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Butler pleads guilty in federal court

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guilty pleaFrom Staff Reports

BEAUMONT – A Crockett man recently pleaded guilty to federal firearms violations in federal court.

Shapala Butler, 32, pleaded guilty to theft from a federal firearm licensee and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm before U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone in the Eastern District of Texas court.

According to information presented in court, on Oct. 14, 2020, the Crockett Police Department responded to a burglary at Houston County Pawn, located in Crockett.  Upon arrival, officers discovered the front door glass of the business was shattered. The officers searched the woods near the burglary and discovered eight firearms that were stolen from the pawn shop. Law enforcement was able to identify Butler as the perpetrator by using the pawn shop’s surveillance video as well as DNA evidence collected at the scene.  Butler was interviewed by a federal agent and confessed to committing the burglary. Butler further confessed to knowing he was a felon at the time of the burglary.  Butler had been convicted of burglary of a building on two prior occasions and as a convicted felon is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition.

Butler was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 15, 2021.  He faces up to 10 years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Crockett Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald S. Carter.

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Crockett man jailed after shooting threat at Corrigan-Camden High School

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Randy Dewayne Jones Jr.Randy Dewayne Jones Jr.By Brian Besch
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CORRIGAN – A Crockett man is now in custody at the Polk County Jail after a terroristic threat Monday.

Randy Dewayne Jones Jr., 19, turned himself in Tuesday afterthreatening to “shoot up” Corrigan-Camden High School, according to a Corrigan Police Department press release.

Corrigan police said Jones turned himself in at the Houston County Sheriff's Office. Around 12:30 p.m., he was in custody and was being transported to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. He will be charged with terroristic threat of a public servant, a third-degree felony.

“He was associated with some students at the high school, and it was basically, like a lover's spat,” Corporal Terry Valka of the Corrigan PD said. “They ended up blocking him on social media and then he started mentioning on Snapchat that he was coming with seven carloads deep with his gang members and going to shoot them and whoever else was in the path at the school. He sent it via text message, and they (students) showed it to them at the school. He is supposedly affiliated with some gang members in the Crockett area.”

According to Corrigan-Camden Superintendent Richard Cooper, the student turned the message over to high school administration.

The threat was made an hour and a half before school dismissal. The campus at the high school and middle school was placed on a “soft lockdown.”

“We were made aware at 1:55 p.m.,” Cooper said. “When we receive a threat of violence toward a student at the school or to the school itself, we contact law enforcement immediately, which was Corrigan PD.

They came and looked at the threat. Our high school and junior high campus – those campuses are connected by one city street and we have junior high students that come to the high school for some of their

elective classes. We put both of those campuses on what is called a soft lockdown. They are not locked down with lights out, like there is an active shooter, but they are not allowed to go outside. We stay in one classroom and quit switching classes.

“Local law enforcement in Corrigan reached out to Polk County Sheriff's Office and we had a real heavy police presence. We had police officers at all entrances of the campus until we felt like it was safe to send our kids home at the end of the day. We escorted all of our kids out to buses or parents’ vehicles. We canceled all afterschool activities yesterday and let law enforcement conduct their investigation and arrest who made the threat. They did, and they did it swiftly.”

In charge of the scene, Valka said he contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for assistance and secured the area with around 20 officers.

“We had about 15 patrol cars all around the front and back and side,” Valka said. “We had it secure and if anybody wanted to, they couldn't have done anything.”

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Regional manhunt continues for murderer

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Matthew EdgarMatthew EdgarBy Chris Edwards
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SABINE COUNTY – A regional manhunt continues for a Sabine County man who was sentenced last week to 99 years in prison for murder.

Matthew Hoy Edgar, a 25 -year-old Hemphill man, has been at large since he failed to show up for trial last Thursday. On that day, he was found guilty, and subsequently sentenced. Despite his absence, the trial continued through his attorney.

Edgar was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Livye Lewis on Oct. 31, 2020. According to Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox, the search continues and “has intensified and broadened” as of Sunday, he said in a news release. 

While Edgar has remained at large, Maddox has reported on social media as well to regional media outlets that there have been leads followed as to Edgar’s whereabouts, but all 10 leads were cleared and closed with no contact with the convicted killer.

“As these investigative leads come in, they are assigned to a deputy or completed by the lead investigator for the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office,” Maddox said. Several of the leads to date involve leads from East and Northeast Texas as well as Western Louisiana.”

Last week, Maddox said that the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office has checked out sightings of Edgar in Jasper and Orange counties.

Maddox said for any Sabine County residents, as well as anyone in the region who has seen Edgar, or has knowledge of his whereabouts, to contact either the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office at 409-787-2266 or to call 911. He said that anyone who sees him should not try to contact or try to stop him. He is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as having short brown hair, blue eyes and is approximately six feet tall. 

Maddox said anyone who sees Edgar can also contact the US Marshals’ Office through its website at https://www.usmarshals.gov/tips/index.html.

Maddox provided a recent photo of Edgar, which was taken last week during his trial. Most photos of Edgar available on regional media are of his booking photo, which show him with shoulder-length hair.

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A little kid with a big personality’

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DJ Daniel and Randy HargroveHouston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove shakes DJ Daniel’s hand. Photo courtesy of Marsha Cook

Young man is deputized by HCSO

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – “A little kid with a big personality” – that’s how one onlooker described 10-year-old Devarjaye “DJ” Daniel, as the young man was deputized by Houston County Law Enforcement officials.

Daniel, who was diagnosed with terminal brain and spinal cancer, had a dream to be sworn in by a hundred law enforcement agencies as a way to bring awareness to childhood cancer. On Tuesday, February 15, Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove, his officers, and Grapeland Police Chief Thomas Shafer did their part to make DJ’s dream come true. Wearing a smaller version of an HCSD uniform, DJ was honored with badges and certificates from both departments. 

While Daniel understands the severity of his disease, it hasn’t slowed him down. Since meeting his 100-mark goal, Daniel now has his sights set on over 400 more law enforcement agencies outside the state of Texas, hoping to become deputized by them as well. One look at his broad grin and exuberant spirit should convince you that Daniel will achieve that goal, too.

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Mary Allen College - A fading treasure

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By Jan White
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CROCKETT – It would be difficult not to notice the crumbling brick building atop the hill on Highway 19, north of downtown Crockett. Architects might recognize the structure as a four-story, French Second Empire-style building. Long-time residents see it as a reminder of early efforts to provide a quality academic and religious education for the black community. But for those who don’t know its history, the second installment of our Black History Month tribute tells the story of Mary Allen College.

Mary Allen College opened its doors in Crockett, in 1886, thanks to the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church and the efforts of Reverand Samual Fisher Tenny. Tenney, a former First Lieutenant in the Confederate Army, began preaching in Crockett at the First Presbyterian Church in 1871. 

A year later, dismayed by the lack of education provided to freedmen, Tenney formed the Crockett Presbyterian Church Colored Sabbath School to help educate black children in the area. But Tenney wanted to expand his educational reach. With money donated by members and solicitations of Tenney, a separate church with an academic wing was built, and the school was renamed Moffatt Academy. The program was slow to develop due to indifference, opposition, and the depressed economic circumstances of the times. So when Reverand Tenny saw an advertisement from a northern Presbyterian Church expressing an interest in opening a school in Texas, he contacted Richard H. Allen, Secretary of the Board of Freedman, and invited him to visit Crockett.

Allen, well received by prominent businessmen in the community, was offered a ten-acre plot of land north of the city. Allen’s wife, Mary Esther, was also an advocate of the endeavor and raised awareness and funds for the project. The Women’s Executive Committee of the Board of Missions for Freedman, created in 1884, was led by Mary Allen. It was her belief that “the most permanent progress of a race depended, to a large degree, upon the elevation of its women.” Construction began on the project in early 1886, but Mary passed away before the school could open. Upon her death, the Board agreed that the official name for the school should be Mary Allen Seminary. 

The Seminary opened on January 15, 1886, and Mary Allen Hall was completed on October 1, 1887. It began as a girls-only day and boarding school offering primary, elementary, high school, and teacher-level training. By the end of its first year, the school had 46 students. That same year, a four-story, brick building was erected to house students and faculty. Enrollment subsequently increased, and with donations of land and money from Crockett citizens and other benefactors, so did the campus. Only two years after opening, the Seminary had enrolled 152 pupils, with 102 of those students as boarders. By 1889, the school had acquired an additional 300 acres of land and completed Grace McMillan Hall. In 1890, the school listed eight teachers, its President, Reverand J.B. Smith, his wife, and 211 students. 

Even though the students were black, the faculty was initially composed of white women. The Seminary’s first three Presidents were also white. It wasn’t until 1924 that the Texas school board appointed the school’s first black administrator, Reverand Burt Randall Smith. At the time, the Seminary had suffered several setbacks. In 1912, its principal dormitory, Grace McMillan Hall, was destroyed by fire. Although a replacement structure was erected shortly after, enrollment declined to thirty-five students. The Seminary’s future looked doubtful. But with Smith’s appointment came a major change to the administration. 

Over the next eight years, Smith overhauled the curriculum, developed an all-black faculty, and expanded the library and science facilities. In 1925-26, the high school was accredited by the State Department of Education. Gradually, the lower grades were eliminated. In 1932, the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools certified the institution, and it was renamed Mary Allen Junior College. Enrollment rose to 134 students. In 1933, the administration, observing a severe shortage of education for black men, began allowing male students to enroll. 

The college thrived until early 1941, when President Smith’s death and the outbreak of World War II caused a significant loss in enrollment. By 1943, the doors to Mary Allen Junior College had closed. Student records were sent to Harbison Institute and later transferred to Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Caroline, a Presbyterian junior college for black women. 

In 1944, the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas bought Mary Allen College, and the school returned to operations under the Baptist Church. The first Baptist President to serve was Dr. G. L. Prince. Prince purchased additional library holdings, hired new faculty, organized academics into eight basic departments, and added extra-curricular activities that included a concert choir, social clubs, sports teams, sororities, and honor societies. Mary Allen College became a four-year liberal arts institution. 

During the 1950s, several new buildings were constructed, including a men’s dormitory and the first black hospital/clinic in Texas. But the College again suffered a devastating blow. In 1953, Dr. Prince resigned from his duties as President, and soon thereafter, the College lost its accreditation. In 1959, Reverand Jodie C. Sanford attempted to regain certification but failed. The school continued to struggle throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. After years of declining enrollment and insufficient funds to maintain the campus buildings, the Missionary General Baptist Convention chose to permanently close the school’s doors at the end of the 1976-77 academic year, thus ending Mary Allen College’s 91-year history. 

In 1978 the Mary Allen Seminary was entered into the National Registry of Landmarks, primarily due to the efforts of local historian Eliza Bishop. A Historical Marker was placed on the grounds of the College, where the administration building of the College remained. In that same year, Mrs. Callie Wynne Bragg stepped onto the scene and began her crusade to save what remained of the campus. 

Callie Wynne Bragg was one of Steve and Hattie Wynne’s ten children. Mrs. Bragg attended Crockett Colored High School and graduated from Mary Allen College in 1943. She once reported that out of the forty-three graduates in her class, ninety percent of the students had attended Mary Allen College, primarily “because it was just right there.”  Mrs. Bragg founded and was the first President of the Mary Allen Museum. Her goal was to preserve the administration building as a multiethnic arts center and museum that would pay tribute to Mary Allen College’s history. 

Although her plan to restore the administration building as a museum has so far gone unrealized, Callie Wynne Bragg’s dream to pay tribute to Mary Allen College remains in the hearts of preservationists and alumni. Currently, headquarters for the Mary Allen Museum of African American Art and History, Inc. are located at 1503 South Fourth Street and houses artifacts that contribute to the legacy and history of Mary Allen College.

On Saturday, February 12, the Mary Allen Museum of African American Art and History will host its Fourth Annual Founder’s Day Celebration. The event will take place at the First Presbyterian Church in Crockett. A free meal will be provided by the Moosehead Café and the Chuck Wagon Restaurant.

Hilliard McKnight is the Event Chair and Community Leader, David Beaulieu is the Master of Ceremonies. The Guest Speaker for the event will be Crockett Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher. The Musical Guest is Jaqueline Calhoun, who appeared on the inspiration singing competition, Sunday Best, and recently released her debut EP, Take Control. Reverend Jim Tom Ainsworth will give a historical perspective on Mary Allen College. 

For more information about the celebration, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Editor’s Note: The Courier would like to thank Dr. Thelma J. Douglass, Mary Allen Museum President, for providing information and photos used in this article. 

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