Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, April 3, 2003
Hearing today in Monahans PD arson case
By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, Thurs., April 3, 2003 -- The man charged with firebombing the Monahans
Police Department offices in June of 2002 is scheduled to have a long-delayed
hearing this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Pecos on the charge, while
still facing charges in Midland in connection with a carjacking and murder
that occurred in May of last year.
Travis James Harris, 22, was scheduled for a hearing this afternoon after
being found competent to stand trial in January by U.S. District Judge Royal
Furgeson. Harris originally was scheduled for a hearing on the firebombing
charge in August of last year, but that was put off until completion of
a psychiatric evaluation in Fort Worth.
A hearing scheduled for last month was postponed because Harris' court-appointed
attorney, Scott Johnson of Pecos, was on vacation.
Johnson filed for a motion last fall for change of venue to El Paso in
both the firebombing and carjacking vases, but Furgeson denied the motions.
Harris has been held in jail in Winkler County since November 7, after
being returned from Fort Worth, where he underwent the psychiatric evaluation
ordered by Furgeson in August in connection with the firebombing incident.
While in Fort Worth, doctors were also asked for the psychiatric evaluation
to include the carjacking.
Harris was arrested on June 4 in Odessa on state and federal charges
connected with the firebombing of the Monahans Police Department on June
3 of 2002. The fire, in the building that also houses Monahans' city offices,
caused severe damage to two rooms in police area, and forced Monahans Police
to relocate their offices to another location on the south side of town.
Harris is charged with breaking a window at the Monahans Police Department
building at Second and Alice streets around 3:30 a.m. on June 3 and throwing
a 'Molotov cocktail' inside. Federal, state and area law enforcement agencies
assisted in the investigation including the Pecos Police Department, the
State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the
Harris could face up to 20 years for the firebombing, Johnson said in
A month after his arrest on the firebombing charge, Harris was charged
in Midland Federal Court with Carjacking Resulting in Death and the Use
of a Firearm during a Crime of Violence, in connection with the death of
Paul John Ceniceros, 30, whose body was found in a field near Odessa. Harris
is charged with carjacking Ceniceros' vehicle, which was later found in
Lubbock, killing him and dumping his body in an Ector County field. He has
not been charged with murder yet.
In the federal charge of carjacking resulting in death of Ceniceros,
Harris could face life in prison or the death penalty.
Matas awaiting word from Iraq on missing son
From Staff and Wire Reports
A Pecos family is still awaiting news about their 35-year-old son, confirmed
missing last week in the war in Iraq, following news on Tuesday of the rescue
of one of the soldiers in his Army unit.
"They're doing everything they can," said Javier Contreras, cousin of
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Mata, a 1986 Pecos High School graduate
who was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company that was ambushed in Iraq
on March 23.
Two members of the unit were confirmed killed and five others were shown
in a video aired on Iraqi television on March 23, while eight others were
listed as missing in action.
On Tuesday, one of those eight, Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, was rescued
from an Iraqi hospital, but the seven others, including Mata, remain on
the MIA list.
"As soon as they find out something, they said they would contact the
family," said Contreras. "The government is keeping in touch with the family."
Along with hearing of the rescue of Pvt. Lynch, the Matas and families
of others missing also heard that 11 bodies - at least some believed to be
American - had been found during the rescue. And there was hope since the
military acted quickly to save Lynch, and could do so again.
Contreras said that it was hard and frustrating waiting to hear for any
kind of news, but that the family was praying for all those who are missing
in action and serving in the war.
"They're concerned about my cousin and they are praying for all the others
as well," he said.
Family members of other MIAs voiced similar concerns, those a few were
also anxious for the waiting to end.
"We can't live like this. This is not living, waiting, not knowing," said
Amalia Estrella-Soto, mother of 18-year-old Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto of
Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk with the 507th, based at Fort Bliss
in El Paso, was among 15 soldiers of the company who were ambushed March
23 near Nasiriyah, a major crossing point on the Euphrates River northwest
The 11 bodies found at Saddam Hospital, where Lynch was rescued, were
still were being identified, said Army Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green, spokeswoman
at Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar. She said the bodies eventually
would be sent to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Lynch's rescue was welcome, albeit nerve-racking news, to Anecita Hudson,
mother of Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, a 23-year-old POW from Alamogordo, N.M.
"I'm hoping still," she said. "My son is over there. I just feel overwhelmed."
Janie Kiehl, mother of missing Spc. James Kiehl, 22, of Comfort, cheered
at news that Lynch was safe. Kiehl said the injured soldier might even help
with her own family's uncertainty.
"I'm glad they rescued her. She's only 19," Kiehl said. "I'm hoping
they found some other news too, and that maybe she knows something."
Ron Pracht, minister of Olivet Southern Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan.,
said the news gave new hope to the family of Army Pfc. Patrick Miller, a
prisoner of war.
"There is hope for Patrick - we got one back," Pracht said.
Among the missing is Pfc. Lori Piestewa, a 23-year-old Hopi from Tuba
City, Ariz., who is one of the very few American Indian women in the military.
Family spokeswoman Myra Draper said the family shared the emotions of
Lynch's relatives. "They were pretty excited for Jessica's family and were
very happy," said Draper. "It brought a whole new level of hope to them."
Amalia Estrella-Soto took some comfort in knowing that the U.S. was
trying to find her missing son. "I know they are looking for him," she said.
"I know they will bring him back to us."
Texas Tumblers to perform today at old PHS gym
PECOS, Thurs., April 3, 2003 -- The Texas Tumblers, a power tumbling duo,
will give a demonstration performance today at 6 p.m. in the old Pecos High
The demonstration will also offer boys and girls ages 3 and up the chance
to enroll in tumbling classes that will be given locally.
For further information on the class placements, call 943-6440.
PECOS, Thurs., April 3, 2003 -- High Wednesday 90. Low this morning 64.
Forecast for tTonight: Clear. Lows in the upper 40s. West winds 10 to 15
mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the lower 80s. West winds 10 to 20 mph.
Friday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 40s. Saturday: Mostly sunny.
Highs in the mid 80s. Sunday: Mostly clear. Windy. Lows near 50. Highs in
the mid 70s.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 2003 by Pecos Enterprise