Posted by : admin | On : March 18, 2015

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners made it clear they support giving small towns the ability to bring tougher restrictions to sex offenders that live in its jurisdiction.
The vote commissioners agreed on Tuesday backs State Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s December legislation, House Bill 384, to provide “general-law municipalities the ability to pass local ordinances to restrict sex offenders from child safety zones.”

The bill would put small towns on equal footing to cities with populations greater than 5,000, which already restrict where sex offenders live.

The commissioners’ vote will have no effect on the legislation, but shows the county’s support.
Talk of the legislation’s need was fueled this month when registered sex offender James William Cassels, 31, moved across the street from a Eustace Independent School District campus earlier this month. Cassels was convicted of assaulting a 5-year old boy.

Eustace Mayor Elicia Sanders voiced her displeasure of his residence location and the fact the city’s hands are tied to intervene.

“This monster was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is free now and cana live anywhere he chooses in small Texas towns because the law does not allow us to protect our kids from him,” Sanders said.
If the legislation is approved it will effect most of Henderson County, as the only cities in its borders with a population greater than 5,000 are Athens and Gun Barrel City. The bill was filed last legislative session by State Rep. J.M. Lazano, and former State Rep. Lance Gooden, but neither bill made it out of committee.

In other action, Commissioners:
• re-appointed four members of the Henderson County Regional Fair Park Board, Lee Tackett, Charla Hendrix, Charles Elliott and Brian Childress;
•authorized the transfer of a Brother Intellifax 4100e fax machine to the Henderson County Fire Marshal’s Environmental Crimes unit;
• required Atmos Energy to obtain two road bonds in the amount of $250,000 each for proposed pipeline contraction in Precincts 1 and 2.



Posted by : admin | On : March 13, 2015

Special to The News

EUSTACE–A registered sex offender who assaulted a 5-year-old boy has moved across the street from the Eustace Independent School District campus where children play on the school grounds, Eustace Mayor Elicia Sanders reports.

James William Cassels, 31, who also goes by “Pork Chop” and “Little James” registered this week with the Eustace Police Department as a sexual offender living on Farm-to-Market Road 316 S. in Eustace across from the town’s schools.

“This five-and-a-half foot tall, 280-pound monster was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is free now and can live anywhere he chooses in small Texas towns because the law does not allow us to protect our kids from him,” Sanders said.

Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Dist. 4) has filed HB 384 to prevent registered sex offenders from living near schools, daycare centers and other places children gather. “This is even more proof that we must pass Rep.. Spitzer’s legislation to prevent child molesters from living by our children near schools and parks,” Sanders said.
In larger cities, local laws regulate where sex offenders live.

“Rep Spitzer is leading the charge for his small town protection act and is urging other communities to join the fight against child predators,” she said.

Eustace Police Chief Jason Perrini said that people can rest assured that the police department will keep a close eye on him – “as we do with all sex offenders, to make sure the children of Eustace are safe no matter where they are in town, but this proposed law is needed to protect our schools.”



Posted by : admin | On : March 9, 2015

Athens Cemetery-Bob McDonald

The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell
U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (right) thanks Bob McDonald for his contributions to historical preservation and service to the people of Henderson County with a Congressional Resolution during the Memorial Day 2013 dedication of the Veterans Memorial at the Athens Cemetery. McDonald was the moving force behind the cemetery memorial, as well as the Memorial Wall at the East Texas Arboretum. McDonald died last week.

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff

ATHENS–Though relatively few know his name, Bob McDonald leaves a legacy which will impact visitors and Henderson County residents alike for many, many years to come.
The kiosk he designed to assist those looking for the gravesites of relatives and loved ones at the Athens Cemetery is invaluable.

His planning and direction of the Veterans Memorial, both at the cemetery and the East Texas Arboretum stands as a testament to sacrifice and service, of which McDonald himself participated in during the Korean War.
“The work of his hands and heart are seen everywhere you look,” East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society executive director Teresa Glasgow said.

He also served on the board of Trinity Valley Community College, the Athens Historical Preservation, Inc., Keep Athens Beautiful and a handful of other civic committees.

A public celebration of his life is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17 at the Athens Cemetery.
“We are going to miss him in a lot of ways,” co-volunteer and businessman Steve Grant said of his passing.
“It wasn’t just his wisdom and knowledge, he had a heart of gold,” Grant explained. “He wanted to make things better in everything he did. No job was too big or too small; he put a lot of thought into everything he did.”
McDonald succumbed to cancer at the age of 86. He was born Jan. 24, 1929 and died Feb. 27, 2015.

Glasgow pointed to the 20 hours a week he consistently invested at the East Texas Arboretum. He likely put in similar hours at the cemetery on its maintenance and seeing the many improvements over the past 15 years.
At the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall at the cemetery on Memorial Day, 2013, state and national elected officials presented resolutions passed by Congress and the State House, citing his service to better the Athens community through historical preservation.

One of the last projects he designed and directed was the construction of the cemetery’s columbarium.
His love for life, the outdoors and veterans grew from his own military service with the storied 2nd Armored Division as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army, during the Korean War.

His practical, logical thinking was groomed by Texas A&M University as a mechanical engineer, who went on to design and build oil, gas and chemical processing plants and offshore structures.
He retired in 1988, and he and wife Leta returned to their hometown of Athens to live on land belonging to the McDonalds for 150 years. The couple reared two sons: Glenn and Mark.

After a brief respite, his second career began, as he poured his energies, heart and mind into his interests as a volunteer.

A matching grant of up to $50,000 has been set aside to form an endowment in Bob McDonald’s name for the East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society. To donate go to



Posted by : admin | On : March 9, 2015

The News Staff

ATHENS–There will be no elections in Athens this May due to a lack of opposition.
At Athens Independent School District, Board President Rob Risko drew no opposition for Place 3. In Place 4, incumbent Ginger Kirk will not run again. Former board member Jennifer Mahmoud filed for that seat without competition.

At the City of Athens, Mayor Jerry Don Vaught and incumbent councilman Monte Montgomery are both unopposed. Because they are the lone candidates filing for their respective seats for any of the seats, there wilelection.
Malakoff ISD asks voters to approve the issue of $3M in bonds to improve facilities at Tiger Stadium, replace air conditioning units, improve security and purchase new buses – all without raising the tax rate.

The deadline for candidates to sign up for the May 9 Local Election with their prospective cities or school districts was Feb. 27.

Those taxing entities which are cancelling their elections due to unopposed candidates include: Kemp, Log Cabin, and Seven Points, along with school districts in Eustace and Mabank.

The City of Payne Springs is holding a Special Election May 9 to ask voters to renew a quarter percent sales tax dedicated to road repair.

Voters approved the road dedication proposal four years ago and it’s time to reinstate that policy for another four years or let it expire.

City officials report the quarter percent tacked onto purchases made at businesses in the city yeilds about $1,000 in additional funding, monthly.

The city had asked the county to include this item on the November, 2014 ballot, when the city usually holds its city elections; however, the request had been overlooked.

“This is the last opportunity to have it on the ballot,” City Secretary Karen Juica explained. Last time, this proposition only passed by one vote, she added. “This is not a property tax, but a portion of the sales tax,” Juica clarified.

The early voting, along with Election Day polling will be held at the city hall, located at 19601 CR 2529.
In Log Cabin, Judy Bearden will be installed as mayor, taking Larry Nolan’s place, who signed up for a seat on the council. New office holder Jennifer Williams will fill the second open seat, while Jerry Bearden, the brother of James Bearden – who passed away – will fill the unexpired term on the council.

At Eustace ISD, four places came up for renewal. Those seats are being filled with Bobby Karl Ashton, Billy ‘Cotton’ Walker, Steven Bell and James Kirkhart, who was appointed to fill an unexpired term in January.
Entities holding elections in November include Enchanted Oaks, the City of Malakoff, City of Trinidad and Trinidad ISD; East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District and West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District.



Posted by : admin | On : February 5, 2015

Comm Court Comp

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–After nearly 30 years in operation, the Henderson County Alcohol/Drug Abuse Education Awareness Association is no more.
County Commissioners agreed to disband the once-influential community group after Coordinator Linda Battles told the court a lack of public interest and funding contributed to its shut down Jan. 3.
The Association was originally named the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Task Force when it was created in the 1980s. The name was only changed recently when the sheriff’s office added a drug task force to its law enforcement.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney recalled the Association’s formation and positive impact it had on Henderson County.
“It was a pioneer program,” McKinney said. “When MADD started getting big in the 1980s, the Education Awareness Association took off and was a driving force behind efforts to educate teens and the public about drug and alcohol abuse. Funds started tapering off in the mid-90s when the federal government started funding other similar programs. They became duplicate programs and competitive.”
Battles said that it is in the Henderson County Alcohol/Drug abuse Education Awareness Association bylaws that the Association could only be disband by the Commissioners Court. She also returned a check for $355.69, all unused funding, to the county. Battles said the local Crimestoppers and Teen Court grew out of the efforts of the original task force.
“Originally it was funded by United Way, and Ginger Murchison gave us money,” Battles said. “We were gung ho for about five or six years.”
In other news, Commissioners approved:
• right-of-way permits for the Leagueville Water Supply Corporation to cross County Road 3600 and CR 3613 in Precinct 3;
• a refund of overpaid property taxes requested by the Henderson County Tax Assessor/Collector;
• payment of quarterly state fees in the amount of $132,619.70;
• payment of 2014 bills in the amount of $117,952.43.



Posted by : admin | On : January 7, 2015


By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHEN–Each Jan. 1, elected county officials across America are sworn in to begin their tenure. This year five such officials gathered at the Henderson County Courthouse Annex to make their vows of service, while simultaneously three more affirmed their oaths across the street at the County Court at Law Courtroom.

At the Courthouse Annex, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Randy Daniel, JP 2 Judge Kevin Pollock, JP 3 Judge Tony Duncan, District Clerk Betty Herriage and County Commissioner Precinct 2 Wade McKinney took the honored vows to serve the residents of Henderson County. Former JP 3 Judge Sue Starnes swore in Duncan in a touching ceremony and exchange between friends, while Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders swore in Daniel, Pollock, Herriage and McKinney.

Former Athens Mayor Randy Daniel began his first full term as JP 1. He has already served in that capacity since 2013 after being appointed to an unexpired term. Likewise, former Seven Points Mayor Kevin Pollock and Tony Duncan began their first terms as justices. Betty Herriage made the move to District Clerk from the District Attorney’s office, where she served since 1996.

While the majority of officials took their first county-level oath during the brisk January morning, one official reaffirmed his oath for a fifth term in office. Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney was first elected commissioner in 1999 at 28 years of age. McKinney begins his 16th year as County Commissioner.
During a break from the seriousness of the swearing in cremony, McKinney lightened the mood by stating of all the County Judges he’s served with, Sanders was “My favorite.”

In another light-hearted moment, Starnes advice to incoming justices was a reminder that common sense is “not common.”

Across the street at the County Court at Law Courtroom, three other officials began their terms or renewed their oaths. Prescient 4 County Commissioner Ken Geeslin began his second term after successfully gaining reelection in November.

New County Court at Law Judge Matt Williams was sworn in to his first term after winning the Republican Primary last March. He was unopposed in the November general election.

Also, Mary Margaret Wright began her first official term as County Clerk after serving in that capacity by appointment since the retirement of Gwen Moffeit last March.

Former Court at Law Judge Matt Livingston administered the oaths.



Posted by : admin | On : December 30, 2014

Athens Fire-Shawna Smith-5-29

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
HENDERSON COUNTY–Much has transpired in Henderson County in the past year. From the courthouse’s birthday, to school bomb threats, to tragic accidents, these are the stories that mattered to us the most at The News.

AMWA dispute resolved: Voters decided to keep the Athens Municipal Water Authority (AMWA) afloat on Election Day May 10 after 668 voters decided not to dissolve the authority, with 590 voters in favor. The decision came after the Athens City Council voted to dissolve the authority in January. AMWA scrambled to come up with enough signatures to push the decision to a vote decided by Athens residents.

Two Grand Jury Indictments: Two Athens residents were indicted by a Grand Jury in 2014. The first was Stacie Marie Parsons, 25, of Athens. Parsons confessed to killing her 4-year-old daughter July 21 after an argument with her common law husband the previous day. The other was Raheem Mark Miller, 19, of Athens. Raheem was charged with the June 8 shooting death of Malakoff resident Cedrick Collins, 23, whose death occurred during a robbery.

Bomb Threats: Athens had two bomb threat scares in about a two week time frame. The Henderson County Courthouse and all five Athens ISD schools were all evacuated on two separate dates. The courthouse threat was called in Oct. 23 and ISD threat came Nov. 5. No bombs were found and nobody was injured. Athens ISD is offering $1,000 to anyone with information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible for the threats on the schools.

New Athens Chamber President: After a long search, Mike Coston took over the job as the Athens Chamber of Commerce President last August. Coston replaced former president Mark Rathe, who moved back to Oklahoma to be closer to family.

Home of the Hamburger: Good Morning Texas filmed a live segment at the Athens city hall April 23 about Athens being the “Home of the hamburger.” According to many in Athens, the first hamburger in the world was taken from a small cafe in Athens all the way to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Walk-a-Mile: Men put on their high heels for a stroll around the Athens square for the second year in a row for the annual Walk a Mile in her Shoes March 31. The event raises domestic violence awareness and challenges men to put an end to abuse.

Agriculturist of the Year: Ken McGee, Jr., won the Joe B. Fulgham Agriculturist of the Year award May 20 after the annual Farm and Ranch Tour. McGee’s father, Kenneth, won the same award in 1993.
Fertilizer plant fire: Just two week after claiming the Agriculturist of the Year award, McGee watched his storage facility near the courthouse square in Athens burn to the ground days before the Old Fiddler Reunion. The aftermath was initially investigated as a crime scene, but no wrongdoing was found. The fire sparked a blaze of controversy and media attention because the facility stores ammonium nitrate, the same substance found in the massive explosion in West. When the smoke cleared, the Athens City Council approved an ordinance in December not allowing the flammable fertilizer in a zoning district within city limits.

Old Fiddlers: With the area just off the square still on lockdown after the fire, Dale Morris Jr., of Fort Worth, went on to take home the title of Grand Champion at the Old Fiddler’s Reunion on the Athens square May 31.

County Courthouse 100th birthday: Henderson County residents and officials celebrated the 100th birthday of the Henderson County Courthouse May 23. Notable activity included a time capsule placed in the ground, to be opened up in 2114.

Troubled officer: Former Malakoff police officer Ernest Fierro lost his Peace Officer license in a settlement that included nine years deferred adjudication and 40 hours community service on the charge of aggravated assault. Fierro was off duty December 2013 when he stopped and cuffed an elderly Iowa man who later died of cardiac arrest.

Tragedy on the tracks: 14-year-old Malakoff resident Harry Smith died June 26 when he ran in front of a passing train while trying to cross the railroad tracks. Smith was clipped in the leg crossing from his home, directly south of the tracks at the intersection of the Union Pacific Railroad and FM 3441 and died from his injuries. A memorial for Smith was erected at Jake’s Skate Park in Malakoff.

New leader at the Performing Arts Center: Longtime Henderson County Performing Arts Center Executive Director Dennis Gilmore retired after 25 years of service last February. Gilmore oversaw a tremendous period of growth from the one-time “Athens Little Theatre.” Gilmore traded a home in Athens for the sunny beaches of Palm Spring, Calif. Marcia Colbert took over the role in March. Colbert has served on the HCPAC board since 2003.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Shirts were on display on the courthouse lawn last October as part of The Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is a world wide awareness program that is facilitated locally through the East Texas Crisis Center representing domestic violence victims in Henderson County.

ISD Chief resigns after theft: Former Malakoff ISD Police Chief Todd Gilmore resigned after making bond from the Henderson County Jail last May. Gilmore confessed to stealing $1,500 in cash from Carroll-Lehr Funeral Home in Athens after being confronted with video surveillance footage.

Cop killer gets execution date: Convicted killer Randall Wayne Mays knows when his final day will be. Mays was convicted of killing Henderson County deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn, in May 17, 2007 when they responded to Mays’ Payne Springs ranch on a domestic call. Mays execution date is set for March 18, 2015.

TVCC sports:
Trinity Valley Community College saw muiltiple sports championships in 2014. The No. 1 ranked TVCC Lady Cardinals won their third consecutive national basketball championship March 22 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan. The match up was a repeat of the the 2012 title game. The Lady Cardinals now lay claim to eight titles, in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Not to be outdone, the Cardinals football team won the Texas championship by defeating the Coffeyville Community College Red Ravens 27-24 in the Heart of Texas Bowl. They finished the year with a perfect 12-0 record.

Tigers Roar:
The Malakoff Tigers football team fielded one of its best squads ever in 2014, maintaining a top-10 state ranking all season. The Tigers ended the season with a 9-2 record and a disapointing first round loss in the playoffs.



Posted by : admin | On : December 30, 2014

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 : admin | On : December 30, 2014

The News
Staff Reports
MALAKOFF–Malakoff Independent School District (MISD) Board of Trustees approved the installation of new turf at Tiger Stadium, which may likely make them one of the preferred ball fields for game play in Henderson County.
The Matrix Synthetic Turf, consisting of two different grass blade sizes and two different colored fibers, will cost $889,083 with installation by Hellas Construction beginning in early May 2015.
The turf, according to the Matrix Turf website, brings together a combination of qualities for ideal light deflection, enhanced playability and system stability on an artificial turf that looks natural in appearance.
The project should take about 90 days to complete but should be ready before football season begins according to MISD Superintendent Randy Perry.
Perry says the school’s band has grown too large to be able to practice on their field and will now be able to do so at Tiger Stadium.
Also in the works for the stadium are restroom and concession stand improvements.
The two women’s restrooms on both sides of the football field will undergo renovations and building additional restrooms may be possible as well.
Malakoff is the sixth Henderson County school to install the Matrix Synthetic Turf at its facilities.

Tiger Stadium



Posted by : admin | On : June 26, 2014

Train accident2

By Russell Slaton
Monitor Correspondent

MALAKOFF–A 14-year-old Malakoff boy was killed Thursday afternoon when he ran in front of a passing train while trying to cross the tracks.

Kim Suttle, whose son Dakota, 16, witnessed the death, said Harry Smith, 14, was clipped in the leg crossing from his home, directly south of the railroad tracks at the intersection of the Union Pacific Railroad and FM 3441 (S. Terry Street, in downtown Malakoff.)

The witness was taken to Malakoff City Hall, his mother said, to be interviewed by law-enforcement officials. Officers on the scene included several state highway patrol officers, along with local law enforcement. Henderson County Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Tommy Barnett also was at the scene, as was a law-enforcement chaplain.

Jill Davis of Malakoff said she was at the nearby Methodist Church and heard a train whistle about 3 p.m., then heard a loud crash. “I thought, oh my God, the train derailed,” Davis said. The victim sometimes worked at an antiques business just north of the tracks, she added.

The train was uncoupled, with each segment on both sides of the FM 3441 intersection, through which traffic proceeded. Traffic was blocked by the front portion of the uncoupled train at the Carver Avenue intersection, to the west. None of the train’s cars appeared to be derailed.