Boy held following weekend fire
Monitor Staff Report
EUSTACE–A series of fires in the Porter’s Bluff community over the
weekend is thought to be the work of a 15-year-old boy.
Firefighters responded to four separate calls at the boy’s home between
late Friday night and early Monday morning, Henderson County Sheriff’s
Office public information officer Lt. Pat McWillams reported.
The first came in at 11:44 p.m. Friday, when the youth woke up family
members, who discovered a storage shed behind the house fully engulfed
by fire, McWillams said.
In the early morning hours, another fire call came in, as the family
discovered a recliner burning in the yard.
At that time, the youth reported he had seen two neighborhood youths
running from the scene. Reportedly, the youth’s family and the neighbors
had exchanged words in the past, McWilliams explained.
A little after midnight Sunday morning, firefighters again responded to
a call, finding a bedroom in the home ablaze.
The youth told authorities he had heard a crash, as if someone had
thrown something through the window of his younger brother’s room.
At 9:06 p.m. Sunday, family members were moving furniture out of the
charred portion of the house, but discovered the fire had rekindled and
again summoned firefighters.
Henderson County Deputy Fire Marshal Amy Zamora and sheriff’s office
investigators began looking into the fires, and shortly after midnight
Monday morning, formally arrested the 15-year-old.
The youth admitted he had set the fires at his home, as well as at a
neighboring residence, and was transported to a juvenile facility in
Palestine, McWilliams said.
As of Tuesday morning, it was unclear if formal charges had been filed
by the fire marshal’s office, but the youth likely will face arson
charges, McWilliams said.
Behind iron bars
Comissioners tour completed jail expansion;
facility opens this month
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS – When the jailhouse door slammed behind County Judge David
Holstein and commissioners Jerry West and Ronny Lawrence last week, at
least it wasn’t for long.
Henderson County Commissioners invited members of the Citizens Advisory
Committee and the local media to tour the nearly-complete jail expansion
In 2005, a 10-member citizens committee was appointed to explore the
county’s options regarding the jail and housing inmates.
“This was a collaborative effort. And it was only right, we feel, to
invite those who had such a big hand in getting this together to an
exclusive walkthrough of a facility that will probably never be open to
the public – other than if you are an inmate,” Holstein said before the
“Enjoy your stay here, because hopefully this is the only time you’ll be
here,” he said to general laughter.
Along with helping plan the expansion, members of the citizens committee
also attended a series of county-wide town hall meetings to explain why
the project was needed.
In November, 2005, voters approved an $8.5 million bond to pay for the
expansion. The county had already set aside about $3.5 million to cover
the nearly $12 million cost to expand the facility and renovate the
existing jail, built in 1991.
“Commissioner’s Court selecting the citizens committee was certainly the
key (to getting the expansion built),” Sheriff Ronny Brownlow told
committee members before the tour. “You don’t have to look very far to
see that other folks have problems getting things done. This committee
came together as a group, worked in a timely fashion and I think without
it we wouldn’t be here today.”
The expansion is broken down into six areas, or “pods,” each of which
can house 48 inmates. One deputy from a station outside the cells can
watch each nearly hexagonal pod.
Every two pods share an exercise yard and multipurpose room.
In addition, the expansion includes several “separation cells,” for
The expansion was designed to be expandable, if needed. Areas like the
laundry and kitchen have spots already available for future equipment.
“I am very impressed by the construction and the standards these people
have met,” Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Orville Bevel said.
“There were some glitches they had to work through, but it is a very
impressive structure; well thought out. I think the architect did a
wonderful job of putting it together to meet the TDC (Texas Department
of Corrections) standards. I am just really pleased with the way it
went,” he said.
The most important people to thank are the voters, Bevel added.
“This would not have been accomplished if the citizens of this community
had not bought into the project,” he said.
Earlier this month, the county received word that the jail had passed
state inspection. The county is now waiting for the Texas Commission on
Jail Standards to issue a formal Certificate of Occupancy.
Although the exact date when prisoners will begin occupying the facility
is unknown, Lt. Ben Kinder, who led the tour, said officials hope it
will be sometime this month.
Remodeling of the existing jail is to be complete in August. A ribbon
cutting will follow.
“This is certainly one of the most significant issues we’ve
(Commissioners’ Court) addressed,” Holstein said. “It was a
collaborative effort. Without the support of the Citizens Advisory
Committee, commissioners, sheriff’s Department, architects and also the
people of Henderson County understanding the need for this, it would
have never happened.”
Monitor Photo/Michael Hannigan
Deputy Kevin Harris watches the monitors in the jail expansion's Master
Room while members of the Citizen's Advisory Committee tour the facility
Youth drowns in lake
Monitor Staff Reports
GUN BARREL CITY–A 20-year-old Seven Points man drowned in Cedar Creek
Lake while swimming off the Eastwood Isle Property Owners Association’s
park in Gun Barrel City late Monday afternoon.
According to Henderson County Sheriff’s Office information officer Lt.
Pat McWilliams, the young man, identified as Gregory Eugene Fields (also
known as Greg Wagner) was swimming with his 14-year-old younger brother
off the POA park.
The younger brother decided to swim from an inflatable raft to the
park’s pier, but looked back to see Fields in difficulty, and
disappearing under the water, McWilliams reported.
The youth immediately called 911 near 3:45 p.m., McWilliams said.
Volunteer firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and state game wardens all
responded to the call.
Using a sonar imager, sheriff’s deputies spotted what was thought to be
Fields’ body at 5:33 p.m. close to where he disappeared, and game
wardens recovered the body near 7:15 p.m., McWilliams reported.
“It was a really tragic deal,” McWilliams added. “He was in 18 feet of
water, but only 50 or 60 feet from shore.”
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Dale Blaylock held a brief inquest, and
ordered Fields’ body taken to the Southwestern Institute for Forensic
Medicine in Dallas for an autopsy.