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Grand Jury indicts four Westfall family members

The Crime Family

by Emily Walrep

According to Tyler County Chief Deputy Phil Ryan, a grand jury has indicted Kristen Westfall, Cameron Westfall, Letha Westfall and Paul Westfall for engaging in organized criminal activities, which holds the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sheriff's Deputies, Texas DPS, Woodville Police and other local and statewide agencies went to the Westfall's home in Colmesneil at approximately 2:30p.m. and attempted to make an arrest but according to Ryan, it appears the Westfall's are either trying to evade the police or had "left their home in a hurry."

"We have been attempting to locate the Westfall's and place them under arrest with warrants but we have been unable to locate them," said Investigator Bud Sturrock. "We aren't saying they fled the scene, but there was evidence at the home that indicated that someone had left in a hurry."

Evidence included a warm four wheeler engine in the yard and a pile of leaves that had began to burn.

Sturrock said that friends and families of the Westfall's are being located and both local and statewide agencies are assisting in the search.

Law Enforcement agencies involved in the case are asking for the publics help in locating the vehicle that the Westfall's are believed to be in. They are suspected to all be traveling in a Gold/Champagne color 2006 KIA Sportage with the license plate number BCL-3780.

"If anybody sees this vehicle anywhere contact local law enforcement or this agency and we will get somebody on that as soon as we can," Ryan said. "At this time it does look like they are trying to elude capture, but we are just speculating because they have done things to avoid detection. We need everybody to be on the lookout for that vehicle."

The Westfall's are not believed to be armed and dangerous.

"We are open 24/7," Sturrock said. "We won't quit looking for them."

Outstanding warrants lead to arrest

by Emily Waldrep

A wanted Tyler County man was arrested on five different outstanding warrants, as well as new drug charges, on February 22 after the Tyler County Task Force received information disclosing the man's whereabouts.

Deputies from the Tyler County Sheriff's Office were contacted by Chief Deputy Phil Ryan on February 22 in reference to the wanted subject in Warren.

"Tyler County Task Force knew the whereabouts of the subject, identified as Robert Key, Jr., age 37, of Silsbee, who was staying at a residence on County Road 4525 in Warren," said Ryan.
Sheriff's Deputies met with multiple officers and agencies, including Game Wardens, State Troopers and the Task Force, and gained entry into the residence where Key was reported to be staying.

Key was asleep in the master bedroom and was placed in restraints and escorted out of the residence. A small plastic canister was recovered from Key's pocket that contained several empty plastic baggies typically used to sell narcotics.

A consent to search the residence was granted and deputies found an eye glasses case that contained a glass pipe and a small plastic bag with a white substance that field tested to be methamphetamine.

Key admitted that the methamphetamine belonged to him, and he was transported to the Tyler County Justice center and booked on outstanding warrants from Liberty and Hardin Counties.
Charges included Theft Of Property, Possession of Controlled Substance Penalty Group 1, Theft of Firearm, Burglary of a Building, and Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon.

A large amount of stolen property was also found on the residence and further charges may incur.

State Grant Funds Colmesneil Street Improvements

City of Colmesneil has completed a $275,000 street improvement project through a Texas Community Development Block Grant. The grant, implemented through the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), provided cost of engineering, administration and construction for the paving of five city streets.

Mayor Don Baird said, "Several people have asked why we paved the streets we did. I want citizens to know that although there were additional streets that have higher traffic and need repairs, the state had certain requirements that had to be met. The City had to do door to door surveys and sites had to meet specific low-moderate income specifications. I am just glad to have the opportunity to pave any of the streets, regardless of state control, when they are funding the project." Utility Director Keith Barnes added that "Grant funds had to be used as specified by the state, but as local funds are available the city plans to make street improvements in accordance with the Street Improvement Plan passed by City Council."

Due to a small annual budget, it would have taken 11 years for the city to pave the five streets with local funds. The City Council (which included Mayor Pro-tem Duane Crews, Rhonda Harris, Charlie Branch, Bubba Sheffield and Kenneth Davis) appreciate TDA and Representative James White for their involvement in the funding and implementation of projects for small communities in Texas.

"There is a lot of overhead, and a lot of things myself and the council would like to see the state do different," Baird said. "But when you are able to pave streets without it costing your citizens, it's hard to complain!"

Woodville parent charged after serving alcohol to minors

by Emily Waldrep

A Woodville parent has been charged with three counts of Furnishing or Purchasing Alcohol to a Minor, a Class A Misdemeanor and a serious offense, after she served alcohol at a party meant for her underage teens.

Mike McCulley of the Woodville police department said that, while it is legal to serve alcohol to your own teens that are under 21 in your home, stiff fines and consequences could come from serving alcohol to underage friends.

According to McCulley, the Woodville Police received a welfare concern call regarding a 15-year-old walking down the road in Woodville who had almost completely undressed and was highly intoxicated. The minor was transported to the justice center, and further investigation revealed that he had been invited to a party thrown by a friend's parents, and while at the party drank for the first time and got highly intoxicated.

Officers interviewed several people at the party and discovered that the parent had planned the party for a while and had bought approximately 100 alcoholic beverages meant for her kids, but everyone at the party drank, including two 18 year old minors and the 15 year old minor.

The mother who had bought the beverages and served the minors was identified as Kelly Marie Smith, age 44, of Woodville.

"Nobody knew where this 15 year old went," McCulley said. "Here you have a kid wondering around the streets and at that point he had undressed himself. He could have gotten run over on the road, run over by a car, wondered off into the woods and who knows what. It is a huge liability for parents to serve alcohol to minors. There are all sorts of bad things that could happen."

McCulley said that while he understands the sentiment of well meaning parents who want to have parties for their kids safe at home, alcohol should always be left out.

"If a parent is making the decision and taking responsibility of having a party at their house, I say they need to reconsider," McCulley said. "There are all sorts of liabilities. Realistically you cannot watch teenagers when they are intoxicated."

Thankfully, the minor in this case was not injured, but Smith now has a potential criminal record.
Three warrants were obtained for Smiths arrest. Her bond was set at $7,500 and she could face community service, no drivers license, stiff fines, and alcohol awareness classes if charged.
According to McCulley, if the minor had been injured, Smith could have been charged with Endangering a Child, which is a charge no parent should risk just to host a party.

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.