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HCSO reports tractor theft

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Tractor Stock

Staff Reports

CROCKETT – The Houston County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a theft that occurred on County Road 1610 on Dec. 15.

Items stolen include a blue New Holland Workmaster 120 HP Tractor, a black six-foot utility trailer (License Plate Texas FRJF31) with a 250-gallon diesel fuel tank and 18 round bales of hay.

Anyone who may have seen this equipment being taken or who might have information about the theft is asked to contact the Houston County Sheriff’s Office at (936) 544-2862.

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Crockett Police foil heavy equipment heist


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The stolen excavator recovered by Crockett Police. Image provided by Tyler-Longview KLTVThe stolen excavator recovered by Crockett Police. Image provided by Tyler-Longview KLTV

From Staff Reports

CROCKETT – According to an officer with the Crockett Police Department, a Dodge pickup towing a trailer loaded with a hydraulic excavator was detained for a traffic violation early Sunday morning on December 18 on US Highway 287 North. The driver was identified as Dustin Heath McNutt, age 29, of Crockett. Although McNutt gave officers conflicting information about the trailer and excavator, he consented to let the officers search the vehicle.

After being joined by deputies with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, officers found methamphetamine, a handgun, several bundles of heavy equipment, tractor keys, two walkie-talkies, and five different license plates during their search.

Although the excavator and trailer were checked in state and national databases, they were not reported as stolen at the time. The officers attempted to contact the trailer’s registered owner but were unsuccessful. The Dodge pickup and equipment were taken to a secure location while the officers investigated further. Later that morning, the officers spoke with the heavy equipment’s owners, who reported that one of his employees had discovered the equipment had been stolen from the 2700 block of State Highway 31 West in Athens.

The owner identified the equipment, which he valued at just under $60,000, and it was released back to him.

McNutt was initially arrested and released to the Houston County Jail for Possession of a Controlled Substance Penalty Group 1 <1 gram, which is a State Jail Felony, and Unlawful Carrying a Weapon – a Class A Misdemeanor. After the equipment was identified, McNutt was additionally charged with Theft of Property >=$30,000 <$150,000 – a Third-Degree Felony and his vehicle was seized. McNutt was released on a $33,000 bond on Monday, Dec. 19.

This case remains under investigation. Anyone with information about this incident or other thefts is asked to contact the Crockett Police Department. The Crockett Police Department would like to note that all arrests are public information, and all subjects are considered innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.


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Jacob Luce arrested in Oregon

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From Staff Reports

Jacob LuceJacob LuceANDERSON COUNTY – A Houston County man was extradited to Anderson County to face trial on several child pornography charges, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

DPS reported on Monday that Jacob Boots Reed Luce, a 29-year-old Houston County man, was returned to Texas on Sunday, Dec. 18, after he had allegedly fled to John Day, Oregon, in order to avoid prosecution, according to a DPS news release.

According to DPS he was returned to Anderson County, where the charges awaited him, by special agents with the DPS Criminal

Investigations Division. DPS agents began an investigation on Luce, after receiving information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he may have been engaged in the promotion of child pornography, according to the news release.

Luce fled after investigators developed a detailed case, and three warrants for his arrest were issued for the felony offenses. In September of this year, he was arrested by Oregon law enforcement agents


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Rural hospitals at risk for closure

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HelpRuralHospitals Stock

By Jan White
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To say that rural hospitals face a challenge to remain open is not an overstatement. As of last year, 71 Texas counties had no hospital.

According to a recent report submitted by Kaufman Hall, a healthcare management and consulting firm, Texas hospitals are at serious risk for closure, nearly doubling in total from the last two years. Rural hospitals were at 26% risk of closing, which, the Houston Chronicle reported, “… is a jump of 16% from 2020 and 2021.” The study found that total expenses in 2022 for Texas hospitals are $33.2 billion higher than pre-pandemic levels, “outpacing increases in revenue.” And data from the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Service Research shows that Texas led the nation in rural hospital closures between 2005 and 2021.

Charles Owens, with the Georgia State Office of Rural Health, has performed extensive research on why rural hospitals in America struggle to stay afloat. A large number of closures are due to higher poverty levels, poor local health, and greater reliance on Medicare and Medicaid. Combined with the population’s high demand for service, these factors make it hard for rural hospitals to keep their doors open.

“It’s hard to manage a physician practice in an area where the patient population has high percentages of patients with lower paying government coverage.  Those markets are challenging to maintain a financially viable medical practice,” said Owens.

Adding to the dilemma is the number of patients in these communities that have a higher rate of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions that require hospitalization. And the Kaufman Hall study suggests that post-pandemic hospital patients suffer more severe health needs.

While federal funding sources in place during the pandemic have started to expire, workforce shortage and inflation have also contributed to higher expenses for labor, supplies, and drugs compared with pre-pandemic levels. The Kaufman Hall report states, “In the first year of the pandemic, Texas hospitals experienced $1.6 billion in lost income. And while conditions improved in 2021, Texas hospitals have experienced lost income of $3.2 billion to date in 2022, which is approximately a 30% reduction in total income across the state of Texas.” The report also says, “While CARES Act support helped hospitals weather the first two years of the pandemic, the proportion of Texas hospitals with negative operating margins skyrocketed in 2022 to 47.4% or nearly half of all hospitals.”

The difference in growth rates between expenses and revenues has led to significantly depressed margins for Texas hospitals, with average revenues rising 11% but average costs increasing to 20% or greater.

And the labor shortage has had its own domino effect – insufficient staffing means hospitals are unable to discharge patients in a timely manner, increasing their length of stay and incurring additional costs without commensurate reimbursement. Nurses suffering from “compassion fatigue,” brought on by extensive emergency room support, hospice care, or extra shifts due to staffing deficiencies, admit that they have reached burnout and are leaving the medical profession to seek other jobs.

All these factors can combine to create a situational ‘perfect storm’ - which sometimes leaves a hospital with no other choice but to close.

Dr. Kia Parsi, executive director of the Texas A&M Rural and Community Health Institute, says that the effect of those closures could have a crippling impact on local programs like emergency medical services (EMS), where the EMS may become the primary source of healthcare for the area, resulting, again, in overworked employees and the increased strain of transporting patients to distant hospitals. Parsi also noted that mortality and morbidity rates increase by 6% in rural communities where health care is eliminated.

And closures could also affect the community on a more personal level - hospital facilities are sometimes the largest employers in a rural county. The shutdown of local hospitals results in not only lost jobs but also the loss of community leaders, as physicians and hospital administrators often serve in those capacities.

Adequate healthcare in rural communities is crucial but not easy. Support and funding, geographic isolation, transportation, and staffing struggles can be challenging, but a county hospital must maintain its presence in rural areas.

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No, that’s not the IRS texting about a tax refund or rebate; it’s a scam

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irs scams v4 en 03

By Gema de las Heras
Consumer Education Specialist

IRS impersonators have been around for a while. But as more people get to know their tricks, they’re switching it up. So instead of contacting you about a tax debt and making threats to get you to pay up, scammers may send you a text about a “tax rebate” or some other tax refund or benefit. Here’s what to know about the new twist.

The text messages may look legit and mention a “tax rebate” or “refund payment.” But no matter what the text says, it’s a scammer phishing for your information. And if you click on the link to claim “your refund,” you’re exposing yourself to identity theft or malware that the scammer could install on your phone.

If someone contacts you about a tax rebate or refund:

Never click on links in unexpected texts. Don’t share personal information with anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Always use a website or phone number you know is real.

Know that the IRS won’t call, email or text to contact you for the first time. They’ll always start by sending you a letter. If you want to confirm, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

Find the status of any pending refund on the IRS official website. Visit Where’s My Refund.

Report unsolicited texts or emails claiming to be the IRS. Forward a screenshot or the email as an attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you clicked a link in one of these text or emails and shared personal information, file a report at IdentityTheft.gov to get a customized recovery plan based on what information you shared.

Even if you didn’t lose money to an IRS impersonator scams, tell us about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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