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Single-vehicle Crash Sends Driver to Carthage Hospital - November 24, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

The driver involved in a single-vehicle crash in Tenaha on Sunday, November 23, 2014 was transported from the scene by ambulance following the incident.

According to Tenaha Deputy City Marshal Darren Gray, at 8:15pm off-duty Timpson Police Officer Jake Metcalf discovered a white Honda Accord had wrecked at the city limit of Tenaha on U.S. Highway 59 South and he called the crash in to dispatch.

Gray stated Destiny Torres, 21, was traveling south on Highway 59 when she recalls having fallen asleep. As the Honda passed Iglesia Bautista Monte Sinai church, at the Tenaha City limit, it traveled off the roadway to the right and skirted the edge of a treeline before striking a tree head-on with the front passenger side of the vehicle.

The Tenaha Volunteer Fire Department provided assistance and traffic control at the scene and ACE EMS transported Torres to ETMC Hospital in Carthage to confirm she had no serious injury.

Deputy City Marshal Gray was also assisted at the scene by City Marshal Jimmy Wagstaff.


JVFD Responds to House Fire on FM 2787 - November 24, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

The Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department responded to a house fire at 246 FM 2787 Sunday night, November 23, 2014 at 6:40pm.

When the firemen arrived the homeowner had extinguished a good portion of the fire; however, smoke continued to emanate from within. The firemen worked through the house in the kitchen where a great deal of damage had been incurred due to flame, and smoke.

They also sought fire in the attic as a lot of smoke was exiting from the home there. The house, which is owned by Ricky Smith and is resided in by Eark Dunn, caught fire as the result of a grease fire in the kitchen and the fire traveled up the wall.

The firemen were able to leave the scene and return to the station at 7:14pm.


Jury Cancellation for 123rd District Court - November 21, 2014
Submitted by Lori Oliver

The jury that has been summoned for Monday, December 1 2014 for the 123rd District Court, Honorable Charles C. "Brick" Dickerson, presiding has been cancelled due to the scheduled cases being resolved or passed.

Anyone receiving a summons for that day is released from jury service until they receive a future summons.


Sheriff's Department Busts Center Woman for Meth Possession - November 20, 2014
Submitted by Shad Sparks

Sheriff Willis Blackwell reports that on November 17, 2014, Narcotics Investigator John Pope, while on patrol in the Joaquin area, observed a black Nissan four door car traveling west on Highway 84 East.

Investigator Pope conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle for traffic violations. The driver, identified as Stephanie Louise Jackson, W/F, 25, from Center, did not have a drivers license nor proof of insurance. At this time, Deputy Bradley Horton and Deputy Kurtes Lawrence, who were also patrolling the Joaquin area, arrived on scene to assist Investigator Pope.

Upon further investigation, the subject was found to be in possession of a white powder and rock substance believed to be Methamphetamine. Jackson was arrested for Possession of Controlled Substance, Felony 4, with a set $5,000 bond and Tampering with Evidence, Felony 3, a $10,000 Bond. JP 3 Margie Anderson set bonds.

Sheriff Willis Blackwell would like to encourage citizens that if you suspect illegal narcotic activity, please contact Center Crime Stoppers or Sheriff's office at 936-598-5600. All calls will remain anonymous.


Lufkin DPS Office Shut Down Due to Gas Leak (Update) - November 19, 2014
Submitted by David Hendry

Update: November 19, 2014 at 5:35 PM Center Point Energy crew completed the necessary repairs to the damaged natural gas line at the Lufkin DPS Office. Normal business hours and operations will resume November 20, 2014 at 8am.

According to a press release issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, On November 19, 2014 at approximately 3pm a natural gas line was incidentally damaged during construction to the public parking area at the Lufkin DPS Office located at 2809 S. John Redditt Dr.

Center Point Energy has been notified and are on the scene at this time. The damaged line has been shut down to make the necessary repairs. No injuries have been reported and all employees have been evacuated from the building for safety purposes. None of the surrounding areas have been affected.

The Lufkin DPS Driver’s License Office as well as the Highway Patrol Office will be closed for the remainder of the day while repairs are being made. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.


Gross Prosecutorial Misconduct Hearing in Recess Until December - November 18, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

The gross prosecutorial misconduct hearing which has been ongoing Tuesday, November 18, 2014 is now in recess until 9am December 8, 2014.

Following a heated discussion with Robert Goodwin and an attorney from San Antonio representing The Light and Champion Newspaper during the hearing, Goodwin appeared to have a health issue and left the courtroom with co-counsel Deck Jones left to represent Rebecca Gail Fountain for the time being.

Following a long pause Judge Dickerson made an announcement for the court, "Certain circumstances have arisen, this case is recessed until December 8 at 9 o'clock a.m. (when) we'll take up the matter until conclusion. The motion for continuance on behalf of the defendant is granted. The case is set for trial on April 6, 2015 at 9 o'clock a.m. That being said I do not foresee any circumstances which would remove the trial from that setting."

Witnesses subpoenaed at this time remain under oath and are excused until December.

One item of issue with the court is an alleged response by District Attorney Ken Florence to an inquiry by the newspaper via Leah Dolan in regards to Robert Goodwin's motion to dismiss. Florence is alleged to have replied to the newspaper's inquiry by email, yet representatives from the paper will not confirm nor deny the existence of the email and so an attorney representing the paper is now involved and has filed a motion to quash the subpoena for Dolan.

Alicia Calzada, is an associate in the Business Litigation Practice Group in the San Antonio and Austin offices of Haynes and Boone, LLP. who spoke by telephone from San Antonio with Judge Dickerson and Goodwin and stated to the court that she stands by the motion to quash.

Goodwin explained his purpose in calling for the testimony of Dolan and the alleged email in reference to the hearing, "My concern is that one matter does go to the matters contained therein and that is whether or not the comments attributed to Mr. Florence on that occasion were comments that the newspaper made up on their own or whether they had in fact received a communication to-wit an email from Mr. Florence's office which they published as his comment in that story."

Judge Dickerson attempted to compel Calzada to agree with the court in its request for the information; however, Calzada referenced the motion to quash which suggests the defense has not exhausted all reasonable efforts to obtain the information from alternative sources as required by the privilege in law. Judge Dickerson made arrangements with Calzada to be present for court on Wednesday, November 19 until "circumstances" arose which caused the hearing to be delayed until December.

As the proceedings got started on Tuesday morning, Herbert Hancock made an objection to several things. The attorneys were discussing invoking the rule in which witnesses would be sequestered from the courtroom until they were to testify. Goodwin did not wish to invoke the rule; however, Hancock did, "Mr. Goodwin is playing games with the court at this time, he knows what the law is, he knows that the rule can be invoked there's a reason for it. Sometimes witnesses lie, sometimes witnesses or officers of the court lie. So, the state wants to know who's telling the truth and who's not and when they get on the witness stand I anticipate they're going to be cross-examined and they're going to be addressed in that way and I object to the continued band standing of Mr. Goodwin. He's playing games, that's what he's been doing for the last two or three months and he ain't stopped now and we object to that. We want to go forward with the case and let it be tried, all we want to do is get this case to a jury and Mr. Goodwin is dodging every bullet to try to keep it away from 12 people in this county and I object to that on that basis."

Goodwin made his own objection as well following Hancock's statement, "I object to him referring to members of the bar and local council as probable liars."

Judge Dickerson ruled to invoke the rule and the majority of witnesses were sequestered from the courtroom barring any exceptions involving some officers of the court.


Court Outlines Dates Pertaining to Prosecutorial Misconduct Motion; Judge Reviews Sealed Items - November 18, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

Dates of Importance Noted in Court:

1. July 19, 2012 - Indictment of Rebecca Gail Fountain.
2. March 15, 2012 - Date of alleged murder of Mark Alan Ray.
3. March 15, 2012 - Arrest date of Rebecca Gail Fountain.
4. June 13, 2012 - Lynda K. Russell appointed attorney to represent Rebecca Gail Fountain.
5. August 14, 2012 - Lynda K. Russell filed for notice of state's intent to use evidence of extraneous offenses against Fountain at trial.
6. Letter sent by then District Attorney Lynda K. Russell resigning from her office as Elected District Attorney effective December 31, 2011.
7. January 1, 2012 - Previous assistant Kenneth Florence assumed duties and functions as District Attorney of Shelby County, Texas.
8. August 10, 2012 - Governor Rick Perry appoints Kenneth Florence as District Attorney of Shelby County.
9. October 31, 2013 - Kenneth Florence, then acting as prosecutor, filed a motion to disqualify Lynda K. Russell as defense counsel, basically claiming Russell was then the de facto District Attorney of Shelby County.
10. November 18, 2013 - Kenneth Florence filed a motion for pro tem prosecutor and stating same grounds as originally stated in reference to Lynda K. Russell's disqualification.
11. December 18, 2013 - Court entered order granting pro tem prosecutor at which Herbert Hancock was invited to join the case.
12. April 21, 2014 - Robert Goodwin was appointed as counsel for Rebecca Gail Fountain taking the place of Lynda K. Russell.
13. October 10, 2014 - Deck Jones was appointed co-counsel to represent Rebecca Gail Fountain.

Several dates of importance to the Fountain murder trial were presented to the court by Robert Goodwin, defense attorney, during the prosecutorial misconduct hearing in the Shelby County Courthouse on Tuesday, November 18, 2014. Herbert Hancock, prosecutor pro tem, asked for the dates to be recorded for the record and they are seen at right in this article.

Goodwin stated to Judge Dickerson that in between Kenneth Florence assuming office on January 2012 and his formal appointment by Governor Rick Perry, a number of important things happened.

A bible, photographs and other documents were brought to the attention of the court as following a motion made by Goodwin, these items were presented to the District Clerk's office under seal. Goodwin stated in court he has a concern as to what the items are, which have been filed, and questions the chain of custody of the items.

Judge Dickerson made plans with Lori Oliver, District Clerk, to view these sealed items and make a decision on their importance to the case before witness testimony begins at 1:30pm.


Judge Swears In Witnesses, Prosecutorial Misconduct Hearing Begins - November 18, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

Some 20 witnesses have been sworn in for a Prosecutorial Misconduct hearing involving the 2012 murder charge against Rebecca Gail Fountain for the stabbing death of Mark Alan Ray of Joaquin.

Prosecutor Herbert Hancock and Defense Attorney Robert Goodwin are meeting with Judge Charles "Brick" Dickerson, 123rd Judicial District Judge, on some issues with the case in hopes of shortening the hearing before witness testimony begins at 1:30pm.

More updates to come as the day unfolds.


Center Firemen Investigate Smoke at Green Acres - November 17, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

The Center Fire Department was dispatched on Monday, November 17, 2014 to Green Acres of Center after smoke filled the west wing of the facility.

When firemen arrived at 12:07pm, they began tracing the origin of the smoke and checking in the ceiling for any obvious location of a fire. Others climbed to the rooftop and searched for heat and flame.

Workers at the facility shut down the central heater when the smoke and odor began. Center Police Officers and Robert Carlsen, District Attorney Investigator, assisted in searching the facility for the origin of the smoke.

The heater was not operating properly over the weekend and a repairman was contacted to make the system operational. Monday was the first day since that time the system was turned on again.

According to the Center Fire Department, Nacogdoches Sheet Metal was contacted to search for the origin of the smoke. Once on scene they located insulation by the heater coil on the roof which had been burned and was blowing the smoke into the west wing of the facility.

No damage to the building is reported to have resulted from the burning insulation.


A-1 Paint and Body Scene of Shop Fire - November 17, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

A-1 Paint and Body Shop in Center was the scene of a shop fire on Monday, November 17, 2014.

The Center Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of the fire located at 1057 Loop 500. When firemen arrived at the scene, smoke was billowing from within the paint shop of the facility.

Fire at the scene was extinguished quickly with firemen and workers at the facility working together to remove materials which had ignited. According to Center Fire Chief Keith Byndom, the fire was started when an employee was welding and sparks caught some boxes on fire.

A good deal of damage to insulation could be seen inside the building as a result of the fire.

One man, Larry Askew, was transported to a hospital from the scene by ACE EMS for treatment of smoke inhalation.


Buena Vista House Fire Requires Attention of Three Fire Departments - November 17, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

Three fire departments responded to a residence on FM 1645 early Saturday morning, November 15, 2014.

The Timpson Volunteer Fire Department was first dispatched to the fire, located in the Buena Vista Community, at 2:23am. When the firemen arrived at the scene the house was engulfed in flames. They started fighting the fire and requested the assistance of the Tenaha Volunteer Fire Department.

Tenaha firemen responded; however, mechanical failure was experienced while en-route to the fire and only one truck was able to supply a much needed 1,000 gallons of water to assist in fighting the fire.

At this point the firemen set up a portable water tank on scene to fill with water so trucks could return to the station and refill their tanks. Assistance was requested from the Center Fire Department at 3:20am and firemen with the department responded to supply additional water.

The house, owned by Keith and Lisa McKnight, was a total loss. The fire is believed to have been started as the result of a heat lamp outside of the home which was attached to an extension cord plugged into the house.

The Timpson Police Department was also on scene during the fire.


TxDOT Crews Monitoring Weather and Roads - November 17, 2014
Submitted by Kathi White

TxDOT crews are monitoring weather conditions and roads as temperatures drop and precipitation falls in some areas. Crews are on standby and ready to report for duty should conditions deteriorate enough to impact roadways.


Jury Cancellation for 123rd District Court - November 14, 2014
Submitted by Lori Oliver

The jury that has been summoned for Monday, November 17, 2014 for the 123rd District Court Honorable Charles C. "Brick" Dickerson, presiding, has been cancelled due to the scheduled cases being resolved or passed.

Anyone receiving a summons for that day is released from jury service until they receive a future summons.


Former Shelby County Hospital CFO Guilty in EHR Incentive Case - November 13, 2014
Submitted by Davilyn Walston

TYLER, Texas – The former Chief Financial Officer of Shelby Regional Medical Center has pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.

Joe White, 67, of Cameron, Texas, pleaded guilty on Nov. 12, 2014 to making a false statement before U.S. Magistrate Judge John D. Love.

According to information presented in court, White was the Chief Financial Officer for Shelby Regional Medical Center in Center, Texas, which was owned and operated by Dr. Tariq Mahmood. White oversaw the implementation of electronic health records for the hospital and was responsible for attesting to the meaningful use of electronic health records in order to qualify to receive incentive payments under Medicare’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. On Nov. 20, 2012, White knowingly made a false statement to Medicare falsely representing that the hospital was a meaningful user of electronic health records, when the hospital did not meet the meaningful use requirements. As a result, Shelby Regional Medical Center received $785,655.00 from Medicare. White was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 6, 2014.

White faces up to five years in federal prison at sentencing. A sentencing date has not been set.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Texas Office of the Attorney General – Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth C. McGurk and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld.

Any individuals with knowledge of these or other health care fraud violations are encouraged to contact the Department of Health and Human Services’ fraud hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (447-8477).


Special Weather Statement; Cold Artic Air Mass - November 13, 2014
National Weather Service

Center, Texas
Special Weather Statement
National Weather Service Shreveport LA
3:04 PM CST Thu Nov 13 2014

A very cold artic air mass will remain in place for the next several days. Afternoon highs struggled today to reach 40 degrees across much of the area and overnight lows should easily fall into the lower-to-mid 20s region-wide with a few upper teens possible in valley regions north of Interstate 30. Freezing temperatures are expected area-wide once again Friday night as overnight lows fall into the mid-and-upper 20s. In addition, areas of frost may develop on grassy and exposed surfaces on both Thursday and Friday nights, especially if skies remain clear and winds remain near calm.

An upper level disturbance will move into the region this weekend bringing with it increasing chances for rain at this time. It appears any precipitation will occur as a cold rain; but, these trends will continue to be monitored as the even nears.

With these cold temperatures in place for the next several days, ensure outdoor pets have a warm place to stay and sensitive vegetation is brought indoors or covered. Also, for areas where overnight lows fall into the 20s, keep exposed water pipes wrapped as well.


Pedestrian Loses Life in Vehicle-Pedestrian Crash on SH 7 East (Update) - November 12, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

According to a family member, Sheila Dixon was suffering from a diabetic incident of low blood sugar at the time of the accident.

Editor Note: This has not been officially confirmed at the time of this post.

Law enforcement officers were quickly engaged in a hit-and-run vehicle-pedestrian crash investigation on State Highway 7 East Wednesday afternoon, November 12, 2014 when they received a 9-1-1 call from witnesses at the scene.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) report, at 3:40pm a 2001 Ford Excursion driven by Sheila Hooks Dixon, 54, of Center was traveling eastbound on State Highway 7 East on the Joaquin side of Flat Fork Creek

A green 2006 GMC Sierra pickup truck was parked on the westbound shoulder of the roadway facing west and the driver of the vehicle Arthur Edward Rogers, 34, of Nacogdoches was standing outside of the truck when the Excursion crossed the center stripe and struck him.

Witnesses who saw the erratic driving of the woman behind the wheel were able, with their vehicles, to force her to stop the vehicle 1/2 a mile down the roadway.

ACE EMS arrived at the scene and checked on Rogers, then they drove to the scene of the Excursion to establish Dixon's condition. EMS provided treatment to Dixon and released her.

Margie Anderson, Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace, performed the inquest and pronounced the Rogers deceased at 4:20pm. Watson & Sons Funeral Home then transported Rogers from the scene.

Texas DPS State Trooper Dustin Ramos investigated the crash incident and he was assisted by DPS Trooper Jade Lavergne and Sgt. Kevin Hussey. Shelby County Sheriff's Department Investigators Chad Brown and Christopher King held the scene where the Excursion was located. Dixon and the Excursion were released to family for transport. The incident remains under investigation.


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