May

12

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 12, 2017

Aaron’s Senior picture

Christie Kirchenbauer (front row, second from left), poses with her group from “Pay it Forward for Aaron” before handing out blessings to patrons of Dairy Queen April 29.


By Denise York
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Christie Kirchenbauer is a dynamic bundle of energy but the first thing she will tell you is “I’m a Mom and I’m his Mom.” The son she is talking about is Aaron and she doesn’t want anyone to forget he was here.
Christie was a single mom when Aaron was born and from the beginning, she sensed he was a very special child. “He was incredibly bright,” she says. “He was reading at a third-grade level in Kindergarten, loved books, computers and The Power Rangers.” Aaron was a quiet child and a gifted artist. He wanted to live in a big city and do voice-overs for animated movies. “He was also a foodie and his favorite shows were on the Food Network, along with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. He was very happy as a baby and as he grew, very loving.”
But Aaron’s life was cut short. He passed away April 2, 2014, just one semester short of a degree in Liberal Arts. Aaron had been diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis when he was just 10 years old and had part of his colon removed by age 12.
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is an inherited condition in which numerous adenomatous polyps form mainly in the epithelium of the large intestine, a condition he inherited from his biological father, a condition that ultimately resulted in his early death.
But it is his life that Kirchenbauer would like everyone to remember and that is why “Pay It Forward for Aaron” was created. This year on his birthday, she and a group of her closest friends and family gathered to perform random acts of kindness at all of Aaron’s favorite places, Chilis, Taco Bell, Dairy Queen and Hometown Cinema.
She, and her group of 11 set out on April 29 this year, the Saturday before his birthday, armed with $1,400 in cash and gift cards that they had collected in about a month’s time and set out to bless some people, complete strangers by paying for their meals or their movie tickets.
“I met the most amazing people,” she said. There were the young people, some of whom reminded her of her son and when she paid for their tickets, they reciprocated with hugs. There was an elderly man in Mabank Café that remembered her son as the boy who used to draw Superman, when he and her grandmother had coffee. There was a couple with a young son she was drawn to who it turns out, was a cancer survivor.
Kirchenbauer handed out pictures of her son, along with a little note explaining the reason for the blessing in memory of Aaron. One of her friends dressed as a blue Power Ranger for the event and one as a Harry Potter character to celebrate some of the characters Aaron loved.
She would like to see this grow, to be able to sponsor scholarships for deserving students, since Aaron was so close to getting his first degree when he died.
Kirchenbauer admits that it has taken her some time to get to this point, and that she was understandable devastated and angry when he died. She explains that it was those who loved her, in particular, her husband, Troy who got her through. “He was just so loving. He would tell me, ‘it’s ok to stay in bed today, but tomorrow we’re going to do something.’ He let me grieve and be angry and he loved me through it.”
She also feels she called to reach out to other mothers who have lost children. “I reached out to a local mom whose child had died in an accident. I told her I wasn’t stalking her, I just wanted to help. We are friends now.”
Kirchenbauer has three other children, the youngest a 14-year-old boy who she describes as the polar opposite of Aaron, an outdoorsy type with a big personality. “The only reason I’m standing,” she says, “is the grace of God, my husband and my youngest son who needs me.”
Her husband also helped her create a garden, enclosed by a white picket fence with plants and benches. It is a sanctuary where she can go and feel close to Aaron. One year on his birthday, she explains, everyone who showed up created a stepping stone and we put them all along the outside of the garden.
She speaks of Aaron in the present tense because that’s how she still sees him. When asked what he may say to her today, she tears up. “I just hope he’d say he loves me.”
It is her hope that “Pay if Forward for Aaron,” continues to grow. It is something that Aaron would have liked. Donations are collected from friends and family member and put in an account in First State Bank in Mabank.
“A mother’s worst fear when they lose a child is people forgetting about them, like they never existed. I’m still his mother and he’s still my son. This is my way to keep him alive in a way, to keep him close.”
For more information, email Christie payitforward4aaron@yahoo.com.

May

10

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 10, 2017

Special to The Monitor
ATHENS–A Henderson County jury convicted 34-year-old Randall Gene Looney, II of three felony offenses in Judge Mark Calhoon’s 3rd Judicial District Court. The man with a Mabank zip code was indicted for Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Kidnapping and Burglary of a Habitation. The jury required less than 30 minutes to deliberate before finding Looney guilty on all three charges.
Over the course of the trial spanning two weeks, the jury heard evidence from Assistant District Attorneys Jenny Palmer and Daniel Cox that on Jan. 8, 2016, Looney was searching for his ex-girlfriend, who had recently left him. After learning that she was staying in a home in the Eustace area, Looney had an acquaintance take him to that location, where he kicked in the front door and entered the residence.
Immediately after entering the house, Looney stabbed an adult male, who was sitting on the couch in the living room, three times in the back with a knife, which was witnessed by several other people in the room.
After the stabbing, Looney grabbed his ex-girlfriend by the hair, cutting her on the forehead in the process, and held a knife to her throat while threatening to kill her as he dragged her from the home, down the driveway and into a waiting truck. Approximately one hour later, Gun Barrel City police officers located the defendant and his victim. Looney was arrested without further incident.
Henderson County Sheriff’s Investigator Jeromy Rose testified that the evidence observed at the crime scene, including blood trails and a badly damaged door, corroborated the eye witness accounts given by the people in the home at the time of the burglary, stabbing and kidnapping.
Despite serious blood loss, that man stabbed by Looney survived his injuries and was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at ETMC-Athens where he was treated for his wounds. The female was also treated and released at Gun Barrel City-ETMC where she received stitches for the cut to her forehead.
Once the jury found Looney guilty, the trial entered the punishment phase where prosecutors called another ex-girlfriend of the convict, who took the stand to testify that the defendant had choked and sexually assaulted her on a previous occasion. Her description of those events was eerily similar to the facts in this case, in that she testified the defendant had kicked in a door to a residence where she had been staying and forcefully removes her.
In her argument to the jury, ADA Palmer highlighted the violence and other similarities between the two cases, while pointing out the defendant’s lengthy criminal history and the severity of his crimes.
In response to a request by prosecutors for an appropriately lengthy sentence, the jury came back once more with a quick verdict sentencing Looney to 75 years on all three charges, which will run concurrently. Looney will not be eligible for parole until a minimum of 30 calendar years have been served. At that point, he will be 64 years old.
Henderson County District Attorney Mark Hall indicated his satisfaction with the jury’s verdicts and sentence. He referred to the team effort involved in securing these convictions, citing the patrol officers and deputies who first responded to the crime scene, to the investigators who followed up on the case, along with trial prosecutors. “Working together, we were able to remove a violent and habitual criminal from our community for a very, very long time,” he said.

May

10

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 10, 2017

Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Voters wanted a change in Eustace and Athens from the looks of Saturday’s final polling results. New mayors lead both cities.
In Eustace, Mayor Elisha Sanders lost her seat to Dustin Shelton, 94 to 52. There are 12 provisional votes still to be determined by the Henderson County Elections Office. The ballot board is set to convene May 15. Since Tim Howard opted not to run for re-election to the council, the top two vote getters incumbent Daniel Smith with 112 votes and new face Tim Meyer with 90 votes look to fill the council seats. Both Tim Meyer and Dustin Shelton also serve as volunteers on the Eustace Volunteer Fire Department. Meyer is one of the planners of the May 13 barbecue cookoff, raising funds for the fire station.
In Athens, former councilman Monte Montgomery garnered more votes than incumbent Jerry Don Vaught, who lost his seat 490 to 736. Montgomery’s council seat had two contenders. Toni Clay won the seat over Chetan Patel, 632 to 529 ballots.
In Gun Barrel City, voters returned incumbent Linda Rankin to the city council over challenger Craig Bastas, 149 to 81. Rob Rea and David Skains were unchallenged in the election.
Voters in Kemp ISD returned Rusty Clamon to office as school trustee with 108 votes. There were three challengers splitting the opposing votes, which totaled 189; with Casey Herring leading with 91 votes. Board President Charissa Roberts ran unopposed.
The City of Kemp will continue its program of setting aside a portion of its sales tax collection for road repairs, Fifty-two voters approved the continuation of the practice, while 12 voters opposed.
Athens ISD had three contenders for incumbent Steve McElhaney’s seat, who chose not to run for re-election. Of the three Eugene Buford was the top vote getter for Place 1 with 708 votes. Thomas Faulk garnered 423 votes and Bryan Barker got 288 votes. Alicea Elliott was unopposed for her Place 2 seat.
Scurry-Rosser ISD incumbents Chris G. Taliafero garnered 127 votes and Joanna Horton got 110 votes, enough to reseat both. Challenger Nick Vann collected 72 ballots.
City of Star Harbor City Council canvassed the results of the election Monday. Voters agreed to join ESD No. 1 and council seats will be filled by incumbents Warren Claxton and Jackie Robinson; as well as challenger Ray Batten, who garnered more votes than incumbent Duane Smith. Smith had been acting as the mayor since Dr. Bingham resigned for health reasons two months ago. The council selected Warren Claxton as Mayor and is expected to appoint someone to fill his seat on the council next month.