Thursday, January 22, 2009






  Teen killed in one-vehicle wreck
A second teen is seriously hurt; excessive speed
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 inauguration
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 highest post.
Tuesday, Obama became the first man – whose heritage includes both Negro and Caucasian cultures – to be sworn in as president of the United States.
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,” Hall said.
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 returning home.
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 Mabank
watch Sen. Barack Obama take the oath as the nation’s 44th President Tuesday.
The event, following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, drew about 4 million people
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 in
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 Milton Adams.
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.

Copyright © 2009, MediaOne, L.L.C.