Teen killed in one-vehicle wreck
A second teen is seriously hurt; excessive
and alcohol named contributing factors
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY–A horrific late-night wreck on Legendary Lane Jan. 15
took the life of one recent Mabank High School graduate and sent another
teenager to the hospital in serious condition.
Eric Branch, 18, of Gun Barrel City was pronounced dead at the scene by
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Dale Blaylock, who ordered the body sent
to Dallas for an autopsy.
Branch was a passenger in a 1997 Dodge Neon driven by his friend, Dylan
Whitten, 19, who was airlifted to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.
As of Friday, he was listed in serious condition in the Intensive Care
Unit at ETMC.
According to an e-mail written by his parents, Meleah and Jason Perrini,
and obtained by The Monitor Monday, Whitten suffered multiple face/skull
fractures, a bruised liver and bruised lungs.
Whitten was on a ventilator to help his lungs recover, and was scheduled
for surgery on the face and skull fractures Tuesday.
Although heavily sedated, Whitten has responded to commands, and appears
to understand who is in the room with him and recognize individuals,
Meleah Perrini wrote.
According to police, the car was traveling southbound on Legendary Lane
at about 9:10 p.m. at a high rate of speed when Whitten lost control.
The vehicle exited the west side of the roadway, continuing south until
it struck a utility pole, and went airborne.
The vehicle hit the ground more than 140 feet farther down before
smashing through a chain link fence and then squarely hitting a tree,
where it came to rest.
Gun Barrel City Police were called about 9:27 p.m.
Sgt. Patrick Johnson, Sgt. Dennis Wehland and officers Renita Watson and
Cody Dickerson worked the accident.
Speed and alcohol were contributing factors in the accident, GBC
Investigator Kay Lynn Newbill said Friday.
TXU was also called to the scene to repair the utility pole.
Students go to Washington
Athens High School students witness
of President Barack Obama
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY–Among the estimated 4 million people attending the
inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America,
Henderson County was not left out.
Eleven high school students from Athens, along with their government
studies teacher, made the pilgrimage to the nation’s capitol to witness
firsthand Sen. Barack Obama take the oath of office for this country’s
Tuesday, Obama became the first man – whose heritage includes both Negro
and Caucasian cultures – to be sworn in as president of the United
Though beginning his presidency in the midst of a global financial
crisis, Obama comes into office with a “wind at his back” approval to
meet the challenges.
Athens student Dyanne Hopkins, 17, looks toward a hopeful future.
“I think it will be a lot better, now that he’s in office,” she said.
“Everyone is really excited about him as a leader.”
Kenneth Hall Jr., 18, was “definitely” excited to be in Washington D.C.
for this historic moment.
“The high point was definitely his speech that we are all Americans,”
That was powerfully brought home to him and the other students by the
sheer number of people in attendance.
Athens teacher and former coach Jay Brown led the group of students who
were part of a larger group from four different states as part of a
student tour planned by World Strides.
“It was amazing, just amazing,” Brown described.
Students boarded buses from their hotels at 4:30 a.m. to get within two
to three miles of the National Mall.
“It was very, very crowded, shoulder to shoulder, in the middle of the
Mall,” he said.
Giant video screens brought the sights and sounds from the Capitol steps
to the teeming, enthusiastic assembly in the 30-degree weather.
“It was a very electric experience,” Brown said.
The occasion also marked the first time any from the Athens delegation
has ever been in Washington D.C., including Brown.
The students planned a full itinerary of touring the capitol before
They plan to share their experiences during a breakfast forum set for 9
a.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, located at
2101 E. College St. in Athens.
The public is invited to come and enjoy a pancake and sausage breakfast
and hear all about this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Monitor Photos/Pearl Cantrell and Kerry Yancey
Via the Internet, high school students from Eustace (above) and from
watch Sen. Barack Obama take the oath as the nation’s 44th President
The event, following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, drew about 4
to the nation’s capitol to witness the first man of African heritage
rise to the highest
political office in the land.
Meth lab, cooks busted
Major meth manufacturers and distributors
Cedar Creek Lake area caught in raid
Monitor Staff Reports
SEVEN POINTS–Five people were arrested when a late-night police raid on
a Spring Valley subdivision home Jan. 15 turned up an active
methamphetamine lab and a large amount of finished product.
New Sheriff Ray Nutt said the 9 p.m. raid on the rural Seven Points home
was “a culmination of efforts and a lengthy investigation by the
Henderson County Sheriff’s Department, with the assistance of Henderson
County District Attorney Scott McKee and his office.”
The target of the raid was resident Jeremy Jackson, 32, who is believed
to be one of the main methamphetamine manufacturers and distributors in
the Cedar Creek Lake area, Nutt reported in a prepared news release.
In addition to Jackson, Samantha Anderson, 36, Roy Johnson, 50, and
William Knight, 25, along with the owner of the residence, Sandra
Taylor, 59, were arrested.
All five were each charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled
substance, penalty group 1, more than 400 grams, and each was jailed
under $350,000 bond.
“They were all pretty much in the home cooking dope (at the time of the
raid),” Investigator Ronny Halbert said.
The Sheriff’s Office had been working to close them down for six months,
he said, adding they had a lot of help from the neighbors. “The
community just got tired of it,” he said.
Nutt, accompanied by Henderson County Drug Enforcement Unit
investigators Ronny Halbert, Jody Miller and Kenneth Collard, executed
the search warrant, which was issued by Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace
They were joined by 11 other officers – sheriff’s department Major Kevin
Hanes, Capt. Kay Langford, Lt. Botie Hillhouse and investigators Michael
Teel, Michael Shelley, David Faught, Bryan Taylor and Sgt. Brad Gray,
along with deputies Brian Hall, Charlie Hughes and Robert Powers.