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Letha Westfall pleads guilty, sentenced to life in prison

Letha Wesfall is escorted into court in Woodville Tuesday where she pled guilty to Engaging Organized Criminal Activity. She was sentenced to life in prison. (Emily Waldrep Photo)Letha Wesfall is escorted into court in Woodville Tuesday where she pled guilty to Engaging Organized Criminal Activity. She was sentenced to life in prison. (Emily Waldrep Photo)

by Emily Waldrep

On May 24, Letha Westfall was brought to the Tyler County Courthouse by Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford to enter a plea agreement in the January 18, 2014 murder of Nathan and Krystal Maddox. Nathan and Krystal were shot in the parking lot of Mt. Caramel Baptist Church in Colmesneil following a supervised visitation with Nathan's five-year-old daughter.

Letha Westfall pled guilty to the charge of Engaging Organized Criminal Activity and was sentenced to life in prison.
Members of Nathan and Crystal's family filled the emotional court room as the charge was handed down, and were allowed to make victim statements following the charge. Westfall sat emotionless as the statements were being made.

"Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die," said Jim Maddox, Nathan Maddox's father to Letha. "I forgive you, but I am not God. Our family will never be the same but we pick up the pieces and we move forward. Some days are easier than others. But because of this, so many lives have changed."

Nathan's mother, Kelli Haggard also made a statement to Letha. "I relive that day every single day of my life, and I can only hope that you live a very, very long life and that this haunts you like it haunts me every time I take a breath."
As part of the plea bargain, Letha Westfall will be required to be a cooperative witness in the trials of Paul, Kristen or Cameron Westfall at a later date if they occur.

The Tyler County Booster will continue to closely follow this story as other members of the family ultimately get their day in court.

Be sure to follow continuing coverage of this story, and others, at www.tylercountybooster.com.

Andrew Linscomb arrested in shooting death of Tonia Linscomb

Andrew "AJ" Lipscomb arrives at Tyler County Justice Center following his arrest Friday for the murder of Tonia Lipscomb March 14. (Jim Powers Photo)Andrew "AJ" Linscomb arrives at Tyler County Justice Center following his arrest Friday for the murder of Tonia Linscomb March 14. (Jim Powers Photo)

by Emily Waldrep

Andrew "AJ" Linscomb was arrested at a Houston hospital Friday in the March 14, 2016 shooting death of Tonia Linscomb. The shooting took place on County Road 3240, east of Colmesneil.

At approximately 8:30 a.m on March 14, the Tyler County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call with a male caller stating that he had shot his wife and himself.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, once on scene at the residence, Deputies observed an infant baby in the open front door area of the residence. The infant appeared to be unharmed. During a search of the residence Deputies discovered a white female, identified as Tonia Linscomb, and a white male, Andrew Linscomb, both with apparent gunshot wounds. Andrew was transferred by Air Ambulance to a hospital in Beaumont. Mrs. Linscomb was pronounced dead at the scene by Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford.

"Numerous evidence items, including a 9mm handgun, were collected at the scene by Investigators from the Tyler County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Rangers," Weatherford said.

Tonia age 39, and Andrew age 41, were husband and wife, residents of Colmesneil.
The infant baby was their Grandchild, which was returned to the Mother unharmed.

On Friday, May 6, 2016, at approximately 1:15pm, Tyler County Sheriff's Office Investigators arrested Andrew "AJ" Linscomb at a Houston hospital on a Murder Warrant.

"Linscomb has been in the Houston hospital since March 14, 2016 following a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Weatherford said. "Investigators believe on that date, Linscomb killed his wife, Tonia Linscomb, and then turned the gun on himself."

Linscomb was transported to the Tyler County Justice Center where he was booked into the jail, charged with Murder.

Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford set Linscomb's bond at $1.5 million.

Woodville ISD $30 million Bond Issue Fails 640 to 182 votes

Voters in Woodville soundly defeated a proposed bond in voting Saturday that would have provided $30 million dollars to finance a new high school, and renovations on Middle school, Elementary and Intermediate campuses.

The bond issue brought out crowds to a series of public hearings, with voters concerned that the public had not been involved soon enough in the process, and that the District was not specific enough about how the money would be spent.

Debris Removal Along County Roadways

April 28, 2016—Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette has issued the following statement:

The recent storm of April 27, 2016 has left downed trees and debris scattered throughout its path. This is reminiscent of the aftermath of hurricanes Rita and Ike. Those were both federally declared disasters, providing counties with clean-up funds. It appears unlikely this event will qualify for those funds. The damages to property owners and power companies versus public facilities are the reasons. Citizens in the unincorporated areas of the County should plan to dispose of their own debris from their properties. Residents living within the city limits of Woodville are provided debris clean-up as part of their city services.

Commissioners have observed many property owners placing debris adjacent to county roadways. Without federal funding, county funds will be spent on repairing damaged roads. Commissioners want citizens to understand the difference between this storm and previous federally funded storms. Should this disaster status change, we will alert you as soon as it becomes known. As always, your understanding and compliance allow your tax dollars to be directed to essential infrastructure needs.

Woodville ISD holds bond election public hearing, provides clarification to questions posed during meeting

by Jim Powers, Editor

Woodville ISD will hold a $30 million bond election May 7. The bond, if approved, will finance construction of a new High school, new baseball and softball fields, improvements and renovations at the Elementary, Intermediate and Middle school campuses, and will finance district-wide maintenance and repairs. A public hearing was held Thursday, April 14 in the High school library. Woodville ISD Superintendent Glenn Conner gave a presentation and answered questions from a crowd of people who attended the hearing. Another public hearing is scheduled Thursday, April 21, at 7 p.m. in the High School library.

Woodville ISD Superintendent Glenn Conner speaks during public hearing.Woodville ISD Superintendent Glenn Conner speaks during public hearing.The breakdown presented during the meeting allocates $21 million for a new High school, $5 million for new Baseball and Softball fields, $1.5 for upgrades to the Elementary and Intermediate schools, $250 thousand to update the Middle school, and another $2.25 million for district wide improvements.

Woodville residents at the meeting asked Conner numerous questions. The two biggest issues that surfaced during the meeting were a concern that the public had not been included in the process early enough, and that the "plan" for the use of the financing was so vague that tax-payers could not assess exactly how the money would be spent.

Superintendent Conner told the Booster Monday that he had followed up with research on many of the questions asked during the hearing, and sent additional clarifications to those questions. His clarifications in a Q&A format follow:

From 4-14-16 Meeting
Woodville ISD Public Meet ings Q & A

1. Why didn't the district fix all the ADA renovations if you had two years knowing this? CLARIFICATION: The District didn't think it was a fiscally-responsible use of the community's taxes to update all of the accessibility issues within facilities that need to be replaced based on current education requirements and standards.

2. What percent is this Architecture firm getting?
CLARIFICATION: It varies depending on the size and scope of the overall project. The District will not pay more than the industry standard for any professional services.

3. The Architecture firm should have had Pre Bond drawings and 3D renderings? They are not providing what other firms do.
CLARIFICATION: It is not always typical for publicly funded projects. The board feels it would not being fiscally-responsible for the District to spend money for the design of a facility which would not occur if the bond proposal is rejected by the community prior to the bond funds being available. Claycomb Associates has been exclusively designing school buildings and using this bond process for 30 years.

The level of detail typically shown in plans and 3-D renderings is developed following many meetings with school faculty/staff, and district personnel such as maintenance and custodial representatives. Relationships of spaces, diagrammatic adjacencies, preferred construction methods and materials, and efficiency of student movement within the space are just a few of the many items that are readily apparent in any drawing/rendering that are of necessity defined during the design process. Following the Schematic Design & Design Development phases of the design sequence, presentations are made to the District (typically at a regularly-scheduled School Board meeting) which the public is always invited.

It would be presumptuous for an architectural firm to provide a rendering of a new facility for a school district prior to beginning the design process. It would also be misleading to publish something with that level of detail that can and will evolve as the project is detailed.

At this time, we have a preliminary list of spaces which has been developed through meetings with the District's key personnel (Principals and Administration). We anticipate this list will be refined with the understanding of the district that the overall square footage cannot be increased based on faculty, administration and maintenance department input during the design meetings. With so many stakeholders coming together to design something as complex as a school facility, the design will be refined until all needs are satisfied. The final design of the school will be a customized response to the specific needs of the district, administration, staff, students and community of Woodville ISD.

4. Concerns over the contribution and collaboration with the local baseball fields. It feels like if the school doesn't continue to use this facility then we would lose little league in the community. CLARIFICATION: The District desires baseball and softball facilities on district property for maintenance, safety and security reasons, as well as the ability to upgrade and improve them as need arises. Having the fields on district-owned property reduces travel time.

5. Lack of communication with the community and with just two weeks away the sentiment was distrust and not being transparent.
CLARIFICATION: "Facilities Reports" has been a regular agenda item of each regularly scheduled School Board meeting since Jan. 2014. Special Workshops were scheduled in October '15, Nov. '15, Jan. 16 & Feb. '16 to discuss findings of the Facilities Assessment, and to formulate the District Master Facilities Plan. At the regularly scheduled Feb. '16 board meeting the bond was called to initiate the first phase of the District's Master Facilities Plan. An earlier public meeting was rescheduled due to recent events (bus accident). Those who attended these meetings understand the District has been very transparent with this bond issue.

6. Several said," People in town are unaware of this bond. "
CLARIFICATION: see item 5. That is the purpose of this meeting and the other presentations I have been presenting (such as the Lion's club, etc.).

7. How did we come up with 600 student campus?
CLARIFICATION: Based on current enrollment and anticipated growth.

8. There were no particulars about the building and so how could the district ask them to vote for a bond that they do not even know what is going to be in it.
CLARIFICATION: see item 3. A summary of the programmatic spaces, (sq. ft.), within the new high school was developed and can be provided. The space programming information was used to determine the student needs for the Woodville ISD facilities. Facilities constructed using the updated information would give our students opportunities equal to students from other districts with new or updated buildings. There is enough time between now and the Election Day to make that decision.

The high school was chosen for the first phase because the community will get more bang for their buck (by avoiding future inflation and this facility will be utilized by more students sooner than the other campuses). Per our financial advisor, many districts in our position make this same decision for the same reasons. Our facilities have served their function for many years and are now outdated and in need of repair. If our students are to remain safe and have a chance at competing with their peers it is now time to replace rather than continuing to patch and repair.

9. How long until the next phase of the Master Facilities Plan will be implemented?
CLARIFICATION: this cannot be determined due to not being able to predict:
a. What modifications will be made to the Texas Education Agency requirements (which are adjusted yearly)
b. How the local economy will do in the future
c. The desire of Community to continue to improve their facilities.

10. Why does it cost so much?
CLARIFICATION: Code requirements (based on type of usage) are more stringent on all elements of the building (items such as floors, walls & ceilings, mechanical/HVAC, electrical), lifespan & durability of quality materials is an important first-cost consideration, and labor rates are constantly changing based on availability of construction trade workers.

11. Why don't we continue to fix/renovate existing facilities as it becomes necessary instead of designing a new facility?
CLARIFICATION: In an era of heightened security concerns and energy conservation, a new facility can best meet those needs as opposed to an existing facility that was constructed over 30 years ago. Several of the core elements at the existing high school are prohibitively expensive to renovate such as expanding the Media Center to meet current TEA requirements, increasing the kitchen capacity & improving its condition, and providing accessible paths to the disconnected buildings that comprise the high school campus.

Two Woodville men drug possession near Warren after suspicious activity at abandoned house

by Emily Waldrep

On April 15 at approximately 2:30 p.m., Tyler County Deputies responded to a suspicious vehicle located at a residence South of Warren on Highway 69. According to the caller, two white males exited the vehicle and entered the woods near an abandoned house.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, deputies arrived approximately five minutes later and were able to locate one of the individuals, identified as James Mahaffey, age 43, of Woodville.

According to Mahaffey, he and his cousin "Justin Lewis" were looking at the property in order to maybe purchase it. According to Mahaffey, his cousin "Justin" ran off into the woods when neighbors to the property began to approach them.

"During a pat down of Mahaffey, deputies discovered Marijuana in his jacket pocket," Weatherford said. "Marijuana was also located in the vehicle during a consent to search."

A short time later, deputies found the other white male, identified as Lonzo Lewis Jr., age 42, also of Woodville, near the abandoned house. Mahaffey and Lewis were booked into the Tyler County Jail, charged with Possession of Marijuana. Both could face additional charges in reference to the abandoned house.