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Trinity County News 2

Suspect pleads no contest in molestation case

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Sheriff Woody Wallace and county constables escort Philmore Clines Jr. to a scheduled court hearing. Courtesy photoSheriff Woody Wallace and county constables escort Philmore Clines Jr. to a scheduled court hearing. Courtesy photo

TCNS staff

GROVETON — A 46-year-old Trinity man was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 7 in connection with a January 2021 sexual assault arrest.

Philmore Clines Jr. was arrested on a first-degree felony charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child in connection with the molestation of an 11-year-old child more. 

According to a press release from District Attorney Bennie Schiro, Clines pleaded no contest instead of guilty because he claimed he was innocent of the charges but did not want to leave that decision to a jury. 

Schiro also said the plea was offered because the evidence in the case was not as strong as it could have been.

“The victim gave three different versions of the events involving three different defendants, including one incident with all three perpetrators involved at the same time during one incident,” Schiro said.  “Additionally, two other potential perpetrators were mentioned during the investigation.” 

Schiro said that at one point the victim also retracted her statement regarding one of the perpetrators and then retracted the retraction. 

While the evidence showed that the child had been molested, Schiro said that the varying accounts could be a problem.

“The sentence might not have been as much as it should have, but I was very concerned with the varying stories offered by the victim that the jury could easily have found reasonable doubt that this particular defendant caused the physical trauma seen in the medical exam,” he said. “If the jury had found reasonable doubt, Clines would be walking the street today instead of heading to TDCJ as a registered sex offender.”

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Fire destroys barn, threatens house in Apple Springs

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Firefighters from five area departments battle a blaze on Wednesday. Courtesy photoFirefighters from five area departments battle a blaze on Wednesday. Courtesy photo

TCNS staff

APPLE SPRINGS — Five area fire departments helped battle a grass fire combined with a barn fire on Wednesday.

Apple Springs Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Selman said they received the call on a structure and grass fire just before 4 p.m. Wednesday to property about 5 miles west of Apple Springs.

ASVFD responded with two trucks and four firefighters, then called in Groveton, Trinity, Pennington and Hudson departments for assistance.

Selman said that when they arrived, they started immediately, as the flames were threatening the structure of property owner Margaret Rowe.

The grass fire was knocked down quick; however, a barn, used to house tools, books and other random household items, was completely on fire and was a total loss, including the contents.

Selman said the cause of the blaze is unknown at this time and remains under investigation.

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Schools deal with threats

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By Tony Farkas

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Groveton ISD logo 250GROVETON — Groveton schools were placed on lockdown twice last week to deal with internal and external threats to students and staff.

Superintendent Jim Dillard issued a statement saying During the past few days, our school district has been dealing with two separate issues involving an unfounded internal threat and a real external threat.  Both of these instances happened just a few days apart.   

Dillard said that any instance of a threat will be taken seriously and will be investigated thoroughly, according to district protocols and procedures. 

“I would like thank the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department and Groveton Police Department for their rapid response,” he said. “I value the relationship that our district has with each of these departments and their dedication for our students and their service for our community is outstanding.”

According to Dillard, on Jan. 31, some of our high school students reported a “hit list” existed. Because of this, administrative staff began interviewing students and collecting information, and then conducted searches.

Law enforcement personnel were contacted Monday night and additional searches were performed the following morning. Dillard said no “hit list” was discovered, nor were any weapons discovered within the school or in the possession of any student, and that the rumors were unfounded.

Early in the afternoon of Feb. 2, the school received information about an actual threat toward some of our junior high students and our school, spurring another lockdown. 

The Sheriff’s Department, along with the Groveton Police Department, was contacted immediately and each department responded to our call within minutes. 

After law enforcement officers conducted their interviews and looked through the evidence, they were able to locate a suspect from another school district and the suspect was placed into custody, Dillard said.

Sheriff Woody Wallace said the “credible” threat was made from a kid in another school district, and as soon as the SO got the information, the school was locked down as a precaution. 

“There was no one here and there was no one shooting the school,” he said. “This was a threat from a distance, and we took measures to be sure no one else was involved.”

The student who made the threat, who will not be identified, was found and taken into custody by Texas Rangers. Once that was done, the school was taken off of lockdown.

“We take this seriously,” Wallace said. “We’re right next door as well, so we’ll come right away if there is need. Also, the school is an armed school, and I’m confident they’re trained properly because we trained them. Anyone that comes here with a threat is not going to make it to the front door before they’re turned into Swiss cheese, I can promise you that.”

Dillard said the district will continue to keep parents and the public informed, and that student safety is the district’s top priority. 

More information can be obtained by contacting the school at (936)-642-1473.

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Two trailers destroyed by fire

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TCNS staff

TRINITY — Two trailer homes burned to the ground in two days last week, keeping firefighters hopping.

Assistant Fire Chief Keith Johnson said that on Jan. 12, a property owner that was not identified was cleaning up a lot on Spruce Street by burning  the debris around the trailer.

The owner lost control of the fire, who then called the Fire Department as fire was getting out of hand on one side.

Before firefighters arrived, the trailer caught fire, and ended up completely destroyed.

Johnson said it was a small trailer house built in the 70s and was mostly fallen down and unoccupied.

Also, on Jan. 11, a trailer in the Jungle Village subdivision in Trinity. 

Johnson said that the trailer was abandoned; when firefighters arrived the trailer was demolished by fire.

Johnson did not immediately know the cause of the blaze.

No injuries were reported in either fire.

•On Friday, fire departments from Groveton, Trinity, Apple Springs, Kennard, Crockett and Lovelady, as well as U.S. Forest Service firefighters, converged on Forest Service Road 527, where approximately 100 acres of forest were torched after a scheduled burn had gotten out of hand.

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Suspect arrested after several hours

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011322 manhunt

TCNS staff

TRINITY — A 19-year-old Trinity man was arrested Jan. 4 several hours after Trinity County law enforcement officials put out information he was wanted.

Sheriff Woody Wallace said the search for Rojae Daejon Kizzee, 19, ended about 3 hours after it was put out publicly.

Kizzee was sought in connection with a burglary in Huntsville where an AR-15 was taken, and for attempting to steal a dog from a home in south Trinity. He also was wanted on charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, assault impeding breath and child endangerment.

Wallace said that Kizzee had discharged a firearm in the house several times while trying to take the animal; the victim reportedly fought to keep dog, and in the melee pulled off Kizzee’s mask, which is when she identified him.

The arrests were made as a result of Crime Stoppers tip. Wallace said the house where he was staying had cameras around the property, and Kizzee fled out of the back door; not long after, dogs provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were able to corner him.

“This is what will happen if you come to Trinity County and break the law: We’re gonna catch you,” he said. “He played stupid games, and won stupid prizes.”

Kizzee and other occupants in the home in Ida Mae Lane face charges of felon in possession of firearms, possession of controlled substances, and harboring a fugitive.

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