Meals on Wheels groups seeking volunteers

Two Meals on Wheels organizations in Wise County are looking for volunteers and donations.

Decatur Meals on Wheels, located in the Decatur Committee on Aging building, just started using volunteer drivers on two of its four routes to deliver meals to senior centers and homebound older adults in Wise County.

Beth Jones of the Heritage Place in Decatur said the organization plans to put volunteer drivers on all four of its routes in the future.

Decatur Meals on Wheels serves Decatur, Bridgeport, Boyd and Cottondale, providing 100 meals a day along the four routes. Jones said Decatur Meals on Wheels is looking for as many volunteers as it can get.

Metroport Meals on Wheels is also looking for volunteers. This branch of Meals on Wheels is based in Roanoke but serves Aurora, Rhome, Boyd and Newark.

Volunteer Services Director Nansii Downer said Metroport’s independent funding allows the nonprofit to deliver meals to people outside Denton County.

“We never wanted to say no [to people who needed food],” Downer said. “We don’t just go to home-bound people. Isolation is the number-one silent killer of seniors these days, so we also go to senior centers and serve food there in order to get people out of the house.”

Downer said the demand for volunteers to help older generations will grow over the next few decades. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that America’s 65-and-older population is expected to nearly double to 87.5 million people by 2050.

“We will fail as a society for our older people if we don’t recognize that this is a needed service,” Downer said.

To volunteer or donate, contact the Wise County Committee on Aging at 940-627-5329 or the Metroport Meals on Wheels at 817-491-1141.

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Auction puts 42 properties back on tax rolls

A quiet buzz filled the Grand Hall at the Decatur Civic Center Thursday morning, rising from about 50 people scattered through two sections of chairs.

After signing in at a table down front, they got a little paddle with a number on it, took seats and pored over a list of properties that were about to go on sale.

It was auction time.

The Wise County Appraisal District and the Wise County Tax Office put 94 tracts of property on sale at 8:30 a.m. The parcels, ranging from mobile home lots to 2-plus acres, were forfeited to taxing entities because of unpaid taxes.

The properties in Thursday’s auction have been in sheriff’s sales before and did not sell. The county, school districts and cities agreed to a lower price to get them back in private hands and on the tax roll.

Thursday, 42 of them sold to 26 different buyers, at prices ranging from $50 to $15,000.

The auction brought in a total of $93,700, which goes into the law firm’s trust account, to be split among the taxing entities, lawyers and other agencies. Every bidder had to pay $5 to register, and those who bought properties paid another $38 on each parcel for the deed to be recorded.

Glen Smith, tax collection attorney with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, conducted the auction along with Mickey Hand, chief appraiser at the Wise County Appraisal District.

Hand said he thought the auction – the first in Wise County in several years – went well.

“I thought we had a good turnout,” he said. “We are happy to get these properties back on the tax rolls and producing revenue for our taxing entities.

“Of course we would like to have sold them all,” he added. “We will make a few changes the next time we do this, to improve the process.”

Smith explained that buyers would get a deed without warranty. By law, if the property is a homestead or agricultural, the previous owner has two years after the original sale to “redeem” it by paying the bid price.

Most, but not all, of the properties in Thursday’s sale were past that point. Smith still urged caution.

“Don’t go out and build a house on this property next week,” he said. “Be sure the redemption time has expired, and that you get your own title policy.”

He also noted that the Northwest and Paradise school districts had not yet passed the resolution to sell property, and that he had forgotten to send one to the City of Alvord.

“In those entities, you’re going to be bidding subject to us going back to them and getting approval on the bid,” he said. Only 11 properties were affected, he said.

Once the bidding started, Smith and Hand took turns spotting bidders.

The second parcel that sold was the highest-priced, 2.3 acres in Boyd ISD that went for $15,000. The least expensive, a lot in Satellite City in Decatur ISD, sold for the minimum bid of $50.

A 1.5-acre tract in Poolville ISD sold for $7,800 after two bidders bumped each other up in $100 and $200 increments from the $2,000 minimum bid.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work!” Hand said.

Some obviously came with a specific property in mind, settling up and leaving as soon as they made their purchase. Others bid on several properties.

“We’ll hold it a couple of years and try to sell it,” one bidder said. “Some of these bidders are neighbors, some are trying to fix access problems – and this family behind me, they bought it to fix it up and live in it.

“They’ll start today, I bet.”

Two bidders bought four properties, two bought three, six bought two and 16 others just bought one.

The 52 properties that did not sell will be go back to the entities.

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Man gets 20 years for cocaine possession

Alberto Jose Meza, wearing a white, long-sleeved dress shirt and tie, looked extremely small as he sat at the front of the courtroom.

When Judge John Fostel read his sentence, he slumped even deeper into the wooden chair at the table where he sat with his lawyers.

Twenty years in prison.

His wife sat in the third row, crying quietly into a tissue as the sentence was announced Wednesday afternoon, ending a trial that was almost two years coming, but took less than two days to finish.

Meza, 28, was found guilty Tuesday of possession of a controlled substance. The Fort Worth resident was arrested July 17, 2012, in Rhome after he was pulled over for speeding at 2:30 a.m.

More than 10 grams of cocaine were found hidden behind the dashboard of the pickup he was driving, which was registered in his wife’s name. Officers also found a digital scale and baggies – one of which contained methamphetamine – an open container of beer and a floorboard strewn with marijuana.

The 20-year sentence is the maximum for the second-degree felony. The sentence was not a surprise after Meza’s three previous felony convictions were brought to light during the punishment phase.

His attorneys did not call any witnesses until the punishment phase – his wife.

They have three daughters, she said – twins who will be 8 next week, and a 6-year-old. She said her husband, who worked in construction, was a good provider. He spent his last night of freedom trying to complete a remodeling project at their home.

“Please take into consideration my daughters,” she asked the jury. “I don’t know how I go home now and tell my girls that he’s not coming home.”

Meza was convicted in 2004 of cocaine possession, evading arrest with a motor vehicle, and vehicle theft, all in Tarrant County. He was given deferred adjudication and the opportunity to keep those offenses off his record, but violated his probation and served nine months in state jail.

Assistant District Attorney Pat Berry, who prosecuted the case, pointed out Meza was arrested in Wise County four days prior to the July 17, 2012, arrest, for possession of marijuana.

He pled guity to that charge and served 71 days in the Wise County Jail while the cocaine case was pending.

Questioning Meza’s wife, Berry asked if she knew about the marijuana, the cocaine, the methamphetamine and the digital scales in the truck they had purchased 15 days earlier in her name.

She said she did not.

“Do you know why he was going to Wal-Mart in Wise County when he lives in Tarrant County?” Berry asked. She said she did not.

“Do you still believe, knowing what you know now, that the reason he was going to Wise County that night was to go to Wal-Mart?” Berry asked. “What did he buy?”

She said she did not know.

“Does it concern you that with these three daughters, he’s out running around at 2 in the morning with another woman?” Berry asked.

Again, the answer was no.

After about a 15-minute recess, Judge Fostel issued his charge to the jury and the attorneys got to make final statements.

Assistant District Attorney Lindy Borchardt spoke first.

“A good father? That was her testimony? That should offend you,” Borchardt said. “Was he being a good father when he was pulled over at 2 a.m. with marijuana, cocaine and meth? Did he think about his daughters, his wife who stood by him? Absolutely not.”

She credited the “hard work” of the arresting officers with discovering the cocaine behind the dashboard.

“A lot of people talk about our drug problem in Wise County,” she noted. “Our drug problem is this defendant, right here.”

Defense attorney Eric Labovitz said when someone works nights, as Meza did, going to Wal-Mart at 2 a.m. is not that unusual. He pointed out that Meza was charged with drug possession, not with being a dealer – a first-degree felony.

He asked for a sentence in the “lower part of the range.”

“I ask that you sentence him to two years, then let him get back to taking care of his wife and his family,” he said.

Berry had the last word.

“Based on this case, the criminal and the community, I’m asking for a 20-year sentence,” he said. “That’s a substantial amount of cocaine being brought into our community from the outside.”

Over the objections of lead defense attorney Abe Factor, Berry pointed out again that the scale and baggies were indicative of a drug dealer, not just a user.

And he noted that no other acquaintances of Meza’s were asked to testify to his character or ask for clemency.

“The only person he put up there to testify about why he shouldn’t get the maximum sentence is someone who’s trying to gain your sympathy with her tears,” he said. “She’s really a victim herself.”

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July a good month for Wise cities

It’s been a while since all 12 cities in Wise County collected more sales tax in a month than they did in that month the previous year.

That didn’t happen in July, either – but 11 of them did.

With increases ranging from 2 percent in Decatur and Paradise to 35 and 36 percent in Alvord and Chico, everyone except Newark saw sales tax income rise in July.

And Newark’s year-to-date total still more than doubles last year.

Indeed, only three cities remain in negative territory compared to 2013 – but those three are all in the top five in volume and conspire to keep the county just below last year overall.

Decatur, the county’s top sales tax generator, is almost a percent above last year through seven months, with collections of $2,379,189 from its 1.5-cent sales tax.

Bridgeport is 7.6 percent behind last year, while Rhome is down 2.4 percent and New Fairview is off by 5.7 percent. All three, however, narrowed that gap in July:

  • Bridgeport’s July payment was up nearly 28 percent;
  • New Fairview’s July payment was up 22 percent; and
  • Rhome’s July payment was up 4.5 percent over last year.

“Sales tax revenues continue to grow at a moderate pace,” Comptroller Susan Combs said. “The increase was led by remittances from the wholesale trade, services, and restaurant sectors. Fiscal year-to-date collections have now grown by 5.2 percent.”

Cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts saw their July local sales tax allocations top $600 million, up 4.2 percent compared to July 2013.

Those sales tax figures represent monthly sales made in May and reported to the state in June.

Sales Tax

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Commissioners to review fire conditions

When they meet Monday morning at the Wise County Courthouse, the county commissioners will take a look at weather and vegetation conditions and review whether to renew, amend, revise or rescind the county’s burn ban.

Fire Marshal Charlie Beard is due to report at the meeting on recent fires and conditions in neighboring counties and throughout the state, and make recommendations for Wise County.

At the Monday meeting, commissioners will also review the county’s Indigent Health Care program and policy procedures for 2014-2015, as well as take action on a called meeting held Thursday to discuss health insurance for employees with the county’s health insurance broker, Brian Stephens of Stephens, Bastian and Cartwright.

Commissioners will also discuss revisions to the county’s fund balance policy and adding non-exempt vehicle tags and signage on vehicles for constables.

In routine business, commissioners will consider:

  • department head and committee reports;
  • budget amendments, claims and payroll; utility permits/right of way, interlocal agreements, contracts and correspondence;
  • a three-year capital expenditure plan;
  • plats of lots in Wildwood in Precinct 2, Walnut Creek Ranchetts in precinct 1 and Grasslands Estates in precinct 2.
  • accepting donations of personal property/various revenues;
  • the June 30 meeting minutes.

The meeting, which starts at 9 a.m., will be in the jury room on the third floor of the Wise County Courthouse. It is open to the public.

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Landscaper building memorial for Judge Terri Johnson

A Wise County resident is trying to ensure that one community member’s legacy lives on.

Rick DeVito, a landscaper at TXScape, said he wants to create a memorial in the shape of a judge’s gavel in front of the Wise County Sheriff’s Office for the late Judge Terri Johnson.

Memorial Planned

MEMORIAL PLANNED – Landscaper Rick DeVito holds a gavel in front of the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, where he hopes to build a memorial for Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson, who died in a car wreck April 26. The memorial would be in the shape of a judge’s gavel, with a tree at the top. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Johnson was killed April 26 in a head-on collision with an SUV on U.S. 81/287. The collision claimed three other lives as well.

DeVito said that he originally wanted to design a tree, but it quickly turned into something more after he attended Johnson’s funeral.

“I was inspired by [First Decatur Baptist Church pastor] Ken May’s sermon at Terri’s funeral, where he spoke about something good coming from something bad, and it just went from there,” DeVito said.

While DeVito didn’t know Johnson personally, he said he felt moved by the impact that Johnson had on the community. He began sketching plans of the memorial the day after the funeral, with help from his wife, Lesia.

Rough sketches of the memorial show an 11-foot-long bench that would connect to a wide, wildflower and bluegrass-filled garden flanked by two 4-foot-long benches, to create the shape of a judge’s gavel.

The center of the garden would have a Texas Desert Willow tree surrounded by stones dedicated to members of Johnson’s family. Other stones dedicated to the Wise County and Denton Sheriff’s offices and other community organizations that Johnson was a part of would be dispersed throughout the garden.

A memorial plaque with a message written by Johnson’s family would be installed behind the tree.

“I just wanted to do something unique for her because she was such a unique lady,” DeVito said.

DeVito said he is looking for community donations and help from local churches, community members, craftsmen, carpenters, electricians, cement masons and stone engravers to help build the memorial so that the work will be 100 percent volunteer.

The price for all materials needed to build the memorial is estimated to be between $2,500 to $3,000. Any extra money would be donated to the American Diabetes Association or the Decatur Fellowship of Christian Athletes, two organizations that Johnson supported. Johnson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2006 while she was running for her first term as justice of the peace.

“She was a big volunteer, so I felt like her memorial should be built the same way,” DeVito said. “She really walked the talk when it came to volunteering.”

DeVito plans to start the memorial once all the funds are raised and the weather gets cooler. He hopes to finish it sometime in September or October.

Donations can be made to the Terri Johnson Memorial Plaza fund at Decatur First Baptist Church.

Judge Johnson’s husband Craig, who has been named interim Precinct 2 justice of the peace, said he thought the gavel memorial would be a great way to honor his wife.

“I think it’s a very appropriate way to honor someone who was, at her very core, a servant in every capacity,” Johnson said. “It didn’t matter if it was in her judge’s seat or cooking for the FCA or just mowing the grass. I think this would be a fitting way to honor someone like her, especially with it being all volunteer-based.”

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said his department wholeheartedy supports the memorial.

“We want to do whatever it takes to make this happen,” Walker said.

Three Quanah area residents were killed in the accident that took Johnson’s life. Two $500 scholarships were given in Quanah ISD to honor Juan Rios, one of the victims.

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Drug possession case goes to jury

A drug possession trial went to the jury quickly Tuesday, as both sides concluded their cases in Wise County’s 271st District Court.

Alberto Jose Meza is charged with possession of a controlled substance in an amount between 4 and 200 grams – a second-degree felony that could land him up to 20 years in prison.

Meza was arrested almost two years ago, on July 17, 2012, after he was pulled over for speeding on U.S. 81/287 in Rhome.

Officer Brody Brown, who now works for the Boyd Police Department, clocked Meza’s Chevy pickup at 77 mph and stopped him near the County Road 4838 intersection. As he approached the vehicle, he said the smell of marijuana was strong enough that he had probable cause for a search.

That search yielded baggies with a white, powdery substance, digital scales and other bags.

Brown was on the stand much of the afternoon, detailing the arrest and collection of evidence for Assistant District Attorney Pat Berry, then defending his procedures under questioning by Meza’s attorney, Abe Factor of Fort Worth.

Brown said after he stopped the vehicle, he advised Meza he was going to conduct a search and asked him if there was anything illegal inside.

“He said there was nothing,” Brown testified.

Brown said he could see an open container of beer in the pickup, and when the door was opened he saw what he believed to be marijuana scattered in the floorboard – as if someone had attempted to roll a cigarette and spilled some.

When he opened the console between the front seats, he found the small, digital scale with a residue of white powder on it, as well as clear plastic bags. Boxes of clear plastic sandwich bags were found in the back seat of the vehicle.

Brown handcuffed Meza and asked his female passenger to step outside the vehicle. He was in the back seat, continuing the search, when the deputy arrived and pointed out that the pickup’s dashboard seemed loose. When it was pulled out, a clear baggie with several other baggies inside it was found next to the steering column, containing about 10.5 grams of white powder.

Brown said he did a brief field test on the substance and it proved to be cocaine.

Factor focused in on the handling of evidence and the fact that a videotape of the arrest was ruined.

He brought out the fact that Brown did not photograph the evidence in place before moving it, did not ask for fingerprints and did not search the pickup further after it was impounded.

“That’s because if you found somebody else’s fingerprints, somebody else’s DNA, you might not have a good arrest at that point, right?” he asked.

“No,” Brown said, noting that Rhome PD did not have a crime scene unit and none was called in.

Officer Chance Garrett of the Rhome PD was also called to the stand to testify about the department’s procedures and the chain of custody on the evidence.

DPS chemist Raymond Waller Jr. of Abilene also testified on the procedures used to test the nearly 12 grams of drugs found in the pickup.

Factor hammered Waller with questions about gas chromatograph mass spectrometry and other testing methods.

The state, which had listed seven witnesses it might call, rested after those three.

With the jury out, a brief conference before Judge John Fostel resulted in Meza declining to testify in his own behalf. When the jury returned, the defense quickly rested and the state closed at 4:40 p.m.

The trial was to continue Wednesday morning with the judge’s charge to the jury and closing statements by both sides.

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County Clerk Records Recorded marriage licenses

Filed June 2014

Eleazar Perez and Irma Trejo Morales, both of Decatur

Tommy Matthew Patterson and Heather Dair Moore, both of Boyd

Kolby Lynn Kerr and Samantha Jolynn Johnson, both of Justin

Travis Floyd Stanley of Weatherford and Lori Raylene Wiggins of Alvord

Aaron Bradly Capehart and Sandy Leann Gibson, both of Bridgeport

Ronald Dean Russell Jr. and Diana Carrol Vandiver, both of Paradise

Monty Lee Montya and Zhenying Guo, both of Decatur

Mark Perry Walters Jr. of Decatur and Shanna Marie Martin of Chico

Rodney William Lambert and Rachel Lanell McGregor of Decatur

Corey Alan Byers and Jaymi Lachelle Sooter, both of Boyd

Don Wayne Long and Rizafel Redija Tercero, both of Aurora

Justin James Skelton of Bridgeport and Jessica Noemy Moreno of Giddings

Grant Austin VanHoose of Decatur and Elizabeth Dawn Farris of Paradise

Dustin Doyal Brantley Byers of Rhome and Anchalee Laor Voogd of Oak Leaf

Joseph Mitchell Witherspoon of Boyd and Tiffany Michelle Defore of Fort Worth

Aaron Michael Warbritton and Tanya Nicole Christensen, both of Saginaw

Wesley Robert Young of Rhome and Olivia Nicole Espinoza of Argyle

David Lee Ramsey and Donna Marie Hollaway, both of Rhome

Richard Alvin Connett Jr. and Denise Dee Schumacher, both of Gainesville

Larry Wayne McCormick and Misty Dawn Monfort, both of Decatur

Jason Leslie Cox and Kimberly Denise Adams, both of Boyd

Donald Ross Meekins Jr. of Bridgeport and Annette Bell McWhorter of Olden

Jose Alejandro De La Cerda and Nestora Rios Juarez, both of Bridgeport

Jeremiah Christopher Brown and Jamie Arlene Brown, both of Springtown

Hayden Lee Scarborough and Courtney Breann Taylor, both of Decatur

Jarrod Ryan Smith and Annette Cheri Horning, both of Azle

James Daniel Herron and Jennifer Jean Foster, both of Springtown

Jeremy John McLendon of Alvord and Deena Christine Cagle of Chico

James Patrick Apfel and Ashley Michelle Kramer, both of North Richland Hills

Johnny Darrell Pierce and Christy Diann Crowley, both of Bridgeport

Colby Thomas Williams and Amanda Ann Mathers, both of Decatur

Jeremiah David Stracener and Whitney Ann Clark, both of Boyd

Carl J. Miller of Obetz, Ohio, and Marie R. Herring of Columbus, Ohio

Ricky Dwight Carter and Lacey Jo Miller, both of Bridgeport

Kevin Lane Thomas and Megan Elizabeth Dubose, both of Decatur

Marcus Allen Grgurich and Hassie Danielle Sutton, both of Decatur

Billy Jo Lee and Rebecca Leann Hoyt, both of Rhome

Scott Wesley Read and Amy Elizabeth Barber, both of Runaway Bay

Andrew Leo Franzel and Shannara Ann Ames, both of Chico

Jose Joel Llanas-Rositas of Chico and Gladys Velasquez-Narron of Fort Worth

Manuel Talamantes Rodriguez of Tioga and Belinda Marisol Ruiz Garza of Denton

Danny Lee Tolliver Jr. and Melanie Jaye Gates, both of Bridgeport

Kenneth Ballard Maggard and Stephanie M. McCullough, both of Decatur

Damon Wayne Gross and Virginia Thuresia Greer, both of Ponder

Alfred Ibrahim Abi-Hanna and Rojina Emile Zgheib, both of Fort Worth

Michael Steven Denman and Robbi Deene Snider, both of Chico

Michael Davis Pate of Decatur and Kasey Lynn Ooten of Corinth

Dalton Chance Fregia of Paradise and Destiny Sha Snow of Benbrook

Mario Dedumo Glenn Cabanero of San Diego, Calif., and Brandi Jane Edgar of Decatur

Caleb John Joiner of Bridgeport and Brooke Ann Fincher of Decatur

Thomas Charles Denham of Decatur and Ivy Lee Hester of Carrollton

Ryan Clifton Robinson of Bridgeport and Kimberly Ann Bible of Chico

Wilbur Elmer Weir and Hope Elizabeth Freed, both of Rhome

Quinton Tyler Hudson and Mackensie Ann Smith, both of Bridgeport

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FSA accepting emergency loan applications

Wise County is among a group of primary natural disaster counties that were declared eligible for Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster emergency loans in April 2014.

Generally, that means that farmers who have lost at least 30 percent of their production caused by drought April 1, 2013, through Oct. 31, 2013, are eligible for FSA loans. Proceeds from crop insurance are taken into consideration when determining eligibility.

FSA Farm Loan Manager Kelley R. Boone is urging farmers who are interested in receiving an emergency loan to submit their applications to FSA as soon as possible.

“We hope farmers will get their applications in early rather than waiting until near the deadline, which is Dec. 23, 2014,” Boone said. “The longer they wait, the more chance there is for long delays. If the applications come in early, we can avoid backlogs and speed up the process.”

Other eligible counties include Archer, Baylor, Clay, Jack, Knox, Montague, Wichita and Wilbarger.

The FSA office is at 5015 College Dr., Room 1, in Vernon, TX 76384. The phone number is 940-553-3327, ext 2.

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Shurbet agrees to 45-year sentence

A former Wise County jailer will be behind bars for years to come.

Jeff Shurbet

Former Sheriff’s Office inmate work crew supervisor Jeff Shurbet, 48, of Paradise pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first degree felony, and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. The plea was entered in 271st District Court in Decatur.

Shurbet’s case had been scheduled for trial next week.

He was arrested Feb. 1, 2013, while employed by the Sheriff’s Office. Texas Ranger Jim Holland was brought in to investigate since it involved someone employed by a law enforcement agency.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the sexual abuse took place possibly hundreds of times over a course of several years, from 2007 to 2011, according to the victim in the case. That victim was as young as 11 when the assaults began, according to court records.

Shurbet told Holland that “he prayed to God and wanted to confess his sins” according to the affidavit. During the interview, Shurbet admitted to engaging in sex acts with the juvenile female on seven different occasions.

“Shurbet ended the interview by saying he was sorry for what he did and that he knew what he did was wrong,” according to the affidavit.

The next day, Holland interviewed the juvenile female who said she was forced to submit to sexual encounters “once or twice a week for at least approximately the preceding four years.” At times, the encounters happened almost daily, the victim said in the affidavit.

Shurbet was indicted in April of 2013 on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, a first degree felony, and three counts of sexual assault of a child, a second degree felony.

The punishment range for a first degree felony offense is 5 to 99 years or life in prison.

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Shooting victim remains stable

A 13-year-old Springtown boy accidentally shot Tuesday in Wise County is “doing OK.”

A family member told the Messenger Wednesday that Carl Davis is recovering in a regular patient room at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

According to the relative, who asked not to be named, Davis underwent a two-and-a-half hour surgery Tuesday and is being closely monitored for infections.

He is expected to remain at Cook’s for a minimum of five to seven days.

The teenager was flown there after sustaining a wound in the lower abdomen.

Investigators said four youngsters were playing in the front yard of a home in the 100 block of County Road 4764, in Briar, when they saw a snake.

A 12-year-old and a 13-year-old ran inside the home to retrieve a gun to shoot the reptile.

“In the process of rushing outside, the 12-year-old bumped the wall with the rifle – a .22 long rifle – setting it off,” Wise County Sheriff David Walker said.

An adult at the home loaded the boy in the car to drive him to the hospital. But when they called the mother of the victim, she advised them to pull over and call 911.

The driver pulled into the parking lot of Azco Short Stop on Farm Road 730, just inside the Tarrant County line, to call in the emergency about 1:30 p.m.

A helicopter was dispatched to the scene to fly the victim to Cook’s.

“Doctors say that if the bullet moved less than a millimeter to the right, it would’ve hit a main artery,” the relative said. “We are very lucky.”

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Washer Wonderland: Reunion tournament goes big-time to break record

Washer Wonderland: Reunion tournament goes big-time to break record

A washer is a flat steel circle with a hole in the middle. It’s used to distribute the load of a nut threaded onto a bolt, to add stability or serve as a spacer.

Or, you can toss it at a hole.

Do that on July 22 at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion, and you could win a little money, some bragging rights – and a spot in the Guinness World Records.

Building Boards

BUILDING BOARDS – Amanda, Carey and Colby Williams are in the midst of a project, building washer-boards for the July 22 “Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” washer tournament at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion. This tournament is making an attempt to be the world’s largest and get listed in the Guinness World Records. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

What started five years ago as a fun way to kill a little time and raise some money at Reunion has transformed into what promises to be the biggest event of its kind in the world – or at least the biggest one on record.

The “Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” washer tournament started five years ago when Carey Williams, executive manager at James Wood Motors in Decatur, then president of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, was brainstorming for a way to raise money for the Chamber’s scholarship fund.

“I had the thought, ‘You know, washer pitching has always been a tradition of the Wise County Reunion,’” Williams said. “I thought this might be a terrific fundraiser – put together a little tournament, there might be some interest.”

So Williams built 10 sets of washer boards – 2-foot by 2-foot plywood boxes with one hole in the center and carpet on top. Competing in two-person teams, contestants toss four washers at a time at the hole from 21 feet away.

A washer in the hole gets you five points, and the washer closest to the hole gets another point. The first team to 21 wins the match.

That year, the turnout was bigger than Williams expected, with 63 teams.

Luckily, Williams had a bracket guy – Kennan Keffer of Denton – who he’d gotten to know through pool tournaments. He came over and made sure everything proceeded smoothly.

The next year, the tournament was even more popular, with 81 teams signing up. Williams made another 10 sets of boards for the third year, and the tournament attracted 85 teams. Last year there were 88.

Then he got another idea.

“I was up here closing one night, and we have a Guinness book of world records sitting there,” he said. “So I picked it up and started reading, and I thought, ‘Man, we might be having the largest washer-pitching contest in the world, and I don’t even know it.’”

As it turned out, he was close.

Williams searched the Internet and found a guy in Minnesota who claimed to have the largest tournament in the world – with 110 teams.

“It said right there on his website that he didn’t have anything to back that up,” Williams said. “He’d never been to Guinness or anything.”

So Williams got in touch with the folks at Guinness – not an easy task – and eventually got back an email with six attachments specifying what needs to be done to achieve a listing.

“Honestly, I just thought they’d send back a deal and say you’ve been approved and have a little list of stuff we have to do,” he said. “But they take it pretty serious when you start talking about a world record.”

So this year, as washers sail through the air, Williams, his wife Amanda and a team of volunteers will be jumping through hoops to make sure the tournament qualifies for the book. They’re looking for at least 125 teams.

“I don’t have any worry about us getting there,” Carey said. “We’ll do that. My biggest worry is how much over that we’ll go.”

There are a lot of details to attend to. Williams has already built more sets of washer-boards so that 50 games can be going on at once. The tournament will take up the entire area around the pavilion with everything videoed from towers and witnessed by “stewards,” who verify the event for Guinness.

Participants are strongly encouraged to register online at where they can pay the $50-per-team entry fee in advance. Registration and check-in will open at 4 p.m. and close at 6:30 the day of the tournament.

“Every person has to check in during that period,” Amanda said. “They get a wristband, then we shoot an individual photo. There’s a group photo at 7 of all the people who have entered. All this has to be submitted back to Guinness to officially set the record.”

They’ve even set aside a parking area just for the media.

“It’s a way bigger deal than I thought,” Carey said.

But he believes the goal – getting Wise County’s Old Settlers Reunion into the book as a world record – is worth the hassle.

“I don’t know of Wise County ever doing anything to set a world record,” he said. “I just think it’ll be cool to do. Everybody can be a part of it.”

That’s true – there’s no age limit, no distinction between men or women’s teams, and the only qualification is you have to be able to toss a washer 21 feet.

And, of course, have $50.

Proceeds go to the Chamber’s scholarship fund, and winners get cash prizes – $100 each for first, $50 for second and $25 for third.

“It’s all about bragging rights, and boy, is it competitive,” Williams said. “I’ve had people call and get the dimensions – ‘Where’d you buy your wood?’ ‘What kind of paint did you put on the washers?’ ‘Where’d you get the carpet?’ ‘What grade carpet?’ They ask all kinds of questions. They really take it serious.”

So on July 22 – Tuesday of Reunion week – thousands of washers will fly through the air, thumping onto the tops of boxes, fluttering off into the surrounding dirt or blissfully sailing through that hole.

And the braggin’ rights will go worldwide.

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FAA to honor veteran pilot for safety record

”They have this saying: There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots because if they’re too cocky, they wind up dead.” – Herschel Crump

Not long after they married, Herschel and Linda Crump visited the scenic Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, N.M. The newlyweds started to walk out on the 1,280 foot steel bridge that runs across the gulch, but Herschel stopped.

Welcome to School

WELCOME TO SCHOOL – Herschel Crump stands by his Cessna 150. Crump, a flight instructor for more than 50 years, now teaches out of his private airport just north of Springtown. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“My knees were just shaking,” he said. “I held onto the rail, and every time a truck went by I just knew we were going to fall into the chasm.”

Crump, who turns 73 today, has played on his fear of heights for more than 50 years to help him hone a profession few who are afflicted with this fear would seem to choose.

“I’ve never had any problem flying airplanes – but I’ve had a real problem with heights,” he said. “Maybe that’s why I’ve been careful.”

Next Saturday, officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will present Crump with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award to honor 50 years of flying without any safety violations.

Applicants for the award are subject to a thorough audit by the FAA and must have written recommendations from three fellow pilots.

“This award is something that not everyone who lives long enough qualifies for,” he said.

The secret to flying so well for so long is knowing one’s limitations, Herschel said, and always having a backup plan.

“You don’t get old by taking chances,” he said. “You have to have a plan B, and a plan C and a plan D. I think that’s the whole thing to staying safe all these years. It’s a healthy respect for the risk involved.”

Crump entered into the United States Air Force in 1960 and began training as a navigator. He started taking flying lessons soon afterward.

In 1962, still early in his career, he found himself deep in the clouds in the middle of the Smoky Mountains one night without crucial navigation instruments – a difficult situation, even for the most experienced pilots.

“I panicked. But then I realized that if I stayed panicked, I would die. But if you just calm down and fly the airplane maybe you won’t die.”

A steady head led to steady hands. Crump and his aircraft emerged unscathed.

“I calmed down and flew the airplane and it was fine,” he said.

Herschel’s wife, Linda, has accompanied him on many trips, including flights to California for a wedding, Galveston for a cruise, Port O’Connor for a fishing trip, as well as picking up grandkids for weeklong visits and even aerial tours of South Africa.

During one visit, Linda’s mother brought up a question.

“My mother said, ‘Do y’all think it’s safe flying here in that little old airplane? Y’all could get killed,’” she said. “I said ‘Well, you know what, mother? If we crash and we don’t survive, at least we’re doing something that we like to do together.’”

In 1997, Crump opened his own airport at his home, just off of Farm Road 51 north of Springtown. A hangar and airfield with two runways sit practically in his backyard.

The airport, named Eugene’s Dream, pays homage to Crump’s father.

Rationing of materials and fuel during World War II interrupted Eugene Crump’s early efforts to become a pilot. After the war, he prioritized caring for his four young children over pursuing his passion.

Though he wasn’t flying, Eugene took his two sons to every nearby airshow, inspiring brothers Herschel and Jimmy to pursue aviation.

“Dad didn’t get to fly,” Crump said, “but his passion for aviation was always there.”

After retiring, Eugene bought 40 acres outside of Birmingham, Ala.

“He had always had this dream of building an airport behind his house,” Crump said.

After building a house and a hangar, Eugene was told by the state of Alabama that his land was needed to build a highway corridor.

“He never got his airport built,” Crump said. “So when we built this one, we named it Eugene’s Dream because his dream was always to have an airport behind the house.”

Jimmy flew his father and a few other family members in to dedicate the new airfield in September of 1997.

“It went on the FAA database that year,” Crump said. “It’s been an official airport ever since.”

The runways of Eugene’s Dream are used to teach the next generation of pilots, Crump said.

“Instructing has never been a full-time job for me,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve just done on the side because I enjoyed it. If you took all the money I ever made instructing, it wouldn’t even pay for one airplane.”

Linda Crump said the students are in good hands.

“I’m always happy,” she said. “I always feel safe with him flying the airplane.”

For the award-winning pilot, safety isn’t just a concern. It’s a way of life for the rest of his life.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I keep passing my physicals,” he said. “I’ll keep doing it as long as I feel like I’m safe to fly.”

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King expects to face Britt in forum

Matthew Britt of Decatur, the Democratic candidate for the District 61 seat in the Texas House of Representatives, issued a news release this week questioning why his opponent, incumbent Rep. Phil King, has not responded to an invitation to debate the issues facing Parker and Wise counties.

Britt said Democratic party chairs in both counties had invited candidates on June 14 to take part in a series of debates. As of July 2, King’s campaign had still not responded.

“I would like to think my opponent believes in the value of discussing the issues publicly,” Britt said, adding that his campaign is willing to work with any and all parties to negotiate the details of a debate.

He invited local media and service organizations to consider hosting a debate or candidate forum.

King, contacted Wednesday, said he would be happy to take part.

“There are regular candidate forums sponsored by various groups before every election in Wise County and in Parker County,” he said. “I look forward to participating in those events. I know the other Republican candidates on the November ballot do as well.”

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North Texas Bank merges with Gainesville bank group

North Texas Bank in Decatur announced Thursday that it will merge with the First State Bank of Gainesville. The merger is through the two banks’ holding companies.

Bank Merger Announced

BANK MERGER ANNOUNCED – Decatur-based North Texas Bank will merge with Gainesville’s First State Bank later this year, creating a banking company with around $900 million in assets. The merger was announced this week by NTB President Andrew Rottner. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

North Texas Bank, which opened in 2004, has assets of $150 million and also operates a branch in downtown Roanoke. First State Bank of Gainesville, the oldest state bank in Texas, has nine branches, including two in Gainesville and three in Denton, with a fourth to open on Loop 288 in the fall.

Andrew Rottner

“The merger of North Texas Bank into First State Bank in Gainesville is an exciting opportunity for our customers, employees and communities,” said J. Andrew Rottner, president of North Texas Bank. “They have been locally owned and operated since 1905, have an outstanding management team and carry a great reputation in their local markets.

“Merging with a larger independent community bank like First State Bank will afford our customers greatly expanded products and services, which will continue to be delivered by the same friendly, responsive and familiar faces our customers have come to know the past 10 years,” Rottner said.

First State Bank CEO Frank Morris said, “We are excited to add the North Texas Bank branches and staff to the First State Bank family and to continue First State’s growth in serving North Texas communities.”

First State Bank of Gainesville is not part of the First State Bank group of Wise County that includes banks in Chico, Bridgeport, Runaway Bay and Paradise.

Rottner and North Texas Bank Board Chairman Don Robinson will join the board of the Gainesville bank when the merger is complete, expected later this year following regulatory approval.

After consolidation is complete, First State Bank will have offices in four contiguous counties of Cooke, Denton, Montague and Wise. After the merger, the combined bank will have assets approaching $900 million, a loan portfolio of $400 million, deposits of $800 million and 200 employees.

First State also has branches in Lake Kiowa, Muenster, Saint Jo and Valley View.

North Texas Bank has played an important role in community events over the past decade, and Rottner said the Gainesville bank has a similar commitment to the communities it serves.

North Texas Bank was founded in 2004 by a group of investors from Decatur and other parts of Texas. Several of the founding directors remain on the Decatur board including Robinson, Andrew Sandford, Derrick Boyd, Charles A. Burton and Mason L. Woodruff. Other directors are Mark Duncum, Dr. Tom Long and Rottner.

First State Bank of Gainesville offers a full line of financial products and services including mobile banking applications, consumer and commercial loans, long-term fixed-rate mortgages and wealth management.

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Everett celebrates 30 years with DATCU

Terry Everett has gone from her garage to the corner office in the last 30 years at DATCU.

Everett, who oversees business development, celebrated her 30th anniversary with the credit union July 1, and the public is invited to a reception in her honor 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 9.

Longtime Employee

LONGTIME EMPLOYEE – Terry Everett was the first branch manager of Decatur’s DATCU location. Today she oversees business development. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Bridgeport native began working for DATCU in 1984 as the Wise County representative. At that time the credit union’s only customers were educators, and it had only two branches – one in Denton and another in Lewisville. So Everett set up shop in her garage.

“I worked out of my house for the first 20 years,” she said. “I actually converted my garage to my office. I conducted a lot of loans in shorts and sometimes even my housecoat.”

She also regularly visited schools to call on her customers.

“If they wanted to see me, if they wanted to set up an account or get a loan, they’d leave a note on the bulletin board, and I’d go find them,” she said. “It didn’t make any difference if it was the bus barn or the football field, I’d go find them.”

Everett graduated from Bridgeport High School in 1971 and Texas Woman’s University in 1975. She was a coach and teacher for the Decatur school district for nine years before going into the banking business.

“I was expecting my first child and thought, ‘I can’t go back to that,’” she said. “I knew coaching would consume all my time. I had every girls team, and I was gone from sunup to sundown from August to July.”

Everett taught in Bridgeport ISD for a couple of years after the birth of her first son and then got the job with DATCU.

“I had no previous banking experience,” she said. “Couldn’t even balance a checkbook!”

She took the job with the impression that it would be mostly public relations-type work, but it quickly evolved.

Although she served as branch manager of the Decatur location for three years, her current position is reminiscent of her original post. Today she has a corner office but gets out and about, visiting schools and businesses and making presentations about the credit union’s products and services.

“(This job) suits me more,” she said. “I like getting out and talking to people. It’s something different every day, and I’m not confined to the building 9 to 5.”

Everett said the most rewarding part of her job has been being able to help people in a variety of situations by loaning them money and helping them manage their finances in general.

Everett, and her husband, Gary, are high school sweethearts and have been married for 41 years. They have two grown sons, Taylor and Jordan, and she said she looks forward to spoiling grandchildren in the future.

“I have all kinds of big plans,” she said, “but this job, I just love it, so as long as they’ll have me, I’ll be here! I’m not planning on retiring anytime soon.”

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Lone Star Mobile Health

Location: Serving Wise County and surrounding areas

Phone: 940-210-0880



Hours: 24 hours, seven days a week

Owner/management: Dean Miller, MSN-RN; Ashley Brown, MSN-RN

Products/services: Mobile drug screening services at your location

Ribbon Cutting

RIBBON CUTTING – Decatur Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting June 24 at Lone Star Mobile Health. Pictured are owners Dean Miller, MSN-RN and Ashley Brown, MSN-RN.

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Former judge indicted for child sex assault

Former Wise County Justice of the Peace C.D. Archer has been indicted for aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by sexual contact.

C.D. Archer

A Wise County grand jury returned the indictments last Thursday, and Archer, 54, was arrested Monday morning. He posted $125,000 bond and was released from the Wise County Jail.

The indictments allege the sexual contact occurred with two different victims, one under the age of 17 and another under the age of 14. The Messenger does not identify victims of alleged sexual assault.

The aggravated sexual assault of a child charge, a first-degree felony offense, contains 16 counts with the same female victim. According to the indictments, the sexual acts began around June 1, 1994, and continued until December 2002. The victim in that case was under 14 during every assault.

The indecency charge, a second-degree felony, contains one count with a male victim under age 17. The indictment states that the victim was fondled by Archer around July 26, 2001.

Assistant District Attorney Lindy Borchardt, who is handling the case for the state, said she could not discuss specifics of the case. She said the reason the case was moving forward now, years after the alleged assaults, is due to a delayed outcry by a victim.

Archer’s attorney, Marilyn Belew of Decatur, said it would not be proper to comment on pending cases.

“I do look forward to vindicating my client,” she said.

According to Archer’s bond conditions on file in 271st District Court, he must report to the adult probation department, possess no weapons, not leave the area and have no contact with the victim or with any child under age 17.

Archer was elected Precinct 4 justice of the peace as a Republican in November of 2002, defeating then-Democratic incumbent Clay Poynor. Poynor ran as a Republican four years later and defeated Archer and two other challengers in the primary election.

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Man charged with murder

A Boonsville man has been charged with the April murder of his girlfriend at their home.

Kris Edward Rau

Kris Edward Rau, 51, was indicted last week by a Wise County grand jury for murder and tampering with evidence by concealing a human corpse.

The odd case began in mid-April when the Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Rau, in Florida, stating that his girlfriend had killed herself at their home in the 1100 block of County Road 3838 on April 14.

“(Rau) claimed they were having issues,” Sheriff David Walker said. “He said he went into town, and when he came back, he found her deceased.”

His girlfriend, Lianne Allyson Murray, had been shot in the head.

Rau told investigators he panicked and fled back to Florida, where both he and Murray were from. It was there, in Lee County, that a family member convinced Rau to call authorities.

Local investigators went to Florida to interview Rau about his girlfriend’s death. Rau told them he had moved Murray’s body from the front yard to a barn on the property. He then hosed down the area where she was killed.

Walker said Rau was cooperative with investigators regarding the details of moving Murray’s body, and he was originally charged May 4 with tampering/fabricating physical evidence with intent to conceal a human corpse.

But, Walker said, as the evidence was examined, it appeared unlikely that the wound was self-inflicted. After more evidence was collected, Rau was charged with murder June 10. He remains in the Wise County Jail with a total bond of $1.5 million.

Walker added that the investigation is ongoing, and investigators are awaiting more evidence to be returned from the crime lab.

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Booming family business

Booming family business

The windows have opened up at fireworks stands around Wise County. This evening begins their period of highest traffic, which will extend until they close the night of July Fourth, after almost everyone has had their fill of explosions.

John Monk, who operates Ron’s Fireworks on U.S. 81/287 north of Decatur, said he and his employees are ready for business to pick up.

Eye on Explosives

EYE ON THE EXPLOSIVES – Isaac Monk mans his stand midday Monday. The largest packages are multi-shot features called “cakes.” Five hundred grams of composition is the legal limit for fireworks available to consumers. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We’ll have about eight or 10 people in here, and none of us are going to be able to take a break,” Monk said. “But we know what to expect. We’ve been doing this for a while.”

Several of Monk’s employees are members of his family. While they sleep at home each night, Monk lives in a nearby camper trailer during fireworks season.

“As long as there’s fireworks in the stand, I’ve got to stay,” Monk said.

His son, Isaac, works at another Ron’s stand down the road, just off of 287 south of Decatur.

“My parents got into it, and I just kind of fell into it as well,” Isaac said.

Growing up in a family of fireworks vendors, Isaac said his Independence Day experience differs from that of most children.

He rarely set off his own fireworks.

“We never had an opportunity. We would always celebrate the Fourth on the fifth,” he said.

Managing a fireworks stand took its toll on his parents.

“Things won’t actually settle down until about the eighth,” Isaac said. “We still have to deal with all of this stuff and put it somewhere. By that time, they would be so exhausted that we just didn’t.”

Availability wasn’t the issue. Motivation was.

“Of course, we could get fireworks,” he said, “but by the time we got around to popping them, it was like ‘What’s the point?’”

Isaac said missing out on these childhood experiences is acceptable, for a price.

“For two weeks of your time, you’re looking at at least two grand,” he said.

Prices have increased since he started selling fireworks seven years ago.

“I remember when a lot of this stuff was less expensive.”

He holds up a brightly colored box.

“It’s the best artillery shell you can get,” he said. “I remember when this was $160. Now it’s $190.”

This time of year, however, tradition dictates and the pocketbook listens, Monk said.

“People are still gonna spend money on fireworks,” Isaac said. “One guy bought more than $600 because he couldn’t pop fireworks in California, and he was glad to be back in Texas.”

Recent wet weather has ensured ideal conditions for fireworks on the Fourth – and once again, the Monk family will likely be too busy to shoot off their own.

John Monk said he hopes that’s true.

“I’ve already had customers come in and say they don’t normally buy, but they are because of the rain,” he said.

Isaac Monk is optimistic.

“This year’s good,” he said. “It’s rained and rained, and there’s no burn ban, so it’ll be good.”

As long as it doesn’t strike on the night of the Fourth, each raindrop is invaluable to the Monk family.

“It’s dollar bill signs,” he said grinning.


The cities of Alvord, Aurora, Bridgeport, Boyd, Chico, Decatur, Newark, Paradise, Rhome and Runaway Bay have ordinances prohibiting fireworks within their city limits.

If celebrating with fireworks is legal in your area, and you decide to use them, please follow these safety tips:

Before you shoot:

  • DO NOT let children use fireworks without adult supervision
  • Only buy from reliable fireworks sellers
  • Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks
  • Use fireworks outdoors: find a smooth, flat surface – in a safe area away from dry grass and buildings
  • Refrain from use in high wind conditions
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter”
  • Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers
  • Before you enjoy fireworks, get permission from the property owner
  • Keep something nearby to extinguish a fire – a bucket of water, wet towels, or a garden hose
  • When you’re ready to shoot:

    • Always read and follow label directions, warnings, and instructions
    • Be considerate of your neighbors
    • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks
    • Light only one firework at a time
    • Never relight a “dud” – wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water
    • Never give fireworks to small children, even sparklers can cause serious burns
    • Never throw fireworks at another person, vehicle, or animal
    • Never carry fireworks in your pocket
    • Dispose of spent fireworks properly

    Tips courtesy of the Wise County Fire Marshal’s Office. 940-627-5870.

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