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.

Mar

23

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

Coleman

Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–Early Tuesday, an active shooting scene was reported to law enforcement at the Walmart in Kaufman around 10 a.m.
After shooting a store employee, the shooter turned the gun on himself, in an apparent murder-suicide attempt.
According to Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Fred Klingelberger, the 55-year-old male suspect, who was identified as Donald Ray Coleman, was airlifted to a Dallas hospital from the scene in critical condition, having shot himself in the head.
The 59-year-old male victim was killed. He was identified as John D. Morgan.
There were other customers inside the store, but nobody else was targeted. It appeared that the two men knew each other and perhaps argued about something, prior to the shooting.
“We understand there was an ongoing feud between the subjects,” Klingelberger told journalists at the scene.
Area businesses were advised to lock down and the Kaufman High School also went into lock down mode, but those were lifted by 10:30 a.m. The store remained closed the remainder of the day.
An official with Walmart released the following statement just after the incident:
“We’re deeply saddened by the tragic situation that occurred in our store today. We’re assisting law enforcement however we can and our thoughts are with the families and our associates at this time.”
Coleman was apprehended on an aggravated assault warrant out of Gun Barrel City for a family violence incident Jan. 17, involving a woman and her male friend. Coleman was released Jan. 25 on bonds totaling $22,500. The incident was violent, with shots fired and the woman’s hands tied. She reported being dragged and pistol whipped. He was described as dangerous and the public was warned, if found, not to engage but to alert law enforcement to his whereabouts.
His description was publicized and he was apprehended later that week.
The victim, Morgan, doesn’t have a jail record in Henderson County.