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Trinity County News 2

Tullos convicted of murder, robbery

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Trinity County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Richard Harrelson and Sheriff Woody A Wallace escorting S E Tullos II from court after being sentenced to Life In prison for the murder of Amber Pillows. Courtesy photo

By Tony Farkas

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GROVETON — An Apple Springs man was convicted Wednesday in the June 2020 shooting death of 32-year-old Amber Pillows.

S.E. “Sammy” Tullos II, 36, was convicted of first-degree charges of murder and aggravated robbery. Additionally, he was found to be a habitual criminal, having two prior felony convictions.

District Attorney Bennie Schiro said that a Trinity County jury deliberated about 20 minutes after a three-day trial to determine guilt.

It took longer for the jury to decide on punishment — about an hour, Schiro said; Tullos was sentenced to life in prison on the murder charge and 75 years for the burglary. Because of the finding of being a habitual criminal, no fines were levied.

Schiro said Tullos could be eligible for parole in 30 years.

Tullos was arrested in June of last year after the shooting incident, which at the time was described as drug-related. However, Schiro said that Tullos’ defense brought up his connection with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, and that there was an argument of taking a gun to a “disciplinary hearing” for some transgression Tullos committed.

During the argument, the two were wrestling over the weapon, which inadvertently went off.

After the shooting, Tullos left the home in a vehicle, but ran it into a ditch; he then stopped at the home of Elizabeth Holcombe, and took her vehicle to make his escape.

Tullos currently is awaiting transfer to Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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Search for missing Town Bluff man ends

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 Thomas Thornton COurtesy of Family

By Chris Edwards
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SHELBY COUNTY – The seven-month search for a missing Town Bluff man came to a tragic conclusion on Sunday in Shelby County.

The body of 72-year-old Thomas Thornton, was found inside his submerged SUV. Thornton had been missing since March 24. The dive team, Adventures with Purpose (AWP), located the body and the vehicle, which was submerged in Toledo Bend Reservoir near the Huxley Bay Marina. 

A Facebook post from AWP stated that the team began its search for Thornton on Sunday and began searching at the end of a road ending directly into the water near the Huxley Bay Boat Ramp. 

By using sonar, the team was able to find the vehicle in about 10 minutes, and divers found Thornton’s Ford Edge, with the license plate #NJJ8580, and subsequently let the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office know they had discovered their target. Once the vehicle was brought to shore, the windows were broken, and a body, presumed to be Thornton, was inside.

The body was taken to a forensic center in Tyler where an autopsy was conducted and the identity was confirmed, according to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford.

AWP is funded by donations and works to help solve missing persons cases and has become a popular feature through its YouTube videos, with more than 1.4 million subscribers. According to Thornton’s sister, Norma Armstrong, AWP had contacted her on Saturday, offering to assist in the search to find her brother.

Thornton was an Army veteran who saw combat in Vietnam. When he was reported missing, his family feared for his safety because of his experience with PTSD as well as early-stage dementia symptoms. He was last seen via surveillance camera footage at a Hemphill gas station on March 24.

Thornton’s niece Dana Lee Summerlin Hutto, who spoke to the Booster several months ago about her family’s need for closure in the case of her missing uncle, wanted to thank everyone who assisted in looking for him.

“I couldn’t imagine what the families of a missing person goes through until now,” and called the efforts in search of Thornton “a blessing for us.”

AWP stated that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was “very cordial and great to work with,” and shared their appreciation of the dive team’s efforts to bring closure to Thornton’s family.

The dive team added that it would be an honor for them to have brought Thornton home for a military burial and offered their thoughts and prayers to his family.

A segment chronicling AWP’s efforts to find Thornton has been posted to the team’s YouTube channel.


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Tigers edged out

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Trinity’s Juju Clayborne (No. 2) picks up some yards during the Tigers’ Homecoming game on Friday. The Tigers were edged out 29-28 on the night. Photo by Tony Farkas.Trinity’s Juju Clayborne (No. 2) picks up some yards during the Tigers’ Homecoming game on Friday. The Tigers were edged out 29-28 on the night. Photo by Tony Farkas.

By Scott Womack

TCNS correspondent

TRINITY — The Tigers celebrated Homecoming Friday night against the Elkhart Elks, and took the field with a passion that left the fans happy.

The Tigers were able to move the ball at will against the Elks, but penalties and turnovers kept them out of the end zone during the first half. The defense had its best first half performance of the season by limiting the Elks to 14 points and keeping the Tigers within striking distance to take the lead.

The Elks started the third quarter with the ball and drove the ball to the Tiger 33-yard line when Kaden Barnes intercepted a fourth-down pass in the end zone and set up the Tiger offense on the 20-yard line. The Tigers were able to take nine plays and march down the field and score their first touchdown of the game off a 24-yard screen pass from Cole Caldwell to JuJu Clayborne. 

The Elks were able to answer on the first play of the fourth quarter and take a 22-6 lead. The Tigers next drive took just two plays a 69-yard run by K.D. Goodall set up Andrew Crabtree for the 6-yard touchdown run. Trailing by 8 points, the Tiger defense forced the Elks to punt the ball back to the Tigers. Six plays later, Clayborne broke free for a 10-yard run to tighten the score to 22-20 with 6:57 left to play.

Again the defense came up with a stop on the Elks and forced a punt. Taking over with 2:42 left in the game, the Tigers needed one score to take the lead and four plays later, Goodall broke free for a 33-yard touchdown they gave the Tigers their first lead of the game with 1:41 left to play. 

The Elks took over on their own 25-yard line and using all three of their timeouts, were able to get the ball to the Tiger 36-yard line. The Tigers were able to force incomplete passes and a run for no-gain and set up the Elks with a 4&10 from the 36-yard line with only :28 left to play. The Elk quarterback was able to find an open receiver in the end zone for a game tying touchdown. The extra point kick became the deciding factor in the game as the Elks were able to win a 29-28 nail brighter as the clock wound to zero.

An emotional Tiger team met after the game as Coach Patrick Goodman expressed how proud he was of the effort put forth and stressed that turnovers and untimely penalties were the deciding factors in the game.

The Tigers will travel to Palestine Westwood Friday Night, kickoff is set for 7 p.m. 

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One killed in three-vehicle crash

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A Longview man was killed in a three-vehicle collision on Highway 94 near Groveton./COURTESY PHOTO

TCNS staff

TRINITY COUNTY — The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating a fatal crash involving three vehicles that occurred Thursday on state Highway 94 near Groveton.

The preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 6:05 a.m. on SH 94 approximately one mile north of FM 3317, a 1995 Chevrolet pickup was traveling westbound on 94, followed by a 2017 Dodge Ram pickup.

Reports indicate that a 1989 Mack truck tractor semi-trailer hauling logs was pulling out from a private drive to travel east.

The driver of the Mack failed to yield right of way, resulting in the Chevrolet and the Dodge striking the trailer being towed by the Mack, the report states.

The driver of the Chevrolet has been identified as 47-year-old Vernon Groze of Longview. He was pronounced deceased on scene by a Trinity County Justice of the Peace.

The driver of the Dodge has been identified as 38-year-old Bradley McMullen of Kennard. He was transported to Crockett Medical Center for treatment.

The driver of the Mack has been identified as 54-year-old Richard Ellis of Corrigan. He was not injured.

The investigation is continuing.

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House, Senate representation stable

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House ProposedHouse ProposedBy Tony Farkas
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AUSTIN — While San Jacinto County retains its representation in the Texas Legislature, population changes in the state means changes to district boundaries.

Rep. Trent Ashby of Lufkin still has House District 57, and Sen. Robert Nichols still represents the county from Senate District 3. However, the borders of those districts will look different, should the Legislature approve the plans.

Ashby’s district as it stands now is comprised Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity counties. Under the proposed plan, the district will be redesignated 9; Leon County will become part of a recast District 13, and Madison County will become part of District 12, currently represented by Kyle Kacal.

In his column of Oct. 7, Ashby said that while he was pleased and excited about the new House district, but was disappointed not to keep Leon and Madison counties after months of advocating for them. 

He also said that he intends to run for re-election in the new district. 

“For now, the proposed map will go through the public hearing process and be subject to amendments, both in committee and on the House floor, before we know for certain the makeup of our legislative districts for the next decade,” he said.

On the Senate side, District 3 is currently comprised of 18 counties, of which San Jacinto is one, and part of Montgomery County. The proposed plan will move Houston County into a neighboring district, and swapping with District 4 the part of Montgomery County for a portion of Jefferson County.

There are 31 Senate Districts in Texas, and based on the 2020 Census, each district must have a population of as near 940,178 people as possible. For the House, there are 150 districts, and each district must have a population of as near 194,303 people as possible.

According to the Texas Legislative Council redistricting website, the federal constitution calls for redistricting of congressional seats according to population following a Census. Reapportionment is the allocation of a set number of districts among established units of government. 

On April 26, 2021, the United States Census Bureau reported results of congressional reapportionment from the 2020 Census. According to these results, Texas will add two new congressional districts for a total of 38 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 118th Congress.

Senate ProposedSenate ProposedThat redistricting will continue down to any entity, such as city, county or school board, that elects representatives based on districts.

Before elections are held under the new districts in counties that are split under the newly adopted plans, counties and the SBOE must change their voting precinct boundaries to conform with the new district lines.

The state constitution requires a candidate for state legislative office to have resided for at least one year before the general election in the district the candidate seeks to represent.

Redistricting bills follow the same path through the legislature as other legislation. Congressional and State Board of Education (SBOE) district bills may be introduced in either or both chambers; senate and house redistricting bills traditionally originate only in their respective chambers. Following final adoption by both chambers, each redistricting bill is presented to the governor for approval. The governor may sign the bill into law, allow it to take effect without a signature, or veto it. If the house or senate redistricting bill fails to pass or is vetoed and the veto is not overridden by the legislature during the first regular session after the census data is released, the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) is required to meet. If the congressional or SBOE bill fails to pass or is vetoed and the veto is not overridden, the governor may call a special session to consider the matter.

Enacted redistricting plans or those adopted by the LRB are filed with the Texas secretary of state. The plans adopted, in most cases, become effective for the following primary and general elections, subject to any judicial action if a lawsuit challenging a plan is filed.

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