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  • Aircraft safe, after all (UPDATE)

    Staff Sgt. Jordan L. McFarland (left), 2nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic control craftsman, and Senior Airman Hunter J. Maggard, 2nd OSS air traffic control apprentice (right), keep an eye out for an aircraft that is scheduled to land at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, August 22, 2019. While working eight hour shifts in a small tower, the 2nd OSS air traffic controllers are able to spend a lot of time getting to better know their wingmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jacob B. Wrightsman)Staff Sgt. Jordan L. McFarland (left), 2nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic control craftsman, and Senior Airman Hunter J. Maggard, 2nd OSS air traffic control apprentice (right), keep an eye out for an aircraft that is scheduled to land at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, August 22, 2019. While working eight hour shifts in a small tower, the 2nd OSS air traffic controllers are able to spend a lot of time getting to better know their wingmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jacob B. Wrightsman)

    From the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office

    On March 3, 2021, at approximately 2 PM, the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a military plane flying low to the ground, with smoke coming from the engine.

    The citing was reported near the Tyler and Polk County line. First responders concentrated search efforts around and near FM 1943, West of Warren, to Highway 190 West of Woodville, into Polk County.

    The Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers and Air units, Texas Game Wardens, Texas Forest Service, Warren Fire Department, Tyler County Emergency Management Office, Alabama Coushatta Fire Department and Air and Ground Medical units from Southeast Texas participated in the search.

    Approximately 2 hours later, responders received information that the aircraft had made a safe landing at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

    Weatherford said, “Thank you to all our Southeast Texas Federal, State, and local first responders. To protect and serve is truly a team effort.”

  • Jasper man indicted on child rape charges

    MUGSHOT Anibal VillasanaAnibal Mauricio Villasana Courtesy of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Department

    WOODVILLE –  A Tyler County grand jury handed down an indictment to a Jasper man on child rape charges.

    Anibal Mauricio Villasana, a 61-year-old Jasper resident, was indicted by the jury on two counts of Indecency with a Child by Sexual Contact. Villasana’s indictment came after an investigation regarding incidents alleged to have occurred in Tyler County. The information was submitted by Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin and his staff following the investigation.

    Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said that the Texas Rangers worked on the case.

    Villasana, according to a news release, has worked for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department for more than 20 years. He has worked in various capacities within that county’s jail, including as head of kitchen staff, head of maintenance and jailer.

    A statement made by Jasper County Chief Deputy Scotty Duncan to Jasper-based radio station KJAS affirmed that Villasana had been places on leave with pay, pending the case’s outcome.

    Villasana reportedly turned himself in to the Tyler County Justice Center on Tuesday morning, and was released after making arrangements to post his bail, which was pre-set at $100,000, or $50,000 per charge.

    The charges handed down to Villasana are a second-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per charge, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.

  • Law enforcement asks for help to find Town Bluff man

    Missing Man 040121 copyCOURTESY PHOTO Thomas Thornton

    By Chris Edwards

    TOWN BLUFF – Law enforcement and family members are asking for the public’s help to locate Thomas Thornton, a 72-year-old Town Bluff resident who was reported missing last week.

    According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, Thornton’s family last saw him on Wednesday, March 24. Thornton’s sister, Norma Armstrong, said that Thornton is in the early stages of dementia and she fears for his wellbeing.

    Armstrong said that her brother makes frequent trips from his Town Bluff home to the Walmart in Jasper, and that he left to go to the store on Wednesday and did not return.

    Thornton has grey and black hair and typically wears a baseball hat bearing a veteran slogan, carpenter-style blue jeans and a T-shirt. He stands 5’7” tall and weighs 255 lbs. Thornton drives a dark grey 2017 Ford Edge with the Texas license plate number NJJ-8580. A Silver Alert was issued on Sunday evening for Thornton by the Texas Department of Public Safety with further details, including his eye color (blue) and the fact that he has a visible scar on his right arm.

    According to Weatherford, law enforcement was able to track Thornton to a gas station in Hemphill on March 26. Sabine County Sheriff’s deputies reviewed store video footage showing Thornton purchasing fuel and then travelling north on Highway 87.

    Deputies were last able to track his phone to a location in Shelby County, but were unable to locate him, and currently unable to track him due to power issues with the phone.

    Along with the dementia diagnosis, his family told deputies that Thornton is also dependent on medications.

    Anyone with information regarding Thornton’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office at 409-283-2172.

  • Police pursue, apprehend nude car thief

    Tyler County Sheriff OfficeLOGO Tyler County Sheriff Office

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – A Jefferson County woman is in the custody of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office following a police pursuit that began in Dam B and ended in Woodville.

    According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, on Monday, at approximately 7:25 a.m., a 911 call came in, reporting a nude woman standing on the side of the road. Deputies with TCSO and EMS headed toward the location, FM 92 North at county road 3715, as the caller had reported. The caller, who was a female passerby, told dispatch that she had stopped to check on the naked female subject, and in the process, a log truck driver had also stopped.

    While the deputies were heading to the location, the subject jumped into the driver seat of the vehicle and drove away with the caller’s two grandchildren in the backseat. The woman had reportedly offered the woman, who complained of thirst, a bottle of water, and when she went to open her trunk is when she took off with the car and children.

    Weatherford said that two minutes later, the deputies received word that the suspect dropped the children off at the Dam B Jiffy Mart at the intersection of FM 92 and US Highway 190. Weatherford said the two children were returned safely to their grandmother.

    The deputies were soon able to locate the stolen vehicle westbound on 190, and traveling at speeds of up to 95 mph.

    TCSO deputies and officers with the Woodville Police Department pursued the vehicle throughout the city of Woodville, and the pursuit ended on Wheat Street, right before 8 a.m.

    The suspect was identified as 28-year-old Lacie Cole, of Orange, and was taken into custody.

    During the pursuit, one eyewitness said the suspect was seen in the Walmart parking lot, where she backed into a patrol unit. Reportedly, she also traveled into opposite lanes of traffic during the chase.

    Cole was later evaluated at Tyler County Hospital, and according to Weatherford, the case is under investigation.

  • 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.

  • TCSO investigating Sunday morning homicide

    CrimeScene

    By Chris Edwards

    SPURGER – Authorities are investigating a homicide that occurred early Sunday morning near Spurger.

    According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, deputies responded to a residence located on FM 1013, west of Spurger at 1:45 a.m., in reference to an individual being shot.
    Weatherford said that once the deputies were on the scene, they observed several individuals standing over the victim, a male, who appeared to have been shot multiple times in the chest and stomach area. The man, whose identity is not being released at this time by Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, pending his family’s notifications, was pronounced dead at the scene by Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Jim Moore. An autopsy will be conducted within the week in Beaumont.

    Weatherford said that prior to the victim being pronounced deceased, CPR was being administered to the victim, and the deputies assisted with medical attention until EMS arrived.

    TCSO deputies, along with Department of Public Safety state troopers were able to secure the scene and locate several shell casings near the victim’s body.

    Weatherford said that the residence was the scene of a party, where more than 100 individuals were gathered, yet “very little cooperation is being given by individuals that may have witnessed the shooting itself, or that are withholding information that could lead to the arrest of the suspect(s) responsible for this homicide.”

    The murder was especially shocking to Kendall Coleman, owner of Coleman’s Family Mortuary and a community leader in Woodville. The victim’s body was taken to Coleman’s mortuary, and he made a public video on Facebook on Sunday morning. He said he had been hanging out at the party the night before, and when he received the call to come recover the victim’s body, it shocked him. He called the crime a “senseless act.”

    “Somebody saw something, somebody knows something. I’m pleading to you (to come forward) …it happened right here, in Tyler County,” Coleman said, and added that whoever committed the crime needs to be held accountable. “Do the right thing, turn yourself in,” Coleman said in the video, addressing whoever is responsible.

    Coleman said although he did not know the victim, it seemed especially tragic when he learned the man was a father and said that he especially feels sorrow for his family.

    Weatherford said that the circumstances around the murder are giving investigators a hard time identifying who the actor(s) may be.

    Anyone with information is asked to call the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office at 409-283-2172, or Crime Stoppers at 936-639-TIPS. Tipsters calling into the Crime Stoppers hotline with information that leads to an arrest may be eligible for a cash reward.

  • Tyler County deputies make arrests in Spurger area

    Richard Lyles Scott Sanford 2MUGSHOT Richard Lyles and Scott Sanford

    By Chris Edwards

    SPURGER – Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford reported that his office has been busy lately in the southeastern end of the county.

    Last week, TCSO made two arrests in two separate incidents, which resulted in multiple charges, including narcotics possession and stolen property.

    Last Monday, when deputies with TCSO were patrolling in the Spurger area in the late afternoon, they stopped a Ford Expedition on a traffic violation along County Road 4426. According to Weatherford, when deputies made contact with the driver, identified as Richard Lyles, a 40-year-old Kountze resident, they learned his driver’s license had been expired since 2012.

    When they searched his vehicle, they discovered a Remington 552 rifle and were notified that Lyles was a convicted felon, which, under statute, makes it illegal for him to possess a firearm. Also discovered in the search was a small, clear plastic baggie containing a crystalline substance, which field-tested positive for methamphetamines.

    The deputies took Lyles into custody, and transported him to the Tyler County Justice Center, where he was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm; possession of controlled substance and no driver’s license. He later bonded out with his bonds set at $10,000 by Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Ken Jobe. Before Lyles left the jail, a Woodville woman was arrested when she arrived to pick him up.

    According to Weatherford, deputies saw Keiosha Rowinsky, a 29-year-old Woodville woman, drive into the Justice Center parking lot. They knew from previous encounters that she did not have a valid driver’s license and made contact with her. She admitted to the deputies she did not have a valid license and was placed under arrest.

    Deputies located two loaded syringes in her jacket pocket and purse, both of which field-tested postiive for methamphetamines.

    Several other items of drug paraphernalia were found inside her vehicle, Weatherford said, and she was charged with possession of a controlled substance and driving while license invalid. She later bonded out of jail on $5,000 bonds set by Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford.

    The second incident Weatherford reported about in Spurger happened the next day, when deputies were patrolling in the early morning hours along County Road 4420. When the deputies on patrol approached CR 4426, they discovered two sets of small lights shining throughout a clear-cut section of the woods, according to Weatherford.

    The deputies then made contact with two individuals, whom they identified as Scott Sanford, age 39, of Silsbee and Rusty Mathis, of Spurger.

    Sanford was holding a Remington pump-action 30-06 rifle, and both men had small spotlights. “While checking the information on the rife, deputies learned that the rifle had been reported stolen in a late 2020 burglary that occurred in Colmesneil,” Weatherford said in a press release.

    Sanford was taken into custody and charged with theft of a firearm. At press time, he remains in jail with a $5,000 bond set by Jobe. Weatherford said he could face additional charges.

  • Weatherford named to Burke board

    Bryan Weatherford 020421 copyMUGSHOT Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford was named to the Burke Board of Trustees as an ex-officio, or non-voting, member.

    The Burke network services the 12-county deep East Texas region, serviced by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) and provides mental health services. Weatherford, along with another law enforcement leader, Sheriff Jason Bridges of Nacogdoches County, were named to the board, with appointments resulting from Senate Bill 632 of the 86th Texas Legislature.

    The bill promotes cooperation between local mental health authorities and law enforcement by appointing sheriffs or sheriffs’ representatives, to their local governing boards as non-voting members.

    “I am honored to have been elected to serve as a Burke Center Trustee,” said Weatherford. “This position will allow me the opportunity to represent not only Tyler County, but all 12 counties in the DETCOG region.”

    According to a news release from the Burke organization, Weatherford was appointed to represent the smaller counties of the region and Bridges will represent the larger ones.

    “I want to make sure the citizens of Tyler County and East Texas continue to receive the necessary mental health care treatment,” said Weatherford.

    The Burke network was established in 1974 as the Deep East Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services, as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, which is governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees.

    The network has grown from a small organization, which offered limited services, into a major behavioral health provider, which serves more than 5,000 people annually, through a variety of services, according to its website.

  • Weatherford named to state jail standards commission

    Weatherford 01 14 21FILE PHOTO Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford.

    By Chris Edwards

    AUSTIN – Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, who just recently began serving another term has another reason to celebrate: an appointment from the governor.

    Last week, Weatherford was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as one of the nine-member Commission on Jail Standards. He will fill an unexpired/vacated position that was occupied by Dennis Wilson, the Sheriff of Groesbeck County. Wilson’s term ends on Jan. 31.

    Weatherford will begin serving his six-year term on the commission, once he is confirmed by the state senate.

    He is looking forward to serving in that capacity, in addition to his duties as Tyler County Sheriff.
    He said it is exciting to him, personally, that East Texas voices are able to be heard in Austin, but above all, he wants to make sure that he does the job.

    “I want to make sure that I do a good job on representing our county in the aspect that the jails are running up to the standards set forth by the Commission,” Weatherford said. “I’m really excited about this appointment,” he added.

    The Texas Commission on State Jail Standards serves as the regulatory body for all of the county jails in the state, as well as privately operated municipal jails. It was created by the state legislature in 1975 to implement a statewide policy for all jails under its jurisdiction to conform to a minimum standard for the care and treatment of inmates, as well as the construction, maintenance and operation of jails.

    Weatherford has served and protected Tyler County citizens for 30 years in various capacities. He worked first as a police officer for the City of Woodville, then as a Justice of the Peace and most recently as Sheriff, after he was elected to his first term in 2013. Weatherford and his wife Ashley, who serves as the Director of Curriculum/Federal Programs for the Woodville Independent School District, are both Tyler County natives.

    Public service runs in Weatherford’s family, as his brother Brad is a Texas Ranger with the Texas Department of Public Safety and one of his sons, Tyler Bryan, is employed as a DPS State Trooper.

    Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Milton Powers will administer the Oath of Office to Weatherford at a later date.