Man hit on U.S. 81/287

A 25-year-old man was hit by a car Monday night while running across U.S. 81/287 in Decatur near Chicken Express.

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said Rodney Crawley, 25, of Norman, Okla., was crossing the southbound lanes of the highway, from east to west, just after 6:30 p.m. when he was hit by a small Cadillac SUV.

Hoskins said Norma Phayer, 67, of Decatur had just entered the southbound lanes of U.S. 81/287 from the Farm Road 51 South on-ramp when she hit Crawley.

Hoskins said Phayer simply didn’t see Crawley. No charges will be filed.

According to the police chief, Crawley likely has a broken femur, but his injuries are not life threatening. He was taken to a Fort Worth hospital via ground ambulance by Wise County medics.


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UIL announces relignment

The University Interscholastic League announced its biennial realignment for 2018-19 and 2019-20 Thursday morning for football and basketball.

The Decatur Eagles will be in a football league with Burkburnett, Gainesville, Mineral Wells, Springtown and Hirschi in 4-4A Division I. Decatur will no longer be in a district with Argyle and Sanger.

Decatur’s non-district slate includes games at Kennedale, Midlothian Heritage and Glen Rose and at home against Alvarado and Graham. Kennedale lost in the 4A state title game last year to Carthage.

“I think as much as anything it gets some excitement about the next year going,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller. “It puts an actual name on the schedule to know who you’re working towards and against.”

Decatur and Bridgeport will be paired together in 8-4A in Region I in basketball with Argyle, Krum and Springtown.

Bridgeport will be in 3-4A Division II for football with Aubrey, Graham, Iowa Park, Krum and Vernon. The Bulls’ tentative non-district schedule is Pilot Point, Bowie, Sanger, Lake Worth and Gainesville.

“We kind of thought it would be very similar,” said Bridgeport coach Shannon Wilson. “One of our teams we were playing was in a seven-team district, so it adjusted some of our plans. We weren’t counting on that, so we’ve been having to fill another game.”

In 3A Division I, Boyd and Paradise will be in District 4 with Bowie, Brock, Pilot Point, Ponder and Whitesboro. Panthers coach Ronnie Gage said Paradise’s non-district schedule will be S&S Consolidated, Henrietta, Jacksboro and Callisburg.

“It just got a little more competitive,” said Gage of the UIL’s realignment. “It makes it a little bit harder. The district itself remained competitive. It certainly didn’t get any easier.”

Boyd’s non-district matchups in football will consist of Nocona, Holliday, Lake Worth and Howe. The Yellowjackets finished 3-8 last year, losing in the bi-district round of the playoffs to Comanche.

“Brock was the swing team on where they were going to go,” said Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins. “They went with us to make a seven-team league. Region I is now getting touch. It’s going to be a tough district and bi-district.”

Boyd and Paradise landed in District 7-3A for basketball with Breckenridge, Brock, Jacksboro, Millsap, Peaster and Tolar.

Wise County’s 2A schools, Alvord and Chico, will be 4-2A Division I for football with Lindsay, Olney and Seymour — a five-team league.

The Dragons are still searching for a coach since they re-assigned former coach Lane Wilson last week. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, will have play Electra, Archer City, Santo, Pantago Christian, Petrolio and Tioga in non-district play.

“Geographically speaking, I thought [the UIL] did a pretty good job of putting a district together,” said Alvord coach Pete Hart. “The thing I didn’t anticipate was a five-team district.

In basketball, Alvord and Chico join 11-2A with Era, Irving Universal Academy, Muenster and Poolville.

Slidell will be in 22-A in basketball with Bellevue, Gold-Burg, Forestburg, Midway, Prairie Valley and Saint Jo.

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Abel sentenced to life in prison for murder

It took a Wise County jury only about 10 minutes Wednesday to decide that Jake Abel should spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend. Just three hours earlier, the same jury had found Abel, 31, guilty of killing Soccorro Taylor in December of 2015 in Fort Worth and burying her body in a shallow grave near Boyd. In addition to the life sentence, the jury also assessed a $10,000 fine, the maximum amount on both. The verdict brought the 12-day trial to a close after nearly 50 witnesses testified and around 700 pieces of evidence were introduced.

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Jury finds Abel guilty of murder

Former Wise County resident Jake Abel was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend after the jury deliberated for 1 1/2 hours Wednesday.
The two-week trial has taken place in 271st District Court in Decatur.
The jury will now hear evidence in the punishment phase of the trial. Abel could face up to life in prison for the 2015 killing of Soccorro Taylor.

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Fire Weather Watch issued for Tuesday, Wednesday

After a busy weekend battling grass fires, Wise County firefighters could potentially face another pair of challenging days.
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth has issued a Fire Weather Watch for the county from 11 a.m. Tuesday through 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s more of the same — dry fuels, breezy winds, warmer than average temperature and low humidity,” said Jennifer Dunn, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “Conditions will be ripe for fires.”
Tuesday, winds are expected to be around 15 mph and temperatures in the low 60s. Wednesday, high temperatures are predicted to hit the low 70s with winds gusting to 25 to 30 mph. On both days, the humidity levels will be in the 20s.
“Locations to the west [of Wise County] will be in the teens,” Dunn said about the humidity level.
Decatur Fire Chief Mike Richardson said the forecast brings some uneasiness after several busy weeks. He said the department has responded to more than 200 calls this month. The department generally averages between 150 and 160 calls per month.
“We’re struggling to keep up,” Richardson said.
“Usually on a wildfire we try to get a lot of people there early. The problem lately is we’ve had them all at the same time.”
Wise County Fire Marshal Jeff Doughty said dispatch reported 29 calls over the weekend for fires. He cautioned that some of the calls were duplicates.
Doughty added that Paradise, Boyd and Bridgeport departments were staffing their stations Tuesday for the potential of fire.
Conditions will improve slightly with a cold front Thursday, Dunn said. But the county is not expected to see longterm relief from the current dry pattern. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday showed moderate drought in Wise County.
In the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which measures the wildfire potential by taking into account the soil moisture, the county average is 414 on a scale ranging from 0 to 800. The top end of the scale represents completely dry conditions.
“Unfortunately there’s no relief in the next seven to 10 days,” Dunn said.

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Fire damages plane at Bridgeport Airport

After a short flight back from Decatur, Eddie Green had just landed and was taxiing to his hangar at Bridgeport Municipal Airport Saturday evening when the single engine to his Military T-41 sputtered and died. As Green tried to restart the engine, he noticed flames out the right window.
“It was short flight. I dropped some friends off and literally got off the runway and taxied to right here,” Green explained. “It started sputtering and the engine quit. I knew I had plenty of fuel, so I cranked it. When I cranked it, I looked out the right window and flames started coming out. I jumped out and grabbed a fire hose.”
Fire spread from the engine to the interior of the plane causing extensive damage.
Green, 68, of Bridgeport was uninjured. The retired Air Force and airline captain has owned the plane since 1995.
Bridgeport, Lake Bridgeport and Runaway Bay firefighters responded to the fire and extinguished it.

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La Quinta evacuated due to fire

The La Quinta Inn and Suites in Bridgeport was evacuated Wednesday morning following a fire.

There was no obvious damage to the building, and guests reported seeing smoke but no flames. As of 9 a.m., firefighters were still trying to determine the origin of the fire.

Five people were temporarily trapped in an elevator while trying to escape, but no one was injured.

Stephen Adair of Jasper had just returned to his second-floor room to sleep after working a 12-hour shift at Lindsey State Jail in Jacksboro.

“The fire alarm went off and the lights started flashing,” he said. “I thought it might be a false alarm, but then the power went off.”

Adair made his way outside via the stairs and said he couldn’t see smoke but could smell it.

Read more in the weekend Messenger on newsstands Saturday.

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Homes evacuated due to grass fire near Cottondale

Several homes in the Jamberly Hills subdivision northwest of Cottondale were evacuated for two hours, while firefighters worked a large grass fire off County Road 3657 Monday afternoon.
Firefighters from Salt Creek, Cottondale, Bridgeport, Lake Bridgeport, Briar and Reno responded to the blaze toned out at 3:31 p.m. Department of Public Safety troopers assisted with the scene.
Salt Creek firefighters were assisting Poolville with a structure fire when the fire was reported at County Road 3657. The fire jumped County Road 3673 in multiple spots, according to Salt Creek Fire Captain Robert Allen.
He said the fire’s forward progress was stopped by 4:30 p.m. No structures were damaged.
Residents were allowed to return home shortly before 5:30 p.m.
It was one of several fires in the county Monday. Wise County is under a Red Flag warning due to elevated fire risk.

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One killed in ATV accident near Boyd

A girl was killed Sunday afternoon after wrecking an ATV near Boyd, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.

10-year-old Delaney Moore of Azle was the passenger of an ATV driving along County Road 4591 when the ATV drove off the roadway and overturned in a ditch, Department of Public Safety spokesman Lonny Haschel said. Moore was ejected from the ATV.

She was transported to Wise Health System but did not survive.

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Boyd ISD superintendent receives extension

Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West will remain in the top post in the district through the 2020-21 school year after receiving a contract extension Thursday night.
Boyd ISD trustees voted unanimously to extend West’s current two-year contract by one year after a positive evaluation. The new contract will run through June 30, 2021.
Compensation was not addressed at the meeting. His current contract pays him $100,000 per year.
“As a district we’re happy with the job he’s doing,” said Boyd School Board President Bill Childress. “We know he works hard and puts a lot of effort into improving our district and leading us. That’s a reflection of the contract extension.”
West has been with the district 11 years, serving as the high school principal and assistant superintendent before being named superintendent in September 2012.
West, who is the second-longest tenured superintendent in Wise County, expressed optimism on moving forward with the district.
“We’re at a cross roads here at Boyd. We’re starting to see some of the growth coming,” West said. “We feel like we are in a really good position. We have great teachers and great students. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, yet we’re not satisfied with it. We think there are a lot more great things coming for all of our campuses and district. The growth we are about to experience is exciting because of what that’s going to mean in programs and new opportunities for our students.”
In the West’s evaluation, the board looked at various goals.
“We took into account the district goals that we set earlier that were based on finance, facilities and personnel goals,” Childress said.
Childress added that the district as a whole is moving in the right direction.
“We’ve done a good job,” he said. “A few years back we had a little downfall in our grades. We’ve done a good job of turning that around. Our scores are improving. Our extracurricular activities have more participation. We’ve increased our fund balance. Overall our district I feel is strong.
“We’re doing a good job with taxpayers’ money and we’re providing a solid education for the kids of this community. But like with anything else, we still have a lot of room for improvement.”

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Paradise names superintendent lone finalist

Paradise School Board named Dr. Paul Uttley the lone finalist for superintendent after a special meeting Thursday night.

According to the district’s press release Uttley, the superintendent of Vega ISD, was selected from a list of 71 applicants who applied for the position. The board chose Uttley following a superintendent search that started in November 2017.

The district will have to wait 21 days before officially hiring Uttley as superintendent.


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Grassfire torches round bales

A grassfire that spread to burn 30 to 60 round hay bales closed Cuba Road east of Bridgeport Thursday afternoon.

Bridgeport and Paradise firefighters responded to the blaze shortly after 12:30 p.m.
Wise County Assistant Fire Marshal Jeff Doughty said a resident was burning trash when it spread, burning less an acre and the round bales.
The road was closed at County Road 3225 due to smoke blowing across the road.

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Western Wise County experiences a pair of power outages


Oncor crews are working to restore power to hundreds of customers in western Wise County after a pair of outages Wednesday morning.
A line down on U.S. 380 took out power to 550 customers in the Runaway Bay area around 5 a.m. Wednesday. Later in the morning more than 600 residents stretching from the west side of Bridgeport, Cottondale, Balsora and into Parker County were without power.
Oncor spokesperson Sabrina Easley said efforts to restore power were complicated by the heavy load on the system due to the frigid temperatures.
“Crews are having to got to all the fuse locations and close them up one at a time,” Easley said.
After a fuse is closed, she said there is a 30-minute delay for the load to normalize before moving to the next fuse. As of 10:45 a.m., Easley said crews had two more fuse positions to close, leaving 100 customers without power in the Runaway Bay area.
“We expect to have them back on line in the next hour,” she said.
Seven crews are working on the other outage in the western part of the county and power is expected to be restored by early afternoon.
“We’ve brought in extra resources,” Easley said. “We’re doing everything we can to get it back on.”
ERCOT issued a warning Tuesday evening about conserving usage due to the demand on the power grid with temperatures in the single digits in many parts of the state.
With cold temperatures expected Thursday morning, Easley is asking residents to conserve during the peak usage time of 7 to 8 a.m.

Update: Power was returned to Oncor customers by 4 p.m. Wednesday.


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Boyd calls election to establish municipal development district

Boyd voters will go to the poll in May to decide to create a Municipal Development District.
The Boyd City Council Tuesday night approved a resolution to add the district to the May 5 ballot along with the Place 1, Place 3 and Place 5 council races.
If approved by voters, the MDD would take the current half-cent sales tax collected for property tax relief and use it for municipal projects. A board of directors for the district would recommend how the receipts of the half-cent of sales taxes would be spent.
“The neat thing about this is there is actually money allocated for the development of our city,” said Boyd City Administrator Greg Arrington. “We are going to get several new projects going in the city.”
As possible projects, Arrington listed sidewalks, park improvements, roads and even grants to business owners to improve properties.
He did point out to the council, it would be giving up some control of revenue to a board that would make recommendations once per year. Based on this year’s total sales tax revenue of approximately $401,000, the district would have around $134,000 directed to it.
The creation of the MDD would allow the city to take advantage of increased sales tax revenue. With the current half-cent dedicated to property tax relief, the city has to reduce its property tax rate if sales taxes increased, as they did this year.
“When the alcohol sales were passed, it increased our sales tax [revenue]. But because of the resolution that was passed in 1990, everything we gained came off the ad valorem taxes,” said Boyd Mayor Rodney Holmes. “We wanted to use a little bit of that money to improve the city, improve downtown, improve the park and possibly use it for streets. This half-cent eliminated off the property tax relief and added to the MDD will allow us to be able to use that half-cent of sales tax, which probably 75 percent of it comes from people that don’t live in the city limits.”
In other business, the council tabled the amended subdivision ordinance. Arrington recommended the action to address the fees to developers.
“The fees are not in line with the area,” Arrrington said.
He said he will bring it back to the council in February.
The council also voted to put the former library building on Texas 114 and the property at 135 N. Wilson up for auction with Rene Bates Auctioneers.

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Decatur ISD to move 5th grade in fall

Decatur ISD fifth graders will not be on the district’s three elementary campuses next fall.
The district announced Monday that it will move the fifth grade to McCarroll Middle School’s sixth-grade campus on Eagle Drive. The campus will house fifth and sixth graders. The seventh and eighth grades will stay at the current campus on West Thompson Street.
Carson and Rann will become kindergarten through fourth-grade elementary campuses. Young Elementary will hold pre-kindergarten through fourth.
Decatur ISD Superintendent Judi Whitis informed the staff of the campus reconfigurations during Monday’s staff development.
“This is step one. There are many decisions to be made,” said Whitis about the move. “This is the big one with the logistics of moving, budgeting and staffing.”
Growth throughout the district played a role in the decision. Since the end of the 2016-17 school year in May, the district has added 198 students, hitting an enrollment of 3,371 last week. The district has added 20 since returning from the winter break.
“We have a golden opportunity because there is room at the sixth-grade campus. It buys us space at the elementary,” Whitis said.
Before the district opened its third elementary, Young, in the fall of 2010, fifth and sixth graders shared an intermediate school.
“Fifth and sixth grade go together well academically,” Whitis said. “There’s been an intermediate school here in the past.”
The move will also change how the campus is graded in the state accountability ratings. Its rating will be based on two grade levels instead of one.
Whitis said the announcement was met with positive feedback from the staff.
Throughout the spring, the administration plans to address staffing and scheduling for areas shared between the two campuses at McCarroll Middle School.

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6 injured in wreck

Six people were transported to area hospitals following a two-vehicle wreck on Farm Road 2123 Saturday afternoon.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Patrick Garcia said that a car attempted to make a left-hand turn onto FM 2123 from County Road 3579 and crossed in front of an SUV on FM 2123. The wreck occurred around 4 p.m.

The driver of the SUV was flown by air ambulance to Denton City Medical, and the three passengers were transported by ground ambulance to the same hospital. A passenger in the car was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, and the driver was transported by ground ambulance to JPS. Two other passengers in the car were uninjured.

Air Evac Lifeteam 68, PHI Air Medical, DPS, Cottondale Volunteer Fire Department, Wise County Sheriff’s Office and Wise County Emergency Medical Services and Rescue 1 responded.

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Fire destroys Aurora home

An Aurora couple’s home was destroyed by fire Thursday night.

Just after 9:30 p.m. Newark, Boyd and Rhome fire departments were called to 403 Circle Del Rio Drive.

Newark Fire Chief Jerry Taylor said when his crews arrived there was heavy fire on the back side of the house, and fire was shooting over the roof.

“We got hold of it and stopped it pretty quick,” Taylor said. He added that Newark and Boyd fire departments arrived on scene at the same time, which helped them get control of the blaze quickly.

“To have that much fire and the wind blowing like it is, it’s amazing the structure is still standing,” Taylor said.

The couple who lived in the home escaped without injury. Taylor said the residents saw smoke billowing from around the refrigerator, so they called 911 and got out of the house. Their names were not available on scene.

In addition to Newark, Boyd and Rhome fire departments, Wise County medics were called to the scene and Haslet Fire Department covered the Newark FD’s district until they cleared the scene.

Read more in the weekend Wise County Messenger.

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Chance for snow arrives Thursday afternoon

Winter could make a return to Wise County Thursday afternoon.
After a seasonably warm day Wednesday, a strong cold front will arrive in Thursday morning with 25 to 30 mph winds. Moisture will follow in the afternoon after temperatures drop in the mid to low 30s, bringing a slight chance for sleet and snow.
“The strong winds will be the main story,” said Mark Fox, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth. “During the afternoon, a band of light snow and sleet could move through between 3 and 6 p.m. We’re not expecting much accumulation or travel problems because the system will be move through so fast.”
The wintry precipitation could cause a few issues on bridges and overpasses.
After the front arrives, temperatures will remain cool through the upcoming weekend. The high Saturday is expected to be in the high 30s.
Another round of wintry weather could hit the area Monday evening with another system arriving and low temperatures in the 20s. Fox said his office will be monitoring the developing system. The forecast currently calls for a 20 percent chance of precipitation Monday night.

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Man robs Oliver Creek Store


By Kristen Tribe

A Rhome man was arrested Sunday afternoon after robbing the Oliver Creek Store at 4880 Farm Road 2264 outside Rhome.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said Vincent Benavidez, 31, walked into the store around 3 p.m. and demanded the money in the cash register. He was dressed in all black, carrying a camouflage backpack. After making his demand, he reached into his backpack as if he had a weapon. The clerk turned over the cash, and Benavidez fled.

Akin said a passing motorist saw what was happening and reported a suspicious male fleeing on foot. Deputies detained Benavidez, who had the cash but no weapon. The amount of money stolen was unknown as of 7 p.m., according to Akin, but the sheriff expressed his appreciation for the actions of the passing witness.

“We can accomplish so much more with help from the good folks of Wise County,” he said.

Benavidez was arrested and charged with robbery. He was booked into the Wise County Jail, but his bond had not been set as of 7 p.m.

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1 injured in rollover

One person was injured in a rollover wreck Tuesday night on U.S. 380 between Bridgeport and Decatur. The female driver of a white pickup was eastbound on the road just west of the intersection with Farm Road 1655 when she left the roadway and then tried to steer back onto the roadway, causing the vehicle to roll several times, according to officers on the scene. The driver, whose name was not available at the scene, was trapped and had to be extricated by the Bridgeport Fire Department before she was transported by ambulance to Wise Health System in Decatur. A 5-year-old passenger who was in a car seat was not injured. The wreck happened around 6:30 p.m.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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