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updated 3:21 PM UTC, Jan 18, 2019

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Chester mayor proposes anti-red flag ordinance

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By Michael G. Maness

CHESTER – Chester mayor Floyd Petri submitted an anti-red flag ordinance at the regular city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 7. Red flag laws justify law enforcement officers taking guns from citizens on a court order without evidence of a crime.

At first, Petri thought there might have been commotion stirred over a Facebook post, which led some to think he was proposing a pro-red flag ordinance. He smiled and shook his head and said some wanted to “re-elect the whole council.” He corrected the misconception that apparently worked as no guests showed up for the meeting.

Petri felt this city ordinance would be a proactive caution, letting others “know where they stand,” and an ordinance could be a valuable defense should abuse from a county or state red flag law ever invade the rights of the citizens of Chester. He cited concern about abuses of the law in other areas, including some documented cases of gun seizures without due process,

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL) submitted SB 2607 in March of 2018, titled “Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act of 2018,” and by April it had four cosponsors (3 D, 1 R, 1 I). It has not come out of the Judiciary Committee. The act mirrors aspects of protective orders on the books and is designed to encourage states to adopt such laws with the controversial confiscation of guns for the term of the “protective order.”

The part of the act that scares gun enthusiasts is that an anonymous person can call, express a fear of someone and a judge issue a rather quick order that empowers law enforcement to show up and remove all of the person’s guns.

As soon as July 2018, as reported in the Texas Tribune, Gov. Greg Abbott asked legislators to review protective order laws to protect schools. Abbott made clear he was not endorsing red flag laws, only suggesting the law makers look at all laws on school safety.

The issue is getting guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and discussion of the act has frequently cited the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, and the school shooting in Parkland, FL last year. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also been dead set against red flag laws.

Furthermore, the 2018 GOP platform was specifically against red flag laws under its major section on constitutional rights. No person should be deprived of their right to guns without conviction of a crime or certified mental instability, nor should they be “investigated” by law enforcement or be forced to “appear before a judge” without solid evidence of a crime.

Petri said he had no problems with protective orders, as a long-time law officer himself, but reports of “perversion of the law” have already surfaced on red flag law abuse. Petri said he does not want any citizen’s rights abused.

Several councilmembers had not read the lengthy ordinance. Councilwoman Gail Williams asked about the need for such an ordinance and said they should have legal counsel on what they could or could not do. The council tabled the ordinance for further consideration until next month’s meeting.

Other Business
The council approved the year’s budget presented by City Secretary Annette Hickman, which was essentially the same as last year. The council approved the minutes and financials without comment.
Dale Clamon, Director of Public Works, explained the need for a dump trailer, especially since the upcoming resurfacing of a highway will yield a lot of extra material the city can obtain for a song and use later for its own roads. The council empowered him to search out purchase options to present at the next council meeting.

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New officials, incumbents sworn-in

New Tyler County Criminal District Attorney Lucas Babin (center) receives the oath of office from his father, Congressman Brian Babin. District Judge Delinda Gibbs-Walker, right, held the Bible for Lucas Babin to swear the oath upon. (HALE HUGHES | TCB Photo)New Tyler County Criminal District Attorney Lucas Babin (center) receives the oath of office from his father, Congressman Brian Babin. District Judge Delinda Gibbs-Walker, right, held the Bible for Lucas Babin to swear the oath upon. (HALE HUGHES | TCB Photo)

 

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Five new officeholders and several incumbents were sworn-in on Wednesday morning in the District Courtroom of the Tyler County Courthouse.

County Judge Jacques Blanchette welcomed everyone to the ceremony and said that the officials, both elected and appointed, are “representing the peace and goodwill by upholding the laws of the land.”

Congressman Brian Babin (R-Woodville) was present to swear-in his son, Lucas Babin, as the new criminal district attorney.

Rep. Babin spoke before the ceremony, and in his remarks said elected officials are not always tasked with working under the direction of someone they get along with, but for the good of the populace, must work together. “America has set the standard for the rest of the world for freedom and liberty,” Rep. Babin said. “I think this country will be pulling together.”

State Rep. James White (R-Hillister) also spoke, and said he is proud to represent Tyler County within his House district because of the “hard-working, solid people” and called the event “a special day, because it reminds us why our country is so special.”

Along with Lucas Babin, the new county treasurer Leann Monk was sworn-in by Donece Gregory, county clerk. Blanchette administered the oaths of office to Stevan Sturrock and Charles “Buck” Hudson, who were elected to serve as commissioners in precincts 2 and 4, respectively. He also swore-in Ken Jobe, who was elected justice of the peace for precinct 2.

The incumbents sworn-in on Wednesday were Gregory, district clerk Chryl Pounds and Jim Moore, who serves as JP for precinct 4. Precinct 1 JP Trisher Ford was unable to attend but won re-election in 2018.

Blanchette, who was sworn-in for another term as Tyler County Judge in a small ceremony on Tuesday, took the time to acknowledge the county’s appointed officials, and asked county auditor Jackie Skinner to approach the bench to receive the oath of her office from District Judge Earl Stover. The acknowledgement and swearing-in of the appointed officials during the ceremony is something that had not heretofore been done, Blanchette said.

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More arrests made in connection with murder investigation

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By Chris Edwards
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HILLISTER – A quartet of recent arrests brings the total to five individuals in custody in connection with an ongoing murder investigation.

On the morning of Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of suspicious activity at Christopher Paulette’s residence located on County Road 4289 in Hillister. Paulette, 34, remains in the Tyler County Jail, charged with Capital Murder, after the body of 64-year-old Onalaska resident Susan Morris was found during a search of his home a week prior.

The caller reported a suspicious silver passenger car, with two individuals inside, parked at Paulette’s house. According to a news release from Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, as deputies responded, they were advised that the silver vehicle had left the residence and traveled down CR 4260 toward Woodville.

They soon encountered the silver passenger car, which was northbound on CR 4260 at a high rate of speed. The suspect vehicle continued at a high rate of speed refusing to stop for deputies.

The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Bryan Hewson, lost control and struck an electric pole at the corner of CR 4260 and CR 4262. 

Hewson, age 32, of Grandbury and the passenger, Krystine Caldwell, age 30, of Beaumont, were arrested without incident and transported to the Tyler County Jail. Hewson was booked into jail charged with Evading Arrest/Detention with a Motor Vehicle. Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Milton Powers set a $7,500 bond. Caldwell was booked into jail and charged with Fail to Identify/Fugitive, Hardin County Warrant for Fail to Identify and for Prohibited Substance/Item in Correctional Facility. Caldwell was set a $62,500 bond by Powers.  

According to Weatherford, both Hewson and Caldwell remain in the Tyler County Jail and could face additional criminal charges.

Kidnapping suspects arrested
On Saturday, Dec. 30, TCSO deputies made two more arrests of individuals who allegedly claimed to be “tying up loose ends” for Paulette.

TCSO obtained warrants for two suspects, Wesley Harris, 21, of Corrigan and Colton McInnis, 19, of Silsbee. According to Weatherford, his office received a call on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, from a caller who told dispatchers of an incident that occurred on FM 1943 near Fred.

The caller advised of a passenger car door open on a vehicle traveling directly in front of her and could see that a female was attempting to exit the vehicle. The caller also noted that some type of altercation was occurring inside the vehicle.

The vehicle eventually came to a stop on the shoulder of the highway. As it did, the reporting caller also stopped and a female exited, running towards the caller’s vehicle. As she entered the caller’s vehicle she screamed, “they are trying to kill me.”

The victim told TCSO deputies two male suspects, whom she knew and identified, had picked her up at her Warren residence during what she said began as a friendly encounter. As they traveled toward Fred, the two male suspects told her they were working on behalf of Paulette and were “tying up loose ends.”

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were able to locate the suspects’ unoccupied vehicle and additional evidence.

Harris and McInnis were charged with aggravated kidnapping, and both had bonds set by Powers at $500,000 each. They remain in the Tyler County Jail.

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Murdered woman remembered fondly as kind, generous

By Valerie Reddell

Susan MorrisSusan MorrisHILLISTER — Friends of Onalaska resident Susan Morris recall her as the sweetest person ever.

They struggle to come to terms with the news that Morris’s body was found hidden in a Hillister residence after a man called 911 shortly after 6 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21 and told Tyler County deputies that he was being held against his will.

Responding officers found the male caller near the front door of the house with his hands bound. Another man, Christopher Blake Paulette, 34, was armed with a shotgun when he was taken into custody.

Officers secured then scene and obtained a search warrant for the property, which appears to belong to relatives of the suspect.

During the subsequent search, officers found Morris’s body.

Paulette has been charged with capital murder and District Judge Delinda Gibbs Walker ordered him to be held without bond.

Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said an autopsy has been ordered and took place at Southeast Texas Forensic Center in Beaumont, but a cause of death had not been released as of Friday.

Federal ATF agents and the Texas Rangers are assisting in the investigation.

Paulette has also been charged with felon in possession of a firearm, a third-degree felony.

Tami Saxton and her husband Wes have been neighbors and friends of Morris for many years.

News reports about Morris’s death posted online included mentions of recent arrests, which the Sextons and other friends say are retaliation.

Christopher blake PauletteChristopher blake PauletteThey describe Morris as a wealthy woman who, since her husband’s death in 2013, has been repeatedly victimized by relatives and friends she was trying to help.

She was arrested by Onalaska Police Department for sexual assault of a child, an incident that friends say never happened. Wes Saxton picked Morris up from the Polk County Jail when she was released on bond. He said the arrest came the morning after Morris began an action to recover thousands of dollars missing from bank accounts after one or more juveniles learned her credit card and PIN numbers.

She was also released on bond after two felony drug charges were filed.

Narcotics were found in her home, but they were among the personal possessions brought into Morris’s home by a family member she was trying to help. That family member then invited another couple to stay at the home as well.

In addition to the criminal charges, detectives seized a large amount of cash from a safe in Morris’s home. The status of those charges as well as the status of the money could not be determined before county offices closed on Friday.

Longtime friend Gina Parker said Friday that Morris’s three houseguests made her uncomfortable.
Parker met Morris at a tanning salon in Onalaska.

“I didn’t know her real well, but we had a continuing friendship,” Parker said.

Morris attended Parker’s church once or twice.

Parker recalled that Morris had paid for the funeral of one of her late husband’s relatives.

“She didn’t hide the fact that she had money, and people took advantage of her because of that,” Parker said.

Parker adheres to many of the teachings of her Pentecostal church regarding how female members should dress and behave. She eventually had to distance herself from her friend out of concern for her own safety.

“(The houseguests) made me feel weird. They watched every move (Susan) made,” Parker said.

Houston attorney Mike DeGuerin is representing Morris on the pending charges.

“Those cases will be dismissed as soon as I get a death certificate,” DeGuerin said Friday.
DeGuerin added that due to the current status of the investigation into Morris’s death, he did not yet have full details.

“There’s much more to the story,” DeGuerin said.

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