Family and friends of Ben Mills, the Warren teenager who died Wednesday, are mourning the loss of a friend, classmate and all around great person.
Ben was reportedly trying to jump-start a lawn mower on Wednesday, July 18, when it electrocuted him. Tyler County EMS was not able to revive Mills once they arrived on scene.
The day after the accident, students, teachers and friends held a memorial for Ben at the High School.
"Words cannot express the depth of our feeling and loss over our nephew, Benjamin," says Rebekah Klauss. "It was very comforting to see the outpouring of love and respect from his peers at Warren High School. We, like so many others, will always remember the brightness of his smile."
Friends of Ben also expressed their deep sadness at the loss of such a great friend.
"I miss you already Ben," says Laci Gibson. "You were so smart and had such wonderful plans for your life. I just wish you could have stayed here with us."
Services for Ben Mills were held Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at Allison Cemetery at 10 a.m. According to Ben's sister, Ben would not want anyone to wear black and the family encourages attendees to wear colorful clothing.
"Benjamin was a very happy person and always said if he could make his funeral a party, he would," says Pricilla Mills, "this is for my Benny, and I know that's what he would want."
The family also needs help covering funeral expenses, and an account has been opened up in Ben's name at Citizens State Bank in Warren. The account number is 1500092734.
Tyler County Sheriff's Deputy Stephanie Byrum on July 16 responded to calls about a passenger car that was said to be acting in an offensive manner in a public place and discovered a large amount of illegal drugs earlier this week. Byrum located the car in Colmesneil, and with an off duty police officer, Elbert Sheffield, who had also responded to the call, discovered that the driver of the vehicle was an unnamed juvenile, and the passenger was identified as Deanna Kay Accutteroop. After investigating the vehicle, officers found various drug paraphernalia as well as seven crack cocaine rocks, methamphetamine, marijuana, and other pills.
Both Accutteroop and the juvenile were charged with possession, and were transported to the jail and juvenile detention center.
They were charged with Possession Penalty Group 1; more than 1 gram and less than 4 grams, two counts of Possession penalty group 1; less than one gram, Possession of Marijuana; less than 2 ounces, Possession Penalty Group 3; less than 28 grams, and Possession of Dangerous Drugs.
The total bond amount was set at $28,000 for all of the charges.
Woodville Police Sergeant Hicks and Officer Elbert Sheffield were called to Citizens State Bank on July 16 to investigate a theft call that Brookshire Brothers had reported to the bank staff. According to Brookshire Brothers staff, a deposit that should have been made by one of the managers on July 16 was never received.
A review of the surveillance tape of the night deposit box revealed an unidentified person wearing a hoodie taking the deposit out of the night drop box. After officers received a copy of the video they called the assistant manager of Brookshire Brothers, identified as Jacob Allen Sheffield, age 23 of Spurger, in for questioning. During the interview, Sheffield went from being a source of information about the crime to a suspect in the theft.
After the initial interview, Sheffield was questioned further and admitted to organizing a scam to steal the money. Sheffield was then charged with felony theft and booked into Tyler County Jail. His accomplice, Karston Chatlain, age 22, of Sour Lake, was also charged with felony theft and turned himself in on July 17.
According to Sheffield, when he went to drop the deposit off in the night drop box, he wedged the door open so that it would not close. Chatlain was then instructed to walk behind him and take the moneybag from the box.
Sergeant Hicks said that it was obvious in the video surveillance that this was an organized crime, and Sheffield can be seen jamming the drop box door while Chatlain stands near the box and quickly grabs the money bag as soon as Sheffield walks away.
A third man has been charged with theft regarding the stolen money bag from Brookshire Brothers on July 16.
Jonathan Allen Arceneaux, age 21 from Port Arthur was booked into jail on July 17, shortly after the other two accomplices in the crime were arrested.
According to reports, Arceneaux had been paid $700 dollars to drive Chatlain from Sour Lake to Woodville, where Sheffield and Chatlain stole a money bag from Brookshire Brothers deposit box.
The $700 dollars paid to Arceneaux has been recovered and all three men face felony theft charges.
All of the money reported stolen has been recovered.
As I sit here listening to the rain on the metal roof of the Emergency Operations Center I contemplate how ironic it is that while it is raining I am trying to figure out the division of the money received for the Wildfire Disaster activities during the drought of last year. Nature is sending us relief from the drought in the form of rain and the Federal and State Government is sending us financial relief for our Fire Departments for fighting those fires.
Today, July 10th, 2012 two payments were received by the Tyler County Treasurer. The funds were direct-deposited and the Auditor was notified of the receipt. I was given a copy of the money transfer receipt from the State to Tyler County but there was no clear indication what the money was for. Only that they were both for Disaster Relief #1999. The two checks (totaling over $75,000) is a welcome dilemma to encounter. What I figured out is these checks along with another for almost forty thousand dollars, already received and distributed, covers the fire Departments activities during the time period of April 6 to August 31. This money (totaling $115,000) represents almost all that is due the departments for this time period. The amount remaining is being withheld by the State and FEMA until the final audit of the paperwork which could be as much as a year or two down the road. This amount is probably around $4,500. Whenever that is released, it too will be delivered to the Volunteer Fire Departments.
The money that was received reimburses the Volunteer Fire Departments for the use of their equipment in firefighting operations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) policy is to reimburse at a rate of 75 percent value of the equipment use and other expenses incurred. The remaining 25 percent is the local share or responsibility. On this disaster, FEMA has allowed the local entities to use their donated resources (mainly firefighter labor) to offset that 25 percent.
One check that was received is for the equipment usage for the time period of May 4 to August 31 ($45,924.53). This is 75 percent of the equipment use value claimed, less a 10 percent withholding till the audit. The other payment I learned was the release of the local match of 25 percent when that was found to be covered by firefighter labor. You recall the first payment received and distributed (just under $ 40,000) was for the time period of April 6 to May 3. This second payment (over $30,297.17) represents 25 percent of the time period of April 6 to May 3 added to the 25 percent of the time period of May 4 to August 31.
Checks will be immediately cut and delivered to the volunteer fire departments that are due them.
Still pending is the reimbursement for the time period of September 1 to December 31 and the 10 percent withheld pending audit.
This process, now approaching completion has been quite a challenge for me. The Wildfire Disaster was my first dealings with FEMA and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). Although I had no idea or experience creating the reports, I was working with FEMA personnel who also were encountering a new and different disaster that none of them had worked before. They did not know how this was going to play out. It was through trial and error and an incorporation of ideas that worked best from many different sources that brought us through the process and to this point.
I have heard many horror stories of problems dealing with FEMA and TDEM in disaster situations. My experience was that they were the nicest and most agreeable people to deal with. It was not all a piece of cake or wine and roses. There were points of contention. I stood my ground where I believed I had merit and with proper explanations won those points and kept my claim intact. However, when my cause was not so good, I did not push that issue. Like most things, common sense and good relations carried the day and Tyler County claims were much of the basis for establishment of the norm or model that was used by the other counties that followed. As far as I know, we were the first to receive the first payment and again, I believe we are the first to get this payment.
I hope this keeps everyone informed of the activities that are occurring every day to insure that Tyler County has the best services possible and can respond effectively to any situation that my occur.
There is no doubt that Tyler County needed the recent rains and cooler weather that the last couple of days have held, but it looks like the next 10 days hold high chances of rain as well.
The weekend holds a 40-50 percent chance of thunderstorms, and then throughout the following week the rain will be in and out of Tyler County. Monday, July 16 holds a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms according to the Weather Channel. The storms should slack off a bit on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the weather is still expected to be damp, overcast and muggy. After Wednesday, the thunderstorm chances jump up to 60% for the rest of the week.
Tyler County hasn't seen 10 days of rain since the summer began, and compared to the severe drought conditions we faced in 2011, not many people are complaining.
But, this much rain sometimes causes some dangerous conditions. As of July 12, Tyler County is under not one, but two flood advisories and one flash flood watch. According to the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Tyler County's small streams and poor drainage areas are at risk for minor flooding. Over the past six hours, rainfall estimates of 2 to 6 inches have fallen in the county, with isolated amounts approaching 5 inches.
The more serious Flash Flood Watch will be in effect for southern Tyler County until about 7:00p.m on July 12. Rainfall amounts throughout the rest of the evening are expected to reach 1 to 3 inches throughout the morning and 5 inches will be possible if some heavier storms move through the area. This could result in as many as 10 inches of rain in some areas.
"A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding," says a statement from the National Weather Service. "Flash Flooding is a very dangerous situation. You should monitor later forecast and be prepared to take action should a more serious Flash Flood Warning be issued."
Citizens should never drive through puddles or water in the roadway that may be too deep, and should always use cautions when navigating wet roadways.