Sunday, February 1, 2009






  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 that evening.
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 testified.
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 of death.”
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 self-defense.
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 acting rowdy.
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 restaurant.”
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 animals.
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 several hours.
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 animal waste.
“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 seasonally adjusted.)
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

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