Chester Post Office looks to cut hours

Lufkin Post Master Robert Austin and Chester Post Master Sarah Bourne met with Chester residents Monday to discuss likelihood of a four-hour dayLufkin Post Master Robert Austin and Chester Post Master Sarah Bourne met with Chester residents Monday to discuss likelihood of a four-hour dayby Michael G. Maness

Chester Post Office will likely reduce hours from the current seven hours to four hours, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Friday soon.

The U.S. Postal Service hosted a community information meeting Monday night, March 3, at Chester school cafeteria. The USPS's POST Plan had reviewed the Chester Post Office and presented the results of a survey sent out to Chester residents over a month ago.

Lufkin Post Master Bob Austin was there to lead the meeting with Chester Post Master Sarah Bourne. The survey was sent to 397 residents, and 96 responded. Among the responses, the top three results on recommended hours included 28 residents preferring 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 20 preferring 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and nine preferring 10 a.m. to 2 pm.

Chester Post Office is currently open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Austin said that when one looks at the number of transactions and the amount of revenue earned, "you are looking at a four-hour operating window." Among the operational demands, the mail has to be distributed to the carrier by 10 a.m. and Post Office mail has to be up by 10:30 a.m.

There are a lot of reasons to consider the change. As many know, the USPS is self-sustaining and reduction is a nationwide necessity to keep the service running. If the Chester office was closed, the current closest alternatives are Camden at 9.7 miles, Corrigan at 14.8 miles, and Colmesneil at 15 miles away - none of which are very convenient alternatives.

Austin mentioned that there was the possibility of a Village Post Office, where a local business might decide to sell stamps and such, with the USPS providing the stamps at a reduced rate to allow the business to recover some costs.

Austin said the likelihood of Chester going to the four-hour window of 8 a.m. until 12 noon soon is "very good," the final decision coming from headquarters in Washington D.C.

One resident asked if this was a step in the direction of closure of the Chester Post Office. Austin emphasized that this was not the first step to a potential closure. Rather, this was the POST Plan procedure with no foreseeable closure in the works.

Bourne has plans to stay on as post master after the changes that likely could come about in a week or two.

Babin tops votes locally,Cloy leads Hunt in close D.A. race

Tyler County voters went to the polls Tuesday, and the counts are in. Don't forget that these results are provisional, and potential changes are subject to recounts. To win the primary in Texas, the candidate has to poll over 50 percent of the vote, regardless of how many votes received.

There were a few closely watched races in Tyler County. In the Criminal District Attorney race, Lou Ann Cloy narrowly taking 50.62 percent of the votes, polling 1,230 votes to Hunt's 1,200.

In the County Treasurer race, Sue Saunders took 69.23 percent of the vote, 1, 474 to Kathryn Bergold's 655. Saunders will run against incumbent Treasurer Sharon Fuller in the General Election.

County Commissioner Precinct 2 race resulted in James "Rusty" Hughes drawing 481 votes to Terry Riley's 409. Hughes took 54.04 percent of the votes.

There was no clear winner in the Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 race. Michael Maness drew 332 votes, Greg Dawson 323 and Royce Hill 177. None of them had over 50 percent, which sets up a runoff May 27.

Woodville dentist Dr. Brian Babin pulled the most votes among the large slate of contenders for U.S. Representative, District 36. Babin drew 1,892 county votes, and 17,167 state wide. Ben Streusand was his closet competitor, polling 12,009 votes.

No other local races were contested.

A PDF of all the local election returns is here.

Letha Westfall now suspect in Nathan and Krystal Maddox murders

by Emily Waldrep

Tyler County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Phil Ryan says that Letha Westfall is now officially a suspect in the murders of Nathan and Krystal Maddox that occurred at Mount Caramel Baptist Church in January.

Tyler County Sheriff's Office was notified this week by Jasper Police Department that Letha Westfall, a resident of Tyler County, had an outstanding felony warrant  for Possession of a Controlled Substance by Fraud, issued by Judge Barbara Jackson of Jasper.

"Westfall, a suspect in the murders of her ex son-in-law Nathan Bradley Maddox and Krystal Maddox, was arrested at her residence without incident and booked into the Tyler County Jail," said Ryan.

The Tyler County Sheriff's Office, Texas Ranger and the FBI continue the investigation of the murders that took place on January 18 on the front steps of the secluded Colmesneil Church.

"The double homicide investigation continues to progress each day but anyone with additional information is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office," Ryan said.

The arrest of Westfall was unrelated to the Tyler County homicide investigation.

Fred mother arrested for child endangerment

by Emily Waldrep

A Fred mother was arrested February 20 in Fred after her two children, ages 2 and 4, left her home and wandered across a major highway alone.

Deputies were dispatched to CR 4644 in Fred after a call was received reporting two children were missing. While en route, the deputy was advised that the children had been found at the Fred Grocery Store. The children's mother was identified as Summer Dawn McCoy, age 21, of Fred.

McCoy reported that she had been sleeping and that when she woke up the door to the house was open and the kids were gone. The children said they left the home to go play near a church down the road. The mother said it was not the first time the children had left the house in a similar fashion.

"The kids would have had to walk down two county roads and then cross Highway 92 to get to where they were," said Chief Deputy Phil Ryan.

Highway 92 is a dangerous, major highway for anyone to be crossing and is much more dangerous and even deadly for young children to be crossing unattended.

McCoy was placed under arrest for Endangering a Child and the children were turned over the custody of their grandmother.

CPS was also notified, and there will be a follow up investigation.

Law Enforcement officials say "thanks" to a witness of the event who stopped the children from crossing Highway 92 a second time and was able to pick them up and take them to Fred Grocery, avoiding a possible disaster.

Search for truant student leads to two arrests

by Emily Waldrep

Several deputies, along with Woodville School Resource Officer Bubba Sheffield, were checking on the welfare of a 14-year-old truant child in Ivanhoe Tuesday, February 11, when they found the child living in deplorable living conditions with her mother and another male.

"At the time of the investigation the temperature was extremely cold," said Chief Deputy Phil Ryan. "There was no running water, no electricity, no heat and almost all of the windows were busted out of the mobile home."

Child Protective Services (CPS) was notified of the condition of the home, but decided that since the child was 14 years old, they felt like the child was in no danger.

"We were not happy with CPS's decision to take no action on behalf of child," Ryan said.
The white male that was living in the residence was not related to the child and was reported to be the boyfriend of the child's mother. He said his name was Jordan Terrell. Officers felt he was lying transported him to the jail where his fingerprints were run through the system. His fingerprints identified him as Jeremy Hopkins, age 21.

Hopkins was wanted for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, along with Failure to Register as a Sex Offender, and was arrested on both of those charges, as well as a new charge from Tyler County, Failing to Identify as a Fugitive From Justice.

The mother of the child, who was not identified, was also arrested for an outstanding warrant.
Tyler County Sheriff's Department was able to place the child with her father until better accommodations could be made, although CPS did not step in.


Continuance granted in Maddox child custody hearing

A Tyler County Court has granted a continuance until April 9 in the child custody hearing of Madison Maddox, the five-year-old daughter of Nathan Maddox, who, with his wife Krystal, was murdered outside Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Colmenseil January 19.

Madison, who was living with her paternal grandparents, Paul and Letha Westfall, and her mother, Kristen Westfall, will remain in foster care until the judge makes a custody decision. Madison was removed from the Westfall's home shortly after the incident.

Coy Lee Collins, a special investigator with Child Protective Services (CPS), testified at the first hearing that Madison was removed from the Westfall's care and placed into foster care because methamphetamine residue, a syringe and a loaded .22 revolver were found in the Westfall's home, and could be accessible to the five year old. Collins also said there were sanitation concerns because of raw sewage on the property.

Madison's paternal grandfather, Jim Maddox, said that he was just interested in the child's safety. "At this point the main thing is Madison's safety, and it is not a matter of what I want or my wife wants or what the Westfalls want," Maddox said. "It is all about Madison's safety."

There are several agencies working on the murder case. All leads are being taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

"We have some excellent agencies from the Tyler County Sheriff's Department, Texas Rangers, and even the FBI who have come in," Maddox said. "They have been available as far as resources and council with law enforcement."

Anyone with information about the murder should phone Tyler County Sheriff's Department at (409) 283-2172.