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April 17, 2015 - Commissioners, County Judge, law enforcement, and members of the community attended a public hearing in the community room of the Shelby County Courthouse on Thursday, April 16, 2015 concerning trash and public nuisances in unincorporated areas of the county.

The prompting for the public meeting being held was because of the number of calls fielded by County Officials concerning trash and public nuisances. Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison explained, "We are aware of the (trash) problem and are very concerned about the problem."

Harbison opened the meeting up inviting the members of the audience who signed to speak to address the commissioners. First to speak was Donnis Adams who addressed health issues he says he has had as the result of dead chickens being dumped on his road. Adams said, "I was diagnosed with Avian TB (tuberculosis) from my neighbor dumping his dead chicken carcasses. If you go out by my driveway right now, I just mowed my yard, there is a pile of white chicken feathers right beside my drive. Now, I want to make sure anything you guys may do does encompass dead animals being dumped in the county." Adams listed health issues he states he now has because of Avian TB which included glaucoma and deteriorated vision leading to blindness in one eye, a hole in his lung the size of a golf ball, hearing problems which he said are the results of the treatments he has undergone to try and kill the Avian TB. He continued to speak about the dumped dead carcasses stating, "It's dangerous to you and it's litter."

Another concerned citizen spoke and also addressed an issue they are having with their neighbor who has farm animals. According to the concerned citizen, the neighbor is disposing of the guts of animals being slaughtered right next to the their property and at times on their property. Photographs were presented to Commissioner Jimmy Lout since it was occurring in his precinct.

Buren Lowe was the last concerned citizen to speak, "Its embarrassing to say that it seems like our county has become so trashy. It's heartbreaking to go down some of our back roads and see the amount of trash that is throwed out." Lowe suggested the county instigate some kind of program which would encourage people to not throw out trash much like the Texas litter campaign - Don't Mess With Texas. "We don't have any place in Shelby County for people to dispose of their goods. I commend the commissioners for being on board again about the recycling program which is a great asset to recycle some of our waste; its really great. I would love to see Shelby County have a landfill that would afford the people of Shelby County [a place] to take their goods because we've got to dispose of them somewhere, there's really no place to dump them," expressed Lowe. He finished saying, "It's just really, really embarrassing being a Shelby County person to drive down our roads and see how bad it looks."

Commissioner Precinct 2 Jimmy Lout spoke about the dumpsters being available; however, the dumpsters don't allow tires or household trash. Sheriff Willis Blackwell said, "That's mainly what we run into on the road is household garbage. That's were the problem is; they don't have anywhere to go with them black sacks coming out of the kitchen." Chief Deputy Shad Sparks expounded on the procedure the Sheriff's Department has when trash dumping is reported, which included, after the investigation reveals to whom the trash belongs, is to give them an opportunity first to pick it up. He said they often find that many of the people dumping don't have the funds to afford monthly trash pickup which means they are also not going to be able to afford a ticket for dumping either. Sparks said, "If they don't pick it up or they are repeat offenders, we write them a dumping ticket. If they can't pay for it, they get an FTA (Failure to Appear) and they go to jail."

The discussion of using prisoners to clean up on work detail was brought up and Sheriff Blackwell answered, "There has to be a certified peace officer to take those prisoners out of that jail and go somewhere with them, so it's not a question of whether a jailer could take them out and work them, we can't. It has to be a certified peace officer with them." Sparks added saying "We would love to have a work detail, that's not an issue with us, everybody is just short-handed right now." It was mentioned that cleaning up the roadways has been used for community service time for people who couldn't pay citations off or for teenagers who had gotten in trouble as a learning lesson or as a deterrent.

There were a number of citizens from Huxley who were unable to attend the meeting. Harbison said, "In the last three and a half months, the ones that I have heard the most about are close to Toledo Bend or on Toledo Bend... I have three or four different things (letters with photographs) here from the same community and I've done some research on it and I have a paper that was prepared by the legal council of the Texas Association of Counties and there are actually laws on the books already that covers public nuisance. It defines the public nuisance and everything that we've talked about today is classified in this as a public nuisance."

"I think that we probably just need to start an abatement program to utilize the laws that are already in the health and safety code. One of the laws says that it's a public nuisance if they're keeping, storing or accumulating rubbish including newspapers, abandoned vehicles, refrigerators, stoves, furniture, tires, cans on the premises in a neighborhood or within 300 feet of a public street for 10 days or more," stated Harbison. She continued, "There are laws already there and I think we should look at enforcing them. I think turning a blind eye to them is not the best way to do it. I just want to let the public know I empathize with their problems and that I really do want to work towards a solution."

Harbison spoke on behalf of the commissioners' court saying, "We really don't want to have a law that impedes anybody from doing anything on their private property because you bought that property and you paid for that property."

The way the law works would be a citizen would file a complaint with the commissioners and they would decided during commissioners' court if it is in fact a public nuisance. If it is approved to be a nuisance, the court would send out a notice giving the property owner a time period to clean it up. If the property owner fails to comply, they can be fined. In the long run the county could hire someone to clean it up and a lien could be placed by the county against the person's property. It would be a civil case.

"I'm not for telling anybody what to do on their property, but if you're living 300 feet of a public road, if it's dead carcasses by your property that is impeding your well being and your health, I think it's our duty to look into this and to do what we can to help the community. I may be dead wrong but I don't think it's infringing on anybody's private rights if the laws that are already on the books are enforced," stated Judge Harbison.

Take pride in your community and help keep it beautiful. Lowe suggested a new slogan - "Don't Trash Shelby County"

  •     Educate all your family and friends about littering and how bad it is.
  •     If you see a litterbug, you can report it on the Don't Mess With Texas and Texas will send the litterer a Don’t mess with Texas litterbag along with a letter reminding them to keep their trash off of our roads.
  •     Form a community service group to help with picking up litter.
  •     Foster respect for a clean city among school children, visitors to parks, patrons of fast-food, and smokers.


April 17, 2015 -Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell reports that on March 20, 2015 Deputy Kurtes Lawrence met with complainants at the Shelby County Sheriff's Department in reference to being assaulted. Significant injuries were observed to victim identified as a Nichole Rhoades, 27.

During the course of the investigation, it was found that a Margie Nicole Stahl, 26, of Logansport LA, a Summer Wheless, 30, of Center Texas, and a Cody Denby, 24, of Center Texas, held the complainants against their will and while holding Bryan Owens, 33, at gun point, duct-taped the wrists and ankles of Rhoades restricting her movement while assaulting her in the face and torso area.

Due to the complainants report as well as corroborating evidence, all three suspects, Stahl, Wheless, and Denby were arrested for two counts of Aggravated Kidnapping, Felony 1. Stahl, Wheless and Denby were booked into the Shelby County Sheriff's Department jail facility on Friday, April 9th, 2015 bond was set for $10,000 for each charge by JP 1, Maxie Eaves.

The case was investigated by Investigator DJ Dickerson and Investigator Kevin W. Windham.

Summer Danielle WhelessCody Wayne DenbyMargie Nicole Stahl

April 17, 2015 - The City has received reports of kids accessing pump and intake platforms at Lake Pinkston for diving or jumping. Photos of young teens jumping from the shallow side intake pier along CR 1211 were obtained by the City this week. Signs are posted for the public’s safety from not only high voltage electrical equipment but also hazardous situations.

These platforms have piping and concrete structures below water level that are not readily visible particularly with the present water levels. Jumping or diving from these structures could result in serious injury or death and we request the assistance of parents and the general public in reporting any activity around these facilities to the Sheriff’s Office.

The City is not interested in prosecuting and has not documented signs of vandalism or criminal mischief but is interested in protecting area youth from dangerous situations.

April 16, 2015 - I am pleased to announce that Child Abuse Prevention Month, April, has been capped by a jury verdict of Guilty for Juan Merino for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child under 14 years of age.

The jury, speaking on behalf of the community, has today sent a strong message that Child Abuse will not be tolerated in Shelby County, Texas. The jury sentenced Merino to 60 years' incarceration in prison, and assessed a $10,000 fine.

This trial, conviction and sentence was the result of a team effort of dedicated professionals, as well as the courage of one young girl who took the stand in the face of her abuser and was our victim.

I wish to thank Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell, his entire department, and child abuse investigator Chad Brown for their efforts to seek and ensure justice. The entire staff, past and present, of the Child Advocacy Center is to be congratulated on a job well done and for supporting our young victim. Further, the efforts of the Texas Rangers as well as the law enforcement officers of the Center Independent School District are to be commended and recognized.

Merino will not be eligible for parole for 30 years.

April 15, 2015 - A Shelby County jury came to a verdict of 'Guilty' following an hour and a half of deliberation time in the case of the State of Texas versus Juan Merino (Case Number 14-CR-19231) in the 123rd District Court with Judge Charles "Brick" Dickerson presiding. The trial lasted for three days. Merino was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, first degree felony, with a maximum punishment of 99 years which would require a minimum of 80% of the sentence before the 51-year-old Merino would be eligible for parole.

After being arrested on April 21st of last year, Merino was convicted today, April 15, 2015 at 5:30pm for the aggravated sexual assault of a then 9-year-old child which occurred on or about the date of March 25, 2007.

Shelby County Deputy Jim Ed Matthews escorting Merino back to the Shelby County Jail following a guilty verdict.

According to the closing statement by State's attorney, Shelby County District Attorney Kenneth Florence, Merino sexually assaulted the victim who did at the time report the incident; however, the identity of Merino was unknown. In 2014, the victim who is now 17 years old saw Merino at the Center High School athletic track and recognized him. She ran from the field; however, before leaving she took a photo of the vehicle Merino left in and reported it to the Sheriff's Department. With the information of the license plate, law enforcement were able to identify the suspect to be Juan Merino.

The next phase of trial is the punishment phase which is scheduled for 9am tomorrow morning, April 16, 2015.

Shelby County Today has chosen to not release the name of the victim at this time.

(Update): The jury reconvened on the morning of Thursday, April 16, 2015 in the Shelby County 123rd Judicial District Court with Judge Dickerson presiding. At 11:22am the jury entered the jury room for deliberation once they were provided with the penalty instructions.

At 11:50am the jury returned to the courtroom and Judge Dickerson read their decision as well as giving his ruling. As a result, Merino received 60 years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice System and a $10,000 fine.

He will be required to serve a minimum of 30 years of his sentence.

(Update): The name of the driver who perished in the crash on Sunday has been released and is identified as Keri Roark, 30, of Louisiana.

The Ford Focus involved in Sunday's wreck is seen above after Jaws of Life was used to cut into the vehicle.April 13, 2015 - A highway intersection in Timpson has been the scene of two major crashes this past weekend with fatal results for one driver.

When two vehicles collided on Sunday, April 12, 2015 emergency personnel was quickly dispatched to the scene at the intersection of U.S. Highway 84 and U.S. Highway 59 South.

First on scene were Timpson Police Officer Jake Metcalf and Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Jade Lavergne. Upon arrival, the officers located a vehicle in the median of the highway with major damage and they both worked to try and help the driver, who was trapped; however, nothing could be done to help her.

According to Timpson Police Officer Jake Metcalf, at 2:30pm a witness at the scene stated a grey 2008 Ford Focus driven by, an as yet unidentified female, of Louisiana came to a stop at the stop sign and then drove into the intersection failing to yield to the 18-wheeler. This caused the red 2015 Volvo truck tractor owned by RJR Transportation Company and driven by Thomas K. Gisleson, 52, of Illinois to strike the Focus on the driver side of the vehicle spinning it around and sending it into the median where it struck a light pole.

The Timpson Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene with Jaws of Life to extricate the driver from the Focus and the Timpson Volunteer Ambulance Service was on scene to provide any necessary care. Mike Crouch, Justice of the Peace Precinct 5, pronounced the driver of the Focus deceased at the scene.

Assisting Officer Metcalf with the investigation at the scene was Trooper Lavergne and Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy Kurtes Lawrence. Officer Metcalf expressed gratitude to all emergency personnel who helped at the scene.

The other incident which took place at the same intersection on Friday, April 10, 2015 had similar circumstances with different results.

According to Officer Metcalf, at 11:26am a maroon 2006 Dodge Ram dually pickup truck driven by Victoria Mendoza, 27, of Jacksonville approached the same stop sign yet failed to stop.

As the Dodge crossed the southbound traffic lanes it did so in front of a 2006 Ford F-150 driven by Isias Cruz, 52, with passenger Kimberly Leonard, 48, both of Timpson. The Ford and the Dodge collided causing major damage to the front of the Ford and to the driver side of the Dodge.

Leonard was transported from the scene by ambulance to Nacogdoches Medical Center - Center Emergency Department for treatment of her injuries.

Mendoza was issued citations for fail to stop at a stop sign and no drivers license.

April 13, 2015 - The Shelby County Commissioners approved the rental of the old Center Elementary School Gym to Denetra Slaughter and Celia Aguilar for one year at their recent meeting held on Monday, April 13, 2015. At the previous the meeting the item was tabled as the possibility of closing down the gym to outside parties was discussed. Several citizens took the opportunity to express their opinion during the public comment portion of the Monday meeting. Those who spoke on behalf of keeping the gym open for Zumba classes included Dentra Slaughter, Celia Aguilar and Spence Dance.

Slaughter was the first to address the court and introduced herself as one of the Zumba fitness instructors who use the facility, " There are several people in Shelby County who rely on Zumba fitness as part of an exercise program to increase their overall wellness and health. I've partnered with Jheri-Lynn [McSwain] to help out in the Biggest Loser [program] providing a service for the citizens here in Shelby County."

According to Slaughter there are individuals from San Augustine who travel to participate in the Zumba fitness class. She presented the commissioners with a liability waiver which is meant to release herself and the county from any liability should any medical injury or property loss occur at the gym.

"There really is nowhere else in Center that is large enough for our class and so that is why we desperately need to rent that facility out, so that we can continue to provide that service for the citizens here," said Slaughter.

Celia Aguilar spoke with the commissioners and she shared she is a school teacher and the classes provided at the gym have been sort of a personal project. She said the people that are there are like family and through the community service they offer. Some people that show up are dealing with diabetes, emotional issues or stress. Aguilar shared she would like to continue with the program.

Spence Dance explained to the commissioners his wife has been participating in Zumba classes for five years and loves the program, "Celia and Ms. Slaughter, they don't do this to make money, they just charge $3 per class, per individual just to pay the rent. They're not in this to make a bunch of money, this is not a lifestyle or a career for them, they're just doing it like they say for the community and just to help out the people."

A motion was carried to move forward with the lease at $300 a month with a 60 day termination clause. The lease will go into effect pending Gary Rholes, County Attorney, rewriting the liability clause for the county. Also to make certain there is on-site liability coverage for the county to verify it is in the policy. Rent will be due on the 5th of each month.

Discussion was heard during the meeting from property owners who have land on County Road 4670. The McGuffin family are property owners on the road and are not seeking maintenance on the roadway, they are only asking the county to confirm the county designation for the roadway because they are seeking to sell the property and the title company which has surveyed the property has stated there is not a legal access to the property at this time.

The discussion of the property was tabled until the next meeting so the property owners may have the opportunity to work out the situation amongst themselves.

Resolutions for several bridges TxDOT is seeking to replace were approved by the commissioners. Nancy Smith, TxDOT representative, spoke with the commissioners about these bridges which are on the following county roads: CR 3564 Hilliard Creek; CR 3455 Spinney Creek; CR 3455 Shoat Creek; CR 4256 Tributary of Flat Fork Creek; CR 4916 Flat Fork Creek; and CR 4670 McFaddin Creek. Each of these bridges are projected to possibly have work started on them in September or October 2015 and be finished sometime in 2016.

All of the bridges were approved by the commissioners. Smith informed the commissioners the bridge on FM 415 which was discussed at a previous meeting of the commissioners court will have a detour bridge installed to allow for traffic, instead of completely closing the roadway.

A motion was carried to adjourn the meeting at 10:39am.

Fees collected per office for March:

  1)  Deborah Riley, Tax Assessor/Collector, office: Property Division - $153,376.42; Motor Vehicle Division - $129,095.06 for a total of $282,471.48
  2)  Jennifer Fountain, County Clerk: $55,543.69
  3)  Lori Oliver, District Clerk: $18,323.09
  4)  Maxie Eaves, Justice of the Peace Precinct 1: $13,198.10
  5)  Marla Denby, Justice of the Peace Precinct2: $993.60
  6)  Margie Anderson, Justice of the Peace Precinct 3: $6,624
  7)  Jenny Hicks, Justice of the Peace Precinct 4: $2,025
  8)  Mike Crouch, Justice of the Peace Precinct 5: $3,818
  9)  Zach Warr, Constable Precinct 1: $900
  10)  Jamie Hagler, Constable Precinct 2: $425
  11)  Billy Hearnsberger, Constable Precinct 3: $90
  12)  Bryan Gray, Constable Precinct 4: No collections
  13)  Stanley Burgay, Constable Precinct 5: $90

Grand total: $384,501.96

Agenda items receiving approval include:

  1)  Minutes of the March 9, 2015 Regular Meeting and March 23, 2015 Special Meeting of the Shelby County Commissioners' Court.
  2)  Pay monthly expenses.
  3)  Officers' Reports.
  4)  Rental of old Elementary School gym to Denetra Slaughter and Celia Aguilar for one year. Move forward with lease at $300 a month 60 day termination clause. Lease will go into effect pending Gary Rholes, County Attorney, rewriting liability clause. Rent due 5th of each month.
  5)  Resolutions for the 2016 TxDOT Bridge construction project. Each approved individually as follows: a. CR 3564 Hilliard Creek; b. CR 3455 Spinney Creek; c. CR 3455 Shoat Creek; d. CR 4256 Tributary of Flat Fork Creek; e. CR 4916 Flat Fork Creek; f. CR 4670 McFaddin Creek.
  6)  Change date of the May Special Commissioners’ Court meeting from Monday, May 25th to Tuesday, May 26th due to the Memorial Day holiday.
  7)  Adjournment.

Agenda items tabled during the meeting include:

  1)  Resuming the maintenance on a portion of CR 4670.

May 29, 2015Hurst Street and Arcadia Road (FM 138) in Center was the scene of a two-vehicle collision Thursday afternoon, May 28, 2015 which resulted in injuries to one driver involved.

At 4pm Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Derek Barbee was first to arrive on scene followed by the Center Police Department and Center Fire Department. Upon arrival both vehicles were located at opposite corners of the Hurst Street intersection with their drivers still inside.

According to Center Police Officer Maegan Wright, a white Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Daniel Smith, 28, of Nacogdoches was traveling south on Hurst Street when the brakes failed. A tan Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Jesus Orozco-Rivera, 34, of Nacogdoches was entering the intersection from the west on Arcadia Road as the brakes on Smith's truck failed and the truck collided with the driver's side of the Tahoe.

The Tahoe spun to the right and came to rest at the corner of Arcadia Road facing northwest. The truck continued to the opposing corner of Hurst Street where it came to a stop.

As ACE EMS, assisted by Nacogdoches Medical Center - Center Emergency Department (CED) personnel, worked to extricate Rivera from the Tahoe the Center Fire Department used Jaws of Life to gain access to the vehicle. Rivera was transported to CED for possible neck and back injuries. He was also issued a citation for driving without a license.

Officer Wright was assisted at the scene by Center Police Officer John Welch.

April 9, 2015 - LUFKIN, Texas – A 43-year-old Chicago man has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.

Frederick Mitchell pleaded guilty on Dec. 19, 2014 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering and was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison on Apr. 8, 2015 by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.

According to information presented in court, on July 6, 2014, Mitchell and a co-defendant, Henry Korvette Bams, were stopped for a traffic violation by the Texas Department of Public Safety on US Highway 259 in Nacogdoches County, Texas. The officer conducted a search of the vehicle and seized approximately $253,341 in cash and a small quantity of marijuana. Both men were eventually released on bail on July 9, 2014. On July 22, 2014, Bams and Mitchell were stopped again for a traffic violation by Arkansas State Police in Hot Springs County, Arkansas, on Interstate Highway 30.

The officer received consent to search the vehicle and discovered approximately ten kilograms of suspected cocaine located inside a hidden compartment within the vehicle. Two bank deposit slips were also discovered within the vehicle. On Aug. 1, 2014, agents with the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a seizure warrant on the bank account and seized approximately $135,015.14 in suspected drug proceeds. Bams is awaiting trial on pending charges.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Texas Department of Public Safety, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Baylor Wortham.

April 7, 2015 - Cities and schools in Shelby County are preparing for elections of council and schoolboard members in the May 9, 2015 election. The first day of early voting is April 28, 2015 and the last day for early voting is May 5, 2015.

City of Joaquin (Submitted by Amanda Willey) - Ms. Pat Gray and Mr. Bill Baker are both running for Mayor. Our two at large City Council positions are being sought by Ms. Lee Vern Stotts Gilliam (Incumbent), Mr. Mike Adkinson (Incumbent), and Mr. Joe Long. Polling will take place at 124 N. Preston Street Joaquin, Texas which is City Hall.

City of Timpson (Submitted by Barbara Hunt) - The following candidates signed up by the February 27th deadline for a place on the ballot for three (3) council member positions: Kenneth Walker, Linda Hancock, George Grace (Incumbent), Kyle Allen (Incumbent), Janell Baker (Incumbent).

City of Tenaha - 3 positions - Claudine Howard (Incumbent), Michael Baker (Incumbent), Larry Terry (Incumbent), Natalie Harris.

Shelbyville ISD (Submitted by Debbie Gilchrist) The polling place will be the Shelbyville ISD Board Room, including early voting. Candidates are: Chris Koltonski, Etola Jones, Clint Norton, Latashia Thompson, Brad Hinton, Joe Tom Schillings. Etola Jones and Joe T. Schillings are incumbents. (2 positions open)

Tenaha ISD (Submitted by Brenda Lucas) 3 positions - Bo Morris (Incumbent), Robert Barton (Incumbent), David Fallin, Joe Anderson, Korey McClure.

Timpson ISD - 3 positions - Linda Fraizer Todd, Dannie Hunt (I), Carlos Johnson, Jim Rader (Not running Tracy Hooper and Beth Tipton)

Joaquin ISD - 2 positions - Maggie Bowdin, Tom Harvey, Ronnie Belrose (Incumbent), and Jay Wilson. Not running is Luke Garrett.