|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - December 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Year in Review: Penry trial finally ends, debate on TTC gets heated
Polk County Enterprise - December 2008
LIVINGSTON – This year began in Polk County as it did around the rest of the country, with political candidates fi ling for positions on the primary ballot and all eyes on the presidential candidates. In addition to the races for sheriff, constables, a commissioner and Livingston and Onalaska mayors, voters would decide whether or not the Livingston Independent School District would be allowed to issue bonds for the construction of a new high school. A Dallas federal court upheld a previous ruling allowing a moment of silence in Texas classrooms and Livingston students continued to pray for a new campus. County commissioners decided to issue over $10 million in bonds to fund the construction of a new judicial center despite Polk County voters defeating a similar measure twice. The additional revenue from the newly expanded IAH adult detention center would be used as funding for the project, which was initiated to deal with issues of security and overcrowding in the antiquated courthouse. In the meantime, Texas residents were up in arms over I-69/ Trans-Texas Corridor proposals by the Texas Department of Transportation. Town hall meetings across the state were fi lled with property owners, real estate agents, developers and individual rights advocates who were upset about the ever-changing proposed routes. Livingston City Council revised a noise ordinance to prohibit music which can be heard from a distance of 50 feet from a vehicle. Former Livingston physician Bill Ingram was denied parole for a 1989 aggravated kidnapping conviction. Ingram was sentenced to 40 years in prison after kidnapping and sexually assaulting a pharmaceutical representative. Polk County commissioners passed a smoking ban for all county buildings, expanding upon some county facilities that had already been smoke-free for more than a decade. High gas prices and the hint of a sub-prime mortgage crisis began working their way into Polk County, although gas prices in Texas never reached the staggering numbers seen in other parts of the country. Sidney Smith was named Polk Countian of the Year by the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce for his many years of service to the community as a businessman and a philanthropist. A Polk County jury deliberated only 15 minutes before fi nding Joseph George, 23, formerly of New Orleans, guilty of engaging in organized criminal activity in connection with the manufacture and sale of crack cocaine. Betty Jean McKissick was crowned the 2008 Miss Polk County at the annual pageant, accepting the crown from departing Miss Polk County Hana Donley. Hometown girl Eureka Gilkey made the front page in an interview about her work as part of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. Convicted murderer Jesus Flores was found dead in his Polunsky Unit cell of an apparent suicide. Flores was sentenced to death for the 2001 shooting death of a Harris County sheriff’s deputy. In February, Bill Baker was sentenced to 12 years in prison for attacking Polk County Sheriff’s Sgt. William Jerry with a logging chain in a racially motivated incident at the home of Baker’s father. Firefighters across the state were battling wildfires as high winds and dry conditions turned much of Texas into a tinderbox. Local firefighters responded to an increased number of grass fires as pleas from Gov. Perry, the Texas Forest Service and local fire chiefs went unheeded. Cynthia Lynn Duplechain was arrested in connection with the Dec. 8, 2007 murder of Raymond Keith Rhodes at his residence in Shelter Cove, after the .22 caliber handgun used in the shooting was found in her possession. James Walter Thompson and Dorothy Mae Wyatt were each sentenced to 30 years in prison for the shooting death of Kashundra Anisha Wyatt after an argument in July 2006. Wyatt left behind three children. Trustees for the Livingston Independent School District were told that a new high school would cost an estimate $64 million as the district prepared to hold another bond election in an effort to battle the overcrowding on LISD campuses. An 80-year-old Onalaska man, Albert Minovich, was convicted of prescription drug delivery after being arrested in possession of nearly 6,000 pills from Xanax to Viagra. Livingston angler Angie Everitt earned a spot in the Feb. 21 Women’s Bassmaster Tournament Championship on Lake Keowee at Greenville, SC. The body of a missing Splendora woman was found Feb. 8 in a wooded area off Old Woodville Road. Carolyn Jean Reagles, 62, was reported missing from the home of a friend Jan. 17. After 28 years of legal wrangling and three trials during which each jury found him guilty, Johnny Paul Penry escaped the death penalty and was sentenced to three stacked life sentences with no credit for time served for the 1979 rape and murder of Pamela Moseley Carpenter and the 1980 attempted murder of former lead prosecutor Joe L. Price. Larry Charles Cullins, Jr. of Goodrich was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old female in July 2006. Onalaska police and firefighters were put to the test when a piece of paper with the word “bomb” written on it was found on a classroom floor after the school day had ended. It turned out that the paper was part of an increasingly popular game among high school students called “Assassin.” Amanda Dawn Jackson, 18, of Livingston was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for stabbing her 16-yearold brother in the chest with a knife. Habitat for Humanity of Polk County received a $62,000 grant from The Meadows Foundation to help with the construction of infrastructure at the organization’s Cochran’s Crossing development. Daylight Savings Time kicked in a few weeks early, on March 9, after the U.S. Congress passed legislation moving the Spring Forward date up and the Fall Back date to the first Sunday in November. The TransTexas Corridor continued to ignite heated debates around the state. More than 150 people showed up for the local hearing on the proposed I-69 development. The Livingston Speciality Merchants Guild joined in opposition to the plan in March. Election day came and went, leaving voters in Precinct 3 up in the air regarding their new commissioner after opponents Milton Purvis and Calvin Jones came within six votes of one another. A recount eventually named Purvis the winner. Polk County Democrats overwhelmingly chose Hillary Clinton as their candidate by a margin of 2-to-1 over Barack Obama. The caucusing process didn’t go as smoothly as planned as many Texans got a crash course in caucusing as Democratic primary voters gathered to help determine the final outcome of the election process and to choose delegates to send to the county convention. The two-month search for aggravated kidnapping suspect Gary Parker came to an end when he was arrested in Harris County for Class B misdemeanor theft and later identified as a wanted man. The Big Sandy Wildcats boys’ basketball team made it to the state championship in Austin but fell to Thorndale. The Goodrich Hornets boys’ basketball team took on Langville for the state title as well but fell six points short. LISD trustees chose FM 350 South as the site for the proposed new high school. With the bond election looming on the horizon, school officials worked overtime to educate residents about the needs of the district, state mandates and the proposed new campus. Clarke Evans and Dr. Bill Watson announced their candidacy for mayor of Livingston, vying for the spot left by longtime Mayor Ben Ogletree Jr. who chose not to seek re-election. Lew Vail ran sought another term as mayor of Onalaska, as well.