Sunday, December 16, 2007






  No sign of missing woman
By Donna Limberger
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK—Law enforcement officials were hoping to find the body of missing Mabank resident Diane Hopson, 62, during a search warrant execution on the property of her alleged murderer, Johnson Walter Burris, 43, Mabank.
“We went to the Burris property before daylight on Friday. A helicopter crew used a FLIR device to search for temperature differential on the ground while it was still dark,” Van Zandt County Sheriff R. P. “Pat” Burnett told The Monitor.
After daybreak, a ground search included Mark 9, a nationally-recognized dog search and rescue team.
“We also did some digging on the property. The helicopter went back up to search from the air during the course of the day. Texas Parks and Wildlife Game wardens from three counties continue to search waterways,” Burnett added.
Hopson has been missing from her VZCR 2815 residence since Nov. 18 and blood evidence from Burris’s truck led to his recent arrest.
Daily searches are at an end, however authorities will continue to follow up on any breaking information received, Burnett said. Cases like this are always on the minds of investigators.
“We will not forget Mrs. Hopson. We will always be looking for her,” Burnett said.
Anyone with leads in the case is asked to call the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office at 903-567-4133, Van Zandt County Crimestoppers at 903-567-STOP (7867) or the Texas Rangers.

Aerial fireworks banned New Year’s
By Terry Britt
Monitor Staff Writer

There will be two types of fireworks people won’t be able to use on New Year’s Eve in Van Zandt County.
Last Tuesday, county commissioners approved a ban on “skyrockets with sticks” and “missiles with fins” in the unincorporated areas, due to the currently high chance for wildfires.
“We’re already seeing waist high vegetation that would ignite easily, it is so dry,” Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Charles Allen said.
“We’ve had some rain lately, and people think because the ground is saturated, everything is OK. But the high vegetation is dead,” he added and will burn quickly.
The ban does not include common fireworks – also known as Class C explosives – like firecrackers, or large fireworks designed for visual or audio effects, and Roman candles.
“We’re in an extremely dangerous wildfire season,” Van Zandt County Judge Rhita Koches said. “This ban will cover things like bottle rockets, which people have no control over where they wind up.”
Allen later said the hazardous ground situation resulted from the heavy rainfall during the summer.
“We’re not used to the heavy rain we had this year ... people have not mowed pastures and done little to keep it (vegetation) down,” he said.
Allen also said fireworks vendors caught selling the banned items would be issued a warning. A second violation would result in a citation, he said.
Near the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Koches presented a gift to retiring county employee Louise Travis for her 15 years of service.
In other business, commissioners:
• awarded a bid for materials to Municipal Waterworks for a water system expansion project for Golden Water Service Corporation.
• accepted a petition from property owners to close one-tenth mile of the northwest portion of Van Zandt County Road 2217, located off Farm-to-Market Road 1651 in Precinct 2 and set a public hearing for Tuesday, Jan. 8.
• received the annual report from the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
• tabled plat approval for the Mossy Oak Subdivision in Precinct 4.
• approved a request to rescind the plat for the High Meadow Estates Unit 2 and return the property to its original survey prior to filing.
• named Doyle Milliorn, Joe Sutton and Mary Ann Ritchie Fisher to two-year terms, and John Teague and John Pryor to one-year terms on the Van Zandt County Emergency Services District No. 2.
• approved a contract NET Data for credit card and debit card processing through Chase Paymentech.
• approved a bond for county auditor John Shinn.
• approved an emergency budget transfer of $650 to the Van Zandt County Library, received from a Wal-Mart grant.
• approved interlocal agreements between Precinct 3 and Greenwood Cemetery Association and between Precinct 1 and the Creagleville Cemetery Association.
• reviewed a Mutual Aid Fire Protection agreement executed by all county fire departments.
• chose East Texas Testing of Palestine to conduct random drug and alcohol testing for county employees holding a commercial driving license.
• agreed to seek bids for the county’s jail prescription drugs contract.
• decided to finance the purchase of four vehicles for the sheriff’s office and a dump truck for the Precinct 2 Road and Bridge Department with Government Capital.
• approved end-of-year inter-account transfers for the sheriff’s office, TAN fund, county jail, general fund and debt service.
• approved an emergency budget amendment in the sheriff’s office vehicle maintenance budget to accommodate insurance checks received totaling $13,544.47.
• set the next commissioners’ meeting for 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 27.

Seven Points officers get taser training
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS–Members of the Seven Points Police Department know what it feels like to be hit with a taser weapon.
That’s because during their initial training on the use of the electronic incapacitating device, they each experience its effects – personally.
This is the third such training Police Chief Wayne Nutt has set up for his officers.
The weapon was added to the department just last year and has been used about half a dozen times, he said.
A taser conducts energy in the form of an electric shock which renders the subject completely helpless – long enough for an officer to secure a dangerous or out-of-control person with little injury to himself or the officer.
The threat of its use also seems to have the same effect.
Nutt told The Monitor about the incident that demonstrated the city’s use for the weapon.
A rather large man, recently released from the penitentiary had been making threats in a nearby RV park and officers were called out to intervene.
“He kept saying, ‘I’m not going back to prison,’” Nutt retold it. And the suspect wouldn’t give up. Officers were at a stand still. They knew if they used force someone was going to get hurt.
“So, I called Gun Barrel City, because I had heard they had a taser weapon, but they really didn’t,” Nutt said. The suspect was told an officer with a taser was on his way, and he’d better surrender. However, he stood his ground.
Then, the officer arrived. and Nutt told him the taser was here. “He immediately put his hands on the hood of the car and gave up,” Nutt said.
“That’s what really solidified it for me, so I worked to get us a taser,” Nutt said.
That same scenario has played out in many more cases, he added.
Lt. Michael Iwanicki, then a gun shop operator, donated the first taser to the department and conducted the training. And this year, the department purchased a second one.
“Used at the right time, they’re an excellent tool,” Nutt said.
A compressed nitrogen cartridge propels two probes a maximum of 21 feet. The barbed probes are connected to the gun by thin copper wire which conducts an electrical signal.
The signal disrupts the body’s ability to communicate messages between the brain and the muscles and causes motor skill dysfunction.
The weapon is not meant to be used in deadly force situations or without a firearm backup.
It provides a force option without having the officer get into deadly close proximity to the threat. Tasers greatly reduce the need for other types of physical force by the officer, which may result in serious or potential deadly injury to the offender, officer or others present.
Once certified, officers undergo a recertification process annually. The four-hour session ends with a written test.
In December, 10 of the department’s officers attended the training session, which was also video taped.
Following the use of a taser, officers are required to summon medical personnel to the scene to assess the subject.
Officers may remove the probes as long as they are not lodged in sensitive areas such as the face, neck, groin or breast.
Photos must also be taken of the probe impact sites and any other related injuries.
When a cartridge is fired pink and clear colored micro-dots are also dispersed. These carry a serial number for tracking purposes.
The officer firing a taser must also attempt to locate and identify any witnesses to the incident.