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Archive 2001

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Prison `break' leaves RCDC without water

Staff Writer
PECOS, Wed., Sept. 26, 2001 -- A water leak at the Reeves County Detention Center shut off water to the facility for several hours on Tuesday, but was repaired by later that evening with no major problems reported at the 2,000-bed prison.

"We had noticed it over the weekend and yesterday the city crews had to come out and repair it," said RCDC Warden Rudy Franco.

Franco said that the water inside the facility had to be turned off for about 5-6 hours, while the crews worked on the broken water line, which was located next to Locker Road on the south side of the prison. Locker Road was closed to traffic while a backhoe dug out about a 7-foot deep hole to get to the damaged pipe, and water was pumped out of the hole while repairs were made.

"We had no problems with the inmates, because we went into our contingency plan," said Franco, who added that the prison has a plan to be implemented for these types of emergencies.

"The dayroom section still had water and we provided drinking water," said Franco.

Franco said that the repairs were done through a cooperative effort of the Town of Pecos City utility workers, RCDC staff and some employees of Banes General Construction who are still at the facility putting finishing touches on the newly renovated RCDC II building.

"The city was very cooperative and they made the repairs as fast as they could, so that we wouldn't encounter any major problems," said Franco.

Body of missing deputy found in northern N.M.

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Wed., Sept. 26, 2001 -- A body found at an ancient lava flow is that of a former California policewoman who had moved to New Mexico to take a job as a sheriff's deputy, authorities said Wednesday.

"We've confirmed that it's Deborah Valdez," said Tim Stepetic, spokesman for the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

Medical investigators were trying to determine a cause of death, Stepetic said.

A Cibola County sheriff's deputy, acting on a tip provided by two people arrested in Texas, found the body about 10 p.m. Monday in the area of El Malpais in northwestern New Mexico, said Dan Patton, McKinley County Sheriff's Department chief investigator, and McKinley County Sheriff Frank Gonzales.

The body was sent to the state Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque for positive identification and to determine a cause of death, Patton said.

Valdez had quit her job as an officer for the China Lake, Calif., Police Division, and moved to Coolidge, east of Gallup, authorities said. Grants is located about 50 miles east of Gallup, N.M, on Interstate 40.

She was scheduled to start as a McKinley County sheriff's deputy Sept. 17, but never showed up, authorities said. An abandoned van belonging to Valdez was found on Sept. 16 parked on Interstate 10 in Reeves County near Balmorhea.

Her purse, with her driver's license and scraps of paper, was found on Sept. 20 along U.S. 64-87, 16 miles east of Raton, state police said. Raton is located near the New Mexico-Colorado border in the northeastern part of the state, and is about 175 miles northwest of Gallup and about 500 miles north of Balmorhea.

After the van was discovered it was taken to Reeves County Sheriff's Department where Reeves County officials helped State DPS Crime Lab personnel, Texas Rangers and Arizona law enforcement officials in processing evidence from the van.

Inside the van were guns belonging to a man who was killed in northern Arizona, authorities have said.

Jimmy L. Odom, 36, of Newton, Texas, and Donna Rae Lankford, 33, of Kirbyville, Texas, both wanted on murder charges in the Arizona slaying, were arrested Monday in Southeast Texas.

Odom and Lankford were nabbed by Arizona detectives at a deer hunting campsite in Hardin County, Texas, said Hardin County Sheriff Ed Cain.

"This was where they had been seen Saturday evening," Cain said. "They had fallen asleep. The detectives happened to be checking the camp and found them. They were arrested without incident and had no weapons on them."

Odom and Lankford, however, took authorities to another campsite about a quarter-mile away where they found a rifle, Cain said.

Odom and Lankford were being held in the Hardin County Jail in Kountze, about 100 miles northeast of Houston.

Cain said they probably would be extradited to Arizona within the next few days.

Coconino County, Ariz., sheriff's officials issued warrants for the arrest of Odom and Lankford on first-degree murder charges in the death of Duard L. Stanphill, 63, of Yuma, Ariz., who was killed at a campsite near Williams, Ariz. Police said they believe Stanphill met the couple at a bar in Williams.

The couple was questioned in Valdez's disappearance, and the information they provided was given to the McKinley County Sheriff's Department, Gonzales said.

Valdez was an officer at China Lake from 1993 until Sept. 7, said Steve Boster, public affairs specialist at the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake. She lived in nearby Ridgecrest, Calif., Boster said.

Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez said that the county would not be involved in the case anymore unless they are needed.

"We're not going to work it anymore because they (the suspects) didn't commit any crime in Texas," he said.

Texas Ranger David Duncan said that it is unknown at this time what will happen to the van but he, along with officials from Reeves County and Hardin County would assist Arizona and New Mexico law enforcement with the case if needed.

Fitzpatrick finding different roles as church's new associate pastor

Staff Writer
PECOS, Wed., Sept. 26, 2001 -- Danny Fitzpatrick is the new associate to pastor Greer Willis at First Baptist Church, but his ministry is not limited to that congregation.

"My main responsibility is for youth, but I will be working with all age groups," Fitzpatrick said. "I will be working to start a children's program to reach out to elementary age and younger.

Already he is working with a group that has as a goal starting Bible clubs on each elementary school campus.

Having spent the summer as First Baptist's youth minister, Fitzpatrick has been involved in several events co-sponsored by other Baptist churches, such as the concert performed Saturday night on the patio at West Park Baptist Church.

"First Baptist has financial resources and West Park has the best location," he said. "We combine our gifts together, and it makes the event much better. One church brought hamburgers, another a barbecue pit, another buns and another drinks."

North Temple Baptist Church provided a flatbed truck for the guest speaker and band, Gen Next of Temple Baptist Church in Odessa.

"People pulled up and parked to hear the band," he said. "They may not even be members of a church anywhere."

Joint events bring together youth of varied backgrounds who know each other in school, Fitzpatrick said. "I think it will help the different churches."

This summer, several youth groups joined for a mission trip to Marfa and Fort Davis. Fitzpatrick hopes to expand on that and take a group into Mexico to do construction work, hold vacation Bible schools and share Jesus with others.

"I have a friend in East Texas that puts mission trips together and makes sure they get completed," he said.

His calendar is already dotted with joint events for the entire year, starting with a video scavenger hunt in October, a "Turkey Bowl" in November, a Christmas party in December, student conference in January, "Disciple Now" in February, a ski trip in March, fund raisers in April and May, camp in June, evangelism conference in July and a mission trip in August.

Fitzpatrick began his career as a music director 15 years ago in his hometown of Odessa, but has always worked with young people. The past two years, he was minister of music and youth at Calvary Baptist Church in Abilene.

" A few years ago I changed my course of study to religious education. Now I feel like God is going to call me to pastor, so I changed to Biblical studies," he said.

Although he lacks about 1½ years completing his bachelor's degree, Fitzpatrick has taken some seminary courses and would like to go back to work on a master's degree in Biblical languages or pastoral ministry.

"I love to go to school because it gives me the opportunity to rub shoulders with students," he said. "I love college ministry too."

He lacks some basic math courses, which he may be able to take at the Pecos campus of Odessa College.

Janis, his wife of 11 years, plans to operate a life and health insurance agency out of their home while caring for their 4-year-old daughter.

When he's not working, Fitzpatrick likes to spend time with his family and watch sports. He loves music and remote-controlled car racing and is "real big time" into science fiction, noting that he's looking forward to the new Star Trek series starting this week.

"This summer has been a time of focusing on the community of Christ here," he said. And that will continue to be the focus of the new "minister of everything else" at First Baptist Church.

Hospital board approves funds for defibrillators

Staff Writer
PECOS, Wed., Sept. 26, 2001 -- The Reeves County Hospital Board of Directors approved a purchase that would help Pecos EMS and hospital emergency room personnel better care for people suffering from heart attacks or other severe coronary problems, during the board's monthly meeting Tuesday night in the classroom at RCH.

The Board approved purchasing an auto external defibrillator for an ambulance as well as a LifePak 12 monitor/defibrillator for the emergency room at RCH.

Hospital Administrator Robert Vernor said that the hospital has an old defibrillator unit that is sent with ambulance personnel when they have need for it, but new rules require full-time ambulance coverage.

"We've got an old one that we send with the ambulance when we need it," he said. "Now it is a requirement to have one on board all the time."

Vernor said that the new unit would cost over $10,000 and the hospital would use the old one as a trade-in.

The Board also approved buying the LifePak 12, which would take the place of numerous pieces of equipment in the ER.

Vernor said that the defibrillator unit for the ER is basically the same unit as the one for the ambulance with some extra functions.

"It's just got more bells and whistles," he said.

Vernor said that the new ER unit, that would cost a little over $22,000, would save time because it is capable of being used for a number of functions that use various machines, and that would also free up ER space.

"It will save a lot of room and save a lot of time," he said.

Vernor told the board that the hospital has enough money in the budget to cover the cost of the two machines.

"We had put enough in the budget to cover this kind of things," he said.

The hospital will purchase both machines from a company called Medtronic and should receive them within 30 days.

The Board also officially set the hospital district's tax rate at 33 cents, which is slightly lower than last year's rate, according to Vernor.

"It was 34 cents last year," he said. "We lowered it a penny."

Vernor said that the Board decided to lower the rate to help property owners to pay their taxes.

He said that the hospital district would make up the money with the oil and gas companies that are paying on mineral valuations.

He explained that the taxes for the mineral rights owners have gone down as well on each $100 in valuations, but since the valuations were so high this year the companies would pay more overall.

Valuations for the hospital district increase by about $130 million this year. Based on the 33 cent tax rate, the hospital will take in about $475,000 in additional property and mineral rights taxes this year.

The Board also approved adopting the 2002 capital and operating budget, the monthly tax report, the financial statements and the payment of bills.

District governor speaks Thursday to Rotary Club

PECOS, Wed., Sept. 26, 2001 -- Rotary District Governor Jerry Worthy of Big Spring and his wife, Louise, will make their annual visit to the Pecos Rotary Club, at noon, Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Pecos Valley Country Club.

Rotary District 5730 includes 53 Rotary Clubs in an area from Pecos to Sweetwater and north including the entire Texas Panhandle.

All Rotarians and spouses are urged to attend this important meeting.


PECOS, Wed., Sept. 26, 2001 -- High Tues. 79. Low this morning 47. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows in the upper 50s. East winds 5 to 10 mph. Thurs.: Partly cloudy. Highs around 90. Light and variable winds. Thurs.night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 50s. Fri.: Partly cloudy. Highs around 90. Sat.: Partly cloudy. Lows 55 to 60. Highs 75 to 85.

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