Web Page Hosted by  ipowerweb
Website designed by
Cody Jordan's Web Solutions
copyright © 2006


Drug sweep netted 25 arrests along with cash, narcotics

PALO PINTO – Two investigations over the past year by the City-County Narcotics Unit and the Department of Public Safety Narcotics Service resulted in 25 individuals being served with felony indictments Thursday morning for distributing narcotics in Palo Pinto County.

Thirteen people, six of whom were already booked into county jail or elsewhere on other charges, were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity for allegedly conspiring to deliver 400 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Twelve others were charged with unlawful delivery of narcotics – including methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and other drugs – after they allegedly delivered drugs during undercover operations.

“We got all the subjects we were looking for,” Constable Gary Morris said Friday. “And we recovered more narcotics [and cash].”

About $5,000 in cash, narcotics and drug paraphernalia were seized at three residences, according to Sheriff Ira Mercer.

Another man was also arrested during the round up on unrelated misdemeanor warrants.

“This will make an impact on the local drug trade,” Mercer said in a press release.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been in law enforcement that an operation like that has taken place in Palo Pinto County,” Morris said, who has been involved in the investigations since the beginning.

Bond was set at $200,000 for Edgar Ivan Cruz, 22, of Fort Worth, who, according to District Attorney Mike Burns, was the one who allegedly brought the methamphetamine into the area.

Cruz was already in Palo Pinto County jail when he and Rebecca Alcorn, 45, of Mineral Wells, were arrested July 19 at a residence on Harvey Road during a drug house raid. About 1 ounce of meth and a 1987 pickup allegedly used to bring the narcotics from Fort Worth were seized during the raid, according to information from the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office. Both were charged at that time with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, more than 4 grams, less than 200 grams.

Others charged with engaging in organized criminal activity include:

• Jack Monroe Baker Jr, 30 of Mineral Wells.
• Rebecca Alcorn, 45, of Mineral Wells.
• Darwin Lee Glover Jr., 26, of Mineral Wells.
• Jennifer Masias, 23, of Mineral Wells.
• Jennifer Valley, 29, of Mineral Wells.
• Tiffany Valley, 26, of Mineral Wells.
• Christopher Lloyd Glover, 24, of Pilot Point.
• Natosha Jackson, 19, of Mineral Wells.
• Jamie Lee Tincher, also known as Jamie Norton, 21, of Mineral Wells.
• Edward Franklin Lotz, 23, of Mineral Wells.
• Karen Colleen Lake, also known as Karen Lotz, 29, of Mineral Wells.
• William Andrews Jr., 28, of Mineral Wells.

Bonds for the rest of those charged with engaging in criminal activity was set at $40,000 each. If convicted they could receive 15 years to life in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

“[Burns] is working real hard with all the agencies to help advise in all these criminal activity cases which are kind of complex,” Morris said. “There’s a lot that goes into this.”

Those accused of distributing narcotics included:

• John Ragan Barnes, 45, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of methamphetamine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams, a second-degree felony punishable by two years to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
• Brittany Davila, 20, of Mineral Wells, for unlawful delivery of a simulated controlled substance, a felony punishable by 180 days to two years in prison and up to a $10,000.
• Lisa Renia Hall, 24, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of methamphetamine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams, and for delivery of methamphetamine, under 1 gram.
• Bryan Honeycutt, 26, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of methamphetamine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams.
• Dennis Ray Maltsberger Jr., 18, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of cocaine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams, a second degree felony punishable by two years to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
• Andrew Mark Morlatt, 56, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of marijuana, more than one quarter ounce, less than 5 pounds, a state jail felony.
• Kimberly Denise Reed, 23, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of methamphetamine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams.
• Kelly Nicole Ringo, 25, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of methamphetamine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams.
• Marvin Vaughn, 21, of Mineral Wells, for unlawful delivery of oxycodone, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams, a second degree felony.
• Gracie Weatherly, 27, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of methamphetamine, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams.
• Barbara Fikes Ross, 54, of Mineral Wells, for delivery of a controlled substance.
• Carolyn Morales Reid, 38, of Mineral Wells, was also charged with delivery of a controlled substance but remains jailed in another facility, according to the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office.

Though the CCNU and DPS Narcotics headed the investigation, many other law enforcement officers and investigators worked in concert with them.

“These arrests represent the work of our narcotics officer but also the work of our patrol officers,” Mercer said. “The street officers were the eyes and ears of the cases.”

Morris said officers doing traffic stops and other investigative work passed along information to the CCNU and DPS Narcotics, who then collaborated.

In addition to the CCNU and DPS Narcotics Service, Mineral Wells Police Department patrol officers and detectives, Palo Pinto County sheriff’s deputies, investigators and transport officers, Constable Morris, DPS troopers and several Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens helped make arrests Thursday morning.

“This exemplifies the kind of quality results that occur when agencies work together,” Burns said. “I thought the officers did an excellent job and we’re now going forward to prosecute.”

Morris said the effect on the narcotics trafficking in Mineral Wells is significant but it won’t be the last case.

“I believe firmly that if we can get a hold on narcotics in this county, we can have what I call the trickle-down effect” preventing many burglaries and thefts, Morris said.

“This is the first of several cases that are being worked right now,” Mercer said. “We have other defendants we could have arrested today but we need lab reports to finalize the cases. If you are a drug dealer in our county, stop what you are doing or leave. We may already have your number.”

Accused bank robbery suspect

By Lacie Morrison

PALO PINTO – Within a week, the man who robbed the First National Bank of Graford is in custody at the Palo Pinto County Jail.

Mineral Wells resident Tommy Zane Ruddy, 51, was arrested Friday evening by Parker County sheriff’s deputies at the behest of Palo Pinto County officials on a Mills County warrant for theft greater than $1,500 and less than $20,000.

“He was the only one involved,” said Sheriff Ira Mercer, nixing the possibility of a second suspect.

The bank in Graford was robbed on Aug. 20 when an individual walked in about 3 p.m. and demanded cash while displaying a small handgun. According to officials with the sheriff’s department, the bank gave the robber $59,888 and he left, heading north.

The sheriff explained they determined Ruddy to be a possible suspect through the course of their investigation. According to the sheriff, Ruddy was a former city marshal for Graford approximately 20 years ago and was a deputy approximately 18 years ago.

“He was someone familiar to us,” Mercer said, adding that Ruddy knew the area and had the matching body size and style. Inquiry into Ruddy’s recent activities led authorities to discovering his vehicle in Weatherford and, according to Mercer, “things just kept rolling.”

Once Ruddy became a suspect, “we found where he was in Parker County at a self storage,” Mercer said.

Parker County sheriff’s deputies arrested him Friday night and booked him into the Parker County jail at 7:35 p.m. on Friday. He was transported to Palo Pinto County Jail Monday where he confessed to the robbery, officials said.

According to officials, Ruddy said he took Farm-to-Market Road 4 to a dirt road where he ditched his clothes and weapon before traveling north to Wichita Falls and into Oklahoma. Ruddy reportedly ran the money through slot machines in a casino before coming back to Palo Pinto County.

“We recovered $2,500 cash, receipts from the casino,” Mercer said. He added that they recovered approximately $53,000 at the scene. Officials were still searching on Tuesday for the weapon used in the robbery.

Ruddy was charged with aggravated robbery, which is a first-degree felony offense and as a 3-G offense, requires at least 50 percent of assessed confinement to be served upon conviction. Mercer said there could also be a federal case filed as the incident involved a bank.

“We worked the case with the Texas Rangers and the FBI,” Mercer said. “We’re very pleased to have the case solved and behind us. It was a great team effort.”

Ruddy remained in Palo Pinto County Jail Tuesday evening with his bond set at $250,000.

Dye packs made robbers’ bank heist take less fruitful

By Lacie Morrison

GRAFORD – According to the Palo Pinto County Sheriff, the suspects who robbed Graford’s First National Bank Wednesday afternoon ended up making out with less than 10 percent of what the employees gave them.

Shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday, a male subject entered the bank on Main Street and demanded money from the two employees and displayed a small handgun, officials had reported at the scene.

A dye pack placed with the money discharged when the suspect left the bank and officials reported the suspect could have red dye on his person. The man left the scene in a newer model sports utility vehicle that was dark tan to green in color.

Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said the robber was given $59,888 by the bank employees. What he actually made away with was much less, according to the sheriff.

Mercer said the robber left several thousand dollars at the scene, totaling approximately $53,000.

According to the sheriff, approximately $5,200 was how much the suspect took.

The sheriff’s office released a Crime Stoppers alert asking for anyone with information about the incident to contact authorities. In the description of the suspect who entered the vehicle, Mercer said the man’s height is approximately 5 foot 10 inches, rather than the previously issued 6 foot 2 inches to 6 foot 4 inches.

There was also reportedly a second person who waited in the getaway vehicle during the robbery. A description of that individual was not released.

Officials encourage anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office at (940) 659-2085 or Crime Stoppers at (940) 659-9904. Individuals can anonymously provide information; if the information leads to an arrest and indictment, they are eligible for a reward up to $1,000.

Woman chases robbers, returns to guard money

By Lacie Morrison

GRAFORD – Graford resident Diane Love didn’t know what she was seeing or who she was following Wednesday afternoon right after the First National Bank of Graford was robbed.

Driving slowly through the area looking at property, Love said she saw a suspicious character standing next to a vehicle parked behind Morrow Grocery.

“I saw a big man with a scarf holding what looked like a bucket at first but it was a bag,” she recalled. “A bunch of red smoke was barreling out of it. Our eyes met and he started walking backwards and sideways.”

Love initially thought the red smoke was insecticide and saw the man dump something on the ground.

“That vehicle was sitting there and he hollered, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!’,” she said. “I didn’t know what had happened.”

Suspicious, Love said she drove down the road and when the vehicle “zoomed” past her towards Jacksboro, she followed for a while trying to get a license plate. “I didn’t know I was chasing bank robbers.”

“I went back to Morrow’s and looked. There was a big pile of money on the ground,” she said. When Love called 911, she learned that the Graford bank had just been robbed.

“I just stood there until [law enforcement] showed up,” she said, guarding the money on the ground and some tire tracks. “Just doing a citizen’s duty.”

Love said she was concerned about her friend, who is an employee of the bank and was inside during the robbery.

“It was pretty intense. She’s shook up pretty bad,” Love observed.

Officials with the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office released descriptions Thursday of a suspect and the vehicle involved in Wednesday’s robbery of the First National Bank of Graford.

According to officials, at approximately 3 p.m. “an unknown suspect went into the First National Bank of Graford and demanded the money while displaying a small handgun.”

The suspect was described as a white male between 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing approximately 240 to 260 pounds. He was described as having a large build.

Officials did not release any description of the second suspect, who remained outside in the getaway vehicle.

The vehicle used to leave the area was, according to officials, “a newer model [sports utility vehicle] with a tire rack mounted on back, dark tan to green in color.” It was last seen traveling northbound on Farm-to-Market Road 4 north of Graford.

“A dye pack placed with the money did discharge upon the suspect leaving the building,” officials stated. “The suspect may have dye on his person.”

Officials encourage anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office at (940) 659-2085 or Crime Stoppers at (940) 659-9904. Individuals can anonymously provide information; if the information leads to an arrest and indictment, they are eligible for a reward up to $1,000

Graford bank robbed

By Lacie Morrison

GRAFORD – A Graford bank was robbed at gunpoint mid-afternoon Wednesday with an unknown amount of cash stolen and no injuries reported.

According to Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office officials, the robbery occurred shortly before 3 p.m. as the First National Bank of Graford, located in the 200 block of Main Street, was preparing to close for the day.

“They had one subject enter the bank and displayed a firearm,” Capt. Craig Goen told the Index at the scene, adding that the robber did not fire the weapon. “He took an undetermined amount of cash and fled with an accomplice in a vehicle.”

He declined to release a description of the suspect vehicle and only verified the two bank robbers were male, one believed to be a white male and the other a black male. The direction of the two suspects’ departure from the bank was not provided.

Goen confirmed no one was injured during the robbery. The bank had two employees working inside at the time and a female customer walked in during the robbery. She reportedly was instructed by the suspect to lie on the floor during the crime.

“The dye packs activated [and] they dumped a bunch of the money on the ground. We recovered a large amount,” Goen said. The specific value wasn’t immediately available as they had yet to count the money.

Officials reported they had already issued an alert to other agencies in the area concerning the suspects and their vehicle.

“We’re pretty sure they’re not in the area,” the captain noted. “We had tremendous law enforcement respond – [constables] Luis Rodriguez and Jim Roberts responded, DPS [Texas Department of Public Safety] from Jack County and Mineral Wells responded and all of the deputies on duty.”

Goen said they will be notifying the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The amount of money stolen was unavailable as officials explained they still needed to count the cash that was left by the robbers.

Officials confirmed they are looking into video surveillance of the scene and encouraged anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office at (940) 659-2085 or Crime Stoppers at (940) 659-9904. Individuals with information can anonymously provide information; if the information leads to an arrest and indictment, they are eligible for a reward up to $1,000.

Kids play with live grenade until authorities detonate it

By Lacie Morrison

PALO PINTO – The Palo Pinto County Sheriff issued a caution to all area residents about handling explosive devices after a fragmentation hand grenade was discovered Monday in a Palo Pinto creek bed.

Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Oak Street in Palo Pinto Monday morning after someone called authorities, Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said. “Someone looked over a bridge and saw it [in the creek bed].”

According to Mercer, they secured the area and contacted Fort Hood in Waco, which sent out an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team to detonate the “pineapple” grenade.

“The pin and spoon on it were missing,” Mercer said. “Some kids came up to the deputies and said they’d been throwing it up and down the creek.”

When the EOD team arrived, they secured the grenade and caused it to explode with C-4, the sheriff explained. “When it went off, it shook windows.”

This wasn’t the first explosive device discovered by residents in the county. Mercer said, “I know there have been several times we’ve found live ordinances.”

The sheriff recalled discovering dynamite “sweating” under a bed in the Possum Kingdom area. Sweating is the term used when the nitroglycerin in dynamite seeps through its wrapper or casing.

In 2007, pipe bombs were found twice in the county. On March 9, 2007, a bridge inspector discovered a homemade pipe bomb in a culvert east of the Keechi Creek bridge on State Highway 254. In April of 2007, three smaller pipe bombs were discovered in a shed behind a Mineral Wells residence.

Mercer said they’ve also been called out on old military ordinances discovered in the county.

“We’ve found pipe bombs, antitank weapons on Interstate 20 and several hand grenades,” he recalled.

Given the volatile nature of the explosive devices, Mercer wanted to caution residents about handling or disturbing items that could be dangerous.

“If you see something that looks like a grenade, call the authorities,” he said. In the most recent discovery in Palo Pinto, the sheriff remarked, “It was a live grenade.

“There was no reason why this thing didn’t detonate. It was old and rusty, missing the pin and spoon.”

Officials pleased with 'Night Out' turnout

By Lacie Morrison

It was hot, hot, hot Tuesday but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from attending National Night Out in Mineral Wells’ West City Park to partake of free hot dogs, drinks, information and a chance to swim.

“We estimated [attendance] a little bit shy of normal numbers,” said Mineral Wells Police Sgt. Patrick Adams, with approximately 400 people at the event. “They had an excellent turnout for the blood drive.”

Different departments and agencies including local organizations such as Addiction Recovery Ministries, Palo Pinto County Meals on Wheels and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were present, dispensing information about their services.

“We estimated that we talked to about 140 people about our park,” said Lake Mineral Wells State Park Interpreter David Owens.

With a kid-friendly display set up, Owens said, “We were letting the kids do some rubbings and we had some handouts on animal tracks. We also had them making wild turkey calls out of items around the house. We handed out about 60 of those.”

Owens said this was their first time to participate in National Night Out.

“We had quite a few people looking, picking up maps and schedules of events,” he commented. “I thought it went well.”

For 911 Addressing Coordinator Juanita Huddleston, her educational material focused on 911 usage with cell phones.

“The theme was ‘help us help you,’” she explained. “It was educating people about knowing your location when you call 911 from your cell phone. They don’t always know where you’re at.”

For firefighters-in-training, they had an opportunity to knock out some “flames” in a small display house. Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Chief Steve Perdue explained their display at the event “started a couple of years ago and the mascot and his dad are in charge of a little house with ‘fire’ in the window.”

Using the water hose, children took aim at the flames to “knock” them out. According to Perdue, “we had a fairly decent turnout.”

“The dunking booth was a fairly hot item for a while,” Adams said. “We had a variety of public services [whose] booths were very active.”

Another popular stop for visitors was the Carter Blood drive vehicle where people lined up to roll back their sleeves and offer up a pint of blood.

“The back up and wait for the blood drive was very long,” Adams recalled. “Some people were wanting to donate but the wait time was 30 minutes.”

“They were very excited about the turnout,” agreed Mineral Wells Police Chief Mike McAllester.

“I would like to extend a very special thank you to all of our participants and sponsors because without the sponsors, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Adams added. “A big thank you, too, to Donnie Hoover and his [Parks and Recreation] department for their help.”

Six hundred hot dogs were cooked by volunteer firefighters, with approximately 150 hot dogs taken to Hope Inc. after the event.

“The volunteer firefighters went above and beyond,” praised McAllester.

Adams said, “A special thanks goes to the volunteers for the dunking booth, Margie and Barry Holmes.”

Mineral Wells wasn’t the only location where law enforcement mingled with residents, educating them about their community. In Santo, local residents gathered at a residence Tuesday evening, meeting with Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer, Pct. 1 Constable Rodney Price and members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Mercer said they had “a pretty good turnout” for the event. He said this was the fourth year such an event was hosted at the request of the residents in Santo.

“The community wanted it and contacted us about starting it,” he said. “We discuss the goings on in the sheriff’s department, the issues we dealt with [and] things to look to in the future. The game warden answered questions about game laws.”


County jail passes state inspection
Thursday, November 01, 2007


Palo Pinto County Jail passed its annual inspection from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards last month.
“Nothing was found to be deficient,” said Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer. “They said the jail was clean and found to be in compliance.”
“The jail is in great shape,” said Capt. Walt Rucker, jail administrator.
Mercer said he has encouraged his jail staff to write a maintenance work order for anything they find that needs repair.
“We encourage them to report anything that isn’t working,” he said. “I’ve assured the maintenance department that has priority.
“With that many people and that much use, things break.”
The sheriff said that, at the suggestion of TCJS last year, the jail was painted.
“The inmates paid for it with revenue generated from the commissary fund,” he said, adding that those funds are from the sale of items to detainees in the facility.
“The previous legislature (79th) allowed the use of funds for plant improvements. It cost $18,000 to paint the jail with us providing the labor. Taxpayers didn’t have to pay for it.”

Mercer did say that the Simplex system – the jail’s fire detection system – needed an inspection. That was accomplished the following day and will be done annually

Sheriff seeks info on two burglaries
Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a pair of burglaries that occurred in the county last week.
One was at the Crossroads at the intersection of FM 1195 and the Millsap Highway south of Mineral Wells.
“They took cigarettes and lottery tickets,” said Sheriff Ira Mercer.

Another occurred west of Palo Pinto, although Mercer did not provide specifics.
“Burglaries have been real slow – we want to keep it that way,” he said.
Crimestoppers will pay $75-$1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those committing felony crimes.
Anyone with information can contact Crimestoppers at (940) 659-9904. Callers can remain anonymous.

Palo Pinto grand jury returns 34 indictments
Thursday, February 28, 2008


The Palo Pinto grand jury returned 34 indictments on Feb. 21.
Of the indictments, eight were drug related, five for assaults, four for burglary and four involved driving while intoxicated.
Indictments were:
• State of Texas vs. Joe Luther Willis, aggravated assault, Cause number 13723.
• State of Texas vs. Carlos Eugeno Wallace, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram. Cause number 13724.
• State of Texas vs. Geneva Nycole Blakeley, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram. Cause number 13725.
• Cause number 13726, sealed.
• State of Texas vs. Russell Scott Henderson, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram. Cause number 13727.
• State of Texas vs. Carlos Eugeno Wallace, delivery of a controlled substance less than 1 gram. Cause number 13728.
• State of Texas vs. Jennifer Suzanne Witchen, delivery of a controlled substance less than 1 gram. Cause number 13729.
• State of Texas vs. Jennifer Suzanne Witchen, delivery of a controlled substance less than 1 gram. Cause number 13730.
• State of Texas vs. Paul Glen Dills, aggravated assault. Cause number 13731.
• State of Texas vs. Paul Glen Dills, aggravated assault. Cause number 13732.
• State of Texas vs. Paul Glen Dills, unlawful restraint. Cause number 13733.
• State of Texas vs. Marsha Ann Hawkins, burglary of a habitation with intent to commit theft. Cause number 13734.
• State of Texas vs. Kenneth Neal Ratliff, assault of a public servant. Cause number 13735.
• State of Texas vs. Charles Edward Baker, burglary of a building with intent to commit theft. Cause number 13736.
• State of Texas vs. Bretteny Shawntey Underwood, injury to a child. Cause number 13737.
• State of Texas vs. Brandon Shane Barton, felony theft of the value of $1,500 or more but less than $20,000. Cause number 13738.
• State of Texas vs. Stephen Allen Parham, burglary of a habitation with intent to commit other felony. Cause number 13739.
• State of Texas vs. Stephen Allen Parham, burglary of a habitation with intent to commit other felony. Cause number 13740.
• State of Texas vs. David Craig Howard, felony driving while intoxicated. Cause number 13741.
• State of Texas vs. David Craig Howard, prohibited substance in a correctional facility. Cause number 13742.
• State of Texas vs. David Craig Howard, evading arrest or detention. Cause number 13743.
• State of Texas vs. Jerry Lee Jorgenson, aggravated assault. Cause number 13744.
• State of Texas vs. Juanita Pena, hindering apprehension or prosecution. Cause number 13745.
• State of Texas vs. Blanca Martinez, hindering apprehension or prosecution. Cause number 13746.
• State of Texas vs. Dale Gene Sewell, felony driving while intoxicated. Cause number 13747.
• State of Texas vs. James Reiz, aka Santiago Jimmy Ruiz, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Cause number 13748.
• State of Texas vs. James Reiz, aka Santiago Jimmy Ruiz, evading arrest or detention. Cause number 13749.
• State of Texas vs. Marshall Ross Roden, felony driving while intoxicated. Cause number 13750.
• State of Texas vs. Regina Ann Guerrero, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Cause number 13751.
• State of Texas vs. Regina Ann Guerrero, possession of a controlled substance under 1 gram. Cause number 13752.
• State of Texas vs. Teresa Lynn Nunley, felony driving while intoxicated. Cause number 13753.
• State of Texas vs. Jason Floyd Adkins, possession of a controlled substance under 1 gram. Cause number 13754.
• State of Texas vs. Jack Norman Barcklay Jr., aggravated assault. Cause number 13755.
• State of Texas vs. Jonathan Toy Ivie, failure to register as a sex offender. Cause number 13756.

Persistent Rains Causing Havoc For Area Residents

Click Here for More Pictures and Slideshows from the CENTEX Flood

 By Libby Cluett

The rain seems to have no end. And it is causing lots of problems for area residents, especially those living along the Brazos River.

At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, local law enforcement, emergency crews and citizens living along the river were on high alert as the Brazos River Authority prepared to open a fourth flood gate to release water building in Possum Kingdom Lake.

BRA monitors the entire Brazos River and its tributaries and seemed to play a juggling act with dam gates along the river Wednesday.

Rains in a 48-hour period since Monday totaled 2.49 inches as of 7 p.m. Wednesday. This combined with weather forecasts caused BRA officials to issue a flood warning that stated, “Severe weather in the upper and central portions of the Brazos River basin has created flood conditions on the Brazos River and its tributaries. As a result the Brazos River Authority has opened flood release gates at both Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Granbury.”

Below Morris Sheppard Dam water roared out of gates two through four at roughly 27,000 cubic feet per second as gates five through seven floated, ready to be dropped if needed.

Above the dam, PK Lake office staff were already busy fielding twice the usual number of phone calls when they were notified by BRA headquarters in Waco that a fourth gate would drop. According to BRA Chief of Law Enforcement, Mike Cox they were 30 minutes, or half way, into calling their notification list that another gate would open when headquarters contacted them to cancel dropping the fourth gate.

Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer reported several road closures throughout the county Wednesday, including portions of Farm-to-Market Road 4, South Lakeview and the causeway at Palo Pinto Lake. Other closures included Marsden Road, Hayes Road, a portion of U.S. Highway 281 South and State Highway 16 North below the bridge at Possum Kingdom Lake.

Mercer said they anticipated “serious flooding” along the Brazos River area if the county received additional rainfall.

“We do have the sheriff’s department’s boat ready to be deployed [and] three game wardens on standby in case we have to do any water rescues,” he said.

As of early Wednesday evening no water rescues were reported.

One official with the local Texas Department of Public Safety said no weather-related incidents were reported on the roadways Tuesday or early Wednesday.

“We’ve received many, many more calls requesting road conditions,” he said. “Many people are being vigilant.”

Erring on the side of caution, residents in Soda Springs were evacuated Wednesday afternoon. Parker County Sheriff’s Department Mike Morgan added that Horseshoe Bend, Lazy Bend near Brock and the Rio Brazos Addition near Tin Top were also being evacuated on Wednesday.

According to the Palo Pinto Appraisal District, there are 65 homes in the Soda Springs area.

Public Information Officer Judi Pierce said that BRA opened the first gate on Monday at 1:30 p.m. A second gate was opened at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, followed by the third gate at 8:30 a.m. A fourth gate, put on hold, was dropped for 30 minutes for a quick test, according to BRA staff.

The PK dam is 1,000 feet above mean sea level and, ideally, BRA maintains water at a level of six inches below the top of the dam. However on Wednesday, with three gates open, the lake level held steady at roughly 999.46 feet above mean sea level.

According to Cox, the last time three gates were open was December 1997. Cox added that in 1981, 1990 and 1991, there were four, four-gate operations.

“It’s rare – for June into July – [for us] to have a gate open,” said Cox.

While it is rare to have one gate open during the summer, “opening a third gate is unusual,” said Pierce.

The 1930s dam is lined by a series of nine gates, each roughly 15 feet high. Six are currently operational with the remaining gates involved in a 10-year replacement project, according to Pierce. The gates have a hollow core and must be unhitched, filled and floated said Pierce. On Wednesday, as three gates poured water, three were floated.

The three open gates caused rapid floodwaters to swallow Texas Highway 16 below the dam. The road was closed and monitored by the Texas Department of Transportation as water bulged over the historic brick arched bridge and continued to form white water rapids down stream.

Brazos waters continued downstream rushing at speeds up to 39,100 to 40,800 cubic feet per second. Where the river intersected the Dark Valley Bridge (at Farm-to-Market Road 4) and U.S. Highway 180, the brown water with white caps swelled the width of the bridges.

Further downstream, residents in Soda Springs were evacuated Wednesday morning. By the close of business, the fourth gate was not opened and the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s department reported no further calls for service along the Brazos.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, the fourth gate remained on hold. More rain expected Wednesday night and Thursday morning could cause the fourth floodgate to open.

Wise Eyes Alert Issued In Recent Thefts

TXU in Mineral Wells reported that between the hours of 10 p.m. on June 11 and 6 a.m. on June 12, a white flatbed trailer loaded with a white EZ Hauler mini-crane was stolen. Both the trailer and the crane have a “Flowers Construction” emblem on the side.  These items were reportedly stolen from the TXU location at 2400 Farm-to-Market Road 1821 in Mineral Wells.

Also, Antenna Products, located at 500 Grant Road in Mineral Wells, recently reported thefts of aluminum, copper, and brass antennas, sheets of aluminum, various antenna assembly pieces, and spools of copper stolen.

If you have any information concerning these thefts, you are asked to contact Det. Sherry Ford at the Mineral Wells Police Department at  (940) 328-7770 or by e-mail at fordmwpd@yahoo.com.

Narcotics Unit Seeks Fugitives

  Thomas                   Norris

By Lacie Morrison

The joint City/County Narcotics Unit is seeking public assistance in locating two local individuals who are wanted on drug charges.

Shamillia Patrice Thomas, 32, of Mineral Wells, and Jerry Dwayne Norris, 50, of Palo Pinto County, both have warrants for delivery of a controlled substance on file with the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the two fugitives is asked to call PPCSD or Crime Stoppers.

While Thomas and Norris currently remain at large, the CCNU recently reported that since April, their investigations have led to the arrests of 27 individuals, eight of which were for miscellaneous warrants.

“The action thus far has been good,” praised Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer.

In the most recent list of indictments handed down by the Palo Pinto County grand jury, 61.5 percent of the 39 identified indictments were narcotics related – either for possession of or the delivery of drugs in varying amounts.

According to Sgt. Brad Johnson, Mineral Wells Police Department and PPCSD personnel submitted 18 cases to the grand jury; 12 of which were for felony drug cases.

In addition to making arrests, the CCNU has seized 38 grams of methamphetamine since April; its value is approximately $4,000. Mercer said that while they confiscate a variety of narcotics and some prescription medication, most of what they seize is methamphetamine.

Over $10,500 and a 1994 Harley Davidson motorcycle are being held pending seizure procedures, Johnson reported.

Mercer praised the efforts of the patrol divisions in their drug arrests.

“I anticipate more raids throughout the county. They are pending,” Mercer added.

Mercer said they are still looking for Thomas and Norris as of Tuesday afternoon. Thomas has three warrants for delivery of a controlled substance while Norris has two warrants. Officials are asking for anyone with information on the whereabouts on the fugitives is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 659-2085 or Crime Stoppers at (940) 659-9904.

Arrests in Strawn                  



Von Garrison


By Lacie Morrison

STRAWN – Law enforcement descended upon Strawn Monday and Tuesday as they arrested four individuals on various felony warrants, the results of a two-month investigation by the City/County Narcotics Unit.

According to officials, Michael Von Garrison, 26, and Billy Joe Garrison, 21, were both arrested on Monday for theft of appropriation greater than $1,500 and less than $20,000. Theft of appropriation, Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer explained, is possession of stolen property. He said the warrants stemmed from a burglary of a building offense reported on May 25. Approximately $2,000 worth of tools were reported stolen from a building in the 100 block of South Main in Gordon.

Mercer noted that most of the items stolen were recovered.

Tina Marie Winegeart, 31, and Tony Joe Gulrich, 43, were both apprehended on charges pertaining to narcotics. Winegeart was arrested Tuesday on a felony warrant for delivery of a controlled substance.

Gulrich was arrested Monday on five warrants – two for delivery of a controlled substance, one for delivery of dangerous drugs, one for felony delivery of marijuana and a misdemeanor warrant for criminal mischief. The misdemeanor warrant, Mercer noted, stemmed from Gulrich’s tampering with a utility meter.

According to jail information, the Garrison duo were both bonded out on Wednesday on $25,000 bonds from Palo Pinto County Jail. Gulrich was assessed a total of $45,000 in bonds and as of Wednesday afternoon, remained in jail. Winegeart bonded out Wednesday on a $25,000 bond. All four suspects had Strawn addresses listed as residence.

In addition to the arrests, the CCNU seized an undisclosed amount of marijuana, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. The narcotics, estimated at approximately $300, have been sent to a lab in Abilene for evaluation.

Jail Deputy Named to State Board

By Lacie Morrison

PALO PINTO – Although he has served and represented Palo Pinto County for a number of years through various positions in law enforcement, Deputy Scott Simonton is expanding his sphere of representation at a statewide level.

On Thursday, Simonton was elected to the Texas Jail Association’s board of directors by a landslide vote. He currently works in the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office as the facilities maintenance coordinator.

According to their Web site, the TJA works “to bring together those concerned with or interested in the professional operation and administration of jails in the state of Texas; to advance professionalism through training, technical assistance, publications, peer interactions and conferences; to provide leadership in the development of professional standards, management practices, programs, and services and to advance the interests, needs and concerns of the membership.”

Simonton’s interest in becoming an active part of the association, he explained, started when he attended his first TJA conference last year.

“I was impressed with the way they ran the conference and the training,” he said. “I wanted to be more involved in it.”

Simonton explained that he had to submit a letter to TJA asking to be considered and Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer also submitted a letter of his full support.

“From the time they told me I could run, I started sending out e-mails to each member. I made up flyers and cards. As soon as I hit the motel door Sunday, I was campaigning,” Simonton said.

He noted that some of his business cards he handed out contained hand-written missives from his children asking people to, “vote for my dad, please.”

“A lot of people liked that,” he remarked with a smile.

TJA Executive Director Sharese Hurst explained that Simonton was one of five candidates vying for two positions on the board. The other director voted on the board was Terrisa Candelaria, of Midland County. Candelaria was re-elected and has served a number of years, Hurst noted. “We had quite a few small counties [running for a seat].”

She said the board is comprised of 22 members, 12 of which are elected. The current president of the association appoints the remaining 10 seats.

The votes were derived from members who attended the conference.  His term is for three years and there isn’t a limit on the number of terms a board member can serve.

“I support Scott’s efforts because it is an important organization we deal with because they set the jail standards,” Mercer commented. “It’s going to advantageous [for Palo Pinto County]. The time spent will certainly be worth the benefits we receive.”

Hurst said, “We’re very pleased to have him. He’s extremely enthusiastic. He went out of his way [at the conference] to assist the board members already elected. …

“Scott is a blessing to the organization and we’re so glad to have him.”

Both Hurst and Mercer agreed that this is the first time a board member was elected from Palo Pinto County.

“In my opinion, this is an extremely important position for our county due to the association with the Texas Association of Counties and the Sheriffs Association,” said Mercer.

As a director, Simonton said his duties would entail planning all training through the TJA, work with TAC and the sheriff’s association, the Chief Deputies Association and Texas Commission on Jail Standards for training, among other things. Hurst noted that the board members also attend board meetings, work in committees and assist in the conferences.

Stone Marks County's Past, Future

By Lacie Morrison

PALO PINTO - History was immortalized in stone with the recent unveiling of the sesquicentennial monument, a sandstone tribute to the 150th anniversary of Palo Pinto County’s founding.

Amidst the yearlong revelry and continual celebratory events, residents and officials converged on the lawn of the Palo Pinto County courthouse on June 2 to hear the dedication of the monument.

Prior to the unveiling, Palo Pinto County Clerk Bobbie Smith read resolutions from both the Texas House of Representatives and the State Senate that were issued in recognition of the celebration.

In his dedication of the monument, Palo Pinto County Judge Mike Smiddy centered his speech on three things – a land, a river and a people, the three tenets upon which the county was founded.

“The monument … started as a sandstone cut from the foundation of this land. This stone was nothing special until today. Now, on its face, this stone will forever bear the logo of this sesquicentennial celebration – a land, a river, a people,” Smiddy intoned.

He discussed the representation of the stone as the land of Palo Pinto County while rocks from the Brazos River rested at the monolith’s base, representative of the river that flows through the county.

As for the people, Smiddy said, “Palo Pinto County owes its existence to those who came first. To those who came later, well, they took up the torch and wrote the history that brought us all these 150 years.

“A people today? It is us. Our duty is to carry the torch for as long as we can, stand true to those who have come before us while setting our sights even higher for those who will come after us.”

Once the monument was unveiled, members of the historical commission poured water – Brazos River water from Oaks Crossing and Crazy Mineral Water from the Famous Water Company – upon the monument.

In addition to the beard growing contest held at High Noon, a number of other attractions had visitors flocking around Palo Pinto. Vendors sold their wares from booths along Oak while the tantalizing scents of hot dogs and other foods floated in the air. A selection of classic cars were parked for viewing while the Old Jail Museum sustained a steady flow of foot traffic.

At the jail complex, individuals like Tricia Hopkins and Myrta Berner demonstrated their quilting skills and knitting capabilities.

“They just asked me to knit,” remarked Berner, whose fingers deftly worked the yarn around five needles – the makings of a sock. “I knit for fun.”

A shaded table featured homemade jams and jellies while an antique hay bailer was displayed with demonstrations offered.

In addition to the residents who mingled through the booths and attractions, some individuals made their appearances in less-traditional garments, more reminiscent of times gone by, including Smiddy. In addition to local residents, members of the Palo Pinto County Historical Commission and county officials, Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and Secretary of State Roger Williams were also in attendance.

County extends condolences to officers' families

By Libby Cluett

PALO PINTO – At Tuesday’s meeting Palo Pinto County Commissioners passed and approved a solemn resolution offering “sympathy to the families, fellow officers and friends of the fallen heroes and to the Sheriff’s Department of Henderson County, Texas, on behalf of the people of Palo Pinto County.

On May 17, a gunman using a high-powered rifle shot and killed Henderson County sheriff’s deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn while they responded to a domestic disturbance call in the East Texas community of Payne Springs. A third deputy was wounded. The shootings reportedly happened just hours after the deputies participated in a memorial to honor peace officers slain in the line of duty.

“The untimely deaths of [the two deputies] has caused us to remember again that those who serve in law enforcement place themselves in harms way protecting the peace and security for all law abiding citizens,” stated the resolution.

Through the resolution, county judge Mike Smiddy and commissioners encourage citizens to pray for the families of the fallen officers and to express support, “to all who faithfully serve in law enforcement at every opportunity.”

                                            Palo Pinto County 150 Year Celebration

Gearing up for the big Palo Pinto County sesquicentennial festivities this weekend, Smiddy informed county commissioners that the 150-year monument is expected to be installed at 2 p.m. today, in time for Saturday’s big celebration and dedication.

Events for the 150th Old Settlers Day and Marker Dedication begin at 10 a.m. Saturday on the Palo Pinto County courthouse lawn.

Concluding the meeting on a light note, Smiddy read a proclamation for a special meeting of the “Brothers of Golconda (Palo Pinto) Frontier Society” on Saturday at high noon in the courtroom.

The “brothers” are those males who refrained from shaving facial hair between April 15 and June 2, resulting from the “banning” (or discouragement) of facial hair shaving for Palo Pinto County men.

“A carefully selected and distinguished panel of experts,” according to the proclamation, will be ready to formally judge the beard-growing contest.

Smiddy stated in the proclamation: “I further call upon all those who seek to photograph the meeting of the brothers of the society to gather at the county courtroom early and quietly, armed with cameras, because it is feared that some Brothers attending will seek an early exit for a clandestine rendezvous with a razor and the ‘full flower’ of their efforts will be lost.”

Putting a Face to a Mystery Man
By: Lacie Morrison of the Mineral Wells Index

Almost two months ago, a hunter stumbled upon the partial remains of a human skeleton northeast of Palo Pinto. The latest aspect of the investigation in discovering the identity resulted in an artist’s rendering of a possible likeness.

According to the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office, the bones were sent to an artist with the Texas Rangers in Austin who had the skeletal remains for two or three weeks. She produced two sketches of what the person could’ve looked like, one with a hat and moustache and the other clean-shaven.

Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer explained they weren’t able to do a clay rendering of the face as the artist didn’t have the bottom jaw for a complete facial reconstruction.

When the body was initially discovered on Dec. 26, officials were able to recover the skull, two femurs and a couple of leg and arm bones from the site. Mercer said the skeleton was found lying on top of the ground in a “typical scatter pattern.”

Later use of a cadaver dog revealed parts of a pair of tennis shoes, a single tooth and the elastic band for a pair of underwear.

In addition to the clothing items and various bones, officials found two dimes minted in 1998 and a snap ring with a key ring containing a skeleton key, a military-style can opener and a pair of fingernail clippers. A small metal ring was also discovered at the site.

Officials reported that none of their leads so far have panned out in discovering whose remains they are.

According to a Wise Eyes bulletin issued by the PPCSO, the subject is believed to be a Hispanic male, between 45 to 65 yea
rs of age at the time of death and between 5-foot-1-inch and 5-foot-5-inches in height.

The Wise Eyes also stated that he had a “poorly healed broken right cheekbone and indications of a crooked nose.”

The garments discovered with the skeletal remains were “Wrangler jeans with ‘T Howard’ written in the inside of the right front pocket and a size-10 red Riddell shoe.”

According to officials, the bones have been sent to another anthropologist in San Marcos for a second opinion in determining how long he’s been deceased. They anticipate it taking a few weeks to get further information back.


Floodwaters claim victim
Body of Fort Worth man missing since Friday found Monday morning at PK Lake

By: Lacie Morrison of the Mineral Wells Index
April 3, 2007

POSSUM KINGDOM – The Brazos River Authority discovered Rumaldo Fuentes’ body at 10:20 a.m. Monday after officials spent the weekend searching Possum Kingdom Lake and nearby Jowell Creek.  According to Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department officials, Fuentes last spoke with someone Friday at approximately 8:30 p.m. He reportedly drove his 1995 Chevrolet single-cab pickup through a low-water crossing on West Hell’s Gate Drive, which was marked by a rain gauge.  The road is located in Sportsman’s World, a planned community located on the southeast side of the lake. Fuentes was reportedly living in the area, though officials believe him to be from Fort Worth.

Capt. Craig Goen said officials were alerted at approximately 8:59 a.m. Saturday when a woman who was checking on a friend’s house in the area discovered the truck upside down in Jowell Creek.   Goen said the truck was located two-tenths of a mile down the creek from the low-water crossing. He explained they were able to determine the distance through global positioning satellite. Jowell Creek, he noted, emptied into the lake about one-tenth of a mile further downstream from where the truck was discovered.  According to one official, the truck appeared to have rolled numerous times in the creek, which has a rock-type bottom. The pickup was described as “demolished.”

The search for Fuentes began Saturday and involved several people as they combed the banks of Jowell Creek looking for him. Members of the Possum Kingdom East Volunteer Fire Department walked up and down the creek and cadaver dogs were called in from Stephenville Saturday as well.  “They were there from 2 p.m. till dark,” Goen remarked. “They were a lot of help. They confirmed Fuentes was not in areas that were flooded.”   Fuentes, who was reportedly born in 1956, was discovered in the vicinity of Hell’s Gate, “a long way from the mouth of the creek,” Goen noted.   BRA’s Public Information Officer Judi Pierce told the Index they were working with the PPCSO Sunday and Monday under the assumption that Fuentes would’ve been carried into that area.

She said, “We had a couple different patrol boats doing regular patrols and extra patrolling [for Fuentes].”  Goen explained, “The accident itself is [PPCSO] jurisdiction. Once the body got into the lake, they [BRA] assisted in the recovery.”  Fuentes’ body was recovered from the lake at 11 a.m. Pierce said a justice of the peace met the lake rangers at the Bluff Creek Marina.  Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Todd Baker pronounced him dead at 11:20 a.m. Monday, though there isn’t a way to tell the time of death, Goen noted.   Officials said that the body has been sent to the medical examiner’s office in Dallas and his family has been notified.   Goen noted that based on witnesses’ statements, there was possibly alcohol involved and Fuentes was reportedly warned not to cross the road.  One official at the sheriff’s department commented that this was the first incident like this he remembered in his 25 years of working in the Palo Pinto County area.   Palo Pinto County Chief Deputy Mike Sudderth observed, “Driving off into water across roadways is always dangerous because the force can be greater than you’d expect.”

Flash Floods hit Palo Pinto County
May 29, 2007

On Friday, March 30th a substantial amount of rain fell throughout the area.  The heavy rains caused many roads to become flooded and people all over the county were stranded as a result.  Deputies from the sheriff's office stepped in to help in many rescue efforts and to provide assistance to the citizens of the county.  Deputies were also dispatched to Mineral Wells to assist Police and Fire in their efforts.  Area Game Wardens came in to assist, providing a flat bottomed boat and an air boat.  The air boat was deployed in the northern portion of the county to check on a stranded vehicle that was in high waters.  The sheriff's office was pleased with the efforts from all local fire and police personnel.  Click on the link below to view a video provided by channel 5 news, this video was taken in Mineral Wells and shows the excessive water on the roadways.


The Article and Pictures Below  are from the Mineral Wells Index on April 1

The city built on water found itself partly under it as a second day of heavy rains Friday hit Mineral Wells and the North Texas region.
Friday saw waves of large rain cells pass through the city with brief respites in between. The area was placed under a variety of thunderstorm, tornado and flash flood watches and warnings throughout the day.  As of 7 p.m. Friday, 3.77 inches of rain was recorded at Mineral Wells Municipal Airport, the most rain recorded in one day since 2.78 inches of rain fell June 9, 2004  The week’s tally of more than 7 inches of rain is the most since 4.28 inches of rain fell over a four-day period of June 26-30 in 2004, and the 9 inches of rain this month is the most since June 2004’s 11.2 inches.
Friday’s events began with a tornado warning issued for southwestern Palo Pinto County in the Strawn area about 12:15 p.m. after a tornado was spotted east of Ranger. Trees were reportedly uprooted in eastern Eastland County. Rotation in the storm continued as it moved into and across Palo Pinto County. However that warning eventually was cancelled.
     Residents in the area of Oaks Crossing between Farm-to-Market Road 2256 and U.S. Highway 281 South reported seeing several funnels, none of which were officially confirmed. That area was hit by large amounts of hail that one witness said the left the ground in a white blanket of ice.
Palo Pinto County Fire Marshall Barry Gill said as of mid-afternoon Friday there were no confirmed reports of structural damage in the county from tornadic activity or high winds.
     High winds and heavy rains moved into Mineral Wells shortly before 1 p.m. Pea- to golf ball-sized hail was reported throughout the city as rain fell in heavier amounts than Thursday’s 2.5 recorded inches.
Soon, reports of street and property flooding came pouring into the city’s emergency dispatch system as city personnel scrambled to respond to requests concerning stranded vehicles and help leaving flooded homes.
     Flooding was rampant across the city. Rainwater escaped the north-south canal downtown, and water was across roadways in area north, south, east and west. City emergency vehicles were used to close South Oak Avenue at S.E. 15th Street, where water rising halfway up passeng
er vehicles was seen – not stopping most motorists from attempting to ease on through. Barricades were put in place at intersections throughout the city.
Southside Church of Christ opened the doors to its fellowship hall to assist people flooded from their homes. However, there reportedly were no displaced residents who sought assistance at the church.  Pastor Bill Eudy reportedly drove the church bus to the neighborhood known as The Circle located in the 1200 block of S.E. 2nd Avenue where city’s two canals converge and which again experienced flooding. However, residents there reportedly declined to leave their homes on Friday.
     There was a report of residents on S.E. 24th Street with 3 to 4 feet of water on their street.  Lightning reportedly split a tree and damaged a car in the 600 block of N.W. 4th Street.  About 2:30 p.m. Friday, City Fire Marshal Joel Thompson said city personnel responded to eight flooded homes involving 20 people who were displaced because of high water.  He said there were multiple other properties flooded but where no one was home at the time.
Thompson said the American Red Cross was called into to offer assistance to those in need of temporary shelter. He said Southside Church of Christ would remain open Friday to help flood victims.  “We can probably house 100 to 150 people in that location,” Thompson said.
     Residents on Park Drive north of the Brazos Shopping Center – an area that was the discussion of potential flooding last year before City Council – experienced flooding Friday when water breached a berm constructed to protect the neighborhood from hillside runoff. Residents said floodwaters swept down the street.  Gary Barlow arrived at his home on Park Drive to find water found its way inside his home, sweeping in with it mud and debris.
“This is the first time this has happened since 1982,” he said. Barlow said he believed the early stages of construction of 10 new homes on N.E. 10th Street created additional waters that the berm and control pipe could not handle.  “We’ve always been able to control it,” Barlow said. He said his rain gauge recor
ded 7 inches of rain between Thursday and Friday’s first round of showers.
     Problems weren’t confined to the city. Amy Fabian said she was frustrated because the house she lives in with her extended family on Gunsmoke Road off Shattles Road and FM 1821 north of Mineral Wells was beginning to flood. She was home with a disabled grandmother and twin 3-week-old boys born pre-maturely. Fabian said she tried calling the sheriff’s department but could not get an answer. She said she called the City of Mineral Wells Fire Department asking for sandbags to block the water from entering the home, but was turned down because city crews and resources were tied up responding to in-city calls.  Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Jerry VanNatta did respond to the house, Fabian said, and spoke with her. She said her father had arrived at the home a few minutes later. “He’ll decide whether we should evacuate,” she said.
     City Manager Lance Howerton said while the first round of heavy rains caused some problems, he said the city was fortunate it was not worse.
“As far as any serious flooding, it appears to be fairly well isolated to the area of S.E. 2nd Avenue,” Howerton said, adding he was aware of nine home on The Circle with flooding problems. But he said because some residents were not home, there could actually be others.  “I’m not sure to what extent the flooding may be,” he said.  There was a calm between the storms. The first wave of storms Friday dumped 2.53 inches of rain at Mineral Wells Municipal Airport. The second wave of heavy rain arrived in the city about 5 p.m. Flooding problems in the same, previously flooded areas arose anew.

Community and School Participation

The Sheriff's Office  participated in the Every 15 Minute Program at Mineral Wells High School at the beginning of March.  This program is geared to reinforcing the dangers of drinking and driving among teens and adults.  We feel that this program sends a strong message to the students and we strongly support this program.   For more information and pictures click on the link to the Mineral Wells Index below.

Earlier this school year this same program was conducted at the Santo High School producing great results.

The Sheriff's Office provided a support officer for Travis Elementary 6th grade annual trip to Camp Grady Spruce for a week of Outdoor Education at Possum Kingdom Lake.  The deputy provides a sense of security for both staff, students, and the families of students involved.  The deputy functioned in other support roles as well such as:  Teaching Archery, Arts and Crafts, and most importantly educating the pre-teens in alcohol and drug awareness programs.  The deputy  worked  in conjunction with TABC, DPS narcotics, and  a local drug dog to provide the students with a foundation to help guide their decisions as they enter their teenage years. 

These proactive efforts provided by the PPSO during these community and school events are in hopes of lowering the number of underage drinking and drug related incidents.  It is also an opportunity for Law Enforcement Personnel to interact with local youth in a positive way.

The KKK came and they went - but not before three onlookers were arrested following a brief scuffle at the group’s tense demonstration.  A group of about 25 represented the Klan, saying they were Christians and wanted illegal immigration stopped.  They claimed they were not a hate group - just a group proud of their race, like all races should be.  They were dressed in black and some wore T-shirts expressing disdain for hate.  Others wore suits. Only one covered his face. Later, when asked about the Confederate flag bandana covering his mouth and nose, he said, “I have a family to protect,” and refused to identify himself.
     The group was barricaded from the audience with two chain-link fences that appeared cage-like. They spoke under a canopy of flags: American, KKK, Confederate and Christian.
     What will linger are the racial slurs and profanity coming from the audience. It seemed Stephenville had a lot of out-of-town visitors for the event.  A group from Houston who called themselves the Anti Racist Action (ARA) taunted the KKK with chants and foul language. They seemed to make it their business to cause trouble and incite the crowd. They appeared unclean and smelled rank.
      Five of them saw a “skinhead” standing near the fence line with his family and went after him. In fact, Johnathan Schmidt was hard not to notice, as his bald head was covered with colorful tattoos. His children, a 6-month-old baby, a 3-year-old and his wife, Kamille, were with him.  The ARA members were smart, though.  Ben Gray, of the ARA, seemed to provoke Schmidt, a Stephenville resident formerly of Fontana, Calif., into throwing the first punch. Gray didn’t strike back. Therefore, he didn’t go to jail, but a pair of his cohorts did, along with Schmidt after they joined in the brief scrap that was quickly detained by undercover officers.
     Schmidt, Victoria Cloud (ARA) and Christopher Bunch (ARA) were arrested on the charge of disorderly conduct fighting. Officers identified only by their purple wristbands were all over the group within seconds of the first swing. The fight might have lasted 20 seconds because of fast-acting officers.  At press time, Schmidt had been released under a $200 preset bond. The others remained incarcerated.  In an earlier interview, Schmidt said he was an “independent skinhead,” a white supremacist. He talked freely and openly about it. He said he was there for the same reasons everyone else was - just to see what was going on and added he agreed with the KKK on their views on immigration and didn’t believe there was anything wrong with being proud of your race.  Schmidt spoke of growing up fatherless and with a mother who “did her own thing.”  He was incarcerated by the California Youth Authority from the time he was 12-years-old until he was 19 on two counts of armed robbery and one count of attempted murder, he said.   After the fight, Gray (ARA) was asked why he went out of his way to approach Schmidt. He said he had a right to talk to anybody.
     Stephenville resident Lana Cross said she came to the rally, “To see the idiots in action. I have no use for them.”  Earlier, the KKK said they chose Stephenville for the rally because they felt Tarleton State University students had been “railroaded” and their freedom of speech rights had been violated when they chose to have an off-campus “MLK” party involving costumes that, in the eyes of some, mocked black peo
ple.  “Those students didn’t violate anyone’s civil rights,” said Roger Davidson, KKK Grand Dragon of Texas.  Davidson said Tarleton was a fine university, “But this university has a spineless administration. They sacrificed a group of students for the politically correct thing to do.”  Cross said she has a daughter who attends TSU and that she goes to the campus three times a week to work out.  “There’s not a problem at Tarleton…the kids will tell you that,” she said.
     Faye Landham, of Arlington, said she drove to Stephenville to attend the rally.  “I really thought they’d be in hoods. I’m a Christian and it upsets me that they pray and fly a Christian flag,” she said. “They are so mean to other races.”  She then turned and shouted to the KKK members, “You ought to be ashamed to say you’re from Texas!” She continually shouted throughout the rally and openly showed her disdain for the group. She sometimes used profanity. It appeared she hated the KKK members.  At one point during the rally, Davidson said, “The only hate I’ve seen so far is coming from the other side of the fence.”
     The crowd dispersed to Merle Haggard’s melody, “Snowball Headed For Hell.”

Public’s help sought in pipe bomb case
By: Lacie Morrison of the Mineral Wells Index

The pipe bomb pictured above, was found March 9
in a culvert along SH 254 near the Keechi Creek bridge.


Officials are asking for assistance in discovering the source of a pipe bomb discovered March 9 in a culvert on State Highway 254.

With an estimated diameter of approximately 2 to 2 and-a-half inches, bridge inspectors from the Texas Department of Transportation discovered the cylindrical explosive. They reportedly discovered the homemade device in a culvert east of the Keechi Creek bridge.

After the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department was informed of the discovery and arrived on scene, they in turn notified the local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF subsequently placed a shape charge over the canister and detonated it. They removed the explosive device to their lab for analysis.

According to Sheriff’s Department Capt. Craig Goen, the ATF informed them that it appeared the improvised explosive device wasn’t built recently and apparently had lain there for some time.

“It appeared to be [made from] oilfield equipment,” he said, possibly a small separator. He said the pipe bomb, an estimated 10 inches in length, contained black powder and nails. Blue wiring was attached to one projection on the device though the wires had been clipped.

The improvised explosive device discovered earlier this month was found in a rural area, negating the need for any evacuation of residents. Law enforcement did block off the road while ATF detonated the bomb.

“If anybody sees something they suspect [as suspicious], we certainly need to know about it before they approach,” Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer remarked. He said they plan on issuing a Wise Eyes bulletin on the device.

According to Texas statute, a person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs or sells an explosive weapon. It is a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of two to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

Chase with gunfire ends in Palo Pinto County wreck
By: Danie M. Huffman/Lone Star News Group

Deputy Lively Observes Accident

WEATHERFORD – Willow Park officers were led on a high-speed chase Sunday morning that began with a traffic stop in Parker County, involved shots fired at an officer and ended with a rollover wreck in Palo Pinto County.

Willow Park authorities said an officer stopped a rented Suzuki SUV driven by a female with a male passenger on Interstate 20 for an illegal turn and failure to maintain a single lane.

Willow Park Police Chief Claud Arnold said around 2 a.m. Officer Byron Cowley stopped the SUV and asked the female driver for her identification.

“She couldn’t produce it,” Arnold said. He said Cowley asked her to step out of the car. “That’s when she floor-boarded the SUV,” he stated.

Arnold said Cowley notified his supervisor, Sgt. William Carmichael, who joined the chase and fell in behind the fleeing suspects identified as Derrick Lamont Sanders, 23, and Amber Searcy, 19, both of Fort Worth.

Arnold said Searcy was driving the vehicle and led authorities westbound, with speeds reaching up to 100 miles per hour and more.

As the chase entered Weatherford, the Texas Department of Public Safety received a call that Willow Park officers were engaged in a pursuit through the city. When Willow Park officers reached the 408-mile marker, Sanders allegedly leaned out the front passenger seat, pointed a gun and fired three rounds at Carmichael.

“You can see flashes on the on-board patrol unit video camera,” Arnold said. “At Brock, they took the service road, (presumably) to avoid construction.”

Arnold said the chase continued across the Brazos River to U.S. Highway 281 at the Stephenville/Mineral Wells exit.

“The subjects apparently turned under the bridge to head eastbound when they lost control and flipped the SUV five times,” Arnold said. “The female driver was ejected.”

He said Searcy’s speed at the time of the crash has yet to be determined.

She was flown by air ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. She reportedly suffered a gash to her head and a possible broken ankle. She was said to have undergone surgery and suffered massive trauma to the head with numerous bruises and scrapes.

Sanders was taken to JPS by LifeCare paramedics. He was treated and later released with unknown injuries. He was transported to the Parker County Justice Center where he was charged with attempted capital murder of a peace officer. Searcy was charged with felony evading arrest.

“Sanders admitted to Officer Cowley that he was under the influence of heroin, Ecstasy and speed,” Arnold said.

DPS troopers from Parker, Palo Pinto and Erath counties assisted Willow Park authorities in the chase and head the continuing investigation.

Searcy has one warrant from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office for a motion to revoke a parole violation.

Arnold said he and Lt. William Ray arrived on scene to conduct an investigation and report on the officer’s performance.

He added the chase lasted less than 20 minutes, covering about 25 miles.

Authorities remained on the scene about another two hours investigating the incident.

“DPS said our officers conducted themselves well and did a splendid job in handling the incident,” Arnold said. “And I concur.”

As of press time and according to the Parker County Web site, Sanders remains in custody on three no bonds for felony warrants out of Fort Worth for assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm and for aggravated robbery. He was also wanted in Fort Worth for a separate charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His bond for that charge was set at $100,000.

He was also charged with attempted capital murder for shooting at the officer and bond was set at $25