Sunday, January 17, 2010






  Kemp man dies in wreck
By Julie Vaughan
Monitor Staff Writer

JACKSON–A 20-year-old Kemp man was killed in a two-vehicle crash Jan. 8 on State Highway 198, less than a mile north of Farm-to-Market 1651, near the Jackson community.

Courtesy Photo/Texas Department of Public Safety
A 2004 Ford Explorer driven by Kemp resident Preston Michael Cotton-Clark, 20, lies mangled in the State Highway 198 ditch following a head-on collision Jan. 8 near the Jackson community. Cotton-Clark was pronounced dead at the scene.

Preston Michael Cotton-Clark was southbound in a 2004 Ford Explorer SUV when he collided with a 2009 GMC 3500 pickup truck driven by Eugene Louis Concklin, 58, and his passenger Joyce Palm Concklin, 51, both of Brooksville, Fla.
The Concklins were northbound on SH 198, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brady Lunceford said.
“(Cotton-Clark) drifted left and drove into the northbound traffic lane, then swerved right in an attempt to get back in the southbound traffic lane,” Lunceford reported.
“(Cotton-Clark) slid clockwise and was struck in the driver’s-side door by the front of unit 1 (driven by Concklin),” Lunceford said.
Concklin attempted to swerve left to avoid the crash but was unable to, Lunceford said.
The impact occurred about 1.5 feet south of the center traffic lane divider, in the northbound traffic lane.
“(Concklin) rotated counter-clockwise and came to rest across both traffic lanes,” Lunceford said. “(Cotton-Clark’s vehicle) was knocked into the ditch on the north side of State Highway 198 and came to rest facing southeast.”
According to Lunceford’s report, Cotton-Clark was using a cell phone at the time of the crash, and “was also speeding.”
Lunceford said Cotton-Clark’s speedometer locked at 70 mph.
He was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronnie Daniel.
“Everyone was wearing their seatbelts,” Lunceford said.
Eugene Concklin was not injured, but Joyce Concklin was transported to Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler by Champion EMS with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Lunceford said the accident was due to Cotton-Clark’s speed, cell phone usage, and being on the wrong side of the roadway not passing. No citations were issued.

Traffic stops net half-pound of meth
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–Traffic stops in Caney City and Athens enabled Henderson County Drug Enforcement Unit investigators to seize a half-pound of “ice” methamphetamine worth more than $20,000 recently.
The first DEU traffic stop in Caney City Jan. 6 involved a suspect, David Lancaster, 46, who was pulled over on Barron Road, Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt reported in a news release issued Tuesday.
During a search of the vehicle, investigators Ronny Halbert, David Faught and Darrell Waller located a bank bag under the hood of the truck.
Inside the bank bag, investigators found a ziplock bag containing approximately four ounces of what is believed to be “ice” methamphetamine.
Jan. 9, investigators conduced a second traffic stop on a vehicle in Athens.
During a search, investigators locate more than an ounce of suspected methamphetamine in the pocket of a suspect identified as Chad Swindle, 27.
Investigators obtained consent to search Swindle’s residence, where officers discovered another three ounces of methamphetamine and seized approximately $1,000 in cash, believed to be proceeds from drug sales.
Lancaster and Swindle were both charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, penalty group 1, more than four grams and less than 200 grams, a first degree felony.
Bond was set at $50,000 on each man, Nutt reported. Deputy sheriff John Daniels also assisted in the arrests.

Churches, law meet after 3 fires
Investigation shows churches burned to cover burglaries
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–With arson determined as the cause of three recent church fires, around 200 representatives from a number of Henderson County churches met with county sheriff Ray Nutt and other law enforcement officers Wednesday to discuss better security.
“We wanted to give them the opportunity to talk with us,” Nutt said Wednesday afternoon. “They asked good and intelligent questions.”
Two Athens-area churches burned overnight Monday, and both federal and state authorities are helping with the investigation, Nutt said.
“The ATF (Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) was here yesterday (Tuesday) helping us,” he said. “We had the county fire marshal and the Athens fire marshal out there, and I understand the state fire marshal’s office came in, as well.”
Monday, a 911 call near 10:30 p.m. alerted authorities to a fire at the Grace Community Church.
The Shady Oaks Fire Department found the church sanctuary fully involved on arrival, and found evidence someone had forced entry into the building.
Two hours later, at 12:35 a.m., the Athens Fire Department was notified of a second burning church, Lake Athens Baptist.
Payne Springs Fire Rescue responded to the AFD’s request for aid with four apparatus and 11 firefighters.
The PSFR brought its aerial truck, as Athens’ aerial pumper was still tied up at the Grace Community fire.
“Upon arrival, we found a large church with heavy smoke coming from every place it could,” Payne Springs fire chief Randy Harley reported.
The Monitor received a report that carpeting had been placed in the baptistry and set ablaze, with the apparent expectation the fire would smoulder for some time before flames spread to the baptistry/sanctuary walls. That report has not been confirmed by investigators.
The overnight fires came 11 days after the Faith Fellowship Church of Athens was destroyed by a New Year’s Day fire.
The Little Hope Baptist Church east of Canton was also destroyed by fire New Year’s Day.
Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen said the timing of the Little Hope fire was coincidence, as there is no apparent connection with the Athens church fires.
“I looked at that fire with another fire marshal, and we saw where the fire originated, and there was no forced entry,” Allen told the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
“This fire was electrical in origin, and the insurance company investigators also found this to be an accidental fire, and not one which was set,” Allen added.
There’s no speculation about the cause of the Faith Fellowship, Grace Community and Lake Athens Baptist fires, as officials have said all three incidents involved burglaries with the same method of operation.
“The items stolen was nothing of great value. They stole some of the same items,” Athens Fire Chief John McQueary told the Athens Daily Review. “As for the fire, the areas of origin were the same.”
“It is a very sad loss for the community, and, of course, the membership of all three churches,” Harley noted.
At Wednesday’s gathering of church representatives at the First Baptist Church of Athens, “we encouraged them to secure their own churches and put their own people in there (as guards),” Nutt said.
“We told them ‘if you’re going to have civilian-type security inside, be sure and let the dispatchers know about them,’” Nutt added.
The sheriff’s office does not have the manpower to mount an effective patrol on churches in and around Athens, much less the literally hundreds of churches scattered throughout the county, Nutt said.
CrimeStoppers is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case – call (903) 675-TIPS (8477). Other rewards are being posted for information leading to an arrest or conviction.
Individuals with information are urged to contact their local law enforcement agency, or contact the sheriff’s office at (903) 675-5128, Nutt said.
“Our number-one priority is to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Nutt said. “Number two is to bring these actors to justice.”

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