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 21, 2016| On :
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.
Posted by : January 28, 2016| On :
Special to The News
HENDERSON COUNTY–Shun Cameron, 48, was arrested Jan. 12 by Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office for theft of property more than $1,500, less than or equal to $30,000.
Henderson County Sheriff’s Office received information on a stolen trailer at the residence located 10210 CR 1208 Jan. 5.
Captain Charlie Severn, Investigators Kay Langford, Brad Beddingfield, Jeromey Rose, Deputy Kyle Pokobradsky and Investigator Robert Powers went to the residence and received information that Shun Cameron was the property owner and in possession of the stolen trailer.
HCSO personnel observed a fire behind the residence and attempted to speak with the homeowners. Investigators located an unattended illegal fire where automotive tires were being burned. Next the the fire, investigators located a stolen cement mixer which had been reported stolen earlier that day.
HCSO personnel also located a Dodge pickup truck with an enclosed cargo trailer attached. It was learned the truck was reported stolen from Anderson County and the enclosed trailer had been reported stolen from Henderson County.
Upon an inventory on the trailer, investigators located baseball and softball equipment reported stolen from Cross Roads ISD and a 2013 Jiajue motor scooter reported stolen from the City of Athens.
A total of three arrest warrants for theft of property $2,500-$30,000 was placed on Shun Cameron.
Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office was involved in a vehicle pursuit Jan. 12 in which Cameron was the passenger.
The driver of the vehicle and Cameron fled on foot following the vehicle pursuit. An extensive manhunt was conducted by DPS, Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice K-9 Unit. The driver was located and placed in the Van Zandt County Detention Center.
Cameron was located later that day and placed in the Henderson County Jail.
He is being detained on a total of $71,500 bonds.
Posted by : January 21, 2016| On :
The News Reports
ATHENS–Athens Police Department arrested Michael Keith Duke, 19, Jan. 15 for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility and five Athens Municipal Court warrants.
APD says Corporal William Carlow conducted a traffic stop on a pick up truck for an expired license plate around 10:45 a.m. Jan. 15 in the 700 block of East Corsicana Street. During a routine check, it was discovered Duke was wanted on several local warrants.
Carlow arrested Duke and during a vehicle search, found two stolen rifles.
Duke was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon and was transported to the Henderson County Justice Center.
During booking, Duke was found to be in possession of a clear baggie containing a substance suspected to be marijuana.
He remains in custody on bonds totaling $20,000.
Posted by : January 17, 2013| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office will soon have quick access to its own armored vehicle.
Tuesday, County Commissioners approved the purchase of a BearCat, the same kind of vehicle borrowed from the Tyler Police Department in 2010.
The BearCat served Athens well when it was used to confront survivalist Howard Todd Granger in a four-hour police standoff, in October, 2010.
Granger fired about 100 rounds from an AK-47 at the armored vehicle before getting taken down by a well-aimed sniper round. Not a single round fired at the SWAT team penetrated the vehicle, including the windows.
Sheriff Ray Nutt argued that in an emergency situation, the three hours or more it takes to do the paperwork and get the vehicle from Tyler could cost an officer’s life.
“We have a great working relationship with Tyler,” Nutt said, “but if there is an injured officer we need the vehicle quickly to extract him before its too late.”
Nutt added that BearCats are even protected underneath from grenade explosions. The BearCat will cost $132,000.
The 2010 incident was not without financial consequence to the county. Henderson County paid a hefty bill to repair damage the vehicle.
Nutt told Commissioners the County could have its own BearCat by July, if approved now.
BearCat is an acronym, standing for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin was vocal in his agreement.
“I think it’s a wise decision to invest in one of them,” he said.
Posted by : October 25, 2012| On :
By Michael V. Hannigan, The News Staff
ATHENS — A decision has been made.
Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders told the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on Wednesday that its request to place a banner on the Courthouse Square has been denied.
The decision came as The News was going to press, so details were limited.
“Henderson County’s decision to deny our permit is appalling,” FFRF Co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor told The News Wednesday. “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.”
The 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.