Trial of Eustace mayor nears close
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–The trial of Eustace mayor Laura Ward, 39, on a second-degree
felony assault charge entered its fourth day Thursday, with the defense
presenting evidence of a previous violent incident involving the victim,
Trisena Mooring, 30.
173rd District Court Judge Dan Moore allowed defense attorney Mike Head
to present testimony of an incident occurring at Chili’s Restaurant in
Gun Barrel City last February for the purpose of determining who was the
first aggressor in this case.
James Lookabaugh, a witness for the defense who was part of Ward’s party
at Gaters the evening of Sept. 23, 2007, said Mooring delivered the
first blow inside Gaters’ concert hall in Gun Barrel City.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Lookabaugh said, or he would have protected
Ward, he added.
Mooring, and moments later, Ward, were escorted from the nightclub
through the same door.
A Henderson County assistant district attorney, Barry Lee Spencer Jr.,
happened to have been on a ride-along with sheriff’s deputy Kevin Adair
They had driven over to Gaters as a courtesy, arriving there some time
before the altercation between the two women occurred.
Spencer described the scene outside the nightclub. Officers were talking
with Mooring against a chain-link fence about 20 feet from one of the
club doors, he said. Mooring was facing the door, while the officers had
their backs to the door.
He testified that the officers were attending to Mooring and had the
situation well in hand.
Gun Barrel City police officers testified Ward hit Mooring soon after
she exited the club. The blow caused Mooring to fall and hit her head on
a concrete curb. “It was a good solid hit,” Sgt. Patrick Johnson
Spencer said he didn’t actually see the punch being thrown, but said “I
believe Ward could have hit Ms. Mooring.”
He testified to Mooring being “out” for 20 to 30 seconds, and when she
regained consciousness she fought to get back up, while police tried to
get her to lie still on the ground.
Spencer testified to there being “quite a bit of blood” from Mooring’s
nose and mouth when she was trying to get back up. “She seemed not to
know what had happened to her,” he said.
During Mooring’s testimony Wednesday, she said she only remembered being
in the helicopter with her eyes taped closed and being unable to open
them. “I thought I was going to die,” she said.
A doctor who treated her testified that “she faced a substantial chance
The defense argued that Ward had responded to a verbal threat from
Mooring when Ward arrived outside the club, and that “rather than turn
her back on the threat,” she turned to confront it and acted in
Lookabaugh testified he perceived a threat to Ward as she exited the
club, adding he was coming out right behind her.
In Thursday’s testimony, Chili’s night manager Leslie Franchess
identified Mooring as the same woman who came into her lounge area late
on the evening of Feb. 11, 2008, along with a group of others who were
After making sure the dining side of the restaurant was as it should be,
she turned her attention to the bar side, where she could already hear
angry voices and screaming “louder than I’ve ever heard in the
She described Mooring, who was being called “Big Bird” by her friends,
as shouting and cursing another woman customer at the end of the bar,
who was not part of her party.
Three men in her party tried to calm her down without success, Franchess
said. She also tried, but failed and called police.
Two or three patrol cars arrived at the restaurant within five minutes,
she said. Johnson and another officer escorted Mooring out in handcuffs
while Mooring was shouting at them about a lawsuit she was bringing
against the city, Franchess described.
Johnson told her that they were familiar with Mooring from previous
incidents at other establishments, Franchess said.
If Ward is convicted of aggravated assault, she faces a prison term of
two to 20 years and/or a $10,000 fine.
VZ man held in elder abuse, animal hoarding
By Donna Limberger
Monitor Staff Writer
MYRTLE SPRINGS–A 53-year-old Van Zandt County man remains in jail facing
a felony charge of injury to an elderly/disabled person and possibly
numerous charges of animal cruelty.
Richard Anthony Delfeld Jr. was arrested Sunday morning at a house on
VZCR 3221 near Myrtle Springs.
Delfeld was arraigned by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Don Kirkpatrick
and bond was set at $100,000.
A 9-1-1 call Saturday, made by Delfeld about the welfare of an elderly
man, resulted in officials finding the man living in a “filth-infested”
mobile home with no running water, heat or electricity.
They also found almost 200 live animals on the property and 75 dead
Those animals included dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, chickens, turkeys,
llamas, geese and guineas.
“Delfeld was supposed to be the caretaker of this homeowner, the animals
and the property,” Van Zandt County Sheriff R.P. “Pat” Burnett reported.
“Obviously, he wasn’t looking after anything.”
The homeowner was transported to a Tyler hospital Saturday, and Burnett
said Adult Protective Services had been alerted to the situation.
On Sunday, officers from the sheriff’s office, members of the Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Precinct 3 Commissioner
Duanne Harvey, Van Zandt County Nuisance Abatement Officer J.O. Thompson
and Precinct 3 Constable Robert Tisdale were all at the scene for
The SPCA took all the live animals to the Perry Animal Care Center in
McKinney, where they will be cared for until a hearing, set for Friday
in the Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Court in Ben Wheeler, determines
the animals’ status.
“This is basically a custody hearing, and if the SPCA is awarded custody
of the animals, they will then be evaluated on an individual basis for
possible adoption and placement,” Burnett said.
The deceased animals were properly disposed of by Harvey and other
precinct 3 workers.
Many of the animals were running loose on the property, which was strewn
with trash, junked vehicles and household appliances.
Others were found in cages or pens, some enclosed with dead animals.
Many were caged in their own excrement.
“There was animal food, but they just weren’t being fed,” Burnett said.
Officials said the inside of the mobile home was full of trash and
“This is one of the worst cases I have ever seen,” Burnett said. “I was
not there on Saturday, but when I got there on Sunday, it was even worse
than what I had imagined.
“We acted on this situation quickly,” Burnett added. “This is not just
about the health and safety of this man and these animals, but is about
everyone is the area.
“We don’t know what kind of disease could have been started at this
location and spread throughout the county,” he pointed out.
“I cannot express all the appreciation that I feel for everyone
involved, the SPCA members, and for Duanne (Harvey) and Robert
(Tisdale). They didn’t have to come out there, but they did,” he added.
“The people of Precinct 3 should know they have good men serving them.”
Acme closes 1 plant
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer
MALAKOFF–The troubled economy is starting to hit home.
Wednesday, the Acme Brick Company announced plans to close one of its
two plants in Malakoff, laying off 28 employees in the process.
“Both of those plants have been running at less than capacity due to the
downturn in the housing market, and our expectations are that things
aren’t going to improve anytime (soon),” Ed Watson, senior vice
president of production for Acme Brick, said.
Watson said the decision was made to close one of the plants and
increase production in the other.
In the process, Acme Brick transferred 22 employees from the closed
plant to the active plant.
“Unfortunately, it did involve some layoffs of some good people,” Watson
said. “It is just the economy and the housing market. We are so tied to
the housing market in our industry; this actually makes the seventh
plant out of 24 that we’ve closed in the past couple of years.”
Watson said the layoffs came with severance pay, and that the company is
working with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to help those
employees find work.
Watson said Acme Brick intends to reopen the plant as soon as there is a
turnaround in the housing market.
“We want (those laid off) to stay in contact with us, because we hope,
as soon as the economy turns, to restart the plant, and we’ll need to
get these fine people back to work for us,” he said.
The layoffs will not help the county’s unemployment numbers, which were
already at their highest point in four years.
According to the TWC, Henderson County’s jobless rate was 6.5 percent in
December. That number has climbed steadily for the past nine months
since the year’s low of 4.3 percent in April. (Numbers are not
Unemployment in December in Henderson County was higher than in
neighboring Smith County (5.6 percent), Navarro County (6.1 percent),
and Van Zandt County (5.1 percent).
The numbers are troubling.
“We are certainly concerned about the economic condition of Henderson
County,” County Judge David Holstein said.
“Along with the Texas Workforce Commission and the East Texas Council of
Governments we are always trying to push for job retraining capabilities
and searching for ways to get new jobs,” he said