The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

December 29, 2012

Year in Review (Part 2): New school, festival return highlight last months of 2012

By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — The second half of 2012 marked the opening of the Reagan Park Splashpark and the new Palestine High School campus and the return of the Hot Pepper Festival.

Other news during the second six months of 2012 included:



JUNE

1 — Area students graduate during commencement ceremonies.

2 — Anderson County sheriff’s deputy Hunter Lawrence, 24, was critically injured in a three-vehicle wreck on U.S. 287 South, suffering a skull fracture, cracked pelvis and other injuries

5 — Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor says the synthetic drug called “bath salts” are on his agency’s radar.

7 — Palestine Police Department seizes more than 1,600 packets of suspected K-2 and synthetic drug “bath salts” in the execution of two search warrants to local convenience stores Brianna’s and Mini Mart on Palestine Avenue.

8 — Orlando Lee Castillo, 29, of Palestine was sentenced to serve five years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice by an Anderson County jury for multiple offenses related to an August 2010 incident where at least four shots were fired from a SKS assault rifle.

9 — The sixth annual Adrian Peterson Day was held at Davey Dogwood Park.

10 — UM Army youth members arrive at First United Methodist Church in Palestine to perform mission work for the week — providing free home repairs for low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners while giving camp participants an opportunity to mature in their faith walk and life skills through Christian service.

11 — Anderson County commissioners authorized County Auditor Karin Smith to go out for bids on the sale of the old county jail.

12 — Seven horses were seized from property in the Cayuga area after law enforcement received a report that the animals were not receiving adequate care.

15 — Willis Demond Carwell, 31, of Palestine was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child after authorities say he impregnated a 14-year-old girl.

19 — Ryan’s restaurant, formerly located at 2800 Loop 256 in Palestine, closed its doors without notice.

19 — Parolee Roland Newby, 44, of Grapeland was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl who had been living at his residence.

20 — Thomas Clarence Simmons, 52, of Grapeland, whom authorities say has 10 DWI convictions, was sentenced to 38 years in prison by an Anderson County jury.

22 — Willie Lee Gill, 33, of Palestine was sentenced to serve two years in a state jail facility by Visiting Judge Jerry Calhoon during his punishment trial after pleading guilty to the charge of evading arrest/detention with a motor vehicle in May.

26 — Approximately 100 persons attended a community forum hosted by the Palestine Police Department at Southside Baptist Church after a series of burglaries occurred over a period of several weeks in an area from Lamar Street to Inwood Drive.

28 — For the second consecutive year, Bishop’s Brisket House won Best Restaurant at the Taste of Palestine event at the Palestine Mall, with Granny Muffin Wines winning the Best Winery and Bon Appetit Coffee Shop & Bakery winning the Best Bakery/Deli, also for the second year.

28 — Denny’s restaurant and travel center opens at 2350 W. Oak St. in Palestine.



JULY

1 — Brian Maurice Fuller, 56, who had been secretly living in the Frankston area for approximately two years under an alias, was taken into custody by authorities in connection with multiple robberies in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Fuller was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.”

2 — The Texas State Railroad Authority assumed financial responsibility for the remediation and reimbursement efforts concerning a large diesel spill at the Rusk depot of the Texas State Railroad.

2 — U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, held an informal round table discussion with top administrators and physicians at Palestine Regional Medical Center, gathering their input about the recently-upheld Affordable Care Act.

4 — Annual fireworks show sponsored by City of Palestine draws large crowd.

9 — The Anderson County Commissioners’ Court sells the old Anderson County Jail on Avenue A to Tyler private investigator and real estate investor Michael Collins.

9 — Mazzio’s Pizza benefit for injured Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputy Hunter Lawrence brings in $2,735.

9 — Palestine City Council votes to pass a resolution supporting the introduction of state legislation authorizing the city to hold a local option election for the purpose of levying an additional 1/4 cent local sales tax increase next spring.

9 — Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Dana House resigns following a felony arrest, DWI with a child passenger charge, on July 6.

11 — A $350 million-plus Bethel Energy Center could be operational as soon as mid-2016 and will bring clean energy, jobs and revenue to Anderson County, according to a top official with Houston-based Apex. Jack L. Farley, president of Apex, said his company plans to construct a compressed air energy storage plant in an area off of FM 2706 in northern Anderson County at a cost of between $350 and $400 million.

11 — The Westwood Independent School District’s Board of Trustees approved a “reorganization plan” during Monday’s regular monthly meeting, essentially moving a handful of district employees into new roles and adding a hat to the responsibilities of a campus principal.

12 — Chester Alan Staples, 49, of Palestine, who allegedly shot and killed another local man, Tracey Matthew Polley, 35, of Palestine, in a dispute over a lawnmower  was indicted for murder by an Anderson County grand jury. Staples was also indicted on the felony charge of felon in possession of a firearm.

16 — PISD Chief Financial Officer David Atkeisson tells PISD Board of Trustees “sacrifices” had been made and belts tightened to reach a point where he believes the school budget will be balanced.

17 — One person is held on robbery and two others are sought for severely beating two men around CR 130. The other two suspects were apprehended the following day.

19 — City officials, Palestine Junior Service League members and other supporters attend the groundbreaking for the Reagan Park splashpark.

23 — The Palestine City Council unanimously approved a 1.5 percent pay raise for Palestine City Manager Mike Ohrt during a meeting, while also extending the manager’s contract by one year.

26 — Local law enforcement authorities say they are currently investigating a case involving the alleged embezzlement of funds by a member of the Southside Volunteer Fire Department.

27 — A change of venue motion filed by the attorney of a former Anderson County employee accused of embezzling county funds was denied by a local state district judge. Bridgette Franklin, 24, of Elkhart was indicted in the summer of 2011 on a total of 918 counts of the felony charges of theft by a public servant and misapplication of fiduciary funds.



AUGUST

4 — Canoeists participate in the 22nd annual Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race. Gaston Jones won for the second year in a row.

4 — Palestine Junior Service League provides school supplies to area children during the 12th annual Back to School Fair.

8 — Jennifer Ann Kelley, 25, of Palestine was arrested on the Class A misdemeanor charge of official oppression and terminated from her job as an Anderson County jailer after sheriff’s authorities say she kicked and hit an inmate who was restrained in a chair.

8 — At least 20 employees were laid off when the Harry’s Building Materials location in Palestine permanently closed. The store, which opened in Palestine in 1998, was officially closed to the public on July 31.

9 — Larry Wayne Adams, 51, of Palestine was found guilty of manslaughter by an Anderson County jury for the June 2011 traffic death of Keith Robert Gardner, 60, of Palestine.

10 — The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler affirmed the sentence of 47-year-old Palestine man Michael Allyn Kennedy, who was sentenced to 99 years in prison and assessed a $10,000 fine by an Anderson County jury following his punishment trial in January 2011. Kennedy was found guilty of theft between $1,500 and $20,000 against the elderly in May 2008 after the state successfully argued that he bilked an elderly World War II veteran out of thousands of dollars in late 2007.

12 — The last Sunday edition of the Palestine Herald-Press is published, switching to a Saturday edition in the future.

13 — The Palestine City Council approved a proposed tax rate of .639 cents per $100 valuation for the 2012-13 fiscal year during a meeting.

15 — More than 30 cats were seized from a Palestine residence in the 4500 block of West Oak  Street in reference to a report that several cats that were on the porch of a mobile home.

16 — The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler affirms a 55-year prison sentence assessed to a 33-year-old Palestine man Moses Torres, who was convicted of evading arrest with a motor vehicle in July 2011. His case was enhanced due to an extensive history of felony convictions.

18 — The new Saturday edition of the Palestine Herald-Press replaces the Sunday edition.

19 — School officials, community leaders and members of the public attend the ribbon cutting and building dedication for the new Palestine High School facility.

19 — A 62-year-old clerk was shot in the face during a weekend robbery attempt at Mr. D’s convenience store, 3209 W. Oak St. in Palestine. The suspect fled after the shooting.

20 — PISD and WISD approves their budgets and tax rates for their respective districts for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.

22 — Two more suspects — John Nicholas Hicks, 17, and Anthony Mrdjenovich, 17, both of Palestine — were arrested in the Aug. 19 robbery of Mr. D’s convenience store and charged with aggravated robbery.

24 — A Henderson County jury finds Garfield Marshall, 20, of Athens, guilty in the July 2011 drive by killing of a Palestine woman, Desiree Dijon Brown, 18. He was sentenced on Aug. 27 to 28 years.

27 — The first day of the 2012-13 school year for most students and opening day for the Palestine campus of The University of Texas at Tyler’s Innovation Academy for grades 3-6.

28 — The City of Palestine plans improvements to Willie Myers Park, purchasing new playground equipment.

30 — The Palestine Police Department arrests Victor Loggains, 22, of Palestine, with the charge “burglary to a building” after investigating the burglary of the Round House Package Store on Aug. 18.



SEPTEMBER

1 — Hundreds attend the grand opening of the Splashpark at Reagan Park.

9 — Jose Arturo Garcia, 23, and Franco Garcia, 36, are charged in connection with the  stabbing death of Jason Villanueva of Palestine. A third suspect is sought.

10 — Palestine City Council adopts a $30  million budget for the upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year.

13 — Billy Wayne Hasel, 28, of Palestine was indicted by the grand jury on the felony charges of capital murder, murder and injury to a child in connection with the death of his toddler stepson Deacon Jack Garay, 2, who died in the fall of 2011.

16 — A Flight for Life helicopter base opens at Palestine Regional Medical Center.

16 — Third suspect Jhamerrick Milton, 19, of Palestine turns himself in to authorities in connection with the Mr. D’s convenience story robbery in July.

19 — Eilenberger Bakery’s parent company Southern Fulfillment Services, LLC announces the Palestine bakery will not open in the fall as planned.

24 — Anderson County commissioners authorized the district attorney to request an opinion from the Attorney General regarding responsibilities of the county treasurer.

26 — Sanctuary House announces it may have to close its doors without more support from the community.

29 — The public celebrates the grand opening of the new playground equipment at Willie Myers Park during a special ceremony.



OCTOBER

1 — Jeffrey Lyons begins his duties as the City of Palestine’s director of development services.

2 — National Night Out draws hundreds of families to Reagan Park.

8 — Palestine City Council approves sale of old Rusk school to Braly Builders Supply Inc.

9 — Anderson County Commissioners’ Court approves Truman Lamb as the new county extension agent, a position he held once before.

10 —  Jackie Martez Guthrie, 22, of Frankston was indicted on the charge of capital murder by a Henderson County grand jury in relation to the summer killing of a 18-year-old woman in a Coffee City subdivision near Lake Palestine.

14 — Christian Heritage Academy celebrates its 10th anniversary

14 — Decomposed human remains are found on property near Texas 155 and FM 321. Later, investigators say the remains are of a white woman in her mid-30s.

17 — Anderson County Sheriff’s Office officials investigate a marijuana camp in Neches.

18 — Haunted Little Town Walking Tours begins to offer tours of the old Anderson County Jail.

19 — Palestine football legends Richard Farris, left, and Ivory Lee Brown, right, were inducted onto the PHS Wall of Honor during homecoming festivities at Wildcat Stadium.

24 — Gary Dewayne Robertson, 40, of Jacksonville and Palestine, was sentenced by an Anderson County jury to 50 years for burglarizing a Palestine automobile business on Nov. 21, 2011.

26 – Palestine Police Department seizes a large quantity of K-2 and “bath salts” products from Brianna’s Stop and Go, located at 403 W. Palestine Ave.

27 — Thousands flock downtown for the return of the Hot Pepper Festival. The Casey Donahew Band’s concert tops off the night.

31 — The annual Mall-O-Ween event at the Palestine Mall attracts a large crowd on Halloween.



NOVEMBER

2 —  Larry Wayne Adams, 52, of Palestine was sentenced to serve the maximum 20 years in prison for manslaughter in the death of Keith Robert Garner that occurred as a result of a June 2011 truck versus motorcycle crash.

6 — Newcomer Republican candidate Greg Chapin clenches the Precinct I Commissioner seat with just 44 votes more than longtime Democrat incumbent Joe Chaffin during the general election. Anderson County Precinct 1 Constable Larry Bennett won his sixth term in office against Republican challenger Ronnie Foster by 424 votes, and Anderson County Precinct 2 Constable Doug Lightfoot won his third term in office against second-time Democratic challenger Horace Poullard by 764 votes.

6 — Palestine resident Paul Armstrong, 45, was sentenced to a 13-year-prison term for felony driving while intoxicated by District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher.

7 — Former Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officer David Wayne Green, 42, of Palestine, was sentenced to five life sentences for sexual assault of a child in Anderson County by District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans.

9 — Terry Jean Raybin, 51, of Palestine entered a plea of guilty at the Anderson County Courthouse to the charge of misuse of official information to obtain reward money from the Anderson County Crime Stoppers board.

13 — Anderson County commissioners heard a response from county treasurer Kim Turman regarding the court’s recent decision to seek an attorney general’s opinion on the responsibilities of her office.

18 — Southside Baptist Church holds its annual free Thanksgiving dinner for the community.

24 — The Palestine Herald-Press and Grace Temple Church of God in Christ begins its 13th annual Stocking Stuffers Toy Drive to help less fortunate children in the community.

26 — PISD Board of Trustees approve employee retention incentives.

26 — A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony is held for artist Dale Montagne’s “Forging History” sculpture at the Palestine Visitor Information Center. The piece was commissioned by Palestine Tomorrow Inc.

29 — Local officials and volunteers work together to decorate the Anderson County Courthouse Square for Christmas.



DECEMBER

1 — The Christmas Parade of Lights officially starts the Christmas season in Palestine.

7 — Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce’s Frost Fest brings a synthetic ice skating rink to downtown Palestine and a weekend full of events including a tour of homes and  activities in the downtown area.

8 — Cars of Palestine wins the Dogwood Garden Club’s Festival of Trees event at the Palestine Mall for the best-decorated tree as voted on by the public.

10 — Former deputy county clerk, Bridget Renee Franklin, 24, of Elkhart, pleads guilty to two felony charges — theft and the misapplication of funds totaling $32,000, which took place while she worked for the Anderson County Clerk’s office.

10 — Kimberly Crawford is appointed as the new District I trustee for the WISD Board of Trustees.

12 — Tommy Thompson, 62, of Houston, is sentenced to nine years by an Anderson County jury for attempting to bring drugs into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony.

17 — PISD Board of Trustees tour the new Career Technology Education building at Palestine High School. A public tour is planned for January.

18 — Cedrick Brenard Lewis, 30, of Palestine is arrested on multiple charges, including attempted aggravated kidnapping, for boarding a PISD bus and attempting to drive off with children inside following an incident at a local apartment complex.

18 — WISD and later PISD lock down their campuses following a report of shots fired near the Westwood Elementary School campus. According to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, no shots were fired nor was a gun found on or near the campus, but an altercation that occurred near the school prompted a suspect to run onto the campus after he was bitten by a dog.

20 — The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a groundbreaking luncheon for the U.S. 79 expansion project, including several guest speakers.

21 — The Veterans Service Center in the Palestine Mall teamed with other local organizations to provide toys for more than 100 children. Santa stopped by the mall as families picked up bags of toys and bicycles.

25 — Snow flurries fall in Palestine Christmas Day evening but fail to stick due to the ground’s temperature.