Mar

30

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : March 30, 2016

Police body camera policy set
By Doug Gibbs
Monitor Correspondent
TOOL–The Tool City Council agreed to study the city’s financial position in relationship to a possible tax freeze. The agenda item was tabled from action when the council met March 17.
Councilmen Randy Whitehurst and Phil Ringley concurred that more research needed to be done on the subject before action could be taken. Councilwoman Kathryn Pinnell interjected that those things had already been done and people were in favor of a tax freeze, noting many citizens were on a fixed income.
Ringley pointed out the difference between the public appearing before the council saying they were in favor of a freeze, and a workshop where council members could analyze and study the impact a freeze would have on the city’s finances. “I don’t think we know what we’re doing,” he said. Mayor Donny Daniel entered the discussion suggesting councilmembers look at how a tax freeze has worked in other cities. He also pointed out that as property values change, taxes will stay the same if values go up and taxes will go down if values go down. Councilmembers voted to table the ordinance and hold a workshop on the subject.
During the same meeting, council members agreed to a slight cost adjustment on trash removal after hearing a presentation from Laura Capehart, Municipal Services Manager for Republic Services. She requested a 1.1 percent increase in keeping with the rise in the Cost Price Index. The 16-cent increase begins on residential service beginning in June, changing the monthly rate from $14.49 to $14.65 a month.
The council also approved a proposal from American Municipal Services (AMS) to provide fee collection services for the city. AMS will collect fines, fees and court costs for the city at the expense of those owing the city money. Daniel told council members that there is approximately $300,000 in uncollected fines, fees and court costs. Ringley noted the agreement included an indemnification agreement that holds the city harmless in the event a lawsuit is filed due to the actions of AMS while making the collections.
Council members also took action to adopt Ordinance #2016-01 Codifying the City of Tool Ordinances, approved Ordinance #2016-02 requiring clearly marked addresses and adopted Ordinance #2016-03 regarding animal control.
City Secretary Makenzie Lyons presented a request for the purchase of two computers for the Municipal Court totaling $600 to be paid from the court’s Technology Fund.
In other action, council members:
• approved a body camera policy for the Tool Police Department. The policy required officers to activate the camera during contact with the public, such as traffic and pedestrian stops and requests for police assistance. Also it is required when contact becomes adversarial. The camera may not be deactivated once activated. Officers will have to document any diversion away from this policy. Daniel said body cameras have “proven to be very effective.”
• adopted an animal control ordinance to address rabies vaccination, limits residences to four total pets, which if running loose off property is subject to impounding, the disposition of impounded animals, defines dangerous and vicious animals, animal registration, rabid animals, wild or exotic animals and swine and livestock. Failure to comply could result in a fine, not to exceed $2,000.
• adopted Resolution #2015-04R, A1 establishing signing authority.
• adopted Resolution #2014-05R, A1 establishing procedures for the May 7 General Election. Three council seats are available, those signed up as candidates are incumbents Kathryn Pinnell, Randy Whitehurst and Mike Barr, facing challengers Michael Fladmark, Johnny “Kyle” Roberts, Rick Williams, Barbara Whitfill.
• appointed Lisa McDonald as Presiding Election Judge and Fran Sonka as Alternate Election Judge.
• appointed Madelaine Walker as a “Student Election Clerk” for the May 7 2016 General Election.
• noted the city trash-off will be held Saturday, April 2 at the maintenance barn beginning at 8 a.m. Items that will not be accepted include: tires, brush, carpet and any hazardous items, such as appliances containing Freon, paint and roofing material.

Mar

30

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : March 30, 2016

April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month

Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–On the eve of Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office reports a number of recent arrests of persons charged with victimizing children.
A 32-year-old woman is being held in the Henderson County Law Enforcement Center on an $100,000 bond for Sexual Assault of a Child.
During the course of an investigation that began on Good Friday (March 25), it was determined that the woman (to remain unnamed at the victim’s family’s request) has been having an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenage boy, below the age of consent. The age of consent in the state of Texas is 17.
Subsequently, a press release stated, she was charged with the second degree felony and booked into the jail on March 26. Justice of the Peace Milton Adams set the bond amount.
Deputy Ray Yockey took the initial call and investigators Wick Gabbard and Cayce Hampton were called in to assist.
No other information was released in the interest of protecting the victim.
Ten days prior to this arrest (March 15), Deputy Meagan Hogan was dispatched in a complaint involving a child younger than 10 years old. The case was assigned to Hampton for investigation. Evidence developed supported probable cause for the arrest of 64-year-old Phillip Hestily (See photo, page 2A), a resident in the Seven Points area.
He was charged with Indecency with Child Sexual Contact, a second degree felony. He is being held on a bond totaling $100,000.
The Henderson County Child Advocacy Center, which specializes in interviewing children, assisted in the investigation.
Toward the end of February, the Smith County Sheriff referred a similar case to the Henderson County Sheriff. Statements from two victims of past continuous sexual abuse came to light against Jonathan Ray Dickens, now 34 years old (see page 2A for photo).
On March 22, Dickens was located and arrested on two counts of Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children.
He is being held on bonds totaling $300,000. The first degree felony is punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 99 years, upon conviction.
The East Texas Crisis Center, The HELP Center of Athens, Family Peace Project and Henderson County Child Advocacy Center are holding an event in conjunction with law enforcement and the Commissioners Court to declare April as Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The declaration is set for noon Tuesday, April 2 on the courthouse steps in Athens. The wearing of clothing and or ribbons that are royal blue for Child Abuse Prevention and teal for Sexual Assault Awareness is expected to be on display throughout the month.
The District Attorney’s Office has been going into the schools encouraging fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to help their friends who confide in them of abuse by reporting it to teachers and administrators; so their friends can get the help and protection they need.
The ETCC offers support groups for women trying to break the cycle of sexual violence and it along with the Family Peace Project offers emergency shelter to those fleeing domestic violence. Legal advocacy is also available.
“We’re here for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with counseling and a listening ear,” Family Peace Project Executive Director Marlena Taylor said.
Organization like these can always use financial support from the public they serve, along with donations of personal care items. These may be reached through calling the HELP Center at (903) 675-4357.

Mar

23

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : March 23, 2016

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY–A local man is serving a 35-year prison sentence after being convicted of sexual abuse of two little girls, some of the attacks occurring at a lake home on Cedar Creek Lake during a six-month period in 2012. The court also awarded one of the largest monetary verdicts in Henderson County.
Jim Gunder, 59, won’t be eligible for parole until the year 2030 and is expected to serve his full term through 2047. He is housed at the Polunsky Facility in Livingston.
During the bench trial before 173rd District Court Judge Dan Moore, the 5-year-old and 6-year-old victims were awarded a total of $21 million in compensatory and punitive damages. They were represented by Longview law firm Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry, along with partner Justin Smith.
The court awarded the two children $7 million in compensatory damages for future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering and mental anguish, and past and future physical impairment. The court also awarded $14 million in punitive damages.
The victims, now 9 and 10, suffer suicidal thoughts stemming from the abuse, Smith noted.
Though the victims will likely never actually obtain that large a sum, Smith said, the verdict changes people’s perspective toward sexual child abuse.
“What was done to these two little girls was unspeakable, and it will affect them and those close to them for the rest of their lives. The verdict recognizes that and sends an important message that this conduct will not be tolerated,” Smith said.
In a statement to the press following the Feb. 24 judgement, the law firm said Gunder had positioned himself in an office of trust and he and his wife had befriended the mother of the victims when she left a prior abusive relationship.
“Jim Gunder became a father figure to Jessica, who called him ‘Dad,’ and a grandfather figure to the kids, who called him ‘Pop,’” Smith said. “Jim Gunder exploited that relationship and betrayed their trust to get access to these two girls.”
Gunder was caught in the act by the mother of the two victims, Smith said. And she immediately took them to be examined and to register a report.
“Jim Gunder became a father figure to Jessica, who called him ‘Dad,’ and a grandfather figure to the kids, who called him ‘Pop,’” Smith said. “Jim Gunder exploited that relationship and betrayed their trust to get access to these two girls.”
The court determined that Gunder had cultivated a relationship of trust and confidence with both Mrs. Newman and her daughters and made findings that Jim Gunder had sexually assaulted the two minors over a six-month period of time. At trial, evidence was presented from experts regarding the harm caused by child sexual abuse, the treatment required to manage it, and the impact the abuse had on the children.
April is Sexual Abuse Awareness month in Henderson County.