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San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added -  January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

A glimpse into the last 12 months in SJC
San Jacinto News- Times - January 2009

COLDSPRING – Rising fuel costs, tropical storms, hurricanes and school resignations were among top stories for 2008 in San Jacinto County. Following is a review of headlines for the past year:

Year started out with a search for Gary Parker, the son for former San Jacinto County Sheriff J.C. “Humpy” Parker, who was wanted for robbery and kidnapping charges. Parker was later apprehended and indicted on six charges ranging from kidnapping to robbery. In September 2008, he entered a plea of guilty to the charges, receiving a 31-year sentence for his guilty plea. During a special called meeting on New Year’s Eve, Coldspring- Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustee members voted to buy out the contract of Superintendent Dr. Lynn Cummins. About 18 months remained on his contract with the school district. Dr. Billy Bowman was appointed as interim on Jan. 3 to fi ll the vacancy until a new superintendent could be named. History went on sale as the San Jacinto County Old Jail Museum Curator Beth Nix displayed a law book dating back to the mid-1800’s. The historic law book is one of many the jail museum is selling that were rescued from the old wooden San Jacinto County Courthouse which burned in 1915. Trustees from the San Jacinto County Jail were allowed to participate in a litter program picking up trash along county roads. The service was partially provided through a grant from Deep East Texas Council of Governments for illegal dumping and litter clean-up. San Jacinto News-Times Publisher Alvin Holley was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame. The Corsicana native is owner of Polk County Publishing Company in Livingston, publishers of the San Jacinto News-Times, Polk County Enterprise, The Corrigan Times, The Houston County Courier, The Tyler County Booster, The Trinity Standard, as well as a number of free distribution weeklies, including The Big Thicket Messenger in Liberty County and The Pennysaver in Polk County. San Jacinto County Commissioners’ Court discussed fi nalizing construction and remodeling of the county jail. The project cost about $4.6 million and has the capability of housing 144 inmates.

Shepherd Intermediate 5th graders attended STARBASE Program at Ellington Field, NASA gaining knowledge and skills in math, science and technology. Pct. 1 Commissioner Michael Griffi th announced in commissioners’ court that he is facing some serious issues that are life threatening involving organ transplant and will not be running for re-election as previously announced. Griffi th went on to change his mind once more, fi nally running on the Republican ticket for re-election. His bid for re-election failed in November when Democratic candidate Laddie McAnally won the seat. About 400 residents from Walker and surrounding counties voiced opposing opinions on the I-69/TS Texas Corridor during public meetings held. Shepherd Independent School Board members accepted the resignation of Assistant Football Coach Ryan Ferguson following allegations of inappropriate communications by an 18-year-old high school student. Ferguson later received probation after pleading guilty Aug. 11 to the charge. In exchange for his guilty plea, Ferguson received a probated sentence of fi ve years deferred adjudication for his behavior. Under intense courtroom security, Johnny Paul Penry admitted he had no excuse for killing Pamela Moseley Carpenter on Oct. 25, 1979 during a sentencing hearing that removed the threat of execution for Penry. He received three life sentences, ending a 28-year quest for justice.

During the March Democratic and Republican primaries Democrat Alvin Wyatt unseated incumbent Lou Rogers for Pct. 4 Constable and Tom Yates beat incumbent democrat Jerry Everitt for Pct. 2 Constable. Commissioners’ Court approved a fi ve-year tax abatement by East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. The power plant will burn natural gas to produce electrical power during periods of greatest electrical use. It was located near the center of a 43-acre tract of land in southern San Jacinto County east of U.S. 59 and south of FM 2914 on the east side of Pelican Road near the San Jacinto, Liberty County line. Armed with indictments returned from the San Jacinto County Grand Jury, Texas Ranger Ron Duff arrested Shepherd resident Jeff Allan Searcy on three charges of Texas Water Code Violations. Searcy is owner of J & L Recycling Corporation located on Hwy. 59 north of Shepherd. San Jacinto County received $12,967 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county. Lincoln Junior High Principal LaTonya Goffney was hired at Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District superintendent.

Acting on complaints from Shepherd citizens, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was in Shepherd taking samples of soil taken from Lake Run-A-Muck and relocated to Shepherd High School for use as a training mound by Pct. 2 Commissioner Royce Wells. No dangerous contaminants were found. Open house was hosted by San Jacinto County Sheriff Lacy Rogers and his staff in their newly remodeled jail facilities. Shepherd Independent School District Superintendent Jeff Dozier presented his letter of resignation to school board members effective April 30, 2008. In Coldspring, two Coldspring- Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District principals resigned. Malisa Hargrove, principal of Coldspirng- Oakhurst High School and Larry Hargrove, Street Elementary School principal submitted retirement resignations effective at the end of their 2007-2008 contracts; however, both vacated their positions early.

Shepherd resident Jody Cronin is hired as superintendent for the Shepherd Independent School District. Rising fuel cost demands create budget problems for county commissioners as well as residents. U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) discussed his proposals to enhance the Big Thicket and create dynamic new tourism opportunities in the region. Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District added 30 minutes to the school day so that tutorials could be added during the day, eliminating $40,000 in transportation costs for the school district. U.S. Troops are honored during Memorial Day weekend.

County and state Democratic delegates cast their support for Senator Barack Obama for president during the state convention held in Austin. The search continues for Shepherd resident Walter “Bo” Brawner who went missing from his Shepherd home on June 17, 2008. Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District approves $2,000 teacher salary increases.

County pays $217 phone charge by Pct. 4 Constable’s department for identification badges that could have been obtained free. An outside annual audit shows the county in good financial shape with assets exceeding liabilities by $12,070,723. Two county commissioners (Pct. 1 Michael Griffith and Pct. 3 David Brandon) set a four-day, 10-hour work week due to the rising cost of gasoline and utilities. The City of Shepherd was forced to unearth railroad crossties, treated with creosote, after burying them on city property near one of three city water wells. The 13th Court of Appeals, Corpus Christi, Texas, affirmed the conviction of Rodney Cline for the manufacture of methamphetamine in San Jacinto County. Magnus James Brock pled guilty to aggravated sexual assault of an eightyear- old in San Jacinto County.

Wind and rain storms and Tropical Storm Edouard pounded the area early in August causing power outages, downed trees and broken limbs. Coldspring Intermediate campus earns recognized status for second year. San Jacinto County Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Greg Magee is named Judge of the Year in Austin by the Texas Justice Court Judges Association. County commissioners are told they need to complete unfinished grant projects or give the money back. U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) met with school administrators in San Jacinto County for discussions on how energy prices are affecting education and to tout the American Energy Act. San Jacinto County and the City of Coldspring each order an election for additional one-half cent sales tax election to be held in November. The county’s election failed; however, residents in the City of Coldspring passed the city’s sales tax election. The Bank of San Jacinto County defended its customer security practice following allegations that the bank’s shredding practices may have created a potential for compromise of customer information. An 11 percent tax increase was proposed by the county to fund its 2008-2009 budget.

San Jacinto County property owners pleaded with commissioners’ court for lower taxes during two public hearings held on the 2008-2009 proposed county budget and tax rate. Hurricane Ike plowed across San Jacinto County on Sept. 13. FEMA was quick to move in and set up temporary offices around the county and area as repair crews from Sam Houston Electric Cooperative saturated the area. Schools in the county were closed during the Ike clean-up until Monday, Sept. 22.

Local community banks reported economic stability with money to loan, following the announcement of bank failures nationwide. Sam Houston National Forest announced its reopening following Hurricane Ike clean-up. It took a jury less than four hours to find Coldspring resident Megan Winfrey, 20, guilty of capital murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder in the brutal slaying of Willow Springs resident Murray Burr on Aug. 6, 2004. She was sentenced to life for capital murder and 45 years for conspiracy to commit murder by 411th Judicial District Judge Robert Hill Trapp. Two daughters were charged in connection with their mother’s death. Dorothy Mae Hey’s body was found buried behind the home of her daughter Betty Fulton and Fulton’s husband Robert in San Jacinto County. Investigators believe that Hey’s daughter Roseanne Duhon Klumpp allegedly killed Hey during an argument and transported Hey’s body from her Louisiana home to San Jacinto County. The Fultons, Klumpp and family friend Gordon Hall have all entered “not guilty” pleas. Jason Lewis Turner was found guilty of the capital murder of Barney “B.B.” Carnes in 2007. The three day trial resulted in San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Bill Burnett proclaiming that Turner was, “The coldest individual I’ve ever prosecuted.”

James Walters, Laddie McAnally and Butch Moody defeated county incumbents Sheriff Lacy Rogers, Pct. 1 Commissioner Michael Griffith and Pct. 3 Commissioner David Brandon respectively but the big surprise to most Texas voters was Senator Barack Obama’s win over John Mc- Cain. San Jacinto County and Texas favored McCain, according to the election polls. Obama’s win fulfilled the dreams of many and let the nation know that voters wanted a new kind of leadership.

The end of the year saw Coldspring- Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District working to improve failing accountability standards when it was noted that the district and Lincoln Junior High School was in the second year of not meeting federal standards. Commissioners’ court approved the installation of security cameras for the county courthouse at a cost of about $25,000 for 12 to 14 cameras. Hearings started on how to divide $1.3 billion in Hurricane Ike relief funds across the East Texas area.


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