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Alumni to be honored

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Special to the News-Times

Mary Ellen  ThorntonMary Ellen ThorntonHUNTSVILLE — Six Sam Houston State University alumni who have made significant contributions to their professions, communities and alma mater will be recognized as the 2022 recipients of the SHSU Distinguished Alumni awards, Outstanding Young Alumnus award, and Alumni Service awards.

Bearkats to be honored during the Distinguished Alumni Gala on Oct. 7 include Distinguished Alumni Troy Finner, Kyle Lehne and Jill Sharp Vaughan; Outstanding Young Alumna Constance Jones Simmons; and Service Award recipients Kelly DeHay and Trinity’s own Mary Ellen Thornton.

Service Awards

Mary Ellen Thornton
(’64, ’68), Trinity

Thornton is a Life Member of the SHSU Alumni Association. She served as president of the Alumni Board of Directors in 2012 and served on the Alumni Board for 14 years. She also serves on the College of Humanities and Social Science Advisory Committee at Sam Houston and is a life member of the SHSU Alumni Association. 

Thornton’s career as an educator has made an impact on students.

She served a principal in Leverett’s Chapel and Kilgore ISDs and as a department chair and associate professor of English at Lon Morris College, where she was an advisor for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The Chapter won Five-Star rating, and Thornton was inducted into the Phi Theta Advisors Hall of Fame.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sam Houston State University and an associate’s degree from San Angelo College.

Additionally, Thornton taught in three high schools in Houston ISD and received the District 11 Principal of the Year Award. She also taught at Bryan High School as well as Texas A&M University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

She also served as assistant director of information at Houston Baptist University and was an English supervisor, a dean of instruction, and principal of two schools in Houston ISD. For the past several years, she was a supervisor for Texas Teachers Alternative Certification Program for Trinity ISD and surrounding school districts. 

Thornton also participated in National Council of Teachers of English for 30 years and served on the executive committee for two years and made several presentations. Additionally, she served as chair of the Conference on English Leadership. 

Thornton is married to Dr, Joe Frank Thornton of Trinity. They have one son, Dr. Robert Thornton, and his wife Amanda and three grandchildren of Tyler.

Kelly DeHay (’74), Houston

DeHay, a Houston-area real estate agent, has been a longtime advocate for higher education and humanitarian work throughout his community. He is passionate about giving back in areas such as affordable housing, community and the arts. 

His generosity has supported Avenue CDC Affordable Housing, Houston Food Bank, Interfaith Ministries Meals On Wheels, The Women’s Home, Hermann Park Conservancy, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the Rothko Chapel and the Menil Drawing Institute, among many other organizations. 

DeHay and his partner Rod Danielson are Joint Life Endowed Members of the SHSU Alumni Association.

Distinguished Alumni awards

Troy Finner (’89), Houston

Finner’s HPD career has spanned more than three decades, beginning in 1990 as a patrol officer. As he moved up the ranks, he began performing duties that included outreach with at-risk youths in high-crime areas, serving as a liaison to the mayor’s office and working with internal affairs command. 

In 2021, Finner was named HPD Chief of Police, serving the fourth largest city in the United States. A leader from the front line during major events, civil unrest and protests, Finner embraces the use of technology and data-driven analysis in the reduction of crime. 

Finner is a Life Member of the SHSU Alumni Association.

Kyle Lehne (’94), Houston

Lehne serves as chief business development officer and director of emergency response for Houston-based Sun Coast Resources, Inc. 

Lehne has provided award-winning sales leadership and led the company through several emergency response initiatives to ensure first-responders, hospitals and other critical services had the fuel needed. 

Lehne is a Life Endowed Member of the SHSU Alumni Association.

Jill Sharp Vaughan (’82), Montgomery

Vaughan serves as the Smith-Hutson Endowed Chair of Banking in the SHSU College of Business Administration. Prior to this role, Jill served as executive vice president and Southwest Regional Credit Executive for Zions Bancorporation. 

With Klein Bank and Trust she served as executive vice president with oversight of the Montgomery County commercial lending market. After the bank merged with Amegy Bank of Texas, Vaughan served as EVP for regional commercial lending within Harris and Montgomery Counties. 

Vaughan and her husband David are Joint Life Members of the SHSU Alumni Association. 

Outstanding Young Alumni award

Constance Jones Simmons (’04), Miami, Fla.

Jones Simmons is an Emmy-nominated, award-winning TV personality serving as morning news anchor with NBC 6 WTVJ in Miami. She served as anchor and reporter at Miami station WPLG-TV and worked at WLRN National Public Radio in South Florida. 

Through her broadcast career she has reported on many life‐changing events, like the 2010 Haiti earthquake, President Barack Obama’s election, the BP Gulf oil spill, along with devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and ice storms.

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Two face murder charges

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By Tony Farkas
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Adeline Esmerelda Aparicio-Rodriguez (left) and Jacob Patrick Chrones have been charged with murder.Adeline Esmerelda Aparicio-Rodriguez (left) and Jacob Patrick Chrones have been charged with murder.GROVETON — Two Trinity County residents missing since Sept. 8 have been found dead, and two people were charged with murder in connection with the case.

Jacob Patrick Chrones, 34, and Adeline Esmerelda Aparicio-Rodriguez, 35, both are being held on first-degree felony charges of murder and third-degree felony charges of tampering with evidence in connection with the case. Bond has been set at $1.5 million apiece for the murder charges, and $50,000 apiece on the tampering charges.

In a statement, Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace said that his office has been investigating the disappearance of Clayton James Waters, 56, and Karen Sue Waters, 60, since Sept. 16.

Wallace said that on Sept. 16, his office received a report that Clayton Waters had failed to report to work for several days; during a search for Clayton, investigators found Karen Waters also was missing.

The circumstances surrounding the disappearance led investigators to believe the two being missing and not in communication with anyone was not voluntary, since their modes of transportation known to either subject has been accounted for and no indications of travel have been uncovered, Wallace said. 

On Saturday, the remains of the two missing people were found; Wallace did not immediately release details of the deaths.

“It’s sad that this happened in Trinity County, but the people responsible for it are in custody,” he said. “It’s not illegal to disappear. It’s illegal to be made to disappear.”

Wallace did say the suspects have given a complete confession, but the investigation still is ongoing. He pointed out the work done by Jeremy Carroll, Richard Harrison, Mark Cole and others, and the Montgomery Sheriff’s Office which sent investigators to help, as instrumental in solving the case.

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Preteen to represent ag, Trinity

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Shown are (Left)Trinity Fotheringham, (Center) Paisley Fotheringham, and (Right) Mia Zuniga. COURTESY PHOTOSShown are (Left)Trinity Fotheringham, (Center) Paisley Fotheringham, and (Right) Mia Zuniga. COURTESY PHOTOS

Special to the New-Standard

TRINITY — Lansberry Elementary fifth-grader Mia Zuniga recently was named Trinity’s Junior Miss United States Agriculture Advocate.

She will be representing Trinity County in the Miss United States Agriculture Pageant Nov. 11-12 in Temple. This is a scholarship pageantry program advocating for agriculture with chances to win many different state titles.

Mia said she is so excited to be involved in such a new and rewarding experience. If chosen for a Texas title, Mia will then progress to the National Miss United States Agriculture Pageant representing the entire state of Texas in July 2023.

Mia is involved in her youth group at church, cheerleading competitively and recreationally, and shows animals at the fair. This year, Mia was selected the to serve as the secretary for her 4-H club.

Alongside Mia will be sisters Trinity Fotheringham, the Tiny Miss United States Agriculture Advocate, and Paisley Fotheringham, the Little Miss United States Agriculture Advocate.

Both girls also attend Lansberry Elementary, cheer recreationally, play T-ball, and are involved in Clover Kids with the local 4-H program.

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Two crashes, only one injured

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TCNS staff

Car WreckTRINITY COUNTY – The Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers investigated a two-vehicle crash on state Highway 94, near the 706 mile-marker, that occurred Sept. 20. 

The preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 7:30 a.m., a 2015 Ford SUV was traveling east, followed by a 2005 Cadillac passenger car. It is reported that the driver of the Cadillac failed to control its speed when the Ford reduced their speed due to slower moving traffic ahead. 

The driver of the Ford, 44-year-old Melissa Randall of Trinity, and two child passengers, a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old, were not injured. 

The driver of the Cadillac, a 16-year-old juvenile resident of Trinity, was not injured. The driver was cited for failing to control speed. 

On Sept. 17, troopers investigated a single-vehicle crash on state Highway 94, near Due Road.  

The preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 8:05 p.m., a 2013 Nissan pickup was traveling east. It is reported that the driver was distracted within the vehicle and traveled across the westbound lane and struck a guardrail. This caused the pickup to overturn on its passenger side and catch fire.  

The driver, 55-year-old Michael Terry of Trinity, was transported to HCA Houston Healthcare for treatment.  

The is an ongoing investigation. 

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Crashes leave two injured

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CrimeScene road

Special to the News-Standard

TRINITY — Texas Department of Public Safety investigated two separate crashes on FM Road 356, just west of White Rock Acres Road on Thursday. 

The preliminary crash investigation indicates at approximately 11:20 p.m., a 1999 Chevrolet pickup was traveling east when the driver drove off the roadway to the right. The vehicle overturned and ejected the driver. 

The driver, Raymond King, 31, of Trinity, was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston by medical helicopter for treatment. 

Just moments after the crash involving King, a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle also was traveling east when the motorcyclist struck the spare tire from the previous crash, causing the motorcycle to crash. 

The motorcyclist, Larry Brisco, 46, of Plainview, was transported to CHI Hospital in Bryan by medical helicopter for treatment. 

The crashes remain under investigation.

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