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Jury Cancellation for Monday - Story
Submitted by Lori Oliver

The jury that has been summoned for Monday, July 28, 2014 for the 123rd District Court with honorable Judge Charles "Brick" Dickerson presiding has been cancelled due to the scheduled cases being resolved with plea agreements.

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


Victim Receives Helicopter Transport Following Huxley Hit-and-run - July 25, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

A hit-and-run incident in the Huxley area had law enforcement officials scouring the area in search of the assailant Thursday night, July 24, 2014.

A 9-1-1 call was received by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department in reference to a hit-and-run incident not far from Huxley Bay Marina on FM 2694 at 8:30pm. Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene. ACE EMS examined the injured party, determined that a life-flight was necessary and the Huxley Volunteer Fire department established a landing zone at the fire department.

Life-Air Rescue landed at the scene of the landing zone and transported Travis Fincher, 57, to a hospital. While medical personnel saw to the needs of the injured party, the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and Constable Precinct 2 Jamie Hagler sought the suspect in the incident.

As the helicopter was departing with Fincher, the suspect and vehicle were located in the R.V. park behind Huxley Bay Marina lodgings. The Shelby County Jail arrest log indicates that Donald Jordan, 64, of Shelbyville was arrested by Deputy Adam Renfro for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.


Shelby County Man Arrested for Theft of Livestock - July 25, 2014
Submitted by S.O. Investigator Kevin Windham
TSCRA Press Release

A Shelby County man turned himself in to authorities Monday after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was charged with felony theft of livestock and was released on a $4,000 bond.

TSCRA Special Ranger, Larry Hand assisted Shelby County Sheriff’s Department investigators Kevin Windham, DJ Dickerson and Constable Stanley Burgay in this investigation.

The suspect, Hollis Neel Farris, 53, a rancher and poultry producer, was accused of taking his neighbor’s stray bull to an east Texas sale barn, pocketing the funds and denying to the victim ever seeing the bull after selling it.

TSCRA Market Inspector, Pat McGuigan was able to locate sales records implicating Farris, who cooperated with investigators when confronted. Hand was able to track the bull through four counties to a feeder cattle operation and made a positive identification based on distinct earmarks and sales records.

“This case is a good example of local law enforcement and TSCRA working closely together for the protection of ranchers,” said Hand.

Hand advises ranchers to brand their livestock so they can be more easily tracked and identified if stolen. He also warns ranchers and the public that all stray cattle in Texas must be reported to their local sheriff’s department.

TSCRA has 30 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in all facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as Special Rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and/or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

TSCRA is a 137-year-old trade association and is the largest and oldest livestock organization based in Texas. TSCRA has more than 16,000 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members. These members represent approximately 50,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage 4 million head of cattle on 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, but throughout the Southwest.


Emergency Crews Respond to Car Versus Train Crash - July 24, 2014
Composed by J.J. Ford

Owner, Rodney Swindle, gets items out of the car before it is towed from the scene.

Emergency crews were dispatched to a car versus train crash on CR 2050 at 3:07pm Thursday afternoon, July 24th.

A piece of red plastic from the rear tail light of the car is lodged into the metal of the train.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Jade LaVergne, a 2014 Dodge Dart traveling north on CR 2050 failed to stop at railroad crossing #023933T and was struck on the driver's rear side by a train causing the vehicle to spin around and face south. The locomotive continued a short distance on the tracks before being able to stop.

The Dodge car was driven by Omattie Swindle, age 22, of Shelbyville, with passenger Angela Booth, age 41, and a 3-year-old female and all were transported by ACE EMS with possible injuries. The owner, Rodney Swindle, of Shelbyville, reported having bought the new vehicle on Friday.

Locomotive 4006, belonging to Timber Rock Railroad, had conductor Donald Smith, age 25, of Louisiana and engineer David Fontaine, age 53, of Texas controlling the train. Neither reported any injuries and advised they had used the horn to signal to any vehicles of its approach.

Swindle was cited for failed to stop at marked railroad crossing. The railroad crossing warning was made up of crossbucks which is a sign composed of two slats of wood or metal of equal length, fastened together in a formation resembling the letter X.

The Center Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene as well as the Center Fire Department. The railroad company will conduct an investigation of the crash.


Center PD Responds to Two-Vehicle Crash at Intersection of New ER - July 24, 2014
Composed by J.J. Ford

Correction to original article: No citations were issued.

The Center Police Department worked a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of Loop 500 and US 96 South at noon on Thursday, July 24 as construction crews continued working on the new Emergency Room Facility.

A 2013 black Ford Fiesta car driven by Donald Melton, age 74, of Center was traveling west on Loop 500. While crossing over US 96 South, a 2006 maroon Pontiac traveling north failed to stop at a red light striking the car on the driver's side front quarter panel. The two vehicles slammed together causing distributive damage to the passenger side of the van and the driver's side of the car.

The Ford car came to rest in the roadway blocking the outside southbound lane. The Pontiac van came to rest off of the roadway after striking a Texas Department of Transportation directional roadway sign for US 96.

The Pontiac van was driven by Allison Fenton, age 53, of Nacogdoches. No citations were issued in relation to the crash. Both drivers were transported by ACE EMS to San Augustine Memorial Hospital for evaluation.

The accident was investigated by Center Police Department Officer Meagan Wright. Assisting at the scene with traffic control was Center PD Officer John Welch, Constable PCT 1 Zack Warr, Texas Game Warden Nathan Skeen, and Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Jade LaVergne.

Texas Doctor Convicted of Health Care Fraud Violations - July 24, 2014
U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release

TYLER, Texas – A Dallas County, Texas, physician has been convicted of 15 counts of health care fraud violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.

Tariq Mahmood, 63, of Cedar Hill, Texas, was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, seven counts of health care fraud, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft following a four day trial before U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider.

According to information presented in court, Mahmood, a general practitioner, owned and operated several hospitals in the state of Texas, including Cozby Germany Hospital in Grand Saline, Renaissance Terrell Hospital in Terrell, Central Texas Hospital in Cameron, Community General Hospital in Dilley, and Lake Whitney Medical Center in Whitney. From January 2010 to April 2013, Mahmood and others carried out a scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid through the submission of false and fraudulent claims. Mahmood and others added, changed, deleted, and incorrectly sequenced diagnostic codes in a way that did not reflect the actual diagnoses and conditions of the patients. They submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid based on the added, changed, deleted, and incorrectly sequenced diagnostic codes. Mahmood and others also unlawfully used Medicare beneficiaries’ names and Medicare numbers in order to commit health care fraud. Mahmood was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 11, 2013.

Mahmood faces up to 10 years in federal prison for the conspiracy conviction, 10 years for each health care fraud conviction and two years for each aggravated identity theft conviction. A sentencing date has not been set.

The case was investigated by the Texas Office of the Attorney General – Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld and Frank Coan and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alma Hernandez and Ken McGurk.

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)

DETEC Reports Several Thousand Members Out of Power Due to High Winds - July 24, 2014
Submitted by Brittney Johnson
Posted at 2:25pm

DETEC is currently reporting approximately 10 scattered outages remaining.  Crews are working to complete restoration as quickly and as safely as possible. DETEC would like to thank the membership for their patience and understand as crews worked throughout the night and day to restore power. Should you still be experiencing an outage, please report the outage at 1-800-392-5986.


Car Rear-ends Pickup Tuesday Morning on SH 7 - July 22, 2014
Composed by J.J. Ford

A vehicle was rear-ended Tuesday morning on State Highway 7 East when a driver failed to see another vehicle stopped to turn.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Jade Lavergne, a two vehicle crash occurred on SH 7 East near the intersection of FM 1656 Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 9:02am. The crash involved a 1995 brown Mercedes-Benz car driven by Darith Khourn, age 33, of Center, and a 2005 blue Toyota Tacoma driven by Thomas Kevin Yates, age 44, of Joaquin.

The Toyota pickup was westbound on Hwy. 7 and was stopped in the traffic lane behind a vehicle waiting to make a left turn into a private drive. The Mercedes-Benz car was traveling westbound and failed to slow for the stopped vehicles in the lane. The car struck the rear of the pickup with its front and both vehicles came to stop on the shoulder off the roadway.

No injuries were reported from the crash. Citations were issued to Khourn for failure to control speed, driving while license invalid, and expired registration/license plate.


Motorcycle Driver Sustains Injuries from Crash on FM 2261 - July 21, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

Injuries were sustained by the driver following a motorcycle crash on FM 2261 Monday evening, July 21, 2014. ACE EMS responded to the scene and a life-flight was required.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper John Hallenbeck, at 7:07pm a black Harley Davidson motorcycle driven by Freddie Watlington, 59, of Austin was traveling eastbound on FM 2261 as it approached a curve in the roadway, 5 miles from State Highway 87 South. As Watlington entered the curve he misjudged it and slid into a grassy meadow along the roadway.

Watlington received some internal injuries as a result of the crash, and the motorcycle received minor damage. A landing zone was established on the roadway by the Shelbyville Volunteer Fire Department and Life Air Rescue transported him to LSU Hospital in Shreveport.

The crash remains under investigation. Trooper Hallenbeck was also assisted at the scene by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department.


Four Transported from Scene After Vehicles Collide on Highway 59 - July 21, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

A collision between two vehicles on Highway 59 caused injuries to four individuals involved on Monday evening, July 21, 2014.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper John Hallenbeck, at 5:51pm a grey 2004 Kia Sport driven by Teresa Kellum, 55, of Garrison was traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 59 when she came to a halt in the outside lane near Flat Fork Creek Bridge. Kellum made preparations to make a u-turn and as she did so she did not see a white 2010 Toyota Highlander traveling in the inside traffic lane.

The Highlander was driven by Christopher Blessing, 54, of Kingwood. The Toyota was also occupied by Blessing's wife Debra Elmore Blessing, 54, and their 15-year-old and 9-year-old children.

Kellum continued her u-turn into the inside traffic lane and struck the Toyota on the passenger side causing damage to the passenger side of the Toyota and damage to the left front quarter panel of the Kia.

Blessing was able to negotiate a left turn into Flat Fork R.V. Park and Kellum pulled into the northbound side of the Flat Fork Creek Bridge. Timpson Police Officer Robert Hairgrove and ACE EMS responded to the scene to assess the damage and treat the injured. Kellum, Debra Blessing and the two children were transported to Nacogdoches Memorial for treatment. Reasons for transport from the scene ranged from observation to possible minor injuries.

Citation information was not available at the time of the crash. Further information will be provided as it is made available.


Major Crash South of Tenaha During Rain Storm - July 18, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

The Shelby County area received a large amount of rain on Thursday night, July 17, 2014 and during that time emergency personnel responded to a major crash just south of Tenaha.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Jimmy Faulkner, at 10:20pm on July 17, 2014 a white 2007 International truck-tractor driven by Trajche Bojkov, 24, of Hickory Hills, Ill hauling a 2014 flat bed trailer loaded down with pipe, both out of Indiana, was traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 59 North.

Bojkov said some deer ran in front of the International and he hit his brakes, causing him to lose control of the truck-tractor and leave the right side of the roadway. This caused the load of pipe to be dislodged from the trailer and the truck then traveled back into the highway and into the southbound side of the highway and overturned, causing major damage to the cab of the truck.

A red 2012 Peterbilt Truck Tractor, driven by Luis Renteria of Spring, was hauling a 2012 utility semi-trailer headed southbound when a pipe hit his steering axle and caused damage to the undercarriage of the truck-tractor.

Bojkov and his passenger Sanja Josifova, 23, also of Illinois were checked by ambulance personnel and were released. Bojkov was cited for fail to drive in a single lane.

The Tenaha Volunteer Fire Department, Shelby County Sheriff's Deputies, Tenaha Constable's Office, Timpson Volunteer Fire Department, and Timpson Police Department all assisted each other at the scene of the crash.


Judge Reduces Bonds in Large PCP Drug Bust Case - July 16, 2014
Composed by Scott Flowers

A writ of habeas corpus bond reduction hearing has come to a close following two days of testimony in a Shelby County court with Judge Charles "Brick" Dickerson, 123rd District Court Judge, presiding. Judge Dickerson ruled to reduce the bonds of defendants arrested during a PCP drug bust. The defendants include Kennis Henderson, Atoshia Ayers, Tristan Patton, Trenton Patton, and Nick Rushing. All charges against Jamichael Phillips have been dismissed.

"That was dismissed by the officer, not because of any confidential informant information or anything else that Jamichael Phillips had. It was basically that there was no evidence that he was connected to whatever was going on and they dismissed the case," said Lynda K. Russell in open court.

Ken Florence, District Attorney, described the circumstances surrounding charges being dropped against Phillips further, "My understanding was that officers found that he had kind of just arrived on the scene as the warrant was being executed, he got rounded up so to speak."

All of the above listed individuals were arrested on June, 25, 2014 at 1212 Brooks Street and 902 Greer Street in Center. The arrests were made following the service of warrants at both locations by Center Police Department Detectives.

Judge Dickerson ruled on a reduction of bond in each of the cases before the court involving individuals arrested at Brooks Street and Greer Street. The bonds for those offenses which are first degree offenses were reduced to $12,000 per offense per bond; second degree felonies reduced to $5,000 straight across the board. In the list of charges Tristan Patton and Trenton Patton each received third degree felonies as well and Nick Rushing a fourth degree state jail felony, all of these were reduced to $3,500 bond per case.

The following are the current bond totals as well as their original totals:

  • Trentin Patton, 23, of Center - four felony 2 charges: $20,000; two felony 3 charges: $7,000; totaling $27,000. Original total bond amount at time of arrest $280,000.
  • Tristan Patton, 24, of Center - four felony 2 charges: $20,000; two felony 3 charges: $7,000; totaling $27,000. Original total bond amount at time of arrest $260,000
  • Kennis Henderson, 24, of Center - three felony 1 charges: $36,000; one felony 2 charge: $5,000; totaling $41,000. Original total bond amount at time of arrest $275,000.
  • Nickloas Rushing, 37, of Center - three felony 1 charge: $36,000; one felony 2 charge: $5,000; one felony 4 charge: $3,500 totaling $43,500. Original total bond amount at time of arrest $300,000.
  • Atoshia Ayers, 32, of Center - three felony 1 charges: $36,000; one felony 2 charge: $5,000; totaling $41,000. Original total bond amount at time of arrest $275,000.

Others charged in the cases include Darryl Nolan Jr., 21, of Center; and Brandon Damarcus Roberts, 21, Center. Roberts was charged with delivery of a controlled substance - drug free zone; delivery of marijuana; and three charges for abandon endanger child. According to the Shelby County Sheriff's Department arrest log, Roberts was released on five personal recognizance bonds. Nolan was charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance - drug free zone; delivery of marijuana; and three counts of abandon endanger child. According to the Shelby County Sheriff's Department arrest log, the charges against Nolan were rejected by the Center Police Department officer meaning the charges were dropped.

Following Judge Dickerson's instructions on the requirements of the bond release to the defendants, Robert Goodwin expressed concerns to the court, "We've received credible information that there are other charges against, or at least potential charges against these defendants. The families concerned that if they're subsequently arrested, that in itself would trigger a revocation of these bonds and I don't know that the court can clarify that, but if these are offenses alleged to have been committed before the 25th of June, I would think that would not be a legitimate grounds for revocation of these bonds regardless of whether or when they are subsequently arrested on those charges."

"We'll take that issue up Mr. Goodwin if and when something like that occurs," said Judge Dickerson.

D.A. Florence made a statement for the record in relation to that concern. He stated that a police officer informed him they believe they have grounds to seek additional warrants, "My instructions to them were not to proceed on those, it would be a smack in the face in the eyes of the public in my opinion. If we're going to seek an arrest warrant, rather than go to a magistrate judge they need to approach the district judge that's heard this matter before any such warrants are issued."


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