Posted by : admin | On : June 1, 2017

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY–Just about 30 days after a tornado turned Teresa Melton’s world upside down, what she was able to salvage of her property was burglarized this past Memorial Day weekend – not once, but twice.
She first received news of the break-in while attending her son’s high school graduation. A friend, who has been helping her clear the property of debris sent her a text that the storage building and 40-foot container had been broken into. Sometime on Sunday, her property was hit again.
Melton told The News that she goes to the property on Farm-to-Market 2709, one of the hardest hit by the storms, every day to sort, clean and prep for rebuilding. She had been at the property until 11 a.m. on Friday, but hadn’t returned on Saturday before she got the text message. She and her son, Matthew, a member of the Eustace Boys Cross Country team had spent the morning preparing for his graduation set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the E.L Kirk Gymnasium on the Eustace High School campus.
Matthew’s cap and gown was one of the items that was retrieved unhurt following the April 29 tornado. “We had counted that as a good sign,” Melton said.
She reports a list of items taken, including two zero turn Cub Cadet mowers from Tractor Supply, two chainsaws, two saddles and assorted tack equipment, a 14-foot utility trailer made by FFA students from Montgomery ISD, where her newlywed husband was finishing out the year as the Ag teacher.
Also missing is a quantity of large cooking equipment, two four-wheelers – a Suzuki Quad 750 and a Honda 500, a front loading washer and dryer, unique artwork, including a photograph of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco, and a Canon printer. The computer was destroyed in the tornado.
These items and many others stolen were kept in a 40-foot trucking container, a storage shed and a box trailer all of which were locked.
She and her son have been living in a hotel in Mabank, as the property is uninhabitable, without water hookups and a residential shelter.
When she learned of the burglary, she said “her heart sank.”
“My heart was full of happiness for Matthew’s graduation and then it just went empty. How can people be so cruel as to kick you when you’re down,” she asks.
She did her best to keep her son from finding out on his graduation day, but when he did, he could hardly believe it. “He was more upset than angry,” his mother said. “It felt like another piece of his dad had been taken from him.”
Matthew lost his dad to cancer February 2016. His mother only recently was married again. In fact, on Tuesday, she and Matthew had traveled to the Houston area for her husband’s retirement celebration from Montgomery ISD. “We were planning to do the name changing after his retirement,” she said. Matthew is one of four Eustace graduating seniors who have signed up to serve in the U.S. Air Force.
Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said several investigators are working the case. If anyone has any knowledge of the break-ins or has seen some of the suspect items, they should call the sheriff at (903) 675-5128.



Posted by : admin | On : May 25, 2017

By Kate Pittack
Extension 4-H Agent
HENDERSON COUNTY–AgriLife Extension urging Texans to Click It or Ticket.
This year’s Click It or Ticket Campaign will be May 22-June 4, which includes the Memorial Day weekend and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is urging Texas drivers to buckle up.
Once again, the agency is supporting efforts by the Texas Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety and police and sheriff’s departments across the state to save lives by promoting increased seat belt use.
Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying by 45 percent for people in the front seat of passenger cars.
“They also reduce the risk of dying by 60 percent for drivers of pickups, because pickups are twice as likely to roll over as passenger vehicles,” AgriLife Extension vehicle safety program manager, College Station, Bev Kellner said.
Texas achieved a nearly 92 percent statewide seat belt use rate in 2016 per Texas Department of Transportation data. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the “Click It or Ticket” initiative in Texas saved 5,068 lives and prevented 86,359 serious injuries since its inception 15 years ago. It also saved more than $19.3 billion in related economic costs from 2002 to 2016.
“This year, the campaign is focusing on wearing seat belts all the time, especially at night,” Kellner said “Fifty-seven percent of fatal crashes in Texas happen at night. And last year, of all crashes in Texas in which people died and weren’t wearing a seat belt, 62 percent happened at night.”
She said Texas law requires the driver and all passengers in a vehicle to be secured by a seat belt.
“Unbuckled adult drivers and passengers, even those in the back seat, can be fined and face court costs of up to $250,” she said. “Children younger than eight must be in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4–feet 9-inches.”
Kellner said because this year’s campaign time frame includes Memorial Day weekend — when many people take to the road to enjoy a long weekend — drivers can likely expect to encounter additional law enforcement activity, including seat belt and child restraint checks.
“These officers are not out there just to write tickets; they want to help prevent needless tragedies associated with vehicle crashes.”



Posted by : admin | On : May 18, 2017

worked up mugshots Christina Julian

worked up
Christina Julian

worked up  mugshots Rebecca Brannon

worked up
Rebecca Brannon

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Sheriff Botie Hillhouse reports a major drug arrest Tuesday.
During a routine traffic stop on Lake Arrowhead Drive near Payne Springs, sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Matthew Jistel discovered a stash underneath the passenger seat containing approximately 53 grams of suspect crystal meth.
Rebecca Brannon, 25 is charged with first-degree felony drug charge. Her backseat passenger, Christina Julian, 52, was also found to be in possession of suspected meth. She exited the car and appeared unstable according to a press release. Both women were taken to jail soon after the 2:45 a.m. traffic stop. Brannon is held on a $15,000 bond and Julian’s bond totals $8,500.
“These dealers can’t sneak around in the dark of night hoping to spread their poison,” Hillhouse stated. “Our deputies have been instructed to keep a keen eye out for anyone suspected of wrongdoing, no matter what time of day or night.”
The National Drug Intelligence Center states methamphetamine is a significant drug threat to Texas. High purity, low-cost methamphetamine is readily available, and the drug is widely abused, particularly in rural areas. Methamphetamine produced in Mexico is the predominant type available.
According to one online source, the price of meth in Texas is around $80 per gram, though smaller increments may cost more. At $80 to $100 per gram, the estimated value is between $4,240 and $5,300. The confiscated 53 grams equals a little less than two ounces, a sizeable amount in crystal meth.



Posted by : admin | On : May 11, 2017

The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–A night of swimming in Coleman Park in Athens went tragic May 4 when a 19-year old drowned while swimming to an island in the pond.
A water rescue team from the Longview fire department retrieved the dead body of James Riley Wallace, of Athens, from the water. His mother and family was brought to the scene a short time later to grieve the loss of their loved one.
According to Athens police chief Buddy Hill, the group of teens, two male and two female, were fishing at the pond in Coleman Park on the north west side when Wallace decided to swim to the large island in the lake. Wallace only made it about halfway before the cold water made the swim difficult and he went under.
According to reports the other male attempted to swim out to Wallace but quickly experienced exhaustion and had to return to shore.
The Athens Fire Department and Athens Police Department immediately responded to the 9-1-1 call at about 8 p.m. and begun searching for the teen while swimming and manning the AFD rescue boat until the water rescue team arrived from Longview at 11:20, and located Wallace’s body 12:53 a.m. Friday morning. Water temperature was measured at 54 degrees Fahrenheit.
A helicopter from East Texas Medical Center flew over the water to spot the teen as water rescue attempts were made.
Foul play is not expected, but Justice of the Peace Milton Adams sent the body off for an autopsy to American Forensics in Mesquite.
The pond was created from an old clay pit and has long had a pier on the south side for fishing. The pier was recently damaged by a fire and closed off. Swimming is not permitted in the pond.



Posted by : admin | On : May 4, 2017

Athens-Eustace Tornado 4-29

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
CANTON–According to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth Tuesday, a total of seven tornadoes formed Saturday, April 29. Four of them were rated EF-0 (65-85 mph) appearing with brief tracks near Grand Saline at 4:15 p.m., near Canton at 5:10 p.m., near Cumby from 5:30-5:50 p.m. and southwest of Canton leaving a brief track around 7:13 p.m. The EF- 4 (166-200 mph) that left a long track from Eustace moving into Van Zandt County west of Canton left a mile-wide swath of damage between 5:29 and 6:09 p.m.
An EF-2 tornado tracked east of the EF-4 from Eustace into Van Zandt County west of Canton between 5:41 and 6:04 p.m.
However, an EF-3 (136-165 mph) tornado stayed on the ground for 51 miles tracking from Van Zandt County through Canton and into Rains County and lasted from 6:08 p.m. to 7:28 p.m., the result of which were four deaths including a welder from Corsicana Russell “Rusty Barlow, 51, who was crushed under a race car lift when the tornado hit. He was at his step-daughter’s wedding.The other victims were identified Monday as Kenneth Hughes, 57, of Van Zandt County who was at home with his wife on VZCR 2434 when the tornado hit, his wife was injured, Lucretia Sykes, 49, of Fort Worth and James Clayton Young, 39, of Alba who was traveling on State Highway 64 just outside of Canton when the tornado hit, dragging his car off 200 yards.
Three hospitals in Tyler, Athens and Cedar Creek Lake treated 56 people with six remaining hospitalized Tuesday and one in critical condition.
At least one of these tornadoes, probably the EF-3, caused a pile up of around 30 cars on the I-20 near Canton, perhaps the same one that left a mile-wide swath of destruction on Old Bethel Road, VZCR 230, north of Phalba. The historic Bethel Cemetery suffered its gate and fencing twisted, and it was reported a wedding was also being conducted at a residence in the path of the tornado.
Utility poles were struck as were transformers, turning the lights off in about 14,000 homes. Oncor contractors and other companies were seen throughout the weekend repairing downed power lines and poles. Linemen worked tirelessly and most of Canton had electricity by 8 a.m. May 1. However, homes in the Phalba area and on Old Bethel Road were still using portable generators to get power on Tuesday.
The intersection at State Highways 243 and 19 was deserted, an intersection that once saw thousands of motorists a day, especially during First Monday. Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett was televised Sunday asking visitors to refrain from coming to Trade Days, as the city fights to recover from the devastation.
On Monday and Tuesday, tree trimming crews were out in force and the buzz of chain saws could be heard throughout the affected areas.
On Monday, the Office of the Governor released a statement that Gov. Abbott had declared a State of Disaster in three Texas Counties: Henderson, Van Zandt and Rains. “The recent severe weather across our state has had a devastating impact on the people of East Texas,” Abbott said. “Texans by their very nature are resilient, and I am confident we will remain steadfast in our response to this disaster. I ask that everyone keep those impacted in your prayers as we come together to rebuild in the aftermath of these storms.
Unhappily the weather forecast for Wednesday was more severe weather.



Posted by : admin | On : April 27, 2017

News Staff Reports
LAKE PALESTINE–The man who survived his boat going over the spillway at Lake Palestine April 19 died Sunday. His wife, Billemarie, 67, was pronounced dead at the scene. A double memorial service is set for Bille and Keith Wagnon, 69, was held Wednesday (April 26) at Rhone Memorial Chapel in Palestine. They were both local residents.
The News reporter Russell Slaton happen to have witnessed the horrific event from a distance, catching it on video, using his cell phone. Slaton said he felt helpless to do anything to prevent the tragedy from occurring. “I looked and kept thinking he would turn back, but he didn’t,” Slaton said. “Suddenly it went over and then there were several loud bangs or thuds.”
Game Warden Mike Hanson said freeing the boat to remove it was a problem because it got caught on some concrete pillars.
According to Hanson, the boat, occupied by a man and a woman, was traveling at a fast pace along the lake, traveling southward toward the dam. Hanson said the boat continued to travel and then passed the buoys which indicate the spillway’s edge, and continued straight on.
Hanson said some fisherman on the river near the spillway rushed over to try to save the boat’s occupants.
The man survived, but the woman was declared dead by Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Phillip Grimes from Cherokee County. He was taken to a Tyler hospital and placed in Intensive Care, where he later died. Keith and Billemarie Wagnon were married for 50 years.
No foul play is suspected.



Posted by : admin | On : April 27, 2017

Athens Fire
The New Staff Reports
ATHENS–Investigators are still looking into the cause of a deadly fire Saturday that resulted in the death of a man said to be in his 70s.
Fire at a boarding house on East College Street was reported at 8:36 p.m. However upon arrival, Athens Fire Department firefighters found the two-story structure fully involved. The name of the deceased was not disclosed as authorities hadn’t reached a next of kin by press time Wednesday.
The house was more than 3,500 square feet and built in the 1920s, Fire Chief John McQueary estimated.
The man was one of five or six individuals renting rooms in the house.
The chief reports rescue attempts made by the neighbors and another resident who saw the man on the second floor. “We assume he was overcome by smoke and probably collapsed. When the fire got intense enough for the floor and roof to fall, he ended up on the bottom floor,” McQueary said.
The blaze was so powerful firefighters were prevented from going inside upon arrival due to the flames. Their efforts prevented the fire from spreading to the two neighboring houses on either side. However, these structures sustained minor damage from the heat, McQueary said.



Posted by : admin | On : March 30, 2017

worked up photos mugshots Stephen Wilcox

worked up photos
Stephen Wilcox

worked up photos mugshots Dustin Wilcox

worked up photos
Dustin Wilcox

The News Staff Reports
ATHENS—Sheriff Botie Hillhouse reports the arrest of a father and son involved in a truck chase Tuesday morning.
Stephen Wilcox, 44 and his son, Dustin Wilcox, 26, have been arrested for theft, and evading arrest.
A team of deputies, Department of Public Safety officers, police and tracking dogs participated in the investigation and chase, Hillhouse said in a press release.
Shortly after 8 a.m., a caller reported a truck stolen near State Highway 19 South. The vehicle was tracked down to an apartment complex on Gibson Road, where it had been abandoned. The men took off in a second vehicle.
According to witnesses recording comments on social media, the vehicle crossed the loop by the hospital and ran through a stop sign on Mill Run, while being pursued and never checked up. “They almost hit my fiancé and another vehicle,” Steve Sparks wrote. “They were probably doing about 80, I’m thankful no one was hurt or killed. No regards for anyone else.”
Sheriff Hillhouse said he is relentless. “We don’t give up. If someone tries to steal here and we get a call, I’ll put everyone at my disposal on the case right then and there,” he stated in a press release.
The vehicle was finally stopped on County Road 4600. The younger Wilcox is being held on bonds totaling $60,000. His father is being held on a $50,000 bond.
At press time, word from the Sheriff was he and his deputies were involved in another vehicular pursuit Wednesday morning.



Posted by : admin | On : March 16, 2017

Decomposing deer

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Texas Game Wardens worked a gruesome site recently in Log Cabin. About two dozen carcasses of white-tailed deer and remains of alligators have been cleared from property in the vicinity of a tannery and taxidermist in the Cedar Creek Lake area.
On March 10, The Texas Wardens Facebook Page posted several photos and a brief report of the spoilage of white-tailed deer lying on the ground, rotting, some covered in flies, others dried up as if been there for a long period of time; horns, capes and alligator skulls.
Game Wardens filed 24 cases of Waste of Game, a Class C misdemeanor, with Justice of the Peace Tommy Barnett. Due to the case being under active investigation, the JP5 Office declined to release the name of the taxidermist.
The post reports game wardens had received several calls. One of those calls came from recently installed Log Cabin Police Chief Todd Tucker.
“We discovered it while conducting an unrelated investigation of our own,” he said. Tucker said he made the call a couple of weeks ago.
The post states that game wardens arriving on the scene initially found 19 deer lying in the violator’s yard. It adds that the walk-in cooler had been removed from the property and sold.
The taxidermist told The News that only two deer were actually on his property and that there is much more to the story than the post on the Game Warden’s Facebook page. He plans to press charges for defamation, he said, adding he had filed a report of vandalism of his property.
Though there are more than 300 comments to the Facebook post, none of them named the taxidermist involved.
Game wardens report a total of 24 deer in a condition no longer safe for human consumption.
It reports numerous record book violations and states DNA analysis will be a part of their findings.
Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said he had been asked to investigate a possible burglary at the property, however the few leads he had didn’t pan out.
Waste of Game is an offense (Class C misdemeanor) if a person while hunting kills or wounds a game bird or game animal and intentionally or knowingly fails to make a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal or bird and include it in the person’s daily or seasonal bag limit. It is an offense if a person intentionally takes or possesses a game bird, game animal, or fish and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, or with criminal negligence, fails to keep the edible portions of the bird, animal, or fish in an edible condition.



Posted by : admin | On : March 9, 2017

The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–Three vehicles were reported stolen Monday morning in a three-hour period according to Athens Police Department reports.
Beginning at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning, the calls started rolling in to Athens Police. Officer James Graham took the first report involving a missing 2004 Dodge truck from an apartment complex in the 2100 block of East Tyler St.
The second call, coming in a few minutes later, concerned a 2006 Ford F-250 missing from a residence in the 200 block of La Jolla St. The third theft, reported around 10 a.m. involved a 2014 Buick apparently taken during the night from the 900 block of East Corsicana St.
The F-250 is reported to have been recovered in Dallas.
All three thefts are currently under investigation by the Criminal Investigations Department and may be related. No arrests had been made as of press time.