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District Attorney Joe Smith bids farewell to Tyler County

by Kelli Barnes

Tyler County District attorney Joe Smith attended his final Commissioners Court meeting as an office holder on Monday. Tyler County Judge Jacque Blanchette spoke for the county, honoring Smith with a special thank you.

Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the lease agreement conditions for Congressman-elect Brian Babin , as it pertains to office space in the courthouse. Following precedent set by other counties with hometown U. S. congressmen, there will be no charge for the space. "It will be an honor and a boost to Tyler County, for Babin to office in the courthouse," Blanchette said.

Commissioner Rusty Hughes stepped down from the position of Judge Pro-Tem, recommending Commissioner Jack Walston be appointed to this position for 2015. The vote was unanimous and Walston accepted the appointment.

Adult Probation Chief Matt O'Neal, requested a modification to the contract between Tyler County and the Tyler County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD). "The change will allow us to work community service workers a couple of times a month for a full eight hours at a time, instead of partial days every Saturday, O'Neal said." The court voted to approve the contract change and also thanked O'Neal for the community service worker's demolition efforts at the new Commissioners Court offices. "Their work saved the county $8000", said Commissioner Martin Nash.

Tyler County is without an Agricultural Extension agent beginning January 3. Jennifer Page resigned her position for personal reasons and will begin a teaching position closer to her hometown. "...please know that I will miss my time here. Thank you all for the support that you have offered over the last several months..." Page said in a resignation letter to the court.

Additional re-appointments to the Tyler County Historical Commission were voted on, along with honorary members being appointed. They are: voting members Chuck Davidson, Bob Morris, Billie Ratcliff and Donna Taylor; honorary members Mayme Brown, Peggy Burton, Jesse Collins and Manie Whitmeyer; plus Judge Jacques Blanchette as Ex-Officio.

In other business commissioners tabled the copy machine decision for the Tax office, and took care of general housekeeping items for the new year.

New Tyler County elected officials will be sworn in Friday, January 2 at 10 a.m. in the District courtroom. The public is invited to attend. The next Commissioners Court meeting will be Monday, January 12 at 10 a.m.

Judge Jerome Owens retires after 26 years

by Michael G. Maness

Texas District Judge Jerome Owens thanked all at his retirement party at the Jasper Event Center, Thursday night, Dec. 11, celebrating his 26 years as a judge, among his 45-plus years in law.

Judge Jerome Owens (L) shows off his cake with long-time friend retired Tyler Commissioner Maxie Riley at Owens’ retirement party Thursday night at the Jasper Event Center.Judge Jerome Owens (L) shows off his cake with long-time friend retired Tyler Commissioner Maxie Riley at Owens’ retirement party Thursday night at the Jasper Event Center.Local businessman Joe Copes opened the party and introduced the Rev. John D. Hardin, Pastor of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, who gave the invocation for a delicious barbeque. Bill Morian and Joe Glenn Kahla did the cooking on their law firm's custom-made pit.

Owens is retiring from the district judge position at 75 the end of this year, the age limit according to Texas law, and will become Texas senior judge. His successor was there, too, Delinda Gibbs-Walker, a long-time attorney in Jasper. Owens wished her well, praised her integrity, and she appreciated Owens.

Tyler County Commissioner Jack Walston gave a presentation from the commissioner's court, thankful for all of Owens' service to Tyler County. Many remember Owens' leadership during hurricane Rita when he was the Tyler County Judge, a position he held for 18 years.
Tyler County Clerk Donece Gregory spoke of her appreciation.

Woodville attorney Lindsey Whisenhant reflected back when they shared a building, crediting a lot of his success to Owens' sage advice.

Newton county court reporter Shelley Stevenson and court coordinator Sharon Miller organized the retirement party, a very pleasant surprise to Owens, something not easy to do. Tyler County Auditor Jackie Skinner presented a special "retirement survival" basket to Owens in appreciation for his service.

DETCOG's Walter Diggles and Booker T. Hunter, President of the NAACP's Jasper Branch were present. A good cross section of business leaders, sheriffs, prosecutors, treasurers, and county clerks mingled among approximately 200, with most of the offices of Tyler, Jasper and Newton Counties represented.

Surprise – Owens' daughter, Sharla Sunberg, flew in from Florida, herself a busy surgeon.

Meth found in truck drivers tool bag

by Emily Waldrep

On December 8, Deputy Loeche with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department was advised by dispatch of a reckless driver operating a white 18-wheeler traveling south on Highway 69 in Doucette, towards Woodville. Loechel located the vehicle and saw it cross the solid white line onto the shoulder several times as well as the solid yellow center stripe.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, Deputy Loechel made a traffic stop and identified the driver as Clyde Norman Duley, age 56, and asked him if he was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. Duley said that he was not, but Loechel noticed that he had to steady himself by leaning on the front bumper of the vehicle.

Duley gave deputies permission to search the vehicle, and the search revealed a tool bag containing a syringe with a clear liquid. Duley claimed that the bag did belong to him, but that he did not know what was in the syringe. The liquid field tested positive for methamphetamine.

Duley was placed under arrest and transported to the Tyler County Jail, and the substance was sent to the DPS lab for further analysis and identification.

Chief John Paul Feeley Day

Chief John Paul Feeley

Chief John Paul Feeley Day—The City of Ivanhoe proclaimed December 13 as "Chief John Paul Feeley Day" in honor of his 60 years of volunteer fire service. Bo Welborn, past President of the State Firemans' and Fire Marshals Association, presented Chief Feeley (seated, front row, left) with a certificate of appreciation for his service on behalf of the SFFMA. The IPOIA and Air Rescue, Inc. joined to name the Helipad Park in honor of Feeley.

Woodville man arrested for DWI with child in car

by Emily Waldrep

A 20 year old Woodville man was arrested on drug charges in Woodville after Officers with the Woodville Police Department pulled over for erratic driving.

Officer Deshazo with the Woodville Police Department was on patrol on South Magnolia when he noticed a vehicle driving erratically. Deshazo stopped the vehicle and approached the driver, who he identified as Christopher Montoya, age 20, of Woodville.

According to Mike McCulley with the Woodville Police Department, Deshazo also observed a young child in the backseat of the vehicle. While interviewing Montoya, Deshazo observed him push something through the window that hit the ground at the officer's feet. Deshazo looked down and observed a crushed up marijuana blunt or cigarette. The officer asked Montoya to exit the vehicle and noticed he was very unsteady on his feet, showed signs of slurred speech, and other signs of intoxication.

According to McCulley, Montoya was then placed under arrest for the marijuana cigarette and driving under the influence.
Montoya was patted down, and officers found three small baggies of marijuana in his jacket pocket. Montoya was then put in the back of the patrol car, and Deshazo called a State Trooper to assist with the DWI charge.

While Montoya was in the back of the patrol car, officers noticed he was moving around in the backseat quite a bit and had Montoya exit the car and a search of the car revealed a large quantity of Xanax tablets that had spilled all over the floor and seat of the patrol car. The Xanax was removed and taken into evidence and a Trooper arrived and preformed a field sobriety test, and it was confirmed that Montoya was under the influence.

Montoya was charged with Driving Under The Influence with a Child Under 14, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Controlled Substance Penalty Group 3 and Tampering with Evidence.

Montoya's blood was drawn by mandatory draw at Tyler County Hospital.