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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 19, 2005

Suspect jailed after shooting Barstow man

Staff Writers

A Barstow man was listed in critical condition early this afternoon in Odessa after being shot Wednesday night by another local resident, who turned himself in to law enforcement officials Thursday morning.

Gary Wayne Skelton of Barstow is in custody at the Ward County Jail following the shooting of Roque Ramirez in Barstow Wednesday night. Ramirez, 37, was in critical condition at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa shortly after noon on Thursday, suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to a nurse in the hospital’s ICU unit. Ramirez was flown to Odessa by air ambulance after first being taken to Reeves County Hospital following last night’s incident.

According to Ward County Sheriff Mike Strickland his office received a call in reference to a shooting at 301 Barstow Ave in Barstow at 8:33 p.m. Wednesday night. The trailer house is just south of the county equipment barn near the center of town. Deputy Sheriff Ben Deishler was first on the scene. Within minutes of his arrival Deishler told dispatch that he had secured the scene and that there was one man down suffering from a gunshot wound.

Radio traffic indicated that witnesses to the shooting had identified Skelton as a suspect and that he had fled north on FM 516 in a white 2004 Chevrolet 3/4-ton pickup. Sheriff’s deputies and DPS troopers mounted a search of the area but the suspect was not located and a warrant was issued charging Skelton with aggravated assault.

Deputies and troopers patrolled the area late into the night and staked out Skelton’s residence on N. Mackey in case he returned.

However, on Thursday morning, Ward County sheriff’s deputy Ben Deishler was contracted by officials with the Loving County Sheriff’s Department, who told him Skelton had turned himself in to authorities in Mentone.

“He turned himself in to the constable for Loving County this morning,” said sheriff Billy Hopper. “We arraigned him, and Ben picked him up and headed back to Ward County.”

Deishler transported Skelton to the Ward County Jail in Monahans, where formal charges will be filed.

Bond had not been set at press time.

Hopper said Skelton apparently had driven to the home of an acquaintance in Loving County, and that person contacted Loving County Constable Vance Jones. “They had known each other for years and years and years. He talked to Vance and he got him to turn himself in,” he said.

Officers on the scene said that three shots had been fired with what was thought to be a .22-caliber rifle. One of the shots hit Ramirez in the upper chest.

Ramirez was transported to Reeves County Hospital by Pecos EMS and later he was airlifted to Medical Center Hospital.

Officials with the Ward County Sheriff’s Department did not say what caused Skelton to allegedly shoot Ramirez.

WTSS teens face charges in rape case

Staff Writer

Two juvenile males have been charged with sexually assaulting a third juvenile male at the West Texas State School in Pyote.

Ward County Attorney Kevin Acker says he plans to “throw the book at them.”

According to Ward County Sheriff Mike Strickland, officials at the school contacted the Sheriff’s Office on August 12 and reported the attack. Deputy Sheriff Fred Wilder worked the case.

The juvenile suspects are 15 and 16 years old. The victim is 17 years old.

Both suspects were transported to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning.

“One made a statement and the other refused,” Strickland said.

“Both were arraigned and the case has been referred to the County Attorney,” he said. Strickland said that sexual assaults have been uncommon at the juvenile prison.

“Usually if we hear about a problem it is an assault on the staff. I can only recall once in the past few years when we have had a sexual assault,” he said.

WTSS Superintendent Chip Harrison said that the victim reported the assault on August 5.

“Anytime there is an allegation of a possible crime occurring on campus West Texas State School personnel open an internal investigation, as well as notify local law enforcement officials,” Harrison said.

“Because this case has been referred to law enforcement officials for possible prosecution, it would be inappropriate for TYC (Texas Youth Commission) to comment on specific details of the allegations at this time. However, know that TYC takes great care to ensure the safety of the youth in its facilities. West Texas State School and TYC personnel will work with law enforcement officials to provide whatever they might need to determine the validity of the allegations,” he said.

“We’ve got the report from the sheriff’s office,” Acker said. “Right now we are reviewing it carefully to determine if the defendants should be certified as adults.” He said that he would likely seek certification because of their age and the heinous nature of the crime.

“If we decide to certify them we will have to have a hearing before a judge and he will make the decision based on the factors set out in the Texas Family Code.”

Chapter 10 section 54.02f of the Family Code provides that the court shall consider the following factors in making the decision to try a juvenile as an adult: whether the crime was against a person, the sophistication and maturity of the child, the record and previous history of the child, and the likelihood of rehabilitation if the child remains in the juvenile justice system.

Acker said the certification hearing would most likely be before County Judge Sam Massey.

Acker said that the suspects were each charged with two felonies.

“We’re going with Aggravated Sexual Assault and Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon,” Acker said.

Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony and carries a possible sentence of 5-99 years or life along with a maximum fine of $10,000. Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a second-degree felony and carries a possible sentence of 2-20 years and a maximum $10,000 fine.

“Prison or not, if a crime like this happens I’m going to through the book at them,” Acker said.

Feds provide fast cash for test track project

Staff Writer

The Pecos Economic Development Corp. has already received a $1 million federal appropriation for rehabilitating the Smithers Transportation Testing Center, and has turned it over to the Texas Transportation Institute, president Mike Burkholder told board members during their meeting Tuesday afternoon in Pecos

The board also approved a new budget for the 2006 fiscal year during the meeting, and were told by Burkholder expenses for 2005 should come in under revenues, due to higher sales tax collections by the Town of Pecos City.

Burkholder told city council members last week the $1 million grant had been included in the new federal highway bill signed by President Bush on Aug. 10, but that they weren’t expecting to receive the $1 million so soon.

“We thought it would be several months before we got it,” Burkholder told the board. “But I got a call from the highway department asking ‘What is the Southwest Center for Transportation Research?’ Odessa called and said ‘We’ve got a million dollars, what do you want to do with it?’”

“Frankly, it was a surprise,” PEDC president Joe Keese said about the grant, which he credited Texas Sen. John Cornyn and TransPecos Banks chairman Patrick Kennedy with securing.

The Texas Transportation Institute, which is part of Texas A&M University, created the Southwest Center for Transportation Research to operate the former Smithers Transportation Testing Center east of Pecos, which was closed five years ago. TTI and Applied Research Associates of Albuquerque, N.M. will operate the nine-mile track, and are seeking additional future funding to fully renovate the 42-year-old facility.

“TTI is going to administer it,” Burkholder said of the $1 million grant. “With federal dollars you can imagine the red tape, and they know how to handle that.”

He added that TTI and ARA held a meeting in Dallas on Tuesday to go over their business plan for the facility. Officials said earlier this year a fully restored track could bring an additional 150 to 200 jobs to the Pecos area.

“They’ll be here tomorrow (Wednesday) to hire an interim manager part-time and start getting it cleaned up,” said Burkholder, who later added that the money spent by the PEDC on preliminary clean-up work earlier this year helped clinch the deal with TTI and ARA.

He said $27,648 of the $30,000 allocated was spent to removal of weeds, repair of buildings, pumps and other equipment on-site before ARA and TTI officials visited the track in March.

School enrollment shows rise on 2nd, 3rd days of class

Staff Writer

After several years of declining enrollment, opening week figures for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD were up from both the first day of school this year and the opening of school last year.

Figures for the first day of school, which began Monday, Aug. 15, showed that a total of 2,085 students were enrolled in the district. That was down slightly from last year, when P-B-T ISD officials reported 2,100 students enrolled in the district’s six campuses. However, on the second day of school this year, officials said 2,168 students were enrolled in the district. That compared with the second day of class last year, when 2,154 students were enrolled.

Wednesday’s enrollment total this year was up to 2,190 students, which is also up slightly from the third day of school in 2004. There were 2,185 students enrolled in the P-B-T ISD three days into the 2004-05 school year.

Enrollment in the local school district has dropped sharply in recent years, due to the closing of several major employers in the Pecos area. The district’s total number of students is down about 30 percent from a decade ago.

Of the 2,190 students in class on Wednesday, a total of 647 students are enrolled at Pecos High School; 13 are at Lamar AEP; 349 students are at Crockett Middle School, which contains 7th and 8th graders; Bessie Haynes showed a total of 493 students, 4th, 5th and 6th graders; Austin Elementary has 493 students in grades 1st through 3rd and Pecos Kindergarten has 195 students.

Cloud seeding project resumes after fatal crash

The Trans-Pecos Weather Modification Program has resumed cloud seeding activities in Reeves and three other counties, with a new plane and a new pilot on loan from a South Plains cloud seeding project.

Alan Zeman with the Trans-Pecos Weather Modification Program said the cloud seeding resumed the week of Aug. 5, six months after their airplane they had been using crashed doing cloud seeding work in South America, killing the pilot and a passenger on board. The crash put a halt to the local program, which began in 2003 and had been scheduled to begin cloud seeding in the Trans-Pecos area at the end of March.

“The season goes through the end of September, it depends on what the weather does,” Zeman said. “If it clears up we may stop early, but if we keep having some activity we’ll go until it quits, maybe until the end of October.”

The local program, which covers a 5.1 million acre area over Reeves, Culberson, Loving and Ward counties, has contracted with the West Texas Weather Modification Association in San Angelo to provide meteorological services, instead of having an on-site meteorologist at the TPWMA Doppler weather radar site at the Pecos Municipal Airport.

The association’s board also contracted with the Southern Ogallala Aquifer Rain Program in Plains for use of a Piper Comanche 250 aircraft with cloud-seeding equipment and the services of one of the program’s pilots. “He worked for Gary Walker,” Zeman said of the Pecos area’s former state representative, who also serves as manager of the Sandyland Underground Water District in Plains.

Nolan Sackett is the pilot on loan from Plains who has been seeding clouds in the area for the past two weeks. Sackett, a Minneapolis, Minn., native was in the U.S. Air Force before going into private business, then taking on the cloud seeding work.

“This is my first season,” he said. “I was flying a Casa 212 doing contract civilian and military work for Canada and U.S. Special Forces here and in Canada. I threw quite a few interesting things out of the back of that airplane.”

Sackett, who is also an airplane mechanic and a skydiver, said he left that job, “to pursue other stuff,” which led him to the job with the Southern Ogallala program.

“You’ve just got to be careful. It could be dangerous at times, but mostly it’s a non-event. You learn to read the thunderstorms and learn where the bad stuff is,” he said.

Sackett said other than a couple of days, he’s been in the Piper most every day, shooting silver iodide crystals into building thunderstorms. “I’ve been pretty much all over,” he said. “The other day I spend six hours non-stop up there. That was rough.”

The recent overcast skies that hovered over the Trans-Pecos was actually less helpful for cloud seeding than on other days, when the clouds start building up due to daytime heating.

“We need convective activity. The last couple of days were not good,” he said on Wednesday. “We want the base of the cloud around 8,000 feet with a lot of inflow. We need high tops on the clouds, so the water can be super-cooled and the silver iodide crystals work.”

The instead of dropping the crystals down into the clouds, the airplane is usually operating near the base of the thunderstorm, and shoots the silver iodide in from there. “It’s not a pressurized aircraft, so it’s limited to 13,000 feet,” Sackett said. “There’s no oxygen on board, so it’s limited by the FAA.

Sackett operates out of a hangar at Pecos Municipal Airport, which is also where the Trans-Pecos Weather Modification Association plans to stay for a while. Following February’s crash, TPWMA officials had sought a rent reduction for its facilities there, since they did not need the hangar they had been renting. TPWMA official Tom Nance said the program was considering relocating its Doppler radar if the rent was not lowered to $1 a year, but Nance said the program recently signed an agreement to pay $650 annually for the space for the radar site, as recommended to the Pecos City Council by the Pecos Airport Board.

TPWMA is one of nine weather modification programs operating in Texas, and is based in Barstow. Funding is provided by individual landowners, along with Loving County and Loving County Water Improvement District No. 1, Reeves County WID No. 2 and Ward County Water Irrigation District No. 1. Zeman said while the program was funded in part by the state during its first year, the Texas Legislature has not funded cost share programs during their past two regular sessions.

Car show winners receive prizes

A car show to raise funds for Special Olympics was held Aug. 6, at the Reeves County Civic Center and planned by employees at the Reeves County Detention Center III.

All proceeds will go towards the Special Olympics.

The West Texas Heat Wave Car Show was held from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Reeves County Civic Center.

The event is co-sponsored by the Reeves County Detention Center III/GEO and the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce.

Winners included:

Car / Street Category 1st Place Salvador Hinojos 2nd Place Wally Suarez 3rd Place Weldon Brookshire

Car / Mild Category 1st Place Raul Estrada 2nd Place Rene Guerra 3rd Place Greg Pena

Car / Wild Category 1st Place Joe Rodriguez 2nd Place Carlos Romo 3rd Place Ismael Pena

Bike / Street Category 1st Place Cody Vernon 2nd Place Brandon Martinez 3rd Place Austin Vernon

Bike / Wild Category 1st Place Austin Rubio 2nd Place Chris Carnero 3rd Place Rick Estrada

Street Rod 1st Place Jimmy Ornelas 2nd Place Chris Munoz

Truck / Street Category 1st Place Ernest Soto 2nd Place Jack Brookshire 3rd Place Tim Gomez

Truck / Mild Category 1st Place Joe Jacobo 2nd Place Sam Tapia 3rd Place Ismael Ybarra

Truck / Wild Category 1st Place Jason Guerra 2nd Place Tony Candia 3rd Place Alfonso Orona

Euro / Wild Category 1st Place Andy Leal

Motorcycle / Metric Street Category 1st Place Erin Davis 2nd Place Jesse Warren

Motorcycle / Metric Wild Category 1st Place Steven Davis

Motorcycle / Harley Davidson Street Category 1st Place Eric Rodriguez 2nd Place Dwayne Belair

Best in Show / Car Joe Rodriguez

Best in Show / Motorcycle Steven Davis

Best in Show / Bike Austin Rubio

Car Clubs that were in attendance included: Our Style Dominance Taste of Latin Dignity Affiliated Team Velocity Maravilla Brown Pride Ryders

Villanueva, Gonzalez announce wedding plans

Rebecca Villanueva and Luis Alberto Gonzalez, both of Midland, plan to marry Sept. 3, at Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church in Pecos.

The bride-elect is the daughter of Manuel and Lily Villanueva of Pecos.

She is a 2001 graduate of Pecos High School and a 2005 graduate of the physical therapist assistant program at Odessa College with an associate’s degree in applied science.

She is employed by Paradigm Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine.

Her fiancé is the son of Catalina Flores De Gonzalez of Midland and the late Carlos Gonzalez.

He is a 1995 Midland High School graduate and attended Midland College.

He is self-employed.

Hard Start taking 2005-06 enrollment

Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin, Inc. the sponsoring agency for Project Head Start is taking enrollment applications for the 2005-2006 school year at your neighborhood Head Start Center in Odessa, Big Spring, Monahans, Pecos and Saragosa, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Individuals will need the child’s birth certificate and proof of income. For more information contact Ociel Carrillo at (432) 337-1352 ext. 16.

Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin - Project Head Start ensures that low-income, pre-school aged children develop self-confidence, learn social skills, receive dental, medical and nutritional care, enhance their home environment through parent education and prepare them for transition into the public schools.

Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin, Inc. is a 501(C) (3), non-profit program.

Warehouse removed from loan list

Any cotton put into storage in the Trans Pecos Gas Company, Inc. aka Trans Pecos Warehouse will not be eligible for CCC loans during the period this warehouse is removed from the list of warehouses approved by the Commodity Credit Corporation the Reeves County Farm Service Agency, said this week.

Removal action was taken by the Farm Service Agency Commodity Office at Kansas City, Mo. Such action was taken because warehouse operator has requested termination of the Cotton Storage Agreement. The warehouse will remain in removed status until all records are clear.

For additional information, contact the Reeves County Farm Service Agency at 1417 W. Third St. in Pecos.

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Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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