Special to The News
TYLER–A 35-year-old Trinidad, Texas man has been sentenced to federal prison for child pornography violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston Jan. 25 in a press release.
Mikael Johnson pleaded guilty on Oct. 11, 2016, to distributing child pornography and was sentenced to 140 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark on Jan. 24, 2017.
According to information presented in court, on Dec. 14, 2015, Johnson knowingly sent another person child pornography by using the Internet, digital services that he owned and a social media application. Following an investigation, federal agents obtained and executed a search warrant at Johnson’s residence on Jan. 7, 2016. More than 600 images and videos containing child pornography were located and seized during the search. Johnson was arrested on that day and a federal grand jury returned an indictment on Jan. 20, 2016 charging him with federal child exploitation violations.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. [external link]
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Miller and U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division Trial Attorney Amy Larson.
Posted by : February 2, 2017| On :
Posted by : November 17, 2016| On :
By Rollin Hadsell
News Staff Writer
TRINIDAD–The Trinidad Lady Trojans finished up a great season by winning District 21-1A and advancing to the regional finals. After an 0-27 record just two seasons ago, and last year winning their first district game, the team fought through adversity all year long, to win the district.
Lady Trojan Head Volleyball Coach Tina Sawtelle was proud of the way her team came together this year. “We had a lot of adversity this year with health and personal problems but the girls really came together and showed perseverance, mental toughness and drive,” said Sawtelle. “I am beyond proud of these ladies and the improvements we continue to make each year.” She also is encouraged by the way the future looks for the young team. “We are excited as a program for what the next year has in store for us,” Coach Sawtelle said. “We are only graduating one, so we will have almost our entire team back for the next season. It is a very exciting time for Lady Trojan volleyball.”
The Lady Trojans parlayed their regional finals appearance into post season honors. Eight players were selected to the all-district team.
Lady Trojan junior Erica Airheart was selected as the District 21-1A Most Valuable Player. Junior Hallie Airheart received district MVP server, sophomore Tori Moody district MVP blocker and sophomore Hayley Ned received district MVP defensive specialist.
Junior Brianna Cagle was selected 1st team all-district. Sophomore Jazmyn Burden-Engle and sophomore Jaylinn Womack received all-district second team honors. Freshman Cassie Patch was all-district honorable mention.
Coach Sawtell was also selected as the District 21-1A Coach of the Year by her coaching peers.
Coach Sawtell said she and the girls will stick to the plan she had coming into Trinidad. “Building a successful program is what we have been striving to do since I became the volleyball coach and we will continue to grow and build throughout the years,” Sawtelle said. “It has been exciting and rewarding to see the change in this program over the last 4 years, and I am excited for the future of Lady Trojan Volleyball.”
Posted by : November 9, 2016| On :
By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
TRINIDAD—One Trinidad family is celebrating a reunion with their Petty Officer First Class daughter, who was recently released from military service. Amber Shardee Ferguson returns after six years serving in the U.S. Navy where she achieved the rank of E-6 Petty Officer First Class in just four years.
Amber is the daughter of Mike Ferguson of Trinidad and Lisa Straubing of Tulsa, Okla. Her stepmother is Debbie Ferguson, who told The News “I am extremely proud of Amber and all she has accomplished. She is a beautiful person, inside and out.” Debbie Ferguson’s father Charles Leo Whatley was also a veteran.
She enlisted in October of 2010 after graduating high school in Siloam Springs, Ark and has been an exemplary sailor, achieving Sailor of the Month several times and Sailor of the Year in 2015. She served as a gun specialist aboard the USS Mobile Bay for most of her years in service.
Ferguson has four sisters, the older two of which have retired from service in the U.S. Marine Corp. Her sister Kimberly, a former Marine resides with husband Shawn Jaggers, also a former Marine, in Alabama. Her sister Megan, who along with husband Scott Robbins is retired from the U.S. Marine Corp lives in Georgia. Her younger two sisters are Jackie and Shelby.
Ferguson is now employed by Epsilon Systems as a Ship Supervisor in San Diego, Calif.
Posted by : October 20, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The Presidential election is of course, top of mind for most. Running on the Republican ticket is Donald J. Trump/Mike Pence and the Democratic ticket is Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine. Also running are Libertarians Gary Johnson/William Weld and Green Party candidates Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka.
United States Representative, Dist. 5 comes down to Republican Jeb Hensarling and Libertarian Ken Ashby.
Railroad Commissioner candidates are Republican Wayne Christian, Democrat Grady Yarbrough, Libertarian Mark Miller and Green Party candidate Martina Salinas.
There are several Justices of the Supreme Court elections. In the running for Place 3, is Republican Debra Lehrmann, Democrat Mike Westergren, Libertarian Kathie Glass, and Green Party candidate Rodolfo Rivera Munoz. Place 5 candidates are Republican Paul Green, Democrat Dori Contreras Garza, Libertarian Tom Oxford and Green Party candidate Charles Waterbury. For Place 9, the candidates are Republican Eva Guzman, Democrat Savannah Robinson, Libertarian Don Fulton and Green Party candidate Jim Chisholm.
Court of Criminal Appeals Judge, Place 2 candidates are Republican Mary Lou Keel, Democrat Lawrence “Larry” Meyers, Libertarian Mark Ash and Green Party candidate Adam King Blackwell Reposa. Place 5 candidates are Republican Scott Walker, Democrat Betsy Johnson, Libertarian William Bryan Strange III and Green Party candidate Judith Sanders-Castro. Place 6 candidates are Republican Michael E. Keasler, Democrat Robert Burns and Libertarian Mark W. Bennett.
State Board of Education, District 9 candidates are Republican Keven M. Ellis, Democrat Amanda M. Rudolph and Libertarian Anastasia Wilford.
Malakoff ISD Board of Trustees candidates are Peggy Dewberry, Stephen Burkhalter, Duana Busch, Michael Kent Monroe and Jerry Spiva. Voters may choose up to three of the candidates.
Crossroads ISD Board of Trustee candidates are Shelly Robertson, Darren Himes, William “Russell” Giles, Jr., Dustin Cook, Kevin Hazelip and Shane Stanfield. Voters may choose three candidates
The City of Caney City has a bond election for $191,000 tax bonds for structing and equipping a fire station.
Also on the ballot for some voters in Precincts 1 and 4 is The Henderson County Emergency Services District 11 special election proposition to confirm the creation of the Henderson County Emergency Services District 11 and the levy by the District of a tax not to exceed the rate allowed by the Section 48-e of the Texas Constitution.
See page 3A for polling locations.
Posted by : August 4, 2016| On :
By Ryan Moulds
The News Sports Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY–The helmets and pads came out again as Texas high school football teams began two-a-days on August 1. Several local teams around the lake are gearing up for the first game of the season August 26.
The Malakoff Tigers enter the season with more hype than any other team in the area. They are picked to win district 9-3A and are ranked number four in the state. The eight-team district is picked to finish with Malakoff in first place followed by Teague, Groesbeck, West, Palestine Westwood, Elkhart, Whitney and Eustace.
Everything starts with the quarterback for Malakoff. Judd Miller had 3,199 total yards and 46 touchdowns a season ago as a sophomore. He returns as a junior with more experience and with two big targets to throw to in QT Barker and Tyler Russell.
Jamie Driskell’s defense will be led by Dan’Yal Littleton, a fierce defensive end who can get after the quarterback. Other standouts on defense are Larry Coker, Zee Bailey, Caleb Adams and Breashawn Williams.
Malakoff has an explosive offensive that has a chance to be even better than they were last year. They have a defense to match up with anyone and should be able to make a deep playoff run. The Tigers have a legitimate shot to hold up a championship trophy at AT&T Stadium at the end of the year.
Malakoff went 10-2 last season and was knocked out of the playoffs by three-time defending State Champion Cameron Yoe by one point. The Tigers finished second in district behind Teague, who beat Malakoff 28-7 in their rain-soaked match-up. Malakoff returns 13 starters and the varsity roster will be bolstered by a JV squad that went 8-2 last season.
“We have to take things one game at a time,” Driskell said. “Having all the pre-season hype is great, but the games are won on the field not on paper, and we have to show up ready to compete every week if we want to accomplish our goal.”
Driskell also said that he hopes for a rematch with Cameron Yoe in the playoffs this season. “The loss still stings,” he said. “I don’t know if it will ever fully go away but if we get another chance I think that things would go differently this time around.”
The Athens Hornets are in district 8-4A. Athens will be led by Head Coach Paul Essary who is in his eighth year at the helm.
The biggest hump that the Hornets will need to overcome is replacing running back Logan Fuller who had over 6,000 career rushing yards and signed to play at Tyler Junior College. Maalik Hall will split time at running back with Jaqualyon Bowman, and they will try to make up for Fuller’s absence.
Xavius Fulton will make the switch from receiver to quarterback. He will be tasked to replace Brandon Boyd. Athens is hoping to run the pistol on offense this season.
Defensively, linebacker Noah Bush might be the best player for the Hornets. He had 120 tackles last year as a junior and has already been getting attention from division one colleges. Between Bush, Hall, Zach Carson and Taylor Carson, Athens might have the best linebacker core in the district.
The Hornets will have the talent they need to compete on defense. In order to make it into the playoffs in a district with two state ranked teams, they must find what it takes to keep up on offense.
Last season, Athens went 8-4 and lost in the second round of the playoffs to Kennedale. The Hornets finished second in the district behind Kaufman.
“It’s an exciting time for Hornet Nation,” Essary said. “We are working on building a tradition of winning and anything short of the playoffs isn’t acceptable. We lost a lot on offense, but younger guys are going to step up and play hard for us. I think the sky is the limit for our team.”
The Cross Roads Bobcats will be playing in district 10-2A this season. They are picked to finish last. The six-team district is picked to finish in the order of Big Sandy, Kerens, Gladewater Union Grove, Cayuga, Hawkins and Cross Roads.
The Bobcats are under new leadership this season. Former Skidmore-Tynan assistant coach Michael Gain takes over for a team that has not made the playoffs since 2003.
Despite history not being on their side, it may finally be time for optimism. Cross Roads won three games last season and only has one team on their schedule that finished last year with a winning record. Gain has been working hard with the team and thinks that they have what it takes to have success.
Taylor McKenzie will take over as quarterback for the Bobcats and Tyler Johnson is a proven work horse at the running back position. Johnson was injured halfway through the season last year and hopes to stay healthy to lead Cross Roads to more victories.
If everyone can stay healthy and the players buy what coach Gain is selling them, Cross Roads could sneak into the playoffs in a weak district.
The Bobcats went 3-7 last season and looked strong early on, but they went 0-5 in district play to end the year.
“We have the pieces in place to make the playoffs,” Gain said. “I like what we have on offense and defense, and we are all working hard every day to end the 13-year playoff drought. I want to make every day an adventure, and I want to get better while we have fun working.”
The Trinidad Trojans are picked to finish last in district 15-1A. The four-team district is picked to finish in the order of Milford, Mount Calm, Oakwood and Trinidad. The top two teams make the playoffs.
Trinidad hired a new coach after Scott Hayes announced that he was leaving to take a coaching job at Rice High School June 29. James Massarelli will step in and try to guide the Trojans back to the playoffs.
Massarelli will have one of the most exciting players in the district at his disposal in receiver Jerry Bannister. Colby Snider is a proven quarterback and will make the coaching transition easier.
Other players to watch include Johnny Ayala, Eli Arnold, Talon Sims and Ronald Marcus. The toughest task will be to replace Javonte Hornbuckle and his 18 total touchdowns. No one player will be able to pick up the slack by himself but, collectively, it’s possible.
The district is very top heavy and Trinidad is a very experienced team. The Trojans have the chance to compete and play spoiler. Trinidad finished with a 3-7 record last year and was 0-3 in district.
The high school football season starts on August 26. Malakoff will take on Bullard at home, Athens will be on the road at Mexia, Cross Roads will take on Frost and Trinidad will play Campbell.
The News will release its fall sports preview August 25. It will have information on all the local football, volleyball and cross country teams.
Posted by : April 21, 2016| On :
Cross Roads, Malakoff and Trinidad ISDs vote in November
Special to The News
TEXAS–Early voting begins Monday, April 25 and continues through May 3, for city councils, school board trustees and water boards.
City of Malakoff candidates for three positions include Kevin Killman, Robert C. Cole, incumbants Vincent Bailey, Jr. and Jerrily Tarver, Pat Isaacson, Rickey Baker, Bubba Matthews. Voting takes place at Malakoff City Hall located at 109 Melton St.
Athens Muncipal Water Authority (AMWA) candidates for three seats include incumbents Donald A.Foster, Stephen R. Sparkman and David Thomas, and Milburn Chaney and Frank Lunceford. Voters may cast their ballots for AMWA candidates at the Henderson County Elections Administration at 201 E. Larkin in Athens.
Cross Roads and Malakoff ISDs will hold elections in November.
The City of Trinidad and Trinidad ISD will conduct November elections also.
Election Day is Saturday, May 7.
Athens ISD’s election has been cancelled due to candidtates running unopposed.
Posted by : July 14, 2015| On :
By Russell Slaton
TRINIDAD – The City of Trinidad has a new police chief. That town’s city council hired Chris Simmons to take over its police department during a special meeting, held Monday, June 22.
Simmons started his service as chief on Wednesday, June 24, said Trinidad City Administrator Terri Newhouse. The new chief is in the process of interviewing applicants for a patrol officer position, the city administrator added.
Simmons, who has deep family ties to western Henderson County, previously was a Trinidad police officer for five years, until 2006. Later, from 2011-12, Simmons served a stint as a Trinidad reserve police officer. In addition to Trinidad, Chief Simmons has been a member of the Tool and Caney City police departments, and also was a police officer for three years in Midlothian, which is located in Ellis County, just south of the DFW metroplex.
“My goal is to get the department back to a fair and respected department that gets the city cleaned up and safe and secure for all our residents,” said Simmons.
Posted by : March 20, 2015| On :
TRINIDAD–A flap over the future of the First Baptist Church of Trinidad found itself before the city council during the March 17 monthly meeting. Current church membership has dwindled to a handful, and services have not been held since November.
Tensions started during the public comments portion of the meeting, when Hugh Roberts and his wife, Charlotte, who live in Log Cabin, asked about city zoning regulations that might stand in the way of the couple converting the church to a faith-based, state-licensed children’s home under private control.
The idea of a Trinidad children’s home drew the ire of Kenneth Carter, who formerly served as Trinidad police chief and a Henderson County deputy. Carter said his experience with a children’s home came from the former St. Paul Industrial School, located in Caney City. Carter said such children’s homes “always mean trouble” and that he “worked day and night” dealing with those who lived there. “If it’s such a good place,” Carter said, “why don’t you put it in your back yard, and not mine?”
Other options discussed included conversion to a Hispanic outreach mission or to turn over leadership to another group that would continue church services. Joe D. Cooper of Key Ranch Estates, who said he has more than 40 years’ experience in the ministry, offered to keep the church going. Cooper also stated that he believed church bylaws and the deed he said was gifted in 1991 state that the property must remain a church.
Online records of the Henderson County Appraisal District for 2014 show a one-acre parcel of land with a 10,000 square-foot structure with a market value of $800,000, and an adjacent half-acre lot valued at nearly $4,000. Both properties are owned completely by First Baptist Church-Trinidad, according to the 2014 records.
Former FBC-Trinidad pastor Jim Lamb said there were four members of the church when he stepped down from the pulpit and handed control to Wayne Pitchford of Log Cabin. Lamb said the handoff was a handshake deal to turn the building into a Hispanic outreach mission. Since then, water and electric service has been discontinued, and rumors swirl that the building has had its locks changed. Those opposing the children’s home also stated that plans include tearing down the church sanctuary, which Pitchford denied.
Pitchford said there are now three members of the church, which is located at 302 Lawrence Street. While services haven’t been held since late last year, church members continue to hold monthly business meetings, Pitchford said. It was during those meetings that church members agreed that a children’s home would be a better option than the outreach mission.
Also in question is control of the church’s bank account. Lamb said the original deal called for more than $10,000 remaining in church coffers to be transferred to a Seven Points congregation. Pitchford said the account remains in First Baptist Church-Trinidad’s name at a Malakoff bank in that same amount.
Lamb and others fear that if a children’s home is established, the state of Texas will eventually end up in control of the church through the state Child Protective Services (CPS). Lamb and Cooper stated they opposed the intermingling of church and state.
Pitchford said he, too, opposes government control of the property, and that any children’s home would be governed by a nonprofit board of directors. Pitchford added that he has been threatened with two lawsuits since the controversy erupted.
Council member Roy Stanfield voiced support of the children’s home, pointing out it would increase enrollment in Trinidad schools. Mayor Larry Don Estes said while he had no vote on the issue, the controversy “wasn’t a (City of) Trinidad matter, but a lawyer matter.” The Trinidad City Council took no action on the First Baptist Church issue.
Also during March 17’s meeting, Utility Service Group offered the city a deal to rehabilitate and maintain the city’s two ground water storage tanks. Each of the first three years of the contract would cost the city about $57,000, which would pay for repairs. After the initial three-year contract, the agreement would revert to an annual one, costing Trinidad about $15,000 per year. The city’s elevated water storage tank was not factored into those figures, but could be if the city desired to do so, Almond said. Council members took no action on the matter.
In other business, the Trinidad City Council approved a $65,000 deal with AAA Sanitation to replace two manholes and approximately 600 feet of sewer line on McEntire Road (FM 764); voted to demolish a garage April 24 at 511 McEntire; eliminated parking along Oak and First streets; reduced the speed limit on Oak Street from 25 mph to 20 mph; accepted resignations of Bette Lehmann and Heather Burton from the Trinidad Economic Development Corp. board; and revised the city’s noise ordinance to prohibit trucks from using motor engine brakes within the city limits.
In addition, the Trinidad council voted to table a request by Trinidad ISD Superintendent Corey Jenkins to acquire fencing from the city-owned baseball field behind Dillon’s Park for school use.
Posted by : December 30, 2014| On :
By David Webb
The News Correspondent
TRINIDAD–Retired Judge Ron Chapman and his wife, Sally, attended President Obama’s Christmas party at the White House Dec. 11, something they “never dreamed about being able to do” in their lifetimes.
“It was amazing,” Sally Chapman said after the couple returned home. “It was so beautiful and elegant. It was so exciting. It was just overwhelming.”
The vision of the lighted Christmas decorations on the first and second floor of the White House continues to thrill her, she said. “It was over the moon,” she said.
She said the best part of the experience though was the “reward” it represented for her husband, a longtime Democratic Party member.
“I was just so happy for him,” she said. “He loved it too.”
The trip came about as a result of a friend of Ron Chapman arranging the invitation. The friend asked the former judge if he would like to receive a Christmas card from President Obama, and he of course replied, “Yes.”
Then he received an e-mail asking for his Social Security number, address and other pertinent personal information in preparation for them attending the Christmas party. The couple, of course, wondered if it might be some sort of Internet scam, rather than a legitimate inquiry from the White House.
“Ron said, ‘Well, if it is a scam, it’s the best one I’ve ever seen,’” his wife said. A call to the judge’s friend revealed it was legitimate.
They received the invitation to the Christmas party about a week prior to their trip to Washington, D.C., and they made reservations to spend five days in the nation’s capital to see all of the historic sights.
Upon their arrival at the White House in the afternoon, it took about an hour for them to get through security. There were about 750 guests in attendance so the Chapmans only got a glimpse of the President and the First Lady, who descended to the second floor from a back staircase to greet the crowd.
The entertainment included the Marine Band, the St. Louis Carolers and an array of food on a 50-foot-long buffet table that offered everything imaginable to eat. President Obama and the First Lady danced during the party.
The Chapmans and other guests were free to roam throughout the first and second floors of the White House. Each room had a Christmas tree designed as a ball gown and a Secret Service guard who answered questions.
“I walked into one room where everything was blue so I said, ‘This must be the Blue Room,’” she said. The Secret Service agent joked back, “You are very observative.”
The rest of the stay in Washington, D.C. proved to be just as thrilling of an experience, she said. They toured the Smithsonian and visited as many national landmarks as they could.
Now, they are back at home, recovering from a bout of the flu, but the memories of their visit to the White House are comforting them through the aches and pains.
Posted by : April 6, 2012| On :
By Emily Lundy
Special to The News
In a week that began with warm weather, now we are seeing drastic changes around us that should bring rain and nothing else, we hope.
When Mary Ellen Lincecum Johnston was buried Saturday morning after complications from a serious stroke, we realized what an asset this 85-year old woman, a life-time resident, had been to our church and community. Married to the late Milburn Johnston, the couple had a daughter who lived only a few days. Then their son David, now middle-aged, lived. He was Mary Ellen’s only close relative. Of course, many attending the funeral service from here and from out of town were cousins