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Posts published in “Day: April 14, 2011”

Muhs murder trial begins

By BOBBY HORN JR.
LIBERTY—Oral arguments began this week in the trial of Sheila Muhs in the 253th District Court in Liberty.
Muhls is standing trial for the 2009 murder of Donald Coffey IV and the attempted murder of seven others.
The charges stem from an incident on May 7, 2009 in which Gayle and Sheila Muhs allegedly fired at least two shotgun blasts at a pair of packed cars that stopped outside their house south of Dayton. Police said the families in the two cars were driving on a public road when the Muhs t “external” opened fire from their house, killing Donald Coffey IV and hitting three others, including the boy’s 5-year-old sister.
Outside the Muhs’ house was a handpainted sign complete with misspelling and exclamation points that warns: “Trespassers Will Be Shot. Survivers Will Be Reshot!! Smile I Will.”
Ken DeFoor , who was serving as Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy at the time of the shooting said it was the “most external violent reaction to something so blatantly, blatantly minor” he’s ever seen.
Police got a 911 call just after 9 p.m. DeFoor said, from Sheila Muhs who “reported there were people in jacked up four-wheel automobiles … and that she shot them.” She also reported that the vehicles were destroying the nearby levees.
Police say, however, that the people in the vehicle were not doing anything illegal
The Coffey family – mom Becky, dad Donald III and their three children — were visiting friends along with Patrick Cammack and Cindy Nelton in the Muhs’ neighborhood. The two families had planned to go off-roading at the nearby government-owned levees on the way home, an activity that is both popular and legal.
In the Jeep were Cammack, 30, Donald Coffey III, 30 and Donald IV, 7. In the following Ford SUV were Becky Coffey, Nelton and the Coffey’s 5-year-old daughter Destiny, and 11-year-old son.
The families said they stopped on the county-owned road outside the Muhs’ home so one of the boys could go to the bathroom by the side of the road. That’s when, police said, the couple ran out of their house.
At that point, Sheila Muhs is accused of firing at the vehicle. Her husband reportedly joined her and began to shoot as well.
Police said that the Muhs began to pursue the Jeep as they continued the fire.
Injured in the shooting was Destiny who had been shot in the elbow, Donald Coffey III shot in the shoulder and Cammack, who was driving the Jeep who was hit in the base of his skull. Donald Coffey IV, however, had been hit by several shotgun pellets in the face and head. He later died at an area hospital.
DeFoor said police believe the Muhs may have fired as many as four shots from the 12-guage pump shotgun, each one spraying 15 pellets.
Texas does have a “castle” law that allows property owners to shoot if someone is trespassing on their property at night. But that law, DeFoor said, did not apply in this case.

Budget crisis could impact county library

By Valerie Jensen Chambers Co. Librarian
CHAMBERS COUNTY— Activity in Austin these days means that Texas libraries could possibly lose over $8 million in Federal funds, and perhaps more.
At the time of this writing, the CCLS stands to lose access to TexShare databases, a cost of $6,612/year. Loan Star Libraries, which offers direct aid to public libraries, is on the chopping block as well. The library system has received an average of $10,000 per year from Loan Star. Interlibrary Loan, one of the most popular services we offer, stands to be eliminated (we average about 150 ILL requests a month).
With support from patrons and librarians contacting their legislators, some of these services might have some hope. All these things will directly impact Chambers County Library
System patrons, but with a talented and creative staff, we will continue to provide the best possible service and collections to the citizens of Chambers County.
County Librarian Valerie Jensen and Assistant County Librarian Adrienne Cain attended the Southeast Region Small Libraries meeting at the beautiful newly renovated Groves Public Library. This group is comprised of library people in Orange, Jefferson, Hardin, Newton, Liberty, and Chambers counties.
We meet twice a year to talk about local issues and ongoing management problems. It’s also a great way to share ideas and network with other people in the library field. Chambers County is the bigger system in this group and is often looked at as an example for the smaller libraries in the area.
The Anahuac library has started holding a monthly Spanish Storytime led by Branch Librarian Aquilia De la Cruz. This program has been very well received and Aquilia has tapped into a growing need in the area. She provides stories, games songs and other activites in Spanish.
Her next program will be held April 21st. Speaking of filling a need, the Winnie branch held its first Teen Advisory Board (TAB) meeting on the 25th.
Children’s librarian Christi Silcox distributed surveys to the East Chambers Jr. High and High School to gather information from the teens and after hearing comments from the teen community she proved successful by having 18 teens show for their first TAB meeting. The group, ages 12-18 discussed future ideas and programs to be held at the Winnie Branch. We look forward to their enthusiasm and it’s a wonderful thing to see teen activity at all 3 branches.
On the anniversary of the birth of children’s author, Dr. Seuss, the National Education Association celebrates its 13th year of, “Read Across America” day. Each year on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss is celebrated by encouraging adults and children to read together. All 3 Chambers County libraries celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday with a special visit from the Cat in the Hat and celebrated with reading some Dr. Seuss, playing games, making crafts and other fun activities.
Former County Librarian, A. Lynette Parsons presented a Public Speaking workshop aimed at librarians. The workshop was funded by a staff development grant we received back in November. Most of the Chambers County Library System staff attended the workshop and using some unique and fun techniques, Lynette made the participants feel at ease and also more confident when they go out to speak in front of groups or schools.

Deputies’ burglary pounce nets more suspects

By LEWIS SPEARMAN
HUFFMAN TO HIGHLANDS– Law enforcement and the local public are combining to add names and groups to the number of suspects for burglary and copper thefts in the last few weeks.
The efforts have put names and methods to such notable thefts as local charities including the Crosby Fair & Rodeo copper thefts, also the public’s zeal to watch one another’s home has added a lot of wild goose chases over the last week.
The efforts of Precinct 3 Constable Deputies to get suspects to talk have been productive beyond the officers’ dreams of late.

What began as a run down of two separate rings one in Huffman and the other between Highlands and Crosby has branched into a confusing set of different suspects working “licks” [a burglar’s term for a burglary] of varied nature with different partners.
The story is no longer about just residential burglary now there are charges of “burglary of commercial businesses, a lot of copper thefts from charities and some over 1,000 pounds at a time and auto theft.” said Deputy Shane Cates.
Lieutenant Terry Ganey and Deputy Cates are tasked with the difficult duties of not only patrolling the areas but also sorting out the statements made by suspects when they are being questioned.
Lately, there is more information coming out than expected. At one time deputies were attempting to track thefts and burglaries and began to notice that more and more of the crimes were being committed.
Once a burglar had been caught from an item recovered at a pawn shop, the number of arrests began to mount and the charges began to get more diversified including auto theft, burglars caught in the act etc.
As voluntary statements were taken the amount of criminal activities and probably perpetrators multiplied for officers. While charges have been filed, the District Attorney has asked that names not be released yet.
Other sources indicate that there had been shots fired at people from previous articles.
The copper thefts have not only been the noted charities, that working people pull out their last nickel with which to donate to build something good, but also businesses up and down FM 2100.
“They were hitting underground trunk lines to steal copper. We have located a bunch of jewelry that was being sold at a store and stolen, we are in the process of getting that back. We don’t know if we can get it all.” said Cates.
It is possible that the group working between Highlands and Crosby has connections to larger organizations. This three man ring according to statements hit all the entities damaged on the Crosby Fairgrounds.
Statements have been made by suspects of the group plotting what they were going to do and then executing with back-up plans when the business owners worked late. Actors in these crime at one scene had made sure to defeat all surveillance cameras except for one on the roof that they were not aware of being located there. Actors were noted to make statements about staking out victims from the inside of the location.

Crosby ISD asks Austin, How bad?

AUSTIN– Crosby ISD’s Superintendent went to the State Capitol to find out how bad in cut backs was it going to be on the third most efficient school district in the State.
“It’s still nebulous,” stated Dr. Keith Moore, “the last time I looked, unless it has changed since last week the Senate is looking to cut about $4 billion from the education budget and the house is at about $7.8 billion. But it is improving, I think if it is only about $4 billion that most people that are working in education will be able to continued even though by the time that trickles down to Crosby ISD that is still a multimillion dollar reduction. That would be the difference in a three million dollar reduction and a five million dollar reduction.”
That is the difference between a hand whipping and a board whipping for the district. We are still facing cutting back about $3.4 million

Dr. Moore’s understanding is that the House has the bill that the State can afford and the Senate has the bill everyone would like to pass and so now they are in negotiations on how to marry the two. Everyone likes the Senate bill but the question is how to fund it. The Senate is seeking more ways to raise the money in a hostile environment for raising more money.
The hope is that the House and Senate will mediate in the middle. This puts the district in the situation of having to guess but really having no clues to guess with, so off the Austin went Dr. Moore to find out what he could about school financing.
Currently, the district is cutting as much as they can without cutting too deep into the muscle of education.
Local representative Dan Huberty, indicates that the House is looking to fund schools at the maximum tax rate of $1.17 per $100 valuation, and compare that to schools that are not at that rate including some at $1 or less. Then the House will be seeing that those taxed at a higher rate are doing all that they can to raise money at the local level. The intent is to then put more of the burden on those districts that are property richer and have not needed the higher tax rate can withstand an increase in local rates to pay for their standard of education.
The problem will occur according to Dr. Moore when most districts have to go to $1.17 and in Texas by Constitutional Law there is a requirement of discretionary leeway for School Boards to determine from the needs of their constituance. Lawsuits will begin popping up as districts note that they have a de facto State mandated rate of $1.17.
“I feel for those districts that have reached for a higher target revenue because (although they could come back and say there is to be a bare 11% reduction overall) if they do proportionally base the funding on those that are trying to raise all they can locally they will be hit a lot harder on their tax base. There are some districts around us that are above the state average in how much they are spending per student per year it could be that they would be getting cut in how much they spend on each student and being raised on how much their tax rate is. That would be a double whammy.”
“We are set up for the single whammy, we are preparing for the reduction but since we are below average in how much we are spending per student per year an equalization would only benefit us at Crosby ISD.” said Dr. Moore.
Dr. Moore as per previous interviews came to Crosby ISD to make sure students learned how to make educational standards the budget cuts were not his idea but he has taken it in stride. “I’m grateful we have not had to have a mass lay off. We had major program changes

Relay for Life tops $750k for cancer research

By BOBBY HORN JR.
BAYTOWN—Helping to create a world with more birthdays, a world where cancer can’t claim another year of anyone’s life, volunteers came together April 8 and 9 for the annual Bay Area Relay for Life.
And came together they did, with organizers estimating more than 8,000 participants involved in the all-night fundraiser/ party.
This year’s event featured a change in venue. While held at Stallworth Stadium in years’ past, the 2011 Bay Area Relay for Life was held at the Royal Purple Raceway, formerly Houston Raceway Park.
The event began April 8 at 6 p.m. with Suzzanah Moorman singing the National Anthem. Then cancer survivors and healthcare providers kicked off the relay to a crowd of applause as they walked the opening lap. The event concluded April 9 at 8 a.m.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.
Beyond celebrating the accomplishments of the survivors, the event is also a major fundraiser for the cancer society. According to the Bay Area Relay for Life website, the event took in $768,420.80, exceeding the $750,000 goal. The Bay Area Relay for the Life has been the top fundraising event in Texas for the past 10 years, as well as the top event in the six-state High Plains Region.
The funds raised include $105,325.82 take in cash the morning of the event as well as memorials and gifts given through estate planning.
Close to 100 teams, from Baytown, Highlands, Crosby and Mont Belvieu participated in the event. The teams represented churches, businesses, schools and groups of friends and family members.
The ExxonMobil BrookHollow Wildflowers was the top fundraising team with $15,910. ExxonMobil BTEC’s team raised $11,640.83 for second place and coming in third was Angels in the Outfield with $5,712.86. Angels in the outfield also came in first in the Family and Friends division.
Top individual fundraisers were the Tom Barnes Memorial Fun Day with $11,005; Robert Botto (jogging in his signature Texas Flag shorts) with $8,535.83 and Julie Hietpass with $2,186.13.