Two days into a new year (and a new decade, for that matter) no doubt carry a feeling of renewal for most folks. It is customary in the newspaper business to look back at the end of a year to see what was happening, or what made the biggest splashes.
Here are some of the biggest stories in Tyler County from 2019, taken from the pages of the Tyler County Booster.
Jan 3 and 10: Onalaska woman killed in Hillister attack
A Hillister man is being held without bail on capital murder charges after a 911 call led Tyler County deputies to a Hillister residence where a man was being held against his will. Deputies also found the body of Susan Morris, 64, of Onalaska in a subsequent search of the home.
Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said his office received a 911 call at about 6 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21.
That anonymous call led officials to the home where they found a man whose hands were bound and he told officers he was being forcibly held there.
They immediately arrested Christopher Paulette, 34, of Hillister at that location. Reports show Paulette was armed with a shotgun.
They secured the scene while investigators obtained a search warrant. It was during that search that officers found Morris’s body hidden within the house.
Officers speaking on condition of anonymity said she had been badly beaten.
Morris was taken to the Southeast Texas Forensic Center in Beaumont for an autopsy.
Paulette has been charged with capital murder and District Judge Delinda Gibbs-Walker ordered him to be held without bond.
Investigators later made four more arrests in connection with the murder investigation.
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.
On Dec. 28, 2018, deputies arrested Bryan Hewson, age 32, of Grandbury and the passenger, Krystine Caldwell, age 30, of Beaumont, after responding to a call of suspicious activity at Paulette’s residence.
Friends of Morris’s recalled her as “the sweetest person ever.”
March 7: Lady Eagles end season in state championship game
The Woodville Lady Eagles showed the state that they are among the elite teams in Texas by advancing to the state championship 3A basketball game. The Lady Eagles used speed, a smothering defense and supreme ball handling skills as well as good decision making to find the open shots all season to take their place on the grandest stage in high school basketball.
The Alamodome hosted all teams where players and coaches were treated to one of the finest championship venues in the nation. Woodville (39-1) advanced to take on the unbeaten Chapel Hill Red Devils (36-0) in a matchup of both 3A teams with the highest winning percentages of the season. The Lady Eagles showed that they were up to the task and entered the game firm and undaunted against Chapel Hill and were not intimidated by their record or pedigree
In a game that swayed back and forth, it ended up being Chapel Hill who had the final run, forcing Woodville to resort to fouling to save time on the clock and hoping for missed free throws. Chapel Hill was clutch from the free throw line as they finished the game with a 55-46 win over the Lady Eagles.
Beaty led all scorers with 22 points. Beaty was 10 of 19 from the floor and one-of-two from three-point range. Jayda Argumon was 4 of 7 and 2 of 4 from three-point range and had 10 points, while Kayla Merchant finished with six points and Telia Jackson added five points.
This was a tremendous year for the Lady Eagles who played more games during this season than any other 3A school in the state. It should be noted that this was also one of the most successful seasons on record in school history.
June 20: Ivanhoe City Marshal under investigation for alleged oppression
The City of Ivanhoe and its mayor are standing behind its City Marshal after an allegation of oppression.
Terry Riley, who serves the city as City Marshal, turned himself in last Tuesday and charged with Official Oppression, a class A misdemeanor. He was subsequently released from the Tyler County Jail on a $500 personal recognizance bond, and Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett said there is “no reason [the city] would even consider” putting him on administrative leave.
“The city supports him 100 percent,” Bennett said. “He has done a wonderful job for the City of Ivanhoe, and all of this will be cleared up when he goes to trial.”
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers were appointed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, who are handling the prosecution of the case, to conduct an investigation into allegations of official oppression by Riley. On June 7, the completed investigation was submitted to a Tyler County Grand Jury.
The indictment handed down by the Grand Jury alleges that Riley intentionally subjected Raymond Harrison to “detention or seizure or dispossession that [Riley] knew was unlawful” on Feb. 16, 2018.
Bennett said the charge is “absolutely bizarre” and the city will continue to support Riley. Riley has served in the role of City Marshal for two years, and oversees law enforcement for the city, which includes one other full-time officer and three part-time deputies.
When news of the allegation and arrest broke via the Booster Facebook page, many page followers expressed a large degree of support in their comments. Riley was later dismissed of the charge in December.
July 4: Physician indicted on abuse allegations
A Tyler County grand jury handed down two multiple-count indictments to Kerry Evans, a longtime local physician.
Evans is being charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child; multiple counts of both indecency with a child by contact and indecency with a child by exposure. The charges range from first-degree to third-degree felonies.
Evans has worked as a physician in many hospitals throughout the region. He was most recently working as the associate medical director of Dedicated Medical Center and Urgent Care in Woodville.
The indictments, which were delivered last Wednesday, accuse Evans of having sexual contact with two minors, one of whom was younger than 14 and another who was younger than 17 at the time of the alleged abuse took place.
One of the indictments, which consists of eight counts, alleges a series of incidents taking place around May 18, 2012 through May 17, 2014, while the other, three-county indictment, alleges incidents that took place in April, May and June of 2017.
He is represented by Ryan W. Gertz of the Beaumont-based Gertz Law Firm. Gertz released a statement concerning the case. “Dr. Evans submitted to and passed polygraph exams regarding these allegations. He also provided his cell phone for forensic analysis that indicated no evidence of deviant sexual behavior,” Gertz stated.
Gertz also alleges “a nasty, multi-year divorce” as the source of the allegations. “Unfortunately, revenge and greed often drive parties in divorce proceedings to make false accusations in order to inflict financial, reputational and emotional pain on their estranged spouse.”
As Evans awaits trial, his medical license has been suspended.
Aug. 22: Spurger man dead following stabbing
A man is in jail facing a first-degree murder charge and his grandfather dead from a stabbing following an incident in Spurger which occurred during the weekend.
According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, deputies were dispatched to a residence in the Spurger area on Saturday at approximately 8 p.m. The call was in reference to a stabbing. “Deputies were advised the victim, identified by the caller as Ernest Sims, was being transported to the hospital by personal vehicle,” Weatherford said.
The caller also told TCSO dispatch that it was unknown if Robert Thomas Sims, 19, of Spurger, was still on the scene. The caller identified Robert Sims as the actor in the incident, according to Weatherford.
When deputies arrived at the residence and secured the scene, they were able to locate Robert Sims at a nearby residence. He was detained pending the investigation, and according to Weatherford, appeared to the deputies to be under the influence of alcohol.
Investigators spoke with witnesses on the scene and were able to determine that Robert Sims had left the residence following a physical altercation with his brother. Ernest Sims, their grandfather, intervened. According to the eyewitness accounts, Robert Sims returned to the residence a short time later and attacked his grandfather with a knife.
According to Weatherford, Ernest Sims sustained multiple stab wounds to his upper torso and neck and was listed in critical condition upon his arrival at the hospital. He later succumbed to his injuries.
Robert Sims was placed under arrest and charged with first degree murder, with a bond of $200,000 set by Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Jim Moore. He is currently in the custody of the Tyler County Jail.
Sept. 5: Warren man arrested for 1988 murder
A Warren man was arrested and charged with a murder that has remained unsolved for 30 years.
On Tuesday, Aug. 27, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued a statement announcing the arrest of Daniel Andrew MacGinnis for the 1988 murder of Patricia Ann Jacobs of Silsbee.
According to a statement from Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham, MacGinnis is in the custody of Jefferson County with a $1 million bond on the charge of first-degree murder. He was arraigned by Pct. 1, Place 1 Justice of the Peace Ben Collins on Wednesday.
Wortham’s office said that in recent months, the Texas Rangers and the Port Arthur Police Department discovered items of evidence that were subjected to DNA testing that was not available when the crime occurred.
Jacobs, a 36-year-old Hardin County woman, was found deceased in the Neches River beneath the Rainbow Bridge in Port Arthur on Oct. 6, 1988, according to Wortham. The discovery of Jacobs’s body came a day after she was reported as missing. She had not returned home from a meeting at the Silver Spur Tavern in Hardin County, where she was employed. According to a news release from the Texas Department of Public Safety, a motive in the crime is unclear.
An autopsy revealed that Jacobs died as a result of drowning and had sustained trauma to her head and face. The manner of death, according to Wortham’s statement, was listed as “probable homicide.”
According to a story published in the Silsbee Bee at the time of the murder, Jacobs was a native of Winnfield, La., and had lived in Silsbee for 18 years at the time of her death.
MacGinnis was a suspect in the initial investigation, which was conducted at that time by the Texas Rangers, the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office and Port Arthur PD, however the investigation revealed no previous contact between Jacobs and MacGinnis, according to Wortham. Numerous witnesses identified MacGinnis as a suspect, and he was interviewed in California by Texas Rangers. During the interview, he denied any knowledge or involvement in the crime. “The investigation languished for lack of evidence,” Wortham said.
The recent DNA testing came by way of the Texas DPS Crime Lab, which developed a DNA profile from the recently discovered evidence that matched MacGinnis, who is a registered sex offender.
The 60-year-old Warren man is listed on the DPS’s Texas Public Sex Offender Registry for three convictions dating back to 1984, and as recent as 2004. They range from aggravated kidnapping to rape by force, and the crimes occurred in Texas and California.
The DPS noted that although additional charges are not anticipated, Texas Rangers are continuing their investigation in East Texas and have reached out to law enforcement agencies in other states such as California and Idaho to determine if MacGinnis is tied to any other cold cases.
In September, MacGinnis was sentenced to life plus 99 years on unrelated charges in District Court in Tyler County.
Nov. 28: Homicide suspect arrested
A suspect wanted for a Tyler County homicide was arrested on Nov. 22.
Bryan Duhon, 33, is charged with murder and attempted murder following incidents on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, working closely with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and DPS air units undertook a two-day manhunt for Duhon, beginning Thursday morning.
Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said one man was fatally shot and another wounded in an area north of Spurger. The murder victim was later identified as James Allen Clark, Jr., 60, of Jasper. The second victim was identified as Damon Mitchell Odom, 50, of Jasper.
According to a post on TCSO’s Facebook page, a call was placed to 911 on Thursday concerning a shooting that occurred off of CR 4415 in Spurger. When deputies arrived, they discovered two people had been shot, one of whom was dead. Investigators learned that Duhon had allegedly fled the scene after he fired shots at the two victims.
During the manhunt, Evadale ISD students were put on lockdown. All the exterior doors of the school buildings were locked as a precaution, and students at lunch and in the gymnasium were taken into the main building. While school was in session on Friday, extra deputies were on security detail on campus. Duhon was arrested not far from Evadale ISD, in Jasper County, in Gum Slough.