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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Sheriff plans new search for Carrasco

Staff Writer
Searchers are planning to make another effort in two weeks to uncover clues into the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl who has been missing since early October.

Monica Cassandra Carrasco disappeared sometime between the late evening of Oct. 1 and the early morning of Oct. 2 from the home of family members she was staying with in Balmorhea.

"Special dogs will be in Alpine on February 17-18, looking for someone else and we have requested their aid in helping us locate Monica," said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez. "We want to do another thorough search of the area."

Carrasco is described as 110 pounds, black hair with red streaks, brown eyes and 5-foot-5 in height. She has a small mole on her cheek and a chicken pox scar near her hairline on her forehead.

Gomez said that along with the new search plans, the investigators working on the case have a new lead.

"We have a little bit more information and plan to use it to try to locate her," he said. Carrasco was an Alpine High School Student and was living in Alpine until she became ill and was hospitalized and released. She was staying with her uncle and aunt recovering from an eating disorder, according to her mother Kathy Carrasco.

"Her aunt Velma was assisting me with Monica's care and recovery," her mother said.

Carrasco added that family members in Balmorhea last saw Monica alive around 1:30 a.m.. Gomez confirmed that she was last seen alive in the late morning hours and was wearing her pajamas. Gomez said that he has been talking to some people from Houston that will come to the area and help them look again for the missing teen.

Law enforcement officials began looking for the 16 year-old since the morning of her disappearance. Representatives from the Reeves County Sheriff's Office, the Border Patrol, the Fort Stockton-Lynell Unit and the Department of Public Safety have all contributed to the search for the girl in the four months since her disappearance.

"We've already done a thorough search, but there are a few more places that I want to look," said Gomez.

Searchers have dragged Balmorhea Lake, looked in the mountains and throughout the Balmorhea area.

"It's a vast, wide open area, but we plan to give it our all once more in the search for her," said Gomez. "This is really hard for the family, but we want them to know that we will do another search and are still thinking of her." A reward of $1,000 has now been offered for information assisting officers in locating a missing Balmorhea teen.

Midland Crime Stoppers has offered the reward into the disappearance of Carrasco. People are urged to call the Midland Crime Stoppers at 432-694-TIPS or 1-800-7-LOCKUP or any local law enforcement agency with any information that might be beneficial to the investigation.

Crime Stoppers would like to stress that callers will remain anonymous and that no caller ID is ever used on a call.

Individuals can also call the Reeves County Sheriff's Office at 432-445-4901 or the local Crime Stoppers, 432-445-9898.

Workers' status in vehicle probe changed by city

Staff Writer
Town of Pecos City officials have taken a second disciplinary action against two city workers charged with misuse of a city vehicle, while no second action has been reported as of yet for their supervisor, who faces similar charges.

Alfredo Flores and Santiago Ortiz are on unpaid suspension, seven days for Flores and ten days for Ortiz, according to the Interim City Manager and Police Chief Clay McKinney. The changes were made earlier this week, after the two were first put on paid leave in mid-January in connection with the incident.

No further disciplinary action has been reported against supervisor Ray Orona, who is also on paid leave. When asked whether Orona was being fined or suspended without pay at this time McKinney had no comment again.

When asked whether the situation would be resolved by the time Joseph Torres takes over the position of city manager, the chief again had "no comment." Torres was hired last week as the new city manager for Pecos, and is scheduled to begin work at his job next Monday.

Orona, the Town of Pecos City's water department foreman, along with Flores, a serviceman in the department and Ortiz, assistant to the wastewater treatment plant, were arrested on Jan. 14 on a charge of abuse of official capacity, a Class B misdemeanor. The law states that "A public servant commits an offense (of abuse of official capacity) if, with intent to obtain a benefit or intent to harm or defraud another, he intentionally or knowingly ... misuses government property, services, personnel, or anything of value belonging to the government that has come into the pubic servant's custody by virtue of the public servant's office or employment."

According to family members of the accused, the situation occurred when a truck belonging to Orona's son, who lives in Odessa, broke down. Orona then enlisted the help of Flores and Ortiz to help bring the vehicle back to Pecos.

Police at the time of the arrest said both Ortiz and Flores were officially on duty with the water department when the incident occurred. The Pecos Enterprise has filed two open records requests to the Town of Pecos City in connection with the incident.

The first, filed with McKinney on Jan. 15, requested the time cards from the accused individuals from Jan. 8, any areas of the employee handbook concerning the use of city vehicles and any written communication concerning the incident.

As of today, the city has produced the sections of the handbook that deal with the use of city vehicles. The passages state that employees may use the vehicles for personal business with the consent of the city manager. Also the time cards for Ortiz and Flores have both been received, with Flores' showing comp time on the date of the incident and Santiago's showing vacation.

McKinney when asked whether there is still a criminal basis for the charges even though Flores and Ortiz received no benefit from the events of Jan. 8, stated, "I cannot comment on a pending criminal investigation nor on city personnel matters."

The second request, filed on Jan. 20 with McKinney, requests any memos, letters, etc. regarding the investigation of Town of Pecos City Utilities Director Octavio Garcia with in the past two years, the same for any investigation into former Pecos Fire Chief Roy Pena within the past four years, and the same for any employee in general that has been investigated for misusing city property within the past five years.

Garcia supervises the water department and other city departments in his job as utilities director. McKinney said that the Texas Department of Public Safety has handled a recent investigation of Garcia, in conjunction with 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds. Open records requests have been filed with both offices recently by the Enterprise in connection with that investigation.

Pena was serving as fire chief in July of 2001 when a pickup issued to him by the Town of Pecos City was stopped in front of Allsup's on South Eddy Street. Pecos police arrested his son Michael Roy Pena, 18 at the time, along with two other teenagers for public intoxication.

Former City Manager Carlos Yerena said shortly after the incident that Pena had been using the pickup while other volunteer firemen were using the fire chief's normal red truck to drive to fire school. He added that the chief was unaware that his son was using the white pickup. City attorney Scott Johnson said that the city holds no records regarding investigations into either Garcia or Pena.

Johnson did send a police department warning notice from 2002 regarding the oral warning of a patrol officer for "usage of patrol vehicle off duty." The document states that a "written reprimand" would follow should the same type of incident occur again.

The legal basis for the request is the Open Records Act, or Public Information Act as it is now called. The law is expressed in chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code, and is there to allow citizens access to public records, i.e. "any information collected, assembled, or maintained by or for a government agency," according to the attorney general of Texas' website.

The law does give 26 areas of exemption, but states that within ten days of the receipt of the request, the reasons for withholding the documents must be sent to the attorney general's office for approval.

Rollover leaves Las Vegas man dead

Staff Writer
A 25-year-old Las Vegas, Nev., man was killed Wednesday night in a one-vehicle rollover on Interstate 10, just west of the I-10 junction with Interstate 20 in Jeff Davis County.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Report, the accident occurred at 8:09 p.m. on I-10, 22.1 miles west of Balmorhea. The report, by DPS trooper James Matthew Morris, said that Jerry W. Obermiller was traveling eastbound on I-10 when his 2000 Dodge Dakota pickup swerved into the left lane near the 186 mile marker. Although there was light rain in the area on Wednesday, the conditions at the time of the accident were described as "dry, clear and cloudy," by Morris.

Obermiller then overcorrected to the right, lost control and entered into a broadside skid. The pickup then flipped several times, ejecting the driver, before the vehicle landed on its top facing west.

EMS and fire crews from Pecos and Balmorhea were called out following the accident. No transport was made by the EMS after it was determined Obermiller was the only passenger in the pickup.

Jeff Davis County Judge George Grubb pronounced Obermiller dead at the scene at 11:06 p.m. His body was taken to Pecos Funeral Home, and the next of kin has been notified.

Obermiller was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, according to Miller, who investigated the accident out of the DPS' Alpine office.


High Wednesday 55. Low this morning 42. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows near 25. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 50. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 20s. Southwest winds near 10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 60. Light and variable winds becoming south near 10 mph in the afternoon. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Lows near 30. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 50s to the lower 60s. Sunday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower to mid 30s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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