Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Easter weekend snow blamed for traffic death
Easter was more like Christmas this year in West Texas, as a cold front brought freezing rain and snow to the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos region, causing a number of accidents, including one on Saturday that killed an Illinois woman and left three others injured.
The accident, which occurred on Interstate 20 between Pecos and Toyah, was one of nearly four dozen accidents investigated by area Department of Public Safety troopers over the holiday weekend. Most of the accidents were to the south and west of Pecos, but other accidents were reported in the Midland-Odessa area, which received up to 1 1/2 inches of snow along with ice that forced the closing of several major highways.
Maria Rogel Sanchez, 61, of Sterling, Ill., was pronounced dead by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley at 3:03 p.m. on Saturday, about 30 minutes after the vehicle she was in collided with a truck-tractor on Interstate 20 near mile marker 28, about12.2 miles west of Pecos.
According to the report filed by the Department of Public Safety, Sanchez was a passenger in a 1995 Chevrolet van driven by Juan Martinez Sanchez, 38, also of Sterling, Ill. It was westbound on I-20 when it hit a patch of ice and went into skid, causing the van to slide off the road, through the center median and into a 2004 Volvo truck-trailer, driven by George Hargroves of Mt. Vernon, Tx., which was parked on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of I-20 following an earlier accident.
Maria Sanchez was pronounced dead at the scene, and her body was taken to Peaceful Gardens Funeral Home. Juan Sanchez, was transported by ambulance to Reeves County Hospital with head and shoulder injuries. Another passenger in the van, Julian Marie Williamson, 26, of Sterling, Ill., was also taken to the hospital with head and chest injures, and Hargroves was taken there with lacerations and a chest injury. All were listed in stable condition at the time of their transfer, according to DPS trooper Daniel Leyva of Pecos, who investigated the accident, and all have since left the hospital, according to records there on Monday morning.
All passengers were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, according to Leyva’s report.
The temperature never got above 32 degrees on Saturday, and the freezing rain and snow mixture started falling late Saturday morning and continued through the early portion of the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. A total of .17 inch of precipitation was recorded at the NWS site at Pecos Municipal Airport, while only a trace of precipitation fell on Sunday, when the city received another light dusting of snow, before temperatures rose into the upper 40s by late Sunday afternoon.
Before then, DPS and Pecos and Balmorhea ambulance crews were busy responding to a series of accidents, most of which occurred between the 180 and 215 mile markers on Interstate 10. Officials also received a report of downed power lines at the 215 mile marker from a broken power pole on Saturday.
Other accidents on I-20 were reported at mile marker 3 near the I-10 junction, mile marker 49 at the Pecos River crossing, and mile marker 42, near the U.S. 285 exit. One accident in Ward County involved a pickup owned by Ward County Chief Deputy Ben Deishler, whose son, Frank, was involved in an accident late Saturday night.
“He went off the road on a curve and overcorrected, and the road was wet and he overturned and rolled over,” said DPS trooper Chris Ryan, who investigated the accident. He added that Deishler suffered only minor injuries, did not require transportation by ambulance.
No area roads were closed due to the wintry conditions in the Trans-Pecos area, but TxDOT crews did shut down the main lanes of Loop 250, State Highway 191 and State Highway 158 in Midland, due to icing on overpasses.
The late winter snow was part of a major cold weather blast that stretched from Southwest Texas into the southeast and up the Atlantic Coast from Friday through Sunday. Skies remained overcast on Monday morning, threatening the Weather Service’s forecast of a high around 80 for the Pecos area. Isolated thunderstorms were predicted for Monday night, while highs were expected to reach into the low 90s on Tuesday through Thursday.
More Pyote details expected for Ward grand jury Tuesday
From Staff and Wire Reports
A Ward County grand jury was scheduled to meet again in Monahans on Tuesday to hear additional evidence into allegations of sexual abuse of juvenile inmates at the West Texas State School in Pyote.
The grand jury heard evidence presented by officials from the Texas Attorney General’s office on March 21, but no indictments against any former or current Texas Youth Commission employees were returned at that time.
The investigation had focused on allegations of sexual abuse against Ray Brookins, former assistant superintendent at Pyote, and John Paul Hernandez, former principal. Both resigned their jobs in 2005 in lieu of termination.
It also has led to calls for 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds to resign, for failing to take action on the allegations when the were first brought to his attention two years ago. Ward County Attorney Kevin Acker last week said he plans to file a petition after Tuesday’s hearing asking 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks to remove Reynolds from his office.Reynolds, who said the investigation into the WTSS allegations has been ongoing, has not commented on Acker’s petition plan. Reynolds turned over investigation of the charges to lawyers with the Attorney General’s office earlier this year.
Acker said he met with state officials in Austin last week, and said they were pushing for him to take action against Reynolds.
“They recommended I explore the possibilities of investigating Reynolds’ prosecution record to see whether there was enough evidence to file a petition to have him removed from office,” Acker said. He listed San Antonio District Attorney Susan Reed, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, Brian Newby, general council with Governor Rick Perry’s Office and officials with Senator John Whitmire and State Senator Carlos Uresti’s office, as those he talked with down in Austin.
The revelations of abuse at the Pyote state school prompted a full investigation of TYC juvenile facilities across the state, along with an audit of the system by Texas Auditor John Keel. On March 16, he said investigations by Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski and others have shown the school "did not provide a safe environment for the youths in its care," and should be considered for closure.
His report went onto say the Pyote site, located 52 miles from Odessa, is too remote to attract staff needed. The school currently houses 253 male juveniles, and employs 273 workers.
"The facility's location is in an isolated geographic area, and it has limited access to a job applicant pool and social and medical services," his report stated. It went on to say the 250 male inmates in Pyote "could be transferred to other facilities over the next 12 to 24 months, in the event that a decision is made to close the school."
Pyote is one of several juvenile detention facilities in isolated locations in Texas. The TYC’s boot camp in Sheffield, in eastern Pecos County, is located 120 miles south of Midland, and came under criticism on Sunday, when the Dallas Morning News reported students at rural and urban TYC facilities have failed to receive proper medical care.
In one case, an unnamed youth at the Sheffield Boot Camp complained about headaches, dizziness and vomiting for nearly five months before he was finally sent to a medical specialist. After an exam showed he had a brain tumor, it still took another two weeks before he was discharged.
Of more than 20,000 youths who have gone through the agency since 2002, six have died while in TYC custody, records show.
The Morning News also quoted a TYC spokesman who said Judges are sentencing fewer children to terms at state schools in the aftermath of reports of inmate abuse and mismanagement within the agency.
Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant and Travis counties - the five counties that send the most young offenders to TYC - have all decreased their number of referrals, agency records show
TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said the commission normally receives more children in late winter and early spring. Texas courts sent 33 children last week.
"I think historically, that at this point in the year, we would be getting 60 or 70 referrals a week," Hurley said. "Now, it's more like 40."
Travis County has sent only one child to TYC since mid-February, when media reports first chronicled allegations that agency officials had ignored reports of sexual abuse of inmates by administrators at the West Texas State School in Pyote. The ensuing controversy provoked a raft of firings, resignations and investigations statewide.
"Until the TYC cleans it up, and we know it's cleaned up, we have to do other things," said state District Judge Erleigh Norville in Kaufman County, who has stopped sending children to the agency.
County OKs fire contract deal with city
An agreement between the Town of the Pecos City and Reeves County to fund the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department and increasing wages for lieutenants and captains at the prisons were just some of the items discussed at the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday morning.
The group had tabled the agreement between the city and county to fund the fire department at a prior meeting, wanting to get more information.
“There were a few changes that we wanted to make and clarify,” said Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras.Contreras told the commissioners at their March 26 meeting that he had spoken to former County Judge Jimmy Galindo, and that he knew the interlocal agreement had been sent back to the city for some revisions.
“There’s a slight increase this year, due to the many fires the firefighters have been attending,” said Contreras.The total responsibility from the county to go towards the fire department is $90,150 and the increase was $5,550.The agreement states that if there’s a deficit the city and county were to share in the deficit equally.
“I think you should give them a cap as to how much more the county will provide,” said Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez.
“It’s just that they don’t know how many fires they will have to attend,” said Contreras.
Alvarez said that they should know how much they have to work with and have some constraints.
“We just have to keep in mind what the county can afford and keep within the budget,” said Alvarez.
The group approved the interlocal agreement between the city and the county, setting the budget for that item at $95,022 to coincide with the city’s half of the expenses. However, they put into the agreement that if there is a deficit to put a cap at $5,000.
Reeves County Detention Center I and II Warden Martin McDaniel was on hand to discuss raising the salaries for some employees at the facilities, under the line item personnel and salary changes.
“I had discussed this with the judge and we both decided it was something that needed to be put on the agenda,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel said that with the shortage in staff right now, correctional officers are making more or as much as the lieutenants and captains. “That’s because they are putting in some much overtime, but the lieutenants and captains don’t get paid overtime, even thought they are working a lot of overtime as well,” he said.
“We’re having a hard time getting people to apply for those positions and part of this is to offer an incentive by raising their salary,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel said that he and Contreras had discussed a $2,000-$3,000 increase for those positions.
“Senior officers make $34,000, lieutenants only make $36,000 and captains, $38,000,” said McDaniel. “If we gave them a small raise, maybe we could get more individuals to apply for those particular positions,” he said.
Between the three facilities, Reeves County Detention Center I-II and III, there are about 90 vacancies.
“Right now we have five openings for those positions (lieutenants and captains) and zero applicants,” said McDaniel. “And it’s because they can make just as much as correction officers, with the overtime, as those higher positions.”He said that there are 30 vacancies at R-III and over 50 at the RI-II facilities.
“The good thing about the R-III employees is that they have already been cleared by BOP and that’s what we are in the process of doing at RI-II.
McDaniel hopes that by raising the salaries in the higher up positions they can fill those positions first.“We’d like to move the lieutenants up to $38,000 and the captains up to $41,000 a year,” said McDaniel.“It’s not a lot, but we hope it will help,” said McDaniel.
The group opted to table the decision until they can find out how much it will be and adjust the budget accordingly.
Big Bend officials seek La Entrada route detour
County judges in the areas south and west of Pecos are seeking to change plans for the La Entrada al Pacifico highway through the Big Bend area, by constructing a new road that would route traffic from the Presidio border crossing northwest to Van Horn.
The proposal would bring traffic along Interstates 10 and 20 through Balmorhea, Pecos and Monahans, three cities that were bypassed when a group of West Texas communities laid out the La Entrada route a decade ago. But the plan would also eliminate much of the time saving and distance advantages of the current route, which is designed to route truck traffic from Chihuahua, Mexico away from the El Paso-Juarez border crossing into Texas.
The Big Bend Sentinel reported last week that the judges from Presidio, Jeff Davis, Culberson and Brewster counties want the Texas Department of Transportation to look at their alternative proposal, as a way of keeping truck traffic away from the cities of Alpine, Marfa and Fort Davis.
“We could send it up to Candelaria, to Van Horn and out that way,” Presidio County Judge Jerry Agan told the Sentinel “That way the traffic can hit Interstates 20 or 10 very easily.”
The plan would require an extension of FM 170, the “River Road” that currently runs from Big Bend National Park through Presidio to Candelaria. The judges propose extending the road northwest to hit U.S. 90 between Valentine and Van Horn by improving a dirt road called the Chispa Road, that continues toward Van Horn from Candelaria.
“Presidio wants the traffic. Van Horn welcomes traffic - it’s their lifeblood,” Brewster County Judge Val Beard to the Sentinel. “Marfa, Alpine and Fort Davis don’t want it. It’s an attempt to find something that could be agreed upon on a regional basis.”
The current La Entrada route follows U.S. 67 from the Presidio border crossing through Marfa, Alpine and Fort Stockton to McCamey. From there the proposed route travels north on U.S. 385 to Odessa, before continuing north to Lubbock. The route bypasses Fort Davis, but residents there fear trucks will bypass the designated route and take Highway 17 north to Interstate 20 in Pecos.
The Highway 17 route to Midland-Odessa is about 25 miles shorter than the current La Entrada road, while other traffic from the Big Bend area follows FM 1776 from Interstate 10 through Coyonosa to Monahans, which is considered the fastest route from Alpine to the Midland-Odessa area.
However, the proposed route through Van Horn would add an additional 50 miles onto the current 155-mile route from Presidio to Midland-Odessa through Pecos and would be 25 miles longer than the current La Entrada route. The route would still cut 100 miles off the current trip from Chihuahua to Midland-Odessa through Juarez and El Paso, but it would also require significant construction to get the new road through the mountains between Candelaria and Van Horn at grades small enough to be used by truck traffic.
The Van Horn option was first proposed in 2003 and sent to the Texas Department of Transportation, and the same plan was resubmitted by the judges to TxDOT last week. Beard said the group never heard back from TxDOT on the 2003 plan, but Glen Larum, public information officer for TxDOT’s Odessa District, said “Right now, everything’s on the table.”
“The judges are welcome to send their comments to the engineer for studying the feasibility of the route, and I’m sure they will take it under consideration,” Larum said on Friday.
TxDOT is looking at several options for the final La Entrada route, but Larum said that the one through McCamey and Crane would require the least amount of new construction, since most of that road is already a four-lane divided highway.The original La Entrada plan was part of an effort to extend Interstate 27 south from Lubbock to the Mexican border. Several routes were proposed, including along I-20 and Highway 17 from Pecos to Presidio, while other routes through Fort Stockton, and via San Angelo to either Del Rio or to I-10 at Junction were also considered before an engineering study decided current traffic volume did not warrant extension of the Interstate, which runs from Amarillo to Lubbock.TxDOT officials did agree to widen current highways south of Lubbock to four lanes, including U.S. 87 from Big Spring to San Angelo, and State Highway 349 from Lamesa to Midland. Construction is expected to begin soon on the first section of the La Entrada road, a bypass from Highway 349 north of Midland to the I-20 intersection with FM 1788 at Midland International Airport.
Rodriguez, Franco announce April wedding plans
Mr. and Mrs. Emilio Pena of Wickett and Mr. and Mrs. Roman Rodriguez of Pecos are pleased to announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their granddaughter, Kara Ann Rodriguez to Sergio Franco Jr.
Kara is the daughter of Danny and Roxanne Rodriguez. Sergio is the son of Sergio and Loly Franco of Monahans.The bride-elect is a 2004 graduate of Monahans High School. She attends Odessa College majoring in Child Development. She is employed at Western National Bank in Odessa.
The prospective groom is a 2005 graduate of Monahans High School. He is employed with the Odessa Police Department. He will attend the Odessa College Police Academy in August.
After their April wedding the couple will make their home in Odessa.
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.
Angelica Orona Rodriguez, 27, 1406 W. Eighth St., Apt. B, was arrested by police on March 31 on warrants changing her with disorderly conduct and failure to pay a fine on a change of public intoxication. Police said the arrest took place at 6:23 p.m. in the 1800 block of South Eddy Street. Rodriguez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Roy Vasquez Munoz, 35, 405 N. Cypress St., was arrested by police on March 31 on a charge of assault under the Family Violence Act. Police said Munoz was arrested at 401 n. Oak St., after officers were called to Munoz’s home in response to an assault on his spouse. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Eric Medrano Mata, 20, 618 S. Pecan St., was arrested by police on March 30 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made in the 400 block of South Peach Street following a call on a disturbance at 500 S. Peach St. Mata was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Ricardo G. Carrasco, 19, 1401 S. Plum St., was arrested by police on April 3 on a charge of possession of marijuana under two ounces, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made in the 600 block of South Cypress Street, after officers received a called at 10:17 p.m. on suspicious subjects looking inside buildings in the area, stopped Carrasco and found a baggie of marijuana in his possession. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Ramon Munoz Hernandez, 22, 1004 E. Second St., was arrested by police on April 4 and charged with public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made after officers were called at 2:46 a.m. about a disturbance in the 2300 block of Sage Street. Hernandez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Brandon Casey Fisher, 20, 1304 Lunday St., was arrested by police on April 2 on a charge of criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at the above address, after police had issued Fisher an earlier warning not to be at the residence. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Zachary Joseph Bustamante, 19, of Odessa, was arrested by police on April 2 on a warrant out of Ector County for motion to revoke probation on an original charge of possession of marijuana in a drug-free zone. Bustamante was arrested at 2323 Texas St., and was then transported to Reeves County Jail.
Marco Antonio Barreno, 43, 2465 Madera Rd., was arrested by police on April 1 on a warrant charging him with assault causing bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at 6:45 p.m. after Barreno ran a stop sign at Seventh and Almond streets, and a records check revealed the outstanding warrant. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Cecil Lanier Sadler, 57, 1801 S. Park St., was arrested by police on March 27 on warrants out of Travis County charging him with damaging property and failure to stop and render aid, issued by the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Police said the arrest was made at 8:05 p.m. following a traffic stop in the 2100 block of Washington Street, when a records check revealed the outstanding warrants. Sadler was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Thomas Hinojos Marquez, 39, 1212 E. Second St., was arrested on March 27 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest took place at Second and Plum streets. Hinojos was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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