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  • Polk County rescinds burn ban

    Burn Ban LiftedCOURTESY PHOTO Polk County rescinded its burn ban on Tuesday.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Consecutive days of rainfall last weekend led to a rescinded burn ban Tuesday morning.

    Polk County Commissioners called an emergency meeting to rescind a burn ban that was originally put in place Nov. 17 and extended to 30 days on Nov. 24. But substantial rainfall last Friday and Saturday prompted commissioners to lift the ban.

    “Because of the rainfall we received over the weekend, our drought conditions improved and our commissioners decided it was safe enough to lift the burn ban,” Polk County Emergency Management Director Courtney Comstock said.

    The Texas Forest Service and the Polk County Office of Emergency Management both agreed that it was safe enough for commissioners to lift the ban. However, there are a few reminders to citizens who wish to burn outdoors.

    “Use caution when proceeding with any outdoor burning, be mindful that conditions may change quickly and individuals burning outdoors are responsible and liable for any fire damage from such burning,” Comstock said. “We recommend any persons contemplating a sizable amount of debris for outdoor burning contact their local VFD for recommendations and assistance. Never leave fires unattended.”

  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrests 9 in drug sting (GALLERY)

    LOU ANN HUDSONMUGSHOT LOU ANN HUDSON

    From the Polk County Sheriff’s Office

    Nine people are in custody after a successful drug sting conducted by the Polk County Sheriff ’s Office.

    On March 10, detectives with the PCSO narcotics unit assisted the criminal investigation division with an ongoing investigation re-garding an overdose, in which one person was found to be deceased and three others admitted into hospitals. The drug was believed to be cocaine laced with an un-known chemical.

    During the investigation, it became known to detectives that the cocaine was laced with fentanyl, a very dangerous and deadly drug. The investigation led to information that the drug was possibly obtained from an unknown address off of E. Capps Road in Polk County from a person known as “Mom-ma Lou.”

    Detectives began investigating the E. Capps Road area, making contact with numerous residents to inquire about “Momma Lou” and her whereabouts. Narcotics detectives located Lou Ann Hudson, also known as, “Momma Lou,” just off of E. Capps Road.

    Narcotics Detectives also found many others to be at the residence and on the property, and were identi-fied as Justin Sanders, Sibbie Hoffer, Billy Lafour, Steven Shelby, Stacy Allen, Clinton Moore, Joshua Jones and Desiree Allen. While speak-ing with Momma Lou at the residence probable cause was obtained to apply for a search warrant, which was granted for the residence and property.

    Detectives conducted the search and found all above listed individuals to be in possession of what Narcotics Detectives knew to be Methamphetamine. Ad-ditionally items were found and seized from the resi-dence that are known to be used in the distribution of illegal narcotics.

    Hudson was placed under arrest and charged with Pos-session of Controlled Sub-stance. Sanders, Hoffer, La-four, Shelby, Allen, Moore, Jones and Allen were also all placed under arrest and charged with Possession of Controlled Substance.

    All the above listed de-fendants were taken to the Polk County Sheriff ’s Office Jail and booked in on their charges.

    **PLEASE BE ADVISED**

    The PCSO is seeing a dangerous trend of drug dealers and cartels cutting various drugs with fentanyl which is leading to death and/or serious hospitalizations. The public needs to be aware of the danger of using any controlled substance, as PCSO is seeing an emerging pattern of cases where fentanyl is unexpectedly being added to cocaine/methamphetamine and other drug combinations.

    BILLY LEE LAFOUR
    CLINTON WARREN MOORE
    DESIREE MICHELLE ALLEN
    JOSHUA DATHAN JONES
    JUSTIN TAYLOR SANDERS
    LOU ANN HUDSON
    SIBBIE CAROL HOFFER
    STACY MARIE ALLEN
    STEVEN ADAM SHELBY
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  • Pollok Central exits Corrigan feeling Moody

    IMG 6476BRIAN BESCH | PCE Orlando Ramirez slides into third for an RBI-triple as Coach Kevin Purvis and the team look on.

    By Brian Besch

    Corrigan-Camden baseball finished out the 2021 season, sending off a longtime coach with a 10-0 victory over Central in six innings.

    The home team started things off 2-0 in the first inning, as Javier Gallegos reached first via infield single and Matt Moody singled, pushing Gallegos to third. A double steal got Gallegos home, and Moody reached third on a throwing error. Orlando Ramirez then slugged an RBI-triple that rolled all the way to the wall in right field.

    In the fifth, Julian Pavlino walked and Buddy Riddle sacrificed him over. Kason Riddle used that to drive in a run with a single. After Gallegos was beaned, a double steal moved both runners up 90 feet. Moody struck again, driving in a run on a base hit for the 4-0 advantage.

    Moody was not only good in the batter’s box, but also shut out the visiting Bulldogs in six innings of work on the mound.

    Six runs scored in the sixth to end it, as Issac DeJesus and Pavlino each drove in two with base hits, a run scored on a fielder’s choice and Moody delivered in the final at-bat of the season, driving a ball up the middle to score the runner from third.

     


    Kevin Purvis coached his final baseball game for the Bulldogs Tuesday after 14 years of leading the program. He stepped back in 2021, allowing Amaro Villareal to take over as head coach.

    “The kids really got after it and performed well,” Purvis said after getting the Gatorade bath from former players. “I couldn't be any more proud of them than I have been in the 14 years I've been doing it.”

    Purvis said he enjoyed his time in Corrigan and is ready to step aside. He will remain on the Bulldog staff, concentrating his efforts on football.

    “It has been just great kids, great attitude, great effort and a pleasure to be around them,” Purvis said. “We're turning it over to a good guy here. Coach V will take over and go with it. Coming back to my hometown and staying here 14 years and to be as successful as we have, I'm pretty proud of it. I'm also proud of all the kids and coaches that have come before.”

    Corrigan fell just a game short of making the playoffs. Some fans were scoreboard watching Huntington and Diboll, as the Red Devils took a 4-1 win. A Lumberjack victory would have meant a postseason berth as the four seed for the ‘Dogs.IMG 6494BRIAN BESCH | PCE Matt Moody threw six innings of shutout baseball to collect the win.

    “We took care of what we had to do,” Villareal said following the game. “We left some games out there that we shouldn't have, but at the end of the day, we did what we wanted to and put ourselves in the situation to be here (in playoff contention). The season was up and down, and we are young. We have five seniors, but the future is bright.” 

    Many of those seniors played key roles and compose most of the top half of the order. Villarreal said others will need to step forward and they will need a few from a strong junior varsity team to fill some spots. The new coach said a few were purposely kept down on JV to allow for more playing time.

    “We've won some big games and beaten some good teams in some good tournaments,” Villareal said. “As the season went on, we grew together as a team and it is going to be tough to replace those five, but I've got a good nucleus coming back. I'm excited for Corrigan baseball and I thank Coach Purvis for stepping aside this year and letting me get my process started to build for a new future here.”

  • Possible homicide of Livingston man

    LE Flashing LightsFILE PHOTO - Law Enforcement flashing lights

    GOODRICH — The body of a Livingston teenager was found after a possible homicide in Goodrich Tuesday.

    The Polk County Sheriff’s office received a 911 call Tuesday morning in reference to a deceased male found in an area off of FM 1988 East in Polk County.

    Sheriff’s office investigators, along with the Texas Rangers, responded to the scene on Lone Wolf Road. The scene was processed and evidence collected. Justice of the Peace Darrell Longino conducted the inquest and ordered for an autopsy to be performed by the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office.

    The victim has been identified as 19-year-old Brodrick Cooper of Livingston.

    According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation is continuing as a possible homicide. The body is said to have been recovered from the road. As of Tuesday, it is thought that an altercation occurred at the location.

    Friends on social media have messaged that Cooper died from a gunshot.

    The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information please contact their office at 936-327-6810 or Crime Stoppers at 936-327-STOP.

  • Ready for the challenge (VIDEO)

    IMG 3389BRIAN BESCH | PCE Corynn Kaleh had six points in the first quarter and eight for the game.

    Lady Cats prepare for two games that will determine district lead

    By Brian Besch

    Tuesday’s game in Dallardsville seemed more of a formality than competition, as Big Sandy easily outscored Spurger 69-14.

    The home team overpowered the Lady Pirates 42-3 in the first half and never allowed more than six points (fourth) in any quarter.

    “We have battled a little bit of injury since the Christmas break, but overall, I have been pleased with the way we have been playing,” Big Sandy coach Ryan Alec said of his group. “We've beaten some quality teams over the break and we also lost to a quality team in Central Pollok at their place. They were a good, solid team. We got a chance to see what a really great team looks like.”

    Alexis Thompson led the way on the scoreboard, with 28 points in just three quarters. The sophomore point guard hit eight 3-pointers. Faith Geller had 19 points, connecting three times from behind the arc, and Kalyssa Dickens collected 10 points.

    The Lady Cats are undefeated going into an important two-game stint of district contests. Both could prove to be pivotal in determining District 24-2A seeding for the postseason.

    “In my opinion, it is going to come down to us, West Sabine and Broaddus,” Alec said of the title race. “I think all of us will battle it out for the top spot. With West Sabine, we are going to have to match their intensity and we will have to play well. We play at their place on Friday and that is always a tough place to play.

    “You always tried to take games one game at a time and our focus is on West Sabine now. We have Broaddus at home on Tuesday, which will be another tough battle. They are very aggressive and play extremely hard. That will be another tough game.”

    The challenges are something the coach believes his team is prepared to face.

    “We're ready and I think the kids are excited for Friday night. They know how big of a game Friday night is going to be in West Sabine.”

     

  • Report on plane ‘a true mistake’

    U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft fly in formation during Cope North 21 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 9, 2021. Cope North is an annual multinational exercise designed to increase capabilities and improve interoperability among partner nations, and this year’s exercise focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) operations, large force employment and combat air forces training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Divine Cox)U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft fly in formation during Cope North 21 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 9, 2021. Cope North is an annual multinational exercise designed to increase capabilities and improve interoperability among partner nations, and this year’s exercise focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) operations, large force employment and combat air forces training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Divine Cox)

    By Chris Edwards

    TYLER COUNTY – A report from a concerned resident about an aircraft in distress led to a large-scale search effort that ultimately ended with good news.

    At approximately 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a military plane flying low to the ground, with smoke coming from an engine, according to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. The report came from a resident living on FM 1450, who reported what appeared to be a plane in distress, as well as smoke coming off of the ground. The sighting was reported near the county lines of Tyler and Polk.

    According to Weatherford, the first responders concentrated their search efforts around and near FM 1943 west of Warren, to US 190 west of Woodville, into Polk County. Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe said there were two AMBUS units staged in the two counties: one in Warren and one in Midway on 190.

    The search lasted for two hours, after the responders received information that the aircraft had made a safe landing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier Parish, La. Jobe said the report that launched the massive search was “a true mistake,” that the person who made the report saw the smoke on the ground, which was likely from a controlled burn that was taking place on the A-C reservation, and with the smoke coming from the plane, along with the fact that it was flying low, put the elements together and feared the worst.

    Jobe added there were probably a total of 12 or 15 ambulances involved, as well as three fire departments. “We had a whole lot of medical care response in about an hour,” Jobe said.

    Polk County OEM Coordinator Courtney Comstock and Alabama-Coushatta Tribal OEM Coordinator Willo Sylestine were also part of the efforts, Jobe said.

    Along with TCSO, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Game Wardens and Forestry Service also participated.

    Jobe said that although the search was the product of “a legitimate error” from a concerned resident in the area, emergency personnel will likely treat the experience as a training exercise.

    There will be an after-action review on Wednesday, Jobe said, which will be done cumulatively with the Emergency Management offices that were involved.

  • Robert Rolin needs your votes

    Robert and the snowmanCOURTESY PHOTO Robert and the snowman

    Onalaska man in final round to win custom motorcycle from television show

    By Brian Besch

    Over three decades ago, a motorcycle crash nearly killed Robert Rolin.

    However, the Onalaska resident is now surviving several rounds of voting and close to winning a custom motorcycle from the television show Orange County Choppers.

    "Paul Teutul and his son started a show called American Chopper," Rolin said of the television show's beginnings. "It was him and his son building motorcycles in their garage. They built some really nice custom bikes. They built showcase bikes. They started building for celebrities and superstars.

    "I was on Facebook one day and saw this thing that said "dream chopper." It said enter a contest to win a dream chopper. It also helps the Hudson Valley SPCA in New York."

    Rolin said when he signed up, there were 70,000 other people who did the same. He won the first round and the group shrunk to 9,000. He won a five more rounds and has just three more competitors in his way of the grand prize.

    Also included in the grand prize is an appearance on the television show and a feature on the cover of Cycle Source Magazine.

    A vote is free, but additional votes can also be purchased to accumulate more. The money donated goes to helping animals.

    The competition runs until 10 p.m. Thursday evening.

    Rolin says he has many groups voting for him, with numbers in the hundreds. However, the other contestants have similar backing.

    "It's very humbling. I am kind of a private guy and I keep to myself. Me and my son have a company; we build houses. It is my son's company, but I work with him."

    If Rolin wins, Teutul will build a custom motorcycle for him. Rolin has a history with motorcycles, some good and some nearly fatal.

    FB IMGCOURTESY PHOTO Robert's red motorcycle.

    "I lost my left arm in a motorcycle wreck back in '87. It was a rainy night and back then, I had about the fastest 750 made. I had a real need for speed when I was a youngster. I was just going really fast and the road that I was on was a two-lane road. One lane went up about an inch, so when you change lanes, it threw you to the left. I went too far and hit the curb and there was a fire hydrant. It hit my arm and just took it right off at the shoulder."

    Rolin said the officer that responded didn't even notice his arm missing, because his leg was so badly injured. The officer was actually a high school classmate of Rolin. The officer ran across the street to a corner store and filled an ice chest with ice and poured it into Rolin's leg, likely saving that limb.

    That officer is also one of the voters helping Rolin.

    "I almost died and it tore my right leg up. I don't have a quadricep in my right leg. I lost five inches of my femur, but they put a steel rod in my leg and it has held my leg together. Here 33 years later, I am still getting along."

    Though it was difficult to get back on a bike, he still rides today, owning a Harley-Davidson trike.

    Rolin said he is a positive person, who tries to promote ability instead of disability.

    "I hope that I can inspire one person. Just because they might have lost their leg or their arm or had some kind of disability or even people that just have low self-esteem -- you have to just get out there and try. I hope, if I win, I really want to promote that disabled people can do things. I'm just a normal guy that doesn't have a left arm. I want to get up there and show the world that we can do things. If you are disabled, don't give up. I boat, I water ski, I hunt, I fish and I build houses -- I never let it slow me down.

    "It took me two years to get out of a wheelchair. Once I did, I've never looked back. I try to live life. I ended up raising five kids and having a great life. I didn't get back on a motorcycle for about 20 years. Once I did, I loved it. This (contest) has been a great experience, it has brought me back to the policeman that was on the scene and people that I remember from my high school. It has been a great experience, but I still want to win."

    To help Rolin win, go to dreamchopper.com and place a vote.

  • Rotary Club Makes annual Christmas deliveries

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Rotary Club of Livingston delivered gifts and meals to 10 families last Thursday as part of the club’s Empty Stocking program.

    By Jason Chlapek

    As long as Janet Wiggins can remember, the Empty Stocking program has been a Rotary Club of Livingston tradition.

    “I’ve been in Rotary since 1992 and we’ve had it since then,” she said. “We go through the Empty Stocking program, which is headed up by Angela Figgs, and she gives us the names of needy families.”

    While Wiggins has been with Rotary since 1992, she’s not certain when the club began its participation in the Empty Stocking program. Rotarians made their annual deliveries of gifts and food to 10 families last Thursday.

    “I love seeing the faces of the children when the gifts are delivered,” Wiggins said. “It’s such a reward to be able to help someone who may be in need. It’s always been a reward for me.”

    Beginning in October, Rotary Club of Livingston starts collecting funds for the Empty Stocking program. Two weeks prior to delivery day, Rotarians split into groups and buy gifts for the children in the family of which their group was assigned.

    On delivery day, club members gather at Brookshire Bros. to pick up a box of food for their assigned family. In year’s past, 20 families were selected by Rotary Club of Livingston.

    But with Covid-19, only 10 families were chosen. The club also has seen a decline in attendance and service project participation since the pandemic, which meant less volunteers to deliver to families.

    Wiggins also is the director of the Polk County Chamber of Commerce, which has the 12 Days of Christmas program. With that program, Wiggins and her group go to the houses of 12 families and deliver gifts to them for 12 days.

  • Schools close Monday due to winter weather

    20210110 163421STEPHANIE PETERS Jadyn Phillips enjoys a snow day Sunday at the Onalaska Park. Snow accumulation in Polk County prompted school district superintendents in the county to cancel classes on Monday. The six districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – returned to class on Tuesday.

    By Jason Chlapek

    All six Polk County school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – were closed Monday because of winter weather.

    Much of the county received snow or sleet Sunday afternoon and evening, which prompted school district superintendents to make decisions to close on Monday. According to C-CISD superintendent Richard Cooper, it was better to be safe than sorry.

    “In situations like this, I like to err on the side of caution,” Cooper said. “It only takes one bridge with ice on it to cause problems for a bus. It’s not US 59, it’s our county roads and farm-to-market roads.”

    Each school district decided by Sunday evening to cancel school on Monday. One district, Leggett, was anticipating a late start, but decided against it once it was determined that road conditions were unsafe.

    “We decided at 6 p.m. Sunday to not have school,” Cooper said. “I reside on the south end of our district in Moscow and we were getting sleet and snow at that point. My transportation director drove the roads in our district and noted more snow and sleet on the north and west sides of our district.”

    Cooper, who is in his second year as superintendent of C-CISD, said this was the first time his district had to cancel school because of winter weather. In his previous stop at Garrison, he had to cancel for winter weather once.

    “I’ve been (at C-CISD) for two years, but the last time we had to cancel was before I got here,” Cooper said. “We had some sleet and ice when I first got to Garrison in January 2016.”

    All six districts returned to school on Tuesday. Cooper said his district started two hours late.

    “We started two hours later because roads were still wet,” he said. “It was 26 degrees Monday night so we wanted to see a little more traffic on the roads before we put buses on them. We had no incidents so it worked.”

    Cooper also said that although much of the snow was melted Sunday night, the roads were wet and perfect for ice formation with a freeze. He ultimately decided to play it safe.

    “It warmed up enough on Monday that melted it, but all bridges were wet by Sunday night and they were frozen by Monday morning,” Cooper said. “You have to put the safety of students, parents and staff first when making those decisions.”

  • Shutout win in rubber match

    IMG 6875BRIAN BESCH | PCE Big Sandy Wildcatscelebrating a win.

    By Brian Besch

    The Big Sandy Wildcats scored early and often Saturday, clinching a bi-district championship over Iola 11-0 in Willis.

    "We played to our full potential today," Big Sandy coach Blake Brown said. "We played good defense, pitched well, put the ball in play and took advantage of some situations on the basepaths to score in every inning."

    The Wildcats made the most of their time at the plate. They scored 1, 2, 4 and 4, respectively, over the four frames.

    Trace Flores, Bryce Barnes, Brayden Young and Ethan Murphy each had two RBIs, with the latter three collecting two hits as well. Young and Murphy scored twice, while Trever Quinones crossed the plate three times.

    As a team, the Big Sandy offense had more hits (13) than recorded outs (12).

    "Our guys had really good at-bats all the way up and down the order," Brown said. "Every time we got somebody in the box, we were seeing a lot of pitches. I think we got hit by a pitch five times today. Pretty much all of the baserunners that we got today were moved into scoring position and a lot of those were paid off."

    Tony Carter pitched on a limited count, with only 76 tosses to work with Saturday after making relief appearances in both games Friday. He was able to finish Game 3, covering five innings in just 63 pitches.

    He scattered five hits and a walk, and struck out three Bulldogs.

    "Defensively, we just made a lot of plays. Isias Walker had a really good game. He played (shortstop) today while Tony was pitching and he made every play that was hit to him."

    "Tony did a good job of getting on top of their bats, so there were a lot of balls in the air. I think they got their first hit in the third inning. Tony just commanded the game from the bump all day. Defensively, we were just there to make the plays behind him."

    Brown said the next opponent, Shiner, will be present a big challenge. The Comanches are 22-2 and the Texas High School Coaches Association ranks them as the top team in the state.

    "It is going to be a tough matchup for us. They are a tough matchup for anybody. I am never going to count my kids out if we play good baseball and play clean defense like we did today. I know they've got one really good pitcher and, as a team, they are pretty salty. I feel like our guys will come ready to play."

    The series will begin Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Navasota and continue Saturday at 11 a.m. and (if needed) 1:30 p.m.

  • Sides grateful to survive boating accident

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Jim Sides poses with the throw cushion and life vest that saved his life when his boat capsized on Feb. 3 while he was fishing on Lake Livingston.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Jim Sides loves to go fishing.

    On Feb. 3, Sides went fishing just as he did numerous times during his 78 years of life. But on this day, Sides’ fishing trip in Lake Livingston could’ve been his last.

    The boat that Sides was fishing in three weeks ago sank, which forced him to grab the throw cushion and the life vest that were in it. More than three hours later, someone came to Sides’ rescue.

    “I was in a horrible situation,” Sides said. “After having someone help me put the boat in the water, I went over to fish. I fished for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half then I noticed there was some water by my foot. I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed there was more water. Then I started to wonder what was going on. I looked back and I had about a pencil stream of water coming into the boat from right underneath the motor.”

    As it turns out, a bolt had been taken out of the boat and the hole wasn’t plugged. Sides purchased the boat a month earlier.

    “I just bought this boat and I couldn’t get the motor to run,” he said. “I finally got the motor to running (on Feb. 3). The previous owner guaranteed me that there were no leaks and I took him at his word. I fished all my life and I had water get in the boat. I start the boat, pull the plug out, water runs out and I take off.”

    But something different happened when Sides followed the start-boat protocol.

    “I started the boat up and I took off, but all of the water came to the back of the boat,” he said. “Then the boat came down. I attempted to put on a life preserver, but I couldn’t get it to fasten around me. I was able to get my left arm through it and get it around my neck. I grabbed my throw cushion and got out of the boat as it was going down. I did not want to go down with the boat. Whenever I would hang on to the sides of the boat, it would sink. I worked my way to the front of the boat, but there were no other boats in the lake.”

    Being 300 yards from either the Trinity County or Polk County shores of the lake, Sides was in the water for more than three hours. That’s when his Air Force training kicked in.

    “I trained in the Arctic Circle when I was in the Air Force and I learned there not to do too much so I wouldn’t cramp,” Sides said. “I started hollering and waving my throw cushion.”

    But there were no boats or people around. Sides started to prepare for the worst.

    “I was getting blown up the lake because of the wind current,” he said. “I looked at my watch and noticed that I was about to get dark. I thought I was going to die. I asked the Lord not to take me, but then I saw a boat coming.”

    Sides then picked up his throw cushion and waved it as the boat approached. As it turns out, the boat was coming for him.

    “The man in the boat, Derek Rosenthal, had been contacted by another man, Bill Sory, who heard me screaming when he took his dog outside to use the bathroom,” Sides said. “Bill called everybody he knew who had a boat.”

    Once the boat arrived, the obstacle was getting Sides in the boat. As exhaustion took over, the Air Force Veteran was unable to get into the boat by himself.

    “Rosenthal threw a rope around me and pulled me around his pontoon boat. The boat had a ladder and I was able to get my knees on the ladder and Rosenthal pulled me up until I could reach the handrails then he pulled me belly-first onto his boat. I couldn’t stand up because my legs gave out and I was exhausted. Rosenthal then tied a rope onto my boat and took it back around his boat.”

    Sides said if it had been another 30 minutes, he would’ve been dead. He’s very grateful for Rosenthal and Sory.

    “If Bill Sory hadn’t taken his dog out to use the bathroom, I wouldn’t be here because there was no way I could’ve stayed alive,” Sides said. “I almost froze to death. I don’t know how it didn’t kill me. That water was cold. I had hypothermia. I wasn’t going to drown, but hypothermia would’ve killed me.”

    Once Rosenthal and Sides reached the shore, there were two more people waiting for Sides with blankets. Despite pleas from the people who saved him, Sides refused to go to the hospital.

    “I was shaking horribly and they begged me to go to the hospital,” he said. “But I wanted to go home. My car was parked by the boat ramp and Bill helped me get in his truck. The seat had a warmer and it felt so good. I talked him into taking me to my car and he followed me home and helped me get in the house.”

    Once Sides returned home, he thought he was going to “scare the devil” out of his wife. While he didn’t say whether or not he actually did scare her, Sides was helped into the shower.

    “When Bill helped me get in the house, I went straight to the shower and my wife turned the hot water on,” he said. “I sat there for a half-hour letting the hot water run on me. I found out later that there were two helicopters looking for me. You can’t imagine what it’s like being in that water. I knew I wasn’t going to drown and I’m a good swimmer, but hypothermia was kicking my butt. I was completely exhausted and I couldn’t get warm. I thank the Lord that he let me survive one more time. I’ve had a lot of missed calls in my life.”

    Sides also said it’s going to be a while until he goes back on the lake.

    “I’m not going back in the water until it gets warmer,” he said. “When I do go, I’ll make sure I have my life preserver on.”

    He’ll be ready to go fishing then.

  • Smallwood updates Rotarians on SPCA

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE SPCA of Polk County communications lead Jessica Smallwood speaks at Rotary Club of Livingston last month.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Covid-19 slowed a lot of things down in 2020.

    SPCA continued to work as usual. The animal shelter took in 2,000 dogs and cats in 2020.

    SPCA of Polk County communications lead Jessica Smallwood gave members of the Rotary Club of Livingston a rundown on what her shelter has done and what it is doing during a Rotary Club meeting last month. She also gave Rotarians a glimpse into what’s different between her shelter and shelters in other counties.

    “We are a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter,” Smallwood said. “We primarily serve Polk County, but we are also one of the few shelters that takes animals from outside the county. We get a lot animals brought in from San Jacinto and Montgomery counties, and even some from Lufkin. That is one of the things that makes us unique. Most other animal shelters refuse animals from outside their own county.”

    In 2020 alone, SPCA of Polk County took in 1,579 dogs and 420 cats. Of those animals, approximately 69 percent of them were adopted – 1,159 dogs, 219 cats.

    The months with the highest number of intakes were April for dogs (183) and June for cats (79). The months with the highest number of adoptions were May for dogs (222) and February for cats (58).

    “We have a good number of transport rescues that we do work with,” Smallwood said. “Just this past year, we took in more than 1,300 animals from Polk County and surrounding counties. We were able to place or transport 80 percent of them.”

    Smallwood said that her shelter has a “revolving door” of animals. She also said that things can be unpredictable at times.

    “We might have a great day of adoptions and get seven animals into a new home, then just as we’re about to close for the day, we get a call that someone has picked up a litter of puppies in a trash can,” Smallwood said. “Things like that happen all the time. About a week after Christmas, we took in no less than seven full litters of puppies, which contained 8-13 per litter.”

    Smallwood pointed out that in December 2020, 79 out of 126 dogs brought in were strays (homeless, abandoned, etc.). She also said that although SPCA gets plenty of calls about stray animals being found, the shelter gets more calls from people looking to volunteer.

    One of the biggest programs that SPCA offers is the TNR (trap, neuter, release) or "Fix A Feral" program. This program works with local veterinarians and the public to help curb the feral cat population through spaying and neutering.

    Some of the participating veterinarians do vaccinate against rabies and feline leukemia as funding allows, but none for FIV/FIP (testing and vaccinating for that in particular is more expensive than the TNR program can currently afford). The average cost to spay/neuter these feral cats is $60 per cat.

    “It is breeding season here year-round,” Smallwood said. “We also offer low-income spay and neuter programs as well as a mobile clinic.”

    Both the SPCA and its TNR program operate entirely on donations, and neither receives any funding from local or federal government. Smallwood also pointed out that SPCA wants to be involved in the community.

    “We have a number of community event ideas such as a Holiday Pet Photo Day,” she said. “We want to expand outreach in the community.”

  • Survive and advance

    IMG 4868BRIAN BESCH | PCE Adrian Thompson (3) of Big Sandy shoots a jumper in the lane.

    By Brian Besch

    The Big Sandy Wildcats left Kirbyville Monday night with the promise of another game, after holding on to beat Shelbyville 55-53 in the bi-district round of the UIL playoffs. 

    Down for much of the first half, the pace of the game appeared too quick in for the 'Cats in the opening period. Down 19-12 after the opening eight minutes, they settled in and took better care of the ball. 

    "Obviously, we got off to a shaky start and the pressure hurt us especially," Big Sandy coach Kevin Foster said. "I don't know if it was playoff jitters or what. (Shelbyville is) real athletic, but I felt like if we could ever really settle down, we would be OK. Right before the half, we took the lead, but we had a few mistakes that weren't real smart on our part."

    With 2:18 to go in the second quarter, Big Sandy pulled ahead at 26-25. The Dragons ended the half with a few buckets to go back up, 31-28.

    "Every team out there is in the same boat," Foster said. "We haven't played in nine days. We practiced a little bit last week. Their district was very tough and there are a lot of good teams in it. That helps a team like them coming in."

    A turning point in the contest was a six-point swing, as Adrian Thompson hit a shot under the hoop and received two technical shots after he was shoved to the floor. The Wildcats inbounded after and Thompson hit a jumper in the lane.
     


    The Dragons were held to eight points in the third and fourth quarters. Big Sandy forced Shelbyville to settle for many outside shots over the final three periods, outscoring the Dragons in each.

    "They stretched it out again and we just kept telling the kids to chip away at it the best you can," the Wildcat coach said. "We didn't do great down the stretch, but we did just enough and made just enough free throws. We turned it over too much and they made some big shots late."

    Seth Beene-Williams led with 15 points, Kaden Foster scored 14 and Thompson had 13. Brayden Hand led the Dragons with a dozen and Jakivian Calhoun had 10. 

    Big Sandy moves on to challenge the victor of the Mount Union/Woden contest. Foster believes his team's next game will occur Thursday.
  • Suspect behind bars after scamming $42K

    Photo Zhang 6COURTESY PHOTO Hongwen Zhang, 32, was recently indicted by a Polk County grand jury for her role in a “secret shopper” scam that swindled a Livingston woman out of nearly $10,000.

    Special to the Enterprise

    LIVINGSTON – A woman is behind bars after scamming a Livingston woman and other people for a grand total of $42,000.

    On Nov. 27, law enforcement authorities with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested 32-year-old Hongwen Zhang, who was recently indicted by a Polk County grand jury for her role in a “secret shopper” scam that swindled a Livingston woman out of nearly $10,000.

    According to law enforcement reports, in March of this year, the victim was contacted by the defendant, or someone conspiring with the defendant, and they convinced the victim to act as a “secret shopper,” essentially someone who would visit local businesses and report back on the nature of the customer service received, the cleanliness of the store, etc. The scammers sent the victim several money orders as payment for the victim’s secret shopper services.

    It was not until the victim’s bank informed her that the money orders were fake that she realized she had been conned. But, by then, she’d already been convinced by the scammers to purchase several gift cards and provide them with the identifying information for the cards.

    The scammers used this information to transfer the nearly $10,000 stored on the cards to other gift cards. After receiving a report from the victim, investigators with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department were able to identify Zhang as a suspect.

    Zhang was tracked to a location in Houston, where investigators encountered her with 652 gift cards with more than $42,000 loaded onto them.

    “Because of the online and electronic nature of these types of crimes, most go unsolved,” stated Tommy L. Coleman, Special Crimes Prosecutor for the Polk County District Attorney’s Office. “But for the relentless investigation of this case by Polk County Sheriff’s Department Detective David Sottosanti, this case too, might have gone unsolved.”

    Zhang is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of conspiracy to commit fraudulent use/possession of identifying information, one count of conspiracy to commit fraudulent use/possession of credit card information and one count of theft from an elderly person as a party. The case is being prosecuted by Coleman. If convicted, Zhang faces up to 20 years confinement in a state prison.

    The investigation is still ongoing as it relates to the identification and apprehension of Zhang’s co-conspirators.

  • Texas LawShield rep speaks at Lions Club

    Lions 2PHOTO BY JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Texas LawShield representative Gary Blalock speaks at Lions Club of Livingston last week at Cam Cho Yeh.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Self-defense is a necessity at times.

    There are times, however, when it can come back to haunt the person who defends itself. Gary Blalock knows this all too well.

    Blalock was the guest speaker at Lions Club of Livingston last week. He’s a representative of Texas LawShield – a legal defense program for self-defense.

    Blalock was once involved in a self-defense situation in which a legal defense program could’ve helped him. Unfortunately, Texas LawShield didn’t exist until 2009 and the incident involving Blalock took place in 2000.

    “I owned a bar and two patrons were involved in a fight,” Blalock said. “Then one of them assaulted one of my employees. The employee called me and I came to the bar to talk to them.”

    Once Blalock arrived on the scene, trouble ensued. The patrons were not in the mood to reason with him at first.

    “When I tried to stop them in the parking lot, they tried to run over me in their car,” Blalock said. “I drew my firearm and when they saw the laser beam pointed at them, they got out and were willing to talk. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use deadly force.”

    While Blalock wasn’t forced to use the firearm, the worst was yet to come. He soon found himself in legal trouble.

    “I found out a few days later that there was a warrant out for my arrest,” Blalock said. “They went in and filed a report against me and I had to take care of things legally.”

    Blalock had to pay approximately $4,000 in legal fees to prove that he acted in self-defense. He learned a valuable lesson from that fateful night.

    “I should’ve called law enforcement and filed a report,” Blalock said.

    Fast forward to 2010 and Blalock was with a former Marine friend at a gun show in Houston. It was there that he discovered Texas LawShield.

    “The people who found Texas LawShield was the law firm of Walker, Rice and Wisdom – a law firm in Houston,” Blalock said. “All three gentlemen are from the Houston area and it was found in 2009. I became a member then went to work for it six months later. I became a member because of what it cost me in legal fees 20 years ago. One of my former Marine buddies still works for the company. He introduced me to the attorneys at a gun show at the George Brown Convention Center. They explained to me what they do and how they protect us. For $10.95 a month, all of my legal defense is covered.”

    Blalock has been involved with Texas LawShield since 2010. First as a member and now as a representative.

    “The benefits are you have 24-hour access to a live attorney on an emergency hotline,” Blalock said. “When you’re in an ‘aww shucks’ moment and you’ve had to use force or deadly force, I want to know that I can contact my attorney and they’re going to be on their way to defend me. That’s the big thing. The fact that it’s so inexpensive, I don’t have to worry about going into my Dave Ramsey emergency fund, my retirement or the mortage for my house because all of my legal defense is covered because of this great program.”

    Texas LawShield is under the U.S. LawShield umbrella. Blalock also discussed some of the coverages associated with the program.

    “They offer additional coverages such as gunowner identity theft, multi-state protection and family protection,” he said. “I have my wife covered as well. I recommend this for everyone, especially now that we cover an individual for any kind of weapon. It no longer has to be a firearm. In today’s world, you see what happens. You have to defend yourself if someone attacks you. To me, it’s a no-brainer.”

    Especially when self-defense becomes a necessity.

  • THE CSI EFFECT

    M. Spoor Head Shot WorkCOURTESY PHOTO M. Spoor Head Shot

    Early in my career, I was contacted by a friend from my high school days named Anthony Zuiker. Anthony had heard I was employed by the local police and was assigned to the crime scene investigations section.

    Anthony, a high-energy guy with lofty dreams, was just beginning his writing career and working for famed producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Anthony’s wife got him interested in a forensics-based television show, The New Detectives, featured on the Discovery channel. With this inspiration, Anthony eagerly created his first television pilot script, which became the start of the CSI television drama franchise.

    So here I am, working a job few people at the time wanted to delve into because of its mundane and tedious nature, not to mention being so freely exposed to death. Anthony calls me up one evening and says, “Hey man, I respect what you do and I would like to ride along with you to see how the whole forensics thing works.”

    Thus, the CSI revolution was born. I tried to talk him out of creating a series based on crime scene investigations because of the nature of the work, but he wasn’t hearing me. Anthony rode along with me for a week, where he was exposed to the unpredictable and rousing Vegas night life. Las Vegas is an exciting city, there is always a plethora of crime and Anthony’s time with me was fruitful to say the least. Anthony has the gift of gab, so of course he developed friendships with several of my coworkers, which would later become the basis for his characters.

    A couple of months later, I get another call from Anthony asking me to meet him at a well-known Vegas watering hole for some food and football. Unbeknownst to me, it was a rouse to get me to help him finish his pilot script for CSI (Vegas). Several beers and a lot of chicken wings later, a script born. This was my indoctrination into the world of entertainment versus reality.

    The interesting part of the CSI (Vegas) franchise was all the initial characters were based on actual investigators that worked with me. Nick Stokes, played by actor George Eads, was based on myself. Gil Grissom, played by actor William Petersen, was based on Daniel Holstein Ph.D. and Catherine Willows, played by actress Marg Helgenberger, was based on Yolanda McClary, just to name a few. The rest of the story is history. Anthony was able to pitch and sell the pilot to CBS spawning multiple future spinoffs.

    For every upside, there is an equal and opposite downside. The CSI series were wildly popular and spawned a new interest in the forensic sciences. Universities and colleges offered new courses of study targeting the different disciplines and a whole new generation of scientists and investigators were born. What was once a silent job in law enforcement saw an explosion of interest and more candidates than ever were testing for limited opportunities. This exploding interest meant police departments could choose the best of the best to fill their vacancies. New training opportunities and organizations formed to help push the science into future rather than merely respond to it.

    The downsides created by such a drama series affected the expectations of the viewers. We in the forensic business like to affectionately refer to this as “The CSI Effect.” There is a difference between entertainment and reality, and forensic scientists/investigators were challenged to explain the differences when testifying in court. Jurors now had unrealistic examples of timeframes, procedures, equipment and job duties. Additional time had to be spent educating jurors on the realistic aspects and limitations of the science.

    Scripts are entertainment and without entertainment they never see the light of day. It is hard to translate forensics into a script without adding that entertainment factor which ultimately diverges away from the real expectations of forensic science. I had a fortunate opportunity to play a small part in something special and help a friend achieve great success, but I spent the rest of my career explaining the difference between reality and entertainment in court.

  • The Texas Bucket List features Pit Row Pit Stop

    pit7COURTESY PHOTO Texas Bucket List host Shane McAuliffe (left) poses with Pit Row Pit Stop owner Frankie Vinci. McAuliffe’s show will feature Vinci’s restaurant this weekend.

    Special to the Enterprise

    LIVINGSTON – Take a step back in time into this retro 50’s diner that’s known for more than their burgers and shakes, they are known for what Texas is known for, Barbeque.

    Owner and Brooklyn born Californian Frankie Vinci went from building theme parks to building a diner to smoke barbeque like a true Texan.

    “I'm a Brooklyn boy, I had no clue what a brisket is. We don't cook brisket in Brooklyn. So, I had to learn four years ago and I guess I got good at it,” said Frankie.

    Not only does Frankie care about his brisket and ribs, he cares about his community and provides religious outreach for those in prison, since it was what helped him during his time behind bars.

    So, tune in on Feb. 13-14 as host Shane McAuliffe visits a righteous man with the gift of giving and great BBQ on The Texas Bucket List. Pit Row Pit Stop in Livingston is featured alongside two other stops - Zito’s in San Antonio and The Stephen F. Austin Statue in Angleton.

    Follow this link to find a station near you! https://thetexasbucketlist.com/where-to-watch.

    pit1COURTESY PHOTO Pit Row Pit Stop in Livingston will be featured this weekend on the Texas Bucket List.

    About the Texas Bucket List

    The Texas Bucket List, telling the tales of the Lone Star State one Texan's story at a time. The award-winning TV series shares the joy, wonder, beauty and excitement of Texas.

    Each week, host Shane McAuliffe sets out to add more people, places, food and music to a list that every Texan should experience. Shane has been recognized with numerous television broadcast excellence awards including a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, three Lone Star Emmy Awards, the Barbara Jordan Media Award, several Telly Awards, and multiple Texas Association of Press Broadcasters awards.

    He’s a native of Round Rock, and attended The University of Houston. The Texas Bucket List is produced by McAuliffe Productions, LP located in College Station.

  • Too little too late (VIDEO)

    IMG 2610BRIAN BESCH | PCE Livingston’s Jon’Toyrian McNeal scored a game-high 27 points Tuesday.

    Liberty versus Livingston Lady Lions

    By Brian Besch

    The Livingston Lady Lions suffered their second district loss in as many games Tuesday, as the Liberty Lady Panthers escaped Polk County with a 45-42 win.

    “It was rough,” Livingston coach Brittany Jefferson said. “I at least expected the girls to come out here and do what they were supposed to do. They came out and, just to be honest, they had no energy whatsoever. We wouldn't box out, we didn't get rebounds, the turnovers with the guards that I had — we were just giving the ball straight to Liberty. They just didn't do what they were supposed to do.”

    The game Tuesday was a case of too little too late. The defending district champions seemingly picked up their intensity and focus in spots, but could not sustain a high level of play. A fourth-quarter comeback attempt fell short.

    Leading 9-4 in the first quarter, Liberty went on a 12-3 run and eventually took a 22-19 advantage into the break at the half. The Lady Panthers came out of the locker room and put another eight points up before Livingston answered.

    “The last two minutes of the game, they wanted to pick it up and tried to pick it up, but it's too late,” Jefferson said. “You are supposed to do that at the beginning. When you are trying to do that in the last two minutes of the game and you are down by six or eight points, it's too late. You should have just picked it up at the beginning. If they would have played like they did in the last two minutes, then it probably would have been an easy win. Since they didn't do that, it just didn't happen.”

    Liberty’s Madyson Goudeau led the Lady Panthers with 15 points, Drelyn Willis had 13, and Reese Evans added eight. For Livingston, Jon’Toyrian McNeal had 27 points, Z Garner finished with eight and Natavia Davis had seven.

    Livingston is now winless in two district games, dropping the first to district favorite Hardin-Jefferson in a lopsided 103-10 blowout.

    “I would have assumed that, hopefully, we would have been 1-1 now,” the coach said. “We just have to take it as it is and, hopefully, they'll learn from it. If not, it is going to be a long, long, long season.”

    Jefferson most wants her team to be able to take care of the ball. The team had problems setting up and executing an offense because of an inability to control the basketball.

    The Lady Lions’ next opportunity to get in the district win column will be Dec. 18 on the road at Hamshire-Fannett.

    Discuss this story in the East Texas News Forum

  • Two die in head-on collision

    IMG 0962KELLI BARNES I PCE A head-on collision between a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe and 2013 Ford Taurus on US Highway 190 east of Livingston resulted in the deaths of Michael Tobin, 55, and Christopher Hinson, 37, Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    A head-on collision in eastern Polk County Tuesday morning claimed the lives of two men.

    Michael Tobin, 55, of Onalaska and Christopher Hinson, 37, of Livingston were both killed in the collision that took place on US Highway 190 east of Livingston. The accident took place at approximately 6:49 a.m., which caused a delay in traffic and took 3 1/2 hours to clean up.

    A 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe was driven eastbound by Tobin in the outside lane, and a 2013 Ford Taurus driven by Hinson traveled westbound. Hinson started passing people in a no-passing zone and struck Tobin’s vehicle head-on.

    Hinson was arrested Sunday afternoon by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office after they responded to a public disturbance call. He had a mental health warrant and also received a charge of resisting arrest.

    Despite having a mental health warrant, Hinson was not sent to a mental health facility after being released from the Polk County Jail Monday. According to Department of Public Safety Trooper Ashlee White, who was the lead officer on the scene of the fatality, the mental health facility wouldn’t take him “because it wasn’t an emergency matter.”

    In addition to White and other DPS troopers, the PCSO, Livingston Volunteer Fire Department and Allegiance Ambulance Service were all dispatched to the scene. The DPS is investigating the accident.

  • Vehicle fire holds highway traffic 

    20210222 135229COURTESY PHOTO Vehicle fire holds highway traffic 

    By Brian Besch

    A large vehicle fire held traffic on the county's main thoroughfare for nearly an hour Monday.

    After rear-trailer tandem brakes overheated and ignited, the tires of a tractor-trailer caught fire around 1:45 p.m. The vehicle's driver was able to unhook the trailer, as it burned on a Highway 59 overpass across from Livingston Junior High.

    "All eight tires were involved and with all the heat, it caused the trailer to buckle," Livingston Fire Chief Corky Cochran said. "With all the tires on fire and some of the materials inside, it took a little time to get it all knocked out."

    An engine and two tankers responded from the Livingston Fire Department. Also on the scene were Livingston Police, Department of Public Safety, the Polk County Sheriff's Department, Texas Department of Transportation and City of Livingston Public Utilities.

    The trailer was hauling polyethylene plastic polymer resin, a non-hazardous material.

    "The packaging burned and also some of the product as the heat intensified," Cochran said. "We were delayed just a couple of minutes researching what was in the truck before we made any fire control attempt. We needed to make sure it wasn't something that was water reactive. When we got those doors open, you could immediately see about a third of the way into the trailer."

    Traffic was blocked for around 45 minutes to extinguish the blaze and a small grass fire that began nearby. Officers diverted traffic into downtown and the highway's feeder road.

    Livingston also assisted the Corrigan Fire Department with nine firefighters and two trucks around 9:45 a.m. Saturday at a residence just off Highway 59.

    On Collins Street, 11 Corrigan firefighters and three engines responded to the nearby house.

    "It was pretty significant," Corrigan Fire Chief Jimmy McDonald said of the damage. "It's a total loss. It had a good jump on us before we ever got there. We were all in the truck headed to hand out some water that day to the area. The call dropped when we were all in the truck. We didn't even need an address because you could see the smoke when we pulled out of the station. It had been burning for a little bit before someone called."

    No one was at the residence at the time of the fire and no injury was reported.

    McDonald took over the Corrigan Fire Department about a year ago and has several new members. The chief said they are looking for others to join.

    "We're always looking for people," he said. "Anybody interested in joining up can come by the fire station on Monday night at 6 p.m. and pick up an application."