Two arrested after pursuit

Two men were arrested after a pursuit ended north of Alvord Thursday evening.

Another man fled and officers were searching for them as of 8 p.m., according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.

Juan Saenz and Agustine Tavarez were arrested and transported to Wise County Jail.

The pursuit started around 5:30 p.m. in Decatur and went north on U.S. 81/287. The vehicle wrecked out north of Alvord.

“A quantity of marijuana was seized,” Akin said.

Akin added that Saenz had an extradition warrant for human trafficking.

“We still have people at the scene. One person remains at large,” Akin said.

Department of Public Safety troopers and the North Texas Criminal Interdiction Unit took part in the pursuit.

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Wrong way driver on 81/287 arrested

The driver of a vehicle traveling the wrong way on U.S. 81/287 Saturday evening was arrested after another motorist shot out at least one of the vehicle’s tires near NRS south of Decatur.

Alejandro Flores, 27, of Decatur was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, second offense; possession of a controlled substance, penalty group 1, less than 1 gram; and possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility. Flores is in Wise County Jail awaiting arraignment.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said dispatch received approximately 30 calls around 7:30 p.m. about a driver going southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S. 81/287 near NRS.

“The driver made a u-turn and then went northbound in the southbound lanes,” Akin said. “A motorist shot at least one of the tires and the vehicle came to a stop blocking 287.”

He was then arrested.

When Flores was booked into jail for the DWI, Akin said he was found to be in possession of a controlled substance believed to be methaphetamine, resulting in the additional charges.

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Mystery woman found: Sheriff says person who left message is safe

A woman seen and heard on a home security system apparently asking for help Tuesday afternoon has been located safe and sound, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said Friday afternoon.

Akin said the woman called the sheriff’s office around 11 Friday morning saying she was the person seen in video surveillance footage and in a recorded message left at the front gate of a home in the Indian Trails neighborhood west of Decatur.

Two investigators were sent to the woman’s home in the Metroplex to meet with her. Akin said evidence suggests she is the person they have been looking for.

The circumstances of exactly what led to the 36-year-old woman asking for help are still being investigated, Akin said.

“She is alleging she was the victim of a domestic dispute, and she wanted to get away,” the sheriff said. “She said she called a friend who came and picked her up.”

The sheriff’s office did not reveal the woman’s name or the town where she lives, pending further investigation.

A homeowner in the Indian Hills neighborhood called the sheriff’s office late Tuesday and provided them with the message the woman left at a speaker box at the front gate around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m really scared. Will you please open your gate? Please?” the woman is heard saying on the message.

The video showed the woman later running off into a heavily wooded area.

Since that time, investigators have searched for the person, believing she might be in danger.

Investigators initially believed the woman was between 12 and 14 years old, but a mail carrier saw the woman and placed her age closer to 25.

The sheriff’s office had released photos taken from video surveillance, video footage and the message left on the home security system in hopes someone might identify the woman or provide information about what happened.

Akin said investigators will continue to look into the incident.

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Work of local deputy stops kidnapping

Work of local deputy stops kidnapping

Standing Out

STANDING OUT – Wise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Baker received a letter of commendation from the Cedar Hill Police Department for his work that helped prevent a kidnapping last month. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Wise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Baker’s intuition told him something didn’t add up with a story told to him by a female driver during a traffic stop Feb. 13.

Acting on his hunch, Baker alerted his supervisor, who then contacted Cedar Hill authorities. The next day the information from Baker was credited with stopping a possible kidnapping in the Dallas suburb.

Earlier this month, Baker and Lt. Chad Lanier received a letter of commendation, along with Cedar Hill Police Department coins, as a token of thanks for their assistance.

“I wanted to personally say ‘thank you’ for Deputy Baker and Lt. Lanier for their outstanding contribution to the law enforcement profession and for their outstanding service to not only your department, but also to the City of Cedar Hill and the Cedar Hill Police Department,” wrote Steve Lafferty, Cedar Hill assistant chief of police in a letter to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin. “Your deputies truly reflect your goal ‘represent the citizens of Wise County and to present a professional office of steadfast service and unwavering protection.'”

Baker stopped a vehicle on U.S. 81/287 Feb. 13 with two women from Sacramento, Calif. inside.

“They told me they were driving straight through from [California] to pick up a daughter that was dropped off Christmas break,” Baker recalled. “I asked if the daughter was going to school. They said yes, she had enrolled in Texas schools while she was down here, which usually doesn’t make sense. I wasn’t sure what they were up to.”

Baker asked for consent to search the vehicle, and his inspection didn’t turn up any contraband.

“I did a find a notepad that said a male’s name and said he didn’t have rights to a child,” Baker explained. “From there, we figured they were going to cause issues in Cedar Hill.”

Troubled by what he found, which included a birth certificate for the 10-year-old, Baker alerted Lanier about the traffic stop that afternoon.

“Their stories just weren’t making sense. You don’t normally put a child in another school district just to go for a custodial visit,” Baker said. “Just their behavior and driving was consistent with criminal activity. Once I saw the notepad, I knew they were going to cause an issue with someone, a biological father or whoever.”

With school being out for the day, Lanier forwarded the information to the Cedar Hill Police.

“They got me in contact with one of the [school resource officers],” Lanier said. “It was kind of odd the way she had some notes written down in the car that we knew something was up. We gave them the females’ names, the vehicle description and the license plate.”

The next morning Lanier received a call from a Cedar Hill officer reporting they had a child abduction.

According to a letter from Cedar Hill Police Sgt. Chad Cooley, the department received a 911 call from a child saying she was being kidnapped at 8:42 a.m. Feb. 14.

“The child was screaming, and there was a struggle for the phone before the phone line went dead,” Cooley said in the letter. “The child was unable to provide any information about a vehicle or the person taking her before dispatch lost contact with her.”

What Cedar Hill officers did have was the information Baker and Lanier relayed to them the afternoon before. Officers flooded the area, and using the potential suspect vehicle description, found it less than a mile away from Interstate 20.

“Without the information provided by Deputy Baker, our responding officers would have been going into the situation blind,” Cooley said. “The information he provided was instrumental in locating the child quickly and safely, giving Cedar Hill officers the ability to ensure the child was returned safely to the location that was in her best interest.”

Baker and Lanier were grateful to hear their help was able to keep the child safe and bring a positive outcome to the incident.

Lanier said this is a prime example of Baker’s work as a criminal interdiction officer.

“He probably saved a little girl from a lifetime of misery,” Lanier said. “Going back to Sacramento, it would have been a long time before anyone figured out where this little girl was, if they ever found her.”

Lanier pointed out the suspects’ vehicle turned out to be a rental, which would have complicated the investigation without Baker’s tip.

The letter of commendation was a surprise to Baker, who said he didn’t know all the details of the case until he received it.

“I was just glad my lieutenant forwarded the information so we could get it out there, so they had something to go off of,” he said.

Lanier was glad to see Baker recognized.

“It was nice for them to reach out and thank us for the hard work he did do,” Lanier said. “That doesn’t happen very often. Ninety percent of the things we forward never turns out into anything … We forward a lot of information. It’s nice when some of it comes back to help.”

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Back in the office: Former sheriff’s family returns historic desk back to WCSO

Desk delivery

DESK DELIVERY – Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin, Jim Beneke and deputies unload a desk that belonged to former Wise County Sheriff John L. Cearley. Cearley was sheriff from 1902 to 1910. Beneke, Cearley’s great-great-grandson, donated the desk to the sheriff’s office. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

An antique rolltop desk that housed the badges and hats of Wise County sheriffs from 1902 to 1975 has made its way back home.

On Sunday, Jim and Kaye Beneke hauled the oak desk that belonged to their great-great-grandfather, Wise County Sheriff John L. Cearley, who served from 1902 until 1910, back to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s home now,” Kaye Beneke said.

Akin has grown familiar with Cearley as he walks through the hallway shrouded with pictures of former sheriffs on the way to his office. He can now place a name and face with a desk, and Akin said the history of the WCSO just got that much richer.

“It really means a lot to me,” Akin said. “When I walk up and down that hallway, and I see Sheriff Cearley’s picture hanging on the wall, he’s always one of the ones that’s looking back at me. So I’m really excited to have the desk back in the sheriff’s office and back in Wise County.”

The desk remained in the sheriff’s office in the courthouse until it was auctioned outside the Wise County Jail in 1978, according to a Wise County Messenger article.

Permanent addition

PERMANENT ADDITION – Wise County Judge J.D. Clark, Sheriff Lane Akin, Jim Beneke and Kaye Beneke pose in front of the desk that sat in the WCSO from 1902 to 1975. After the desk spent 41 years at Jim Beneke’s home, the family donated the desk back to the WCSO. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

Marjorie Beneke, Cearley’s granddaughter, won a bidding war to keep the desk in her family after the price was raised 41 times, finally claiming the desk with a bid of $185.

It remained in the Beneke family for 41 years.

Decorating to fit an open concept, a drive from Austin to Decatur and a desire to give back resulted in the desk’s return to Wise County.

Jim Beneke reached out to the WCSO and was relieved to hear that the desk that had been in his family for so long would find a deserving home in the sheriff’s brotherhood.

“I think it’s where he would have wanted it to be,” Beneke said.

Deputies hauled the desk from the U-Haul trailer and straight into Akin’s office underneath an American flag, where the sheriff said it will remain.

“1902, that’s incredible,” Akin said. “It’s quite some time ago. We’re proud to have it back in Wise County. It’s really touching to me to have that level of history back in this office. We will make sure that it stays in this office from now on.”

Wise County Judge J.D. Clark was in attendance to welcome the desk delivery. He has a similar historic desk in his office and said it isn’t just a piece of furniture. Instead, he described the desk as context and a place in the county’s unique historical tapestry.

“It’s important for us to hang on to things like that,” Clark said. “Some people might look at it and think it’s a desk, or a piece of furniture. That’s our county history, and it’s something tangible that keeps us in touch with the people that have served before and have done that before. I appreciate the family doing this.”

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Three arrested on drug charges in Decatur

Three people were arrested on drug-possession charges Friday night after officers with the Big Sandy Special Response Team and Wise County Sheriff’s Office SWAT executed a warrant in the 400 block of North Cowan.

James Bisidas, 57, of Decatur, Gerardo Fernandez, 41, of Decatur and Brichette Wells, 31, of Bridgeport were charged with possession of a controlled substance penalty group one 200 to 400 grams, possession of a controlled substance penalty group two four to 400 grams, possession of a controlled substance penalty group three less than 28 grams and possession of a dangerous drug. Total bail for the charges is set at $50,000 per person. All three remained in Wise County Jail Monday afternoon.

Officers served the warrant around 8:30 p.m. Friday. Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said the Wise County Sheriff’s Office had a previous incident at the residence.

“Officers have been working this house for a couple months gathering intel,” Hoskins said.

When they entered the home, officers found methamphetamine, Xanax, a bottle of tetrahydrocannabinol and some other drugs, according to Hoskins.

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Officers search for stabbing suspect

Officers search for stabbing suspect

Search is on

SEARCH IS ON – Members of the Wise County Sheriff’s Office conduct a search for a stabbing suspect in far south Wise County Monday. The suspect fled on foot. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Officers from the Wise County Sheriff’s Office are looking for a suspect involved in a stabbing Monday morning near Springtown.

WCSO Chief Deputy Craig Johnson said few details are known at this time, but medics responded to a location in the area of Texas 199 and Clover Drive in far south Wise County for a male patient with multiple stab wounds.

Salt Creek Fire Capt. Robert Allen said the patient was transported to Wise Health System in Decatur with non-life threatening injuries.

The victim was treated and released Monday afternoon, Johnson said.

Officers are searching for a suspect described as a white male in a gray sweatshirt and jeans in his mid- to late-30s who left the scene on foot.

The incident happened shortly after 10:30 a.m. As of press time, the suspect is still at large.

A DPS helicopter was dispatched to aid officers from multiple agencies in the search for the suspect.

Anyone with information about the suspect or the incident should call the WCSO at 940-627-5971.

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Fake bills surface at local stores

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a string of incidents where counterfeit money is being used at local stores.

Wise County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Craig Johnson said they’ve received four reports of counterfeit bills being passed in the last couple of weeks. Three of those reports came from Chico and one came from Alvord.

“It’s mainly low denominations, but one $50 was passed,” Johnson said.

On Nov. 26, a counterfeit bill was passed at the Alvord Dollar General. The complainant in the case recognized the person and provided his identity to the sheriff’s office. Jason Michael Hubbard of Alvord was arrested the same day on a felony charge of forgery government/national institution/money/security. He posted $15,000 bond and was released Nov. 29, according to Wise County jail records.

That same day, Nov. 29, the sheriff’s office received a report that three counterfeit bills were accepted from an unknown customer at the Allsups in Chico. The deputy took possession of the three bills as evidence.

Also Nov. 29, the sheriff’s office received a call from the Dollar General store in Chico. The complainant said a white male had attempted to purchase items with two counterfeit $20 bills. The caller stated that another white male had attempted to purchase items with a counterfeit $50 bill Nov. 23.

Investigators obtained video footage in an attempt to identify the person or people responsible.

Johnson said another counterfeit bill was passed at the Subway nearby in Chico on an unspecified date.

He said it is unknown if Hubbard is connected to the counterfeit bills in the Chico area.

The investigation into the Chico incidents are ongoing, and more arrests could take place, Johnson said.

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Festival Fun

FESTIVAL FUN – Costumed festival fans of all ages mill about under the safe watch of law enforcement at the Wise County Sheriff’s Fall Fest Wednesday at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Clowning Around

CLOWNING AROUND – Joshua Basto was in disguise as a twisted clown at the Wise County Sheriff Fall Fest Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Free the Princess

FREE THE PRINCESS – Emily Thatcher posed behind bars at the Wise County Sheriff’s Fall Fest Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

All Smiles

ALL SMILES – Part-time vampire Diesel Hothouse couldn’t help but unleash a fangy smile at the Wise County Sheriff’s Fall Fest Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Doggon Good Day

DOGGONE GOOD DAY – Emmi, Evie and Esliey Mercer and their dog Mack attended the Wise County Sheriff’s Fall Fest at the Rodeo Fairgrounds in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Life savers: Deputies praised for actions following medical emergency

Life savers: Deputies praised for actions following medical emergency

Job Well Done

JOB WELL DONE – Ben Davis, right, with Renda Environmental was at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office last week to show the company’s appreciation to deputies, from left, Lyle Hahn and Joseph Oliver after the two officers helped save the life of Renda employee Victor Nunez, who had a medical emergency while driving on Farm Road 730 recently. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A couple of Wise County Sheriff’s deputies are being credited with saving a Dallas man’s life two weeks ago.

Corporal Lyle Hahn and Deputy Joseph Oliver were ending their shift just before 6 a.m. Oct. 3. As they were heading back to Decatur on Farm Road 730 south of town, they passed an 18-wheeler that had run off the road and crashed into some trees just north of County Road 4127.

The two stopped to check on the truck driver, who was unconscious.

As Hahn went back to the car to call for medics, Oliver yelled for him to grab the automated external defibrillator (AED).

“I ran back over there. We pulled him out of the car and Deputy Oliver started chest compressions while I gave dispatch updates and tried to work the AED,” Hahn said.

“He passed away in front of us, and then the AED advised a shock, so we did, and he got a pulse and started breathing.”

Oliver said he’s had to deploy an AED before, but never had to administer a shock.

“He jumped and (I) reached down and got a pulse. It kept getting stronger and stronger and the AED said, ‘Nothing further needed,'” Oliver said.

Once medics arrived, the deputies helped carry the driver, Victor Nunez, out of the brush. He was taken to Wise Health System in Decatur before being transported to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Ben Davis with Renda Environmental, the company Nunez has worked for for more than a decade, said doctors determined he had suffered a medical emergency while driving back to base. Dash camera videos showed the truck veering off the road into the trees.

He was expected to be released from the hospital late last week.

Davis said he and his fellow employees at Renda are very grateful for the deputies’ actions.

“It’s really great and fortunate y’all were in the place that you were,” Davis told Hahn and Oliver last week. “It would devastate all of our employees if he had passed away. It would have affected a lot of people who have worked there for a long time. Y’all really saved us from that grief.”

Oliver was quick to thank the county as well.

“One of the good things is the county provides us with a lot of training and the right equipment, too,” he said.

But the timing was critical. Hahn had been without the AED in his vehicle for several days due to maintenance work on the machine, and he had just picked it up a few hours before using it.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.

Sheriff Lane Akin echoes that sentiment.

“There are definitely instances of godly intervention,” he said. “The way that all of this fell into place, it puts me in that mindset.”

Davis presented the sheriff’s office with a donation on behalf of the company. Akin said the money will be used to pay for challenge coins for the department to exchange with other departments, and he presented the first coin to Davis.

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Deputy charged with assault

A Wise County Sheriff’s deputy has been arrested for aggravated assault related to a domestic violence incident.

Deputy Taylor Alan Whittle of Decatur was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – a second degree felony – and assault family violence impeding breathing or circulation – a third degree felony.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said he was made aware of a domestic violence incident Monday involving the 27-year-old Whittle that occurred the previous evening. It was later determined that two incidents took place – one Sunday in Alvord and another Monday in Decatur.

Akin said the investigation was turned over to Texas Ranger Jeremy Wallace. The Decatur Police Department also investigated the case since one alleged incident took place in the city.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Wise County Messenger, Whittle’s wife told Wallace that on Sunday, Whittle grabbed her on each side of her body above her waist line and forced her against the wall in their home in Alvord. He then choked her “to the point where it caused pain and caused her to be unable to breathe,” the affidavit states.

His wife later went to stay at his parents’ house in Decatur, where the second incident took place Monday, according to the court record.

In that incident, Whittle is accused of using a gun to threaten his wife after finding out she spoke to Whittle’s supervisors at the sheriff’s office.

“Taylor and (the victim) had an argument and while (the victim) was attempting to leave the residence, Taylor removed a handgun from his vehicle and put the handgun under his chin, threatening to harm himself. Taylor’s mother slapped his face, telling him to stop. Taylor then pointed the handgun at (the victim), placing (her) in fear for her life,” the affidavit states.

Akin said Whittle, who had worked at the sheriff’s office for nearly three years and was currently the school resource officer for Alvord ISD, has been fired.

“The Wise County Sheriff’s Office holds its employees to a high standard, and we cannot allow violations of the law or of our policies,” Akin stated in a news release. “Whittle’s employment with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office was terminated.”

The sheriff added that he is “proud of the many fine women and men who continue to wear the WCSO uniform and represent what a professional sheriff’s office should be.”

Whittle was released from the Wise County Jail Wednesday morning after posting bail of $80,000.

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Man identified in Shale Creek shooting death

Authorities Sunday released the identity of the man who died with a gunshot wound in the Shale Creek neighborhood off Texas 114 near the Wise and Denton County line Friday.
Jonathon Tumbo, 40, of Rhome was found by officers from the Wise County Sheriff’s Office with a gunshot wound to the chest when they responded to a domestic disturbance call.
Mandy Hays, justice of the peace, precinct 3, ordered an autopsy and Tumbo’s body was taken to the Dallas County Medical Examiners Office.
“The death is still under investigation,” said Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.
A woman at the residence was uninjured. At this time no charges have been filed.
The incident occurred around 7:45 p.m. Friday on Forest Lawn Road.

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Full Wise County burn ban lifted

The full Wise County burn ban that has been in place since July 10 was lifted Tuesday,  according to Wise County Emergency Management Coordinator Cody Powell.

Powell said in a press release that due to current weather conditions, Wise County Judge J.D. Clark lifted the full ban and reverted back to the ban that is dependent on weather conditions. The National Weather Service has stated the current wet weather pattern will continue for the next several days with isolated heavy rainfall.

Powell added it is important for residents to remember the county is still under a burn ban. The ban lifted was the full burn ban issued almost two months ago. That ban prohibited open burning of any kind. Welding was allowed only under certain conditions, and outdoor cooking even had stipulations.

The National Weather Service expects relative humidity levels to remain above 50 percent over the next several days, with some heavy rain expected Tuesday night, Friday and Saturday. Powell said because of the unusually wet conditions, it gave them an opportunity to lift the full ban.

The release said that Clark recognized the need for residents to burn, and although the conditions are now safer for people to do so, this in no way is a guarantee it is completely safe to burn.

The full ban will be re-evaluated at next Monday’s Commissioners Meeting.

Powell said although it is not required, he highly suggests any resident wanting to burn to call the Wise County dispatch, log the burn and make sure they are able to burn legally.


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Meth forum draws crowd

Thirty-five years ago, Lane Akin was a brand new narcotics agent.

He was working undercover in a rural Texas town and had befriended a couple immersed in the drug culture. He had a pocket full of money, and as they introduced him to local meth dealers, he made buy after buy, building cases.

Lane Akin

He recalled the story in a somber moment during Tuesday night’s community forum on methamphetamine, planned by the sheriff’s office and the Wise County Community Health Improvement Initiative.

The couple had no idea he was a police officer. They were just along for a good time.

“During one of those transactions, I looked into the backseat and the young woman, who was about six months pregnant, was injecting methamphetamine into her arm,” he said, choking up. He paused before continuing.

“I was sitting there, a brand new agent,” he said. “‘It’s all about the greater good.’ That’s what I was told so many times. And so I didn’t say anything.

“I didn’t do anything.”

Akin said that was the start of a deal that went on to seize five or six labs in Arkansas, Oklahoma and across parts of Texas.

“But there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about that woman in the backseat of my car,” he said. “What should I have done? What would I do now?

“Maybe I’m not all about the greater good. Maybe I’m about the moment that we can save a life.”

Akin is hopeful that the conversation started at the forum this week helped connect law enforcement, health care professionals and non-profit agencies to better address the methamphetamine problem in Wise County and help addicts recover.

The sheriff explained that 85 percent of the Wise County Jail population landed there for reasons directly or indirectly associated with meth. When he first started working undercover, 1 gram (about the size of a Sweet’N Low packet) cost $100. Today it’s a mere 30 bucks.

“Now all the methamphetamine we see is coming from Mexico, probably coming across in Arizona and then back down (U.S.) 287 to the Metroplex and East Coast,” he said. “They are manufacturing it 30, 40, 50 pounds at a time.

Sheriff’s Office Enforcement Captain Wes Wallace gave a presentation on Crimestoppers, and the meeting concluded with a question-and-answer session featuring Akin, County Attorney James Stainton, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry, Wise Health System Behavioral Health Director Melanie Whittle, WHS EAP Manager Megan Adams and WHS Director of Emergency Services Kellye Souther.

Some of the questions included the following:

How do you get help for someone who doesn’t want it?

Whittle: “For mental health it’s easy. For substance abuse, it’s not as easy. You have to look at risk factors. You are going to have to get someone to seek treatment. Legally, and this is from my perspective, if they’re on probation, it’s much easier to get them into programs that are required as part of their overall probation program.”

You hear many say they start because it “makes the pain go away” or makes them forget. What can we do to stop the beginning of the battle?

Adams: “Sometimes it’s related to trauma. Sometimes it’s related to the fact they’ve been on a certain medication their entire life and then they lose access to that medication and go to the street to find something to give them that same feeling. There are many elements to the answer to that question. I think individualized treatment is important. When you are a family member of someone who is addicted or someone who is self-medicating, recognizing red flags, setting boundaries, helping educate them … there are lots of different things that can be put in place in the beginning. We want to seek the root cause. What is causing people to seek this out?”

What programs are used to encourage people to get clean and stay clean? Are small support groups in place for those being released?

Adams: “For our area we have a lot of good resources for the things that maybe lead to addiction. We have a really robust AA group for our community and it’s all about getting people connected to those support groups and those people being motivated for change. I think a lot of times when you can get clean, if that root cause hasn’t been addressed, then they’ll revert back to what’s comfortable and what’s easier.”

Berry: “For law enforcement, the primary programs are provided through the probation department. We can put somebody in jail or we can send them to prison, but we know that doesn’t work because they get out and keep doing the same things over and over again. One of the things I’ve tried to do is when I get a drug case, we’ll offer alternatives to the penitentiary that involve treatment or sometimes we’ll offer to give a lesser sentence or a probated sentence, where they may not deserve it because of their criminal history, if they’ll voluntarily check into some type of substance abuse type program, prior to ever being sentenced.”

Berry added there are also treatment programs through the penitentiary.

Stainton: “On the misdemeanor side, there’s a lot less assets. We get a ton of cases by volume and a lot of them are connected to meth. We do not have access to the same level of care like on the felony side. In my office, we do our best to identify those people who are more susceptible to treatment … I personally talk to these folks and try to the best of my ability from working with MHMR to identify the ones who are more susceptible to treatment and provide them some motivation and access to programs. When you have someone charged with a criminal offense, you do have some leverage to help them to live a different life. We send them to faith-based programs, STAR Council, MHMR … I send them any place I think they can get access to help. That’s the best we have on the misdemeanor level and that’s something I’d like to see changed at the state level, give the misdemeanor level more access to programs like those for people who committed felonies.”

What can we do in public schools to better provide curriculum educating students about the danger of drugs?

Akin: “There are many programs available. The only thing I can control as the sheriff are the school resource officers that we now have in five different school districts. We’re constantly seeking better programs to educate these children. We want to touch those young lives so they can see what meth use can do and the way it can send you down the wrong path.”

Whittle: “We’re looking at several things in the schools. Intervention is definitely first and foremost on our minds with our kids.”


Not every question asked at the forum was included in this story. Also, some answers were edited for length.

A recording of the entire forum will soon be available online, courtesy of the Wise County Community Health Improvement Initiative. It will also post a podcast answering questions that were submitted, but not addressed, during the hour-and-a-half time limit.

Watch the Messenger for more details on when this information will be available.

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Akin seeks new inmate phone system

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin is shopping for a new inmate phone system.

The jail currently uses Securus Technologies, but Akin said the sound quality of the recordings is poor.

“My first concern came up during a murder trial when they were playing recordings between inmates and family members,” he told county commissioners at their July 10 meeting.

“(The recordings) had to be played time and time again.”

Akin said he’s talked with other sheriffs and found out there are companies that will also return more money to the county.

“We get $6,000 to $7,000 per month from Securus, but we think from what we’ve heard that there may be some other companies that do a better job on recording, as well as bring in more revenue to the county,” he said.

Asset Manager Diana Allen said the system does not have to be bid out. Commissioners approved Akin exploring the options and negotiating with companies.

Akin said the current phone equipment is owned by Securus, but a new company would provide its own equipment.

The sheriff said he hopes to find a new company within a month.

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Chase runs through county

Colt Evan Slate

A chase involving two stolen vehicles ended in Fort Worth around 6:30 a.m. Monday, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a call at 5:43 a.m. that a car had wrecked on U.S. 81/287 north of Alvord. Akin said that vehicle was stolen out of Bowie.

The driver, later identified as Colt Evan Slate of Duncan, Ok., fled the vehicle, stole an Atmos Energy truck and struck a tractor-trailer north of Farm Road 407.

Slate continued onto Texas 114 where an officer with the Rhome Police Department began pursuing him as he crossed the Denton and Tarrant County lines.

Slate merged onto south Interstate 35 before finally wrecking out at Pharr Street in Fort Worth – more than 60 miles from where the chase began. Akin said the Slate appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was transported to a local hospital.

Slate was charged with driving while intoxicated, evading arrest and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Officers from Rhome and Fort Worth, as well as Department of Public Safety troopers and Sheriff’s deputies responded to the chase.

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High-speed chase ends in Fort Worth

A chase involving two stolen vehicles ended in Fort Worth around 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, according to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a call at 5:43 a.m. that a car had wrecked on U.S. 81/287 north of Alvord. Akin said that vehicle was stolen out of Bowie.

The driver fled the vehicle, stole an Atmos Energy truck and struck a tractor-trailer north of Farm Road 407. An officer with the Rhome Police Department began pursuing the truck as it crossed the Denton and Tarrant County lines.

The truck merged onto south Interstate 35 before finally wrecking out at Pharr Street in Fort Worth — over 60 miles from where the chase began. Akin said the driver appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was transported to a local hospital.

Officers from Rhome and Fort Worth, as well as Department of Public Safety troopers and Sheriff’s deputies responded to the chase.

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Elderly Lake Bridgeport man shot and killed over fireworks

Update: 4:30 p.m. Sunday

An elderly Lake Bridgeport man was shot and killed Saturday night after getting into an argument over fireworks, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin confirmed.

Akin said the Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a call about 10:25 p.m. regarding a shooting incident near Church Street.

Akin said the man, identified as 80-year-old Edward Cordero, came outside because a large group of people were igniting fireworks. The conversation soon turned argumentative, and Cordero told the group he was going to get his gun. A 33-year-old in the group also retrieved a firearm.

According to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office, Cordero reportedly fired the first shot. The 33-year-old then returned fire and struck Cordero in the head.

AirEvac was requested, and Cordero was flown to JPS in Fort Worth. He was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Sheriff’s Office deputies, criminal investigators and crime scene investigators remained on scene until 3 a.m. Sunday morning. No charges have been filed, but Akin said the Sheriff’s Office will be conferring with the District Attorney and the case may be referred to the grand jury.

He added charges may be filed in the near future.

Akin confirmed the City of Lake Bridgeport banned fireworks.

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No more warnings: S.O. to issue tickets for burn ban violations

With a burn ban still in place due to an elevated fire risk, Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said his department is no longer issuing warnings for violations.

Between June 29 and 7 a.m. Thursday morning, Wise County fire departments responded to 74 calls for fires and fought 32 fires. The county received 259 fireworks violations calls.

On the evening of July 4th, the Wise County Sheriff’s Office dispatch received 150 calls about fireworks. The office had 212 total calls on Wednesday.

The volume of calls overwhelmed the department’s 15 phone lines and the four dispatchers, according to Sheriff Lane Akin. The 911 system remained up and running.

“We have 15 ports coming in, and the four dispatchers we had on [Wednesday] night couldn’t keep up because of the number of calls,” Akin said. “With all 15 filled, there were some people on hold that were dropped. We had some complaints from people saying they were hung up on, but that was not the case. The system dropped them. We’re trying to upgrade the call system.”

Due to the number of calls, Akin advised his patrol commanders Thursday to start writing citations for any burn ban violations, including fireworks.

“It was my position to warn people and seek compliance,” Akin said. “But the warnings are over.”

The fine for a violation of the burn ban is up to $500. A fire that damages property belonging to another property owner is also punishable with a $500 fine and court ordered restitution. Outdoor burning that results in death, injury or damages a building belonging to another may result in two years in state jail, a fine up to $10,000 and court ordered restitution. There may also be additional criminal and civil liability.

Of the 32 fires that firefighters fought in the last week, Wise County Fire Marshal Jeff Doughty said most were small. The largest was the 10-acre blaze Sunday at County Road 4790 and Hamm Road south of Keeter started by a burn pit.

“I can’t say enough about the awesome work of [the fire departments],” Doughty said. “Most had around the clock staffing at the stations during peak times. Trucks were responding instantaneously to calls.”

Currently, the burn ban is on days the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth issues a Red Flag warning or designates as a “high risk or elevated fire risk” day. An elevated fire risk has been present in the county for the past week due to temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s, lower humidity and steady winds above 10 mph.

Most of the county is in severe drought, according to the latest update from the USDA Thursday. In the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures wildfire potential by taking into account the soil moisture, the county was at an average of 643 Thursday. The high in the county was 694. The index goes to 800, which represents completely dry conditions.

Wise County this year set a new record for the lowest rainfall amount in the month of June. According to weather watcher Doyle Green in Decatur, rainfall totaled 0.31 of an inch for the month. The previous low for June was 0.45 in 1977, according to records dating back to 1974.

We recorded seven days of 100 degrees or more, and our average high temperature for the month was 96.8 degrees. Since 2010, the average high temperature for June has been 90 degrees.

For the year, Wise County has received 11.81 inches of rain. The average rainfall for the first six months of the year is 21 inches.

As conditions worsen this summer, Doughty said he will be visiting with Wise County commissioners about issuing a new burn ban.

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2 arrested for burglaries

Two people have been arrested in a string of vehicle burglaries in south Wise County.

Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators had been looking into the case since numerous vehicle burglaries were reported in Newark on or about May 12 through May 15.

According to arrest warrant affidavits, investigators received information that Stephen Zackary Bell, 18, and Tanner Lee Scott, 17, were part of several vehicle burglaries in the area.

On June 7, investigators talked to Scott, who said Bell and another man came to his house one night with several different kinds of property with them. They told Scott the items had been stolen from cars in the Newark area, including Sandy Bass Lane and Pettit Drive. Among the items stolen was a black took box, a GPS, tools, two nail guns, several backpacks, a Northwest ISD tablet and a pair of blue Silverado car keys.

On June 11, investigators spoke to Bell, who confessed he was part of the vehicle burglaries, according to the affidavit. Bell said Scott and the other man also participated in the burglaries which took place around Rogers Road.

Bell was arrested on nine charges of burglary of a vehicle and Scott was arrested on eight charges of burglary of a vehicle.

“The investigation is continuing,” Sheriff Lane Akin said. “We may be looking at other possible suspects.”

Investigators are also looking into the possibility that the Newark teens may be involved with similar vehicle burglaries in the Shale Creek area around May 2.

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