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Trinity County News 2

Crime Stoppers, DPS offer tips for Halloween safety

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Special to the News-Standard

AUSTIN — The Trinity County Crime Stoppers and Texas Department of Public Safety urge parents, drivers and children to make safety a top priority during their Halloween plans. 

Everyone can avoid a variety of potential dangers by adhering to basic safety practices and using extra caution in areas where trick-or-treaters will be celebrating.

DPS is reminding drivers to slow down and avoid distractions this Halloween as trick-or-treaters of various ages will be out celebrating. It is especially important for motorists to watch for children who may unexpectedly dart into the roadway without checking for oncoming traffic.

Parents are also urged to take simple but important precautions to help keep their children safe if they plan to participate in Halloween festivities.

Crime Stoppers cautions children and parents to never accept candy from strangers and inspect all candy making sure all wrappers are intact.

For drivers:

•Don’t drink and drive. Designate a sober driver or take a cab.

•Stay alert. Eliminate distractions, including the use of mobile devices.

•Slow down, and further reduce speeds in bad weather, heavy traffic and construction areas.

Texans are also reminded of these important Halloween safety tips:

•Always monitor weather forecasts before heading out and make plans accordingly.

•Look both ways before crossing roadways, and always walk, don’t run.

•Cross the roadway at intersections and crosswalks.

•Travel in groups with adult supervision and in neighborhoods you are familiar with.

•Carry a flashlight or glow sticks. 

•Do not enter the cars or homes of strangers and avoid homes with porch lights turned off.

•Make sure children know their home phone number and how to call 911 or their local emergency number in case they have an emergency or become lost.

Individuals should also follow these tips when selecting a costume:

•Avoid toy guns and knives – they could easily be mistaken for a real weapon.

•Wear costumes that are light in color or place reflective material on the costume, so drivers can see you.

•Avoid using masks, if possible, to allow for better visibility and peripheral vision.

When planning a trick-or-treat route, parents may visit the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry, which includes a mapping function, to check for offenders who may be living in their neighborhood.

Parents can also check the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry by downloading the free DPS mobile app, which is currently available for iPhone users on the Apple App Store and for Android users on Google Play. The app provides interactive and easy-to-use maps for searching registered sex offenders by location, name, route and proximity. 

Individuals can also report suspicious or criminal activity to local authorities or through the free iWatchTexas mobile app (available for iPhone users and Android users); online at iWATCH; or by calling 1-844-643-2251. If a situation requires emergency response, call 911.

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Man killed in car crash

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CarCrash Adobe

By Kayley Fraze
Lufkin Daily News

LUFKIN — Former Trinity resident Hunter Thompson was killed early Thursday morning in a car-motorcycle accident.

At approximately 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Thompson, 24, of Lufkin, was leaving his residence at Great Oaks Apartments on Old Union Road to go to work when he was hit head-on by a GMC pickup driven by Cesar David Del Villar Casillas, 35, of Lufkin, according to the city of Lufkin communications director Jessica Pebsworth.

Thompson was eastbound and Casillas was westbound when Casillas crossed the median, causing the accident, Pebsworth said. Thompson was pronounced dead at the scene.

“His family has been notified,” she said. “Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Casillas was arrested on a charge of intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony. He is being held on a $100,000 bond in the Angelina County Jail, according to jail records.

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Blaze claims 3 lives

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

TRINITY COUNTY — Three Trinity County residents were killed on Oct. 6 as the result of a house fire.

Emily Gideon, 36, and two daughters, Braley, 10, and Annabelle, 7, were killed.

According to a release from Sheriff Woody Wallace, emergency personnel were notified at about midnight on Oct. 6 about a house fire in the Camp Branch subdivision on Rustling Wind Street.

When firefighters and deputies arrived, the house was fully engulfed in flames, he said.

Multiple fire departments, including 356 Volunteer Fire Department, Onalaska Fire Department and Trinity Fire and Rescue were on scene battling the blaze.

Emergency personnel spoke with a 14-year-old resident of the home who escaped the fire through a window. He told officials he ran to the back of the house and tried to break windows to rescue his mother and two sisters but was unsuccessful; he then ran to the neighbors and asked them to call 911.

Emergency personnel arrived too late to rescue the other occupants.

Wallace said that the cause of the fire is currently unknown and is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department.

Wallace also said that people should discuss with children a fire escape plan and check batteries in smoke detectors.

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

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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