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March 11, 2021 - The Texas DSHS Covid-19 Dashboard updated Thursday, March 11th reporting 8 new cases and 9 new recoveries over the past two days. The new estimated active case count is 87.

Of the new active cases, 1 was a new confirmed case and 7 were new probable cases.

March 11th (3:15pm) Numbers: (changes since March 9th)
Total Confirmed Cases - 881 (1 new case)
Total Probable Cases - 671 (7 new cases)
Total Fatalities - 59
Total Estimated Active Cases - 87
Total Estimated Recovered - 1,406 (9 new)

March 10, 2021 - Shelby County Sheriff Kevin Windham reports the arrest of Robert Bradly Lindsey, 58, of Center.

On March 9, 2021, a team of sergeants with the Office of the Texas Attorney General Criminal Investigations Division Child Exploitation Unit served search warrants on Lindsey as a result of a report initiated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The investigation revealed Lindsey to be in possession of child pornography.

Lindsey is a registered sex offender with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. During the course of the investigation, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was able to identify violations on Lindsey’s registration and charged him with three violations.

Lindsey was booked into the Shelby County Jail on two charges of Child Pornography (F-3) and three charges of Failure to Comply with Sex Offender Registration Requirements with a Previous Conviction (F-2).

Lindsey was arraigned by Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Donna Hughes and he is being held in the Shelby County Jail on bonds totaling $800,000.

The SCSO does not take lightly the severity of crimes against children. Tips and information regarding sex offenders are encourage to be reported. Currently Shelby County has approximately 115 sex offenders residing in our area. Questions and concerns regarding offenders can be directed to Leah Chase – SCSO Sex Offender Registrar by calling our office at 936.598.5601.

The SCSO would like to extend a sincere thanks to the OAG for allowing us to be a part of this investigation. Their diligence to this case resulted in removing a child predator from the streets.

March 8, 2021 - The Shelby County Commissioners' Court voted to move funds from the Pretrial Intervention Program and Drug Court Program accounts for the District Attorney's office to make needed technological upgrades.

This decision was made during the March 3, 2021 meeting of the commissioners' court. 

Roscoe McSwain, Commissioners Precinct 1, made a motion to "amend the pretrial diversion budget by $11,000 to be moved to satisfy in lieu of what we talked about doing with it, and $17,500 to be re-allocated in the drug court program."

The motion was seconded and carried.

Karren Price, Shelby County District Attorney, spoke with the commissioners' court about the Pretrial Intervention Program funds and the Drug Court Program funds. She suggested they are in "kind of a grey" area.

"I have spoken to for the record Panola County, Gregg County, Angelina County, Collin County, Jefferson counties about their budgets and how they spend this money," said Price. 

Price explained, Pretrial Intervention funds are collected by the Probation Department which is a state agency and subject to audit by the state, and she stated they are regularly audited by the state and the county auditor.

"My proposal is to dedicate 10% of an administrative clerk's time and efforts to Pretrial Diversion so that we are directly accountable on that, and we're not going to get in trouble in an audit situation because of it," said Price.

Price stated the county drug court is not officially a drug court, because it isn't registered with the state.

"So we're not officially a drug court. We operate as one does, but we're not registered," said Price, "Therefore, the only auditing is local. So all I can find, and it is even more grey than Pretrial Diversion expenditures."

Price said there are a number of Attorney General opinions on Pretrial Diversion and she says she has read every one of them.

"I've discussed every one of them with the Assistant DA and all of those places that I've told you about, and they have sent me their budgets," said Price. "They pretty much spend it like we would a general budget every year for an office."

The safest approach, according to Price for both funds is to make a substantial connection to probationers and expenditures that directly affect their rehabilitative process.

"Techshare, the software program, is in the process of building our program out for us, and our probation department will have a portal to communicate with us directly," said Price.

All of the files in the District Attorney's office are under an internal audit, according to Price, to discover if those involved in the cases are candidates for Pretrial Diversion, or Drug Court.

"Are we substantially using the funds? Yes we are, and that's how we're going to do it," said Price. "Every file will be evaluated for that funneling effect."

Price listed the needs of the District Attorney's office and the County Attorney's office and one of those items is fiber optic between their offices and the courthouse. She explained all of the computers and scanners in the District Attorney's office are failing constantly, and part of the reason for that is the server utilized by the District Attorney's office is 22 years old. Operating systems on the computers are so outdated they can't be updated any longer.

"It's not a question of we want it, it's a question of we can't get the work done," said Price.

The infrastructure has had no attention, according to Price, and the money is available to make the needed upgrades.

"The AG's opinions say you can pay staff salaries out of it, including assistant DAs, you can pay travel and training, you can refurbish the courthouse facilities," said Price. "Pretty much whatever you need as long as you can connect it to those programs."

The District Attorney wants to drug test those involved in the drug court program. She said the testing is no longer done, and that is mostly because of COVID-19. Once up and running she feels that would be important to be able to test those they are trying to keep off drugs.

Judge Harbison asked Price if a fee is still being collected of those involved in drug court and if the county can collect a fee if they aren't registered with the state.

"The statute doesn't require you to register and it allows for more than one county, you know two or three counties to go together, and kind of do their own policing of each other," said Price. "So it isn't necessary by statute that we be registered. The advantage to us for registration, I suppose is the access to those really big grants. The downside of being registered and having access to those grants is you have an audit every 90 days that is pretty debilitating I'm told."

Judge Harbison asked if the Pretrial Diversion Program and Drug Court each have a plan in place, as she didn't believe the court every received a plan for either program when they were established four to five years previous to Price taking office.

Price said she doesn't know of one; however, she didn't believe the District Attorney's office would have received federal grant funding without having a plan in place. She said she would do the research.

"As I understand the Attorney General's opinions, it's y'all's call, it is at your discretion. It is an abuse of discretion standard in the event that someone complains and sues us," said Price. "I can tell you from having fought that battle more than once, the abuse of discretion standard on the part of commissioners' court or any other court is an extremely difficult hurdle for a combatant to get over."

She said she didn't see a downside for the county and if needed she could accumulate paperwork on the subject over time for the commissioners to review.

(Click here to read: Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 102, Costs Fees and Fines Paid by Defendants Art. 102.0121, Reimbursement Fees For Certain Expenses Related To Pretrial Intervention Programs).

Clint Porterfield, County Auditor, elaborated for the court about fee collections involving the Pretrial Intervention Program and Drug Court fee Program

"The Pretrial Intervention Program is in its fifth year. The first year we had about $1,200 in collections, and then the last two years we had about $10,000 in collections each year," said Porterfield. "We're actually going into our seventh month now, the current fiscal year we've had about $1,200. All of the money that's in the Pretrial Diversion/Pretrial Intervention Program has come from fees collections of Shelby County."

Porterfield stated the Drug Court Program is a different situation in that the funds Shelby County started with were a result of the split with Panola County.

"Panola County reimbursed Shelby County, I believe what was called the 'seed money' that both counties put into the program when the program started, so Panola County basically when we did that, what was called the equalization of assets back when we did our split Panola County sent us $20,000 which was our seed money and then they sent us unspent fee collections that were in the program," said Porterfield. "That amounted to nearly $52,000."

Porterfield indicated nearly the entire balance in the drug court program at this time was from money that came from the separation of the two counties. He stated the fee collections haven't been quite as much in the drug court with around $6,000 collected in four years and around $2,000 spent. This leaves the fund balance with around $54,000.

"Just for clarification that, in each of these programs our expenditures have basically been for recognition of participants when they graduated from the program," said Porterfield.

According to Porterfield there's a $51,000 budget in Office Supplies and to expend some of the money being requested during the current fiscal year, line item transfers would need to be initiated to utilize those funds.

"Same way with the Pretrial fund, we have $26,000 actually in cash, we have a budget of $27,000 because we anticipate actually getting a little extra money there. There's a budget of $27,000 in Miscellaneous," said Porterfield.

Porterfield explained these funds are already budgeted per approval of the budget last year.

"As for Pretrial Diversions, my opinion about those is the same as it was 30 years ago, Pretrial Diversion should be for 17-year-olds to 25-year-olds that we never anticipate we're gonna touch again in their lifetimes. They messed up," said Price. "Those are the people I think that Pretrial Diversion was created for, I don't want to create a criminal of a kid that just messed up one day if I can avoid it."

During a review performed by the Texas Comptroller's Office, a discovery was made regarding compliance with tax laws in Shelby County.

"We have been reporting, for some unknown reason, the Road and Bridge tax as a Farm to Market Flood Control tax the way it was coded in our software," said Bobby Pigg, Shelby County Appraiser. "It made this jump out at the Comptroller's Office."

He explained you can't have a $3,000 state mandated exemption and an optional exemption as well on Farm to Market Flood Control or the Road and Bridge tax. 

"If I change the coding to say it's a Road and Bridge Tax, it's going to kick out what's called an EAR submission which our electronic submission that we do to the Comptroller's Office," said Pigg.

Pigg explained they are non-compliant with the property tax code by granting the $3,000 state mandated exemption. He requested the commissioners acknowledge he would have to make the needed changes for the upcoming tax year.

"It boils down to $3,000 state mandated exemption is about $2.39 for every homestead out there, anybody that has a homestead has been in the past getting a $3,000 state mandated exemption," said Pigg. "It's probably cost y'all on the special Road and Bridge tax somewhere in the neighborhood of $14,350 a year."

A motion carried to remove the $3,000 standard exemption on a homestead. 

Shelby County Commissioners heard a report from Sheriff Kevin Windham during their meeting Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

Sheriff Windham gave the commissioners an update on the department, and expressed appreciation to Lt. Tanner Peace and Chief Deputy Ruth Gonzalez on going above and beyond on their duties.

Since taking office January 1, 2021, Sheriff Windham informed the court of the following statistics.

  • 1,273 calls for service
  • Jail population of 44 inmates: 37 male inmates and seven female inmates, with the total jail capacity for 66
  • 98 arrests 
  • 102 reports taken by deputies including information, arrest reports, and those needing to be investigated
  • Sheriff's Department currently has 21 vehicles, 17 assigned, four not assigned

Four of the vehicles in service at the Sheriff's Department are between 0-100,000 miles, and he informed the commissioners, any new vehicles have been rotated into patrol to refresh those vehicles in use.

Eight vehicles utilized by the department have between 100,000 and 200,000 miles on them and four of them are running over 200,000 miles. One vehicle has in excess of 300,000 miles.  

"Four that we currently have parked is two of our older Crown Victorias, and then we've got our transport van and then we have the old silver truck, it's parked," said Sheriff Windham

Sheriff Windham described for the commissioners some new changes to the deputy uniforms.

"You've probably noticed we have purchased new uniform shirts. We have went back to the more traditional deputy uniforms," said Sheriff Windham. 

Windham stated the Sheriff's Department has been able to purchase six new vests for patrol officers, and he shared several vests had aged out a long time ago.

"Some of them was 20 years old, they have a five year life span on them," said Sheriff Windham. "So we were able to find the money to purchase those and we want to thank Mr. Clint [Porterfield] and Mrs. Ann [Blackwell], because they're the ones that helped us find these funds that we need."

Sheriff Windham remarked on the difficulty in locating ammunition; however, the Sheriff's Department has been able to find the necessary ammunition for training and qualifications of officers, as is required.

"We have been able to use the AFIX program for better use in identifying better suspects by prints," said Sheriff Windham. "It's a wonderful, wonderful system to have."

The gate on a fence which surrounds the Sheriff's Department compound is not functioning just yet and there are plans to find someone to make the gate operate properly.

Sheriff Windham stated there are continued issues with the radio communications at the Sheriff's Department. It was already known the newly installed console was not going to fix all issues, but the Sheriff said he would be meeting with Texas Premier Communications who has stated they have found a solution to the radio communication problems.

Social media is being utilized by the Sheriff's Department and Sheriff Windham said they are trying to keep it updated. He stated the statistics for the Facebook page from January 27-February 24 indicates there had been 2,093 views, 473 likes and posts have reached 51,862 people, and 531 followers.

"The reason we're doing this is to portray the transparency of our department and keep our citizens informed," said Sheriff Windham.

Sheriff Windham informed the commissioners there are several part-time positions in the dispatch they are trying to transition to full-time, as well as some in the jail.

Judge Harbison remarked the lock issue has been resolved and asked Sheriff Windham if Texas Premier Communications had gotten the new antenna for volunteer fire department dispatch yet.

Sheriff Windham said the radio communications staff were behind at that time as a result of the ice storms, but they were still catching up.

In light of the $55,760 price tag the commissioners approved to repair the radio console at the Sheriff's Department in October 2020 Roscoe McSwain, Commissioner Pct. 1, asked if continued issues with the radios involved fire departments or Sheriff's Department radios.

"The way they're explaining it to me is the terrain. They say that we're sitting down like in a bowl, is what it is, but we've been exploring the solutions and I'm pretty excited when they called me the other day and said 'we got a solution," said Sheriff Windham. "Now what that solution entails, I have no idea at this time."

Related ArticleShelby County Establishes Pretrial Intervention Fund

Agenda items approved during the February 24 meeting include:
1. Pay weekly expenses.
2. Current payroll.
3. Annual County Investment Policy.
4. Designate a County Investment Officer.
5. Take action to revise the tax exemptions for the Road and Bridge Tax per Property Code, Section 11.13.
6. Amend the pretrial diversion budget by $11,000, and $17,500 to be re-allocated in the drug court program for technology infrastructure upgrades, computer replacements, laptop replacement, training and travel for staff and office supplies.
7. Adjourn.

Agenda items approved during the February 24 meeting include:
1. Pay weekly expenses.
2. Last week's Payroll.
3. Ratify and continue the Declaration of Disaster regarding the Winter Storm 02.2021.
4. Commissioner Pct. 4 to take bids on Kobelco Excavator through online auction.
5. Adjourn.

March 9, 2021 - The Texas DSHS Covid-19 Dashboard updated Tuesday with 2 new cases, 1 new recovery, and a new estimated active case count of 88 on March 9, 2021. Of the new active cases, 1 was a new confirmed case and 1 was a new probable case.

March 9th (12:25pm) Numbers: (changes since March 8th)
Total Confirmed Cases - 880 (1 new case)
Total Probable Cases - 664 (1 new case)
Total Fatalities - 59
Total Estimated Active Cases - 88
Total Estimated Recovered - 1,397 (1 new)

March 9, 2021 - Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) to Intercontinental Gas Exchange, a natural gas exchange that saw massive price increases during the February winter storm that swept through Texas.

“As we learn more about what drove pricing spikes during the recent winter storm disaster, I am expanding the scope of my investigation to include the natural gas industry as well as electricity providers,” said Attorney General Paxton. “These massive price increases impacted businesses and consumers alike and will have long term effects on Texas. Hardworking Texans who pulled together to get their communities through this disaster deserve transparency and justice.” 

Two weeks ago, Attorney General Paxton issued 12 CIDs to power companies seeking information related to power outages, emergency plans, energy pricing, and more.

Read a copy of the CID to Intercontinental Gas Exchange here

March 9, 2021 - Officials with the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, Sabine National Forest, have advised a prescribed burn, location in the East Hamilton Area north of Highway FM 2261, 1,648 acres (Block A).  

Winds are predicted from the South 6 mph, Gusting to 16 mph.  

Also, be advised a long range drift may affect some of the areas.

March 8, 2021 - The Texas DSHS Covid-19 Dashboard updated Monday with 3 new probable cases, 1 new recovery, and a new estimated active case count of 87 on March 8, 2021.

March 8th (2:25pm) Numbers: (changes since March 6th)
Total Confirmed Cases - 879
Total Probable Cases - 663 (3 new cases)
Total Fatalities - 59
Total Estimated Active Cases - 87
Total Estimated Recovered - 1,396 (1 new)

March 8, 2021 - The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information on Richard Lee Sanders, a white male who vanished ​from the Center, Texas area in November, 2001. Mr. Sanders was 25 years of age at the time of his disappearance. Mr. Sanders was last seen with Tara Blue the night before her murder in Shelby County, Texas.

Mr. Sanders is 6’6” and currently would be 44 years of age.

You are encouraged to contact SCSO Cold Case Investigator DJ Dickerson at (936) 572-0255 or you can submit a tip anonymously in the form provided here. Any information will be greatly appreciated.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Division is committed to the pursuit of justice, not just for the victims, but also for the victims family who are left behind. Despite the passing of many years, the following victims and their untimely deaths have not been forgotten, nor will the families who are left behind looking for answers and much needed closure. There is no statute of limitations for homicide in the State of Texas. The pursuit for justice continues.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is asking for any information that will lead to further evidence in this case and/or further information that will assist in securing a conviction for the suspect(s) involved, so justice can be served and bring the much-needed closure for the victims families.

You are encouraged to contact SCSO Cold Case Investigator DJ Dickerson at (936) 572-0255 or you can submit a tip anonymously in the form provided here. Any information will be greatly appreciated, not only by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, but especially to the victims family.

Related article: Sheriff’s Department Cold Case Division Seeks Info on Tara Blue

March 8, 2021 - On Friday, a report was made that a Shelbyville Middle School student had told other students he/she had a gun in his/her backpack. Campus police and administration immediately searched the student’s backpack and discovered the object that was supposedly a gun, was not a weapon. There was no gun. Nonetheless, the incident required additional investigation including transporting the student in question home and meeting with his/her parent(s).

Although Shelbyville ISD does not disclose discipline issued to individual students, now that this matter has been thoroughly investigated, Shelbyville Middle School Administration wants all our students, parents, staff and community members to know that the student in question is being levied appropriate discipline under Shelbyville ISD’s Code of Conduct (which includes the possibility of assignment off-campus to the Shelby County Alternative Education Cooperative).

SMS Administration would like to thank the student(s) that reported this incident to us in a timely manner. The safety and well-being of all of our learning community requires all of us to remain diligent and to continue to look out for one another.

March 8, 2021 - District 23-2A All-District Girls Basketball selections are below.

District MVP: Harlie Ware (Sr.), Timpson and Kamari Gray (Sr.), Tenaha
Offensive MVP: Kianna Bennett (Jr.), Shelbyville
Defensive MVP: McKenna Wynn (Soph.), Timpson
Newcomer of the Year: Johna Kruse (Sr.), Timpson
Freshman of the Year: Tiyanna Dagley (Fr.), Tenaha
Coach of the Year: Garry Davison, Tenaha and Bryan Braddock, Timpson

1st Team All-District
Kenzi Wynn (Sr.), Timpson
Jaycee Campbell (Sr.), Timpson
Claire Johnson (Sr.), Timpson
Jayden Bass (Jr.), Joaquin
Brooke Elliott (Sr.), Shelbyville
Jatoryia Barnes (Soph.), San Augustine
Kiouja Gates (Sr.), Shelbyville

2nd Team All-District
Dayreonia Isaac (Soph.), San Augustine
Tyraneqia Johnson (Sr.), San Augustine
Kalie Brooks (Sr.), Joaquin
Carmen Choate (Sr.), Martinsville
Carlee Linebarger (Jr.), Gary
Alisa Dodd (Jr.), Tenaha
Jasmine Dodd (Jr.), Tenaha

Honorable Mention All-District
Kennedy Stanley (Sr.), Joaquin
Kaylea Neal (Jr.), Joaquin
Shi Norris (Sr.), Joaquin
Ebbie McCann (Sr.), Joaquin
Gracie Whitehead (Sr.), Martinsville
Megan Choate (Sr.), Martinsville
Layce Randall (Soph.), Martinsville
Lauryn Burrell (Sr.), San Augustine
Mic’Kayla Renfro (Fr.), San Augustine
Payton Tabor (Soph.), Gary
Feather Bellaw (Sr.), Gary
Emma Ramsey (Jr.), Timpson
D’Chelle Garner (Soph.), Timpson
Kate Lawson (Jr.), Shelbyville
Cadience Thompson (Jr.), Shelbyville
Kara Jones (Jr.), Shelbyville
Aubree Camp (Jr.), Shelbyville
LaTaejha Steadman (Fr.), Tenaha
Addy Duncan (Jr.), Tenaha

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