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Deputies close cold case

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By Tony Farkas
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Charles Dale ClaryCharles Dale ClarySHEPHERD — New information and a re-examination of evidence led San Jacinto County Sheriff’s deputies to make an arrest in a three-year-old homicide case.

Charles Dale Clary, 65, of Shepherd, was arrested Oct. 31 on a charge of murder in connection with the May 2019 murder of Rhonda Richardson, 59, who worked as a correctional officer at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Richardson’s body was found in Sam Houston National Forest in May 2019. The investigator at the time, Detective Gary Sharpen, did not find enough evidence to point to a suspect, and then was sent on deployment.

Detective Omar Sheik said Sharpen returned recently, and the two began to re-examine the evidence.

Sheik said that in 2019, Richardson was looking for her dogs. which frequently go loose. He also said that Richardson and Clary were acquaintances, and that Richardson had approached Clary for help in the search.

Later that day, body was found on a trail in a wooded area off FM 2666; however, investigators initially thought the body was moved there.

Sheik said Clary was one that found the body and then had his nephew call the police, something the detective said was suspicious.

At this time, detectives did not reveal any causes for the crime.

Her remains were positively identified during an autopsy at the Southeast Texas Forensic Center in Beaumont in 2019, and the medical examiner told investigators that no signs of sexual assault were found on the body. The report listed her cause of death as undetermined.

Sheik said the re-examination went smoothly, and was wrapped up in about 8 days

“It was the result of reopening the case and re-examining all the evidence,” he said. “We interviewed everyone listed as a witness and everyone in the neighborhood. We had a forensic investigation of cell phone records.”

Sheik said that one of the people in the neighborhood that was not found initially turned out to be an eyewitness and helped tie the suspect to the crime. Additionally, examination of cell phone traffic showed the suspect was very likely involved.

Also, investigators requested a review of the autopsy results, and a lot of questions about the crime were answered, giving investigators enough evidence for an arrest warrant, Sheik said.

The detective said there was no clear motive for killing her.

Clary currently is being held in San Jacinto County Jail on a $750,000 bond.

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Nichols to support rape exceptions for abortion

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By Pooja Salhotra 
The Texas Tribune

Republican state Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville said Friday that he’d support a change to Texas’ abortion laws to allow victims of rape to legally obtain the procedure.

“If I get a chance to vote for an exception to rape, I will vote yes,” the East Texas senator said during a panel of Republican lawmakers at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival. “I think instead of us telling women what to do, we should show our support for women of this state.”

Nichols is one of the first anti-abortion lawmakers to say he would support loosening the abortion laws when lawmakers meet in January.

Texas has one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — the landmark case that established the legal right to an abortion. Under Texas law, abortions are prohibited in almost all cases, including rape and incest, and are allowed only to save the life of the pregnant person.

Texas is competing against private companies who are willing to bus their employees out of state for “pregnancy care,” said Nichols. “And what are we doing?”

At the least, Nichols said, the state should provide a minimum of four weeks of paid maternity leave for state employees.

Nichols self-identifies as “pro-life” and has voted in favor of the state’s abortion laws, including the “fetal heartbeat” law that went into effect last September. The law prohibited most abortions after an ultrasound could detect cardiac activity in a embryo, about six weeks into a pregnancy. Nichols’ office did not immediately respond to questions about whether the senator would support any other exceptions to the abortion law, such as for incest.

In response, members of the Orange County Republican Party of Texas issued a statement in opposition to Nichols’ stance, and drafted a resolution reaffirming “life in the womb even in sexual assault cases.”

The statement said the members rebuke Nichols, and the OCRP seeks to have all GOP groups in Nichols’ district, which for now includes San Jacinto County, to adopt the same resolution.

Public polling shows that Texans overwhelmingly support exceptions for both rape and incest, with only 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively, saying pregnant people should not be able to obtain abortions in those cases.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan also signaled an openness at the Festival on Friday to reexamining exceptions to Texas’ abortion law. Phelan, a southeast Texas Republican, said he was unlikely to personally support such exceptions but that some members of his caucus have said they may want to revisit the matter.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said in previous interviews that the abortion issue appeared settled.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/09/23/texas-rape-exceptions-robert-nichols/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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Woman indicted on theft charges

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

COLDSPRING — A San Jacinto County woman was indicted by a grand jury in connection with the theft of more than $25,000 from the Coldspring Dixie Youth League over the course of several years.

Lt. Charles Dougherty Detective said that a true bill for a charge of theft of property of more than $2,500 but less than $30,000 was returned on Deborah Christy Hamilton, 46, of Coldspring, on Sept. 30.

Hamilton was the former president of the league, serving between 2017 and 2019, when the thefts were alleged to have occurred.

Dougherty said the case was brought some time ago after it was reported by an umpire; the umpire went to a board meeting and questioned why a uniform vendor wasn’t paid. 

“He asked questions, but no one had any answers,” Dougherty said. “He started digging and found that over $20,000 was missing.”

Professional audits were ordered, and then all information was given to Sheriff’s Office, he said.

According to case files, during the time Hamilton was president, funds for the league were used at restaurants and other businesses and wasn’t accounted for. Dougherty said that the grand jury felt that since Hamilton was president, she was responsible, and returned the indictment.

The charge of theft of property of more than $2,500 but less than $30,000 is state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

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Deadline Nearing for DETCOG Solid Waste Grant Applications

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Special to the News-Times

LUFKIN — Deep East Texas Council of Governments Solid Waste grant application deadline for FY 2023 is 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. 

DETCOG anticipates awarding grants totaling $65,000. The applicants must be located within Angelina, Houston, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties to be eligible to apply. 

The grants are available to cities, counties, public schools, school districts, river authorities as well as general and special law districts with the authority and responsibility for water quality protection or municipal solid waste management. 

Individual applications for up to $32,500 will be considered during this round of funding. Each application will be judged by the DETCOG Regional Solid Waste Advisory Committee in accordance with the RSWAC Project Review and Scoring Guidelines and DETCOG’s Regional Solid Waste Management Plan. Funding for this program is provided through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Applications for projects in the following categories will be accepted: local enforcement, litter and illegal dumping cleanup and community collection events, source reduction and recycling, local solid waste management, household hazardous waste management, technical studies, educational and training projects, and other projects not included in these categories which meet TCEQ criteria.

Applications are available under the “Programs” tab on DETCOG’s website at www.detcog.gov. They are due back to DETCOG by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31. 

For more information, or to request an application packet, please contact Regional Services Specialist Carolyn Stephenson by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at (936) 634-2247 ext. 5353.

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PUC adopts expanded weather regulations

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PUCT LOGOSpecial to the News-Times

AUSTIN — The Public Utility Commission of Texas recently adopted expanded weather preparation rules for electricity generators and transmission utilities to ensure grid reliability during both summer and winter weather events. 

The expanded rules build on the successful implementation of the winter weather preparation requirements adopted by the PUCT in November 2021 and add new summer weather preparation requirements to begin in June 2023.

“Reliability drives every decision we make when it comes to grid operations,” said Public Utility Commission Chairman Peter Lake. “The grid has to be ready for any weather condition, from extreme heat to extreme cold. These rules take that into account by setting the baseline preparation requirements for an operator at some of the most extreme weather conditions this state has experienced and requiring the operator to prepare their generation resources and transmission facilities to be able to operate in those conditions.”

In addition to extending current winter weather preparation requirements into the future, the rule adopts specific temperature standards for ten geographically distinct areas of the state and establishes minimum and maximum temperatures at which owners of electric generation and transmission entities need to prepare their facilities to be able to operate. These temperature standards go into effect in 2023.

The expanded rule also removes the special exemption process adopted last year for utilities that could not meet mandatory preparation deadlines due to supply chain issues or other acceptable reasons. 

Finally, the new rule requires the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator for about 90 percent of the state, to deliver a weather study that examines several weather parameters that can have negative impacts on the reliable operation of the electric grid. The rule requires ERCOT to update this study at least every five years to account for variability in weather patterns over time.

The 2021 weather preparation rules already in place as part of reliability reforms passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott require electricity generators to winterize their facilities against extreme cold weather. 

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