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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Murder suspect in jail after high speed chase

A San Benito man suspected in the murder of his wife in San Antonio and the carjacking and stabbing of a man in Marfa was arrested by Texas Rangers near Odessa on Thursday night and remains in jail in Odessa, after a high speed chance that began following a traffic stop on the west side of Pecos.

David Garza, 30, is suspected in the death of his wife, Julie Garza, whose body was found in the bathtub of a mobile home she was staying in on Sunday, July 9; according to the San Antonio TV station KENS. The couple originally is from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but Julie Garza was living in San Antonio with the couple’s two children at the time the slaying occurred.

Garza was being sought for questioning in the death of his 36-year-old wife and had reportedly taken his mother-in-law's vehicle, which was discovered crashed off a cliff on State Highway 118 in Jeff Davis County on Wednesday. He is then accused of stealing the vehicle of a man who picked up Garza while he was hitchhiking Thursday afternoon near Valentine, south of where the vehicle was found.

It was the gray Chevrolet Trail Blazer that Garza allegedly hijacked after being driven to Marfa that DPS Cpt. Emmit Moore spotted traveling north on State Highway 17 near the I-20 overpass in Pecos, 95 miles north of where the incident occurred. The owner of the SUV, Billy Massie was stabbed multiple times during the carjacking, but was able to give officers in Marfa the description of the vehicle, which was then broadcast to area law enforcement departments.

Moore stopped the vehicle at 8:51 p.m. at the Intersection of Highway 17 and Business I-20 (West Third Street) on the west side of town and ordered Garza to leave the vehicle. He refused and motioned for Moore to come over, according to the DPS incident report. When he did, Garza gunned the vehicle and took off, traveling east on Third Street through town and then through Barstow and back to I-20 at speeds of up to 90 mph.

The report said Garza remained on the north service road at the Exit 52 interchange, and then was able to avoid tire deflation spikes set out by DPS trooper Christopher Ryan at the Frontage Road (mile marker 58) exit on I-20. The vehicle then got back on I-20 and was able to avoid spikes set out at mile marker 71 near Wickett and mile marker 80 in Monahans, where Garza reported drove into the westbound lanes of the highway to avoid the spikes set out by Ward County sheriff’s deputies and Monahans police, before the SUV crossed back over the median and continued to head east.

Garza avoided one more set of spikes, at mile marker 106 near Penwell, before finally running over spikes set out by the DPS and Ector County sheriff’s deputies at mile marker 109, near the Ross Avenue/Meteor Crater Road exit. The DPS said he then pulled the vehicle over to the south side barrow ditch between I-20 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks and got out of the vehicle for a moment. When he attempted to get back in, Texas Ranger Sgt. Jess Malone shot out the tires on the vehicle to keep Garza from moving it any further.

The DPS said Garza then pulled out a wallet and held it in the manner of a gun, but remained in the vehicle. Malone then began negotiations with Garza to surrender, but when Garza again tried to start the SUV the Ranger fired several rounds into the engine from his .223 caliber rifle. Malone then continued to talk to Garza, who finally did surrender to the Ranger and other law enforcement authorities at the scene.

Garza was transported first to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, and then to the Ector County Jail, where he remained as of Monday morning. Police from San Antonio went to Odessa on Friday to talk to Garza, who was sought for questioning, but had not had a warrant issued in connection with his wife’s murder at the time of Thursday’s incident. In addition to the possibly murder charge, he faces aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and carjacking charges out of Presidio County, along with fleeing from a peace officer in Reeves County.

Massie is an Alpine resident, who is in charge of the Federal Land Bank in Marfa, according to the Big Bend Sentinel. He reportedly was stabbed while in an argument with Garza, after the vehicle had turned off U.S. 90 and onto a dead-end street in town.

Presidio County Deputy Raul Macias said Massie was transported to a hospital in El Paso for treatment of his stab wounds, and will be fully interviewed by deputies at a later date. “Right now it remains under investigation,” Macias said, adding that the department does plan to seek Garza’s extradition to Marfa to face charges for Massie’s stabbing.

City optimistic about resolving CJC cash woes

Town of Pecos City officials are hopeful that a four-day trip to Washington D.C. last week will help solve the city’s contract problems with the U.S. Marshal’s Service at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center. But they’re still unsure on how long it may take to resolve the costly situation, and were scheduled to discuss it further on Monday in a conference call with aides to Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman Henry Bonilla.

City manager Joseph Torres, finance director Sam Contreras and police chief Clay McKinney discussed the CJC problem with Bonilla, Cornyn, their aides and aides to Texas’ other Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, during their visit to Washington. The group is trying to resolve a problem involving the Marshal’s Service and the U.S. Department of Labor that has left Pecos with a shortfall of over $1 million in the current deal to house up to 96 prisoners at the CJC.

“We haven’t received any per diem increase to help us with the per diem man day rate,” Torres said on Friday. “That’s why we visited with the senator and Congressman Bonilla.” “We didn’t go up there with lawyers. We didn’t go up there to be confrontational. We went there as petitioners and brought them the figures to show why we were asking for their help,” he said.

The city built the CJC four years ago, under an agreement with the Marshal’s Service to house inmates awaiting trial or sentencing in U.S. District Court. However, less than a year after the 10-year contract took effect, a ruling from the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor’s Employee Standards Administration ordered the city to raise the starting pay for jailers at the CJC to over $31,500, matching the rate paid by Reeves County to guards at the Reeves County Detention Center units I and II, which house U.S. Bureau of Prison inmates.

The increase led the city to also increase the pay scales for police officers and other city employees, to keep them in line with the jailers’ new salaries. But at the same time, the Marshal’s Service balked at adjusting the rate they were paying Pecos to house the inmates at the CJC. The ruling resulted in the city owing just under $415,000 in back pay to CJC guards, and has left the city with a $433,000 deficit each of the past two years due to the salaries ordered by the DOL and the compensation offered by the Marshal’s Service. Torres said they asked officials with Bonilla’s office and both senators to help them get the DOL and the Marshal’s Service’s parent agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, to get together and work out a solution to the problem.

“In August it will be two years, and they haven’t responded. Meanwhile, we’ve been paying out the wages mandated and 25 percent of the back pay,” Torres said.

He added that the city was looking at two options to solve the problem; either an increase in the man-day rate from the $45 level currently offered by the Marshal’s Service, or a lump sum payment to cover the pay shortfall issues, while the man-day payment remains at a lower rate.

“It still depends on sitting down with the Marshal’s Service and hashing this one out,” Torres said.

John Wyatt, an aide to Sen. Cornyn, has talked with the agencies about the problem, and forwarded a copy of a June 9 letter he received from Cynthia C. Watson, administrator of the DOL’s Dallas office, in which they said the problem had been forwarded to Patricia Davidson, administrator of the DOL’s Albuquerque office.

Torres said they were hoping to make progress on the issue during a conference call on Monday.

“Chief McKinney will be the point man with the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor,” he said. “We hope within 2-3 weeks, we’ll have something finalized.”

Red Bluff to pay $78,000 for brush removal

Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members agreed to spend $78,000 to help fund a plan to remove dead brush along the Pecos River, during their regular monthly meeting held on July 11 at the district’s office in Pecos.

The board agreed to spend $75,000 at the request of the Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District an the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help with plans to clear dead brush and trees from the river that have been killed off over the past seven years as part of the salt cedar eradication project.

Arnold Braden with the UPSWCD said they were seeking $150,000 for the project, and were hoping to get the remaining $75,000 from the seven sub-districts that receive water from Red Bluff Lake and the Pecos River. However, he said the status of the program would depend on matching funding action by the Texas Legislature.

“We will finds out when the legislature meets in the winter,” he said, adding that if approved, the project could be extended over a two-year period.

“You’ll probably have more of a likelihood of participating if it is stretched out, instead of asking (districts) for a lump some,” said Red Bluff managing director Randal Hartman. The removal of the trees is sought in order to avoid the possibility that a future flooding situation could uproot the dead trees along the river and send them downstream, damaging bridges and dams in the process. Braden said the Texas Forest Service was supposed to help with the project last year, but was unable to due to other priorities, such as the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

“We had a test burn set up last year, but they haven’t ever done it, so we don’t know how much per mile it’s going to cost,” he said. Braden added that the Forest Service wanted $3,000 to conduct the test burn, which the district also agreed to finance.

“I don’t have any problem with us paying the whole $3,000 if it’s going to work,” said board member Jay Lee.

“They’re working to do it with back packs, while I think the helotorch would be a lot more effective cost resolution,” Braden said. Burning off the brush using helicopter-mounted flamethrowers was discussed two years ago, when a trial patch of trees north of Barstow Dam was burned off.

In other action, the board discussed doing work around Imperial Reservoir, as requested by Pecos County Water Improvement District No. 2, discussed plans for constructing a new home at Red Bluff Lake for district employee Tommy Mosley, and discussed adding additional portable toilets at the lake, due to an increase in the number of visitors.

“There’s nowhere up there to go,” said board member Ava Gerke, who said people who have been taking longer trips in the past to use their boats or jet skis on lakes have been opting for Red Bluff this year, due to the high cost of gasoline.

“Three of my nurses have boats. They go up there because it doesn’t cost as much as going to San Angelo,” said Gerke, who supervises nurses for American Home Health. Red Bluff also has been at its highest summer levels in a number of years, despite the area’s current drought, with the lake still at 94,000 acre/feet at the beginning of July.

“We’ve had a lot more people up there this summer than we’ve had in a long time,” said district secretary Robin Prewit, who told the board she’s gotten calls asking for improved rest room facilities at the lake.

Hartman said the installation of a fence at Imperial Reservoir and the removal of brush was made at the request of Pecos County WID No. 2. “They asked me to look into the fence and road,” he said, adding that Pecos County WID No. 3 had said they would do t he work a few years ago, but failed to follow through.

“There are no fences around the inlets or gates, and we need to get it done,” Hartman said. He added that the district has received a letter from Ronnie Cooper of Pecos County WID 3 requesting permission to do the work, but said he’d rather go with an outside company.

“We need to get a private contractor,” Hartman said. “We will get it down at a reasonable price.”

The house for Mosley would replace his current home at the lake, which has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer worth rehabilitating. Board members discussed the possibility of building a new home on-site, or bringing in a mobile home or a pre-fabricated home to be set up at the lake.

Pecos’ tax rebate check up 26.4 percent in July

Sales tax collections in May for the Town of Pecos City continued their sharp increase due to the booming oil and gas industry in the area, according to July tax rebate numbers released on Friday by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office.

The city’s July check, based on is 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax collected during May, showed an increase of 26.4 percent over the same period last year. The city got a check for $85,226, compared to last July’s $67,427. Of this month’s total, one sixth, or $14,204, goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations. Last year’s rebate checks for the city were up 10 percent over 2004’s numbers, and so far through seven months of 2006, Pecos’ tax rebate checks have brought in $570,052, which is up 15.73 percent from last year’s $492,567.

Tax rebates for the month in Balmorhea were also up double-digits, while Toyah was down by over a third compared to a year ago. But for all of 2006, Toyah’s rebate checks are up by more than 20 percent, according to the comptroller’s office.

Balmorhea’s 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s sales tax brought it $1,037, up 19.44 percent from last July’ $868 check. Overall, Balmorhea has gotten $9,532 this year, which is 19.42 percent higher than a year ago.

Toyah’s check this month came to $258, down 35.5 percent from the $400 check it received last July. For all of 2006, Toyah’s gotten $2,816 back from Austin, a 20.1 percent increase.

Reeves County Hospital District also saw its check from the comptroller’s office increase again in July. The hospital’s 1/2-cent sales tax brought in $38,197 this month, up 21.76 percent from last year’s $31,370, and for all of 2006, the hospital has received $290,079, which is up 47 percent from last year’s seven-month total of $197,302.

The local increases were mirrored across the region, as higher oil and natural gas prices have hurt consumers, but have sharply increased spending by oil related businesses and the number of jobs connected with the industry in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos region. Midland’s $2.32 million check on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax for July was up 32.83 percent from last year’s $1.75 million, while Odessa’s $1.63 million check on its 1 1/4-cent sales tax was up 30.23 percent from the $1.25 million check it received a year ago.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received $82,715 this month, an increase of 28.5 percent from a year ago; Crane received a check for $50,849, up 136 percent from last year; Lamesa got $71,185 back from the comptroller’s office, which was up 12.9 percent; while Seminole received a check from Austin for $65,337, which was up 10.3 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $51,806 in their rebate check, up 137.8 percent; Pyote received a check for $206, which was up 77.8 percent ; Wickett received a $7,133 check, up 36.7 percent, and Wink received a check for $4,440, which was down 7.6 percent.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews’ check for $180,172 was up 158.7 percent from last July, due in part to an increase of 3/4-cent in the city’s sales tax since 2005. Marfa got a check for $17,074, which was up by 24.1 percent; while Van Horn got a check for $32,261, which was up by 28.8 percent from 2005.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Big Spring received $383,065, an increase of 21.7 percent; Fort Stockton received $139,031, up 20.8 percent; Monahans received a check for $115,005, which was up 53.8 percent from last year; Grandfalls got a $1,541 check, up 13.7 percent; and Presidio received $28,439, up 43.9 percent.

Statewide, Strayhorn’s office sent out May rebate checks totaling $344.4 million, up 10.20 percent from $312.5 million last year.

Houston’s $34.9 million check was again the largest one sent out, and was 26.5 percent higher than a year ago. Dallas’ check was next, at $16.8 million, which was up by 13.88 percent from last July.

Growers say ‘06 cantaloupe harvest going well

The harvest season for Pecos Cantaloupes is entering its third week, and this year’s harvest sweeter than ever, according to the growers of the popular product.

“Everything is coming along great, it’s in full swing right now,” said Clay Taylor, manager of the Pecos Cantaloupe Company, the largest producer of cantaloupes in the Trans-Pecos area.

Taylor said that the packing is coming along good as well and that they are busy shipping the famous cantaloupe all over the state. The company currently has 74 people employed in sorting, packing and shipping the melons from the company’s shed on the Balmorhea Highway.

“We haven’t had any rain out there and we don’t want any right now,” said Taylor.

The group has already sent cantaloupe shipments out to Blue Bell Ice Cream in Brenham to make their delicious cantaloupe ice cream. The cantaloupes will be available during the Annual Night in Old Pecos/Cantaloupe Festival scheduled for Saturday, July 29.

“We’ll have plenty of cantaloupe for the festival, “said Taylor.

The prices on the cantaloupe are the same as in previous years and gift packs are available.

“We have different prices on the gift packs and we do the shipping,” said Taylor.

For more information on the famous cantaloupes or to order a gift pack, call 445-2123 and ask for the gift pack department.

Cordova a candidate for State Student of the Year

Lucas Cordova, of Pecos, has been selected as an Official State Candidate Finalist for the 2006 Texas Student of the Year Scholarship and Recognition Program.

The 2006 State program will be held at the beautiful Houston Airport Marriott on July 14-16, the weekend will be filled with fun, friendship, rehearsals, awards, recognitions and candidates “getting acquainted party.” All state candidates will be able to display their personality, intelligence, school honors, special development, and creativity abilities at the state program.

Candidates were chosen originally from information received at the State Program Headquarters through one of several ways: primarily through public announcement of achievement, participation in various activities, teachers and from past candidates.

The program also has an enthusiastic staff that is very much aware of a variety of youth-oriented activities and events which take place throughout the state, and they continually receive requests for applications to be sent to best friends, neighbors, granddaughters, grandsons and etc.

Through this program, students are eligible for over $20,000 in cash Scholarship, awards and prizes.

Over 450 awards will be handed out. The Student of the Year State Winner will each receive $2,000 cash scholarship and their school $500 cash, along with numerous other prizes.

Cordova is the son of Efren V. Cordova and Criselda Cordova.

Harper, Brownlee exchange wedding vows

Rebecca Jo Harper married Bryan Paul Brownlee during a 6 p.m., wedding held Saturday, July 15, at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation. The double ring ceremony was officiated by the Harper family’s pastor, the Reverend Fredrick C. Philputt.

The bride was escorted to the altar by her father and given in marriage by both of her parents.

Harper is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph K. Harper, Jr. of Dallas. She is the granddaughter of Mrs. Marion H. Burley of Monticello, S.C. and the late Mr. Burley and the late Mr. and Mrs. Joe K. Harper, Sr.

The groom, Mr. Bryan Paul Brownlee, is the son of Mr. James R. Brownlee of Pecos and Ms. Jo Bryan Brownlee of Midland and the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Brownlee, Jr. of Pecos and Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bryan of Odessa.

The bride wore a strapless satin A-line wedding gown featuring beading on a tuffed bodice. The two inch band of beading around the front top of the dress continued around the back and split, falling into a cathedral train with the beaded band flowing down each side, continuing around the entire hemline of her gown. The design of the beading centered on the train mirrored that on the front bodice. She carried a nosegay of mixed green, pink and peach roses with green hydrangeas and blush-colored calla lilies into which a hankerchief from her late great-grandmother was tucked.

The pearl necklace that she wore was her mother’s , given as a wedding gift in 1964 by her father when they married 42 years ago. She also wore her sister’s veil from 1995 which was adapted by her mother to fit a rhinestone and pearl headband.

Rebecca’s sister, Mrs. Beth Harper Boughton served as matron of honor. Her bridesmaids were sister-in-law, Mrs. Kristi Harper and friends, Mrs. Crystal Edwards, Mrs. Suzette Lontchar and Mrs. Lucy McClung.

All six of the bride’s nieces and nephews were in the wedding - serving as flower girls were Abby and Sophia Boughton and Sarah Jane Harper. Their ringbearers were John and William Boughton and Luke Harper.

James Robert Brownlee, the groom’s father, was Bryan’s best man. His groomsmen were brother, Jeffery S. Brownlee; brothers-in-law, J. Henn Harper, III and Newell E. Boughton, III and friends of the couple, Christopher D. Edwards. Family friends who served as ushers were Newell E. Boughton, Jr., Dr. Malcolm D. Cameron and B. Patrick Shaw.

Following the wedding, a reception was held at the Tower Club in downtown Dallas on the 48th floor of Thanksgiving Tower.

The bride is a 1998 cum laude graduate of Centenary College of Louisiana and is Specialty Leasing Manager for Valley View Mall with the Macerich Company in Dallas.

The groom earned his master degree in accounting from Texas Tech University in 2002 and obtained his CPA license shortly thereafter. He is a corporate auditor for the Centex Corp. in Dallas.

Following their honeymoon to Ocho Rio, Jamaica, the couple will reside in Plano.

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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