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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Voters narrowly give runoff win to Neugebauer

From Staff and Wire Reports
Randy Neugebauer knows a steep learning curve awaits him as he begins serving as congressman for Texas' 19th Congressional District.

He doesn't yet have a grasp of all the ins and outs of how the U.S. House works but he's ready to learn. Typically, a newly elected congressman attends freshman-like training sessions, but with the 108th Congress already under way, Neugebauer will have to hit the ground running.

"I suspect I'm going to get on-the-job training to a certain extent," he said.

On Tuesday, West Texas voters gave Neugebauer, 53, a narrow victory over Mike Conaway, 54, of Midland in a runoff election. Neugebauer succeeds retired U.S. Rep. Larry Combest.

Neugebauer, a land developer and former Lubbock city councilman, will leave for Washington on Wednesday or Thursday. He was set to be sworn in as the district's new representative Thursday and already is planning to seek a full term in 2004.

In 18 of the district's 19 counties where all precincts had reported, Neugebauer had won 12 counties and Conaway six. Howard County (Big Spring) still had one precinct's votes outstanding, but Neugebauer led by a 2-1 to margin in that precinct.

The most divisive issue in the campaign turned out to be the proposed Ports-to-Plains highway would eventually extend the road south from Interstate 27 in Lubbock. Neugebauer voiced his support for a plan that would extend the highway through Big Spring and San Angelo to Del Rio, which was criticized by Conaway, who said the representative shouldn't favor one part of the district over another.

Midland-Odessa officials have been seeking to get the Ports-to-Plains route to run further west, through the two cities and then to Fort Stockton and Presidio for a proposed connection to a highway that would link Texas with a port on the west coast of Mexico.

Along with winning the votes in Big Spring, Neugebauer also received over two-thirds of the votes cast in the Lubbock area. Conaway's margin in Midland-Odessa was even larger, as the former Midland mayor picked up over 80 percent of the votes cast in Midland and Ector counties.

District 19 was expanded westward prior to the 2002 election, to include most of the Permian Basin east of the Pecos River, including Barstow and Mentone in the Pecos area. All Loving County voters cast their ballots as usual in Mentone, while voters in Barstow, as well as Pyote, Wickett and Grandfalls in Ward County, had to go to the Ward County Courthouse in Monahans in order to vote on Tuesday.

In both counties, voters went along with those from Midland-Odessa and gave Conaway the bulk of their votes.

In Ward County, 525 votes were cast for Conaway and 90 for Neugebauer, while Loving County voters gave Conaway 26 votes, while Neugebauer received only three votes in the nation's least-populated county.

Based on unofficial returns, Neugebauer had 28,530 votes to Conaway's 27,858 votes. That's with all but one of the district's 207 precincts reporting.

"We knew that this was going to be a close race and that it was going to come down to who was going to get the votes out," said Neugebauer, a Republican.

Conaway spokesman Ted Delisi said late Tuesday that Conaway, also a Republican, will not request a re-count.

"I'm really proud of what we did," Conaway said. "We stuck to our plan and came close to winning. It's a job I wanted and I'm disappointed."

Ector County officials had to bring in a generator to continue counting votes after a severe storm accompanied by straight-line winds up to 70 mph knocked out power in the clerk's office, county officials said.

Early in the evening it appeared that Conaway was leading by a wide margin in Lubbock County, Neugebauer's home turf. But a mistake was made when vote totals were sent from the clerk's office sent to the Texas Secretary of State's office through the Internet. The totals apparently had been reversed, showing Conaway had 72 percent of the vote. The mistake was corrected within about 30 minutes, state officials said.

Neugebauer said he and his supporters were getting results from the clerk's office and noticed they weren't matching the state's returns on the Internet.

"If those were real numbers, we were in deep trouble," he said.

As the night wore on, Neugebauer awaited returns from several of the larger Lubbock County precincts. They came through, giving him a margin of victory that was less than the margin that separated the two men in the May 3 special election.

The two men earned spots in the runoff by garnering the most votes last month in a crowded field of 17 seeking to replace Combest, who retired at the end of May.

Combest announced his retirement shortly after winning re-election in November. He served the district for 18 years. Neugebauer will finish the unexpired term.

Agents uncover 13 illegals inside house in El Paso

PECOS, Wed., June 4, 2003 -- Agents with the Anti-Smuggling Unit of the Bureau of Investigation and Customs Enforcement (ICE) El Paso District Office on Monday arrested 13 undocumented immigrants inside an apartment in El Paso.

The arrest occurred in the 1000 block of N. Glenwood, and ICE agents also arrested Rosa Berta Perales, 49, a legal permanent resident, and charged her with harboring illegal aliens. If convicted, the El Paso woman could face up to 18 months in federal prison.

Among the 11 adult Brazilian males and an adult Brazilian female, was an adult Mexican female. The group had been staying in the small East-Central El Paso two-bedroom apartment since Friday.

The aliens told investigators they were waiting to be transported to various U.S. cities on the East Coast. The method of transportation is still under investigation. Special Agents have learned the aliens paid $10,000 per person to be taken from Brazil to their final destinations in the United States.

The youngest aliens in the group were in their early 20s and the oldest was a 49-year-old man. All of the aliens were taken to the El Paso Processing Center where they will remain pending a hearing before an immigration judge.

The investigation is continuing and more arrests are pending.

Last Thursday, a federal grand jury in Pecos indicted a 28-year-old El Paso man on four counts of transporting illegal aliens in connection with the discovery of 17 illegal aliens crammed into the back of truck on Interstate 20 west of Pecos in the early morning hours of May 27.

According to the indictment, Hugo Ricardo Ramirez was driving the truck that DPS Trooper Arnulfo Rivas pulled over for speeding just before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning near mile marker 33 on I-20, seven miles west of Pecos.

During the traffic stop Rivas discovered the 17 illegal aliens hidden behind furniture in the truck. The truck reportedly was being drive by Ramirez from El Paso to the Dallas area.

Ramirez, a United States citizen, was detained and two of the illegal aliens are also being held as witnesses while the rest were returned to Mexico.

"In these times of heightened national security, it's critical that we detect and disband international smuggling rings," said Troy C. Henley, interim director of the El Paso ICE District Office. "Equally important is trying to rescue these immigrants before they succumb to the elements at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers," he said.

Information about human smuggling networks should be reported to the El Paso ICE District Office at 881-5500.

Cocaine, heroin found by police in house raids

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., June 4, 2003 -- This past Friday was a busy day for officers with the Pecos Police Department, as officers executed two separate narcotics search warrants on the north and south sides of town.

Police said the first incident occurred about 10:26 a.m., when officers executed two search warrants including the first one at 401 E. "D" St.

Once the residence was secured, officers proceeded to search the residence, according to Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.

"During the search of the premises officers located a substance believed to be cocaine," said Deishler.

Officers continued their search of the residence and other drug paraphernalia was also found inside the house.

After the officers completed their search, Herbey Garcia Armendariz, 49, was arrested for the offense of possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

The second search warrant was executed at about 12:07 p.m., Friday.

The Pecos Police Department SWAT Team executed this warrant, according to Deishler, at 8151/2 S. Cedar St.

"Once the apartment was secured officers proceeded to search the premises," said Deishler.

Deishler said that during the search of the apartment, officers located a substance believed to be heroin and paraphernalia commonly used in the injecting of heroin.

After the search of the apartment was completed, officers left, Deishler said, and a warrant of arrest was issued for Miguel Franco Jimenez, 48, for the offense of possession of a controlled substance (heroin).

Jimenez was located on Saturday and placed under arrest for possession of a controlled substance and transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center for booking.

Blowout blamed for fatal accident on I-20

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., June 4, 2003 -- A one-vehicle rollover accident claimed the life of an Odessa man and injured two others yesterday afternoon on Interstate 20 between Pecos and Barstow.

The accident was reported about 5:30 p.m. on I-20 near mile maker 47, and blocked traffic on the westbound lanes of the highway for over an hour. Vehicles were detoured onto FM 516 and Business I-20 through Barstow and Pecos, while cars and trucks already stopped on the highway by the accident before the road was closed had to drive across the dirt median to reach the I-20 service road and get past the accident site.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the accident involved a GMC Yukon, which was traveling eastbound on I-20 just west of the Pecos River crossing. As the vehicle tried to pass a semi-tracker trailer, its right rear tire blew out, the report said.

At that point the driver lost control and spun to the left, and then went into a broadside skid to the right, causing the vehicle to rollover 11/2 times. A passenger in back seat, identified as Joe Morse Suggs, 79, of Odessa, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. His body ended up on the westbound lanes of the road, and he was pronounced dead by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Amanario Ramon.

The driver and another passenger in the Yukon were also injured, and Pecos Volunteer Fire Department crews had to use the Jaws of Life to cut one of the victims out of the vehicle. The injured were identified as Eileen Suggs Cook, 57, of San Antonio and Gladys Atkins Suggs, 78 of Odessa. Both women were transported by EMT crews to Reeves County Hospital, and were listed in fair condition with minor bruises, lacerations and broken ribs.

Big Bend park's superintendent retires from job

PECOS, Wed., June 4, 2003 -- Big Bend National Park Superintendent Frank J. Deckert retired on Tuesday from the National Park Service, after 36 years with the federal agency.

Deckert has held a variety of positions at seven National Park Service sites, including tenures as superintendent at Petersburg National Battlefield, Virginia and in the Pecos area at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Big Bend National Park. He took over as superintendent at Carlsbad Caverns in 1992 and moved into the job at Big Bend National Park in 2000.

"Deckert will be greatly missed by the Big Bend community," said David Elkowitz, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services. He first worked at Big Bend National Park from 1975 to 1980 as Chief Naturalist. During his current assignment, Deckert has helped guide the park through most of the process of General Management Plan preparation for both the park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.


PECOS, Wed., June 4, 2003 -- High Tuesday 104. Low this morning 73. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Thursday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms in the morning: Then a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Highs in the lower 90s. East winds 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Friday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms in the morning: Then a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 80s.

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