Sales tax up in most cities

Summer is off to a pretty good start for most Wise County cities – at least when it comes to sales tax.

The June payment from the State Comptroller’s office, representing April sales reported to the state in May, was better than last year’s in 10 of the county’s 12 cities.

Boyd was the only city that saw a big drop in June, collecting $32,054 with its 1.5-cent sales tax compared to $50,638 in the same month last year – a 36.7 percent drop. Paradise’s June payment was off just $36.

Everyone else got a boost in June, from 1.26 percent in Lake Bridgeport to 56 percent in Aurora.

The bigger cities of Decatur and Bridgeport saw modest increases, 4.6 percent in Decatur and 1.49 percent in Bridgeport. For the year, Decatur is three-quarters of a percent, or $15,578, ahead of 2013, while Bridgeport remains 13 percent behind.

Despite healthy increases in June, both Rhome and New Fairview also remain behind last year by 3.4 and 9.3 percent, respectively.

The rest of the county’s smaller cities are ahead of 2013, with increases ranging from Boyd’s 1.8 percent to Newark’s lofty 130.8 percent.

As a whole, Wise County’s 12 cities are down $101,675 – 2.26 percent – from last year. Factoring out Bridgeport’s $203,547 deficit, the other 11 cities are up $101,872 – a respectable 3.4 percent.

Statewide, 1,148 cities have picked up just under $2.5 billion from the sales tax so far this year, running 7 percent ahead of last year.

Wise County, which collects a half-cent, saw their payment drop 15.2 percent in June, from last year’s $446,280 to $378,274. That brings the county’s year-to-date total to $2,577,551, up 2.77 percent over last year’s.

Comptroller Susan Combs said sales tax growth statewide was evident across all major sectors of the economy.

“The growth was led by the retail and wholesale trade sectors, the oil and natural gas mining sector, and the services sector,” she said. “This marks the 50th consecutive month of increased state sales tax revenues, and brings the fiscal year-to-date growth to 5.4 percent.”

Sales Tax

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Yes, you can: WARM, USDA and Messenger staff agree on outdated peas: they’re fine

A gentleman who regularly gets food from the Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM) recently brought to the newspaper office a can of sweet peas he’d received in his box of free groceries.

They were dated, “Best by May 23, 2003″ – a shade over 11 years ago.

He wanted the newspaper to do a story – to inquire about the safety of the groceries being donated to and distributed by the Decatur food pantry, and to warn people to check the dates on the food they eat.

So, we did.

In a nutshell, the peas are just fine.

Still Appealling

STILL AP-PEA-LING – The “best by” date on the can notwithstanding, the peas a reader brought to the Messenger still looked, smelled and tasted just fine. That’s because the can was still in good shape. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

WARM, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Messenger staff say so.

The USDA web site says, “Canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 F (32.2 C). If the cans look OK, they are safe to use.

“Discard cans that are dented, rusted, or swollen.”

The can brought to the Messenger office, it should be noted, looked perfectly fine. There were no dents or scratches anywhere on the can, and the label was intact – although graphically, a little outdated.

Ren Ashmore, director of WARM, said she wishes the gentleman would have simply brought the can back or asked someone at the food bank.

“We try to watch for products that are really out of date,” she said. “If it is dented, opened or dirty of course we throw that away – but canned goods, in good shape, don’t expire.

“They just don’t.”

Ashmore said WARM distributed 200,000 pounds of food from January through the end of April, with a full-time staff of two and a corps of dedicated volunteers.

“The majority of the food we get is not brand-new food,” she said.

She said a lot of WARM’s food comes through the Tarrant Area Food Bank, which gets bulk donations from major food chains. Those chains cycle food off their shelves when it goes out of date – but the meat and poultry gets frozen immediately, and the canned goods remain completely safe, though no longer saleable.

Donations like that make up a huge portion of what goes out to the needy in this and other communities all over the U.S.

Canned-food drives also bring in a lot of items that are donated after residents “clean out” their pantries. Ashmore said the National Letter Carriers’ food drive in May, and the Big Sandy competition in the fall between Bridgeport and Decatur bring in tons of items – including outdated cans.

“We try very hard to make sure what we send out is quality,” she said. “Every now and then, something’s going to slip through.

“But we certainly don’t want to discourage food donations or people cleaning out their cabinets.”

Except for on infant formula, product dating is generally not required by federal law.

According to to the USDA web site:

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

The can of peas had a “best by” date. According to Messenger staff, the peas tasted just fine.

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Illegal horse track busted near Alvord

Six people have been arrested for operating what investigators say was an unlicensed horse racing facility near Alvord.

The arrests took place after the six people, including two Wise County residents, were indicted by a grand jury for racing without a license, a violation of the Texas Racing Act.

criminalsWise County District Attorney Greg Lowery said the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted the investigation into the horse racing operation after receiving a complaint about possible illegal activity. Undercover officers went to the scene on multiple occasions to observe people betting on the outcome of races.

The track was located next to Oak Hill Raceway, a motocross facility south of Alvord. Lowery said the Oak Hill owner did not have knowledge of the horse racing operation.

“From my understanding, it was a straight dirt track,” Lowery said. “They did have starting gates. They took care of the track. They even had people set up at the finish line to take photos if there was a photo finish.”

According to the wording in the indictments, the six people operated a horse race without a racetrack license and had knowledge that people were betting on the outcome of the races. The indictment states that the illegal activity was witnessed on Feb. 16 of this year.

Those arrested were identified by the Department of Public Safety as Homero Caldera, 49, and Guillermo Rodriguez, 30, both with the same address in Aurora; Jose Conception Aguilar, 55, of Farmers Branch; Ultiminio Caldera-Pacheco, 46, of Garland; Jose Enriquez-Trejo, 30, of Grand Prairie; and Gricelda Rodriguez, 32, of Fort Worth. All six posted a $10,000 bail and were released the day of their arrest.

Lowery said he is not aware of any animal cruelty issues related to the horses used at the facility.

Since the investigation is ongoing, Lowery said he could not give any more specific details about the case. He said that none of the six arrested have previous felony convictions.

Racing without a license is a third degree felony offense.

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Anderson guilty on drug, gun charges

After a quick, one-day trial, 32-year-old Daniel Ray Anderson was found guilty Tuesday afternoon in Judge John Fostel’s 271st District Court in Decatur.

Anderson will be sentenced by the jury Wednesday on two counts – possession of a controlled substance in an amount less than one gram and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

It was July 31, 2012, when Wise County Sheriff’s investigators went to a mobile home on County Road 3341, near Paradise, belonging to George David Shannon, 55, where Anderson lived in a rented room.

Investigator Chad Lanier and two other officers wanted to talk to Anderson about a stolen tractor.

But when he went inside at around 7:30 a.m., Lanier found Anderson standing in the doorway of a bedroom. At the investigator’s request, Anderson unlocked a padlock on the bedroom door and let him in – where he found a .22 rifle in the corner.

“He said, ‘That isn’t my gun. I can’t have a gun. I’m a convicted felon,’” Lanier testified Tuesday.

Anderson then consented to a search that yielded spoons, baggies, a larger bag containing “a crystal-like substance” and other drug paraphernalia – pipes, pills, a digital scale and an empty laundry detergent bottle filled with discarded syringes.

“It was consistent with being in business,” Lanier said. “It was consistent with drug dealing.”

Anderson, who had been previously convicted for failure to register as a sex offender, was arrested. Lanier testified he later had a conversation with Anderson in which he asked him what he was doing at the house.

“He said he was selling drugs,” Lanier said. “I asked him how he was using meth himself, and he said, ‘With a needle.’”

That interview was videotaped and admitted into evidence, and was available for the jury to see. They deliberated about a half-hour before returning with the guilty verdict just before 5 Tuesday afternoon.

Anderson’s case is the third to be adjudicated out of that July 31, 2012 ,incident.

Shannon, the homeowner, was tried and found guilty in April of drug possession under one gram and sentenced to one year in state jail, probated for two years, plus a $2,000 fine.

Stacie Davis, 40, who was also staying at the house, pleaded guilty in February to the same drug charge and got the same sentence, with a $1,000 fine.

The jury will assess Anderson’s punishment Wednesday.

Assistant Wise County District Attorney Pat Berry, who prosecuted Shannon, handled this case as well. Anderson was defended by attorney David Singleton, who called only one witness.

In summing up the case for the jury, Berry said methamphetamine is “a scourge on our society.”

“It’s related to so many other offenses, it’s unbelievable,” he said.

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First responder: Decatur’s Carr earns statewide honor for EMS work

First responder: Decatur’s Carr earns statewide honor for EMS work

When Decatur firefighter James Carr responded to a medical call at Poco Graphite in Decatur Monday morning, he came full circle.

In the days before, the six-year member of the Decatur Fire Department was named the EMS Responder of the Year by the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Association of Texas – after receiving the same honor from his home department and the Red River District, to which the Decatur FD belongs.

Responder of the Year

RESPONDER OF THE YEAR – The State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal Association of Texas (SFFMA) named Decatur firefighter James Carr the EMS Responder of the Year at its annual convention, conference and training this weekend in Lubbock. Carr is a six-year member of the Decatur Fire Department. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

But the decorated first responder got his start in the fire brigade at Poco.

“[On Monday] one of the guys there came up to me and said, ‘I read in the Update that you got an award. Good job,’” Carr said. “We parted ways peacefully, but it was there that it all began.”

As a former Poco employee, Carr underwent industrial fire training to join the company’s emergency response team.

“Industrial companies are really good at not letting accidents happen because those cost money,” he said. “So when you work for a fire brigade, you don’t get a lot of experience because there’s just not calls like that.”

But Carr was intrigued by the service and sought a different avenue to get involved.

“There was an ad for the Decatur Citizens Fire Academy, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take this awareness program that they’re putting on, so I can see exactly what the municipal side of the fire service is like,” he said.

He viewed it as possibly a good way for Poco’s emergency response team to forge a relationship with the Decatur Fire Department.

“So I went to it, and Chief [Deroy] Bennett was the one that spoke to us that very first day,” he said. “All he had to do was say, ‘Welcome,’ and that’s pretty much all it took for me.”

Carr enrolled in the academy and underwent the 12-week training program.

“After it was over I said, ‘OK, where do I sign? I’m all about this,’” Carr recalled.

He continued working at Poco, but in 2012, when the city of Decatur approved the hiring of three additional personnel for the fire department, Carr applied – and was hired. He attended the schools and passed the certification exams to become a paramedic the following year and shortly after, he earned the certification to become a CPR instructor.

“From his very first emergency run, James always seemed to be drawn to the EMS element of response at Decatur FD,” said Captain Nate Mara, who was one of several who who wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of Carr for the state-level honor. ” … James has a passion for helping out other people that is second to none.”

After Carr earned his paramedic certification, Mara asked him to take over the EMS process for Decatur FD.

“James keeps up with inventory [of medical supplies and equipment] and all of the administrative elements of the first responder organization,” Mara said. “James has the hard task of keeping up with ever-changing innovations in EMS and the fire service. He balances his own budget and ensures that the medical and wellness needs of our members and our citizens are met year after year.”

For those contributions, the department named Carr the EMS Responder of the Year at its banquet earlier this year. The department then nominated him for the honor at the district level, which he received in April.

With that win under his belt, Carr compiled a packet – which included his work history, achievements and letters of recommendation – and went for state honors.

Officials with the SFFMA interviewed the top three candidates during the organization’s annual convention, conference and training this weekend before naming Carr the winner.

“It is a very humbling honor for me,” Carr said. “I don’t feel myself as a hero. I just do what I need to do with my training at the particular time.”

Along with an award and badge, Carr and his department received a $500 donation from the Volunteer Firefighter Insurance Services of Texas. The money was given to the SFFMA Firemen’s Monument for fallen comrades.

Carr also was picked to serve on the SFFMA EMS advisory board, which adjusts protocols and policies and serves as the liaison between state lawmaker and the fire districts.

He will also be a part of the panel that selects the firefighter and EMS responder superlatives at the state level for the next two years.

“I have made it my mission to try to get an applicant from every district for EMS responder of the year,” Carr said. “They always have plenty of Firefighter of the year applicants, but they haven’t had a lot of applicants for EMS Responder of the Year.”

Changing the number of applicants will help bring light to a common misconception.

“When we go to schools and ask kids what we do for a living, they say, ‘Oh, you put out fires,’” Carr said. “That’s a very small part of what we do … What we do more than anything is EMS.

“Really, we’re like the ghostbusters,” he continued. “When there’s something wrong and people don’t know who to call, they call the fire department … We’re more than just firefighters. We do pretty much anything and everything that we’re called upon.”

And that is exactly what Carr loves about his job.

“The fact that I get to help people when they need help,” he said. “Ultimately, that’s what it’s about.”

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Campers blossom at special camp

Campers blossom at special camp

More than 250 people packed into Decatur’s Joe Wheeler Park this week for Sonflower Camp.

The nearly weeklong camp, created for special needs children in the area, features eight stations each day, including a group music station and two cars donated by James Woods Motors on which the campers can play, both of which proved popular.

Blooming Fun

BLOOMING FUN – Sara Boyd escorts Ty and Alyssa Sattawhite to the next station Tuesday at Sonflower Camp, a week long day camp for special needs kids at Decatur’s Joe Wheeler Park. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Campers wildly honked the car horns Tuesday morning, but it didn’t drown out the boisterous singing inside the pavilion.

Andrea Duwe, the co-director of Sonflower Camp, said more than 10 churches sent volunteers to help with the event each day. Each camper is paired with a volunteer, and they are divided into eight groups to rotate stations.

Elaine Huff, the children’s pastor at Crossroads Church and camp’s other co- director, said the event presents a great opportunity for campers to meet new friends.

“We’re building a network for special needs individuals in the community,” Huff said. “When they’re at home, their world is pretty limited, especially in the summer with no school, but they can come here and have a real camp experience.”

Most campers also participate in a special needs baseball league, Huff said. Opportunities like these provide new opportunities and sensory experiences, which allow them to grow. This is especially evident in repeat campers.

“It’s fun to watch the changes because they just blossom,” Huff said.

One camper, J.J. Benavidez, was in attendance with his brother, Sebastian. The duo was inseparable as Sebastian pushed J.J.’s wheelchair across the grass and under a pavilion to participate in the group’s next activity. Sebastian and J.J. have been regular attendees at Sonflower for several years.

Having Fun

HAVING FUN – The parachute, along with the musical instruments and cars from James Woods were some of the most popular stations Tuesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“He’s the best brother,” Huff said. “He sits with his J.J. every day at lunch instead of hanging out with his friends.”

Best friends Caroline Parks and Bucky Sledge from Alvord were in attendance for the first time.

Parks said she’s been caring for Sledge since high school and that she’d agreed to volunteer at the camp because it was the only way to persuade him to take part.

“We’ve been together for a long time,” Parks said. “Me and Bucky do our own thing. We always have.”

For Huff, being a part of Sonflower Camp is about seeing the effects on campers.

“This is the highlight of my year,” Huff said, “to look in those faces and just see the joy.”

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Online solicitation among felony indictments

A Paradise man has been indicted for online solicitation of a minor.

Christopher Glenn Ashmore, 21, was indicted by a Wise County grand jury May 29 for allegedly using Facebook to solicit sexual acts from a minor.

Ashmore was arrested last June after he was caught in a sting operation by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office. He thought he was communicating with a female between the ages of 13 and 16, but he was actually communicating with an investigator.

When he went to meet the “girl,” he was met by investigators who placed him under arrest.

Online solicitation of a minor is a third degree felony.

The grand jury indicted another 35 suspects on a variety of felony charges:

Steven Del Cummings, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Gustavo Angel Alvarez, aggravated sexual assault of a child

Robert Camden Carder Jr., assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

Anthony Glenn Gravely Jr., assault intentional/reckless breathing/circulation family member with previous conviction

Jeffrey Don Hill, fraudulent use/possession of indentifying information

Eric Jordan Bennett, possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, less than 1 gram

Jason Craig Croom, prohibited substance in a correctional facility (one count); possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count)

Larry Dale Langley Jr., possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Carlos Alberto Lopez-Rodriguez, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Shawn David Massie, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Clifton Alan Skinner, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Jason Hoyt Tally, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count); unauthorized use of a vehicle (one count)

Donald Gene Walton, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams

Samuel Ray Weaver, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams

Sharon Kay Wolfe, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Jennifer Nicole Young, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Kaylee Lynne Bell, driving while intoxicated third or more

Eric Jordan Bennett, forgery financial instrument

Brian David Brooks, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Jennifer Suzanne Buell, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Joshua Dewane Bryant, theft of property less than $1,500 with two or more previous convictions

Michelle Denise Combs, theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Randy Bryon Nabors, theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Kyndra Shealynn Conn, burglary of a habitation

Acey Allen Davis, theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Kenneth Edward Gourd, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (two counts)

Bryson Chase Isbell, unauthorized use of a vehicle

John Carlos Jones, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (three counts)

Grady Shurl Mansell, burglary of a building

Donald John Morgan, driving while intoxicated third or more

Allen Dale Post, driving while intoxicated third or more

Donald Wayne Ray, theft of service $1,500-$20,000

Aaron Wayne Rivas, burglary of a habitation

Angel Dejesus Rivera, evading arrest/detention with a vehicle

Danilo Turcious-Cuellar, evading arrest/detention with a vehicle

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Man gets probation for sex crime

A 71-year-old Rhome man has received probation after pleading guilty to indecency with a child.

Hollis Glenn Belcher entered a guilty plea in 271st District Court last month to indecency with a child/sexual contact in exchange for eight years deferred adjudication. Belcher must register as a sex offender for life due to the conviction.

Although investigators initially feared there might be several victims, the conviction was for only one victim, who was 9 years old at the time of the crime.

The crime took place at Belcher’s home in the Diamond Ridge subdivision in February of 2013, investigators said.

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Food bank providing free lunches in South Wise

Free lunches are available to children in South Wise through a Tarrant Area Food bank program.

Kids can eat free at neighborhood sites sponsored by the food bank in collaboration with community organizations.

The summer meal sites and the dates and times of meals are as follows:

Victory Learning Center
309 CR 4850, Newark

Starting this week, lunch is at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, through Aug. 22. The site will be open July 4th.

Seven Hills Elementary School
654 FM 3433, Newark

Lunch is at 11 a.m. during a weeklong camp June 23-27.

Godfrey Pegues Library
207 Hudson St., Newark

Lunch is at 11 a.m. during a month-long Reading Camp on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 7-31.

Each year, the Texas Department of Agriculture partners with local organizations like Tarrant Area Food Bank to provide free meals to children when school is out for the summer.

There are no income requirements or registration. Any child under age 18 may come to eat. Meals will be provided to all children without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.

To date, Tarrant Area Food Bank is collaborating with community organizations and apartment complexes to provide summer meals for kids at 25 sites in Tarrant, Parker and Wise counties.

For information, email Sarah Centeno at sarah.centeno@tafb.org.

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‘Home run’; Hospital’s bond sale saves $11.4 million

Wise Regional Health System will save almost triple what it expected to save by refinancing its 2004 construction bonds.

The hospital on Wednesday refunded $87.6 million in bonds on which it was paying an average of 7.1 percent interest, while borrowing an additional $10 million for future construction projects.

Even with all the costs of the transaction folded in – about $2.8 million – Wise Regional still got a 5.39 percent interest rate that will save them $11.4 million over the life of the bonds.

They had expected to save between $4 and $5 million.

“Essentially, we’re lowering the payments about $100,000 a year from where they are right now – and getting another $10 million,” Chris Janning, senior vice president at First Southwest, told the board in a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“The net present value savings is $11,406,059, which is just under 13.5 percent of the bonds,” Janning said. “That’s the principal we’re refunding.”

The Governmental Finance Officers Association (GFAO) has a benchmark that says if an entity can get 3 percent net present value savings or more, it’s a good deal.

“We got four good deals,” board member Gary Cocanougher said. “At that last meeting, we thought $5 million [in savings] would have been a home run – this was a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.”

So how did Wise Regional get such a favorable rate?

Janning said the hospital’s state-of-the-art facilities are impressive – and one firm actually sent a representative out for a tour in Decatur, Bridgeport and the new Parkway facility in Fort Worth. He also credited hospital administration for their openness, answering everyone’s questions.

But the market also played a huge role.

“What’s happened since March is that rates have come way down – almost 1 percent in the general market,” he said. “All these bonds are maturing, and no one’s borrowing money for new projects.”

That means Wise Regional’s $99 million in bonds was one of the best deals on the U.S. bond market that day. When traders started making calls Wednesday morning, they found 17 times as many orders as they had bonds to sell.

When $1.7 billion is available to buy $99 million in bonds, the cost goes down. It’s a seller’s market.

“What you had was essentially a separate auction for each bond,” board member Mark Duncum observed.

Janning agreed.

“It was a negotiation where the Bank of America and Cain Brothers sales people were talking to these buyers, people were putting in orders … then they’ll go back and say, ‘Hey look, we’ve got all these orders. If you really want these bonds, we’d consider a lower rate.’ Then they’ll put in another order.”

He said the firms that don’t get bonds will not be happy.

“Nobody’s going to be happy – except us,” he said.

The board passed a resolution approving the sale and authorizing the issuance of the bonds. That completed the sale, which closes June 25.

“When we pass this resolution and you vote to approve it, you have a hard contract,” Janning said.

Cocanougher commended Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers and his staff for their hard work.

“I think the staff and everybody did a great job getting this done,” he said. “It’s going to be a great thing for the hospital and the whole community.”

Janning said Merrill-Lynch and his firm, First Southwest, will both brag about this transaction coast-to-coast for a long time.

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Punishment light in injury case

It was a short trial and a short sentence this week in the 271st Judicial District Court in Decatur.

After finding Shaun Ray Mullinax, 33, guilty of injury to a child, a Wise County jury quickly gave him the lightest possible sentence Wednesday afternoon – two years in prison.

Testimony began around 1:30 Tuesday afternoon and concluded by about 4:30. After final arguments Wednesday morning, the jury deliberated through lunch and came back into the courtroom just after 1 p.m.

The six-woman, six-man jury found that Mullinax did indeed hit his then-12-year-old son on Nov. 7, 2012 at their home in a Rhome subdivision.

The jury then went back out to consider punishment, deliberating for less than 15 minutes before returning to the courtroom.

The punishment range for the third-degree felony was enhanced – from 2-10 years to 2-20 years – because Mullinax had a previous felony conviction. In 2005, he spent seven months in prison for arson after torching his vehicle in Smith County.

Because of the prior conviction, probation was not an option.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Lapham, who prosecuted the case, said he had no quarrel with the jury’s decision.

“This case was more about the guilt than it was about the punishment,” he said. “To take the appropriate action of holding the defendant accountable was much more important.”

MOST FACTS NOT DISPUTED

According to witness accounts, Mullinax had picked his son up at football practice that day and taken him home, with instructions to do his homework and clean up the dishes. He then went to Denton for the evening.

His son reportedly called him and told him the homework and chores were done and was given permission to go to a friend’s house and play video games.

But when Mullinax got home, those things were not done. When his son came home, he confronted him and, he said, attempted to turn him around for a spanking.

The jury, however, believed the boy’s statement that his dad had hit him with a closed fist, repeatedly on the arm and at least once on the head. The prosecution’s evidence included several photographs of bruises on the boy’s arm.

“If this was just a spanking, we wouldn’t be here,” Lapham told the jury before the punishment phase. “This is a grown man taking his fist and hitting his son multiple times.”

The next day, the boy went to his counselor at Chisholm Trail Middle School and told him about the incident. Child Protective Services was called, and the boy called his mother from school. She drove up that day from Floresville, south of San Antonio, and took him to her home, where he continues to live.

Mullinax did go to Floresville sometime after that with a court order to get his son back. But when law enforcement was called and became concerned that the boy appeared to be afraid of his father, he returned home and made no further attempt to contact his son.

The boy did call his father, however – and that recorded conversation was used by the prosecution as an admission of guilt. Lapham encouraged the jury to take the audio CD into the jury room and listen to it again.

“The defendant is saying he’s sorry for what he did, not sorry because [his mom] came up here to Wise County and took her son back to Floresville,” he said.

Attorney Jerry Cobb, who represented Mullinax, asked the jury to consider whether Mullinax’s punishment of his son was “reasonable” according to the law.

“There’s no question he tried to discipline him, and the child resisted, and at some point, he stopped,” Cobb said, pointing out that his client had also tried grounding the boy, taking away privileges and sending him to his room.

He also noted that although the boy told the jury he feared his father, he had never told anyone prior to the Nov. 7, 2012, incident.

Lapham said the jury should believe the boy’s story and the evidence.

“Do you believe a convicted felon who’s got a lot to lose? Or do you believe [the boy]?

“Do you know how much courage it took for him to come up here and face his dad?” Lapham asked. “We tell kids to tell an adult, tell someone, cry out. Then we’re not going to believe them?”

Lapham asked for a five-year sentence to allow the boy to graduate from high school with “peace of mind.” Cobb asked for two years.

Afterward Cobb, a former Denton County district attorney, said the punishment fit the crime.

“You never know when you have two witnesses saying different things,” he said. “I explained to my client that if the jury believes his son, he’s going to get convicted, and if they don’t, he won’t be convicted.

“I think the punishment is appropriate for this type of offense, based on his history and based on what happened,” he added. “I respect the jury’s opinion.”

No word yet on whether Mullinax will appeal the verdict.

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First baby: It took a few miracles, but little Winslow is finally home

First baby: It took a few miracles, but little Winslow is finally home

Wise County’s first baby of 2014 didn’t get a big party, bunches of balloons, truckloads of presents or a houseful of happy relatives.

She got a helicopter ride.

Winslow Brooks Ogle was born at 5:14 the afternoon of Jan. 1, a Wednesday, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

Early Fathers Day Present

EARLY FATHER’S DAY PRESENT – David Ogle holds his baby daughter, Winslow Brooks, at their home in Wise County. Although she’s nearly six months old, Winslow has just been home since April. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It didn’t take long for the medical staff to recognize something was wrong. The newborn, who weighed a healthy 7 pounds, 3 ounces, was pale.

After 20 hours of labor and an emergency C-section, Shelly Ogle got to see and touch her baby for just a few moments before the little girl was whisked away.

TENDER MOMENT – While mom Shelly holds her, dad David leans down to plant a kiss on little Winslow Ogle’s head. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“She was an average-size baby, and she was breathing and everything – but she wasn’t the bright red color they like to see,” Shelly’s husband, David, said.

Within 15 minutes, Wise Regional personnel had called the “Teddy Bear Crew” at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. A helicopter was on its way to take little Winslow to the neonatal intensive care unit.

It would be April 2 before she got home, after two major surgeries to correct a dizzying array of internal birth defects.

Twice in April, the family was back at Cook Children’s after infections threatened the child’s fragile hold on life, and it’s likely she’ll have more medical procedures as she grows up.

But since April 26, she’s been home with her mom and dad, in rural Wise County northeast of Bridgeport.

It’s finally time to celebrate the first baby of 2014, a chubby-cheeked cherub who is the apple of their eyes.

Touch of Love

TOUCH OF LOVE – Winslow’s finger still looks tiny compared to her dad’s. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

LONG-AWAITED PREGNANCY

The Ogles, who only moved to Wise County last August, waited until they were in their early 40s to start a family. David, a big bear of a man who served on nuclear submarines in the Navy, is facilities manager for Amazon in Haslet.

Shelly, by her own description an obsessive multi-tasker, used to work for Cisco Systems.

CHUBBY CHERUB – Nothing about baby Winslow’s appearance indicates the ordeal she’s been through in her short life. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I was the geek on the computer, working from home,” she laughs. “I’d put my coffee mug away and put my jacket over my Superman PJs for conference calls.

“Basically, I’m wired a little tight. I was working 10 and 14 hours a day, so I quit to get pregnant. It worked, but it took us a little while.”

Their ages made it a high-risk pregnancy, but batteries of tests revealed no issues. Shelly obsessed about her health, took extra vitamins, drank only distilled bottled water, and she and David did all kinds of research about parenthood. She planned to have a natural childbirth with no medication.

“We were feeling really good, and we got to New Year’s time. We were excited, flying high, ready to be parents,” David said.

Shelly went into labor at around 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve. After that, nothing went the way they had expected.

“The problem (Winslow)had was called transposition of the great arteries,” David said. “Instead of circulating the freshly-oxygenated blood from her lungs to her body, her heart was plumbed backwards. It was pumping good, oxygenated blood back to her lungs, and the non-oxygenated blood was going back to her body.”

He said babies, in the womb, have a valve that allows the blood to mix, since the lungs aren’t in use yet.

“Normally, as soon as they breathe air that valve closes,” David said. “So the helicopter crew gave her a drug that keeps that valve open and allows the continued mixing of the blood in her heart.”

A side effect is that the drug can also make the baby stop breathing – and that’s why Winslow’s dad and uncle, Jonas Scarbrough, beat the helicopter to the hospital.

“That’s what delayed the trip,” David said. “They had to intubate her, put her on a respirator.”

When David and Jonas got to the Fort Worth hospital they called Shelly, back in Decatur. While they were on the phone, she heard the helicopter taking off.

“I started crying because I knew that was my baby going to Cook’s,” she said.

Winslow had open-heart surgery five days later – but the heart defect was not the only problem. A month later she had another operation, called the Kasai procedure, to repair a liver condition known as biliary artresia.

During that surgery, doctors also re-routed several major blood vessels and corrected the placement of her stomach and intestines – a condition called heterotaxy syndrome. Her gallbladder and appendix were removed, and a “G-button” feeding tube was installed.

She also suffers from asplenia, which may be an indication of SCIDS – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Doctors won’t be able to make that diagnosis for several more months, but if it’s confirmed she may have to live as a “bubble-baby” in an ultra-clean environment for a time.

It’s probably a blessing that the Ogles didn’t learn all of this right away.

“The heart surgery went really well and she was recovering really well, but we were on pins and needles wondering what other problems she might have,” David said. “The hospital was very kid-gloves with us. They weren’t telling us everything.”

Shelly said they wanted to attack one hurdle at a time.

“It can blow a parent’s mind if they overwhelm them with the possibilities,” she said.

MEDICAL MIRACLES

Dr. Vincent Tam at Cook Children’s is one of the world’s foremost pediatric cardiovascular surgeons, and Dr. James Miller, chief of surgery at Cook’s, has probably done more Kasai procedures than anyone in the world, David said.

The Ogles are still in awe at the artistry of the surgeons who work with such tiny infants, the caring and competence of the staffs at Cook Children’s and Wise Regional, and the caring of neighbors – many of whom they don’t even know – who prayed for their baby.

Despite continuing issues, there is much hope for Winslow’s future.

“They say she could potentially play collegiate sports,” her dad said. “Her heart should be fine.”

And while doctors said it would likely be three to four months before her bilirubin numbers – an indicator of the liver’s health – returned to normal, it was actually less than two weeks.

“Dr. Miller said he’d never seen that in his career, a baby doing as well she is that had the Kasai procedure,” David said. “The statistics are that 93 percent of children who have this procedure eventually need a liver transplant – but there are 7 percent that don’t.”

Infections sent them back to the ER in April, but since coming home April 26, the baby has done well – and her parents have calmed down considerably.

“We were terrified when we came home,” Shelly said. “I’m a little OCD when it comes to cleanliness, but now that I have this baby I’m like, ‘My house isn’t clean enough! She’s going to get sick!’”

Nervousness and sleep-deprivation are a way of life for first-time parents. But the Ogles had a little more to deal with than bottles and diapers.

“I know every mother goes through it – I’m not trying to single myself out – but I don’t think people understand how much you have to do,” Shelly said. “I did not think I was going to be able to stay on top of it. There’s so much …

“I tell you what, though – a couple of weeks into it and you’ve got it down.”

Winslow had to learn how to breastfeed and get weaned off morphine, which she was given for all the surgeries. It was a big deal when she began to do normal-baby business in diapers.

“I was dancing with joy when I saw beautiful poop,” Shelly laughed. “It was gorgeous.”

STORIES FROM THE STORM

Much like survivors of a war, the stories David and Shelly hang onto are the funny moments during those first few, stressful months.

“We went through all this, and finally we’re stable, we’re going to go home soon, so I bought her a massage – a nice, two-hour massage,” David said. “She wouldn’t even go eat in a restaurant. She lived at the hospital.

“So I finally convinced her, and she goes there, and the massage therapist wouldn’t do a massage because she’s had a C-section. He said he wanted a letter from the doctor.”

Shelly picks up the story.

“I just started crying right there,” she laughs. “They didn’t know what to do with me. I melted down, right there in the waiting room, crying, ‘I didn’t even want to come here! I left my baby for this!’”

Another excursion, for dinner, turned out better.

David had talked Shelly into leaving the hospital for dinner and picked out an Italian restaurant.

“I used this application called Urban Spoon,” David said. “I was looking for a wine and pizza place, so I plug that in and guess what comes up to the top of the list? Winslow’s Wine Cafe.”

The choice was obvious.

Their Winslow is named after a small town in Ark. where David’s mother was born, one of 23 siblings. At dinner, they met the owner of the restaurant and learned that he named the place after his dog.

“But the reason his dog is named Winslow is that he’s from Winslow, Arkansas,” David said. “This town has like 400 people in it. He knows all kinds of people in my family.”

But the most arresting moment came when they were about to take their baby home. They were taking a class at Cook Children’s, along with several other couples, on how to properly use a car seat.

As David and Shelly walked in, a young lady in front of them kept looking their way. Finally they spoke and quickly figured out how they new each other.

Cortni Campbell, an R.N. at Wise Regional, was pregnant when she was Shelly’s labor-and-delivery nurse. Unbeknownst to Shelly, she had traded shifts with another nurse so she could stay with her through the C-section.

She had since had her baby, who was born prematurely and also had to be hospitalized at Cook Children’s. They were both about to take their little ones home.

Shelly immediately asked Cortni to help her find the nurse who spotted Winslow’s problem and made the call for further tests.

“‘That was me,’ she said. ‘I switched shifts.’ So I got to hug her neck and thank her personally,” Shelly said. “I just thought that was amazing.”

EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER

The range of emotions during those first few months was huge, but it has since settled down a great deal.

“I’m sure there’s still some things in the future that we’ll be going through with little Winslow – but I keep telling everybody, there’s always someone better and worse off,” Shelly said. “Even what she’s been through, after spending just a month at Cook Children’s, you realize there’s worse.”

As far as they know, everything that was wrong with Winslow was internal. Her limbs are fully formed and functional and her mental development does not seem to be impaired in the least. She’s alert, developmentally sharp and has a healthy appetite.

“I tell people we won the baby lottery,” Shelly said.

David said everything wrong with Winslow was something that could be fixed.

“It’s amazing,” he noted. “She’s like one in a billion chance that a child would have these multiple issues, and genetically, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just like lightning striking.”

The Ogles are bright people, and it’s obvious they’ve had a crash-course in pediatric medicine over the past five months.

“You kind of need to know why at first, and then after awhile you kind of don’t need to know why anymore,” Shelly said. “You realize it doesn’t really matter. It wouldn’t have changed anything. You wouldn’t have done anything different.”

David said the pressure and responsibility of his job, even dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars, does not compare to fatherhood.

“It’s indescribable,” he said, then fell silent, looking at his daughter.

“I’ve never seen David broken from any situation,” Shelly said. “I’ve always kind of looked up to him as my rock. David is one of the strongest people, mentally, I’ve ever been around. But this guy broke.

“This situation humbles … it really humbles you,” she said. “You are dependent upon other people for the life of your child. There’s nothing you can do. Control is an illusion anyway, but you have nothing.”

But as she talks, her husband looks down at the chubby baby cradled in his arm and appears to have everything.

Little Winslow dozes off, her tiny hand reaching up toward her father’s goatee, and smiles.

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District Clerk Records filed May 2014

ACCOUNTS, CONTRACTS, NOTES

Curtis Rhine vs. Brandfx LLC DBA Brand FX Body Co.

American Express Bank, FSB vs. Darlene Hudson

FORECLOSURE

U.S. Bank National Association v. Timothy W. Livingston and Lori B. Livingston

652 County Road 3855 in Poolville, Roger G. Smith

2368 County Road 4790 in Boyd, Woody Leonard

INJURY OR DAMAGE – MOTOR VEHICLE

Lillian Silva vs. Jack in the Box

Brenda Hoang vs. Cleofos Armando Gonzalez and Weatherford Artificial Lift Systems LLC

Tamara Porras Green vs. Rosa Aguero and Crispin Aguero

Christopher Spangler vs. Mary Shepard

Southern County Mutual Insurance Co., as subrogee of Steven Leon Farley and Barbara Collins Farley vs. Kallie Michelle Tyner and Tonya Michelle Watson

INJURY OR DAMAGE – OTHER

Vickie Holmes vs. Tonya Brisco and Decatur Unique Boutique Inc. DBA The Unique Boutique

Jimmy Nivens vs. Lowe’s Co. Inc. Keith Stone vs. Devon Energy Corp., et al

TAX CASES

Bridgeport ISD, et al vs. Bruce A. Jones

Boyd ISD, et al vs. Blackwood Family Trust

DIVORCES FILED

Christopher Scott Coan and Aleisa Marie Sulkowski Coan

Bruce Alan Light and Gloria Jean Light

Shawnee Glenn Sweeney and Carrie Rachelle Sweeney

Ashleigh Renee Portales and Terry Orlando Portales

Jasmine Lacy Sanders and Kerry Dean Sanders

Rogena Kay Duncan and Jeffrey Brent Duncan

Susan Ann Schmidt and Timothy Michael Schmidt

Tobias Herrera and Luinda Diane Herrera

Susan Angela Lunsford and James Anthony Lunsford

Jessica Lauren Brothers and Jesse Tyler Brothers

Amanda Marie McCaa and Timothy Paul McCaa

Chase Tanner Fluhman and Elfy Anslow

Betty Katherine Milligan and Joseph Reed Milligan

Shaunda Gay Keller and Nikki Shannon Keller

Nicole Michele Okubo-Hoover and Bert Fitzgerald Hoover

Garrett Alexander Kirk and Britney Joan Kirk

Connie Lynn Perry and Russell Shawn Parker

Daniel Kris Olson and Maria Elaine Olson

Jason Travis Poynter and Stacy Michelle Poynter

Terence Stanley Smith and Catharina Smith

Rhonda Leann Wilson and Rickey Dale Wilson

Matthew Ryan Bagwell and Stephanie Louise Baggerly

Jessica Lynn Wall and John Thomas Wall

Tommie Lee Gilley and Mary Jane Hewitt Gilley

Leslie Jean Markgraf and Josephn Don Markgraf

Amber Nicole Couch and Mark Allen Couch

Joanna Lee Castro and Hector Castro III

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County Clerk Records filed May 2014

RECORDED MARRIAGE LICENSES

Jimmy Doyal Ford and Lora Marie Landers, both of Rhome

Jeffrey Neil Plumlee amd Ashley Nikcole Carter, both of Bridgeport

Edward Brent Erskine and Michelle Kay Clanton, both of Boyd

Ronnie Jack Pruett Jr. and Ruth Sanchez Martinez, both of Decatur

David William Burkett and Morgan Nicole Panizza, both of Decatur

Douglas Michael Campbell and Gwendolyn Gale Wood, both of Chico

Christopher Allen Bradford and Teresha Ann Lamb, both of Bridgeport

Chip A. Corbett of Haslet and Leticia Espino Linares of Bedford

Warren Dylan Vincent of Bridgeport and Bryn Kelley Davis of Chico

Gerardo Nunez Perez and Aliusky Duran Dominguez, both of Dallas

Johnny Joseph Acker Jr. of Sunset and Helen Cherene Collins of Poolville

Shaun Douglas Swindell and Makayla Rashelle Clark, both of Decatur

George Elmer Wells of Harrisburg, Mo., and Brendalee Marie Crouch of Albuquerque, N.M.

Dustin Lynn Sampson of Rhome and Dalana Renee Johnson of Fort Worth

Alden Lee Cress and Caycee Jo Marty, both of Rhome

Stanley Alan Hatchett amd Debra Sue Grammer, both of Boyd

Jake Edward Rademacher and Julie Helen Jones, both of Bridgeport

Christopher Dylan McBride of Graham and Mikel Sai Alvis of Jacksboro

Owen Taylor Northcutt Jr. and Rhonda Gay Leingang, both of Sunset

Caleb Bruce Hansen and Macey Brooke Ayres, both of Wichita Falls

Terry Lynn Price and Kristin Nicole Hicks, both of Runaway Bay

Larry Dewayne Luttrull of Rhome and Brandi Sheree Robinson of Andrews

Dennis Lee Lawson of Boyd and Kimberly Leeann Boozer of Weatherford

Jimmy Robert Miller of Bridgeport and Jacquelyn Bridgette Hammond of Boyd

Timothy Joseph White and Monica Lyn Bernard, both of Decatur

David William Routon Jr. and Barbara Jean Johnson, both of Boyd

James Henry Bohanan and Linda Jo Bennett, both of Slidell

Jason Lou Proffitt of Alvord and Angelia Kaye Morgan of Hurst

Michael Angel Garcia and Chelsea Denee Hughes, both of San Antonio

Adam Brian Whitton of Rhome and Kellie Elaine Doss of Fort Worth

Allen Edward Donald and Kelley Dawn Ross, both of Paradise

Sean Lawrence Kehoe and Nicole Kay Boomgarden, both of Huntington Beach, Calif.

Robert Elmer Carter III and Stacy Lynn Stone, both of Alvord

Juan Carlos Alvarez Lucio of Decatur and Whittnie Dawn Noe of Rhome

Jason Lynn Logue and Kristi Jo Hays, both of Rhome

Justin Claud Hearne of Newcastle and Marla Michelle Kuehne of Haslet

Robert Paul Burkett and Deborah Shawn Faris, both of Bridgeport

Charles Lewis Parker and Wanda Michelle Gonzalez, both of Boyd

Michael Wayne Frazier and Shauna Ann Scarborough, both of Decatur

Saul Ascencion Herrera and Adriana Martinez Lopez, both of Bridgeport

Mark Allen King of Boyd and Heather Leann Evans of Azle

Tyler Ryan Olson and Nicole Lyn Simmons, both of Haslet

Michael Brandon Smith and Christi Dawn Holley, both of Bridgeport

William Jewell Arnn of Decatur and Julie Ann Johnson-Landon of San Antonio

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‘Snow White’ poised to dance across Decatur High School stage

Almost 200 young dancers will bring “Snow White” to life on stage in Decatur next weekend.

Non Stop Rehearsals

NON-STOP REHEARSALS – McKenzie May (left), who is Snow White in this year’s ballet, warms up with other advanced dancers at Wise Dance Center Wednesday afternoon. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Wise Performing Arts Guild is poised to present its annual ballet featuring the students from Wise Dance Center and the talents of artistic director and choreographer Karen Brown and assistant director Jessica Browning.

Performances at the Decatur High School theater are 7 p.m. Friday, June 13, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 15.

Advanced dancers audition competitively for the lead roles and dedicate nine months of class and rehearsal time to the performance. In addition to 180 dancers, the performance also includes the work of 125 volunteers and 25 tech and crew members.

This season the guild contracted for original music scores, written solely for “Snow White.” Like always, the choreography is original, interpreted by Smith and Browning and created in consideration of specific dancers’ strengths and the mood of each scene.

A third performance was added this year, and for the first time, the guild is offering a Senior Care Resident Attendance Program and have given complimentary tickets to some residents from local nursing facilities. Guild members said it was a way to give back to the community and reach out to people who previously supported fine arts but are no longer able to do so.

To purchase tickets, email wpagticketcenter@gmail.com or stop by Wise County Title Co., 405 W. Park St., in Decatur. For the first time, live streaming tickets are also available for purchase.

WPAG board members include President Cindy Wood, Vice President Lynette Winters Shaw, secretary Vicki Niblett, vice president of finance Annette Wiley and board member Carol Creswell. Officers are volunteer coordinator Rachel Lowry, historian Lauren Cox and treasurer Summer Johnson.

The guild was also recently honored by the Texas Commission on the Arts with a matching grant in the rural arts category.

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That’s no bull: Lee wins big, but charities are real champions  at Hart PBR Challenge

That’s no bull: Lee wins big, but charities are real champions at Hart PBR Challenge

Bull rider Mike Lee stole the show Saturday night, winning more than $10,000 at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge.

LOCAL RIDER WINS – Mike Lee of Decatur rode Bruiser for 91 points and first place in Saturday’s J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The 30-year-old from Decatur, currently ranked fifth in the world, toughed it out for the hometown crowd, riding Bruiser in the opening round for 91 points and David’s Dream for 88 points. Those were the two highest scores of the night.

“We all think this year’s event, start to finish, top to bottom, was the best one yet,” said Andrew Rottner with WC Challenger Charities, which puts on the event with bull rider J.W. Hart.

A standing room-only crowd was not only treated to remarkable rides by Lee, but also a showdown between PBR world champion J.B. Mauney and PRCA bull riding champion J.W. Harris – plus a celebrity steer riding event featuring six local men.

In the most hyped event of the night, Mauney and Harris faced off in a winner-take-all $25,000 challenge, but both left empty-handed.

The 27-year-old Mauney, who became the PBR’s champion last year by riding 47 of his 90 bulls at 26 events and winning $1.81 million, climbed on Asteroid. He was thrown off in 2 seconds flat.

Faceoff

FACEOFF – PRCA bull riding champion J.W. Harris (left) and PBR world champion J.B. Mauney prepare for a $25,000 winner-takes-all challenge atop two of the toughest PBR bulls. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Harris, also 27, is making the transition to the PBR after capturing the PRCA title last year. He held on to Shepherd Hills Tested for 6.17 seconds – after breaking his nose riding Crazy Trip earlier in the night.

The local celebrities fared a bit better in the steer riding competition, reporting only one injury. J.D. Clark of Chico dislocated his shoulder.

Champion Comes to Town

CHAMPION COMES TO TOWN – PBR World Champion J.B. Mauney hangs on tight for a ride early in the night Saturday at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Clark, Wade Watson, Beau Bell, Fernando Escobar, Jeff Sicking and Joe Neil Henderson, all took to the ring to win $500 for their charity of choice and were surprised to learn that enough money had been raised to award them each $500.

Henderson, who won the steer riding, said that was the best part of the night.

“It was just a neat fraternity of guys to get to do this with,” he said. “We hammed it up and gave each other a hard time … but above all else, the fact that we got to give a donation to all of our charities – that was fantastic!”

Winner

WINNER – Champion celebrity steer rider Joe Neil Henderson gives the crowd a “guns up” Saturday night. The Texas Tech alum managed to hang on longer than fellow celebrities, including Jeff Sicking (far left) and Wade Watson (center). Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Henderson, 46, claimed to have been training with P90X, but he said workouts hadn’t gone as well as he hoped. He attributed his success to prayer.

HARD FALL – Joe Neil Henderson of Decatur braces for a hard fall in the steer riding Saturday night. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“(Marianne and I) prayed it out that day, and we just felt confident going into it.

“I had done it 33 years ago and thought maybe one or two of those skills I had learned as a kid would come through that night,” he said with a laugh.

Henderson said each rider had his own cheering section, which made it even more fun.

Clark earned an additional $500 from a local business owner, who wanted to match his “earnings” since he was injured.

Charities benefiting from the celebrity steer riding included Wise Regional Health Foundation, Wise Hope/Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force, Wise County Meals on Wheels, Wise County Christian Counseling and Decatur Cares.

During the event, 1,000 Miles Till Home, in partnership with the Military Warriors Support Foundation, gave away homes to two veterans. Recipients were 1st Lt. John Elkins, U.S. Army, and Retired Cpl. Steven Sanchez, U.S. Marine Corps.

Elkins, his wife, Megan, and 2-year-old son Jack received a home in San Antonio while Sanchez, who is currently living in San Antonio, received a home in Tucson, Ariz. His family includes wife Christina and children Cayla, 10; Christopher, 7; Emree, 5; Gloria “Sable,” 4; and Shelby, 1.

Homes for Heroes

HOMES FOR HEROES – Retired Cpl. Steven Sanchez, U.S. Marine Corps, and 1st Lt. John Elkins, U.S. Army, receive keys representing homes being presented to them by 1,000 Miles Till Home, in partnership with the Military Warriors Support Foundation. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

There was also a moment of silence for WC Challenger founder Roy Young and Dane Lancaster, a Montague County boy who seriously injured in a roping accident the week before.

Rottner said plans are already underway for next year, and he and co-organizers Calvin Jackson, Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions look forward to planning an even more spectacular event.

“Physically, with the facility we currently have, we’ve maxed it out,” he said.

He expressed appreciation to the county’s public works department for support and maintenance of the grounds.

“It’s the best it’s ever looked in the 11 years we’ve been doing this,” he said. “There’s a lot of great people in this community that are making this event happen year after year, and when you look at the return to the charities, the community and the exposure it gives Decatur, that’s why you keep doing it.”

BBQ CHALLENGE DRAWS 98 TEAMS

The first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge may have set an IBCA record, drawing 98 teams.

Trimming Up

TRIMMING UP – James Dodson cuts away excess fat from ribs, preparing them for the smoker. He competed along with 98 other entrants in the first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge Saturday. The competition featured ribs, beans, chicken and brisket. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Organizer Randy Burkhart of Decatur said Saturday’s cookoff may have been the largest ever first-time IBCA Texas State Championship event, and it’s definitely the biggest first-time event this calendar year.

“We were more than surprised,” he said. “We were thinking 60 to 70 tops … 98 … we never dreamed of that.”

Grand champion was awarded to Jamie Geer, Jambo Pits; and reserve champion went to Kevin Riley, Circle R Cookers.

Grand Champion

GRAND CHAMPION – Jamie Geer (left) with Jambo Pits won grand champion at the first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge. Also pictured is one of the event organizers, Randy Burkhart. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Other winners included Mary Caraway, beans; Jeff Hall, Peacemaker BBQ, chicken; Riley, ribs; and Blake Stolz, Blast Pit BBQ, brisket. The top 10 places in each category received payouts.

The cookoff was planned just a few months ago, and Burkhart said he thought word-of-mouth, in addition to the unique payout structure, drew many of the cookers to the Reunion Grounds for the contest. Two hundred people volunteered to judge.

Burkhart cooks competitively and has passed out fliers at every event he’s attended since March.

“We reached out pretty good,” he said.

Burkhart said the cookoff will become an annual event, and he anticipates it will grow.

“We’re just going to try to make it bigger and better next year – add to it, not take away from it,” he said. “If we can do something like that on a whim, I’m sure we can handle whatever they throw at us next year.”

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County faces big bill

Wise County is faced with paying back more than half a million dollars in sales tax to the state comptroller’s office, but a 15-year payment plan is in the works.

The county was notified in January that it would be required to pay the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts $639,000 due to an overpayment of taxes by a business from July of 2005 until 2008.

County Attorney James Stainton told commissioners Monday the big bill came as a surprise.

“So what I did was start researching why we got this bill,” he said.

He explained that the county receives a half-cent for every sales tax dollar paid in Wise County.

“We had a taxpayer, and don’t ask me who because I’m covered by a confidentiality agreement and so is Ann [McCuiston, county auditor] and so is everybody else in the county,” he said. “But we had a very large taxpayer that spent a lot of money in the county, and we got the benefit of the comptroller’s refunds, but (the company) overpaid a substantial amount of taxes. They submitted a refund, the comptroller audited the refund and sent us a bill.”

The company submitted the refund request in 2009, and according to Stainton, “due to the nature and size, it took that long to get it back to us, and that’s why we’re here. The comptroller has already refunded the money to the business, and now the county must pay back the comptroller.

“The question was, ‘How do we pay this back?’ he said. “It took us nine years (from the first overpayment), and we didn’t get any notice.”

In researching the issue, Stainton was also told the same business has submitted three other refund requests, which could total $930,000, but he told the Messenger last week that the amount could change upon completion of the audit.

He said the business’ original request was for a $1 million refund, but the state lowered it to $639,000 after conducting the audit.

The final three bills will likely be received sometime between November 2014 and February 2015.

In the meantime, Stainton will finalize, with the approval of county commissioners, a 15-year payment plan with the comptroller’s office. He said the agency’s proposal includes monthly payments of $9,000, the first of which would be due in October 2014. They would be interest-free.

Between 2010 and 2013, the county averaged $357,000 per month in sales tax collections. The “payment” will be taken off the top of the county’s monthly receipts.

Leon Johnson with Southwest Securities, who also serves as the county’s financial adviser, said he felt like this was the best approach.

“(Stainton) has gotten you an option to where you can pay this off over 15 years,” he said. “If we pay it off over time, we know how much it impacts our taxes. If we continue and can get growth, the additional revenue will cover this.

“… we can’t think why it wouldn’t be best to let them take it out,” he said. “Our thought would be to let them take it out based on an agreed upon schedule.”

Johnson complimented the county on working to improve its bond rating and said bond attorneys have confirmed that this will not impact the rating.

McCuiston mentioned that if the county had been notified of the audit when it started in 2009, they could have been making financial plans for the payback.

“It’s the notification process that needs to be fixed,” she said.

Stainton said 65 jurisdictions were affected by this business’ refund request and none of them were notified prior to receiving the first bill.

“There’s no provision for it in the law,” he said.

Stainton said Rep. Phil King has indicated that he plans to propose legislation that would require entities be notified of large, pending paybacks.

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Firefighters discuss fertilizer storage facilities here

It’s been 14 months since an explosion at a fertilizer plant rocked the small town of West, killing 15 people.

In the year since, state and federal investigators have issued a series of reports. Their findings vary, but most indicate a similar trend – firefighters in West did not know enough about what they faced at the plant.

To avoid another similar catastrophe, State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy has been tasked with holding a public forum in every county that has facilities that store ammonium nitrate – the common fertilizer involved in the West explosion.

Last Wednesday, Connealy made stop No. 36 – of 96 – in Wise County. Hosted in conjunction with the Wise County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bridgeport Fire Department, the meeting at Bridgeport Community Center drew about 75 people, mostly local volunteer firefighters.

“It was a very good turnout,” Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said. “[Connealy] shared information on what happened in West and the lessons that can be learned. We talked about the best practices for storing ammonium nitrate and how to handle it.

“We don’t want to make the same mistakes. More than anything, the discussion would be about a firefighter safety issue.”

In Wise County, there are three facilities that store more than 70,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Although Beard didn’t specify the exact locations, he said that each are located in remote parts of the northwest corner of the county and are closely monitored.

“I’ve been here for a year, and we’ve gone to these storage facilities at least three times,” he said. “They are very safe. They go above and beyond what’s needed to be done to be safe. They pass the inspections with sparkling reviews.”

In addition to visits from the state and county fire marshal, the locations also abide by “strict guidelines” imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“The ammonium nitrate is stored in overhead storage bins, which are isolated on location,” Beard said. “That’s the best way. These are three good facilities. Plus the places are so isolated that if something happened, not a lot of people would be immediately affected.

“There would be some evacuations, but it’s a limited number.”

But Beard hopes that safety meetings, like the one held last week, will prepare personnel in the event that a fire did break out at any of the facilities.

“We emphasize the importance of backing off and not getting in the middle of it,” he said. “If it’s on fire, evacuate a half-mile to mile radius. Back off, and preserve and protect … There’s nothing people can do. It happens so quickly.”

However Beard was quick to clarify that ammonium nitrate itself does not explode.

“It’s an oxidizer, which means it produces its own oxygen so it can burn and burn and burn,” he said. “To have an explosion, there myst be some kind of detonation – a lightening strike, the roof caving in (which is likely what happened in West). There must be a blasting agent. [Ammonium nitrate] will burn pretty rapidly, but it’s not going to explode without something.”

Making sure all departments are aware of what can happen is imperative, Beard added.

“If you don’t have enough water and manpower, it’s best to just secure the area, keep everyone away and let the fire burn itself out,” he said. “Locally we are making strides to make sure our guys are informed and as prepared as possible, should anything like the explosion in West happen here.”

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2014 Relay raises more than $60K

The 2014 Relay For Life of Wise County may have been held in April, but this year’s campaign isn’t quite over.

Participants raised $52,430 while committee members obtained $6,900 in sponsorships for a total of $59,330 – but money has continued to trickle in.

Those successes were celebrated at a wrap-up meeting Monday.

Going into the meeting, Carolyn’s Cookie Monsters led all teams, raising $6,197 for the 2014 event. However, Deborah Castorena, captain of the Friends team, turned in $2,000 at the meeting to increase her team’s original total of $5,709 to more than $7,000.

Both were recognized as gold teams for raising more than $5,000.

The third top team, Decatur Fire Department, collected $3,746 and received the silver seal for raising more than $3,500.

Amy’s Angels, led by team captain Amy Climer, also earned that designation.

Bronze level teams raising $2,500 or more included Paradise High School (team captain, Stephanie Kott), Survivors & Friends (team captain Brenda Scott) and Wise N’ Teal (team captain Ashlee Bohn).

Bohn led all individual fundraisers, collecting $1,430.

Other top individuals included Lannie Noble of Decatur Rotary’s Raiders ($1,075) and Gina Tackett of Healing Hearts ($1,010).

Randa Taylor of the Paradise High School team led all youth participants with a total of $805.

Of the 35 teams that registered for this year’s event, 17 stayed overnight. They include:

  • Decatur Fire Relay Team;
  • Paradise High School Team;
  • Soles of Angels;
  • Fighting Fern ndez Fuerte;
  • Two Coop Chicks and a Rooster;
  • Healing Hearts;
  • Survivors & Friends;
  • Carolyn’s Cookie Monsters;
  • Confirming the Cure;
  • Bridgeport High School;
  • AHS … “The Fight in the Dog;”
  • Qu pasa, amigo? Club;
  • Decatur Rotary’s Raiders;
  • Campin’ for a Cure;
  • Walkers for Tomorrow;
  • Wise N’ Teal; and
  • Weatherford College Wise County Coyotes.

“That’s over half of the teams,” said Stephanie Kott, 2014 event chair. “We had to have set a new record.”

Although the event has passed, teams can turn in money for this year’s campaign through August.

To do so, email Nanette Stockstill of the American Cancer Society at nanette.stockstill@cancer.org.

Top Participant

TOP PARTICIPANT – Stephanie Kott (left), chair of the 2014 Relay For Life of Wise County, recognized Ashlee Bohn (right), captain of the Wise N’ Teal team, as the top participant in this year’s event. She raised $1,430. Submitted photo

Top Youth

TOP YOUTH – Randa Taylor (right) of the Paradise High School team raised $805, earning the honor of Top Fundraising Youth for the 2014 Relay For Life of Wise County. Her team captain, Stephanie Kott (left), said she raised the money on Facebook and emails in one night. Submitted photo

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Child abuse trial goes to jury Wednesday

A Wise County jury began deliberations Wednesday in a felony child abuse case that could send a Rhome man to prison for up to 10 years.

Testimony started and ended Tuesday in the trial of Shaun Ray Mullinax, 33. Mullinax is charged with injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury – a third-degree felony – in connection with an incident that occurred Nov. 7, 2012.

That’s when he allegedly cornered his then-12-year-old son in the kitchen of their home in the Shale Creek subdivision, hitting him on the arm and head with a closed fist after the boy reportedly forgot to do the dishes.

The youngster, who testified Tuesday but is not being named by the Messenger because he is still a minor, went to his counselor at Chisholm Trail Middle School the next day and said he was afraid to go home that evening. The counselor called Child Protective Services and the boy called his mother, who lives in Floresville, south of San Antonio.

She drove up that day, picked him up at a friend’s house and took him to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, where they met with an officer and filed a report.

Mullinax was arrested a few days later, and indicted in January, 2013.

After jury selection Tuesday morning in 271st Judicial District Court, assistant district attorney Jay Lapham and defense attorney Jerry Cobb began calling witnesses at 1:30 p.m. Testimony concluded at about 4:30, and after being charged by District Judge John Fostel not to discuss the case, the jurors were dismissed for the day.

They returned Wednesday morning and, after closing arguments and the judge’s charge, began working to arrive at a verdict.

Witnesses’ accounts differ

Lapham called Stephen Bates, the counselor at Chisholm Trail Middle School, to testify on what he observed when the youngster came to his office the morning of Nov. 8.

“He was visibly upset, to the point of tears,” Bates said. “He was very scared, very nervous.”

Bates said he observed bruises on the boy’s left arm and a bump on his head. It was enough, he said, to compel him to call CPS, and to allow the boy to call his mother.

“He was very nervous about going home,” Bates said. “He did not want to go home.”

Bates also testified that Shaun Mullinax called his office a few days later and thanked him for “being there” for his son.

“He thanked me for taking the action I had taken, to stop it from happening.”

When Mullinax testified later, he said that is not what he told the counselor.

“I did thank Mr. Bates for being there for [him],” he said. “I don’t believe I said, ‘I’m glad he went to you so this would stop.’”

The boy, who just finished the eighth grade in Floresville, where he lives with his mom, her husband and three siblings, testified that on the day of the alleged assault, he had not done the chores his father had asked him to do.

He said his dad was very angry and hit him multiple times.

He also said this was not the only time his father hit him – and said one time his father placed his hands around his neck and threatened to strangle him for lying.

In cross-examination, Cobb brought out that the boy had not told anyone about the alleged abuse until after the Nov. 7, 2012, incident – including his mother, during a two-month stay at her house the previous summer, and his grandfather, with whom he often went fishing and had a close relationship.

In his testimony, Mullinax denied ever hitting his son with a closed fist, but said he had disciplined him with a belt three or four times over the course of a year.

“He needed to be taught that lying is not acceptable,” Mullinax said.

On the evening of Nov. 7, 2012, he said he had told his son to do his homework and some chores when he picked him up from football practice. If he did, he said, the boy could go over to a friend’s house and play video games.

Mullinax said he went to Denton for dinner and when he got home, not only were the chores not done, but when he checked his son’s backpack he found homework had not been done, either. He said his son had called him, lied about that and gone to the friend’s house.

When the boy returned home, Mullinax said he confronted him about the work not being done, “but mostly about why he lied to me.”

“He said he just wanted to go play the video game,” Mullinax said. After that, he said he took a break before attempting to spank his son, with an open hand, on the backside.

“I decided he needed physical discipline,” Mullinax said. “I decided to pop his butt a couple of times, to get his head in the right spot.”

By testifying, Mullinax allowed Lapham an opening to bring out in cross-examination his criminal history. That includes seven months in prison in 2004-05 after he violated the terms of his probation on an arson conviction.

The arson, he admitted, was for setting his truck on fire in Smith County so he would not have to make payments.

The probation violation involved the use of marijuana, he said.

The boy’s mother, Sarah Anne Novak, also testified, as did Wise County Sheriff’s Officer Pat Golden and Mullinax’s dad, Ronald G. Mullinax, of Athens.

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