Four Reach Plea Deals in Tyler Motel Murder
TYLER — Four East Texas men have reached plea deals with the Smith County District Attorney’s Office in connection with a 2013 murder. KETK reports Lawrence Murphy Jr. was one of the four accused in the killing of Wesley Scott Lester at the American Inn Motel in Tyler in June of last year. Instead of capital murder, Murphy was charged with murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison after reaching his plea deal Friday morning. Murphy was believed to have fled to the Dallas area after he was sought by police for the June 15 murder. He turned himself in to Tyler Police investigators nine days after the killing. Read more …
Bond Lowered for Man Whose Toddler Died in Hot Truck
TYLER – A Flint-area man accused of manslaughter after his child died in a hot truck has been granted a lower bond. KETK reports that via request of Russell Lindstrom’s attorney, State District Judge Kerry Russell of Tyler lowered Lindstrom’s bond from $200,000 to $125,000 at a hearing Friday morning. A 911 call was received in June about two unresponsive youngsters inside a hot pickup with the windows rolled up in the 18000 block of County Road 1100 near Flint. Bella Lindstrom, 4, was taken to a hospital where she died. Her three year old sister Zoey was hospitalized and released the next day. Lindstrom, 33, was arrested last month at a mobile home park in the 17000 block of Highway 155 South. He has also been charged with injury to a child.
Former Local Teen Victim in Double-Homicide
BURNET — A former East Texas teen was killed Tuesday in a double homicide, and the son of a Hill Country constable is charged with capital murder. Garrett Ballard, 21, Burnet, was reportedly high on LSD when he used a rifle he took from his father’s patrol unit. Ballard told authorities Tuesday he and the victims, Elijah Benson, 17, formerly of Whitehouse, and Travis Fox, 26, bought the hallucinogenic drug to celebrate a birthday at his home. He said when Benson and Fox began acting strangely due to the drug effects, he shot them with his dad’s weapon. Benson lived in Whitehouse before moving to Burnet. He was a student at Burnet High School. The Texas Rangers are leading the investigation into the incident.
Grand Saline Man Killed in Head-On Collision with 18-Wheeler
VAN ZANDT COUNTY — A Grand Saline man was killed early Friday morning in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler. According to KETK, DPS troopers say the collision happened between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m on FM 17 in Van Zandt County. Troopers say Steven Armstrong, 22, lost control of his car while driving northbound on FM 17. He swerved into oncoming traffic and crashed into the truck. Armstrong was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the 18-wheeler was not injured. The wreck remains under investigation.
DPS Reminds Drivers to Watch for School-Bound Children
TYLER — As the academic year begins, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding all drivers to watch out for children walking to and from school or waiting for school buses. Drivers must also follow all traffic laws related to school buses and school zones. One of the most dangerous times of a student’s trip on a school bus is when they are entering or exiting the bus. Drivers are urged to slow down and pay attention in school zones since children may step into a roadway without checking for oncoming traffic. Read more …
ETMC Gilmer to Phase Out Inpatient Care
GILMER — Beginning January 1, 2015, ETMC Gilmer will no longer provide inpatient care, according to East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System officials. ETMC Gilmer will continue to operate as a 24-hour emergency center providing full-service emergency care and trauma stabilization, as well as laboratory and radiology services. KETK reports the ETMC First Physicians clinic, located at the hospital, will continue to operate as usual. “Making this decision was difficult,” said Perry Henderson, senior vice president, affiliate operations. “When ETMC came to Gilmer in 1997, the hospital had been closed and boarded up for two years. We take great pride in knowing that we reopened this facility and made healthcare more accessible to the people of Upshur County. Unfortunately, poor utilization and declining reimbursements across the board make providing inpatient care unfeasible.” Read more …
Smith County United Way’s Goal Set
TYLER — The United Way of Smith County sets a campaign goal of $1.75 million for 2014-2015. That figure was announced Thursday evening at the campaign kickoff at FRESH by Brookshire’s. The campaign will run through March, benefiting 41 community programs. Along with regular donations, community members can register to win a 2015 Hyundai Accent from Allen Samuels East Texas Dodge. The car will be given away April 2. United Way Development Director Stephen Rainwater says, “The work of United Way is centered on the belief that we are all connected and interdependent.” You can go to http://www.unitedwaysmithcounty.org for more information.
Perry Visits New Hampshire, Keeps Fighting Indictments
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP/Staff) – Texas Governor Rick Perry has told business leaders in New Hampshire he was humbled by his first run for president in 2012 and hasn’t decided yet whether to run again in 2016. He also didn’t shy away from last week’s indictments in Texas — repeating that he thinks they’re politically motivated. Perry is on a two-day visit to the early presidential voting state. Meanwhile, an attorney for Perry says he will file a motion seeking to stop the criminal case against the governor. Attorney David Botsford says the defense team will attack the constitutionality of the prosecution and two felony indictments that accuse Perry of abusing his power.
Ex-Teacher Sentenced in Boy’s Hit-and-Run Death
DALLAS (AP) – A former suburban Dallas teacher has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the hit-and-run death of a six-year-old boy. Tammy Lowe was convicted of manslaughter in the death of John Paul Raidy last year. Prosecutors say Lowe ran a red light before she struck and killed the boy in Grand Prairie.
Man Gets 6-Year Term for Health Care Fraud
HOUSTON (AP) – A Houston-area man has been sentenced to six years in prison for a fraudulent health care scheme that netted him about $1.2 million in federal payouts. Lawrence Tyler of Humble was sentenced Friday after earlier being found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering and other charges. The 42-year-old Tyler also must pay $1.24 million in restitution. Tyler ran a medical equipment company and federal prosecutors say in 2007 and 2008 he schemed to defraud Medicare and Medicaid. They say he illegally billed for equipment that was never delivered and relied on prescriptions from a doctor who never treated patients receiving the equipment. Tyler submitted about $2.4 million in claims as part of the conspiracy. Two others previously were convicted for their roles assisting in the scheme.
Chikungunya Virus Confirmed in Tarrant County
FORT WORTH (AP) – Public health officials in Tarrant County have confirmed the county’s first case of chikungunya virus disease. Officials at Tarrant County Public Health say a resident of Mansfield, about 20 miles southwest of Fort Worth, has been diagnosed with the disease after returning home from the Caribbean. Other details are being withheld to protect the patient’s privacy. It’s the 13th Texas case of the illness considered rarely fatal but marked by joint pain, fever, muscle aches and rash. Recovery typically takes about a week. Mosquitoes that carry the virus are found in Texas. The associate director of the Tarrant County health agency, Dr. Anita Kurian, said Friday there’s no evidence it’s spreading locally in the county. Only Florida so far has reported a local spread of the virus.
South Texas Man Sentenced for Sex Abuse of Child
BROWNSVILLE (AP) – A South Texas man has been sentenced to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing a child over eight years. A Cameron County jury sentenced Dick Weaver of Harlingen on Thursday. He will not be eligible for parole. The jury on Wednesday convicted Weaver of four counts that include continuous sexual abuse of a child and indecency with a child by contact. Prosecutors say Weaver began abusing his victim when the child was 5. District Attorney Luis Saenz said in a statement that his office’s child abuse unit continues to secure convictions for crimes against children since the unit was established last year.
SpaceX Gets 10-Year Tax Waiver
BROWNSVILLE (AP) – Cameron County has approved a big tax break for SpaceX. Commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world’s first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the Brownsville area.