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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fair’s cook-off taking entries, other sign-ups start next week

A variety of events are planned in conjunction with the 2008 Fall Fair, which begins next weekend, including the championship barbecue cook-off, for which entries already are being accepted.

A total of 35 camps have entered the cook-off, and individuals still have another week to sign up for the annual event. Deadline to enter the cook-off has been set for 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3, at the KIUN radio offices at 316 S. Cedar St.

The cook-off will consist of pork spare ribs and beef brisket and the entry fee is $50.

A grand champion trophy will be awarded and entries must be in both brisket and pork spare ribs.

The first place winners in both categories will receive 15 percent of the total entry fees; second place will get 10 percent of all entry fees and third place will be five percent of all entry fees.

The cook-off is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 3 and Saturday, Oct 4, at the Reeves County Sheriff’s Posse Arena, located just south of the Posse Barn.

Set-up will be available on Thursday, Oct. 2.

For more information contact Cody West at 445-2497 or the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce at 445-2406.

Entries for other events at the fall fair will be accepted on Tuesday, Sept. 20, from noon until 7 p.m. (Except culinary and herb show items). Judging will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 3. All fair entries will remain in place until Sunday, Oct. 5. They can be picked up between 1-3 p.m.

All unclaimed items will be transported to the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce of Commerce, 111 S. Cedar.

The food show will start with entries being accepted from 7:30-9:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 3. Judging of the food show will begin at 10 a.m.

For the herb show, all cut stems and/or all live pants that will be attached to them must contain the entrant’s name, phone number, division and the name of the item on a 3-by-5 inch card.

The 2008 Reeves County Fall Fair Livestock Show will be held at the Reeves County Civic Center beginning with weigh-in from 4:30-7:30 p.m. next Friday. Judging will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 4.

Quilts will be accepted on Tuesday and all quilters are welcome. Newcomers are welcome and invited to come and show off their homemade items.

Balmorhea centennial events scheduled for this weekend

Balmorhea will be celebrating in a big way this weekend, with three days of activities planned to mark the city’s 100th anniversary.

The Balmorhea Board of Trustees, staff and students along with the City of Balmorhea are inviting everyone to their centennial celebration homecoming, scheduled for Friday through Sunday.

Registration and school tours will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., Friday, Sept. 26, at the Balmorhea ISD school. A pep rally is scheduled at 2:05 p.m., in front of the school, followed by a Homecoming Parade at 3 p.m. and a fundraiser dinner from 5-7 p.m., in the cafeteria.

The Balmorhea-Buena Vista football game will start at 7:30 p.m. and the Balmorhea High School Homecoming Dance at 10:30 p.m., in the cafeteria.

A “Get Together” for all the exes will be held in the old gym from 10:30 p.m. until midnight.

On Saturday, family fun activities will be held in the park downtown, beginning at 9 a.m. and will continue throughout the day. All these events will be sponsored by the City of Balmorhea.

A greased pig contest, competition games (egg throw, gunny sack race, duck race), will be a part of the many activities planned for the day.

A Miss Balmorhea and Little Miss Balmorhea Contest will be held from 6-8 p.m., with practice at 11 a.m. that morning.

The fun will continue with a street dance downtown from 8:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 28, a farewell continental breakfast/cowboy church, will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., at the new Community Center. The event is sponsored by the Balmorhea ISD and the city.

Stephens indicted for capital murder in bar stabbings

Randall Lee Stephens was indicted on Wednesday by a 143rd District Court grand jury for the stabbing deaths in May of the husband and wife owners of a local bar, Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said Thursday.

Stephens, 50, was indicted by Reeves County grand jurors on two counts of capital murder in connection with the deaths of Richard and Alicia (A.J.) Cherry on May 6,2008 inside D.J.’s Round-Up, the bar on West Third Street the couple owned. Bond was then denied for Stephens by 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks, and he will remain in custody at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

“I can confirm that Stephens was indicted by the Reeves County Grand Jury and that the state filed a request for the court to deny bond. The court did deny bond because of the charge and facts,” District Attorney Randy Reynolds said on Thursday in Monahans, where he was preparing for a session of the Ward County grand jury.

A copy of the indictment was not available as of early Thursday afternoon, pending serving of the charges on Stephens by Reeves County sheriff’s deputies, but McKinney said Stephens could face either life in prison or the death penalty if his is convicted on the charges.

He said the case remains under investigation, but added that they had gathered enough evidence to present it to the current grand jury, whose term is scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

“We’re still working the case, but not to the degree we were several months ago,” McKinney said. “We felt like we had put together a case that contained enough probable cause to present to the grand jury to ask for an indictment.”

Reynolds said he could not speculate on how long it would be before Stephens might go to trial on the capital murder charges, while McKinney said an attorney has not yet been retained or appointed for Stephens.

The bodies of the Cherrys were found on the afternoon of May 7 by Fred and Jo Ann Tucker, A.J. Cherry’s brother and sister. Preliminary autopsy results showed the couple died from multiple stab wounds, with the deaths believed to have occurred between 10 p.m. and midnight on May 6.

Police believe after stabbing the Cherrys, Stephens stole Rick Cherry’s 1995 Ford F-350 pickup, which was discovered the morning of May 11 by a U.S. Border Patrol agent abandoned on Interstate 25 between Truth or Consequences and Socorro, N.M., about 375 miles northwest of Pecos.

Stephens already is facing trial on Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court in Pecos on federal charges of failing to register as a sex offender after returning to Reeves County in April.

Police originally filed that as a local charge on the failure to register as a sex offender against Stephens, and the upgrading of the charge allowed U.S. Marshals to return him to Pecos in early July.

Stephens was arrested on June 3 in Loxley, Ala., by an officer who questioned him and two other transients at an Interstate 10 truck stop. A records check turned up the warrant against Stephens.

McKinney, Reynolds, Police Capt. Kelly Davis and DA investigator Gerry Villalobos questioned Stephens in Alabama following his arrest. On June 5, McKinney said “After the interview with Mr. Stephens, he did give us a written and taped confession concerning the murder.”

Stephens, who turned 50 on May 6, grew up in Pecos, but had spent most of the past 30 years in prison. He had just been released in September of 2007 after serving 17 years as part of a plea bargain agreement on a 1989 charge of burglary of a habitation. The plea was on an original charge of sexual assault for an October 1989 incident involving a 25-year-old woman, and came after he had been convicted in 23rd District Court in Brazoria County in June of 1986 on a charge of aggravated assault.

Stephens also has had previous arrests locally on vehicle theft charges. Records in 143rd District Court showed Stephens served two years on an April 1978 plea deal for theft over $200 and under $10,000 for stealing a vehicle. At the time of that plea, a 1978 charge of attempted aggravated rape was dismissed in 143rd District Court. In July of 1980, Stephens pled guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, in connection with another vehicle theft.

McKinney said following Wednesday’s action by the grand jury, police met with the families of the Cherrys. “We met with them yesterday afternoon and just gave them an update of where the case is and to keep them informed of what’s transpired and what’s going on in the case.”

T-NMP says planned rate hike’s effects overstated

Reports of sharp rate increases being sought by Texas New Mexico Power Co., have overstated the effect they would have on consumer, business customers and the Town of Pecos City, according to a spokesman for the company.

Town of Pecos City Council members on Sept. 11 voted to join an action by the Association of Texas Municipalities (ATM), asked for a 90-day delay in the effective date of T-NMP’s rate increase. The group’s resolution says that local governments and residents in those cities have not had time to review the proposal.

“What they’re asking for is a 23 percent increase in residential rates,” city manager Joseph Torres said during the meeting. “When you look at small commercial and street lighting, you’re looking at increases of more than 78 percent. The City of Marfa recently stopped paying for street lights, because they can’t afford it.”

The resolution noted that the planned increases are 28.3 percent for residential, 82.9 percent for small commercial businesses, and 78.5 percent for street lights, and said T-NMP’s 11.25 percent return on equity was “unusually high.”

However, Jim Cosper, director of transmission and distribution operations for the company in Central and West Texas, said the increase would only cover T-NMP’s operational costs for its area infrastructure, and wasn’t related to the direct cost of fuel needed by the company to produce electricity.

“This is for our poles and wires,” he said, adding that the fee represents less than one-fifth of the total monthly utility bill.

“That rate increase of 23 percent on the residential side would only represent 18.6 percent of the bill,” Cosper said on Thursday. “The retail energy providers get about 80 percent of that bill. We only get 18 percent of the bill, so the increase would only come to about $4.95 a month on a $100 bill, not $23.”

A press released dated Sept. 2 sent out by the company said for a residential customer using 1,000-kilowatt hours a month, the transmission and distribution cost would increase from $30.36 to $35.31.

“Small commercial folks will see a pretty good increase, but we’re only getting 188.6 percent of the bill,” Cosper said. The press release said the bill for commercial users would increase from $20 to $34 a month for every 400 kwh of usage.

“This is the first time we’ve asked for an increase in five years,” Cosper said. “The rates have gone down since we were sold to PNM (the Albuquerque, N.M.-based utility that bought T-NMP in 2005). We’re just getting them back to where they need to be.”

Neal Walker, T-NMP’s vice-president for Texas operations said, “We believe this is a fair and reasonable request of state regulators and our customers, considering the rising cost of fuel, poles, wires and other basic construction materials. We continue to be committed to running our business as efficiently as possible.”

Cosper said he could not talk to city officials about the increase right now, because the city already has joined in the ATM action and has legal representation. Herrera & Boyle PLLC of Austin will represent the cities in their request for a delay before the Texas Public Utility Commission, and the resolution asks that T-NMP will reimburse the cities for the reasonable rate expenses.

He added that even if the Texas Public Utility Commission approves the increase, customers are unlikely to see any increase in their rates until next summer. “Customers with locked-in (rate) agreements won’t see an increase until their contract is up,” Cosper said.

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