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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, September 30, 2005

States changes to close down drug task force

After six years of battling drugs on the highways and assisting local law enforcement agencies, the Trans Pecos Narcotics Task Force will close it’s doors on Friday, as the result of changes in the funding it and other task force agencies receive from the State of Texas.

“They’re trying to do away with the Byrne Grant and the state is gradually getting rid of it and the task forces,” said Task Force Officer Kevin Roberts.

Roberts said that funding is being cut to the point that they don’t know from one month to another if the task force will be funded.

Funding was from June 1, 2004 through May 31, 2005. “Beginning June 1, they had put us on an extension,” said Roberts, who explained that effective this Saturday, Oct. 1, drug task forces will cease to exist.

“They’re changing it to organized criminal activity units,” said Roberts. “We could continue, but as far as what exactly we would be doing, we don’t know.”

Roberts said that we do not know what we would be targeting.

“This last year, we’ve continued with our commitment,” said Roberts.

“We’ve done our job,” said task force commander Gary Richards.

“After six years, this task force has worked hard and taken drugs out of this community and from being smuggled across our nation,” said Richards. “This new state wide strategy doesn’t address our community needs.”

Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez confirmed the closure of the task force office. Gomez said that the office had been funded through the Byrne Formula Grant Program, the Criminal Justice Division.

“They’ve done excellent work, but they’re not providing any funding for this,” said Gomez.

The Pecos-based task force included Reeves and a number of surrounding counties, and was funded both through those counties and by the State of Texas. It was created following the shut down by the state of the Permian Basin Drug Task Force following an investigation into the use of funds in 1996.

Roberts said that the Trans-Pecos Narcotics Task Force has seized 1,500 pounds of marijuana and confiscated approximately $1.1 million in illegal currency.

“We also initiated and began an 18-month investigation with the Office Inspector General that dismantled an organization that smuggled over 700 illegal aliens and numerous pounds of narcotics into the U.S. over a year’s time span.

“We’ve recently dismantled a large auto theft ring that had stolen vehicles all the way from California, New Mexico all the way to Dallas,” said Roberts “All these investigations were initiated based off minor traffic stops on Interstate 20 in Reeves County,” he said.

The local task force also busted a large identify theft ring that had stolen identifies of hundreds of people in California, according to Roberts.

All these investigations were initiated out of minor traffic stops in Reeves County, according to Roberts.

Richards said that the state’s new strategy was to go more into rehabilitation of drug abusers.

Right now, the task force is working on closing the grant and getting all the paperwork done by Friday.

“The day to day operations will cease on Friday,” said Richards.

Locals offer help to family forced out of homes

Members of an East Texas family who have spent the past week in Pecos following their evacuation from Hurricane Rita aren’t sure when they’ll be returning to their homes, some of which suffered heavy damage from last weekend’s storm.

Pecos Nursing Home manager Robert French said he and his wife, Penny, have been hosting relatives and their families since Monday, after they left southeast Texas following Hurricane Rita, which came ashore just east of the state’s “Golden Triangle” area of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange.

“Everybody’s been real friendly,” said Bobbie Tilley, who along with her husband Robert Tilley was forced to evacuate Jasper, located about 70 miles north of Beaumont. Also making the trip was their son, Jerry Tilley of Orange, and his daughter and son-in law, Mandy and Robbie Simon of Orange, who spoke about their experience over the past week, which included a trip from their homes first to northeast Texas, then back south to the Gulf Coast area before driving over 600 miles to Pecos.

Jerry Tilley said he and his family were evacuated from Orange last Thursday, as Rita approached the Texas coast, while Bobbie Tilley said she and her husband didn’t evacuate until the following day, as the hurricane moved away from the Galveston-Houston area and towards far southeast Texas.

“We left Orange and went to mom and dad’s house, and then when they called for a mandatory evacuation we went to Texarkana to my dad’s brother’s house,” Jerry Tilley said. “Then we came back to Jasper to check out the damage.”

Bobbie Tilley showed photos of their home that suffered some damage from trees blown down by the hurricane, while French said the Simons’ trailer home suffered even more damage.

“Mandy and Robbie’s home had a tree fall on it. It didn’t crush it, but the roof was partially caved in,” he said.

“Mandy’s also eight months pregnant, so all this travel has been hard on her,” added Robbie Simon.

“Me and Jerry and Robert worked all day cutting down trees and getting the road cleaned out, he said. “We left Sunday night and then drove all night long.”

The group cut traveled north of the Houston area to get to West Texas, but still ran into traffic problems from others who had evacuated from the Gulf Coast. “We drove 120-130 miles before we could find a gas station,” said Jerry Tilley. “We went about 90 miles out of Jasper before we saw our first porch light.”

All the family members said local residents have been very helpful since they arrived in town.

“My husband didn’t have his medication when we first got to town. Bob (French) made a phone call and we were able to get the medication after hours,” Bobbie Tilley said.

Leo Hung, owner of Professional Pharmacy and of the Pecos Nursing Home, provided the medication, while others who aided the family out included Reeves County Librarian Sally Perry, and employees at the Texas Workforce Commission office and at Wal-Mart. “We went to the library to file (damage claims) on-line with FEMA, and they were very helpful,” Bobbie Tilley said.

“We also enjoyed taking the kids to the park to get a little exercise,” she said. “We also enjoyed our trip through the museum. They (the Simons) hadn’t been there before, and it was something new for them to do.”

“Everybody we’ve talked to said if there was anything they can do just call them,” said Robbie Simon. “They made us feel welcome away from home.”

As of now, the Tilleys and the Simons don’t know when they’ll be able to return to their homes, since services have yet to be restored to the area following Saturday’s hurricane.

“They said it could be 2-4 weeks, but some of that may be hearsay,” said Jerry Tilley. “My brother’s a lineman for Entergy, and in his words, it’s a nightmare, said Robbie Simon, while his wife added, “Words can’t explain it, you have to see it for yourself.”

“We’re working on getting some generators to use, so we can go back,” said Bobbie Tilley. “I’ve got a 20-foot freezer that was packed full, and it’s going to be a mess to clean it out.”

Tests may alter cancer treatments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager. She discovered a malignant tumor in her breast in February. After a mastectomy, she learned that cancer cells had already spread to the bone. This is the ninth part of her story on her diagnosis of cancer, surgery and subsequent progress.

Staff Writer

Thursday is the day I learn how much damage cancer has done to my bones since my last bone scan in May. An infusion of Aredia (not iridium) last week has eased the pain and given me a brighter outlook.

Dr. Dave Watkins may recommend additional treatment, such as chemotherapy. I don’t know if I would agree to that, but will see what he has to say.

Two months ago, I attended a class on chemotherapy at the West Texas Cancer Center. After learning about all the possible side effects, I was even more convinced that it is not worth the few months or years it might lengthen my life.

I felt good for the four months I refused treatment, and if that were all the time I had, it is better than feeling lousy for three years with treatment.

Jo, a personable lady wearing a saucy straw hat, invited us to help ourselves to wigs, hats or turbans offered to chemo patients who lose their hair in the “Look good, feel good” room around the corner from the classroom. Donors make them available free of charge.

Nurse Linda said that head covering is important because you lose heat through your bald head, and a chemo patient is especially sensitive to the sun’s rays.

I looked at the wigs, but didn’t touch. You don’t just lose the hair on your head, you are slick as a button all over. Jo didn’t offer fake eyebrows, eyelashes or pubic hair.

What causes the hair loss is action of the drugs to destroy cells. They don’t destroy just cancer cells, but normal cells as well. Normal cells would have died off eventually anyway, to be replaced by new, healthy cells. Cancer cells don’t die naturally, but once the chemo kills them, they are flushed out of the body, and are not replaced.

Common side effects besides hair loss are nausea and vomiting, fatigue, sores in mouth and throat, kidney and bladder irritation, dry skin, and sexual disfunction.

Death of red blood cells can make you anemic, and death of white blood cells opens you up to infections and diseases. About the only ray of sunshine I saw in the whole presentation was advice to eat frequently and take naps when you are tired. My favorite activities.

Chemo also kills off platelets in the blood that makes it clot, so bruising and excessive bleeding is common. You can’t take aspirin, which lets me out. I take it to make my blood thin enough to flow through clogged arteries.

Although Linda said that modern drugs alleviate nausea and vomiting, she gave a long list of ways to manage it, along with diarrhea, constipation and fatigue.

Managing minor skin problems, such as itching (cornstarch) and dryness (udder balm); numbness in fingers and toes, jaw pain, hearing loss and stomach pain rounded out the lecture.

Every person does not get every side effect, and some people get few if any, Linda said. Many people have no long-term problems with chemotherapy.

Many do, though, and I don’t want to be one of them. Now that the pain has started, I may have a change of heart. I hope I will be able to endure whatever comes and to complete the assignments I have given myself.

With the help of family and friends, I am going to live as long and as well as I can. Even my banker, Cheryl Bippes, hugged me Wednesday when I went in to add beneficiaries to my IRA. Paul Briones, one of my God’s Army kids, said he is praying for me, because one of his relatives also has cancer. Mrs. Paul Gerbert gave me literature on alternative treatments. Her daughter has brain cancer.

“A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles.” Proverbs 17:17, CEV.

Study club begins year with first meeting

The Modern Study Club met Wednesday, Sept. 14, to began their 2005-2006 club year. The First Christian Church parlor was the site for the gathering where President Lena Harpham presented the program, “Off To A Flying Start.”

President Harpham welcomed everyone then passed out the yearbooks, with a beautiful patriotic cover and began her overview of the program of work. She called attention to the dedication page in the front of the 2005-2006 yearbook which featured a lovely photograph of Doris Moorman (Oct. 8, 1927-Oct. 6, 2004) as she played the piano at a Modern Study Club party. The dedication read, “We dedicate our yearbook to Doris Moorman our very dear friend, and leader; from this lady we never heard unkind words. She knew how to befriend and to be a friend. We miss her calmness, her strength and her kind ways.”

President Harpham then continued opening ceremonies. She called on Jean Olson to lead the Club Collect and Catherine Travland to lead the pledges to the United States of America and Texas flags, as all present repeated with the leaders, in unison. Etta Bradley then led the singing of “America.” The year unfolded as Mrs. Harpham gave a synopsis of programs, field trips and other activities and the budget was accepted.

The thought-quote for the program was, “United we stand; divided we fall” by Abraham Lincoln.

Secretary Joyce Morton read the minutes of the previous meeting and treasurer Betty Lee presented a report on both the checking account expenditures and the savings account.

Correspondence was read and scholarship chairman Margie Williamson reported concerning the Alma Van Sickle Scholarship and The Modern Study Club Scholarship.

At the request of Western District President Mary Vongsavath to all district clubs a collection was taken to be sent to Katrina victims.

Roll call was answered by bringing a prospective member or giving the name of same.

Hostesses Pearl Gustafson and Margie Williamson served delicious refreshments from a lovely table which carried out a fall theme.

President Harpham was honored with the singing of Happy Birthday to her and she received a lovely hand painted card signed by club members.

Feds arrest Odessa woman in coke bust

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Presidio port of entry seized 4.8 pounds of cocaine this past Sunday, resulting in the arrest of an Odessa woman.

According to a press release from the agency, the drugs were strapped to a female border crosser and was one of several enforcement actions in recent days at the Presidio border crossing.

The cocaine seizure was made Sunday afternoon when 22-year-old Evelyn Eulalia Hernandes of Odessa arrived at the port as a passenger in a taxi. She was traveling with her 6-year-old son. Customs officers noticed that Hernandes was extremely nervous during routine questioning and appeared to be shielding the front of her blouse. The officers suspected she was smuggling something beneath her clothing and following a search, they discovered an elastic bandage concealing two cocaine filled bundles wrapped around her midsection.

The seized cocaine has an estimated street value of $153,600.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents arrested Hernandes in connection with the failed smuggling attempt. She made her initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Alpine and was charged with importation of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. She is being held without bond at the Brewster County jail pending a detention and bond hearing set for Thursday. A relative took custody of her son.

In addition to the cocaine seizure, CBP officers at the Presidio port of entry have recorded several other enforcement actions since Friday. That activity included a seizure of 44 pounds of marijuana; three agriculture seizures resulting in $250 in penalties being assessed (for smuggled pork meat, potatoes, guavas, quince, pomegranates, plums and avocado); two vehicle export violations; one fugitive apprehension and one intended immigrant violation.

Harris’ carjack, slay convictions tossed

By The Monahans News

A federal appeals court recently reversed one of two federal convictions of Travis James Harris, though the former Monahans resident could still face state murder charges as a result of an incident in May of 2002.

Harris was convicted in 2003 of a carjacking and slaying, along with a separate federal charge of firebombing the Monahans Police Department office. Both those incidents occurred in a two-week period between late May and early June of 2002.

The court ordered Harris acquitted of the carjacking that resulted in him also being acquitted of the murder of Odessa resident Paul John Ceniceros.

Harris’ attorney, Scott Johnson of Pecos, said, “Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision of the federal appeals court, the carjacking resulting in murder charge will be dismissed against Harris. He cannot be re-tried in the federal court under orders of federal appeals court.”

Since the case was filed as a carjacking-resulting-in-murder and the carjacking conviction was overturned so was the murder charge. Johnson said he could not comment on whether the State of Texas would prosecute the case.

Harris was convicted of carjacking and using a firearm to commit voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Ceniceros, 29 of Odessa. He had pled not guilty to the charges against him but was found guilty on June 25, 2003 in U. S. District Court in Midland and sentenced on Sept. 9.

Former Monahans resident, Assistant U. S. District Attorney Jeff Parras, prosecuted the case.

Following the verdict, Parras was quoted as saying the jury saw through Harris claim of self-defense, and they believed he was guilty of killing Ceniceros, so he could get his car, which was later found in Lubbock.

According to search warrants, law enforcement officials in Odessa alleged Harris shot Ceniceros and drove his stolen red 1996 Ford Mustang to Lubbock. The vehicle was found in a parking lot in Lubbock, not far from where Harris’ girlfriend had picked him up.

A cell phone belonging to Ceniceros, a 9 mm shell casing, latex gloves and a shovel were found in Harris’ Bronco.

The family had not heard from Ceniceros for two days before they reported him missing on May 26, 2002. His body was found July 17, 2002 in a rural area near Midland. He had died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Midland Co. Sheriff Gary Painter said the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Officer identified Ceniceros from fingerprints sent to them by the Odessa Police Department. Harris testified in his own defense, claiming he was walking along I-20, when he was picked up by Ceniceros. Harris said Ceniceros took him to an oilfield location and forced him to perform sexual acts at gunpoint. Harris claimed he was able to eventually get the gun away from Ceniceros and killed him in self-defense.

Witnesses included Odessa Police Officers, a Texas Ranger, Iva “Dee Dee” Myers a friend of Harris, friends of Ceniceros, and the man whose stolen gun was used in the killing of Ceniceros.

In April of 2003 Harris pled guilty to federal charges of damaging a building by fire and explosive materials and a count of arson using a destructive device, in connection with the June 3, 2002 firebombing of the Monahans Police Department.

After being booked into the Odessa jail on June 4, 2003, Harris admitted to “blowing up” the Monahans Police Department and made statements that led to the investigation resulting in the now overturned carjacking charge.

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