By Valerie Reddell
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.