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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

0n SUV found in Barstow linked to murder probe

An SUV parked outside a Barstow home was seized by local law enforcement officials Monday afternoon, in connection with the murder of a man near Fort Stockton late Wednesday night.

Alfonzo Gomez Quiroz, 29, was arrested on Thursday in connection with the shooting death of Jesus Abdiel Garcia, 24. His body was found shortly after midnight on Thursday in a vehicle parked south of Fort Stockton on Davis Road. Garcia had suffered a single bullet wound to the head, according to the Pecos County Sheriff’s Department. His body was sent to the Lubbock County Medical examiner’s office for autopsy.

Quiroz was arrested later on Thursday on charges of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. His bond was set at $600,000 and he remains in Pecos County Jail in Fort Stockton.

The vehicle impounded by Ward County Sheriff’s deputies Monday afternoon was a black Chevrolet Trail Blazer. It was parked in front of a home at the corner of Rio Grande and Briggs streets in Barstow. B&B Wrecker was called to the scene to remove the vehicle, but deputies said they had no other information about how the SUV was connected to Wednesday’s murder.

The main part of the Barstow investigation is being handled by Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski out of the DPS’s Fort Stockton office. Burzynski was in Monahans at press time on Monday as the vehicle was being removed from in front of the home, and was not available for comment.

Fort Stockton cyclist dies from injuries in accident

A Fort Stockton man died on Sunday in a hospital in Lubbock, one week after he was injured in a motorcycle accident on U.S. 285 just south of Pecos, and the driver of a pickup involved in the incident now faces intoxication manslaughter charges.

Jose Manuel Sarabia Jr., died at University Medical Center in Lubbock, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Cletus Tapp, who investigated the May 13 accident, in which Sarabia’s motorcycle was struck by a pick-up traveling towards Fort Stockton, while Sarabia headed towards Pecos on his way to Carlsbad, N.M. on U.S. 285.

Tapp’s original report said Chabarria was on his way to work in Carlsbad, shortly before 9 p.m. on Sunday when the accident occurred, just south of U.S. 285 intersection with County Road 116 (East County Road). Sarabia’s motorcycle was struck by a red Dodge pickup, driven by Jason Sanchez Chabarria of Pecos, causing it to leave the road on the west side of U.S. 285 and flip, throwing Sarabia into the barrow ditch.

The motorcyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, but suffered a severe compound fracture to his right leg. He was transported by Pecos EMS attendants first to Reeves County Hospital, and was transported by air ambulance a short time later for treatment of his severe injuries. Doctors were forced to amputate his leg two days following the accident, but he died from the effects of the crash on Sunday.

Tapp said the exact cause of Sarabia’s death was not known, but that it would increase the charge against Chabarria from driving while intoxicated to intoxication manslaughter. Tapp said Chabarria “was highly intoxicated” and was traveling from Pecos to his job with an oilfield company in Fort Stockton when the accident occurred. He stopped his pickup about two-tenths of a mile south of the crash site, and called 911 after the accident.

“He is out on bond, and right now we’re attempting to make contact with him,” Tapp said.

Tornado warnings better 20 years after Saragosa

Updated emergency management equipment, more training and other weather -related items have been added, since a tornado devastated the small community of Saragosa 20 years ago.

The May 22, 1987 twister hit the Saragosa Community Center just before sunset, and during Head Start graduation ceremonies for children in the program that served southern Reeves County.

“They actually were warned, but many didn’t hear it or were already at the graduation ceremony by then,” said Reeves County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Herrera. Herrera said of the 30 people who died when the tornado hit, 22 of them were those attending the ceremony.

“The report shows that 22 of them were at that graduation, but that none of the four-five year olds that were graduating that day died in the tornado,” he said.

Herrera said that the group had assembled to see the young ones graduate and that someone ran in yelling for them to get out, warning them that a tornado was coming.

The tornado hit Saragosa at about 8:30 p.m. and the weather service had issued a warning for Southern Reeves County until about 7:54 p.m.

“There was a leeway of about 20 minutes, for people to take shelter and there were some that did,” said Herrera.

The tornado touched down near a curve on FM 1215 to the southwest of town and traveled northeast, striking the center of the small community and leaving all but a small section on the west side of Saragosa completely destroyed.

“Twenty-two people died at the ceremony and if you look at the report, there were eight that died in the (Saragosa) community,” said Herrera. “The report indicates that three were in a mobile home, one in a vehicle and the others in structural homes.”

Herrera said that some individuals who listened to the weather alert had time to seek shelter. “And actually there were some in a trailer home, who tried to seek shelter at their neighbor’s house, but they were not home and the house was locked, so they went back to their trailer,” he said.

“I think there’s some lessons to be learned,” said Herrera.

Communications, including cell phones and weather reports available over the Internet, are in place today to better inform citizens that a tornado is approaching. Herrera said that the biggest benefit that Reeves County residents have today is the NOAA weather radio channel which began broadcasting last year.

“It’s a 24-hour system that puts out forecasts and any warnings or watches within the whole region, Ward, Loving, Jeff Davis and Reeves County, are included,” said Herrera. Herrera said that he wasn’t sure how the weather spotter system was set up back then, but now we have weather spotters in Reeves County, Saragosa, Balmorhea, Toyahvale, Toyah, Orla and in Coyanosa, which is on the Reeves-Pecos County line.

“Our weather spotter programs are better set up now,” said Herrera.

Since 1987, tornado sirens have been installed and now other ways have been implemented in Saragosa,” he said. “Also since then, they put in the new community center in Saragosa an underground shelter where people in the community can go to.”

“They didn’t have sirens back then or weather radio, but there were announcements on KIUN (radio station) and on television,” said Herrera.

Also back then, Herrera said, “A lot of people in Saragosa were Spanish-speaking people who were watching the Spanish channel and they would not broadcast local weather reports back then, now they do,” he said.

“Now, we have cell phones and I communicate with the weather service in Midland regularly and they call me if there is a severe weather warning,” said Herrera. “We also have e-mail and they e-mail those warnings to us,” he said.

Herrera said that people also are more aware now of severe weather in the area.

“A lot of people think that because we are in a depression, (a deep hole), that we can’t be hit by a tornado and I’m sure that’s what the people in Saragosa thought,” he said.

Herrera said that that is why when there is severe weather that they should cancel occasions where there will be a large group of people.

Herrera said that they also have more training and more weather spotters out in the community.

“We just have a lot more to rely on now than we did 20 years ago,” said Herrera.

Celebration turned tragic for deputy who lost wife, son

What should have been a happy occasion turned out to be one man’s worst nightmare, as two of his loved ones were among the 30 people killed when a tornado hit Saragosa, devastating the little town 20 years ago on Tuesday.

Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy Lionel Garza said that the day started out as a happy occasion, looking forward to the graduation ceremony for his two daughters from the Saragosa Head Start program.

“I was working at the Reeves County Detention Center at that time and two of my daughters were participating in the graduation ceremonies,” said Garza.

While severe storms had been reported in southern Reeves County for several hours before the graduation ceremony began, Garcia said that they had no idea that a tornado was about to hit the Saragosa Community Center, where over two-thirds of the fatalities occurred. “All I remember is a guy running in and yelling to everybody that a tornado was coming,” said Garza.

He said that at first the man didn’t say anything, just went up on stage, grabbed his child and when he started running back out is when he started yelling at everybody to get out of there, because a tornado was coming.

“At that time, we grabbed our own kids and held hands, trying to make it to the front entrance,” said Garza.

Garza said that he and his mom, his wife and children all held hands and headed to the front door. “We didn’t have a plan at all, just to run out of there,” he said.

Garza said that as they were heading to the front door, everybody else was doing the same. “Some other people ran into us and somehow we became separated,” he said. “They took my wife in the crowd and I was separated from her and my kids.”

Garza said that at this time, his mom was still holding on to him and he told his brother to take his mom and run out the door and take her to safety. “I told them I had to go back and look for my family,” said Garza.

Garza went back and looked for his family, but at that time there was a loud blast. “I thought I had spotted them under a table, but then everything happened so fast, there was a blast and I was knocked down,” he said.

“All I heard was the wind rustling in, really loud,” said Garza.

Garza said that a lot of people were just laying flat and that was what he was doing. “I heard the wind blowing and walls coming down and falling on us,” he said. “We heard some pounding and after that I passed out.”

As he was lying there, Garza said that he could hear people praying and crying. “When all this was going on, I still didn’t find my kids,” said Garza.

Garza said that the next thing he knew, they were using air bags to remove debris and take him out of the building.

“I kept telling them to please look for my wife and kids, that I had to look for them,” he said.

Garza said that they put him in an ambulance and told him that he would be transported to the Fort Stockton hospital, because Reeves County Hospital was full.

“I got down and told them that I didn’t want to go to Fort Stockton, because I had to look for my family,” said Garza.

Garza said that he got a ride to the Reeves County Hospital and that a nurse asked him if he could identify his children.

“At that time, I knew one of them was there and I asked my nephew to go and check and see if it was my son, because they said that they thought it might be him,” said Garza.

Garza said that he was too upset to go to the room and see if it was his son. “I couldn’t do it, so I sent him in there and when he came back, I knew that it was him and that he had died, because my nephew couldn’t look me in the eyes,” said Garza.

“I did go in and saw my son laying there,” said Garza.

Garza lost both his one-year old son, Lionel Garza Jr. and his wife, Irma, that day.

“My uncle and aunt, asked me if I was alright and I told them yes, but that my son was dead,” said Garza.

His next trip was to the Pecos Funeral Home. “I was told that there were some people that were taken to that funeral home and that my wife might be one of them,” said Garza.

“I can’t remember when I found my daughters, but at the funeral home, they gave me some of my wife’s belongings and I knew it was her,” said Garza. “As soon as they handed me her wedding rings and other jewelry, I knew she was dead.”

His two daughters, that were graduating that day from Head Start both survived. Now in their mid-20s, they both live in Alpine.

Garza said that if they had the emergency equipment that they have today, more people could have been saved that day. “Maybe an underground basement or something, but there was really no warning and everything happened so fast,” he said.

Tornado sirens and a basement shelter were added to Saragosa and its new community center following the disaster, while a new Catholic Church was erected on the site of the former community center.

Current area weather patterns raising odds of severe storms

The tornado struck an area where tornadoes normally aren’t found and were people weren’t expecting one to strike, and the effects on the area and loss of life were devastating when it hit 20 years ago.

The area was Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

A total of 27 people died in the July 31, 1987 tornado, which struck over 300 miles north of the U.S. border, an even more unlikely place for a tornado than Saragosa in the shadow of the Davis Mountains, where 30 people were killed by the May 22, 1987 twister that struck as families gathered for a Head Start graduation ceremony.

The Saragosa tornado remains the single most deadly one in the United States since the late 1970s, while the storm that devastated Edmonton was Canada’s worst tornado in 75 years. Neither occurred in an area known for producing twisters, but even before Tuesday’s 20th anniversary of the Saragosa storm, this spring’s weather has brought some dangerous surprises, but as of yet no major damage or injuries, to far southwest Texas.

Southern Reeves County already has had one confirmed tornado this season, on April 29, when a thunderstorm moved north into the Toyahvale area after producing two tornadoes between Fort Davis and Valentine in the mountains of Jeff Davis County. Three days later the Toyahvale area was under another tornado warning, this time from a storm that had produced a twister near Kent in eastern Jeff Davis County before moving southeast into Reeves County.

Those storms came six weeks after tornadoes were reported in the central and northern sections of Reeves County, including one that was spotted on March 25 eight miles southwest of Pecos.

Tornadoes are more likely to form in areas surrounded by flat land, but as the 1987 Saragosa twister and the storms three weeks ago showed, tornadoes can strike anywhere, and are more likely to appear during times when the weather is more conducive to severe thunderstorms.

“It’s definitely been a lot more active this season than the last couple of years,” said Cody Lindsey, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Midland office. “We’ve had a period of upper level low systems developing to the west.

The storms and weather patters from 1987 came during a period of time that saw above average rainfall in West Texas. Pecos’ rainfall totals in 1986 were almost triple their normal level of just under 11 inches per year, while rain in some low-lying areas created playa lakes that forced the Texas Department of Transportation to raise the levels of highways that suddenly were left impassable for long periods of time by high water.

“It does tend to cycle,” Lindsey said of the wet and dry weather patters. “For the past couple of years it’s been wetter, but back in the 1990s we had several years of below-average rainfall.”

He said changing temperature patters in the Pacific Ocean help determine the weather patterns over North America.

“You look at high pressure and low pressure patterns,” Lindsey said. “We’ve been in this pattern for the last couple of weeks. We’ve had low pressure come in to southern California, and then work its way into Arizona and New Mexico.

He added that the current 30-day forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for normal precipitation levels in Texas from now through mid-June, though unusual conditions can be created at any time. “There are times you’ll get anomalies, where you will get low pressure areas to develop, and with the atmospheric patters, you will continue to see low pressure systems move into these areas,” Lindsey said.

RCH adds two new doctors, to continue physician search

Reeves County Hospital is close to filling two of its physician vacancies within the several few weeks, and is continuing its search for other doctors to relieve the area’s physician shortage.

Hospital CEO Al LaRochelle said on Friday that the hospital will soon acquire the service of Dr. Don Apodaca four days a week in the hospital’s Rural Health Clinic, and is waiting for the arrive of Dr. Sayeeda Bilkis, who will practice internal medicine when she moved to Pecos from Odessa.

LaRochelle said Apodaca would start at the hospital on June 4. “He’s from Garden City and will be here Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for 10-hour days in the Rural Health Clinic,” he said.

Bilkis is finishing her residency at the Texas Tech Health Science Center in Odessa, and will join the staff later this year. “We’re trying to find her some office space,” LaRochelle said.

The district has been searching for over a year for new doctors. A physician the hospital hoped would come to Pecos, Dr. Loris DrePaul, backed out of his agreement after being hired in November as a doctor of internal medicine to replace Dr. Haitham Jifi, who closed his practice in Pecos last June.

The district lost another doctor in December when Dr. Olaide “Dele” Olusanya, closed his practice to move to Dallas. The hospital retained companies last year to seek replacements for Dr. Jifi and Dr. Dele, at a cost of about $25,000 each, and LaRochelle said the hospital is still seeking to bring new family practitioners to town.

“We’re still going to be interviewing for new doctors,” he said. “We have one interview in mid-June and one around rodeo time at the end of the month.”

The two new doctors will be joined by two new physician’s assistants recently hired by the hospital. “So we’ve got three new practitioners coming in this summer and we’ll have another coming in in the fall.”

He said the hospital is still looking at the possibility of constructing an on-site or off-site physician’s clinic that would centralize the medical facilities not located within the hospital’s current structure.

“As we do that we plan to analyze what other types of health care needs there are in Reeves County,” LaRochelle said. “What is it people need here on a primary basis that they have to exit the community for, and what type of value is there. That’s the thing we have to look at.”

At the same time, LaRochelle said he was wary of any major expansion of hospital services, in the wake of the addition of the kidney dialysis center three years ago. Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton is in talks now about building an $8 million addition to their facility that would be for a wellness center, and officials have talked about adding a dialysis center to their hospital services.

“A wellness center may work for them over there, but having been here 4-5 months, I’d be very cautious about adding a dialysis center, due to the low Medicare reimbursement,” he said.

“We’re up to 33 (patients) right now, and I think we can make it work, but it’s extremely labor-intensive, and it’s hard to get labor right now,” LaRochelle said. “It’s so competitive out there now the idea that you can get something for nothing is gone.

“We’ve got to be the ones who high-ball, we can’t low-ball anymore, especially with our housing situation,” he said. “We’re at a disadvantage with our lack of housing, so we have to pay above-average scale to get people here. Once they’re here and they find out about our school, our community and other things, then we can keep them here.”

RCH Chief Financial Officer Frank Seals said the hospital currently has only one dialysis patient commuting from Fort Stockton, “So we shouldn’t be hurt too bad,” if Pecos County does add a facility to their hospital. LaRochelle added that patient loyalty to their current health care provider has slowed RCH’s ability to attract new business to their dialysis center.

“We still have people who were in it (dialysis) before we started who are still going to Midland-Odessa,” he said. “People just don’t switch (dialysis centers) without a lot of thought. If you’ve got the volume you can make it work, but volume is the key indicator. “We’ve got a good program, and the quality is there, but there’s only so far we can go,” he said.

Stickels, Chatham announce wedding plans

Becky and Jerry Patterson of Pecos and John Stickels of Arlington announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Amanda, to Tad Chatham.

The bride-elect is the granddaughter of Ruth and the late Jack Rogers of Pecos; Cecil and John Ben Stickels and she has one brother, Jack Stickels of Pecos.

The groom to be is the son of Tonei and Tommy Chatham of Plainview. His maternal grandparents are Geri and the late John Franklin wood of Plainview; paternal grandparents, the late Martha and Tom Chatham of Plainview.

Stickels graduated from Pecos High School in 2000. Upon graduation she attended Texas Tech University and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. In spring 2006, she graduated from Wayland Baptist University with a Bachelor’s degree in science and is currently working on her Master’s degree in education. She currently teaches biology and is the assistant tennis coach at Plainview High School.

Chatham graduated from Plainview High School in 1999. Upon graduation he attended Odessa College and was a member of the O.C. golf team. In winter 2007, he graduated from Wayland Baptist University with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration. He is currently working for Pinnell Pharmacy in Plainview.

The couple plan to marry Aug. 4, at the First United Methodist Church, where both are members.

Chavez to participate in Junior Olympics

Former Pecos resident, Alexis Renee Chavez, will be traveling to Minneapolis, MN to participate in the 2007 USA Junior Olympic National Volleyball tournament from June 29 to July 2.

She is the setter for TAV, 12 Asics from club Texas Advantage out of Fort Worth.

The team earned an American bid in the North Texas Regional Volleyball Tournament held on May 5-6 in Arlington.

They finished the regular season with 37 wins and nine losses. She is the daughter of former resident Roxanna Chavez; granddaughter of Anna and Roger Chavez; great-granddaughter of Modesta Granado and Licha Chaves; great-great-granddaughter of Chalado Barrasa and Rodolfo Gonzalez, the niece of Rebecca and Armando Granado Jr., Richard Chaves, Becky Martinez of Houston, Roger Chavez, JR. of Austin and Rebecca Natividad of Killeen and the relative of many Pecos and Barstow residents.

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.


Raul Rodriguez Pando, 40, 621 S. Pine St., was arrested by police on May 17 on charges of reckless driving, a Class C misdemeanor; evading arrest or detention, a state jail felony; possession or delivery of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor; and manufacture or delivery of a substance in Penalty Group 1, a First Degree felony. Police said the arrest was made after an attempted traffic stop in the 100 block of North Cedar Street, when the defendant allegedly drove in the wrong lane of traffic and then into a parking lot, where he threw several items out of the vehicle. Police said the driver then attempted to flee the parking lot, but two police cars blocked his vehicle. The items thrown out of the vehicle were packets reportedly containing cocaine, and Pando was then placed under arrest and taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Vincent Walter Bohlin, 47, of Granbury, was arrested by police on May 19 and again on May 20 on charges of public intoxication. Police said the first arrest was made at 5:34 p.m. on May 19 after officers were dispatched to the U.S. 285 overpass on Interstate 20 in reference to an intoxicated subject who almost fell over the railing of the overpass. The second call was at 7:30 p.m. on May 20 at the same location, after officers were dispatched in reference to an intoxicated subject. Bohlin was taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center following both arrests.


Juan Antonio Flores, 28, of Dallas, was arrested by police on May 21 on charges of criminal mischief over $50 and under $500, a Class B misdemeanor, and public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made after officers were called to the Roper’s Motel, 1200 E. Third St., in reference to a man who had thrown a brick through the back window of a vehicle parked in the motel’s parking lot. Flores was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Hakim Capalino-Rashad, 25, 1019 S. Oak St., was arrested by police on May 18 on a charge of no driver’s license. Police said the arrest was made following a traffic violation in the 200 block of East Third Street. Capalino-Rashad was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Lucia Franco, 27, 2401 S. Eddy St., was arrested by police on May 18 on warrants out of Ward County and Ector County charging her with theft by check. Police said the arrest was made after a traffic stop at Johnson and Adams streets, when a records search turned up the two warrants. Franco was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Thomas Hinojos Marquez, 39, 1929 S. Eddy St., was arrested by police on May 18 on a charge of theft over $50 and under $500, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest took place at 1:36 p.m. after officers were called to the 1500 block of Johnson Street in reference to a stolen bicycle. Marquez was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Yvette Acosta Rodriguez, 34, and Jennifer Ann McDaniel, 25, both of 404 Magnolia St., were arrested by police on May 19 on charges of possession of a controlled substance in Penalty Group 1, over four and under 200 grams a 2nd degree felony. Police said the arrest took place following a traffic stop in the 400 block of Magnolia Street at 5:53 p.m. Acosta was also charged with driving without a license, and both women were then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

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