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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, May 3, 2004

Feds indict six for illegal alien deaths in crash

Staff Writer

Six persons currently under arrest have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pecos stemming from the deaths of three illegal immigrants in a wreck on U.S. 285 south of town last month.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alpine has confirmed that a sealed indictment has been issued against the six, and that others also have been named in the indictment. Assistant US Attorney Jay Miller said that in the 13 count indictment, all six have been charged with conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens that resulted in their death.

The six arrested have been identified as Dewayne Hector Ortiz, Laticia Martinez, Justin Wade Davenport, Marshall John Chamberlin, Lawrence Elmer Pearce Jr., and Gregory James Schottenloher. They were charged in connection with the death of 18-year old Marielena Martinez-Garcia and two other illegal aliens who were riding in a truck driven by 43-year-old Melinda O’Brien of Spring, which was involved in the April 5 accident. O’Brien was also killed in the five-fatality crash.

Miller said that this is a possible death penalty case because the transportation of the immigrants resulted in their deaths. He added that additional people were named on the indictment, but that due to the large amount of time that has passed since the wreck, the case would most likely proceed with the defendants currently in custody.

Among the possible charges facing the six are conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, transportation of illegal aliens that resulted in death, transportation of illegal aliens for profit and multiple charges of harboring illegal aliens. Miller said that the investigation is still continuing, but said that indictment would most likely be unsealed on Tuesday.

The three died in the early morning hours of April 5, during a 14-hour period when Interstate 20 traffic was routed onto U.S. 285 due to the collapse of a highway bridge over Salt Draw near Toyah. Traffic was rerouted onto I-10 and U.S. 285 between Fort Stockton and Pecos after flooding caused the bridge collapse Sunday evening and shut a shorter alternate route along State Highway 17 between the two interstates.

The accident occurred around 4:30 a.m. 17 miles south of Pecos on the two-lane highway. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety report, the accident occurred when the semi-truck driven by O’Brien attempted to pass another semi traveling northbound on 285.

In the process of passing the other vehicle O’Brien’s truck collided with yet another semi head on. The speed limit on that section of road is posted at 65 for nighttime driving.

According to a US Border Patrol press release issued after the accident, O’Brien had six illegal immigrants in the sleeper of the truck that she was driving, three of whom died in the accident. O’Brien’s truck was so severely damaged in the wreck that the make and model were undeterminable.

Early voting nears 300 mark for council, school elections

Staff Writer

Voters continue to trickle in to the Pecos Community Center to cast their ballots early for the May 15 Town of Pecos City and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD races, with nearly 300 ballots cast through the first four days of early voting.

A total of 160 individuals had cast their votes early by Friday with 73 ballots by mail, and early voting clerk Debbie Thomas said, “This morning we had 38 more ballots by mail, but only 15 by personal appearance.”

This morning’s totals bring the overall numbers to 175 votes in-person at the Community Center and 111 others by mail.

“Individuals can still request a ballot by mail and have until 5 p.m., Friday, May 7, to turn in their application for one,” said Thomas.

Thomas said that it has been steady and about the same as last year. “During the last contested mayor’s race it was a little bit busier,” said Thomas. “So come in and vote early and bring your registered voter friends,” she said.

Early voting began last Wednesday for the May 15 local elections for the Town of Pecos City and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD races.

Early voting runs through May 11 at the Pecos Community Center, 508 S. Oak. The voting poll is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., every weekday until May 11. Elections will be held May 15 at the designated voting spots.

In the Town of Pecos City election, one person will challenging the two incumbents on the council, while the election for mayor will be uncontested for the first time in six years. Former Town of Pecos City secretary Estella Ornelas will face incumbents Angelica Valenzuela and Michael Benavides in the May 15 council race.

In the race for Town of Pecos City Mayor, Dot Stafford will be unopposed in her bid for a new two-year term. Stafford was elected mayor in 1994 and then re-elected twice, before being defeated by Ray Ortega in 2000. She won the seat back from Ortega in the 2002 mayoral election.

In the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD school board, election, there will be five persons seeking three available seats.

Incumbents, Crissy Martinez, Lila Cerna and Saul “Chip” Florez are challenged by David Flores and Bubba Williams.

The three incumbents in the Reeves County Hospital Board elections have no contenders and as a result the election will not have to be held under a state law that allows for the cancellation of uncontested elections by taxing entities in order to save money.

Incumbents, for the at-large position Leo Hung; for the Precinct 1 position Chel Flores and incumbent for the Precinct 3 position Bill Wendt will once again serve on the board. The other election that can be canceled under state law is the Barstow City Council, where all incumbents have filed to retain their seats, without opposition.

The three places to be filled are one full term for mayor, one for council and one unexpired term. Angel Abila filed for the positions of mayor, Robert Ortega for the full two-year term and Abram Flores for the one year unexpired term.

In the Balmorhea City elections three individuals are up for re-election, including the mayor’s position, and both races will be contested. Current mayor Ruben Fuentes will be challenged by Tammy Dean Marmillion. The positions on the council are for two-year terms and those currently serving are Eddie Roman and Rosendo Galindo. The two will go against Antonio Contreras.

In the Balmorhea ISD school board race, five candidates will be seeking two available three-year term. They include incumbents Armando Mondragon and Paul Ward and challengers Susie Carrasco, Martha May and Luis Contreras.

Local credit union given high rating

Members of the City-County Federal Credit Union recently learned that their group ranked 88 last year out of the top 125 credit unions in the nation, as reported in the National Credit Union Journal.

Directors for the local credit union are Marcos Contreras, Clay McKinney, Pat Tarin, Victor Prieto, Grace Renteria and Christy Winfrey. Bea Herrera is manager.

Youth, adult tennis clinic set this week

Two days of games and drills with “Mr. Sunshine” will be offered to local students on Wednesday and Thursday this week at the Pecos High School tennis courts.

Youth classes will include games and basic stroke production, while advanced stroke instruction will be available for intermediate students and more intensive workouts and strategy instruction for high school and adult players.

The classes will be 5 to 6 p.m. both days for 6-11 year olds, 6-7 p.m. for 12-14 year olds and 7-8:30 p.m. for high school and adult players. The classes are limited to 20 youth, 12 intermediate and 10 advanced players with fees of $5 per day or $7.50 for both days for the youth class, $8-$12 for the intermediate class and $10-$18 for the high school/adult class.

For further information, contact “Mr. Sunshine” at (254) 939-6500 or PHS coach Mike Ortiz at 448-2782.


High Sunday 77. Low this morning 41. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows 50 to 55. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 90s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 50s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Wednesday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 90s. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Wednesday night: Mostly clear. Lows near 60. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 90s. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Lows near 60.

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Pecos Enterprise
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