Christmas in full swing

Santa has a busy weekend planned for Wise County as he’ll be putting in appearance at several placed around the area.

Hes Coming to Town

HE’S COMIN’ TO TOWN – Cooper Barnes, 4, high-fives Santa Claus in Alvord Monday night. The jolly old elf toured the streets in a fire truck greeting children and their parents. Santa is scheduled to visit Decatur neighborhoods Dec. 14-18. See page 10A for a map detailing his schedule. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

  • Breakfast with Santa is 8 to 11 a.m. today at Boyd High School. Call 940-433-2327.
  • The Decatur Fire Department will also be hosting Santa at their own breakfast at the fire hall 7 to 10 a.m. today. Pancakes are served throughout that time, and Santa arrives at 8:30.
  • Santa on the Streets – the Decatur Fire Department’s annual trek through the neighborhoods with Santa – will be Sunday through Thursday, Dec. 14-18. See the accompanying map for dates and locations.

Santa on the Streets

  • Cici’s Pizza in Decatur will be accepting Toys for Tots through today. Toys should be new and unwrapped. Representatives of the U.S. Marines and Santa Claus will be there to greet and collect the toys as well as pose for photos 11 a.m.-1 p.m. today. For information call 940-627-6273.
  • A Bridgeport neighborhood will host “Santa on Nottingham” 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. today and Dec. 19 through 23. Santa will be on hand, along with a full-sized Olaf, every evening, and there will be a different craft each night. It’s all free. Bring the kids to 137 Nottingham.
  • The Bridgeport Children’s Theater presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson at the Bridgeport Stage, 1009 Halsell St. this weekend. Showings will be 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $1. This program is sponsored by Meyers-McComis Agency and presented by Bridgeport Parks and Recreation. Call 940-683-3400.
  • Christmas in Rhome is 7 to 9 tonight at the Rhome Community Center, 261 N. School Rd. Santa will visit 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and door prizes will be given away.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, December 13, 2014

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD – The Bridgeport school board next week will discuss textbook adoption and facility renovations, as well as the results of a districtwide soccer questionnaire. Its meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the administration building, 2107 15th Street, and is open to the public.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – County Judge J.D. Clark will lead his first county commissioners meeting next week. Commissioners will discuss the process for hiring a new elections administrator, hear county engineer Chad Davis’ recommendation for receiving surplus bridge materials from the Department of Public Safety and will discuss maintenance offered by Tyler Technologies. Clark will also give his recommendation on the makeup of the systems coordinator hiring committee. Clark has also added to the agenda a community forum, in which citizens may share comments or observations related to county business. There is a three-minute time limit, and large groups should designate a spokesperson. The meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, in the third floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur. This is the last regular meeting for 2014.

PARADISE CITY COUNCIL – Next week nominees for the vacant Paradise City Council seat will be interviewed, and one will be selected to serve. The process will occur during the city council’s regular meeting 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at Paradise City Hall. The council will also conduct a public hearing on the submission of an application to the Texas Community Development Block Grant Program (TxCDBG) in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Affairs. The council will also discuss hiring Carl Deaton to conduct the city’s annual audit.

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Weatherford College Board approves child development degree

The Weatherford College board of trustees Thursday approved the creation of an Associate of Arts degree in child development.

By taking courses already offered, students attaining this degree will graduate with their core completed and be able to transfer to universities to pursue a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies or a related field like education.

Dr. Richard Bowers, vice president of instruction and student services, said the new AA will better equip students for further study.

“Tarleton State University is developing a new program that will allow a student to earn a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies,” he said. “This is a new development, and it’s giving us an opportunity to allow students to take hours at Weatherford College in that field of study that they will be able to transfer into their four-year degree.”

The degree will be available as soon as the plan is approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

In other business the board:

  • extended WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton’s contract by one year to Dec. 31, 2017, following a closed executive session.
  • approved the 2013-14 financial audit presented by Snow Garrett Williams.
  • approved the disposal of obsolete and surplus items through an online auction.
  • accepted bids totaling $88,951 for the purchase of sonography equipment.
  • approved the addition of two courses for varsity baseball and softball, along with $24 fees for each course. The courses will allow athletes to receive transferable credit for each semester they participate.

Eaton reported:

  • the 14th Annual Weatherford College Golf Tournament raised more than $50,000 thanks to the Title III matching grant.
  • more than 6,000 people attended the Safe Halloween program hosted by the WC Police Department, and more than 350 attended a similar event at the Education Center at Mineral Wells.
  • more than 700 fourth graders attended STEMania at WC Wise County organized by Dr. Lisa Welch and hundreds of volunteers. The day included numerous interactive activities enforcing the importance of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • about 1,500 people attended the WC Fine Arts Department’s production of “Young Frankenstein” over a four-day period. Eaton praised the musical as one of the best yet produced at WC and congratulated Nancy McVean and Rob Laney for their work on the show.
  • more than 200 people attended the successful Veterans Day celebration organized by Ralph Willingham.
  • all board members are up-to-date on their required trainings.

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Stilwell indicted for stabbing incident

A Chico man accused of stabbing another Chico resident was indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a Wise County grand jury when it met Nov. 20.

Rickey Gene Stilwell, 35, will face a second degree felony charge. Records became public this week.

Stilwell is accused of stabbing Adam Johnson, 29, on Oct. 4 at Stilwell’s home in the 1100 block of Farm Road 2952. Johnson suffered two stab wounds to the chest and a pierced lung from an object simply described as a “sharp object” in the indictment.

Two days later, when Wise County Sheriff’s investigators attempted to serve an arrest warrant, Stilwell ran out of his house. After a short chase, Stilwell was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest.

He remains in the Wise County Jail with total bond set at $110,000.

If convicted, the charge carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

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An Aurora city councilman was indicted for indecency with a child by sexual contact.

Cyrus Farver, 78, was arrested Sept. 4 after he allegedly brushed the breast of a female family friend under the age of 17. He was released after posting a $30,000 bond.

Indecency with a child by sexual contact is a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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The grand jury also returned the following felony indictments:

George Michael Fulkerson, driving while intoxicated third or more

Laura Michelle Griggs, burglary of a habitation

Jason Wayne Hall, burglary of a habitation

Randall Craig Hillin, burglary of a habitation (one count); unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon (two counts)

Jason Wayne Hall, burglary of a habitation

Lewis Emil Holloway, forgery of a financial instrument (two counts)

J. Guadalupe Huerta, driving while intoxicated third or more

Billy Ray Stanley, credit/debit card abuse

Caleb Lyle Strickland, forgery financial instrument elderly

Richard Gerard Windmann, driving while intoxicated with child third under 15

Rusty Tyrell Johnson, burglary of a habitation

Christi Louann Williamson, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Boderick Ambimbolla Komolafe, theft of property less than $1,500 with two or more previous convictions

Hayden Hannah Bearden, driving while intoxicated third or more

David Eleazar Mendoza, credit card or debit card abuse

Amanda N. Perry, burglary of a habitation

Damon Lee Perry, burglary of a habitation

Jeffrey Clinton Pittman, driving while intoxicated third or more

Jesse Dean Reynolds, driving while intoxicated with child under 15

Tanner Lane Paddock, injury to an elderly with intent to cause bodily injury

Lalani Denise Rhodes, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (two counts)

Angel Perez Rodriguez, driving while intoxicated third or more

Eric Nicholas Ramirez, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation (one count); prohibited substance/item in correctional facility (one count)

Jesus Segura, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

John Ross Shipman, credit card or debit card abuse

Jeffery Shayne Bridges, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Albert Josef Silbaugh, theft of property $1,500-$20,000 (two counts); possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count)

John Cecil Burris, theft of material – copper, less than $20,000.

A grand jury indictment is not a ruling of guilt, but a review of evidence by an independent, 12-member panel to determine whether or not it is sufficient to bring the accused to trial.

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Local celebration

Local Celebration

LOCAL CELEBRATION – Raquel Lara (center) and other matachines prepare to perform a dance in honor of the Lady of Guadalupe Thursday night. Also pictured are (from left) Jennifer Huerta, Biatris Martinez, Guirnalda Lopez, Andrea Mora and Joseph Aguilar. The performance and short pilgrammage were part of a traditional Catholic celebration that ended with Mass, a birthday song for the Lady of Guadalupe and a reception with hot chocolate and pan dulce. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Catholic Tradition

CATHOLIC TRADITION – Julianna Delcastillo walked and performed with other matachines in Thursday night’s celebration honoring the Lady of Guadalupe – a traditional Catholic ceremony. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

A Tribute

A TRIBUTE – Ana Martinez is dressed as the Lady of Guadalupe and Francisco Contreras poses as Juan Diego. Catholics believe that the Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego and asked him to build a church. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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2 seriously hurt in head-on collision

2 seriously hurt in head-on collision

A WBAP/KLIF reporter and a De Leon woman were flown to a Fort Worth hospital Friday night after a head-on collision between Boyd and Cottondale.

Lynis Parris of De Leon was driving a silver Ford F250 pickup southbound on Farm Road 51, near Farm Road 2048, about 7:45 p.m. when he took evasive action to avoid a car in front of him.

Reporter Flown from Scene

REPORTER FLOWN FROM SCENE – First responders investigate the scene of a head-on collision Friday night in south Wise County. WBAP/KLIF reporter Alan Scaia was critically injured and remains in ICU at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. His condition was upgraded to serious Saturday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Department of Public Safety Trooper Adam Lawson said it was unclear why Parris was trying to avoid the car, but while doing so, he veered into the northbound lanes and hit a Toyota Camry.

The Camry was a marked WBAP radio car and was driven by reporter Alan Scaia. The two vehicles had a head-on collision on the shoulder of the northbound lanes.

The roadway was closed for more than an hour as two helicopters were called to the scene – one to transport Scaia and one to transport Parris’ passenger, Clara Quesnot, also of De Leon.

Scaia was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth by Air Evac Lifeteam 68 with critical injuries. By Saturday afternoon, her condition had been upgraded to serious.

Seriously Injured

SERIOUSLY INJURED – Medics prepare to load Clara Quesnot of De Leon on a PHI helicopter Friday night following a head-on collision on Farm Road 51 South between Boyd and Cottondale. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

WBAP news director Rick Hadley said Scaia broke his right hip in the accident and had surgery Monday.

“I spoke with his mother this morning, and he’s becoming more and more lucid,” Hadley said. “He’s responding to commands and speaking some. He’s on a long road back … it’ll be months.”

Hadley said Scaia remains in ICU at JPS and is heavily sedated. He said he doesn’t know what Scaia was covering Friday night.

“He’s on call 24/7, and he had free reign to come and go and pursue different stories,” he said.

The radio station’s website, wbap.com, says Scaia was recently promoted to morning drive reporter at WBAP/KLIF and had been named a correspondent for a new national news operation. Scaia, 33, lives in Fort Worth.

Quesnot was flown by a PHI helicopter to JPS and was listed in stable condition Saturday. She was no longer listed as a JPS patient Tuesday.

Parris was taken by ground ambulance to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

In addition to the two helicopter ambulances, Wise County’s Rescue 1 and Medic 5 responded, as well as Boyd and Cottondale fire departments. Numerous state troopers and Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis were also on scene.

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Toy Run fight dampens Christmas spirit

A fight between two motorcycle clubs at the Wise County Toy Run Sunday in Decatur threatened to overshadow the good work of the group.

Lt. Art Ferguson with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office said the Lost Riders and the Cossacks, which are known rivals, got into a fight about 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot on Thompson Street near McCarroll Middle School. More than 1,000 bikers were gathered in the lot for registration and lineup before the 15th annual run started at 12:30 p.m.

Pile O Toys

PILE-O-TOYS – Despite a slightly lower attendance than last year, organizer Big Ed Beckley said more gifts were collected at this year’s Wise County Toy Run. The items will be distributed to local children and families that have applied for help. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Toy Run is a charitable event that collects and distributes toys to children in Wise County. Ferguson said the sheriff’s office has traditionally handled logistics and traffic control for the ride, but this is the first year there’s been a problem.

“There’s been rumors of problems before,” he said, “but never a fight.”

Ferguson said the Lost Riders started walking through the crowd in threes and somehow encroached on the Cossacks’ area. The Lost Riders president was jumped, and the fight went to the ground. Ferguson said the main Cossack rider that was involved was pulled off by his buddies and shuffled away, hidden in the crowd.

Other Cossack members continued to kick and stomp the Lost Riders president until law enforcement broke it up. Ferguson said the man had abrasions all over his body, but for the most part, his injuries appeared superficial. The Lost Riders were outnumbered in the crowd about five to one, according to Ferguson.

He said those involved declined to press charges, and no arrest was made because it was impossible to know who exactly started the altercation.

“We’re going to take steps next year to make sure we keep those groups away from each other,” he said. “We’re already working on a plan to prevent this from happening again.”

Big Ed Beckley of Bridgeport said he and other event organizers didn’t know anything about it.

“I saw one sheriff’s officer and one Decatur cop go down there, and the next thing I knew they were back, said everything was OK,” he said.

According to Beckley, they were more concerned about the rider that crashed just as the group was leaving Decatur.

“Thank God he was wearing a helmet,” he said. “It put a big ol’ gash in his helmet.”

Beckley said the riders were probably driving slowly when the crash occurred, and as far as he knows, the rider suffered only a bruised shoulder.

Beckley said between 1,500 and 1,800 riders participated in this year’s event – down slightly from last year. The ride left the Thompson Street lot just before 12:30 p.m., passed through the Decatur Square and traveled down Trinity Street to U.S. 380. Once on 380, the group drove to Bridgeport and congregated in Harwood Park where they dropped off their toy donations.

“When the first riders appeared in the Bridgeport park, the last riders were just pulling out of the parking lot in Decatur,” Beckley said. Although the number of riders was down, donations increased from last year, he noted.

“It doesn’t seem like we had as many riders, but we were in the gift mode, so to speak,” he said. “We have more applications from families needing help than we ever have. It’s definitely going to be needed.”

The Show Must Go On

THE SHOW MUST GO ON – A fight between motorcycle clubs during registration didn’t halt the Wise County Toy Run Sunday afternoon. Organizer Big Ed Beckley said between 1,500 and 1,800 riders participated, and as the first riders were entering Harwood Park in Bridgeport, the last riders were just leaving Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Beckley said families apply for help from the group through their children’s elementary schools. In addition to distributing toys, the group uses monetary donations to buy the kids coats and help with other financial needs.

“We’ve even had to help pay rent, the gas bill and electric bill to make sure these kids have not only a Christmas, but a home,” he said.

The Toy Run also gives a $1,000 scholarship annually to every Wise County high school. Beckley estimated that 90 percent of the riders come from outside Wise County.

Bridgeport Assistant Police Chief Steve Stanford said at least some members of both the Lost Riders and Cossacks made it to Harwood Park, but there were no further problems.

“We received information that there was a fight between the two motorcycle gangs [in Decatur] so we called in extra officers,” he said. “We had already called in some extra help for the event, but we called in additional help.”

Sheriff David Walker said his department will reconfigure the law enforcement presence next year.

“At some point, somewhere along the line, someone has lost sight of why the Toy Run was originally organized,” he said. “The fight was ridiculous, and this could potentially cause next year not be as successful because folks don’t want to be involved with that.”

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Veteran wreath-laying ceremony a worldwide tradition

A Beltway tradition will make its way to Wise County for the sixth year in a row this Saturday.

At 11 a.m., the Wise County Veterans Group (WCVG) and Wreaths Across America (WAA) will start a wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans Park in Decatur, at the same time when volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia will be placing wreaths on the graves of fallen veterans.

“The great thing about it is everyone starts at the same time worldwide, whether you’re overseas or in America,” event coordinator Drew Bruton said. Bruton is an Air Force Vietnam veteran with the WCVG. “There’s ceremonies at the same time no matter if you’re in Decatur or in Normandy. The idea is to honor those that have fallen in war and to teach future generations about their freedom, and the cost of that freedom.”

Bruton said he helped start the event in 2008 when he was approached by some Decatur residents who thought it would be a good idea to participate in the WAA program. Bruton looked into it, and it seemed like a no-brainer.

“I thought it was a great thing to do,” Bruton said.

WAA began in 1992 when Worcester Wreath, a company in Maine, ended the year with a surplus of wreaths, and company owner Morrill Worcester decided to place the extra ones in an old section of Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital.

The project got widespread attention after a photo of the wreaths in the cemetery on a snowy day went viral, and requests poured in from different locations asking to participate.

Now, WAA has almost 160,000 volunteers and 900 locations worldwide, including Wise County.

“We are humbled that Wise County, Texas is participating in our mission to remember, honor and teach,” WAA Executive Director Karen Worcester said.

This year, Wise County’s event will feature guest speaker Major General (Ret.) Eugene LaCoste, a Wise County veteran who assisted in rescue efforts at the Pentagon in the wake of 9/11. Wreaths will be placed on monuments commemorating all of America’s wars and branches of the Armed Forces.

Retired and active military personnel are expected to participate, along with the Boy and Girl Scouts of Wise County and the Wise County Navy Sea Cadets.

“It’s a great ceremony, and it also makes the park look really good this time of year,” Bruton said.

To learn more about sponsoring a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery or learn more about Wreaths Across America, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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County seeks new elections administrator

The search is on for a new elections administrator.

The Wise County Elections Commission met Tuesday morning and finalized a job description for the position of county elections administrator. They also approved a timeline for the search.

“I know we’re all ready to get the process going and hire a permanent elections administrator,” Country Judge J.D. Clark said.

Those in attendance were Clark, County Clerk Sherry Lemon, Tax Assessor/Collector Monte Shaw, commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg, Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith, Republican Party Chair Allen Williamson and interim EA Jim Parker.

The commission agreed to post the job opening on the county’s website and in local newspapers, as well as with the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, National Association of Election Officials and National Association of Counties. They will also post it on various list serves.

Smith asked if the job could also be posted on the parties’ websites, to which everyone agreed.

Resumes will be accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, and the commission will meet 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22, to review candidates and choose those they would like to interview.

Interviews will be set up for 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29.

It was noted that Parker will turn in his resignation to the commission sometime before the end of the year.

Before the meeting adjourned, Smith brought up that she had received several complaints about delayed payment for the election judges in the Nov. 4 general election.

“Some people have expressed that waiting six weeks is entirely too long for a pre-budgeted item,” she said. “It’s difficult to incide volunteerism or people to take their time to run an election, and it’s an important part of our process.

“We don’t want to run them off,” she said. “Maybe we could see about expediting that.”

Clark said he would look into it, and then Parker spoke up and said many election judges didn’t fill the forms out correctly.

“They had to be called back and had to come in to sign them before we could even start,” he said. “Some of them didn’t even put their own name on the compensation form.”

Smith said maybe the election judges needed better training.

Parker said judges should expect to wait six weeks for payment after a major election.

Smith also inquired about the possibility of judges being paid twice – once for early voting and once for election day voting.

Parker said that’s an issue to be decided by the Wise County Elections Board, not the Commission.

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Food drive kicks off this week

Dr. Dan Mallory and his wife, Allison, are encouraging the community to Live Thankfully with their second annual food drive for local families.

Live Thankfully 2014 was kicked off with a luncheon Monday at the Decatur Civic Center, where participating entities picked up their collection tubs and learned more about the program.

Force Behind the Food Drive

FORCE BEHIND THE FOOD DRIVE – The staff at Mallory Orthodontics welcomed guests Monday to the Live Thankfully kickoff luncheon at the Decatur Civic Center. Pictured are (from left) Kylie Slaten, Lisa Arnold, Allison Mallory, Dan Mallory, Vicky Kuykendall, Melissa Warner, Yolinde Musgrave and Tonya Garcia. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

More than 80 organizations – schools, businesses and churches – started collecting food Monday and will do so for two weeks. The goal is to provide families in need with a turkey dinner and two bags of groceries.

Dan, an orthodontist in Decatur, said last year Live Thankfully served 65 families, and this year the organization will serve 150 in not only Decatur, but also Alvord, Boyd, Paradise and Slidell.

CELEBRATE GIVING – Monday’s Live Thankfully kickoff luncheon was held at the Decatur Civic Center. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It’s about serving our community, in our own backyard,” he said. “I really wanted to teach my kids that it’s not all about ‘me.'”

He and Allison sought places to serve as a family, even searching in the Metroplex before deciding to facilitate a local effort.

“Let’s find a need and fill it,” he said.

The idea for Live Thankfully came from Dan’s friend, Dr. John Kelley, who started the organization in Fort Worth. In addition to Decatur, the program has also expanded to Granbury.

The group’s motto is: “Our desire is to extend our smiles to the hearts and stomachs of Wise County.”

All the food donated will be given to families identified by school counselors. Once it’s gathered, the Mallorys will host a Party With a Purpose 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Carson Elementary. Anyone from the community is invited to attend and help bag the groceries.

The turkey dinners and groceries are distributed to the families the week before Christmas break.

To donate to Live Thankfully, bring non-perishable food items to Mallory Orthodontics, 2250 South FM 51, Suite 800, in Decatur. The organization also accepts financial donations, which can be made online at livethankfully.org or mailed to Mallory at the above address. Call 940-627-0960 with questions.

To watch a video from last year’s Live Thankfully campaign, go to wcmess.com/livingthankfully

The Wise County Messenger, 115 S. Trinity St., in Decatur is also a dropoff location for Live Thankfully. Bring non-perishable food items to our office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Saddle up for toys

Salt Creek Arena is hosting a barrel racing expo benefiting the Wise County Toy Run 5 to 10 p.m. tonight in Boyd.

Owner Terry Baker said riders can get three expo rides for each unwrapped toy they bring. The arena is at 7204 S. Farm Road 51 near Boyd. For information about the arena or the expo rides, call Baker at 940-399-6223, or go to www.saltcreekarena.com.

All toys collected will go to the 15th Annual Wise County Toy Run and will be given to Wise County Children.

The Toy Run starts 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, at the McCarroll Middle School parking lot in Decatur. At 12:30 p.m., a parade of riders will leave for Bridgeport’s Harwood Park with toy donations for children.

Toy Run Organizer Scott Gates said people wishing to donate toys may do so at the McCarroll Middle School field house or at Harwood Park in Bridgeport. Gates will also personally pick up large donations.

Call him at 940-389-0200 for information.

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Stock show ticket office open

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo ticket office opened Monday, and rodeo tickets are available for these traditional favorites:

  • Best of the West Ranch Rodeo – Jan. 16 and Jan. 17 (sold out) at 7:30 p.m. Eight prestigious ranches from the southwest compete for bragging rights in traditional working ranch events. Tickets are $25. It’s all a part of Ranching Heritage Weekend, presented by Western Horseman.
  • Best of Mexico Celebraci n – Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Catch the flavor of the music, dancing and horsemanship skills, unique to the traditions of Mexico, presented by State Farm Insurance, Univision Radio and Telemundo 39. Tickets are $19.
  • Cowboys of Color Rodeo – Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. A multicultural event featuring traditional rodeo action, plus appearances by Circle L5 Riding Club and La Guadalupana, presented by State Farm Insurance, Univision Radio and Telemundo 39. Tickets are $19.
  • Bulls’ Night Out – PRCA Extreme Bull Riding and PlainsCapital Bank proudly brings you this event Jan. 20-21 at 7:30 p.m. The PRCA’s toughest bull riders face off against the rankest bulls on the circuit during two action-packed performances. Tickets are $25.
  • Fort Worth Super Shootout – Presented by Cinch, Jan. 22. This invitation-only, next generation of rodeo competition will feature champions from eight of the most prestigious rodeos across the country competing as teams (and individuals) in bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, barrel racing and steer wrestling. Tickets are $25.
  • World’s Original Indoor Rodeo – Jan. 23 through Feb. 7. The Stock Show’s PRCA rodeo will host more than 1,200 PRCA rodeo athletes during 29 performances of rodeo action. Tickets are $25 for Friday nights and all weekend performances, $19 for Monday through Thursday nights and weekday matinee performances.

The rodeo ticket office will remain open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Fans can also purchase tickets by calling 817-877-2420 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Ticketmaster convenience charges will apply.

The 2015 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is Jan. 16-Feb. 7.

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Hurdsman arrested for vehicle burglary

Wise County Sheriff’s investigators believe they have arrested the person responsible for a rash of recent vehicle burglaries in the Paradise and Decatur areas.

Trevor Hurdsman

Trevor Hurdsman, 20, of Paradise was arrested Tuesday and charged with one count of burglary of a vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor.

The sheriff’s office received numerous reports of vehicles broken into in the 400 block of Paradise Canyon Circle on Nov. 17. Another 10 vehicles were hit in the same general area south of Decatur, on County Road 3294, County Road 3170, County Road 3198 and Private Road 3143, last Sunday.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said investigators were able to find evidence that linked the crimes to Hurdsman, and a search warrant was served at his home at 134 CR 3382 – not far from the Paradise Canyon Circle burglaries. Officers were able to recover numerous suspected stolen items including computers, televisions, jewelry, purses, more than 50 music CDs and other property.

After being tied to the cases by physical and trace evidence, Hurdsman was placed under arrest for the offenses. While he has only been charged with one count of burglary of a vehicle, Walker said he could eventually be charged with 20 counts, as well as two counts of burglary of a building (for entering two garages during the burglaries) and one count of theft of a firearm.

Hurdsman has also been charged with criminal mischief impair/interrupt public service less than $20,000, for stealing electricity.

He remained in the Wise County Jail Friday with total bond set at $15,000.

Louis Zehnder

Another person living at the home, Louis Zehnder, 61, was also arrested when investigators serving the search warrant discovered he was in possession of drugs. Zehnder was arrested on a third degree felony charge of possession of a controlled substance 1-4 grams. He also remained jailed Friday with total bond set at $11,000.

Walker praised his officers – including those in patrol, criminal investigations and crime scene investigators – for their work on the cases.

“They did a really good job,” Walker said. “Once (Hurdsman) was confronted with the latent evidence and physical evidence from the scene, he gave a confession.”

The next step will be trying to match up the stolen items to their rightful owners.

“We’ll start trying to compare everything they’ve recovered back to our reports,” Walker said. ” … We’ll try to get anybody who is missing items from their vehicles to come by, and if they’ve got a report, we can match to what we have.”

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said 10 to 12 vehicles in the Lipsey Addition neighborhood in the south part of town were also hit by car burglars last weekend, although no items have been discovered stolen. It is not known if those burglaries were tied to the county burglaries.

The common denominator in all of the break-ins was that the vehicles were unlocked. Vehicle owners are reminded to keep them locked, and keep valuables out of plain sight.

Hurdsman and Zehnder were the fourth and fifth persons to be arrested from the same home in the last couple of months. Rodney Hurdsman, whom Walker identified as Trevor Hurdsman’s father, and Rodney’s wife, Stephanie, were arrested at the end of September in connection with a bank robbery in Arkansas and were later charged with robbing the same bank in Round Rock twice.

Kenneth Lee Ulledahl was also charged with aggravated robbery in connection with one of the Round Rock robberies.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, November 29, 2014

ELECTIONS COMMISSION – The Wise County Elections Commission will meet next week to approve a job description for the elections administrator and develop a timeline in which to hire an EA. They will also discuss job posting methods to get the process started. The meeting is 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, in the Wise County Law Enforcement Center training room, 200 Rook Ramsey Dr., in Decatur.

DECATUR P&Z – Decatur’s Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a special meeting 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut, to swear in four members and consider five requests – one for a zoning change on West Mill Street, three for final plats on South Cates, West Mill and North Trinity, and one replat request in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction in the South 287 Addition. The meeting is open to the public.

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911 text service available

Thanksgiving is the time for enjoying turkey in the company of friends and family.

But it can also be a time for emergencies. Think kitchen fires, accidents on packed roads or medical issues for those who may have overindulged in the Thanksgiving meal.

TEXTING 911 – Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint customers in Wise County can now text 911 if they find themselves in a situation where they cannot safely speak to a telecommunicator. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

It’s a good time to remind Wise County residents that if they need to call for help during the Thanksgiving holiday, or any other time of the year, they don’t even have to “call” at all.

Wise County made history in February of 2013 when it became the first county to offer a 911 system capable of receiving emergency calls via text message. At the time, the option was available only to Verizon Wireless customers. But as of April 7 of this year, the service was expanded to include T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint customers.

While the service has been slow to catch on with local residents – only two emergency calls have been received by text since the system went live – Wise County Communications Manager Susan Gomez said it is still a potentially useful tool.

“We’d like to get the word out,” she said. ” … There’s definitely some times when it would be helpful. I just think a lot of people don’t know about it.”

More texts have been received by 911 operators, but it turned out the calls were for non-emergency situations. For instance, several texts have been received for animal control issues.

Text to 911 service is also available at the Decatur and Bridgeport police departments. As of October, 37 law enforcement agencies in the North Central Texas Council of Governments area offer the service.

The texting service gives deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired residents direct access to 911 services. It could also be helpful in situations where a person’s safety could be compromised by speaking out loud, such as in an active shooter, domestic violence, home invasion or abduction situations.

TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN TEXTING 911

  • The 911 telecommunicator needs to know your exact location and the nature of your emergency.
  • Use simple language; no abbreviations or slang.
  • Do not text and drive. Pull over to a safe location and stop your car before sending a text to 911.
  • Call first if you can, as it takes longer to get all of the information when communicating through text messages.
  • At this time, you can only send a text to 911 using a Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint or AT&T phone that has an active texting plan.
  • You will receive a “bounce back” message if you are in an area where the service is not available telling you to make a voice call.

Information provided by the North Central Texas Council of Governments

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Thieves target unlocked cars

’Tis the season, for car burglaries.

While the holiday shopping season is traditionally a busy time for car burglars, it seems thieves are getting an early start on their own version of Black Friday specials.

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in car burglaries in recent days.

“We’ve just had a rash of them the last couple of weeks,” Wise County Sheriff David Walker said. “The majority, if not all, are vehicles that are left unlocked. It looks like what someone is doing is going around checking cars in the neighborhood.”

Any valuables left inside unlocked vehicles are the targets of the thieves.

On Nov. 17, several cars in the 400 block of Paradise Canyon Circle near Paradise were broken into. In at least one case, the homeowner reported that someone entered their garage to break into a vehicle.

Last weekend 10 vehicles were hit in the same general area south of Decatur, on County Road 3294, County Road 3170, County Road 3198 and Private Road 3143. Among the items taken in those burglaries were a gun, cash and computers. In some cases, the vehicle owners reported nothing was taken. In at least one case, someone entered the victim’s garage.

Investigators are still working on the cases and do not know at this time if the car burglaries near Paradise and Decatur are related.

In the meantime, car owners are reminded to lock their doors and remove valuable items from their vehicles.

“You ought to be able to leave your car in your driveway unlocked without worrying about someone getting in there,” Walker said.

Unfortunately, an unlocked vehicle is proving to be a deal too good to pass up for thieves.

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Sobering evening: MADD class highlights danger of drunk driving

Sobering evening: MADD class highlights danger of drunk driving

The courtroom at the Wise County Jail was almost full last Wednesday. A few people sat together – two girls who looked like they were still in high school, a married couple – but most tried to get a little space around them.

They weren’t here to socialize. They were here because they had been arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

Victims Impact Class

VICTIM’S IMPACT CLASS – Ray Carter, Meredith Overbeck and Steve Collier conduct a Victim’s Impact Class in Decatur as part of the probation process for drunk-driving offenders. The class is sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Overbeck works in the Wise County Adult Probation office while Carter and Collier are speakers. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The two-hour Victim Impact Panel, sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is required of first-time DWI offenders in Wise County. If they complete it within 90 days, they can avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended.

That’s a very real incentive.

In fact, the entire evening is very, very real.

The people – all ages, all walks of life – file in, fill out a form for Meredith Overbeck of the Wise County Adult Probation Office and take their seats. On the wall at the side of the room, a slide show is playing, showing people killed or injured by drunk drivers.

I was a little shocked to see an old friend’s photo flash up there.

Larry Thompson, a retired hospital administrator, died in February 2010 when an intoxicated driver hit him on Robertson Road near Eagle Mountain Lake. He was on his way home from a community theater production in Azle.

A 34-year-old Arlington man pleaded guity to intoxication manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Wednesday night, speakers Ray Carter and Steve Collier were there to do what they could to keep the audience members from being on either side of that equation – losing a friend or loved one, or doing prison time for taking someone’s life.

It’s hard not to use the word “sobering” when describing the program, although Carter and Collier both found moments of laughter as they told their stories.

RAY CARTER’S STORY

Carter started out with an introduction of MADD, and a barrage of statistics.

  • Two out of every three Americans will be impacted by a drunk-driving crash at some point in their lives.
  • 21,600 people every month are injured in alcohol-related crashes.
  • 28 people die every day in a DWI accident.
  • Drunk driving costs the U.S. $199 billion a year.
  • In Texas, more than 1,300 people die in alcohol-related crashes each year – more than three each day.
  • A drunk driver typically drives drunk 88 times before they get their first DWI ticket.

Carter first told the story of his grandson, and the DWI accident that didn’t get him involved with MADD.

A state champion high school pole vaulter as a junior, he and some friends were hit by a drunk driver a week after the regional track meet. The young man’s arm was broken in two places.

“That instant, his senior year, all the college scholarship offers – that was gone,” he said. Two other boys in the car were even more severely injured, including one a paraplegic.

“The gentleman who ruined their lives plea-bargained 38 years in the penitentiary,” he said.

Then he moved on to the reason he now speaks to 500 to 1,000 people each month, volunteering for MADD.

“I lost my best friend, my business partner, my brother in the motorcycle club – I lost my only son to a drunk driver,” he said. “My world changed. My wife says I changed, that I’ve never been like I was before.”

Carter’s son, Randy, had gone to Austin for a biker rally and was heading down MLK Boulevard with a passenger seated behind him. He stopped at a red light, then got a green protected arrow to make a left turn.

The Travis County Medical Examiner’s office said he never knew what hit him. His passenger was severely injured, but survived.

The drunk driver had a blood-alcohol content two-and-a-half times the legal limit. He also had marijuana and cocaine in his system.

The 31-year-old man was an employee of the city of Austin, married, with three kids. He lost his job and had to mow yards to try and make a living.

Carter fought to get him probation so that his wife and kids did not suffer. He even paid for his ankle monitor. But the man violated the terms of his probation and is serving eight years in prison.

Carter and his biker friends fixed up a trailer and strapped Randy’s casket to it for the procession to the cemetery.

“I took my son to his grave,” he said, his voice breaking. “I go visit that grave at least once a month. I go to Austin four or five times a year to visit where he got killed. I cry every day. I think about it all the time.”

He encouraged his listeners to think about the people in their lives who mean that much to them.

“I ask you to make good choices, to think about this,” he said. “That’s why I come here.”

STEVE COLLIER’S STORY

The next speaker is also a motorcycle guy – a big man with no hair on his head, but a beard halfway down his chest.

Steve Collier has a twinkle in his eye and clearly enjoys a good laugh. He brings humor into his presentation as he talks about his small high school class, his family and himself.

A slide goes up of a nice-looking middle-aged couple at a banquet, formally dressed. In the next slide, they’re in full biker gear, out in a roadside park in Colorado. They looked happy in both pictures but obviously more at home on the bikes.

Collier said his mom rode with his dad for about six months before she got her own bike, a Harley Ultraglide. At 5-feet, 2-inches and 130 pounds, she maneuvered the 1,000-pound motorcycle with ease.

The first thing she bought to put on it was a “Ride to live and live to ride” air filter cover.

His delivery slows down when he talks about losing her.

“You remember where you were on 9/11, when the planes hit the buildings?” he asks. Then he describes learning of his mom’s wreck on an August Friday afternoon – when a drunk driver in Oklahoma swerved into a group of five motorcycles, eight people, killing three of them.

“You got those people in this world that you’d trade your life for?” he asked. “That you’d trade your life – no questions, take me, I’m out? I’ve got three of them. I’d give it up right this second.”

His dad, he said, would have given his life in an instant for his wife of 40 years.

Oklahoma state troopers spent 36 hours at the scene, Collier said, measuring and weighing until they could computer-animate the accident.

It occurred at 3:30 p.m. when the group of bikers spotted the car swerving. The first bike just got clipped and didn’t go down, but Collier’s mom, on the second bike, was hit by the passenger-side headlight. With both vehicles going about 70 mph, it was about a 140-mph collision.

She was completely over on the shoulder when the car hit her.

The next bike was Collier’s dad, and he laid it down, avoiding the collision but sustaining fairly serious injuries as he hit the ditch. The two people on the next bike both died, hitting the passenger side of the car full-force.

Collier talked about forgiveness, about making funeral arrangements and the procession. He described the roadside crosses, seeing the bike and salvaging that air filter cover, which his son has put in a shadow box that he takes with him when he makes presentations for MADD.

“Four people lost their lives,” he said. “The fourth person wasn’t killed, but they lost their life, too.”

The drunk driver plea-bargained for three concurrent life sentences. Under Oklahoma law, they will serve 38 years and three months before they are eligible for parole. Collier’s 19-year-old son will be 55.

He closes the presentation with a slide of his mom’s tombstone, on a hill in an Oklahoma cemetery.

“I tell you this whole story to ask you the question,” he said. “Remember that person you thought of earlier, that you’d give your life for? The kids? Your spouse? Put their name up there where my mom’s name is, on that stone.”

Then he pauses.

“Put that person’s name up there where my mom’s name is, and then put your feet up here in my boots, and think what you’d say to you.

“What would you say to you, to keep from doing the thing that got you here in the first place – driving while you’re impaired? What would keep you from taking those keys and putting them in the ignition and doing it again?”

The only sound in the room is a sniff or two, as he draws his talk to its conclusion. It’s anything but preachy.

“What would you say to you, to keep from putting that person’s name that you love the most on that stone where my mom’s name is?”

Then he sits down. The people in the chairs had a survey to take before they left. Most left quietly, although a few came up to thank Collier and Carter for sharing their stories.

MADD estimates they’ve saved more than 300,000 lives since they started their campaign against drunk driving. These programs for first-time offenders may be the most effective.

The supply, however, does not seem to be diminishing.

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Driver error causes most fatalities

If you need another reason to drive safely this holiday season, here’s some information for you.

Data recently obtained by the Messenger from the Texas Department of Transportation reveals that since 2010, more than half of the traffic fatalities in Wise County have been the result of driver errors, such as following another car too closely, ignoring traffic signs or distracted driving.

Drive Safe

DRIVE SAFE – This Google Map, created with data obtained from the Texas Department of Transportation, displays the locations of all 61 fatal traffic accidents in Wise County from 2010 until now. Those 61 wrecks killed 70 people. The different colors represent the different causes of each wreck. Red dots are alcohol/drug-related accidents. Large yellow dots are speed-related wrecks, and blue dots indicate driver fatigue. Green dots are any sort of driver error, such as a failure to yield or running a stop sign. Purple dots are any combination of the above. Small yellow dots are wrecks with any other or no cause of accident. To view an interactive version of this map, visit wcmess.com/map. Map created by Jake Harris using Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables

There have been 61 fatal accidents, killing 70 people, since 2010, and 31 of those listed driver error as the cause.

The second most-prevalent cause of death on Wise County roads was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with 19, followed closely by speed-related accidents at 17. Driver fatigue was listed as the cause of eight fatal accidents, although there was some overlap between all the categories.

The map at right shows the locations of all the fatal accidents in the county from 2010 until now.

The different colors represent different causes of accidents. Red dots are alcohol- or drug-related accidents. Large yellow dots are speed-related wrecks.

Blue dots indicate driver fatigue, and green dots are any type of driver error, such as a failure to yield or running a stop sign.

Purple dots are any combination of the above. Small yellow dots are wrecks with any other or no cause of accident.

An interactive version of the map is online at wcmess.com/map, and it will be updated as more accidents occur.

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Annual Messiah concert set for Dec. 1

The much anticipated Weatherford College choir concert, selections from Handel’s Messiah, is Monday, Dec. 1, at the Alkek Fine Arts Center.

“The college choir, along with talented and enthusiastic singers from the community, form the choir that will perform some of Messiah’s most notoriously challenging songs along with seasonal favorites including ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’ and ‘Hallelujah,'” choir director Rob Laney said.

The Messiah concert at WC began as a way to bring a piece of Dallas culture and arts to Parker County, he explained.

In Dallas, the entire Messiah production is performed on baroque instruments and features the Dallas Bach Choir at the Meyerson Symphony Center. To their west, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to perform the classic at Bass Hall. And in Weatherford, music lovers are invited to hear selections from the arrangement performed by students and other local talent.

“As you go west, we do only the highlights of the piece with a string quartet here on campus,” Laney said. “My perspective is: We bring a little bit of Dallas to you, so you don’t have to make the drive.”

Messiah begins at 7:30 p.m. Doors open a half-hour prior to the concert, and admission is free.

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Granger to continue as subcommittee chair

Congresswoman Kay Granger, whose district includes the eastern half of Wise County, will remain chair of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee.

Granger will also remain vice chair of the Defense subcommittee. In January, when the new Congress convenes, she will become the fourth highest ranking Republican on the committee and the highest ranking Republican woman on the committee.

“I look forward to continuing the vital work of overseeing all U.S. foreign investments and working to ensure we maintain a robust national defense to meet the needs of the United States and our allies,” Granger said. “Over the last four years as the chair of the subcommittee, I am proud of our efforts to prioritize the programs that have worked efficiently, while making cuts to inefficient or redundant programs. In the process, we have made the State and Foreign Operations budget leaner, but more effective.

“The world is a very complicated place today, and the U.S. faces some of the most difficult foreign policy and national security challenges in our history,” she said. “Our investments in our defense and foreign policy must reflect the seriousness of these challenges and exhibit strong U.S. leadership aboard.

“We must continue to have aggressive oversight and constantly assess the success of our foreign assistance,” she added. “We must also continue to make smart investments and be responsible stewards of taxpayer funds.”

The State and Foreign Operations subcommittee plays a critical role in U.S. national security policy. From supporting key allies like Israel, funding embassy security, addressing the spread of Ebola and stopping the spread of global terrorism, Granger oversees many of the key programs that invest in the protection of the homeland.

The Defense subcommittee ensures the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have the resources they need to ensure military supremacy in the world. With the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, the development of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the building of Bell Helicopter’s V-22 Osprey, and many other important defense companies based in the 12th District and throughout North Texas, the communities Granger represents makes enormous contributions to America’s security at home and abroad.

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