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JARRELL, Texas (AP), May 28, 1997 - Rescuers crisscrossed swampy fields
today looking for nearly two dozen people unaccounted for after a
tornado devastated this Central Texas town, killing at least 27.
The medical examiner's office in Austin has received the bodies of 26
victims; another person died at Scott and White Hospital in Temple.
Twenty-three people are unaccounted for in Jarrell and five more are
missing in Cedar Park,
Up to 150 rescue workers began hunting for bodies at daybreak, but the
search was hampered by muddy fields with water up to knee deep,
Williamson County Sheriff Ed Richards said.
"In disasters we've seen like this before across the country, there've
been some miracles, some people found alive after several hours and
sometimes a few days. We hope to still find somebody alive," Richards
said. "There's a lot of debris scattered for miles, so (the search) is
expanding because there could be a person in the debris."
Justice of the Peace Jimmy Bitz said identifying the bodies was a slow
process. "I hope it can happen today. But it may be tomorrow," Bitz
The Department of Public Safety's crime lab has been asked to help
photograph, fingerprint and identify some of the deceased.
Central Texas hospitals reported treating at least 19 injured people.
Eight years after a tornado flattened Jarrell but killed only one, a
more devastating twister roared through town Tuesday. This time, at
least 27 people were killed and about 50 homes in the subdivision were
The disaster was the deadliest Texas tornado since May 22, 1987 - almost
exactly a decade before - when 30 people died and 162 were injured in
the far West Texas town of Saragosa.
"It was like a big vacuum sucked everything up," said Max Johnson Jr.,
who visited the wasteland shortly after the killer tornado struck this
small town of roughly 1,000 residents 40 miles north of Austin.
Several other towns from Austin to Waco also were whipped by twisters
about the same time Tuesday. One person died in an Austin tornado and
another drowned in a Travis County creek.
But no place was hit as hard as Jarrell.
By morning, the flag was flying half-staff outside the post office,
while residents were seeking counseling inside a white clapboard church.
At the schoolhouse, volunteers were separating clothes into piles for
men, women and children. Telephone messages for homeless residents were
being left on a blackboard.
"It looks like a war zone," said Richards, who briefed reporters from a
temporary morgue set up at the town's volunteer fire department.
More than 200 rescue workers from dozens of area outposts labored late
into the night after enduring lemon-sized hail, lightning and
intermittent rain to look for survivors.
In the few blocks that make up the heart of Jarrell, the school and
other city buildings were spared. A few snapped tree limbs were the only
hint of the disaster that lay two or three miles to the southwest.
"It's not there anymore," sheriff's deputy R.B. Raby said of the
subdivision. "I don't know of anything anyone can do. It's just a flat,
Dozens of people gathered in prayer at the First Baptist Church awaiting
updated lists of victims and survivors. Everywhere, shocked people
covered head-to-toe in mud cried and consoled each other.
Some waited out the night at the schoolhouse, sleeping on cots and
sleeping bags brought by their neighbors and the Red Cross.
Almost inevitably, conversation throughout town turned to May 17, 1989,
and the early morning twister that shook a woman's trailer home and
fatally pinned her beneath a waterbed. Another 28 people were injured
and 35 homes and 12 mobile homes were severely damaged or destroyed.
"I thought the one in 1989 was awful, but this is worse," said Janeen
Brock, a lifelong resident of Jarrell.
Max Johnson Sr., pastor of the Jarrell Baptist Church, said many
residents still hadn't gotten over the previous tragedy.
"There are still people who were kids at that time that when it gets
cloudy, they start to cry," he said.
At the time, many considered the disaster a warning that something worse
could happen and installed a warning siren. The siren blew Tuesday
afternoon, but the warning was not enough to save the victims of Double
The pastor's other son, Mark Johnson, and his two co-workers at the
Jarrell Farm Supply feed store a few hundred yards from the subdivision
watched about 10 minutes as the tornado approached. Mark Johnson had
time to call home and warn his family.
"Then I heard them sound the siren," he said. "A lot of people were
coming up here saying to get out of town."
The blast had sounded before, but never under such dire circumstances,
The tornado that caused the highest casualty count in state history was
the May 11, 1953, storm that killed 114 people and injured 597 in Waco.
Tuesday's storms hit Bell and McLennan counties, about 60 miles north of
Jarrell, about 3:45 p.m. and moved into Williamson County just north of
Elsewhere in Williamson County, part of a grocery store's roof was blown
off in Cedar Park, causing the building to collapse. At least eight
people were hurt and four to five were missing in the rubble. A search
of the building, suspended Tuesday night, was set to be picked up today.
In Austin, one person was killed when a tornado destroyed two homes
around Lake Travis, and a woman drowned in a creek during a storm, the
No injuries were reported in Bell or McLennan Counties, but a marina was destroyed on Belton Lake.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - Unhappy with cost projections for the expansion of
the Reeves County Detention Center, County Judge Jimmy Galindo presented
several methods to reduce costs in the project to commissioners during
the regular meeting of the commissioners' court last night.
"I think we all agree that we are not building detention space, we are
building recreation space adjacent to detention space," Galindo said.
"Should we be looking at probable cost based on square footage for
jails? In my opinion we come closer to a factory or warehouse type
The proposed expansion of the detention center will add 300 beds to the
county jail by converting present day-room space to bed space and
constructing additional day-room areas. The expansion will bring the
total number of beds at the facility to almost 1,000.
In addition to changing the type of building being considered for the
addition of day-rooms, Galindo suggested that the proposed support and
services building be constructed by a company specializing in modular
buildings. The support and services building would contain facilities
such as a kitchen and a laundry.
Documents provided to commissioners by Dailey, Rabke & Gondeck, PLLC
(DRG), the architectural firm designing the buildings for the expansion,
estimate the cost of both the day-room addition and the support building
at about $80 a square foot.
Galindo said that after he asked DRG representatives to give him a
breakdown of the building expenses the square footage cost dropped to
$74, but he was still not satisfied with that rate. Galindo said he had
information that facilities such as the support and services building
could be built as low as $38 per sq. ft.
DRG estimates the cost of the three-wing day-room expansion at more than
$2.8 million. Galindo said he would like to see that figure as low as
$2.1 million, or about $61 per sq. ft.
The method used to oversee the project could also add significantly to
the cost of construction, according to the commissioners. A general
contractor might charge the county 10 percent of the project's total
cost to oversee construction while placing an architect as overseer
could cost as much as 20 percent.
"What we need is a general contractor that would be responsible for the
whole project," Galindo said. "He would bid the job and could hire local
crews under his bond. That way you put the responsibility for the whole
project under one contractor."
Commissioner Felipe Arredondo proposed the county offer DRG five percent
of the day-room project cost for its role in construction. In addition
to the $30,000 already paid to DRG, the company would receive $100,000
for further services in the project.
Commissioners also agreed that many aspects of the project should be
farmed out to local companies, such as construction of new beds for the
facility. Additional fencing needed for the expansion could also be
constructed by in-house or local crews, they agreed.
The commissioners' court agreed to table the detention center expansion
item until further negotiations with DRG could be completed.
Commissioners received a go-ahead last month from the Texas Commission
on Jail Standards (TCJS) to proceed with the design development phase of
the expansion of the detention center. The planned expansion of the jail
is expected to add 30 new jobs at the facility and pump almost $4
million into the county's economy.
Expansion of the jail is expected to be completed by April of next year.
Commissioners hope to sell jail space at the detention center to other
law enforcement agencies, such as, the U.S. Marshal's office and
Immigration and Naturalization Services, for $36.50 per day to pay for
Once the expansion of the present county detention facility is completed
and paid for, commissioners plan to construct an additional 1,000-bed
jail adjoining the present facility.
Look to tomorrow's edition of the Pecos Enterprise for information on other items covered by the commissioners during Tuesday's meeting.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - Twenty-six pounds of marijuana may not seem like
much, but the future of a young Kermit woman will be marred by the
Luz Maria Urias, 28, was found guilty Tuesday by a federal court jury on
one count of a two-count indictment charging her with importing and
possessing with intent to distribute marijuana.
Border Patrol agents arrested Urias after stopping her dual-wheel pickup
at the checkpoint south of Alpine on Texas Highway 18 at 12:50 p.m. Jan.
27 as she and her younger sister, a juvenile, traveled north.
Noticing Urias' nervousness, her inability to quickly identify the
"relatives" they had been visiting, and bags and boxes of chiles in the
pickup bed, which are often used to mask the smell of contraband, agent
Adolfo "Rudy" Garcia called for a K-9 to sniff around the vehicle.
When the dog alerted to the presence of contraband, Garcia located two
black PVC pipes wired to the undercarriage of the truck, said government
prosecutor Jim Blankinship in his opening statement to the jury.
Marijuana was found inside the pipes, Blankinship said.
After agents took Urias and her sister inside the Border Patrol office,
Urias was "almost belligerent," Blankinship said. "She says, `You can't
charge me with this. What is this? I didn't have any marijuana.'"
"The word marijuana had never been used by the Border Patrol officers,"
He urged jurors to listen to what she told the agents and the Department
of Public Safety officer who accepted the case for prosecution.
Defense Attorney Mike Barclay said jurors should listen to the agents
and to Urias' testimony to determine whether or not she imported and
possessed the marijuana intentionally for purposes of distribution.
"The question is whether or not the state can meet the burden of proof,"
The jury found that the government failed to prove Urias imported the
marijuana from Mexico, but found her guilty of possession with intent to
U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson set sentencing for July 30. He
thanked jurors for their willingness to serve.
"I have been extremely impressed with juries that have come out of the
Pecos Division," he said. "Some of you travel long distances...but the
work of justice is very important, and the jury system is the absolute
bedrock of what we do."
Another jury was to report this morning for the marijuana possession trial of Roseann Marie Holmberg. Her attorney is Tony Chavez of Odessa.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - Culberson County Sheriff's office is hoping for
help in locating a missing man whose car was found abandoned in the area.
"On May 17, Sgt. Gary Rose of Culberson County Sheriff's Office received
a call to an abandoned vehicle located east of the Freeport McMoRan
Sulphur Plant, just inside the county line on the northeast end," said
Sheriff Glen A. Humphries.
The vehicle had been discovered by ranch hands working in the area and
was reported to Reeves County Sheriff's Deputies, who met Sgt. Rose at
the scene. The vehicle was a 1987 Honda bearing Texas registration
SWHO1H, owned by a Manuel Chabarria, Jr., formerly of Pecos and recently
living in Fort Worth, according to the sheriff's report.
"It was determined that Mr. Chabarria had been reported missing since
the first part of April, and officials began a search of the area around
the car," said Humphries.
The vehicle was removed to the Pecos Police Department impound yard
where it was processed by a Texas DPS crime lab crew from Austin.
Officials from Culberson County Sheriff's Office conducted a second
search of the area using a DPS helicopter, a group of men on foot, and a
crew of horseback riders from Van Horn including Burt Brownfield, Buck
Nix, Efrain Hinojos, Clay Bates and Joel Sanchez.
"No sign of Chabarria has been uncovered as of this release, and any
help the public can contribute concerning the recent activities, recent
companions, or whereabouts of Manuel Chabarria, Jr. will be of great
assistance," said Humphries.
If any individual has any information concerning this case, contact Sgt.
Gary Rose, Culberson County Sheriff's Office, at 915-283-2060 in Van
The investigation surrounding the mystery of the disappearance of this young man continues, according to the sheriff.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - A dream inspired a woman and her friends to walk
across the nation and spread the word.
Becky Hicks and Billy Batts, of Louisville, Ky., began their trek across
the country in Augusta, Maine.
"Our prayer walk is to pray for nations, for revival, so that we can
reach as many individuals as possible," said Hicks.
The two youths were in Pecos Tuesday afternoon and were staying with the
North Temple Baptist Church minister Mac McCormick and his family.
"We have two others who are doing this with us, but they took a break
and will be back tonight," said Hicks.
Hicks and Billy Batts carry a large wooden cross during their journey.
The four are headed for El Paso and then on to California.
"Our destination is Seattle, Wash., where our journey will end," said
"We walk about 20-25 miles per day," said Hicks.
"We've been walking in the mornings and evenings, when it is cooler,"
During an average day the two will talk to several people and give them
cards with their motto written on it.
"We deliver these little handouts with our message and motto on it,"
Their motto is, "Do what you can do now with what you have now."
The four are being sponsored by their church, Jacobs Well Church and
through Fruitful Ministries Global.
"We stop and talk to people about Jesus and whether they believe or
not," said Hicks.
Motorists have been known to pull off the road to speak to the young
"When they stop, we talk to them, some are lonely, some want to share
with us experiences, discuss God and his purpose," said Hicks.
"They get really encouraged when they see the cross, it opens a lot of
doors to share with people," said Hicks.
The group also visits churches on Wednesdays and Sundays and shares
their motto with them.
"We want to encourage people to share with us and others to not be
ashamed of Jesus," said Hicks.
They don't target any one religion, but visit churches of different
denominations, according to Hicks.
"We visit all the churches, Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, all the
denominations and we have even visited Mexico before spreading our
word," said Hicks.
The four have a team back in Louisville that draws up an itinerary for
"We go by the itinerary and my mother, Carol Hicks, is the project
director," said Hicks.
So far the group has covered about 4,000 miles and plan to cover at
least 7,000 before their journey ends.
They have traveled through the outskirts of the Florida coast, came back
up and on through drier territory when they reached Texas.
"This journey will end in October in Seattle, Washington, it has taken
almost a whole year," said Hicks.
The journey began with a dream. "I had a really vivid, spiritual dream
about this trip in February of last year," said Hicks.
Hicks told her pastor about the dream in August and three weeks later
everything was arranged for the four to pursue the dream.
"I hadn't talked about my dream since February, but when I told my
pastor about it, he was very excited," said Hicks.
The team started out on their adventure on Sept. 23.
"It has been a phenomenon, we have covered almost every major city on
the coast and have had many opportunities to share Christ with others,"
The group has seen healings, have reached many individuals and have even
witnessed miracles, according to Hicks.
"We've had a lot of outreach, a lot of young people have been very
receptive," said Hicks. "They're very excited about the Lord and want to
share the Lord," she said.
"We just want to share our message with others," said Batts. "We want them to know and feel the Lord," he said.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - Atilano Arredondo, 77, died Tuesday, May 27 at
Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.
A rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pecos Funeral Home
Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m., on Friday, May 30 at Santa Rosa Catholic
Church with Father Antonio Mena officiating. Burial will be in Mount
He was born Aug. 20, 1919, in Paral Chihuahua, Mexico, was a retired
seismographer, a lifetime Pecos resident and a Catholic.
Survivors include his wife, Antonia Arredondo of Pecos; three sons,
Armando C. and Atilano C. Arredondo of San Angelo, Javier C. Arredondo
of Pecos; four daughters, Aurora C., Eva C. and Mary C. Arredondo of
Pecos, Aida A. Garcia of Pecos; four brothers; two sisters; 20
grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - Services are incomplete for Johnny Fuentez, 43,
who died today at Westwood Hospital in Midland.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - Paz O. Garcia, 53, died Thursday, May 22 in Big
Services were held Monday, May 26 at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with
burial in Mount Evergreen Cemetery.
He was born Jan. 24, 1944, was a former seismograph employee and
National Guard veteran.
He was preceded in death by his parents Albino and Sabina Garcia.
Survivors include four brothers, Fred Garcia of Kermit, Adan, Albino and
Domingo Garcia of Pecos; two sisters, Elodia O. Lujan and Lucy O.
Dominguez of San Antonio.
Martinez Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
PECOS, May 28, 1997 - James H. Nixon, 71, died Friday, May 23 in Pecos.
Graveside services were held Sunday in Clyde Cemetery in Clyde, Tx.,
with Jake Arnold officiating.
He was born Nov. 30, 1925, graduated from Abilene High School and
attended Hardin Simmons University. He served in the Air Force during
World War II, was a retired highway patrolman and a member of the Church
He was preceded in death by his wife, Helen Ross Nixon on Nov. 29, 1996.
Survivors include one son, James L. Nixon; one daughter, Shannon N.
Busby and one grandson, all of Pecos.Ellis Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
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Copyright 1997 by Pecos Enterprise
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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