Thursday, April 15, 2010






McLelland wins KC DA race
Manning edges out Windham for Precinct 4 Commissioner
Monitor Staff Reports

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Kaufman County has a new District Attorney. In a runoff election Tuesday, voters chose Mike McLelland in an upset vote, ousting incumbent Rick Harrison.
In the race for Precinct 4 Commissioner, dairyman Tom S. Manning narrowly won over businessman Joe Windham in the runoff. Unofficial results posted on the county website show Manning capturing 51.97 percent with 790 votes, to Windham’s 48.03 percent and 730 votes. Windham led in election day results but was swamped in the early voting tallies.
“I will do my best to represent the citizens of Precinct 4 with honesty and integrity,” Manning said.
Neither winning candidates have an opponent to face in the November’s general election. They will both be sworn in the first days of January, 2011, to serve a four-year term.
According to unofficial results posted on the county’s website, the trend started with early voting results continued into election day.
McLelland pulled in 58.43 percent of the vote to garner a win with 2,687 votes for county DA. Harrison tallied 1,912 votes for 41.57 percent of the total. Of the county’s 57,056 registered voters, 4,723 voted in the runoff election comprising just 8.28 percent.
This is the second time in a row these two battled to become the face of justice in Kaufman County, and both times the races were hotly contested, but with different results.
This time around, Harrison stressed his performance, citing a 100 percent conviction rate on all felony jury trials, their speedy prosecution and indictment and the doubling of restitution collections over the previous three-year record of $280,000 to $700,000.
However, his second DWI charge coming just last summer, may have forced the loss.
Harrison had been driving on the wrong side of a divided roadway when he struck a car that was turning onto Seagoville Road from a side street.
No one was seriously injured in the accident that took place shortly after midnight June 18.
Harrison was charged with one count of driving while intoxicated with a previous conviction, a Class A misdemeanor. The previous conviction came 14 years ago, in December, 1994, when he was working as an assistant district attorney in Dallas County. Harrison had been an assistant DA for five years before the arrest prompted his resignation.
McLelland used this to his advantage, making the race one of character. Though Harrison fought back in advertisements, pointing out what he called misrepresentations in McLelland’s resume, the voters decided against his reappointment.
“I want to thank the voters of Kaufman County and assure all those who believe in me that I will uphold their trust by my honorable conduct and trustworthy performance in office,” McLelland said.

Drug lab found at Athens motel
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt reports three arrests in two separate drug investigations recently.
The Henderson County Drug Enforcement Unit assisted the Athens Police Department lto ocate and dismantle an active meth lab at an unidentified Athens motel March 26.
Investigators recovered a quantity of liquid substance in the manufacturing process believed to be methamphetamine and multiple ingredients in the manufacture of the illicit drug.
Danny Worthy, 31, was charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance more than 4 grams and less than 200 grams.
If convicted, Worthy faces from 5 to 99 years in prison for the first-degree felony and a fine up to $10,000.
Bond was set at $35,000. Worthy remained in the Henderson County Jail at presstime.
The drug task force completed another investigation March 29, in Malakoff, resulting in two arrests.
Though officers focused attention on several subjects at the Wheeler Apartments in the 200 block of Sunset, they charged only two young women – Sara Joe Hill, 24, and Laura Ann Adams, 23.
Hill was arrested for manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance over 1 gram and under 4 grams, a second-degree felony.
Adams was charged with possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram and endangering a child, both state jail felonies.
The endangerment charge developed when she attempted to hide a baggie of methamphetamine on her 2-year-old child while being interviewed by officers.
The Malakoff Police Department assisted investigators Ronnie Halbert, David Faught, Greg Hill and Darrell Waller.

Crime victims try to make sense of aftermath
April is Alcohol Awareness Month Crime Victims Awareness Week is April 18-24
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE-In the newspaper business, crime is news. It makes the front page. The next week, there may be a follow up-story.
If it’s really big news, months later, news of the trial and sentencing appear, but soon, other crimes are reported, and that specific crime usually fades from public view – but not from the memories of the victims.
Victims live with the effects of the crime for years onward. The crime forever changes them, their family members and those who care about them. Crime Victims Awareness Week is April 18-24.
For the most part, these victims are invisible. Rarely, a few rise above their personal tragedy, such as former Canton teacher Abby Rike.
Abby (who found a new life and fame as a contestant on TV’s “The Biggest Loser”) lost her entire family to a drunk driver Oct. 11, 2006.
Today, Abby uses her new-found confidence and outlook to help others take a new look at their experience, so that it need not cause further destruction. She has become an inspiration to many.
Others, like Tammi Branch, who lost her 18-year-old son Eric when his friend Dylan Whitten wrapped a little Dodge Neon around a tree just over a year ago, still search for meaning and healing.
Whitten was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for intoxication manslaughter, leaving both families devastated.
“My biggest concern is that he died for no reason,” Tammi told The Monitor. “There was no reason for him to die in that manner.”
That’s why she has replaced her job as a clerk with Allstate in Irving for volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
While volunteering with MADD, Tammi has twice participated in the Victims Impact Panel.
She was one of four victims who told their stories to offenders, so they would realize the impact of their crimes and stop the offense, in this case – drinking and driving.
Tammi recalls how it took five months before she was able to sleep in her own room without a light on, or to pull into her own driveway if there were no lights on inside the house.
“They say the first year is the worst, but that’s the numb year,” she said, “when you still expect him to walk through the door.
“It’s the second year that’s harder,” she added. He’s on my mind a lot more.”
Mother’s Day was really tough, as was Eric’s birthday (April 4), she said.
“I feel everyone should take one (a Victims Impact Panel), to stop it before it starts” she said. “Some of his friends have turned themselves around. Some have changed. So it (his death) wasn’t for no good reason. He did get through to some.”
But that holds little comfort for Tammi.
“It would be a comfort, if he could still be here, but I’m glad some have changed,” she said.
Since MADD’s inception 30 years ago, heightened awareness has been achieved about the horrific results of driving drunk.
Along with changes in public policy, there has been a shift in societal norms against drunk driving – it’s no longer funny, or acceptable, to be driving drunk.
All of that has cut the number of people killed annually in alcohol-impaired crashes by 50 percent.
In 1980, more than 30,000 Americans lost their lives due to drunk driving; in 2009, just 11,773 were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes, including Mabank High School graduate Eric Branch.
But, according to the Centers on Disease Control, that translates to three in every 10 Americans being involved in a drunk-driving accident during their lifetime.
“We became a statistic the moment Eric died,” Tammi said. “But my family shouldn’t be one. We are trying to survive that death intact, but most couples don’t.”
April also happens to be Alcohol Awareness Month.
Drunk driving threatens families and communities. Consider these staggering statistics from MADD:
• A drunk driving traffic fatality occurs every 30 minutes in the United States.
• Every month, more than 1,000 families have a loved one killed by drunk driving, and even more have someone injured.
• At any given moment, American families share the roads with an estimated 3 million drivers who have been convicted of drunk driving at least three times – and with 600,000 drivers who have five or more convictions.
• As many as 75 percent of drunk drivers continue to drink and drive, even after their licenses have been revoked.
• A first-time drunk driving offender, on average, has driven drunk 87 times prior to being arrested.
Alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost an estimated $114.3 billion in 2000, including $51.1 billion in monetary costs and an estimated $63.2 billion in quality-of-life losses.
People other than the drinking driver paid $71.6 billion (63 percent) of the alcohol-related crash bill.
From speaking and listening to Tammi, it is abundantly clear that her son’s needless death from drinking and driving causes her daily pain.
Through the ordeal, she attended every court hearing – but never alone.
Someone from MADD went with her to explain the process and stand as a “buffer” between her and the District Attorney’s office, and that has meant the world to Tammi.
“They didn’t have to be there,” she said. “They’ve become an extension to my family.”
Tammi felt she needed to be there, even when the DA’s Office told her nothing much was going to take place.
“I needed to represent my son, because my son no longer has a voice,” she explained. “I’m his voice, his stand-in.”
March 9, one year and three months after the fatal crash, Dylan Whitten, bearing visible scars as a reminder of his own near-fatal injuries from the wreck, was sentenced to seven years in state prison for intoxicated manslaughter.
Is Tammi satisfied with the judgment? It’s what her husband Richard wanted, jail time.
“I’m OK with it. I want to believe that when this is all said and done, he’ll come out a better person. I can only hope,” Tammi said.
“There are no winners,” she pointed out. “There are losers everywhere you look. I want time to be reversed and I can’t have that.
“I can’t have anger or hate against Dylan. He’s someone I know,” she added. “Two boys lost their lives that night.”
How does she keep moving forward?
“Volunteering helps, in that it keeps me busy,” she said. “If I were working, I couldn’t help anyone.”
Tammi asks that the community stand with her as she supports MADD in its efforts to serve the victims of drunk driving, and prevent the meaningless deaths of other sons and daughters.
She and her team of walkers are raising money by selling T-shirts for an upcoming MADD walk in Dallas. Their goal is to raise $500 by Saturday, April 24.
Tammi will have her T-shirts for sale at a blood drive at the Henderson County Jail, from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 21. You can even become a virtual walker by helping to fundraise.
Contact Tammi through her e-mail address at to donate or order a shirt. She has quite a few.
Also, ask her to send you a flyer, accepted at Chili’s the last Wednesday of each month. Those with the coupon will get 10 percent of their check donated to MADD on Tammi’s behalf.
Perhaps by helping Tammi, others can not only prevent further suffering, but also tell other crime victims they are not invisible.


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