning with the little girl it was presumed she was going to register the girl for pre-kindergarten. When she returned without the girl and started walking away, Wyatt approached the car to look for her, “I wouldn’t be in that car if I were you,” Parson is reported as having told Wyatt. When he and a family friend opened the trunk, they found a garbage bag with his daughter’s leg sticking out of it. The two men pulled the body out and started CPR. Water was expelled from her lungs, it was reported.
According to news reports, Wyatt said that the night before, he had threatened to leave Parsons. Looking back, Wyatt said, weeks ago she had threatened to kill the baby if he ever left her, but he had chalked that up to just “angry talk”
“I never thought for a second she’d actually do it,” he said.
Posted by : November 23, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : September 8, 2016| On :
Special to The News
HENDERSON COUNTY– In his continuing attack on the drug trade, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse led a team of deputies on a house raid over the Labor Day weekend and arrested three people.
“Even on the holidays, we are on guard,” Hillhouse said. “Henderson County Sheriff’s Office is working hard to get these folks off our streets, just as I promised the people.”
The night of Sept. 3into the early hours of the next morning, Hillhouse and seven of his deputies executed a narcotics search warrant at a Chandler home.
Laurie Perry, 56 of Chandler was arrested for manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, a first degree felony carrying a penalty of up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.
Both Stanton Pearce, 54, of Tyler and James Littlejohn, 30, were arrested at a residence on Lovely Drive in the Forest Grove subdivision in Chandler.
Both Pearce and Littlejohn were charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
Investigator Brad Beddingflield presented Judge Dan Moore of the 173rd District Court with information that led the search warrant for the arrests.
Hillhouse called upon a team of investigators Beddingfield, Josh Rickman, Ray Yockey, Cayce Hampton, Jeromey Rose, Patrol Sargent Daniel Wright and Deputy Linus Multon to conduct the raid.
“These are the men and women who put their lives on the line every day,” Hillhouse said. “It is too easy to forget that real people, real law enforcement officers, risk everything to keep our community safe and drug free.
“We never know what is behind that door when we approach a home on a raid,” he said. “That is why these deputies deserve our thanks.”
Posted by : August 4, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Henderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested four people July 28 for various crimes, including illegal drug possession, outstanding warrants and evading arrest.
According to Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse, investigators arrested a 26-year-old Malakoff man at his home on Royall Blvd., where he was allegedly growing marijuana. “I’m proud of my team,” Hillhouse said. “A citizen complained about possible drug activity at a residence. Investigators Brad Beddingfield, Kay Langford and Josh Rickman followed up on that complaint and found Joe Eldon St. Clair to be in possession of marijuana.”
In a separate case, investigators Beddingfield, Langford and Rickman attempted to stop a vehicle in the Cherokee Shores subdivision. After a pursuit, they arrested two suspects. Bailey Marie Hefley, 26, of Gun Barrel City was arrested for evading arrest with a vehicle. Mabank resident James Noel Nelson, Jr., 30, was arrested for outstanding warrants for assault causing bodily injury.
After a traffic stop on Henderson County Road 2514, Patrol Sergeant Daniel Wright arrested Jefferson Daugherty for outstanding warrants for possession of a controlled substance, parole violation, bail jumping and misdemeanor theft.
“We search homes, stop vehicles, follow up on tips and confront suspects about illegal drugs every day and will continue to do so,” Sheriff Hillhouse said.
Posted by : July 28, 2016| On :
Special to The News
HENDERSON COUNTY–On Saturday, July 23, at approximately 8:25 a.m., the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a witness reporting there was a man near FM 315 outside of Chandler who had been held at gunpoint and was being beaten. The caller said that the suspect then tied the victim’s hands and feet together with a rope, threw him in the bed of a tan colored Ford pickup and drove away.
HCSO Sergeant Thomas Goodell and Deputies Tell Walker and Ray Yockey responded to the call. Deputies located the victim at his residence. The victim showed signs of having been assaulted and was bleeding. The victim, 54-year-old Dwayne Welch, told deputies that he was asleep in his tent. He said that the next thing he knew, he was thrown out on CR 4307 a mile or two from his residence. Welch suffered cuts and abrasions to his head, along with other contusions and bruises on his body. Welch was transported to East Texas Medical Center in Athens where he was treated and released.
Deputies searched the area for a truck matching the description given by the witness. Sergeant Goodell noticed a vehicle matching the description parked at a residence located near the end of CR 4307. Sgt. Goodell observed evidence indicating that the bed of the pickup truck had been recently washed. Goodell also observed what appeared to be traces of blood in the bed of the pickup.
Sgt. Goodell made contact with Derrick Cofer at the residence. Cofer admitted to striking the victim with a shotgun, assaulting him, binding him and transporting him against his will. Cofer said that he thought Welch had something to do with Cofer’s wallet going missing earlier in the morning.
Derrick Cofer was placed under arrest and booked into the Henderson County Justice Center on the offense of Aggravated Kidnapping, a First Degree Felony, punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. He was arraigned by Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Judge Kevin Pollack who set bond at $5,000. Cofer posted bond and was released.
Posted by : July 21, 2016| On :
News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Henderson County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jannell Dunnington retired July 15 after serving the department for more than 21 years. She began her career with the department as a detention officer.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office said, “She has been an outstanding deputy and helped and touched many people throughout her career here. She will be missed by so many. Once again, thank you Deputy Jannell Dunnington for your outstanding and dedicated service to Henderson County.”
Posted by : July 7, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
CROSS ROADS–Vandals recently struck Beck’s Chapel Church in the Cross Roads area. The doors appeared to have been kicked in, and several items were vandalized. The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office took the report June 22, and the incident seems to have occurred between June 19 and June 22.
The historical church is located at 13960 County Road 1114. Regular services are no longer held at the church. It is only used for special events.
If you have any information about this crime, contact Henderson County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-545-8477. Callers will remain anonymous. If your information leads to an arrest, you could earn a cash reward of up to $1,000.
Posted by : May 19, 2016| On :
The News Photo/Sariah Kendall
Texas Game Wardens stand ready for a 21-gun salute during a memorial service held at the the Texas Game Warden Memorial at the Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, May 13.
By Sariah Kendall
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Texas Game wardens gathered Friday for an annual memorial ceremony held at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens to honor 18 wardens who died in the line of duty.
Family members of the fallen, guests, and the 60th game warden training class listened as Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith reviewed the courage and dedication of these fallen wardens.
“In your valor, there is great hope. May we never forget the valor and hope bestowed upon us by the 18 departed wardens,” Smith said.
Game wardens have served the citizens of Texas since 1895. They have expanded their duties from solely protecting fisheries and wildlife to water safety and search and rescue. For years they have also worked with border patrol and disaster relief, “which is increasing danger and risk,” Smith said. Daily, 500 wardens are on duty throughout the state of Texas.
Since 2016, the U.S. has lost 35 game wardens, three from Texas. “You must remember the sacrifices for the blue badge,” Colonel Craig Hunter reminded the game warden training class.
This is likely the last ceremony to be conducted in Athens before the memorial is moved to Austin. Athens has held the ceremony at the Memorial Plaza since it was installed.
The News photo/ sariah Kendall
From left to right: Oscar Jaimez of Laredo, Brad Meloni of Kingsville, Carlos Maldonado of Hebbronville, Colt Gaulden of Gatesville and Kevin Frazier of Hamilton stand united at the Texas Game Warden Memorial Ceremony held at the Freshwater Fisheries Center.
Posted by : March 31, 2016| On :
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–On the eve of Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office reports a number of recent arrests of persons charged with victimizing children.
A 32-year-old woman is being held in the Henderson County Law Enforcement Center on an $100,000 bond for Sexual Assault of a Child.
During the course of an investigation that began on Good Friday (March 25), it was determined that the woman (to remain unnamed at the victim’s family’s request) has been having an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenage boy, below the age of consent. The age of consent in the state of Texas is 17.
Subsequently, a press release stated, she was charged with the second degree felony and booked into the jail on March 26. Justice of the Peace Milton Adams set the bond amount.
Deputy Ray Yockey took the initial call and investigators Wick Gabbard and Cayce Hampton were called in to assist.
No other information was released in the interest of protecting the victim.
Ten days prior to this arrest (March 15), Deputy Meagan Hogan was dispatched in a complaint involving a child younger than 10 years old. The case was assigned to Hampton for investigation. Evidence developed supported probable cause for the arrest of 64-year-old Phillip Hestily (See photo, page 2A), a resident in the Seven Points area.
He was charged with Indecency with Child Sexual Contact, a second degree felony. He is being held on a bond totaling $100,000.
The Henderson County Child Advocacy Center, which specializes in interviewing children, assisted in the investigation.
Toward the end of February, the Smith County Sheriff referred a similar case to the Henderson County Sheriff. Statements from two victims of past continuous sexual abuse came to light against Jonathan Ray Dickens, now 34 years old (see page 2A for photo).
On March 22, Dickens was located and arrested on two counts of Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children.
He is being held on bonds totaling $300,000. The first degree felony is punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 99 years, upon conviction.
The East Texas Crisis Center, The HELP Center of Athens, Family Peace Project and Henderson County Child Advocacy Center are holding an event in conjunction with law enforcement and the Commissioners Court to declare April as Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The declaration is set for noon Tuesday, April 2 on the courthouse steps in Athens. The wearing of clothing and or ribbons that are royal blue for Child Abuse Prevention and teal for Sexual Assault Awareness is expected to be on display throughout the month.
The District Attorney’s Office has been going into the schools encouraging fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to help their friends who confide in them of abuse by reporting it to teachers and administrators; so their friends can get the help and protection they need.
The ETCC offers support groups for women trying to break the cycle of sexual violence and it along with the Family Peace Project offers emergency shelter to those fleeing domestic violence. Legal advocacy is also available.
“We’re here for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with counseling and a listening ear,” Family Peace Project Executive Director Marlena Taylor said.
Organization like these can always use financial support from the public they serve, along with donations of personal care items. These may be reached through calling the HELP Center at (903) 675-4357.
Posted by : March 24, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–Early Tuesday, an active shooting scene was reported to law enforcement at the Walmart in Kaufman around 10 a.m.
After shooting a store employee, the shooter turned the gun on himself, in an apparent murder-suicide attempt.
According to Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Fred Klingelberger, the 55-year-old male suspect, who was identified as Donald Ray Coleman, was airlifted to a Dallas hospital from the scene in critical condition, having shot himself in the head.
The 59-year-old male victim was identified as John D. Morgan, Coleman’s neighbor.
Coleman targeted Morgan because Morgan was dating his wife.
There were other customers inside the store, but nobody else was targeted. “We understand there was an ongoing feud between the subjects,” Klingelberger told journalists at the scene.
Area businesses were advised to lock down and the Kaufman High School also went into lock down mode, but those were lifted by 10:30 a.m. The store remained closed the remainder of the day.
An official with Walmart released the following statement just after the incident:
“We’re deeply saddened by the tragic situation that occurred in our store today. We’re assisting law enforcement however we can and our thoughts are with the families and our associates at this time.”
Coleman was apprehended on an aggravated assault warrant out of Gun Barrel City for a family violence incident Jan. 17, involving a woman and her male friend.
Coleman was released Jan. 25 on bonds totaling $22,500. The incident was violent, with shots fired and the woman’s hands tied.
She reported being dragged and pistol whipped.
He was described as dangerous and the public was warned, if found, not to engage but to alert law enforcement to his whereabouts.
His description was publicized and he was apprehended later that week.
Morgan, doesn’t have a jail record in Henderson County.
Posted by : January 29, 2016| On :
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–173rd District Court Judge Dan Moore sentenced Joshua Demelles Thompson, 34, to 25 years in prison by after pleading guilty to Possession of a Controlled Substance last week.
Thompson was indicted by a Henderson County Grand Jury last year as a result of a narcotics investigation into its trafficking was initiated by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department.
On Dec. 11, 2014, Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Beddingfield learned that Thompson was in possession of methamphetamine. Thompson was staying at 117 Oxbow in the Thunderbird Shores edition of Cedar Creek Lake. Based on that information and other intelligence, Deputy Beddingfield obtained a search warrant for the residence.
The HCSO command staff was assisted by the narcotics task force and the Gun Barrel City Police Department in the execution of the warrant. Thompson was found just outside the residence standing halfway inside his white Ford pick-up truck. A search of Thompson’s jacket found a red plastic container with 18 small plastic bags, containing what appeared to be methamphetamine residue. Inside Thompson’s truck, deputies found a black bag with a digital scale, drug paraphernalia, and two more small bags of methamphetamine. Additionally, a metal spoon with methamphetamine on it was also found inside the truck. Metal spoons are commonly used to facilitate the ingestion of meth. Testing by a DPS lab revealed that Thompson was in possession of 4.66 grams of methamphetamine.
Inside the home, officers found Bruck Kantak in the master bedroom sitting on the bed with a glass pipe used for ingesting meth. A woman, Rhonda Nichols, was found in the bathroom of the residence sitting on the commode. When Nichols was asked to stand up, a small plastic bag of meth was found in the commode covered by paper. Both Nichols and Kantak were arrested for Possession of Controlled Substance. Thompson was arrested for the Manufacture and Delivery of a Controlled Substance.
Deputies had executed a search warrant on the same house only months before, targeting Barbra Trexler, who was the primary resident. Trexler was charged with Possession of a Controlled substance and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison on May 20, 2015.
An investigation into cash and a receipt discovered during the execution of the warrant revealed that Thompson, already a felon, had been in possession of a firearm. Records at a local pawn shop, confirmed that in December of 2014, Thompson sold a Whitney .22 semi-automatic pistol for $425.
Assistant District Attorney Justin Weiner prosecuted the case on behalf of Scott McKee’s District Attorney’s Office.
After the sentencing, Weiner stated: “There is no question that Thompson played a role not only in the use of methamphetamines but also the distribution and trafficking of methamphetamines. He was at a residence known for the distribution of narcotics with scales, a slew of baggies, and other paraphernalia. I am proud to have worked with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that Thompson will be out of business for a long time.”
Thompson, a Tool resident, had been previously sentenced to prison two other times.
District Attorney Scott McKee thanked Sheriff Ray Nutt and Gun Barrel City Chief Damon Boswell for their contributions to the case. “For every gram of methamphetamine we remove from the streets, our children and our communities are a little safer,” McKee said.
Since 2009, under Sherriff Ray Nutt, McKee noted that the county’s focus on putting drug offenders in jail has dramatically reduced the violent crime rate in Henderson County.