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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Big Bend Park murder suspect flees from RCJ

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- Local law enforcement officials continue the search for an escapee believed to be heading back to San Antonio after escaping from the Reeves County Jail yesterday afternoon.

Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez said that John Michael Baker, 23, had escaped from a vent located in a storage room where recreation equipment is kept.

Baker was being housed at the jail as of May 26, for the U.S. Marshal.

"He escaped through a vent located in the storage room," Gomez said. "His (Baker's) rec time was from 1:35 p.m. to 2:35 p.m."

Baker is described as a white male, 6 feet 1 inch, 195 pounds, blond hair with blue eyes and two tattoos, one on his left arm and a second one on his right shoulder.

He is also considered armed and dangerous and was last seen wearing a gray T-shirt and blue jeans.

Baker, is wanted on allegations of murder. He was discovered to be missing at about 4 p.m. during head count, Gomez said.

"We do not know much about the alleged murder," Gomez said.

He, however, added that the alleged murder is believed to have occurred in the Big Bend National Park.

According to an Associated Press story, Baker is facing murder charges after telling Park rangers that he had killed Shannon Stewart Roberts, 43, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Baker then told the rangers that he had buried Robert's body in the park where it was found on March 31, 2000.

Baker is from Leon Valley, located just outside San Antonio on State Highway 16. Gomez added that Baker's attorney out of San Antonio has notified family and friends and has asked them that if they hear from him to notify the police.

"His mother actually heard it on the news and called us," Gomez said.

He added that Pecos Fire Department volunteer Brian Fuentes had seen Baker crossing the street in civilian clothing with what appeared to be legal papers in hand. Baker was working outside the city's fire station, which is located just south of Reeves County Jail.

"He (Baker) told Brian that his lawyer had bonded him out," Gomez said. "Baker acted very calm."

Baker was also spotted hanging around the Pecos Christian Home, which is located on the corner of 12th and Elm streets. At first, officials believed that he had taken the Christian Home van because it was not there.

"He had been seen around the Christian Home," Gomez said. "We though he might have taken the van because we could not locate it. However, we found the man of the Christian Home and the van. They are both in Balmorhea and are safe."

As law enforcement officials continue to look for Baker, Gomez said that he believes Baker may still be in the area.

"I think he is still in the area," Gomez said. "We have set up road blocks on Highway 17 and 285."

Currently the Reeves County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Trans Pecos Task Force, U.S. Boarder Patrol, U.S. Marshals and the Texas Rangers are all involved in the search for Baker.

"We have everything," Gomez said when asked if they had helicopters and dogs helping them in the search.

Baker's escape is the first from Reeves County Jail since March 8, 2002, when Steven Perez walked away from the facility while on work detail on the jail grounds. He fled to Juarez, Mex., but was caught six months later in an Odessa residence.

Though this is not the first time the Reeves County Sheriff's Office has had an inmate escape, Gomez said that there is a difference between the first incident and this one.

"The first one (Perez) was a trustee that walked off," Gomez said. "This time the inmate escaped from the prison."

While the investigation continues, Gomez said that once they find out what happened there would be some changes done with in the jail.

Commission appointments among city council's items

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council will hold its regular morning meeting at 5:30 p.m., today at City Hall.

The late start is due to the fact that a quorum would not be in attendance during the morning hours. The council usually holds its first meeting of the month in the morning.

The council will discuss the Texas Property Tax Code for Submission of roll to governing a body.

Other items on the agenda will be the appointment to the planning and zoning commission, the auditor's proposal for engagement, a resolution for the closure of the alleyway between Fourth and Hackberry and the 2003-planning calendar.

The council's minutes from its regular monthly meeting of July 24 and its special meeting of July 31, the accounts payable report and the juvenile report will also be up for approval.

Police get new method to find missing children

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- When a child is reported missing, time is one of law enforcement's greatest enemies and now the Pecos Police Department has implemented a new program that will help with the location of the missing child.

"Every hour a child is missing, the likelihood of a safe recovery decreases," said Pecos Police Department Officer Mike Balog.

In order to ensure a high level of preparedness for child abduction cases, the Law Enforcement Agency, announced the implementation of LOCATER, the Lost Child Alert Technology Resource, according to Balog.

"There are many challenges facing law enforcement personnel in missing child cases," said Balog. "One of the greatest is collecting and disseminating the child's descriptive information quickly," he said.

With that goal in mind, LOCATER was created to provide the computer hardware and software needed to rapidly distribute critical missing child data on a local, statewide or nationwide basis.

"I've been working on getting this for the past six months," said Balog. "They provide all the required equipment."

Balog said that the agency also provided all the items needed for the SKID children's identification program the police department sponsored last year.

Children in Head Start through 6th grade were fingerprinted and photographed, according to Balog.

"This program laid out the groundwork for this other program," he said.

If a child is abducted or runs away, the parent can just bring in the package they received during the SKID program and in one minute the local office will have a photo, poster and description sent out to all the other agencies. "The first few hours are the most important," said Balog.

Balog said that he also has do-it-yourself I.D. Kits that parents can do at home.

"I urge parents to do this," said Balog. "We can do all kinds of posters and this will increase response time, as far as getting the word out to all the agencies for the Amber Alert System."

The Pecos Police Department obtained and is pleased to be working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to implement LOCATER. United States Congressional funds allow NCMEC to provide the LOCATER system free-of-charge to law enforcement agencies that investigate missing child cases. NCMEC has found that when pictures of missing children or abductors are made available to the public, one in six children are recovered as a direct result.

"What's neat about this, is that of a child runs away, if they are headed to Odessa, they won't even make it to Pyote before we locate them," said Balog.

Balog said that he would have this all set up in his office and wanted the community to know that the police department now has that capability.

Use of the LOCATER system, comprised of a Dell Pentium IV computer, HP DeskJet 940C printer, high-resolution scanner, and customized software, is not limited to missing children cases. It includes templates for more than 100 different types of posters such as missing adults, wanted persons, and crime alerts.

Budget, tax rolls for 2003-04

top school board discussions

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members will discuss the 2003-2004 budget and take possible action on 2003 certified appraisal roll and anticipated collection rate by tax collector during their regular monthly meeting today at 6 p.m. in the Technology Center to discuss several items.

The public is invited to attend.

Board members will receive an update on the Statement of Finances for 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 and will discuss and take action on proposed date for public meeting to discuss and hear public comment on 2003-2004 budget and proposed tax rate. They will also discuss purchasing technology for identification badges for employees and students; requests for purchase foreclosed properties and teacher appraisal calendar and PDAS appraisers;

Other items include discussion and approval of bus routes for 2003-2004; Title III Shared Service Arrangement Agreement for 2003-2004 with Region 18 Education Service Center; change in TASB Policy DEC Local: compensations and benefits; leaves and absences; change in TASB Policy FMG Local: Student activities: travel and DEE Local; compensation and benefits, expense reimbursement.

The group will present plaques to Media Honor Roll recipients and discuss a letter from Rebecca Spencer, resignation from ESC 18 Board of Directors.

Under old business: the board will hear a report on Pecos High School mold remediation, Austin Elementary HVAC, and the new softball field; consider and possible action on rescinding the prior approval to enter into a one-year agreement with Pepsi and reconsider requests for proposals for full-service beverage vending machine agreement or requests for proposals for partial service beverage vending machine agreement.

Board members will discuss and take possible action on competitive sealed proposals for property, casualty and general liability insurance; competitive sealed proposals for fleet insurance; 2002-2003 budget amendments; request for proposal for attorneys to investigate and file all claims for under-valuations of real property (mineral interest only) for purposes of determining liability for ad valorem taxes and underpayment of ad valorem taxes and underpayment and non-payment of royalty interest and for any further recovery of all related claims.

The group will meet in closed session as authorized by the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.101 et. Seq., Section 551.074: Discuss personnel or hear complaints against personnel.

Board members will take action if any, on items discussed in closed session.

They will consider and take possible action on professional personnel: appointments, change of contract, resignations, retirements.

Regular agenda items include: tax report, depository securities report, current bills and financial report, investment transaction report, reconciled bank balance report, Reeves County Community Recreation Department report, date and time for next meeting, calendar of events and request for items for next agenda.

County cancels meeting due to attorney's absence

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- Reeves County Commissioners have cancelled a special meeting that had been scheduled for 4 p.m., Thursday, in the third floor courtroom because a lawyer who commissioners were scheduled to meet with cannot be in Pecos today.

The Law Office of Ramon Garcia notified the judge's office to inform them that the law firm would not be able to attend the special meeting. The firm stated that they would attempt to attend the next regularly scheduled meeting, set for Aug. 25.

The group was to discuss a proposal to hire attorneys to investigate and file all claims for under-valuations of real property (mineral interest only) for purposes of determining liability for ad valorem taxes, and underpayment of ad valorem taxes, and underpayment and non-payment of royalty interests and for any further recovery of all related claims.

Overnight fire destroys bale pile outside dairy

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- Pecos Volunteer firefighters were called out early this morning to battle a fire in a pile of alfalfa and silage bales at the Jersey Dairy, but ended up just being able to protect neighboring bales from the fire, which continued to burn late this morning.

The fire was located just north of County Road 211, between Pecos and Toyah and began sometime around 5 a.m. "The feeder said when he went to work he saw it, a little after 5:20 a.m.," said Daniel Dominguez, general manager for Jersey Dairy.

"He pulled some of the alfalfa and said he could smell something funny, and when he came back to mix the food he found it on fire," said dairy owner John Forrester.

When firemen arrived on the scene the pile of alfalfa and silage was fully engulfed just to the south of the dairy pens. "The pile was in the middle, and there were two piles on either side," said fire chief Roy Pena. "We weren't able to save that one, but we were able to let them move the other bales away."

"Nothing else caught fire. We were able to move the other hay out of the way," said Dominguez.

Firemen remained on the scene after sunrise, keeping an eye on the smoldering remains of the hay pile in case any sparks cause problems for other nearby feed or equipment.

Dominguez said there were between 240 and 270 bales in the stack that caught fire. Of that about 140 were alfalfa and the others were silage. The value of the lost bales was estimated at $20,000.

Wal-Mart to hold teacher day Friday

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- Wal-Mart will be sponsoring a Teacher's Appreciation day from 7-8 a.m., Friday, Aug. 15, at the local store.

Wal-Mart will be giving away door prizes and refreshments will be served. This event is for all school personnel.

Barbeque plate sale set at Saragosa Hall

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- A Barbecue Brisket Plate Sale has been set for 11 a.m., Friday, Aug. 15, at Saragosa Hall.

The fundraiser is to help with medical expenses for Brenda Fuentes (a cancer patient).

Plates will be $4 a plate and deliveries will be made on four or more plates.

To order call 445-5225 on Friday.


PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2003 -- High Wednesday 96. Low this morning 67. Forecast for onight: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows near 60. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 80s. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Saturday: Partly cloudy with isolated showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the lower 90s. Sunday: Partly cloudy with isolated showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Highs in the mid 90s.


Robert Miles and Mari Sigala

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