Killer gets free, gets caught,
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–Shortly after a jury found murder defendant Donnie Ray Westbrook,
32, guilty Tuesday, Westbrook escaped from custody and remained at-large
until noon Wednesday, when he turned himself in.
The Athens police department responded to a call from Regal Monument, a
business on East Corsicana Street a short distance from the court from
which Westbrook fled, and now was returned.
Wednesday afternoon, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing
Jerry Jason Huff, 41, in Cherokee Shores last November. He may also face
additional charges for the escape.
The county’s First Call system was activated to warn citizens in the
vicinity of the courthouse that a fugitive was at-large.
Sheriff’s Office Deputy Glenn Loper was escorting Westbrook from the
392nd District Court to the holding cell to shackle him, when Westbrook
elbowed him and ran, exiting the building through a nearby side door,
Sheriff Ray Nutt stated in a press release Wednesday.
“The side door is one that you can exit from without a code or key,”
The Athens Police Department, Texas Public Safety, Game Wardens and the
District Attorney Office assisted the sheriff in trying to find
Westbrook, without success.
During the week-long trial, the jury heard testimony from the victim, as
told to investigator Michael Shelley on Nov. 3, two days after Huff was
stabbed in Cherokee Shores.
Huff was found lying in the middle of Huntoon Trail shortly after 10:30
p.m. Nov. 1.
Before losing consciousness, Huff told authorities he had been stabbed
in the stomach with a butcher knife.
Huff died after having surgery several days after the incident. His
stomach, liver and diaphragm were severely injured.
Shelley testified that he interviewed Huff at East Texas Medical Center
in Tyler Nov. 3.
Huff said he had ridden up on a bicycle. Westbrook and his father,
Donnie Dixon, approached him. Dixon said “this is who caused you to go
to prison for 10 years.”
“Then he just stabbed me,” Huff told Shelley. “I looked down and I saw
his hand wrapped in some kind of Ace bandage holding on to the knife.”
(Westbrook was sentenced to eight years confinement on burglary of a
habitation conviction in 1997.)
Monday, Judge Carter Tarrance allowed District Attorney Scott McKee to
read a letter aloud in court that described a plan to help Westbrook
beat the charge.
Detention officer Mike Myntti testified he had retrieved the torn-up
letter from Westbrook’s isolation cell.
It had been allegedly written to Kelly Green, who had met Westbrook at
Terrell State Hospital.
The message asked Green to get someone to write a letter pretending to
be a close friend of Huff’s, saying they want to be honest about what
happened and who really killed him and why.
The letter was to say that Huff stole $600 worth of drugs from someone,
and was willing to blame Westbrook for it.
“I don’t believe in someone doing time for something they didn’t do. I
would have said something sooner, but Jerry told me if I said anything
about it he would kill me,” the letter stated.
Defense attorney Mike Head strongly objected to the letter being read
aloud to the jury.
Myntti testified to it having to have been written by Westbrook, as the
trash in the isolation cell is always emptied between uses. Westbrook
was put into isolation for possible suicidal tendencies.
introduced to new high school
Monitor Staff Reports
KEMP–Incoming Kemp High School freshmen got a crash course in
map-reading, along with an introduction to high school protocols Monday,
as the annual “Fish Camp” was held in the new high school for the first
Kemp Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Peter Running (at
podium) welcomes new Kemp High School freshmen to the first “Fish Camp”
held at the new KHS campus Monday. Running asked the students to make
every effort to be present every day, as the school's state funding
depends on attendance.
The new school has two floors, and high school principal Kurt
Schumacher warned the freshmen gathered in the new auditorium that he
collects a commission on all “elevator passes” sold by upperclassmen.
Of course, there are no elevator passes – everybody has to take the
stairs, Schumacher pointed out.
Kemp Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Peter Running
offered a formal welcome to the gathered students and parents, and asked
them to work hard at coming to school every day.
The school gets paid by the state on the basis of attendance, so it’s
very important from a business standpoint for students to attend
classes, Running explained.
“Please help us with this,” he added. “We really need your help.”
Joining Schumacher this year is new assistant principal Marietta
Maxwell formerly served as the Family and Consumer Sciences instructor,
a job now taken over by newcomer Stephanie Kinsey.
Other newcomers to the KHS faculty this fall include Spanish teacher Kim
Edwards, science teacher/soccer coach Jason Thomas, science teacher
Buddy Morgan and new full-time athletic trainer Eric Cabral.
Members of the high school Beta Club explained the school dress code to
School nurse Liz Thorne explained no youngster who had not provided
proof they had all required inoculations would be allowed to attend
Counselor Kay Leifeste spoke to the students about planning course
outlines, and athletic director Greg Anderson outlined requirements for
participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports or band.
The bus lane on the south side of the main building will be for buses
only, Schumacher said. Parents dropping off children in private vehicles
should do so at the main front entrance.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Debbie and Ty King, along with son Trevor, look over maps of the new
Kemp High School as they try to find Trevor's assigned classrooms during
“Fish Camp” Monday. Debbie King admitted the family was “completely
lost” in the sprawling new complex.
There were about 185 student parking spaces at the old high school
campus, and the new school has about 200 spaces, Schumacher said.
Students will continue an eight-period day, with 48-minute classes
beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 3:38 p.m., Schumacher said. Students
will have four minutes to change classes between periods.
On the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 24, freshmen again will gather
in the auditorium for a brief orientation period before dispersing to
classes, he told the gathering.
There will be two lunch periods, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:08 p.m. and from
12:31 to 1:01 p.m.
It’s expected there will be some last-minute touch-up construction still
going on for at least the first couple of weeks, although the school is
The first holiday of the year will be Monday, Sept. 7, when classes will
dismiss for Labor Day.
Students will have the annual State Fair Day Oct. 12, and will have a
three-day break for Thanksgiving Nov. 25-27.
Christmas break will be from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1, 2010, with another
student holiday for teacher in-service Jan. 4.
Spring break will be March 15-19, with two bad weather days built in
April 2 and June 4 (a staff development day). School will dismiss for
the summer June 3, with graduation May 29.
Monday holidays will be observed Jan. 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
and May 31 (Memorial Day).
Officers clear cases, recover
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–Henderson County Sheriff’s Office investigators were able to
close several recent burglary and theft cases, and recovered more than
$5,000 in stolen property.
Following a lengthy investigation, Aug. 4, investigators Kalon Rollins
and Bryan Tower obtained a search warrant for a property along County
Road 2904, off Farm-to-Market 2709 in Eustace.
Tower, County Sheriff Ray Nutt, Maj. Kevin Hanes, Capt. Kay Langford,
Sgt. Mitch Baker and deputy John Haverly executed the warrant, and
recovered a car hauler that had been stolen in Payne Springs back in
The officers also recovered a U-Haul cargo trailer, Nutt reported in a
prepared news release, adding the case is still under investigation.
Aug. 12, Tower recovered two firearms taken in a July burglary on CR
2813. Tower developed a suspect in the case, a 19-year-old Eustace man,
but the burglary victim has declined to pursue formal charges so far,
Aug. 13, Tower and narcotics investigators Ronnie Halbert, Darrell
Waller and Kenny Collard recovered a 36-inch flat-screen television that
had been reported stolen in a burglary of the Aley Methodist Church, off
FM 85 in Seven Points, that very morning.
Tower obtained an audio confession from a 17-year-old Kemp man, but the
church has requested no formal charges be filed, Nutt reported.
That same day, Tower, Halbert, Waller and Collard went to a Seven Points
residence on CR 2104 and obtained consent to search the residence.
Officers located 11 vehicle transmissions that still had inventory tags
attached to them, Nutt reported.
Officers also located a large-frame dirt bike motorcycle in a burn pile
at the residence.
Texas Department of Public Safety Auto Theft Sgt. Richard Fulton
responded to assist in the investigation, and reported the transmissions
were taken during a burglary at C&W Auto Salvage in Seven Points.
The motorcycle is being tracked by Fulton, and investigation is
continuing, Nutt reported.