Thursday, May 24, 2007

     

 

 

 

  A community mourns
Memorial honors Henderson County deputies killed on duty

 

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Hearts as well as heads are bowed in prayer Sunday evening for the family members left behind.

 

 

 


 

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Candles are raised in salute of the fallen.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

PAYNE SPRINGS–Hundreds gathered at The Lord’s Acre in Payne Springs Sunday night to grieve the loss of two Henderson County deputies killed in the line of duty last Thursday.
Tony Price Ogburn, 61, and Paul Steven Habelt, 63, were the first county peace officers to be shot to death in 50 years.
The candlelight memorial was organized by area churches, and gave outlet to those who wanted to do something to share their grief at the community’s loss.
Uniformed officers came from far and wide to honor the fallen. Officers from Kaufman, Henderson, Van Zandt, Anderson and Navarro counties attended.
Anderson-Clayton Bros. Funeral Homes volunteered to set up the seating area in green carpet and fur-draped chairs.
The Payne Springs Fire Department formed up its emergency vehicles and flew flags halfway up the ladder truck’s extension ladder.
Ministers from four area churches led prayers and scripture readings.
County Judge David Holstein and Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney spoke words of faith and comfort.
Two Avanti singers sang and led the congregation in “Amazing Grace,” and Sonya Ward, the wife of deputy Eric Ward, read a touching poem called Heaven’s Heroes.

A guard of honor flanked the two funeral
wreaths, while flags overhead flew at half staff.
Tears were shed, and hugs given and
received. Words of praise and memories were offered for the officers as a way to sweeten the bitterness of the farewell they had come to make.
“When you hear people talk about integrity, they are describing Paul and Tony,” former Gun Barrel City investigator Judie Burley said. “Paul was always there for everyone and checked in on me, just to make sure I was OK. He was always the one who was protecting us.”

“He was doing what he loved, protecting and serving,” Ogburn’s former daughter-in-law and Henderson County deputy Teresa Ogburn said. “He was definitely a warrior inside and out. I’ll never forget him.”
Former constable Bill Rader, who had eaten lunch with Ogburn just a few days before in Log Cabin, said “There wasn’t a bad bone in his body. I never knew him to worry or be fearful about anything. He was serene.”

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Henderson County deputy Thomas Goodell (right in hat) comforts fellow officer Dwayne Sanders, who was like a brother to investigator Tony Ogburn.

“The entire nation is grieving with us today,” Holstein told the gathering, relating the many calls his office had received from across the country.
Surrounding counties have deluged the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office with offers of help, both in manpower, additional patrols and equipment.
Also, the First State Bank of Athens has set up memorial funds to benefit the families of all three deputies.
Individuals may choose to benefit any of the three deputies individually, or donate to a general fund.
Donations will be accepted at any of the bank’s five locations – two in Athens, and in Malakoff, Mabank and Gun Barrel City.
Holstein reminded the assembly that even in the midst of senseless acts “God is still in control. Our faith leads us to believe that God is in control.”

He and McKinney encouraged one and all to express thanks to our peace officers for the risks known and unknown each takes on daily.
“They deserve our utmost respect. Let them know that,” McKinney said.

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Deputy Teresa Ogburn adds a ribbon to the wreath. “He (Ogburn) was a warrior inside and out,” she said.

 

 

 

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
More than 200 people gathered to honor the fallen at memorial services held at The Lord’s Acre in Payne Springs Sunday night.

 

 

 

 

 

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
This photo montagé was created in loving memory of Tony Ogburn and Paul Habelt by officer Judie Burley, formerly a the Gun Barrel City investigator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mays charged with capital murder
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

PAYNE SPRINGS–The Payne Springs resident identified as the shooter in the slaying of two Henderson County deputies and the wounding of a third has been charged with capital murder.
More warrants are expected in the case, sheriff’s department spokesman Lt. Pat McWilliams told The Monitor.
Randall Wayne Mays, 47, is being held on a $2 million bond.
He is charged in the deaths of deputies Tony Price Ogburn, 61 and Paul Steven Habelt, 63. The investigators worked out of the Seven Points sub-courthouse.
Deputy Kevin Harris, 40, was wounded in the right leg, and Mays was wounded in the elbow and side during the late-afternoon exchange of gunfire.
Both Harris and Mays were airlifted from the end of County Road 2529 near Payne Springs to East Texas Medical Center-Tyler around 5 p.m. May 17.
Harris was released from ETMC Monday, and reportedly will begin rehabilitating his leg immediately. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Mays remains hospitalized in “good” condition and under 24-hour police guard.
Texas Rangers are investigating the shootings.
The deputies were answering a 911 call made at 3:45 p.m. by Mays’ neighbor, Gerald Nicholson.
Nicholson reported Mays was arguing with his wife while waving and firing a pistol.
“My wife was standing on our porch taking pictures of him, and then he started shooting, and bullets were flying everywhere,” Nicholson told the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
“We went in the house and hunkered down behind some furniture until the police arrived,” Nicholson said.
McWilliams reported Mays fired a pistol at the first officer who responded at the scene, then jumped through a window into his home. That officer was not hit, McWilliams said.
Investigators Ogburn and Habelt arrived in answer to the call for backup.
Russell Hicks, Mays’ other neighbor, told The Monitor he was out cutting his lawn when the deputies arrived, and did not hear the initial shots over the sound of his mower.
Hicks said he watched Mays beckon the newly arrived officers to come forward with his right hand, but his left hand was hidden behind the building, holding a rifle where the officers couldn’t see it.
“Next thing I know, that’s when all hell broke loose,” Hicks said. “He (Mays) ran from one side of the house to the other, and fired again.”
Hicks counted three rifle shots (noting the sound of the rifle was distinctive) and said officers fired a fusillade of bullets in reply.
The entire incident took “maybe 12-15 minutes total,” Hicks said. “That’s when the shooting stopped.”
Ogburn, who had served 10 years in law enforcement, the last six in Henderson County, was wearing a bulletproof vest – “But that doesn’t protect you from a high-powered rifle,” McWilliams said.
Habelt, a 40-year veteran, the last 13 years with the county, wasn’t wearing a vest, McWilliams added.
Hicks said Mays had been his next-door neighbor for six years, adding he had helped Mays install electrical wiring in his residence.
“Everybody knew he was a little weird, but I never had any problems with him,” Hicks said.
Mays liked to target shoot, but aside from a few “shouting matches” with his wife, Hicks said he was not aware of any problems at the residence.
“When I saw him standing at the corner of the house with the rifle, I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what was going on,” Hicks said.
Just hours before, both deputies had attended a tribute in Athens in recognition of Peace Officer Appreciation Week.
During the ceremony, officers were reminded, “you never know the time or the hour you may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.”
Mays was taken into custody without further violence. More than 100 officers responded to the shooting scene.
At last report, Smith County deputies were guarding Mays in the hospital. Mays is expected to be held in the Smith County Jail after his release from the hospital.

Candidates lose seats by one vote
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–There are a lot of citizens who believe their one vote just doesn’t matter.
There are at least two Kaufman County candidates who wish just one more friend and supporter had voted.
Incumbent Kemp school board trustee Chip Chambers lost his seat by just one vote.
Results of a recount at 4 p.m. Thursday showed no change.
Curtis Donovan received 191 votes to Chamber’s 190.
City of Kaufman incumbent Mayor Paula Bacon had one less vote than she needed after the May 12 election.
A recount showed no difference in the results with Dr. William Fortner receiving 285 votes to Bacon’s 284.
A question has arisen over a city resident voting by paper ballot, instead of electronically.
Election judges initially provided a ballot containing only the Kaufman School Board races and a state issue.
Bacon said she will consult with an election expert on the provisional ballot.
No word on her decision was received as of press time.

County upgrades computer system
Commissioners move forward to abate asbestos in old hospital
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Henderson County commissioners closed on a lease purchase to upgrade the county’s financial system.
The $212,925 hardware and software package from NetData is being financed through a lease with Government Capital Corporation at 5.1 percent over four years.
The county will be paying $4,435.95 monthly for the system, which includes an imaging component, a new server and software. These will assist three offices – the auditor, treasurer and purchasing.
The new server will also replace an eight-year-old server and has a much larger memory capacity, IT manager Betty Spencer told The Monitor.
“We’ve been very fortunate to stretch this one out to last this long,” Spencer said.
It will also replace another server being used by the justices of the peace and tax office, she said.
“This system had more value-added benefits than the other vendors quoted,” she added.
The package includes upgrades of software county personnel are already familiar with and the vendor has a good service record, she said.
Commissioners, on a 4-1 vote, also approved ordering the asbestos removal for both wings of the old hospital building.
Commissioners Ronny Lawrence and Joe Hall urged immediate action.
“We’ve been dealing with this for four years now, and it (the cost) keeps growing larger. It can’t be demolished until its abated, so let’s take the step to do it. There’s money in the budget – we just have to find it,” Hall said.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry West favored finding the money first and then ordering the work.
Currently, $90,000 has been earmarked for the old hospital, with just the west wing in mind, County Judge David Holstein said.
To abate both wings will total around $180,000, Holstein said, reviewing the estimate from ERI Consulting.
Lawrence noted that in the seven years he’s served, the county has budgeted for capital improvements and only used about a tenth of the funds set aside.
“I don’t like spending money as much as the next person, but if we want to resolve this matter we have to spend it. The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost, and we’ll have to do it anyway,” Lawrence said.
Plans to build another courtroom on the third floor do not look as if they will be carried out this year, so Holstein suggested those funds be reallocated to the old hospital building.
Funds budgeted for a third-floor courtroom total $250,000, he said.
“I’ve pushed this hospital deal for years,” West said, but he opposed the motion until a budget amendment could be passed by the court.
In other business, the commissioners:
• proclaimed May Elder Abuse Prevention Month in Henderson County.
• canvassed the votes on the state constitutional amendment, which passed 3,171 to 131.
• set weight limits at 20 tons on all streets in the Baywood Subdivision.
• renewed an annual maintenance contract for the Victims Information and Notification Everyday grant for FY 2008.
• approved a plat for Arrow Estates V in Berryville
• paid bill totaling $580,602.09.
It was noted of the total, $449,000 went for construction on the jail expansion project.