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Cleaning up the county

By Caitlin McAlister
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Tyler County has a litter problem.

Every day, people throw trash out onto roads all over the county. A local movement, Keep Tyler County Clean, has recently begun trying to address the issue of garbage thrown out alongside roadways in Tyler County.

"It's a noticeable problem unique to East Texas," John Wilson, founder of Keep Tyler County Clean, said. "Other areas in Texas are doing better than we are. It doesn't have to be this way."

Wilson, a Woodville resident, began Keep Tyler County Clean after taking an interest in the issue of litter along county roadways.

"The county and city don't have the resources," he said. "They basically don't have the money or the manpower to pick up trash." He said that the state picks up litter along highways twice a year, but that those areas become dirty again soon after being cleaned up.

Wilson said that the amount of litter along some roadways is excessive.

"The Rotary Club picked up the Old Livingston Highway — a portion of it," he said. "They picked up 32 bags (of trash) in a one mile portion."

Wilson said that Keep Tyler County Clean wants to educate people in the community about the impact that littering has on the county. As part of this effort, he has sent letters to schools and businesses in the county, asking them to raise awareness of the issue.

"This is what people see when they visit our county," he said. "This is their first impression when they drive into it. One of the taglines I've been putting into the letters is 'throw it out at home, not on the road.'"

Wilson said that local residents should also be conscious of the impact that trash has on the environment.

"Everyone who enjoys fishing in our local waterways – that's where this trash is going," he said. "What happens when it's thrown out, is your highway mowing crews come along and mulch it into smaller pieces, which are easier to carry downstream. Those go down tributaries, which are creeks, into the Neches River, into our local lakes, and into the Gulf, and it's washing up on our beaches. Much of the trash found on Texas beaches starts off thrown out on the side of the highway."

Wilson said that not all of the trash that winds up alongside roads is thrown out deliberately.

"Another thing that we stress is for people who drive trucks not to throw trash in the back of their trucks," he said. He said that lighter pieces of garbage, such as empty feed sacks or Styrofoam cups, will often blow out of the backs of pickup trucks at highway speeds. "That's where a lot of it comes from, is blowout."

Wilson said he believes that bad habits may contribute to the amount of litter being thrown out in the county.

"I don't know whether it's because we have more population or it's become acceptable," he said. "I suspect it's just become accepted, that the bar has been lowered. I think people become jaded at seeing it to a point where they don't notice it anymore. Once you change the habit and become aware of it, it's an easy change to make."

Wilson said that Keep Tyler County Clean has been encouraging people to help clean up roadways in the county, either by picking up trash along particular roads on their own or through the state's Adopt-a-Highway program. He said that only a few sections of highway in the county have been officially adopted.

"Pretty much everything is available for adoption," he said. He said interested individuals can adopt a section of highway through the Texas Department of Transportation. "They will call the local TxDOT office and fill out paperwork to adopt a highway. Their requirement is that it be cleaned quarterly. Once you start cleaning it, the neighbors take notice and the cleanliness begets more cleanliness."

Although there is currently no official means of adopting roads other than highways, Wilson said Keep Tyler County Clean also encourages people to clean up county roads. He said those wishing to do so can announce their intention to clean up a particular area through the Keep Tyler County Clean Facebook page.

"We would like to model it after the Adopt-a-Highway program, where people adopt a section that's in need and clean it quarterly," he said.

Keep Tyler County Clean recently participated in the city of Woodville's Spring Clean on March 17.

"We are trying to get an avenue for people to work together instead of being individually aware, to get involved," Wilson said.
Since Keep Tyler County Clean began six weeks ago, the movement has been growing, Wilson said.

"We have about 50 to 60 volunteers," he said. "It's growing. We're trying to make it a county-wide effort. The response has been good. The more people get involved, the better our county will be for it."

For more information, visit the Keep Tyler County Clean Facebook page or contact John Wilson at 409-283-5377.

WPD investigating death at sober house

By Valerie Reddell
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Last Wednesday, Woodville police went to a residence in the 400 block of Pine Street at the request of family members who had lost contact with a 22-year-old man who had recently celebrated 60 days of sobriety. Ethan Ray Tiner had been staying at the Pine Street residence while continuing treatment for alcohol addiction.

Shortly after entering the residence, police found the body of Ethan Ray Tiner of Livingston.

An obituary placed in the Polk County Enterprise indicates that Tiner died Monday.

Woodville Police Captain Mike McCully said his department received a request Wednesday night to check Tiner's welfare.

McCulley said that investigators did not see any indication of suspicious circumstances. An autopsy was conducted in Beaumont which will provide investigators with a cause of death.

Friends of the Tiner family have said that Ethan recently began taking seizure medication.

It will likely take several weeks for the medical examiner in Beaumont to complete the necessary testing.
Meanwhile, family members have planned a funeral service for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Cochran Funeral Home in Livingston. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Ethan's memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

Police are continuing to investigate what type of business was being operated at the facility.
Woodville police are continuing to interview witnesses to determine when Tiner was last seen.
"We are reaching out to appropriate state officials to determine who is supposed to be supervising activities at that location," McCulley said.

Authorities are continuing to delve into who operated the group home, but it does not appear that any licensure is required to use a residence at a "sober living homes."

"We are trying to determine what requirements there were," McCulley said. "The death may not have been avoidable and it doesn't look like any type of foul play. Several factors are going to have to be considered."

McCulley said he had no information on whether other clients were continuing their stay at that residence."

Cypress Lakes Lodge is located one mile east of this location on Hwy. 287 (Pine St.), a licensed treatment facility for addiction.
Cypress Lakes Clinical Director Jordanna Cook told the Booster on Thursday that her facility is not affiliated with the residence where Tiner died.

"We are saddened to hear the news," Cook said. "It is the hardest part of working with people struggling with addiction."

Cook added that she could not comment on whether Tiner had been a client at her facility.

Phone call to FBI thwarts attack on local judge

Collins Johnson McKenzie

By Valerie Reddell
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Three Tyler County residents were arrested on March 29 and 30, foiling a plot allegedly hatched by two of the suspects to kill a local judge, Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said.

Weatherford said investigators with his office were contacted by the Dallas field office of the FBI on March 28.

The agents told local officers that they had received a tip reporting a possible attempt to murder a sitting judge in the Southeast Texas area.

Investigators went to work and quickly learned the target was a white-haired male. Soon after they determined that the supposed target was Tyler County Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Moore.

Local officers met with the individual who reported the threat to the FBI at his residence, east of Woodville. The witness told officers that two people he knew as Dalton and Alicia told him of their plan to attack the judge. The pair left two firearms they planned to use at the witness's residence.

Officers recovered those guns from the witness hours before the suspects planned to make their attack.

Tyler County deputies had already been working with Polk County investigators on the theft of a tractor from their jurisdiction which had been sold to Moore. The two suspects were identified as Dalton Collins, 45, of Woodville and Alicia Johnson, 35, of Woodville. Investigators said a third person, Matthew McKenzie, 24, of Spurger was also involved in the sale of the tractor.

Judge Moore showed investigators a bill of sale for the tractor, which was recovered by the Hardin County Sheriff's Office.
Dalton reportedly contacted Moore on March 27 and asked to meet with him about the tractor in the evening hours of March 28.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for a residence occupied by Collins and Johnson, where they found additional stolen items and other evidence.

Arrest warrants were issued for the three suspects.

On Thursday, March 29, McKenzie was arrested by Tyler County deputies and he was booked into jail for theft.

The U.S. Marshal's Service Task Force arrested Collins and Johnson in Jefferson County without incident.
McKenzie has since been released on $3,500 bond.

Collins was charged with terroristic threat against a judicial official and theft. He was released on bonds totaling $105,000. At press time, Johnson remained in custody at the Tyler County jail on charges of terroristic threat against a judicial official and theft.

The FBI, Texas Rangers and the sheriff's departments in Polk and Tyler counties are continuing their investigations.

TCSO, WPD report rise in scam complaints

By Valerie Reddell
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Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford and Woodville Police Chief Scott Yosko are warning residents of phone calls by scammers claiming they must send money now to avoid arrest.

Weatherford said callers are demanding payments sent by purchasing gift cards from local retailers.

"DO NOT send money to anyone calling you about arrest warrants or debts to the IRS without written verification," Weatherford said.

"Law enforcement will not contact you by phone and ask you to send money to settle an arrest warrant," Weatherford said.

In fact, law enforcement officers come to your home or workplace and invite you to come along with them to take care of any outstanding warrant, they don't send you down to the store to purchase a debit card or wire money.

Another Woodville resident contacted the Booster Monday after she received a call from a. man insisting that she had won $2 million in a popular sweepstakes and they just needed a $999.99 refundable deposit to ship her brand new Mercedes to Texas.

Fortunately, this woman insisted that the caller drive the Mercedes to Woodville and she would meet them at her bank and ended the call.

The sheriff advises anyone with questions or concerns, should call the Tyler County Sheriff's Office at (409) 283-2172. Warrant information is only released in person after valid ID is presented. Never, ever send money to someone you don't have an established business relationship with or know personally.

Another popular variety on this scam is the family emergency ploy.

Callers target senior citizens and claim a young family member is being detailed and then demands several hundred dollars to avoid booking the supposed relative into jail.

Don't send money. Contact a trusted family member or a local law enforcement officer who can help you verify your loved one is not being detained or have some other emergency.

Another good method of protecting yourself from scammers is to screen calls from telephone numbers you don't recognize. Even if the unfamiliar caller needs to discuss important business with you, a delay of a few minutes is unlikely to have an impact. If the caller claims to be with your bank or utility company, call the business back using a phone number from your records or the telephone book.

Dogwood Festival Western Weekend Saturday

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The Annual Tyler County Dogwood Festival celebrates the second of two weekends Saturday with Western Weekend. The parade through downtown Woodville starts at 2 p.m. and Rodeo at 4 p.m. out at the Rodeo Arena on Hwy. 190 West. There is also a Rodeo Friday night starting at 7 p.m. This is an always popular, family friendly, event!