Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, August 15, 2003
RCJ escapee turns self in near Abilene
By JENNIFER GALVAN
PECOS, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- The hunt for an escaped alleged murderer
came to an end yesterday afternoon after he turned himself in to authorities
in Callahan County, near Abilene.
"He (John Michael Baker) turned himself in," Reeves County Sheriff Andy
Gomez said. "They called me yesterday at about 4 or 4:30 p.m."
Callahan County Sheriff's office stated that Baker turned himself into
his attorney, Emiliano Duarte, at the local Dairy Queen, on Interstate 20
in Baird. Baker, 23, is currently in the Taylor County Jail in Abilene, 30
miles west of Baird.
He was being held in Reeves County Jail under federal charges in connection
with the murder of a San Antonio man three years ago in Big Bend National
Park. Baker escaped Wednesday afternoon from the Reeves County Jail, which
is located in the 400 block of Cedar Street, by climbing through a vent,
which was located in a storage room, in which recreation equipment is kept.
Gomez said that they had been negotiation with his family, girlfriend
and friends in regards to if they had any contact with Baker to have him
turn himself in.
"His (Baker's) attorney drove him to the Callahan County Jail, where
he was then issued a federal warrant for escaping," Gomez said.
The sheriff's department did not say how Baker managed to make the 270-mile
trip from Pecos to Baird, before turning himself in, but did say that it
was under investigation. Deputies on Wednesday believed at first he had
stolen a van belonging to the Pecos Christian Home, but that vehicle was
accounted for later in the evening.
Gomez said that that Baker's attorney had been in contact with him during
Baker had been in the Reeves County Jail since May 26, under a contract
with the U.S. Marshal's Office. He was wanted for the alleged murder of
a 43-year-old Shannon Stewart Roberts, a fourth-year medical student at
the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Baker had
told Big Bend National Park rangers that he had killed Roberts and had buried
his body in the park where it was found on March 31, 2000.
He added that Pecos Fire Department volunteer Brian Fuentes had seen
Baker crossing the street in civilian clothing with what appeared to be legal
papers in hand. Fuentes was working outside the city's fire station, which
is located just south of Reeves County Jail.
"He (Baker) told Brian that his lawyer had bonded him out," Gomez said.
"Baker acted very calm."
Gomez said his office did not know whether or not the Marshal's Service
would send Baker back to Reeves County. His trial in connection with Roberts'
death is currently scheduled to begin on Sept. 15 in U.S. District Court
in Pecos, which is located directly across the street from the Reeves County
Gomez added that the FBI is going to interview Baker and find out how
he was able to escape.
"The FBI is going to find out for us," he said, while adding that there
would be some changes with in the jail even before the federal agents interview
"We plan to install mesh wire in the vents," Gomez said.
Baker was the first escapee from the jail in 17 months. Steven Perez walked
away from the facility while on work detail on the jail grounds on March
8, 2002. He fled to Juarez, Mex., but was caught six months later in an
Odessa residence after returning to the United States.
School board approves campus ID badges
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- Identification badges will be worn by all
staff, personnel, visitors and students at Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD beginning
Monday, following the approval by the board at last evening's regular meeting.
Jodi Exum, PBT-ISD Career and Technology, talked to the board last evening
about the long-range plans for automating Pecos-Barstow-Toyah administrative/student
services. That included implementation of the ID badge system.
"We always have these plans," said Exum.
"Our new project that we're working on and are really excited about is
these new ID badges," said Exum.
The future project is to provide barcoded ID cards to students, staff,
substitutes, volunteers and visitors.
Exum said that there were other projects that the technology department
wanted to work on, but that required the ID cards.
"There are other things that we want to do, but everything requires an
ID card," said Exum.
Exum said that they had formed a committee and a demonstration of the
system was presented.
"We thought this would be a great idea and make it easier for us to pursue
other technology projects," said Exum.
Exum said that all adults would be required to wear them in a visible
place. "Visitors will have a visitors ID cards with a number and before
they leave the building they will turn those in," said Exum.
Exum said that this would also make it easier to automate the cafeteria
system and receive more funding. "We're losing a lot of funding that we
could receive through the students who get free and reduced lunch, because
a lot of the older kids don't want anybody to know that their younger siblings
receive free or reduced lunch," she said.
Through the bar code on the ID card, they could identify everyone in
the family and who is receiving free or reduced lunch.
The tentative proposed guidelines would include: that all PBT staff,
adult visitors, substitutes, and volunteers will clearly display the cards
at all times on their person. Campus visitor cards will be numbered and
checked out when they sign-in at the office, then turned in as they leave
The students in K-6 will have the cards in their classroom (on a break-away
lanyard) to take to and from the cafeteria and library.
Students in grades 7-12 will have the cards on their person at all times
(on a break-away lanyard, on a clip, or in their pocket/wallet) to use in
the library, cafeteria, and when asked for ID by staff.
Punishment for ID card infractions will be determined by campus administration.
"We'll have to have something implemented for the student code of conduct
handbook," said PBT-ISD Superintendent Don Love.
Students will be photographed at Kinder, Austin, Bessie Haynes, Crockett
and PHS when they enroll on that campus. The district provides their first
card at each campus. If a card is lost or if the student wants an updated
picture, subsequent cards at that campus will be purchased by the student.
Staff will be photographed in the 2003-2004 year and the district will
provide that card. If a card is lost or the individual wants an updated
picture, subsequent cards will be purchased. A new card will be provided
if staff change campuses, departments, or the administration deems it necessary.
"And each campus will have a different background, so that we'll know
immediately if he belongs in that school or not," said Exum.
The supplies and the annual service agreement needed for the ID system
can be funded by charges for duplicating cards. Also, many schools have
used picture ID cards as an excellent fundraiser - sports cards, club cards,
etc., according to Exum.
"What if a student that is on free or reduced lunch, loses his card and
the family can't afford to have it replaced?" said board member Crissy Martinez.
Exum said that the circumstances would be taken into consideration, but
that the fee to replace the cards wouldn't be too much.
"After the first one or two times that they lose it, I don't think they'll
do that anymore," said Love.
Exum said that she had spoken to elementary school principals and teachers.
"They want the younger kids to leave the ID's in their room on a peg and
retrieve them when they need them," said Exum.
"Of course, we don't have all the answers yet," said Exum. "We need to
work out the punishment for losing the cards and what to do with the ones
that can't afford to replace one," she said.
"I don't think we can keep giving out free cards," she said.
Future projects that would benefit from the ID card system include the
cafeteria system (lunch applications, lunch status, account balances, point
of sale and inventory).
"We also want to implement an automated time card system for employees/substitutes
to interface with our payroll accounting systems," said Exum.
Exum said that another future plan was to begin an automated textbook
check out system using current textbook/library software. She said they
were able to network the entire district and get the Internet. "We automated
all district libraries, are updating district student accounting processes
and automating district fixed assets (inventory) system," said Exum.
Exum said that new technology to be completed this fall also includes
updating the district financial hardware/software to interface with student
Exum said that the total cost to buy the package was $9,132 and the money
was in last year's budget.
"There is money in the old budget," said finance director Cookie Canon.
"Any of these other projects won't be in the old budget, it will have to
come out of the fund balance," she said.
"How soon can you have those ID cards out?" asked Martinez.
Exum said that the cards could be done immediately and that they wanted
to do the adult cards first. "It will be the first week of school, maybe
not the first day, but during the start of school," she said.
"The equipment looks very user-friendly and we have a para-professional
that is going to help with this project," she said.
In other action on Thursday, the board received an update on the Austin
Elementary AC replacement project; the Pecos High School mold remediation
and construction of the softball stadium.
Monte Hunter, with Hunter Corral Architects was on hand to talk to the
board about the different projects.
"The project at Austin Elementary is complete except for punch list items,"
said Hunter. "Pecos Air Conditioning did an excellent job out there."
Work at the Pecos High School is also complete and they did not have
to replace as much sheetrock as they thought. "So we had some funds left
over from that," said Hunter.
Hunter said that the big mistake at the softball field was being re-done.
Support posts for the fencing in front of the stands were only half the
height they needed to be when they were put it, and work there had to be
"We made them take out all the concrete and start over," said Hunter.
"They just botched it and I apologize."
The project's fieldwork had be scheduled to be completed on Aug. 4, in
time to allow high school football players to begin workouts on the field,
but the delays have forced the teams to practice at the Crockett Middle
Hunter said that he would be in town to see that the project was done
"They are going to meet the overall deadline of Oct. 15," said Hunter.
"This will not cost the school district anything."
Council OKs tax roll action, audit, zoning board choices
By JENNIFER GALVAN
PECOS, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council approved tax
roll submissions and an auditor for the 2003 fiscal year during a short
meeting in the Council Chambers Thursday evening.
The council changed the meeting from the morning to evening because a
quorum would not be present today for the regular 7 a.m. starting time.
The council approved the Texas Property Tax Code for Submission of roll
to governing body was approved with Councilman Frank Sanchez making the
motion and Councilman Danny Rodriguez seconding it.
The council asked City Manager Carlos Yerena if all department heads
could come before the council so they could hear any feedback.
"We want them to have an opportunity to let us know what their needs
are," Rodriguez said.
The council also reviewed the auditor's proposal for engagement, presented
by CPA Dan Painter.
"The staff has no problems with Dan Painter," Yerena told the council.
Sanchez suggested that the council retain Painter, though Councilman
Michael Benavides asked if there was anyone who could do it locally.
Benavides was told that not all accountants work with government cash,
and after that, Mayor ProTem Gerald Tellez made the motion to accept the
proposal for engagement with Sanchez seconding it.
The council also made an appointment to the Planning and Zoning Commission
after member Jon Cook resigned due to his moving out of town to the Abilene
"I have already spoken to him and I would like to recommend Bill Hubbs,"
Mayor Dot Stafford said.
With that Hubbs, a former mayor of Pecos, was appointed to the Planning
and Zoning Commission with Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela making the motion
and Rodriguez seconding it.
The council also discussed the closure of the alleyway at Fourth between
Bois D'arc and Hackberry streets, requested by the Fourth & Bois D'arc
Church of Christ. Rodriguez asked if the church does not buy the property
adjacent to it but someone else does how would the closure affect the new
Rodriguez was told that a new ordinance could be ordered for the reopening
of the alleyway and the motion was then approved for the first of two readings
of the closing ordinance, which was done by Stafford..
The approval of the 2003 planning calendar was tabled because Lydia Prieto
was unable to attend the meeting due to a funeral.
The council approved its minutes two both its regular council meeting
held on July 24 and its special meeting held on July 31, the accounts payable
report and the juvenile report for July.
July unemployment rates down for both city, county
From Staff and Wire Reports
Unemployment across Texas took a dive in July, and Reeves County joined
in seeing its rate decline, according to figures released on Thursday by
the Texas Workforce Commission.
However, the drop from a year ago is mainly connected with a major drop
in the number of jobs within the county, according to the TWC's figures.
Unemployment last month fell to 10.2 percent, down from 11.8 percent
in June. Summer employment in the onion and cantaloupe harvest helped offset
June's increase in the local labor force, following the end of the school
year. The local labor force was up from 5,519 in June to 5,612 in July,
while the number of jobs grew from 4,857 to 5,038.
However, compared to a year ago, the number of jobs in the county is
down 10 percent, while the county's workforce has fallen by over 20 percent
following the closing of the Anchor Foods plant in May of 2002. The closing
of Anchor, and the loss of its 700 jobs, sent the county's unemployment
rate soaring to 23 percent in July of last year, as 1,650 people were jobless
in the county, out of a workforce of 7,160.
Based on the TWC's adjusted numbers for 2002, over a quarter of the Town
of Pecos City's workforce was without jobs last July. The 25.8 percent rate
was down to 13.5 percent in June and fell to 11.7 percent last month, again
due to a drop in the city's labor force.
The city had 4,401 workers last month and 3,887 employed. In June, there
were 4,339 workers in the city and 3,755 employed, while a year ago the city
had 5,728 workers and 4,251 with jobs.
Across the state, the jobless rate fell from 7.5 to 7.1 percent in July,
though that total was up from 6.9 percent in July of 2002. The TWC said
in the Midland-Odessa area, the jobless rate last month was at 6 percent,
down from 6.7 percent the previous month and 6.5 percent a year ago.
In the Permian Basin, Andrews County saw its monthly rate drop from 6.5
to 6.1 percent, Howard County fell from 5.9 to 5.2 percent, Pecos County
went from 5.7 to 5.6 percent and Winkler County fell from 8.0 to 7.4 percent.
Ward County was the only one to show an increase, going from 8.4 percent
in June to 9 percent last month. However, that's still down from the county's
10.1 percent rate in July of 2002.
In the Big Bend area, Presidio County continued to have the state's highest
unemployment rate, at 24.1 percent, and like Ward County, showed an increase
over June, when unemployment there stood at 23.1 percent. Meanwhile, neighboring
Brewster County continued to have one of the state's lowest jobless rates,
at 2.2 percent, unchanged in June, and Jeff Davis County's rate was 2.4
percent, up from 1.9 percent in June.
The following are the preliminary July unemployment rates for the Texas
metropolitan areas, with revised rates for June in parentheses. The local
figures are not adjusted for seasonal patterns in hiring and firing.
Bryan-College Station 2.7 (2.9); San Angelo 4.2 (4.5); Amarillo 4.3 (4.6);
Abilene 4.4 (4.9); Lubbock 4.4 (4.7); Victoria 5.3 (5.7); Wichita Falls 5.6
(5.8); Tyler 5.7 (5.4); Waco 5.7 (5.8); Austin-San Marcos 5.9 (6.3); Killeen-Temple
San Antonio 5.9 (6.2); Odessa-Midland 6.0 (6.7); Fort Worth-Arlington
6.7 (7.1); Longview-Marshall 7.0 (7.5); Corpus Christi 7.1 (7.7); Houston
7.2 (7.7); Dallas 7.4 (8.0); Laredo 7.7 (8.6); Sherman-Denison 7.8 (7.9);
Galveston-Texas City 9.0 (9.3); Brazoria 9.7 (10.4); El Paso 9.9 (10.6);
Beaumont-Port Arthur 10.2 (10.8); Brownsville-Harlingen 11.1 (11.9); McAllen-Edinburg-Mission
14.0 (14.3); Texarkana (not available).
Novena, receptions set at Santa Rosa today, next Friday
PECOS, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- A Novena in honor of Santa Rosa Catholic
Church will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at Santa Rosa Church.
Everyone is invited to attend.
A reception will be held next Friday, Aug. 22, immediately following
the evening Mass.
Two arrested, heroin found after search of home
PECOS, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- A man and woman were arrested Tuesday,
after a narcotics search warrant was executed at their home and an illegal
substance was found.
On Tuesday, officers from the Pecos Police Department executed a narcotics
search warrant at 212 W. 14th St. "Once the officers secured the occupants
of the residence they proceeded to search the premises," said Pecos Police
Investigator Paul Deishler.
During the search of the residence officers located a small amount of
a substance believed to be heroin, according to Deishler.
Officers completed their search of the premises and arrested were Francisco
Menchaca and Rhonda Renteria, who were both charged with possession of a
controlled substance. Both Menchaca and Renteria were transported to the
Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
PECOS, Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 -- High Thursday 92. Low this morning 68.
Rainfall last 24 hours .05 inch. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy with
a 30 percent chance of rain or thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. South
winds 10 to 20 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms.
Highs in the lower 90s. South winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Partly
cloudy. Lows in the mid 60s. Sunday: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms.
Highs in the mid 90s. Monday: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms.
Lows in the upper 60s. Highs in the mid 90s.
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