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Tuesday, January 14,1997

Ward sheriff testifies in jail suicide suit

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Staff Writer

PECOS, January 14, 1997 - Ward County jailers did not believe
29-year-old David Oyerbides was a high suicide risk when they placed him
a padded cell on May 11, 1995, Sheriff Ben Keele testified this morning
in federal court.

Keele, jail administrator Mary Byrne and jailers Nora Littlejohn, Mario
Nunez, Daniel Leyva and Frarin Valle are defendants, along with Ward
County, in a $1.7 million damage suit filed by Oyerbides' mother, Maria

Oyerbides used his shirt to hang himself from a food port in his padded
cell on May 11, 1995. Gutierrez claims the jail staff knew he was
suicidal and should not have put him in the cell with his clothes on.

Keele said it is policy to remove clothing from inmates who are a high
suicide risk, as was done when jailer Mario Nunez placed Oyerbides in
the padded cell on May 9 because he returned from court crying.

However, an hour later, Nunez allowed Oyerbides to return to the general
population after he explained that he was upset because other inmates in
his cell knew he was charged with aggravated sexual assault on a minor.

Housed in a different cell, Oyerbides appeared to be fine, Keele said.
But on May 11, jailer Teresa Eubank teased Oyerbides about the lack of
orange juice for breakfast and he became violent.

Eubanks, who testified that Byrne fired her shortly after the suicide,
said she wanted to place Oyerbides in a segregation cell. After
conferring with Byrne, she waited for Valle and Leyva to arrive and had
them place Oyerbides in the padded cell, which is closer to the front of
the cellblock.

Had she known that Oyerbides was considered a suicide risk two days
earlier, she would not have teased him, Eubanks said.

Nora Littlejohn, who is a distant cousin of the deceased inmate,
testified she never thought of him as suicidal. He did have mood swings,
was often drunk and abused drugs, she said.

She said she arrived at the jail at 9 a.m., 38 minutes before Oyerbides'
body was discovered. Byrne told her he had been placed in the padded
cell because he was abusive and uncooperative, she said.

Jail policy was to check on suicidal inmates every 15 minutes, she said,
although the written policy is to watch them constantly. Testimony
showed jailers last checked on Oyerbides at 9:08 a.m.

Daniel Leyva testified Monday that he and Valle discovered Oyerbides'
body at 9:38 a.m. when they noticed knots of cloth wedged in the food
port on the padded cell.

After freeing Oyerbides from the noose he had fashioned from his shirt,
the jailers waited for ambulance personnel to arrive, Leyva said. He
heard Oyerbides make a gurgling sound while lying on the floor, he said.

"I thought he was coming to or still alive," he said.

Prior to that incident, Leyva had not been told Oyerbides was suicidal,
nor did he know he had been placed in the cell without his clothes on
May 9, he said.

It is common to place a violent inmate in the padded cell with his
clothes on, he said.

The defendants are accused of subjective, deliberate indifference to
Oyerbides' basic human/serious medical needs and of proximately causing
his death despite their knowledge he was a high suicide risk.

They failed to keep a proper lookout, left Oyerbides in a cell with
items he could hang himself with, and failed to obtain
psychiatric/medical treatment, the suit alleges.

Keele said that many inmates exhibit behavior called "red flags" that
can indicate suicidal tendencies, but few attempt to commit suicide.

Temperature stays stuck at nineteen

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From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, January 14, 1997 - Forget the old West Texas joke that goes
something like this:

"If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes. It will change."

In Pecos, the weather has been pretty much the same for a week - snowy
and cold. And overnight even the temperature didn't change.

From a high of 19 degrees Monday, the mercury held steady for an
overnight low of 19 degrees, the National Weather Service reported. In
fact, 19 degrees was the reading as well this morning in a number of
other West Texas towns.

Normal highs and lows range from 10 to 30 degrees apart.

An estimated half-inch snowfall on Monday produced .02 inch of moisture,
bringing the January total to .35 inch - all from sleet and snow.

Ice forced the closure of Interstate 10 from Junction to Fort Stockton
about 4 p.m. Monday, and it remained closed this morning, said DPS
communications supervisor Dickie Jones.

Roads to the west of Pecos were mostly dry, with patches of ice, he
said. El Paso reported dry roads, cloudy skies and 19-degree

But it was a different story to the east, with patches of ice all the
way to Big Spring. Freezing drizzle and 19-degree temperatures in the
Midland-Odessa area created hazardous conditions and numerous traffic

The bad weather forced cancellation of tonight's games for the Pecos
Eagles boys and girls basketball teams in Big Spring. The games will be
made up later this week, when weather conditions are expected to improve.

Bad roads were also reported in the Abilene area, and San Angelo was
experiencing freezing drizzle.

In Amarillo, where temperatures were 14 degrees this morning, roads were
packed with snow and slick. Ice was reported in Kerrville and as far
south as Corpus Christi.

A frigid Arctic air mass remained in place over Texas today, and light
snow mixed with freezing drizzle fell across a wide expanse of West

Overnight, temperatures were in the teens and 20s in the Panhandle and
in the 30s and 40s in other parts of West Texas.

At least 10 deaths were blamed on the frigid weather that surged into
the state over the weekend as icy roads factored in hundreds of traffic

``People are sliding around and steering into the grass,'' said Angie
Noelle, shift captain with Williamson County Emergency Medical Services
in Georgetown. ``Fortunately, there have been no serious accidents.''

Interstate highways and other roads in San Antonio were closed Monday,
but most traffic was moving smoothly this morning.

Weather conditions should begin to improve by this afternoon, said Wendy
Wong, a National Weather Service forecaster in Houston.

Winter weather advisories were in effect this morning for North Texas,
areas west of Fort Worth, the Rio Grande plains, the Coastal Bend and
the Victoria area. A winter storm warning this morning covered Central,
South Central and Southeast Texas and much of East Texas.

Significant icing was reported on roads north of the Coastal Bend.

A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Flatonia and Weimar in
Fayette County was closed late Monday night because of icy conditions.

In West Austin, residents watched as cars and pickups slid backward down
a slope on Exposition Boulevard. State Land Commissioner Garry Mauro
left his Ford at the foot of the hill.

A number of schools and businesses remained closed in Houston and Austin
today. Most school districts in Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio did
not close today, though some in the Hill Country to the north of San
Antonio did.

Businesses and school districts were closed Monday in Dallas-Fort Worth,
Houston, San Antonio, Austin and elsewhere. Texas A&M University in
College Station and the University of Texas at Austin were closed Monday
and today.

Texas Tech in Lubbock began its spring semester Monday despite the
chill. Winter conditions have prevailed in West Texas for a week, and
most residents slogged their way to work and school.

The American Red Cross opened shelters in San Antonio and Boerne to
house stranded travelers and others who needed to escape the cold Monday

Electricity was knocked out to as many as 180,000 Houston Lighting &
Power Co. customers after trees and tree limbs heavy with ice fell on
power lines.

About 61,000 customers in Houston remained without power early today. A
shelter was available for some of them in the Houston suburb of

In a three-county area including Port Arthur, 53,500 customers remained
without electricity today from a high of more than 100,000 Monday, said
Entergy spokesman Kim McMurray in Beaumont.

Ice accumulation on trees continue to cause problems.

``We're continuing to have trees and tree limbs fall onto our lines,''
McMurray said. ``We'll get one area put back on and then a tree limb
falls and knocks that same area out or some other.''

Company crews from other states were being brought in to help.

``We hope that the bulk will be back on by Friday but there may be some
that linger into the weekend,'' he said.

Some Houston residents couldn't recall a freeze similar to this.

``I've been here 25, 26 years, and it's a lot worse,'' said Bill Round,
who lives northwest of Houston.

Traffic accidents on icy roads across the state killed five people
Monday, six on Sunday and one Friday night, police said. In Fort Worth,
cold weather was cited in the death of an unidentified homeless man
found Saturday.

A man died Monday afternoon when he was thrown from his vehicle after it
flipped off an overpass on Interstate 35 near Dilley. Another person
died in an accident on icy Interstate 10 near Luling.

Those who did have a warm home to stay in stocked up on cold-weather
supplies. They bought firewood, canned soup and bottled water.

At Home Depot in Sunset Valley, an Austin suburb, a few people roamed
the aisles in search of sand, pipe insulation and heaters, said
assistant manager Rebecca Wolfe.

``There are a few weirdos who want paint mixed or something,'' she said.
``You've got to ask yourself when you see those types, `Why on earth
would anyone go outside if they didn't have to?' ''

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the weather caused flight
cancellations and delays. American Airlines cancelled 600 out of 1,560
flights Monday, but only 160 departures were off today as temperatures

``We expect fairly smooth operation this afternoon,'' said airline
spokesman John Hotard.

Citrus farmers in the Rio Grande Valley closely guarded their crops but
expected to make it through the freeze unscathed.

``So far, so good,'' said Jud Flowers, general manager of Healds Valley
Farms Inc. in Edinburg, explaining that lows of around 30 degrees aren't
cold enough to damage the fruit.

Commissioners told funds balance up sharply

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Staff Writer
PECOS, January 14, 1997 - An end-of-year report showed Reeves County did
very well financially in 1996, county commissioners were told Monday,
while an independent county auditor was approved as well during the
first regular Commissioners Court meeting of 1997.

As reports from various departments were presented, County Auditor Lynn
Owens told commissioners that the county did very well last year, almost
doubling ending balance in the general fund over what was originally

"This was a lot more than was expected," said County Judge Jimmy B.
Galindo. "There were those that said it couldn't be done, but we did it
together," he said.

The ending balance in the general fund was projected to have been
$387,000, but turned out to be $909,000 due to careful budgeting.

Finances at the Reeves County Detention Center are also looking up,
despite a riot which damaged two sections of the prison last February.

"We got reimbursed for the riot which occurred last year and we had the
second perimeter fence getting built without having to borrow money to
do so," said Galindo. "I think we did an outstanding job despite the

Independent auditing services were awarded to Card, Graham and Company
at a rate of $22,000 yearly.

Owens told the court he had never had any problems with either Card,
Graham and Company or the previous independent auditor, Dan Painter.

"I think they're all equally qualified and was really happy with the
work Painter did," said Owens.

Galindo suggested a new independent auditor come in every two years, to
bring a new prospective - "A fresh pair of eyes," to look over the
county's books.

He added that Painter has done an outstanding job for the county.

The motion to award independent auditing services to Card, Graham and
Company passed, with Commissioner Precinct 1 Felipe Arredondo voting

A bid for janitor supplies was awarded to Dealer's Electric of Odessa,
for the purchase of fluorescent and incandescent lights for the county
and ACME Textile Company was awarded the bid for jail inmate clothing.

Sample clothing was provided for the county by the various bidders, with
ACME being both the lowest bid and the better quality, according to
Reeves County Detention Center CEO Rudy Franco, who was on hand to view
the samples and help make the appropriate decision.

Twenty names were drawn for the grievance committee with the first nine
elected to serve on the committee and the remainder being alternates.

The first nine names drawn include, Pablo Hidalgo, Jr., Gerald Spray,
Helen Copeland Stevens, Armando G. Granado, Belinda Ruiz, Juan
Chabarria, Jr., Calvin Birkla and Roger Granado.

Alternates chosen were Randall Payne, Lucy L. Gonzales, Gloria Carrasco
Fierro, Saul Venegas Gonzales, Aurelia Gomez, Marcia McCormick, Rodolfo
Reyes, Noah Munoz, Doyle C. Clark and Guadalupe Natividad.

Salvage items, which included a 14-inch chop saw, dirt devil vacuum and
three adding machines, were declared at the RCDC.

Budget amendments and line-item transfers and semi-monthly bills were
approved for payment.

Personnel and salary changes included two additional jailer positions at
the Reeves County Jail, which has been operating at capacity.

Franco, who was on hand to view the samples and help make the
appropriate decision.

Twenty names were drawn for the grievance committee with the first nine
elected to serve on the committee and the remainder being alternates.

The first nine names drawn include, Pablo Hidalgo, Jr., Gerald Spray,
Helen Copeland Stevens, Armando G. Granado, Belinda Ruiz, Juan
Chabarria, Jr., Calvin Birkla and Roger Granado.

Alternates chosen were Randall Payne, Lucy L. Gonzales, Gloria Carrasco
Fierro, Saul Venegas Gonzales, Aurelia Gomez, Marcia McCormick, Rodolfo
Reyes, Noah Munoz, Doyle C. Clark and Guadalupe Natividad.

Salvage items, which included a 14-inch chop saw, dirt devil vacuum and
three adding machines, were declared at the RCDC.

Budget amendments and line-item transfers and semi-monthly bills were
approved for payment.

Personnel and salary changes included two additional jailer positions
at the Reeves County Jail, which has been operating at capacity.

Sulema Dominguez was hired for the county tax assessor-collector's
office at an annual salary of $12,000.

Teens still in detention center after

alleged armed robbery

Staff Writer

PECOS, January 14, 1997 - Two teens are still being detained today at
the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center, as they await word from the
Reeves County Attorney's office on any legal action following an alleged
armed robbery at a downtown food store Saturday night.

The two youths, ages 15 and 16, are currently being held as suspects
after having been charged with aggravated armed robbery. The two were
arrested when they allegedly attempted to run off with an undisclosed
amount of money from the Lucky Partners food store, located in the
corner of Fifth and Ash Streets.

County Court-At-Law Judge Lee Green said that a detention hearing was
held Monday afternoon, at which time he ordered the two teens remain in
custody of the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center.

Further action is pending an analysis of the case by Reeves County
Attorney Walter Holcombe.

One of the options the boys face, said Green, is the possibility of
being charged as adults, which depends on the county attorney's findings.

He added that juvenile court is normally held in the morning's but
because of the number of officers involved and reports made, "it took a
while to get things together."

Reeves County Juvenile Probation Officer Alberto Alvarez said that he
was very pleased with the police work, stating, "everything was very
much in order. It was very thorough."

He indicated that the Pecos Police Department has authorized, "office
space," for him and his staff for aid in the processing of juvenile
cases within the city department.

Reason for the space was, "so we can work more closely together," said
Alvarez. "Sometimes there's a breakdown in communication between both

Tax rebates up slightly for city, state

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PECOS, January 14, 1997 - The first sales tax check of 1997 for the Town
of Pecos City continued the overall trend of 1996, as it showed a slight
increase in tax collections over 12 months ago.

Pecos, which saw its 1½-cent share of the state sales tax go up by 1.6
percent for all of last year, got back $48,034 last week from State
Comptroller John Sharp's office, a 2.82 percent rise over the $47,090
returned from Austin last January.

Balmorhea and the Reeves County Hospital District saw their January
checks increase by a larger margin, while Toyah's check fell sharply
from a year ago.

The hospital districts ½-cent sales tax yielded $19.953 this month, up 8
percent from a year ago. Balmorhea's $233 check represented an 85.4
percent rise, while a $225 check that went to Toyah was down 47.83
percent from, 1996.

Statewide, rebate checks based on November sales tax collections were up
less than 1 percent from a year ago. Sharp said $126.6 million was sent
out last week, compared to $125.7 million a year ago, and the state's
two biggest cities, Houston and Dallas, both saw their checks drop from
last January.

Houston got back $16.4 million, down 2.2 percent, and Dallas' check
slipped 5.2 percent, to $10.9 million.

"The recent burgeoning growth of the Texas economy seems to be leveling
off somewhat," Sharp said about the statewide collection figures.

Among other area cities, Only Midland, with an 11.4 percent rise, and
Kermit, with a 27.8 percent jump, showed any significant growth. Rebate
checks were up sharply in both Crane and Monahans due to a 50 percent
rise in those cities' tax rates since last January.


January 1997 rebates (Collected on November sales)
(Source: Texas comptroller's office)

* = New Rate
Andrews 1.0% $ 52,665 $52,774 Dn 0.20%
Alpine 1.5% 38,010 44,138 Dn 18.41%
Crane *1.5% 17,850 11,991 Up 48.86%
Van Horn 1.5% 9,675 14,045 Dn 31.11%
Odessa 1.0% 659,729 624,432 Up 5.65%
Big Spring 2.0% 240,941 251,708 Dn 4.27%
Midland 1.0% 844,612 760,546 Up 11.05%
Ft Stockton 1.5% 63,494 61,533 Up 3.18%
Marfa 1.0% 3,618 3,482 Up 3.93%
Presidio *2.0% 8,326 8,817 Dn 5.56%
Balmorhea 1.0% 233 126 Up 85.40%
Pecos 1.5% 48,034 47,090 Up 2.82%
Toyah 1.0% 225 432 Dn 47.83%
RCH Dist. 0.5% 19,953 18,474 Up 8.00%
Monahans *1.5% 40,896 25,505 Up 60.34%
Kermit 1.0% 22,145 17,325 Up 27.82%
Wink 1.0% 2,454 1,309 Up 87.36%


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High Monday 19, low last night 19. Snow 0.50 inch. Moisture 0.02 inch.
January moisture .35 inch. Year-to-date .35 inch. Winter weather
advisory until noon, Tonight, decreasing clouds. Low around 30.
Southwest wind 10-20 mph. Wednesday, mostly sunny, breezy and warmer.
High in the lower 50s. West wind 15-25 mph and gusty.
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Copyright 1997 by Pecos Enterprise
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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