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New initiative hopes to bolster regional infrastructure

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By Chris Edwards
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A recent $3.1 million grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation is helping bolster the need for civic infrastructure in the Deep East Texas region.

The grant is supporting a new initiative called ConnectRURAL, a partial acronym, which stands for Regions Underserved Resources Available Lineup, which was launched by Communities Unlimited (CU) and the Temple Foundation.

The goal of ConnectRURAL, according to Ben Smith, with the initiative, is to strengthen the capacities of rural communities to plan for, secure, and manage transformational federal and state funding opportunities.

“Communities with strained civic infrastructure have been held back as they work to tackle their long-standing challenges. ConnectRURAL will assist small-underserved communities in accessing funding for federal programs by embedding Community Resource Managers throughout the T.L.L. Temple service area,” Smith stated in a news release.

Martha Claire Bullen, the CU Director of Community Sustainability called the project a potential “game changer for the region,” and praised the Temple Foundation’s commitment to the initiative.

“From community members to municipal leadership, there are dollars not making it to their intended destinations and our goal is to make that connection,” Bullen said.

The initiative will establish a special pooled funding mechanism for rural communities to access cost share and matching funds in order to secure federal grants, according to the news release.

A team of Community Resource Managers will serve as local intermediaries in a web of direct technical assistance and targeted funding will work to enhance regional development across the region.

The Community Resource Managers will collaborate with community leaders to identify local needs and develop action plans, according to the news release. “Through this collaboration, East Texas communities will connect local priorities with CU’s multi-state network of technical assistance expertise in rural water systems, broadband, entrepreneurship, small business lending and community sustainability,” according to Smith.

Wynn Rosser, president and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, said the initiative is designed to overcome certain barriers that communities face in accessing resources.

“[T]his ConnectRURAL partnership with Communities Unlimited is our chance to do rural development differently in East Texas,” Rosser said.

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Rodriguez indicted on additional charge

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By Chris Edwards
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MUGSHOT RodriguezCROCKETT – A Crockett man was recently indicted on an additional charge after being arrested in 2021 on a charge of videotaping customers at a local business.

Arturo Fajardo Rodriguez, 28, faces two state-jail felony charges of invasive visual recording, as well as a new charge for an incident at a private residence, according to Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar.

Rodriguez was arrested in October 2021 by officers with the Crockett Police Department when the officers were dispatched to a business in reference to a hidden camera that had been installed in a public restroom.

An employee at the business had notified supervisors upon discovery, and then law enforcement was notified. A recording on the device had captured a suspect placing the camera above the ceiling tile, according to Smith, and Rodriguez was identified as a suspect.

Rodriguez was brought in for questioning and cooperated with investigators, and then taken into custody.

A Houston County Grand Jury opted to indict Rodriguez on the two SJF charges. There is no court date set at present for Rodriguez.

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Edgar transferred to Wainwright

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By Chris Edwards
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Matthew Hoy Edgar after his arrest. Photo courtesy of Sabine County Sheriff’s OfficeMatthew Hoy Edgar after his arrest. Photo courtesy of Sabine County Sheriff’s OfficeLOVELADY – On Tuesday, January 10, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) confirmed that Matthew Hoy Edgar, convicted for the 2020 murder of his girlfriend, Livye Lewis, is now imprisoned at the J. Dale Wainwright Unit in Lovelady.

The manhunt for Edgar, which lasted almost a year came to a close on Dec. 29, 2022 near Hemphill.

Edgar, a 26-year-old Sabine County man, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service. He was convicted of the murder in January of 2022, and fled during his trial proceedings.

Edgar was convicted and sentenced, in absentia, to 99 years in prison. According to a news release from the U.S. Marshals Service issued after his arrest, Edgar, who was on the Texas 10 Most Wanted list, was apprehended when investigators received information about his whereabouts.

His 99-year sentence was formalized during a January 3 hearing. He was transported from the Sabine County Jail to the James “Jay” H. Byrd Unit, an intake unit in Huntsville, where he was detained for a short time before being transferred.

The Wainwright Unit, which was once known as the Eastham Unit, is historic in the annals of Texas prisons. Clyde Barrow was once incarcerated there, and along with Bonnie Parker, helped a handful of inmates break out in 1934.

When Edgar disappeared, on Jan. 27, 2022, the ensuing manhunt drew national attention to the case, with Lewis’s mother telling several national news outlets that she and the family wanted closure.

When the Sabine County issued a warrant for Edgar’s arrest, law enforcement from around the region joined in on the hunt. According to Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox, in a press conference, lawmen followed leads provided by citizens and other law enforcement agencies, which took them into neighboring states. Ultimately, Maddox said, Edgar was taken into custody while sitting on the back porch of a local residence located not far from his family’s property and the actual homicide scene.

Maddox said that no other individuals were arrested with Edgar, however, two subjects were detained and later released by SCSO deputies.

“The investigation into Edgar’s disappearance continues and could eventually lead to additional arrests by the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office,” Maddox said.

According to this Texas Department of Criminal Justice file, Edgar will become eligible for parole on May 31, 2052.

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Crockett Police assist with drug trafficking arrest

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From Staff Reports

BEAUMONT – Last week, the Crockett Police Department cited the agency’s assistance in the federal investigation and prosecution of Ingrid Yaresi Balderas De Leon.

De Leon was prosecuted in federal court as part of a large drug trafficking organization responsible for transporting and distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in East Texas.

According to a news release from the U.S Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Texas, De Leon pleaded guilty on July 12, 2022, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone.

Attorney Brit Featherston said that information presented in court showed De Leon to be part of a drug trafficking organization distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in East Texas. De Leon participated in several sales of large quantities of methamphetamine, often acting as a Spanish-language interpreter during the transactions.

De Leon and her co-conspirators would hide the methamphetamine in the plastic trim of vehicles and deliver them to a residence in Center. De Leon was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 2, 2022.

This case was investigated by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald S. Carter.


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Police search for hit-and-run driver

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From Staff Reports

CROCKETT – The Crockett Police Department posted on its Facebook page that on the evening of Monday, Jan. 2, at around 6 p.m., officers were dispatched to the area of Spring Street and Dodson Drive in reference to a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle.

On scene, officers determined that the male victim was walking down Spring Street headed toward North Fourth. Witnesses told officers that a grey or silver 2015-2017 Chevrolet Truck struck the victim and then fled the scene and was last seen at the intersection of Spring Street and North Fourth Street.

The victim was transported to Crockett Medical Center, where he was later transferred to an out-of-town hospital. The victim sustained serious injuries as a result of being struck.

The Crockett Police Department asks that anyone with information on the incident contact the police department at 936-544-2021 and speak with Sgt. Matthew Millican. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Deep East Texas Crime Stoppers at 936-639-TIPS.

This case remains under investigation.

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