Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–Following a very close unofficial election result, Henderson County Sheriff candidate Billy Jack Valentine has filed for a recount with the Republican Party.
“When you look at the Unofficial Cumulative Vote total on Election Day from all 27 precincts, I won Election Day voting by 188 votes,” Valentine noted.
On March 1, the number of ballots for Valentine, totaled 3,550 or 51.36 percent of the vote. However, in early voting totals, Botie Hillhouse edged him out of the lead, capturing 50.88 percent of the vote to Valentine’s 49.12 percent.
The widest margin between the two candidates appears in the absentee ballots with Hillhouse scoring 58.33 percent to Valentine’s 41.67 percent. In a press release, Valentine notes that absentee ballots are paper ballots, unlike the early voting and Election Day electronic ballots, leaving more room for human error or miscounts.
Unofficial cumulative totals put the two candidates about .5 percent apart with total ballots for Hillhouse numbering 6,852 to Valentine’s 6,784.
Valentine stated, “He believes that the high voter turnout shows that people really care about the candidate who is elected as their sheriff. Therefore, in order to assure that the results of the sheriff’s race are absolutely accurate, he asked for a recount.”
So he filed a petition with Republican Party Chair Betty Holland and put down a deposit on Friday, March 4 to cover the cost of a recount. “The Election Code provides for recounts in races such as this when the vote totals are extremely close, to ensure fairness and that the right result is reached. My supporters believe it is important for the manually-counted ballots to be reviewed to ensure a just and correct result.”
Posted by : March 9, 2016| On :
Monitor Staff Reports
Posted by : March 9, 2016| On :
Jimmy Torres grabs a horse bridle while his stepsister holds her dog.
Mental illness haunted Cap City recluse, bizarre family history revealed
By David Webb
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–For two weeks after a law enforcement officer shot him to death in a day-long standoff, James Frederick Torres, also known as Anthony Bertoni, lay in a funeral home waiting for his next of kin to sign documents allowing his body to be cremated at county expense.
In death Torres remained alone and adrift much the same as he had for at least the last decade of his life, maybe much longer. Law enforcement officers knew the identity of Torres’ stepsister who had attempted to help him in recent years but little else about the 56-year-old reclusive man who lived on the Henderson and Kaufman county line on Highway 274 in a small dilapidated house surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence. Outside of the fence sat an old broken down car with disturbing signs of “Murder” and “Suicide” plastered on its side and incoherent letters taped on the inside of the windows.
After his death, Anderson and Clayton Brothers funeral home staff and public officials struggled to unravel the mystery of Torres’ life to put him to rest and discover the evidence needed to close the Texas Rangers investigation into the day Torres exhibited his last psychotic episode. The morning of Feb. 10, he fired a shotgun on a neighbor, barricaded himself in his home for eight hours and ultimately walked outside shooting a gun. A bullet from a Texas Department of Public Safety marksman perched on the roof of the Calvary Baptist Church across the highway struck Torres down in what seems like an act of suicide by cop.
After the standoff that closed down Highway 274 and County Road 4044 disrupting the small Cap City community of the Cedar Creek Lake area for 36 hours, everyone struggled to make sense of what had happened. Few people in the community, except for his immediate neighbors, knew that anyone even lived in the house. But clues would begin to emerge from his stepsister, Shawna Wood, who never quit caring for the distraught, troubled man whom it is now known suffered from what is believed to be paranoid schizophrenia.
Wood, who lives in Oregon, said she visited with her stepbrother in 2010 at the house in the Cap City community where he died, and she realized he suffered from delusions that frightened her. She said at the time of his death he lived in the house with no running water and 16 cats to keep him company. He suffered from a failing liver and kidneys decimated by a 35-year HIV infection and early experimental treatments, and he would only leave the house to shop at Walmart at 3 a.m. wearing mirrored sunglasses. At times he called himself Jesus Christ, and at other times he referred to himself as being controlled by demons, she said.
Torres spent time in 2014 in a Dallas psychiatric hospital after law enforcement officers with whom Wood cooperated convinced him to admit himself voluntarily, and he showed improvement. Unfortunately, he quit taking the medication administered at the hospital upon release, and he relapsed, his stepsister said.
Wood said law enforcement officers attempted to talk him into returning to the psychiatric hospital, but he refused. They said his guns could not be legally confiscated, even though concerns about him being a threat to himself and others arose, she said.
His stepsister stayed in contact with him until his death, sending him food by way of public carriers because he feared leaving the house. He thought people wanted to hurt him because of his sexual orientation and HIV-status, and he imagined various conspiracies being orchestrated by the people who lived around him, Wood said. Efforts by a local pastor and others to help him failed, she said.
After his death, Wood, one year younger than her stepbrother, knew what few other people did. She was not the next of kin of the man who moved to Texas eight years ago from Palm Springs, Calif. after changing his name from Torres to the fictitious Bertoni for some unknown reason.
Torres’ mother, whom he last saw at age 17, likely was still alive and ultimately responsible for all decisions, and she was the heir to anything belonging to her son, such as the house he bought on eBay, sight unseen.
Wood said after Torres died she had no idea of her stepmother’s whereabouts. “I haven’t seen her or talked to her for 20 years,” Wood said. “And I don’t want to talk to her now. I never cared for her.”
Torres’ adoptive mother divorced her first husband, and she then in 1970 married Wood’s father, a prominent doctor in California, taking the young Torres at age 11 to live with them, Wood said. Wood’s father, recently widowed after his wife, also a doctor, died of cancer, allowed Torres’ mother to rule the household in a miserly, vindictive way, she said.
Wood described her stepmother’s treatment of her and Torres as “brutal.”
The changes Torres’ mother brought to the household upended her life, she said. Her stepmother taped a picture of a pig on the refrigerator and told her she resembled the farm animal because of her weight, she added.
“Bitch would be too kind,” she said in describing her stepmother. “When my Dad married her in 1970, the first thing she did was forbid me from visiting with my nanny, this wonderful Italian lady who promised my mother on her death bed that she would take care of us. After that we raised ourselves. Next, I came home from school and my poodle, Taffy, was gone. She said she ran away. Years later one of the neighbors told me she put Taffy in the car drove her somewhere.”
At age 15, Wood said she went away to boarding school in Florida, and she began to enjoy life again as she had while her mother lived. Her departure ended a close relationship with Torres. They became so close that her stepmother insisted on her getting a physical examination to ensure no sexual activity had occurred between them, she said.
“I couldn’t take the bullshit anymore,” Wood said. “I found out as an adult I paid for it myself with Social Security because my mother was a pediatrician. But I can’t believe my Dad was an obstetrician and gynecologist and couldn’t pay for it. After marrying her, it was like living in poverty in a wealthy household. It was just so bizarre.”
Wood said her father wound up divorcing Torres’ mother in 1995 after 25 years of marriage because he came to distrust her. After he died, Wood discovered almost nothing left of his estate, and she inherited only enough to buy a house.
“She ended up with nearly everything because at the time he had Parkinson’s, and he didn’t fight anything as he didn’t have the energy,” she said. “For years they had separate property, but in 1978 after he became Mormon, he put her name on everything. Essentially, anything that was my mother’s became hers.”
(Editor’s note: Be sure to get the Sunday, March 13 edition of The Monitor to read the rest of this tragic history.)
Posted by : February 24, 2016| On :
Gun Barrel City Council members gather for the first day of demolition at Big Chief Landing Feb. 22. Pictured are (from left) David Skains, Ron Wyrick, Michael Slingerland, Ann Mullins, GBC Mayor Pro-tem Rob Rae, GBC EDC President Steven Schiff, Councilwoman Linda Rankin, EDC members Dawn Yarborough, Gary Damiano and Jim Osborne. Demolition is estimated to take more than a month.
By Robyn Wheeler
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY-Demolition on Big Chief Landing began early Feb. 22 with Gun Barrel City officials in attendance.
“This is a monumental day for Gun Barrel City, the GBC Economic Development Corporation and our citizens” GBC EDC President Steven Schiff said.
“Although no final plans or decisions have been made on what will become of the property, the future for our city is looking up. The EDC will always seek advice from those who have a strong commitment toward the growth of our city before moving forward on any and all major projects.”
“It should be clear that working in conjunction with the City Council, this property will become a focal point as the ‘Gateway to Gun Barrel City,’” Schiff added.
“This really is a huge day for Gun Barrel City,” Mayor Pro Tem Rob Rea said.
“I am truly proud of the enormous cooperation between the city council and the EDC that lead to this project coming to fruition. Personally, I am very excited to see all of the proposed concepts for this property.
“And in the meantime, the citizens get to enjoy the outdoors and free access to the best boat ramp on the lake,” Rea added.
Demolition work is expected to continue for 30 days.