Paradise City Council election in the air

Paradise City Council places 1, 2 and 3 are up for grabs this year, but only two incumbents have filed and no challengers.

Bob Gayan and Brad Largent filed for re-election, but Bill Schneck did not. The filing deadline was 5 p.m. Monday, but people can still file as a write-in candidate through 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22.

Monday evening, the council called the Nov. 4 election and agreed to partner with Wise County to hold the voting. If no one else files, the election will be canceled, and Schneck’s seat will be filled by appointment. Gayan and Largent would be automatically re-elected.

The council also agreed to assist the Paradise Youth Recreation Association, PYRA, with refurbishing and upgrading the city’s ballfield restrooms.

The council committed about $3,900 – 75 percent of the $5,200 cost quoted by PYRA leader Jodi Messenger. The organization leased the ballfields and took over maintenance in 2012. Messenger said the association didn’t have enough money to do all the work needed. She said the money raised would go to mostly pay for new, higher-quality fixtures.

Other business:

  • Council members agreed to extend a service agreement with AriCanopy and Sky Beam for three more years.
  • The council moved about $90,000 into CDs.

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Cross Country: Paradise eyes state trip

After two straight trips to Round Rock and the state cross country meet, the Paradise Lady Panthers aren’t satisfied.

The team that returns a majority of their top seven from last year has its sights set on getting back to state and competing for a crown.

“We’re very determined and have been working really hard,” said senior Kaylee McConnell. “It’d be special to make it a third time.”

The Lady Panthers put together a strong spring on the track and carried that over into the summer.

“We’re starting off faster than last year,” said senior Emily Corbin.

Paradise coach Karin Essig said the squad ran solid times in their mile time trial. The Lady Panthers ran their two-mile trial – the Panther Run – Saturday.

“They are all pushing each other hard,” Essig said. “They are looking good and running well.”

Essig said it helps that the team has increased competition with more than 20 runners out.

“We have lots of kids out running every day,” Essig said.

The Lady Panthers won the District 9-2A title in 2013. This year in the new 9-3A, Paradise will be paired with last year’s 2A runner-up, Holliday.

“That makes us even more determined,” McConnell said. “We’re ready to get after them.”

Essig also said she’s looking forward to facing the new league that also includes Bowie, Boyd, Henrietta, Jacksboro, Nocona and City View.

“It’s all new people. It’ll be a challenge to face them,” Essig said.

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Football: Panthers’ Wells breaks wrist against Lindsay

A broken wrist knocked Colton Wells out of the race to be the Paradise Panthers’ starting quarterback.

Wells suffered the wrist injury during the Panthers’ scrimmage against Lindsay Friday.

With Wells sidelined, Kash Helton, who has split snaps with him, assumes the role.

“He was looking good,” said Paradise coach Scott Broussard about Wells. “He’s going to be out six to eight weeks.”

Broussard said the Panthers worked out Cash Preather Monday as a backup quarterback. Preather had been at running back.

Along with possibly starting at quarterback, Wells was slated to play at one of the cornerback slots. Luke Gage will step into that spot.

Against Lindsay, Broussard said the Panthers had a few struggles offensively.

“Early, the speed of the game got us,” he said. “As it went, we got better. They stunted a lot.”

Lindsay broke a couple of big plays against the Paradise defense.

“We had a couple of busted coverages and there were a few plays we over-pursued,” Broussard said.

Paradise will scrimmage Grapevine Faith at 6 p.m. Thursday at home.

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Volleyball: Paradise sweeps Chico

First-match jitters created some shaky moments for the Paradise Lady Panthers and Chico Lady Dragons Tuesday.

WORKING TOGETHER – Paradise’s Bailee Miller and Jett Preather reach for a ball during the Lady Panthers’ win. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The veteran Lady Panthers were able to handle the emotions a little better than the youthful Lady Dragons on their way to a three-game victory. Paradise won 25-22, 25-6, 25-23.

Shelby Bradshaw led the Lady Panthers with seven kills. Jett Preather added six kills. She also served three aces.

Despite the quick win, Paradise coach Susie Burt insisted that her squad, which returns four starters, must improve if they hope to get back to the playoffs this season.

“The first-game jitters got the better of us,” Burt said. “At times we played together good. Other times we were scared to death.”

Burt pointed out that ball-handling limited the Lady Panthers’ chances.

“If we had the pass right on the net we were hitting it,” the Paradise coach said. “If we got to far off the net, we struggled. If we can get the set up and execute, the ball is going to go down. We have several good hitters.”

Paradise outlasted Chico in the first game to win by three.

In the second set, Chico struggled with its service receive. Jett Preather served eight straight points in a run that included an ace and two Chico errors. Chico’s inability to get a clean pass also set up easy scoring opportunities for Bradshaw to bury two kills.

After building the 18-3 lead, Paradise went on to take the set by 19 points.

“Paradise is solid and I think the girls were intimidated a bit,” said Chico coach Missy Patterson.

“The first and third sets they stepped up adjusted and were working well together.”

Chico took a 6-3 lead in the third set on an ace by Hannah Davis. The Lady Dragons held the lead until Paradise’s Amber French and Preather put down back-to-back kills. A block kill by Reagan Taylor put Paradise ahead 12-10.

The Lady Panthers built the lead to 20-14 with a Bradshaw kill.

Chico fought back to within one at 24-23 before Bradshaw ended the match with a kill.

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Allen Wayne Watts

Allen Wayne Watts

Allen Wayne Watts, 80, a U.S. Air Force veteran, died Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, at his home in Paradise.

Funeral is 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at Grace Baptist Church in Decatur, with burial in Highland Cemetery in Iowa Park. Dr. Van Gardner will officiate, and Dennis Scott, Victor Hammer, Cody Deaton, Shay Aaron, Chance Gibbs and Scotty Reed will serve as pallbearers.

Wayne was born July 2, 1934, to Alfred Allen and Ruby Opal (Fields) Watts in Cottle County. He married Ella Jean Copas Dec. 21, 1952, in Clovis, N.M. He proudly served his country in the Air Force for more than 20 years. He loved to fly airplanes and operated Wise Flying Service, later known as Wayne’s Aircraft Service.

He was also a charter member and past president of the Decatur Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.

Allen is survived by his wife of 61 years, Jean Watts of Paradise; daughter Beverly K. Jacobs and husband, Steve, of Alvord; granddaughter Sandy Michelle Williams and husband, Sam, of Hebron, Ky.; great-grandson Eric Hill; numerous nieces, nephews, and a host of friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Alfred and Eugene Watts.

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Paradise prepares for festival

Folks are busy preparing for this year’s Paradise Main Street Festival with the theme “Pioneer Paradise.”

A pioneering spirit has been a central theme for Paradise area citizens, and they welcome visitors to the festival 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27.

Just Like the Old Days

JUST LIKE THE OLD DAYS – Bob and Jennifer Jackson make up the Rendezvous Re-Enactor Team, and they will be entertaining visitors at the Paradise Main Street Festival Sept. 27. Submitted Photo

One of the featured exhibits this year is the Rendezvous Re-Enactor Team of Bob and Jennifer Jackson. They offer a hands-on experience for young and old alike with period-dress, a tent and artifacts. They will demonstrate fire-making techniques, hide-tanning, flint-lock firearms and more.

Vendors will be set up with lots of goodies and information to share. There will also be a car show, chili cook-off, talent show and quilt show.

The Paradise Main Street Festival is an annual event sponsored by the Paradise Historical Society and local businesses and citizens. The event is free to the public. Donations of cash and auction items help to make the event a success.

For information, email Donna Weeden at

To download vendor forms and contest entry forms, go to

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Two quarterbacks battle for Paradise job

As the Paradise Panthers go into their first scrimmage Friday night, Kash Helton and Colton Wells are still battling for the right to lead the team into the season.

The junior quarterbacks will each get first-team reps during the 6 p.m. scrimmage at Lindsay as the tight race for the job continues.

Duelling for Job

DUELING FOR JOB – Colton Wells and Kash Helton are locked in a battle to become the Paradise starting quarterback. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“Both look good in practice,” said coach Scott Broussard. “They will rotate with the first and second team to get a look at game speed and see how they handle it.”

Neither one has taken a varsity snap. Wells played quarterback on the junior varsity last season.

“It helped, but there’s a big difference from JV to varsity,” Wells said. “It’s a whole lot quicker.”

Helton was a starting safety and saw time at tailback for the Panthers last year.

“It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I’ve never played or taken a snap before on varsity.”

Broussard has confidence in both players.

“Both can get the job done and operate the offense,” the Paradise coach said. “They are more run-oriented but can throw the ball sufficiently.”

The two quarterbacks are not shying away from the competition and look forward to a chance Friday to show what they can do.

“It’s a tough battle,” Helton said. “We’re ready to show we have what it takes and that we know how to run the offense and lead the team.

“Whoever is going to make the big plays in the fourth quarter will win the job.”

Around the two young signal-callers, Broussard is encouraged by the work of a mostly veteran offensive line and the quartet of running backs – Austin Hogan, Darian Sotomi, Chris Hill and Cash Preather.

“The offensive line is OK. It’s a matter of holding their blocks longer but I’m pleased with their communication skills,” Broussard said. “Hogan, Hill, Sotomi and Preather look good. Most are playing two ways.”

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Paradise ISD advances with deficit budget

Paradise ISD board members are looking at an “austere” budget for the coming school year.

While spending has been reduced, PISD’s 2014-2015 budget will be about $213,000 shy of balanced based on the proposal.

During a board meeting Thursday night, trustees also proposed a tax rate of $1.34 and set a public hearing 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 for the community to come and discuss the proposed budget and tax rate.

“Before you is a budget that is very austere,” said Robert Criswell, PISD interim Superintendent. “I say austere, but also lean, very lean. Even at that, our expenditures are larger than our revenues.”

According to Criswell, who took the job on an interim basis after Monty Chapman resigned last spring, the bulk of the deficit comes from increases in salaries. He said some vacated positions have gone dark in the district, but necessary spending in other areas wiped out those gains.

Maintenance and operations spending is down 10.44 percent while total expenditures are up 2.75 percent.

“This is a deficit budget. Never in my career have I recommended a deficit budget, but we have one this year,” Criswell said. “That is just the nature of the beast and hopefully we can overcome this at some point in time.”

The proposed $1.34 tax rate includes $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 30 cents for debt service.

Criswell said the district’s financial shortcomings are not untenable and the district still has options moving forward.

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Paradise finds libero, setter

Going into the start of practice, two of the pressing challenges in front of the Paradise Lady Panthers were finding a libero, and grooming another setter to replace last year’s standouts Makala Neighbors and Makenna Burt.

In the first week, Paradise coach Susie Burt feels she’s found answers at both spots.

Junior Madi Horne has moved into the libero spot that Neighbors held.

“Madi has stepped into the spot. She has good instincts. I believe she can get to anything,” Burt said.

Horne, a setter last year, is looking forward to the new challenge.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Horne said. “It’s a lot of pressure. You have to step up and get to a lot of balls.”

Amber French has moved into the second setter spot alongside returning starter Emily Corbin.

“Amber has worked hard all offseason,” Burt said.

French is appreciative of the opportunity to take over the role Burt held last year.

“Filling Makenna’s spot is big,” she said. “I have some hitters to help. We have girls that can adjust and help.”

The Lady Panthers will hold a scrimmage at home Saturday before their season opener at home Tuesday against Chico.

Paradise veterans Jett Preather and Corbin were encouraged by this week’s work.

“We’re working good as a team,” Preather said.

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Earl and Beverley Dallas

Earl and Beverley Dallas of Paradise will celebrate their 60th anniversary with family and friends.


Earl and Beverley Dallas

Earl and the former Beverley Cole were married Aug. 9, 1954, in Seaside, Calif.

They have four children: Elenora Floyd and husband, Gene; Carl Dallas and wife, Diane; Debbie Lee; and Linda Dallas; an adopted daughter, Neiko Baker; seven grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

The couple own Rainbow Dry Cleaners and Busy D’s Gifts in Bridgeport.

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Back to School: Mathis takes PHS reins

Like every other campus in Paradise ISD, the leadership at the high school has switched hands.

Mark Mathis and Rayma Young

Mark Mathis is the new principal at Paradise High School, after former principal Mac Edwards moved over to administration as the district’s Chief Financial Officer.

Rayma Young is Mathis’ assistant principal. This is Young’s 18th year in education – her 14th with PISD.

Mathis has been with the district for the past six years, starting as assistant principal at the elementary campus in the mornings and assistant at the junior high campus in the afternoons.

“It was challenging to go from little ones to teenagers in the same day,” Mathis said.

Prior to his stints as assistant principal, Mathis taught in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD at Wayside Middle School, then at Mesquite Poteet and Eastern Hills in Fort Worth. He went back to EM-S for three years while he earned his master’s degree from Tarleton State.

Working in Paradise seems to have been in the cards for him since the beginning, as he student taught and coached at PISD while earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas.

Mathis said he is really looking forward to working at the high school.

“This is a veteran staff, so I’ve been getting prepared for them and the students,” he said. “This is a new administration around here so we are all getting ready.

“Our main goal is to provide challenging educational opportunities in academic, career and technology, and leadership areas for all students,” he added. “We want our students to be lifelong learners who make successful contributions to society.

“We have to challenge ourselves to continue to get better every day.”


Kristin Gage

Kristin Gage may be a new principal, but she’s a familiar face at Paradise Intermediate School.

The longtime educator has worked at the campus for the last 15 years as a teacher and the school’s counselor.

“This is home,” she said. “I love Paradise and the families and just felt like I could do more working with the families and the kids in this position.”

Although Gage may make a few changes, she also plans to continue many of the programs that she started as counselor, especially those that encourage parent and community involvement. She also wants to raise student achievement and improve communication with families.

“That’s my no. 1 thing with teachers – parent communication,” she said.

She explained that parents can help their students in the classroom just by knowing what’s going on and being an active part of the campus when possible.

Gage wants her building to be “kid-centered and parent-involved.”

“Before I make a decision, I’m going to ask, ‘what’s best for the kids?’” she said. “I love this age group. They’re independent, but they still love you and they’re eager to learn. Just to watch their eyes … it’s neat. They get excited over the smallest things!”

Gage is a 1981 graduate of Decatur High School and earned her college degrees at Texas Woman’s University and Dallas Baptist University. She’s a member of Friendship Baptist Church in Boyd and spends her free time chasing after four grandchildren and working in her garden.

As summer draws to a close, she’s ready for the first bell to ring Aug. 25.

“I’m ready for the kids to get here,” she said. “It’s dead … It’s like the building is sad. The kids need to get back!”


Robyn Gibson

A new face will welcome young Panthers when they return to school in two-and-a-half weeks.

In her 20th year in education, Robyn Gibson takes over as principal of Paradise Elementary School.

“I hope to bring servanthood,” she said. “You get to work with the community and parents, the teachers and the kids. You aren’t just one piece. You get to serve and do so many things with all three pockets.”

The West Texas native graduated from Iraan High School before earning a degree in multi-disciplinary studies at Texas Tech University.

Although her father – who’s served as inspiration throughout her career – encouraged her to continue with graduate studies, Gibson opted to begin working immediately.

She taught a year each of first and second grade at Frenship ISD, near Lubbock, before serving as a second-grade teacher for four years in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district.

It wasn’t until she was teaching fourth grade in Keller ISD that Gibson decided she wanted to pursue a master’s degree.

She enrolled at the University of North Texas and in 2004 graduated with a Master of Education, educational administration.

She applied the degree serving, as an elementary school principal for three years and elementary principal for four years – all at Keller.

Gibson then trekked to Wise County where she served as assistant principal at Bridgeport Middle School last year before returning to the elementary level at Paradise this year.

“I just love the energy and the enthusiasm of the little ones and also just building that foundation – what they’re going to need,” Gibson said. “I’m here to serve the teachers and meet the kids’ needs and help the parents as they need. It’s already a very team-, family-oriented place, and I just want to continue that and help us all to continue to grow – kids, staff, community everybody.

“I’m so excited to be here.”


Greg Fletcher

Paradise Junior High has a new look this year – and it’s a good one.

Greg Fletcher will lead PJHS as it’s newest principal after a five-year stint as the assistant high school principal.

Fletcher earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Tarleton State University and this is his 12th year in Paradise ISD. He was the junior high and high school technology teacher before he became the assistant principal at the elementary campus. Later he became the assistant principal at the high school.

“Coming [to the junior high] is a bit different. It’s not as busy,” Fletcher said. “High school has so many more activities that we don’t have to worry about here.”

Fletcher said he is really excited about working with a new staff and seeing some of the same faces he remembers from his days at the elementary school.

“We have a great staff and great kids. Junior high is going to be fun. The kids are excited,” Fletcher said.

“I know many of these kids. I had them in elementary school and a lot of them remember me,” he added. “I have a veteran staff around me, and they are the ones who make this school what it is.”


Paradise Elementary School

  • Robyn Gibson – principal
  • Josh Rutledge – assistant principal
  • Tobi Morris – fourth grade
  • Toni Jenkins – second grade
  • Shelley Thigpen
  • Kristen Dagley

Paradise Junior High School

  • Darlene Hager – reading
  • Gretchen Krug – teacher/coach

Paradise High School

  • Cody Chandler – basketball coach
  • Steven Grigsby – science teacher/coach
  • Shane Lunceford – social studies teacher/coach

District level

  • Sheila Farrar – bus driver/cafeteria worker
  • Christy Gee – bus driver/custodian


Paradise ISD

Superintendent: Robert Criswell (interim)

Board members: Homer Mundy, Doug Bryant, Kevin Howerton, Rusty Ford, Carrie Preather, Ronnie Pewitt, Ben Sanders

Meet the teacher nights

Elementary School: Kids with last names starting with A to M 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21; kids with last names starting with N to Z 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21
Fourth grade 5:30-6:30 Aug. 19
Fifth grade 6:30-7:30 Aug. 19
Junior High: 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 18
High School: 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 18

Paradise Calendar

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Broussard starts second year at helm

Last year, Scott Broussard and his Paradise staff rushed into the start of fall practice after a turbulent summer.

“There was a lot of uncertainty, and we had to put in an entire offense in two-a-days,” Broussard said.

Monday when the Panthers begin workouts shortly after sunrise at 7 a.m., Broussard expects a smoother start.

“I’m excited. The kids are way ahead of where we were last year,” he said. “The kids have got a firm grasp on what we are trying to do. I’m excited about what is to come.”

Paradise finished 1-9 last season and was winless in the tough 5-2A Division I. In the new 4-3A Division I, which was previously Class 2A Division I, the Panthers are away from Pilot Point and Whitesboro – two playoff teams from the old league. Paradise is now in a district with Breckenridge, Boyd, Bowie, Brock and Ponder.

The Panthers return a mostly veteran offensive line and running back Austin Hogan, who tallied 447 yards on 81 carries.

“Our offensive line put in a lot of hard work and almost all of them have varsity experience,” Broussard said. “We’ve got good skill people, but we’re not super deep.”

Paradise will be looking for a quarterback. Kash Helton, Colton Wells and Cash Preather enter camp competing for the job.

“We’ve got three guys contending. None have a lot of varsity experience,” Broussard said.

Preather did have 17 receptions for 264 yards last year.

Defensively, the Panthers bring back seven starters. Tanner Edwards leads a powerful and strong defensive front.

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Bobby Dale Doty

Bobby Dale Doty

Bobby Dale Doty, 80, a retired machinist, died Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Paradise.

Funeral is 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur with Gerre Joiner officiating. Burial will follow at DFW National Cemetery.

Bobby was born June 21, 1934, in Tekamah, Neb., to Thomas Earl and Margaret Olive (Robinson) Doty. He married Gloria Mae Shephard June 23, 1957, in Reno, Nev., and proudly served in the U.S. Navy. He was a Korean War veteran. Bobby retired from Lockheed after 30 years as a machinist. He was a Baptist.

He was preceded in death by his parents; and his wife, Gloria Mae Doty.

Survivors include his daughters, Tamara Lynn Madrid and husband, Patrick, of Pflugerville, Jo Ann Doty of Paradise and Carol Marie Doty Shuker of Paradise; son-in-law Derek Shuker of Gainesville; grandchildren Ashley Doty, Anthony Madrid, Edward Madrid, Garrett Brewster, Collin Doty, Allie Madrid, Jena Doty McDaniel, Raven LeAnn Brewster and Trever Dale Shuker; great-granddaughter Aubree Dawn McDaniel; brothers John Doty and wife, Phyllis, of Locust Grove, and James Doty of San Jose, Calif.; sisters Alice Bauder and husband, Calvin, of Colleyville, and Linda Niccum and husband, Tom, of Santa Clara, Calif.; and many nieces, nephews and friends.

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Seniors ready to step forward for Paradise

The Paradise Lady Panthers lost five seniors to graduation, including a pair of four-year starters in setter Makenna Burt and libero Makala Neighbors.

But Paradise coach Susie Burt still expects the Lady Panthers to be in the hunt for a league crown and playoff berth this year.

“We’ve got big shoes to fill but we’ve got several girls coming up who are ready and have potential,” Burt said.

Paradise finished runner-up last year in 9-2A to state semifinalist Brock. This year, they move into the new 9-3A with Bowie, Boyd, Henrietta, Holliday, Jacksboro, Nocona and City View.

“We are excited to go into the new district,” Burt said.

Jett Preather is the Lady Panthers’ leading hitter returning. She recorded 211 kills last year to earn first-team all district. She will have Shelby Bradshaw, Johnna Headley and Reagan Taylor beside her. Bradshaw had 87 kills and 84 digs last year.

“They’ve played all summer long and are excited about their senior year,” Burt said.

Junior Amber French also is expected to be a strong hitter for the Lady Panthers.

“Her hitting has gotten so much stronger,” Burt said.

Emily Corbin split time with Makenna Burt last season at setter. She will share the role this year as coach Burt works in another young setter.

Paradise will be looking for a defensive-minded player to step into the libero spot.

“We’re working on finding someone that is not scared of the ball,” Burt said. “All the teams we will face have tremendous hitters.”

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Wallace LeDell Shackelford

Wallace LeDell Shackelford, 46, of Paradise, died Sunday, July 27, 2014, at home.

Funeral is 2 p.m. Thursday, July 31, at Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport with burial to follow at Paradise Cemetery.

Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, at the funeral home.

Wallace was born Dec. 28, 1967, in Fort Worth to Sammy (Wilson) and Wally Shackelford. He served his country in the U.S. Army and enjoyed fishing, riding jet skis and shooting.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Evelyn and O’Dell Shackelford and Bessie and Leroy Wilson.

He is survived by his parents; brother Jason Shackelford and wife, Stephanie, of Midlothian; sister Misty Tierney and husband, Kevin, of Vernon, N.Y.; nieces and nephews A.J. and Parker Shackelford, Dalton McCord, Miles Tierney and Mikayla Tierney; and numerous aunts and uncles.

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Burnin’ love: Smith charged with arson in house fire

A Paradise woman is suspected of intentionally setting her home on fire with her husband sleeping inside.

Crystal Kay Smith

Crystal Kay Smith, 32, was arrested Wednesday and charged with arson of a habitation – reckless, causing damage – a first degree felony. She remained in Wise County Jail late Friday with bond set at $100,000.

The fire happened at the Smiths’ home at 211 Private Road 3360 in Paradise on Nov. 6 of last year. Smith’s husband at the time, Jeffrey Scott, told Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard and Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis that he worked at night and was asleep when he was awakened that afternoon by the sound of the smoke detector.

“Mr. Smith got out of bed and opened his bedroom door to find fire in the laundry room, kitchen and the living room,” Crystal Smith’s arrest warrant affidavit filed by Travis states. “Mr. Smith had to crawl through the living room to his front door to exit the structure. Mr. Smith received some minor burns in the process of exiting the residence.”

He was able to run to a neighbor’s house and call for help.

Travis interviewed Crystal Smith that day, and she told him she had left to pick up her son from school. She denied knowing what caused the fire, according to the affidavit.

The fire investigation ruled out all electrical sources and appliances as possible ignition sources, and it appeared the fire had been intentionally set. The home and all its contents were destroyed.

According to records on file in the 271st District Clerk’s Office in Decatur, the Smiths separated the following month, and their divorce was finalized in April.

On June 24, an informant contacted the Wise County Sheriff’s Office to report Crystal Smith, with whom he’d previously had a sexual relationship, was threatening his fianc e. He said the threats had been taking place since he and Crystal Smith had broken up, according to the affidavit. He also told investigators that Crystal Smith had admitted to intentionally setting her home on fire.

Two days later, the informant met with Travis to give a detailed statement about the fire.

“(The informant) explained that he had begun a sexual relationship with Crystal Kay Smith in October of 2013,” the affidavit states. “He said during his relationship with her that she reported that she’d had a fire at her residence, initially telling him that the fire was determined to be electrical in origin. During a later conversation, somewhere around the month of February 2014, Crystal Kay Smith admitted to (the informant) that she actually had set the fire in her residence to kill her husband and collect on the homeowners and life insurance policies.”

Travis stated in the affidavit that he needed to get Crystal Smith to admit to setting the fire on tape, and he asked the informant to rekindle his relationship with her.

On July 16, the informant called Crystal Smith from Travis’ office. A recording device was placed on the informant’s cell phone, and Smith admitted “to setting her house on fire using acetone (fingernail polish remover) as an ignitable liquid to ignite the fire,” according to the affidavit.

“Crystal Kay Smith went on to say that her intent in setting the fire was to kill her husband Jeffrey Scott Smith,” the affidavit states.

The first degree felony offense of arson carries a possible punishment range of 5 to 99 years or life in jail.

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Annabelle Jean Price

Will and Nina Price of Paradise announce the birth of a daughter, Annabelle Jean, on July 16, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

She weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces and was 20 inches long.

Grandparents are Glenn Gentry of Paradise and Gene and Marti Price of Watauga.

Great-grandparents are Don and Lorene Gentry of Paradise.

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Paradise School Board reconfigures meal service

The Paradise school board is cooking up a new plan for the district’s cafeterias.

Trustees Monday night approved a bid from Aramark to provide food services for the district, starting this fall.

Interim Superintendent Robert Criswell said it would be five years before the district sees a profit – but over the years, food services has regularly run a deficit, so almost anything would be an improvement.

In the first year, expenditures with Aramark are projected to be $498,062, while revenue through meal purchases is expected to be $391,125 – a loss of $106,937. The losses are projected to decrease annually until year five, when a net $307 profit is expected.

“We’ve historically lost $100,000-plus on this thing forever, so this isn’t out of line,” Criswell said. “We’re not going to get rich off this thing, but if we can break even, it’ll be all right.”

Paradise ISD plans to partner with neighboring Boyd ISD to make it more economically feasible for both districts.

Criswell said he thought the loss could be decreased if more students choose to participate in the program.

“I think it may be better than that by the time we get more kids eating,” he said. “We’ve got to have more participation if we’re going to try to make things break even.”

Criswell said all current food service employees will get to choose whether they become an Aramark employee or remain employees of the school district, but no one should lose their job.

“I think it’s time to try something new,” Criswell said.

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Paradise ISD changes class rank policy

Paradise School Board followed the lead of many other local school districts, approving a new class ranking policy Monday night.

Chief Financial Officer Mac Edwards, who is a former PHS principal, said the changes will put the race for class rank on a more level playing field.

“The way the policy reads right now … it kind of punishes kids for taking electives, it punishes their GPAs (grade point averages),” he said.

The plan approved Monday night will base class rank on four core classes – English, math, science and social studies – plus a foreign language. This will affect only incoming freshmen.

“So basically, you’re taking out electives to determine class rank,” said Board President Homer Mundy.

Earlier in the meeting Edwards had explained that it’s difficult to compare elective classes head-to-head, which is why basing class rank on the core classes is more fair.

“We’re not pioneers in this,” he said. “Other districts have adopted something similar.”

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Wise lands more than 50 on Weatherford College dean’s list

A host of Wise County students were among the 400-plus named to the Weatherford College Dean’s List for spring 2014.

To be eligible for the Dean’s List, a student must take 12 or more semester hours, have no grade lower than a C and meet the minimum grade-point average. The GPA system is based on a one-to-four rating.

Wise County students earning the honor, listed by their hometowns, were:

Alvord: Trevor Hardee; Christina Overton and Maribel Vargas.

Boyd: Derek Martin; Abram Moreno and Sarah Smith.

Bridgeport: Torie Carter; Sharlyn Fagan; Alexis Garrett; Joshua Hartsell; Gabriel Huerta; Taylor Hulsey; Tina Jennings; Annbra Johnson; Alexandra Martinets; Danielle Mindieta; Martha Sanders and Garrett Wagner.

Chico: Hannah Avants; Kimberly Bible; Elizabeth Brown; Damian Delgado; Callie Fuller; Ramiro Loza; Dee McHenry; Luke Plummer; James Redwine; Molli Umphress and Tiffany Vislosky.

Decatur: Rosaura Aldape; Victoria Aldape; Amanda Byrum; Sarrah Ennis; Zachary Flaherty; Selena Galindo; Wilson Garrett; Lacy Hankins; Brittany Hargrave; Jeffrey Keller; Martha Maldonado; Rebekah McGregor; Nathan Mitchell; Mercedes Moreno; Victoria Myers; Brandon Pelton; Sonia Resma; Venancio Rodriguez; Yanet Rodriguez; Karol Saenz and Kelsey Smith.

Paradise: Kristina Kemp and William Ngetich.

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