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for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, May 9, 2008Suspect sought in double murder at W. side bar

The owners of a west side bar were killed sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, and Pecos police are hunting a man described as a “person of interest” in connection with their stabbing deaths.

Rick Cherry, 50, and Alicia “A.J.” Cherry, 48, were found dead Wednesday afternoon inside D.J.’s Round-Up, 1826 W. Third Street. The bodies were found shortly after 4 p.m. by A.J. Cherry’s brother and sister, Fred and Joann Tucker, after they were unable to get in contact with the couple during the day.

“We were called at 4:15 p.m. by a family member who discovered the victims inside the bar and then subsequently called police,” said Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney. “We do know there was a telephone call between Mr. Cherry and another individual at 9:57 p.m., so as of right now we looking at between 9:57 and 4:15 p.m.”

Family members said the bar, located at Third and Clark streets on the west side of Pecos, usually closed around midnight, and believe the stabbings probably occurred either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

McKinney said when officers arrived, “They were both situated in the middle of the room.” He said there was evidence of a struggle and a knife was found at the scene, “But as of yet we don’t know if that was the murder weapon or not.”

McKinney said police are looking for Randall Lee Stephens, who grew up in Pecos, but who has spent most of the past 20 years in state prison in connection with a series of assaults and vehicle thefts. While the police chief declined to officially call Stephens a suspect in the murders, a bulletin was broadcast to law enforcement officials across the state this morning that Stephens could be armed and dangerous.

The passenger side window of A.J. Cherry’s Ford pickup was broken out, and Rick Cherry’s pickup was missing when the Tuckers arrived at the bar. Fred Tucker told investigators the missing vehicle is a 1995 Ford F-350 diesel pickup, gray in color, with Texas license plate 8DF-V60.

“We’d like to have an opportunity to question him,” McKinney said. He said eyewitnesses placed Stephens at D.J.’s Round-Up sometime before 9:57 p.m. on Tuesday.

“All we have right now is we have an incident in the bar with two deceased persons, and that’s why he’s wanted for questioning right now,” the chief said.

He added that with an up to 18 hour gap between the slayings and the discovery of the bodies, officials had a wide area of Texas and surrounding states where the vehicle could have been driven before the first alert was sent out shortly after 6 p.m.

“We do know there was a large amount of fuel in the pickup, in excess of 50 gallons,” McKinney said.

Police spent four hours investigating inside the bar and around the area before Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley was called to pronounce the Cherrys dead at 8:05 p.m. Their bodies were transported from the bar by Pecos Funeral Home, before being sent to El Paso for autopsy, McKinney said.

Police were already investigating a break-in at D.J.’s Round-Up that occurred over the weekend, though Fred Tucker said, “They don’t think it’s related to the break-in.”

“They think it was a robbery,” said Joann Tucker, and McKinney said a wallet was found on the bar and the cash register was open.

“We haven’t determined if any money was taken yet,” he added.

Family members said A.J. Cherry had told them Stephens was seen peeking in the window of the bar last weekend. McKinney said Stephens’ 50th birthday was on Tuesday.

Stephens has had run-ins with the law for over 30 years in Reeves County, and in 1990 was sentenced to 17 years in prison as part of a plea bargain agreement on a charge of burglary of a habitation. The plea was on an original charge of sexual assault for an October 1989 incident, and came after he had been convicted in 23rd District Court in Brazoria County in June of 1986 on a charge of aggravated assault.

Other records in 143rd District Court showed Stephens served two years on a 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.

Funeral services set for RCH physician Darpolor

Funeral services have been set on Saturday for a longtime Pecos physician who was so dedicated to his job that up until two months ago, he was still delivering babies, his specialty, while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Dr. Joseph Darpolor, 50, died April 30 and services for the longtime Pecos doctor will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 10, at the First Baptist Church in Pecos.

Dr. Darpolor was recruited by Reeves County Hospital District in 1994.  He has served on the hospital medical staff since then and served as Vice Chairman of the Medical Staff for several years.  During his 14 years in Pecos he served as the Reeves County Jail doctor, the RCDC physician, served American Home Health and the Pecos Nursing Home patients, and on many occasions was the team doctor for football games, boxing tournaments and many other sporting events. 

Throughout the years he delivered just over 1,000 babies. 

"American Home Health and Pecos Nursing Home Staff are saddened at the loss of Dr. Darpolor", said Nancy Martinez, Marketing Director and the hospital’s former public information director.  “Dr. "D", as we referred to him, came to Pecos while I was working with Reeves County Hospital. He and his family were quickly embraced by the community. He believed in giving back to his community and was always sponsoring events or contributing to various groups. Pecos has lost a wonderful physician, a good friend and community member,” said Martinez.

“He is going to have a big effect on the community here and all the deliveries he did,” said Reeves County Hospital Administrator Al LaRochelle. “He left a lot of patients and we are still trying to find physicians for them.”

LaRochelle said that Dr. Darpolar worked up until the very end.

“He was that dedicated, that throughout his trials and tribulations, he still worked and delivered babies,” said LaRochelle. “He was a truly dedicated physician.”

LaRochelle said that it took a lot of determination and dedication on his part to keep working despite his own obstacles that he was facing.

“The people of Pecos have been absolutely wonderful to our family.  Joe loved Pecos and the community and it was a pleasure for him to be able to serve this community,” said his wife, Fatu Darplor. “He loved his patients and all of the people that he worked with.

“My family is very appreciative and deeply grateful to everyone for their kindness and expressions of comfort they have provided us,” she said. “When we came to Pecos 14 years ago, we never realized that Pecos would become our home away from home.  But, the community embraced us and our children have grown up here and this is where we plan to stay. “

“Our hospital family has very sad halls as we think of our friend and all that we have lost. Not just nurses, but all the hospital employees. “One employee said that he never forgot his grandson, always asked her about Matthew, - he delivered him eight years ago,” said Martinez.

Dr. Orville Cerna said that besides being a great physician, he was a great dad and husband.

“We could all take tips as he raised his children with his beautiful wife, Fatu. He supported our community in so many ways,” he said.

Dr. Ziad Abdo reminded everyone of how lucky we have been to have such a good friend. “He will be missed here for a very long time,” said Dr. Abdo.

“Dr. Darpolor was an excellent physician with a very caring heart and we all loved him,” said Dr. W.J. Bang. “He will be greatly missed by all of us.”

“When Dr. Darpolor walked into RCHD it was not long before he and his family were part of ours. Just what we needed, a wonderful physician who was passionate about his practice of medicine and loved taking care of mama’s and babies,” said RCD Director of Nursing Faye Lease. “His laugh would fill our halls, his smiles would brighten our day, his kindness helped so many of us in so many ways. His laugh was so great that you didn’t have to know what he was laughing at, you just had to laugh too,” she said.

“Delivering babies takes a lot of knowledge – Dr. D was always ready to teach us. “We called him at all hours of the day and night…good thing his family liked us too! Of course his family was part of ours and many a Saturday morning you would see little Koko or Kebbeh tagging along at the hospital while he made rounds,” said Lease.

Dr. Darpolor was born on March 21, 1958, in Lofa County, Liberia, West Africa. He was married to Fatu Darpolor, BSC Nursing and the two had six children: Joseph Darpolor, Jr. 24 years; Korto Darpolor, 19 years; Lisa White, 18; Job Darpolor, 16 years old; Josephine Darpolor, 13 years and JoMaureen Darpolor, 11 years old.

He received his Doctor of Medicine from A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, University of Liberia in Monorovia, Liberia; pre-medicine (3 years) University of Liberia and attended high school at the Lutheran Training Institute, Salayea, Lofa County, in Liberia, West Africa.

Dr. Darpolor had a family practice in Pecos from August 1994-April 2008; family practice/transitional resident, June 1991-June 1994 and internship/OB-GYN resident, from 1985-1990.

PHS teacher urges marrow donor participation

Community members are being encouraged to donate blood and register for the bone marrow program on Monday at Pecos High School.

A blood drive and bone marrow drive will be held from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Monday, at the Pecos High School New Gym, and the organizers of the event are encouraging everyone to come out and participate.

The event is being sponsored by the Pecos High School National Honor Society and the students are excited about the upcoming event.

“They are really excited and looking forward to this event,” said sponsor Tammy Walls.

Walls knows first-hand how it feels to be a bone marrow donor. After being registered for 17 years, she finally received a call to inform her last year that she was a match for someone.

“I registered to be a bone marrow donor when I was a senior in college, because my friend had just been diagnosed with leukemia,” said Walls. “I was living in Dallas and the family asked if they could stay with me, while she underwent treatment.”

Unfortunately, Walls was not a match for her friend and they never found a match for her. “They never did find a match and my friend died,” said Walls.

At that time, Walls signed up and her information was entered into the data base. “And 17 years later they tracked me down.”

She said that when they contacted her they told her she was a match for a 38-year-old man and what kind of leukemia he had.

“They don’t give out any more information during the first year and after that if the two parties want to meet they can,” said Walls.

Walls said that about a month ago, she had received a letter letting her know that the patient had been released from the hospital six weeks after he received the transplant.

“Maybe in a year, we will meet,” said Walls.

She said that there is a desperate need for minorities to participate in the program.

Participants need to be in good health and between 18 and 60 years old.

“All they do is take a swab from the inside of the cheek,” said Walls.

Walls said that the only ones that are excluded are those that have had a heart attack.

The DNA that will be donated on Monday will go to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, and the blood that is donated will go to the United Blood Services.

“Normally, if a minority gets leukemia and they don’t get a match within the family, there’s only a 10 percent chance of a match,” said Walls. “The probability of finding a match is very slim,” she said.

Participants will require a consent form and a saliva swab of the cheek will be taken, which takes about seven to 10 minutes to register.

There is a one time registration and the participant will remain on the register until the age of 61. All expenses are covered; there is absolutely no expense to the donor.

There are three ways to donate and individuals need to donate according to patient’s needs.

Two trips to Cook Children’s Medical Center; one for a complete physical and the one for the actual donation.

There is a 10 percent chance of being found compatible and a 90 percent chance that the participant will never be called because they are looking for a DNA match.

The procedure is outpatient, painless and the donors will reproduce their own marrow in three weeks.

There are three ways to donate: stem cell donation: three-hour procedure, the donor is awake hooked up to an IV, the IV to a machine that separates the White, Red and Stem Cells. They remove the stem cells and return everything else.

Bone Marrow Donation: Extracted from the Pelvic bone with a needle under anesthesia 20-60 minutes long. The donor might experience a little tenderness a few days later, compared to hitting yourself on a corner table.

Cord blood donation (applies to expectant mothers only).

“The kids are very excited, they seem to be inspired and it’s great that they want to be involved,” said Walls.

Walls said that her life has changed since she became a bone marrow donor.

“I would like to someday meet the person I donated the bone marrow to and see how he’s doing,” said Walls.

It’s a gift of life if a participant is a match and if anybody donates blood, which is in big demand at this time, according to the organizers of the event.

“We hope to have a good crowd come out and participate,” said Walls.

Council OKs refinancing note to cut payments on CJC bond

Town of Pecos City Council approved a refinancing of the city’s bond payment on the Pecos Criminal Justice Center that city officials said would save Pecos over $500,000 over the next 12 years.

The council voted for the change due to the recent drop in interest rates, which will reduce payments by $525,000 and cut two years off the repayment schedule for the $5.6 million facility, with the final payment now set for 2020, according to city finance director John Phillip.

Ground was broken in April 2001 and the 96-bed facility was opened in February of the following year. The facility houses both the Pecos Police Department and U.S. Marshal’s Service prisoners, under a contract signed in 2001 that also provided $2.3 million in federal grant funds for the CJC’s construction. However, due to the length of the construction bond repayment and the 8.5 percent interest rate on the bond, the city still owes over $6 million on the $5.6 million facility.

City manager Joseph Torres said the new interest rate for the city will be 4.64 percent, almost 50 percent below the original rate. He added that the deal is pending approval of the bond attorneys and state regulators.

“To us it was a good deal, so do this right now when the interest rates are low,” he said.

Torres added that since the CJC was not financed through a bond election, funding for the payments has come out of revenues from the Marshal’s Service contract. “Whenever you have non-bond debt, you take the money from the Marshal’s contract and use it to pay off the debt,” he said.

The city had been losing money on the CJC after the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Pecos to raise the salaries of jailers to $31,000 in 2003, while the Marshal’s Service refused to adjust its payments to the city. An agreement was reached last year to raise payments by $12 a day per inmate, but Torres said other costs increases have the city looking for a further increase in the rate when the current agreement expires in 2010.

“Within two years we’re going to work on renegotiating for a increase in the per-day cost, because food, fuel and energy costs have all gone up,” he said.

City faces hike in water rates with loan repayment looming

Nelisa Heddin recommended that Pecos City council members stick with their current rate plan for water and sewage rates, during the council’s regular meeting in late April.

Heddin, vice president of Water Resources Management of Austin, gave the council an annual update on its water and sewer operations.

Her company was hired by the council in 2006 to help concoct a long-term water and sewage plan for the city.

This year water rates for in-town residential customers increased to $2.70 for each 1,000 gallons over the initial 2,000 gallons of use – up from $2.58 in 2007.

The current plan holds a rate hike to $2.76 in 2010 and then a big jump to $3.21 in 2011.

The 2011 rate hike coincides with the end of Reeves County’s obligation to pay $422,000 each year toward the loan owed to the Texas Water Development Board.

To bring the South Worsham water field into operation the council cut a deal with Reeves County in 1999 wherein the county agreed to pay the first 10 years of the 20-year, $5.5 million note, starting in 2001, and the city picked up the tab on the last 10 years.

Heddin said that when her company first created Pecos’ current plan the information provided by the city assumed that the annual payments would be $380,000 – with the County paying $422,000 the first ten years. However, the10 yearly payments from 2011 to 2020 are going to be more than were anticipating, she said, leaving the city in a financial hole.

The 20-year payment plan requires ever increasing yearly payments. The first payment in 2001 was for a total of $270,000. The final payment in 2020 will be for $645,000.

While the city has been building up a surplus with the money the county pays over the annual payment actually owed by the city, the surplus will be wiped out by 2012 and the county’s side of the obligation will be over as well, she said.

Heddin said that water and sewage rates would have to go up in the future to cover the payments.

For now, she told council members that she recommended sticking with the current plan in 2008 and then reevaluating next year.

Sewage rates for in-town residents went up in 2008 as well.

According to City Manager Joseph Torres sewage rates are based on water consumption.

“There is no meter on a sewage line,” he said.

In 2007 the city charged an $11/month base rate for the first 1,000 gallons of water used, and then $2.99 per 1,000 gallons over the first.

In 2008 the base rate rose to $13/month but the rate for each addition 1,000 gallons dropped a nickel to $2.94.

According to the city’s current plan, sewage rates will continue to rise through 2011.

Rates in 2011 are scheduled to be $14 for the monthly base rate and $3.93 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

Pecos will be seeing a return on these higher rates as construction of a revamped and improved sewage treatment facility will start in the next few months, according to Torres.

Torres said that the new facility should be online by 2010 and should eliminate most if not all of the sewage smell that coats much of the east side of the city.

Art show winners honored with reception

Over 200 students and parents gathered at the West of the Pecos Museum on May 1 for a reception and awards ceremony for the participants of the 21st Annual West of the Pecos Museum Student Art Festival.

First through sixth grade school students in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD and Balmorhea ISD participated in the annual event.

The theme for this year’s art work was “Why I Am Proud To Be A Texan.”

In the first grade: first place went to Clarissa Millan; second, Jesslyn Jean Lopez and third place, Clarissa Rodriguez. Honorable Mention: Jazlyn Rodriguez, Eileen Overcash and Gisellle Millan.

Second Grade: first place, Chantal Navarrete; second place, Isaiah Garcia and third place, Rodolfo Alaniz. Honorable Mention: Dominic Espudo, Christian Herrera and Martisa Olivares.

Third Grade: Jon Benavides; second place, Marcus Matta and third place, Anahi Acosta. Honorable Mention: Mark Nunez, Aaron Garcia, Jose Negrete.

Fourth Grade: first place, Mikayla Matta; second place, Branden Gonzales and third place, Sam Prewit. Honorable Mention: Bethany Carrasco, Tiffany Marie Holland and Noel Ybarra.

Fifth Grade: first place, Emitera Rodriguez, second place, Abby Salcido and third place, Destiny Carrasco. Honorable Mention: Rowan Vega, Avery Weatherman and Ebony Candelas.

Sixth Grade: first place, Cielo Ornelas; second place, Mercedes Brown and third place, Zachary Gomez. Honorable Mention: Quinten Garcia, Victorian Salcido and Natasha Rodriguez.

Best of Show in the first through third grade category: Clarissa Millan.

Best of Show in the fourth through sixth grade category: Mikayla Matta.

Venue board works out deal for pre-rodeo work

The Pecos Venue Tax Authority Board worked out a tentative agreement with the West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee for getting the Buck Jackson Arena ready for June’s West of the Pecos Rodeo, and elected officers on Tuesday night, during the board’s meeting at the Reeves County Civic Center.

The meeting was the second since the board was created by Reeves County and the Town of Pecos City, almost three years after voters approved the 2 percent venue tax to fund improvements to the Civic Center and Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena. Pecos Mayor and board member Dick Alligood said members elected Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras as chairman, Ken Winkles Jr., as vice-chairman and Frank Sanchez as secretary.

The change in the operational status of the rodeo arena and Civic Center were questioned at the board’s initial meeting. Under state law, the county and city can no longer directly contribute tax dollars towards their maintenance, but Alligood said the board was told that a contract agreement could be worked out to prepare the arena for the rodeo in late June.

“Contracts can be offered for service at a set fee, and that was agreed upon,” he said. “The venue tax committee doesn’t want to use a lot of money in the program, so we will probably offer a $1 contract to the city and county to enter to provide services, if the commissioner’s court and the city council will agree to it.”

He said board members also plan to draw up a form to send out to groups that use either the rodeo arena or the Civic Center. “We want them to fill out what they would like to see in improvements for the rodeo arena and the Civic Center,” Alligood said. A Town Hall meeting sometime next month is also planned, for people to discuss what type of improvements they would like to see in both facilities.

The venue tax was approved after structural problems with the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena due to termite damage forced emergency repairs to be made in 2004. The current arena was built in the late 1930s, while the Civic Center was last expanded in 1986, with the front meeting room section and kitchen added on to the existing facility.

Alligood also said the board was told there are currently $24,000 in venue tax collections from the city’s motels in the authority’s account. “Not all the motels have paid the tax yet,” said Alligood, who added that the board voted to impose a 15 percent late fee on motels that miss the scheduled payment dates, while giving motels a 1 percent discount if their send in the venue tax collections before the deadline.

Local voters to decide city, school races Saturday

Voters in Pecos, Barstow, Toyah, Saragosa and other parts of Reeves and Ward counties will be going to the polls on Saturday to decide two places on the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board, while Pecos voters will also be deciding two seats on the City Council during Saturday’s elections.

Three candidates are vying for two three-year terms on the P-B-T ISD board, with both incumbents seeking to remain on the board. In the city election, both incumbents opted against running for new two-year teams, leaving four newcomers contesting the two available council seats.

Pecos voters will cast ballots in both the city and school election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Pecos Community Center, 510 S. Oak St. Voters outside the city casting ballots in the school election will also be going to the Toyah City Hall and Saragosa Multi-Purpose Center in Reeves County, while P-B-T district voters in Ward County will cast their ballots at the Barstow Community Center.

In the city council race, four individuals are running for two positions that will be open on the council, after current members Michael Benavides and Angelica Valenzuela opted against seeking new two-year terms. The newcomers vying for a position on the council are Bernadette Portillo, Oscar Ramirez, Tom Rivera and Cody West.

Voters will also cast ballots in the race for mayor, where incumbent Richard Alligood is unopposed for a new two-year term.

For the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board, incumbents David Flores and Paul Deishler are being challenged by newcomer Louis Juarez. There are two positions open for the three-year terms on the school board.

The scheduled May 10 election in Pecos for the Reeves County Hospital board was cancelled, because none of the three positions up for election are contested.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.


Erek Rendell Brown, 27, 721 S. Locust St., was arrested by police on April 30 on a warrant out of the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department for a motion to adjudicate on a probation violation. Police said the arrest was made following a traffic stop at Eighth and Mesquite streets, after a records check revealed the outstanding warrant. Brown was placed under arrest and was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Aaron Hernandez, 17, 318 E. Seventh St., was arrested by police on April 29 on a charge of evanding arrest or detention, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at 7:20 p.m. after Hernandez reportedly ran from an officer while in the alley east of the 2200 block of South Hackberry Street. Hernandez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Ricardo Madrid Gomez Jr., 18, was arrested by police on April 29 on a charge of improper use of a turn signal. Police said the arrest was made after Gomez reportedly failed to signal for a turn within 100 feet of the intersection in the 700 block of South Eddy Street. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Esmeralda Espudo, 27, 502 W. ‘F’ St., was arrested by police at her home on warrants charging her with no proof of financial responsibility. Espudo was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Efren Tavarez Venegas, 47, of Presidio, was arrested by police on April 27 on a charge of failure to stop at a designated point. Police said the arrest was made after Venegas stopped his vehicle in the intersection past the stop sign at Elm and ‘F’ streets. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Hector Jose Perez, 30, 1820 Washington St., was arrested by police on April 26 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made after Perez as seen driving without headlights in the 2000 block of Washington Street. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Avelino Chavarria, 32, 916 W. Sixth St., was arrested by police on April 28 at his home on a charge of assault under the Family Violence Act. Police said the arrest was made at Chavarria’s home and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Julian Issac Rayos, 31, 201 S. Clarke St., was arrested by police on April 28 on a charge of assault under the Family Violence Act, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at 511 S. Elm St., after police were called at 1:19 a.m. on a report of a disturbance. Rayos was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Robert Wayne Brooks, 47, of 300 W. County Rd., Apt. 704, was arrested by police on April 25 on a warrant charging him with failure to pay a fine on an earlier charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made at 8:08 p.m. in the 900 block of Raul Florez Boulevard, and Brooks was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Hakim Rashad Capalino, 26, of 300 W. County Rd., Apt. 1203, was arrested by police on April 25 on a warrant charging him with failure to pay a fine on an earlier charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made at 8:45 p.m. at Capalino’s apartment, and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Fernando Garza Lopez, 41, of Houston, was arrested by police on April 26 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made in the 800 block of South Cedar Street, and Lopez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


John M. Flora, 17, of Kermit, was arrested by police on April 26 on a warrant charging him with theft by appropriation, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at the Pecos Animal Clinic on the Balmorhea Highway, and Flora was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

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