Weatherford Democrat

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January 3, 2013

2012 in Review

Here is one last look back at 2012 through the year's top stories as compiled by the Democrat staff.

1. Teen allegedly shoots mother, sister to death

In a 911 phone call that was later heard by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, 17-year-old capital murder suspect Jacob “Jake” Ryan Evans confessed Oct. 4 to brutally killing his mother and younger sister at their Annetta South residence.

Responding deputies took Evans in to custody without incident and found the bullet-riddled bodies of 48-year-old former school teacher and principal Jami Evans and her 15-year-old daughter, Mallory Evans, inside the home.

The deaths, ruled homicides by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, stunned East Parker County and the surrounding area. Jake Evans offered little explanation for reportedly repeatedly shooting his sister and mother with a .22-caliber revolver believed to have been stolen from his grandfather weeks prior.

He was indicted Dec. 28 on a charge of capital murder. If convicted he faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

2. Man sentenced for woman’s kidnap, torture

After seven days of graphic testimony during a highly publicized trial in February, a Parker County jury handed down three life sentences to Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, who abducted and repeatedly sexually assaulted and tortured a Whitt-area woman for days in 2011.

The victim, Lois Pearson, described the 12 days of physical and psychological torture and fear for her life while in captivity, during which she was handcuffed to a bed for hours, held in a coffin-like wooden box and raped, beaten and tortured while hanging naked from a contraption in Maxwell’s garage that he described as a “hog-skinning” device.

Investigators also believe Maxwell burned Pearson’s house to the ground two days later to destroy any evidence of the assault and abduction.

Saying that Maxwell preyed on the least, lost, little and last, Trey Loftin, 43rd District Judge, stacked the three life sentences for Maxwell, who was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault, making his release on parole unlikely.

3. Parolee charged with woman’s brutal killing

Just a week after the Evans double homicide, the violent throat-slashing death of a woman eagerly awaiting her grandson’s birth stunned a Parker County community.

Parker County sheriff’s investigators say 28-year-old recent parolee Hector Trejo brutally stabbed and killed 47-year-old Linda Surginer Preston in her home Oct. 11 after she refused to let him use her car.

Preston, who was extremely weak due to illness, was found by her husband that afternoon after family members became concerned and were unable to reach her by phone.

Trejo – who was sent to Preston’s home in the 1600 block of Wildwood Trail by his parents, Preston’s landlords, to work on the house – had been released on parole about a month prior.

Trejo was serving a five-year sentence after a May 2010 conviction for a September 2008 robbery where a man was pistol-whipped during a home invasion by Trejo and two other men.

4. Tortured dog given new Hope

A bloody, tortured dog found in critical condition south of Weatherford on July 9 received an outpouring of support from around the world during her recovery over the summer months.

Named Hope by those who cared for her after her rescue, the 3- to 4-year-old pug-mix was found overheated and dehydrated on the summer day with her muzzle taped shut and grossly swollen tongue protruding. She was also bleeding from five deep cuts requiring about a 100 stitches.

The frightened, injured dog, unable to pant, drink or eat, initially led about a dozen rescuers on foot, four-wheeler and horse on a several-hour pursuit in the 6900 block area of Baker Road before being found and caught in a creek bed.

Her story has also led to hope for other dogs. In her honor, the Moncriefs set up the Saving Hope Foundation to help other dogs who need a chance at life and a loving home.

5. Portion of new western loop opens to traffic

The first phase of the $45.7 million Ric Williamson Memorial Highway — arcing south and west from Highway 51 North to FM 920 — was complete and open to traffic in January of 2012. The project, which includes signals at State Highway 51, FM 2421 and FM 920, was finished in two-and-one-half years and was more than $1 million under budget.

The highway is by far the largest project to be funded by the $80 million transportation bond voters approved in 2008.
The RWMH was named for a former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, who secured the 2004 TxDOT feasibility evaluation that led to its construction. Ric’s widow, Mary Ann Williamson, cut the ribbon that officially opened the highway.

Formerly known as the Western Loop, the 5.6-mile highway will eventually skirt Weatherford’s west side, improving traffic flow, reducing air pollution and spurring economic development.

Completion is scheduled for spring of 2014.

6. Mourning Larry Hagman’s passing

One of Weatherford’s most beloved icons, Larry Hagman, died Nov. 23, at the age of 81.

Hagman was most noted for his work on the prime-time soap “Dallas,” where he played the notorious J.R. Ewing. He also was known for his work as Maj. Tony Nelson on the 1960s television sitcom  “I Dream of Jeannie.”

A Weatherford High School graduate, Hagman’s death left many residents wondering how they can honor the man and family, including his mother, actress Mary Martin, that had such an influence locally. Resident Sherry Watters, who knew Hagman for about 20 years, and her committee spoke before the city council in early December to try and engage the city council into naming a street after the man. Fundraising efforts are commencing with hopes to commission a statue and erect some signage around town honoring Hagman.

An account in Hagman’s name is ready at First Financial Bank in Weatherford for people wanting to donate to the cause.

7. Problems at animal shelter come to light

The Weatherford Parker County Animal Shelter dominated conversations throughout the community for most of 2012.
In early January, Parker Paws president Barbara Pursley announced that the non-profit organization would withdraw volunteer activities from the shelter.

At the time, Weatherford City Manager Jerry Blaisdell announced that Parker Paws and the shelter would continue to work together, providing low-cost spay and neuter clinics through Parker Paws.

But less than a month later, Parker Paws completely severed ties with the shelter.

“Parker Paws no longer supports the shelter but will continue with their low-cost spay/neuter clinics at a new location,” Pursley wrote in an email to the Democrat Jan. 30.

Controversy continued to stir, with current and former Parker Paws volunteers voicing concerns, even forming the Help Weatherford Shelter Animal Pets on Facebook, which listed problems and possible solutions.

8. School districts join in suing state

In February, Weatherford ISD became the sixth school district in Parker County to join in a massive school lawsuit against the state over inadequate and unfair funding for public schools.

“It was always the intent of the school board to [at some point] join in with a lawsuit,” Weatherford ISD superintendent Jeffrey Hanks told the Democrat. “What drove the decision for us is that some of the schools being represented closely fit our profile as far as the financial situation.”

Weatherford joined Millsap, Peaster, Brock, Aledo and Springtown in one suit that with three others were combined into one lawsuit against the state.

“We have to fix the system, overhaul it, simplify it and modernize it to what the current situation is and try to bring it into the 21st century,” Hanks said.

An official trial date was set in April, with opening arguments beginning Oct. 22.

The lawsuits, a joint effort from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Texas School Coalition, the Taxpayers and Student Fairness Association and the Texas Equity Center, are currently still pending in court. The trial resumes this month.

9. K2 busts, enforcement

The same year that investigators believe K2 may have contributed to one death in Parker County, investigators and prosecutors began visibly enforcing a new state law banning the sale of some types of synthetic cannabinoids.
Paige Davila, 17, a student at Paradise High School, died July 15 in a wreck in Springtown after the car she was driving left the roadway at a high rate of speed and did not appear to brake before an impact.

Police found an open package of K2 inside the car and a receipt showing the product had been purchased less than a hour earlier at a smoke shop on Highway 199 in Parker County, according to Springtown Police Chief Ed Crowdis.

Though toxicology tests returned negative for drugs, authorities also said K2 doesn’t show up on current toxicology tests.

Though the state law making certain substances in synthetic cannabinoid products illegal took effect in September 2011, variance in product ingredients, lack of field testing capabilities and slow DPS lab testing initially slowed local enforcement.

K2 enforcement was back in the news in August and December when business owners and employees at Tobacco N More on Ranger Highway and Choice Tobacco on Palo Pinto Street were charged with synthetic marijuana trafficking felonies and arrested.

In September, a Parker County grand jury handed down the first-ever indictments for trafficking K2 in the county. Those cases are pending.

10. Brock wins first state volleyball title

Hard to believe, with all of the athletic and academic success in Brock High School’s storied sports history, there was a pinnacle the Eagles had not yet reached. But Brock took care of that “minor” detail in 2012, as the Lady Eagles’ varsity volleyball team won its first ever state title.

Returning to the scene of its 2011 disappointment that saw Brock exit the playoffs in the regional finals, the Curtis Culwell Events Center provided the venue for a Lady Eagles’ display of the resilience the squad had shown all season. The BHS girls outlasted Holliday in the 5-set semifinals, which proved to be the tougher match of the tourney. The Lady Eagles, finishing 45-3 on the season, then dispatched Schulenburg in straight games in the Class 2A final to claim the title.

Seniors Braylee Flaska and Amy Henard, with sophomore Kanyon Klein, were selected to the All-Tournament team, and Henard, bound for North Texas State University, received the nod as Class 2A’s Most Valuable Player.

The volleyball title capped a year of ever-present Eagles’ teams at the state tourneys. In March, the Lady Eagles claimed their fourth-consecutive basketball Class 2A state title, led by Kamy Cole, who now frequents the court at TCU. The Brock boys climbed into the state final after beating San Antonio Cole, falling to White Oak. The Brock baseball program also reached the state tournament, falling in the tightest of matches to Bushland by a 1-0 count.

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