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Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas


September 18, 1997

RCDC inmate cuts throat

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Staff Writer

PECOS, September 18, 1997 - An inmate at the Reeves County Detention Center was discovered yesterday at approximately 5:40 p.m. with what appeared to be self-inflicted wounds.

The inmate, whose name has not been disclosed, apparently used a disposable razor blade to cut his throat.

Upon discovery, the inmate was transported to Reeves County Hospital. From there he was taken to Ward County Hospital in Monahans and finally to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, where he was treated and released.

According to RCDC Warden Rudy Franco, the inmate was back at the detention center by this morning and is being held in an observation cell.

Bill Weinacht, special counsel for the RCDC, said an investigation of the incident is in progress.

RCDC assistant warden has colorful past

Staff Writer

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PECOS, September 18, 1997 - Charles "Charlie" Marmolejo, the new Assistant Warden at Reeves County Detention Center, has a history of distinguished service beginning with the Marine Corp. and two tours of Vietnam, lengthy work for the State Department (where, among other honors, he was chosen to work security for Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on their tour of South America following the successful Moon landing), and can boast that he was the first ever Mexican-American to play for the Marine's touring baseball team.

Marmmolejo considers his current place of work a "fine facility" and Pecos a "good little town." Marmolejo, who lives on the west side of El Paso, was born in Santa Anna, Calif., but grew up in El Paso.

He said that he joined the State Department (at which he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class) because he wanted to "see something nice." Because of this top performance he was able to choose the embassy he wanted to work at. He chose the U.S. Embassy in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. "Often it happened (that when a large group of diplomats were traveling in the region) the Secret Service would be short-handed . . . and call around for Marines to support them," Marmolejo said, "I was fortunate to be selected on numerous occasions. It was a very challenging type of duty."

After serving the State Department all over South America and Mexico, Marmolejo went to the Civil Service Commission, during his career as a drill instructor in San Diego, and applied with the DEA, Customs, Border Patrol and the Bureau of Prisons. He said he has "no regrets whatsoever" of setting off on a long career with the Bureau of Prisons.

With the prison system he has worked as a correctional officer at La Tuna in El Paso, at Federal facilities in Fort Worth and New York, and helped open a Federal Detention Center in Oakdale LA.

The Federal Detention Center in Oakdale was started with the mission of housing representatives from all over the world. During its first six months of operations the facility held prisoners from a total of 65 different countries.

"This lasted until the arrival of the Mariel Cubans (those who arrived with the Mariel boat lift that Carter allowed into the country). With that the mission changed. They needed space for these individuals."

Then the worst happened. Nov. 20, 1986, Attorney General Meese announced that Castro had agreed to take back the 2500 excludables (those Cuban nationals that the law enforcement community in the U.S. could not allow on the streets. This included the mentally unstable and some hardcore criminals) and the prisoners, realizing that a return to Cuba could only mean worse conditions and possible execution, rioted.

"Their main objective was mass escape," Marmolejo said, "I was the Captain at the time. Our priority was the protection of the staff, but we had to prevent any of the Cubans from getting out.

"At the initial outbreak they (the rioting prisoners) were 200 strong. I called in the SORT team (Special Operations Response Team) and they exhausted all their gas on numerous escape attempts." Marmolejo said that when the prisoners began to understand they couldn't get out it "aggravated the situation . . . It angered them you could say. It appeared they were out for blood."

The prisoners began burning down the facility. An unknown number of hostages were being held. "For the sake of the hostages I kept up radio communications, saying `stop your destruction, stop your burning, let's negotiate before somebody gets hurt.'"

Captain Marmolejo was also in contact with a Lt.Paul Mundell, who, along with other members of the staff, had barricaded themselves in the back of the kitchen with 100 pound bags of beans and rice.

The Captain then received a call that would immediately transform his policy toward the rioting inmates. It was from Lt. Mundell. "His voice had changed. He could barely talk. He said `You gotta get us out of here now'.

"I knew that something had to be done immediately. I said `Paul, give me a minute and I'll be in there'." And that's exactly what he did. Some of the Cubans were trying to get out of the facility to escape the violent rioting inmates. Marmolejo met with these prisoners and explained the situation.

"I told them something was happening and if they didn't get me back to the kitchen people were going to die, and they said they'd help me. So, I grabbed a knit hat from one of them and put it on, and grabbed a jacket from another. I told them to form a circle around me." Marmolejo entered the compound undercover and alone to rescue those trapped and slowly dying of smoke inhalation.

"The other inmates were organizing in the center and that gave me the opportunity to get back there (to the hostages)." In all, the kitchen held nine members of the prison staff, 10 Cuban prisoners, and 30 American minimum security inmates.

Marmolejo said that he had a hard time convincing them that it was really him, come to lead them out of the riot, but once they opened the door he was surprised by how many there were. "All I could do was tell them (the way out)."

All of the 49 made it out safely, although one had suffered a heat attack. Moments after the rescue the gas lines in the kitchen blew.

In total the riot caused 17 Million dollars in damages.

Assistant Marmolejo's philosophy, when it comes to running a prison, rests on respect. "Respect is important whoever you are," he said, "I try to treat convicts with respect." He also said the establishing a good rapport with the inmate is vital. "Where else are you going to get your information?" he asked.

Marmolejo said that there were good things happening in the prison system. These include the ability to train and take the G.E.D., an equivalent to a high school degree, in many prisons, and trades that are being taught as well. He said he would move to Pecos if there were a university here considering he has two children, one already in college at the University of Texas at El Paso, and the other headed that direction.

And when it comes to the future of the prison system, the number of detention centers is only going to increase, he said. "You can go anywhere in the country and 75 percent of all incarcerations are drug-related." He said that while the lure of the drug trade is "easy pocket money," that sooner or later everybody falls.

He urges parents to be there for their kids. "If parents aren't involved with their children, they may end up with kids they can't control."

RCDC budget analyst tracks money

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PECOS, September 18, 1997 - Reeves County Detention Center has a new Budget Analyst. Jeff Bridges joined the center, bringing with him a world of experience, Aug. 25, of this year. Bridges says he recently exchanged Arlington, Tex. for Pecos to "get out of the zoo."

Raised in Lubbock, Bridges also worked in California early in his career. "I enjoyed that for about a year," he said, but just like he "found a way out of Lubbock" when he was young, he also found his way back to Texas, he said.

"The position of budget analyst," put simply, "consists of paying attention to where the revenue is coming from and making sure that it is spent properly," Bridges said.

Bridges holds a Masters in Business, which he considers "the easy one," as well as a Bachelors in Business Administration and a good many minors. While in Arlington, he and his wife ran a home-based consulting firm. Bridges' wife is still running back and forth from Arlington to Odessa (where Bridges lives), traveling as a "sort of computer guru."

Bridges hopes to move to Pecos soon. "It's the only place in the world where you can watch the full moon set as the Sun rises," he said with a grin.

Jailed ROT leader files suit

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ODESSA, Texas (AP) September 18, 1997 - A woman who was held hostage in her own home by members of the Republic of Texas says she's "mad as hell" about a lawsuit filed by jailed Republic leader Richard McLaren.

M.A. Rowe and her husband, Joe, are among 42 people named as defendants in the lawsuit filed Aug. 25 in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

Other defendants include Jeff Davis County officials, law enforcement officer, judges and residents of the county.

"I was mad as hell," M.A. Rowe said. "When they delivered it that day I was pretty angry. What upsets us as much as anything else is (McLaren's) still able to put out this crap from his jail cell."

McLaren remains jailed in the Presidio County Jail on charges stemming from the hostage-taking incident.

McLaren and his Republic followers contend Texas never legally joined the United States. Its members do not recognize Texas state agencies, including district courts.

Authorities say McLaren and a handful of followers plotted to kidnap the Rowes on April 27 in retaliation for the arrest earlier that day of another group member on weapons charges.

The lawsuit stems from the standoff and the police shooting death of Republic of Texas member Mike Matson, according to Jeff Davis County Attorney Joe James.

James told The Odessa American Wednesday that the lawsuit claims the defendants engaged in "international land fraud" against the Republic of Texas; operated and perpetrated a "man-stealing, kidnapping activity and spy ring" on public rights of way and persisted in "acts of war."

The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of conspiracy, false imprisonment and false arrest, James said.

It also alleges the defendants caused the "wrongful death and murder" of Matson, who was killed in a gun battle with searchers two days after McLaren and the others surrendered.

Vandals damage 8 cars

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Staff Writer

PECOS, September 18, 1997 - Vandals went wild this past weekend damaging at least eight vehicles belonging to residents at the Pecos Housing Apartmentslocated on the east side of town.

"We have police reports on all of them," said PHA Director Nellie Gomez.

Gomez stated that all the residents with damage to their vehicles have filled out reports and they are looking for the culprits.

Police officers were dispatched to the housing apartments throughout the weekend. On Sept. 13, officers were called to the apartments in reference to criminal mischief done to several vehicles. Later other police reported similar damage and filed a report.

According to police reports, several vehicles had been vandalized. The windows to cars had been broken out with some type of pellet gun.

A complaint had also been made against several juveniles who have been hanging around an apartment located at the complex. Neighbors had complained about the juveniles making a lot of noise and coming in and out of the house and HUD police security had spoken to these juveniles.

"Even if it's the friends of someone living in the apartments, we will be holding the residents responsible as well," said Gomez.

"These people work very hard to have what they do and to have someone just come and destroy it is not right," she said.

"I want these individuals to know that we will make them pay for all the damages," she said.

Gomez stated that she would also like to offer a reward if no information has been obtained by the end of this week and no arrests made.

"I'm going to speak to the board about this, but it upsets me so much I feel I have to do something to protect the residents of our apartments," she said.

Drug informant jailed

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Staff Writer

PECOS, September 18, 1997 - Federal court jurors returned two guilty verdicts late Wednesday, and U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson ordered Van Horn rancher Mike Brewster, 44, jailed while awaiting sentencing.

Brewster possessed marijuana with intent to distribute on Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, the jury found, despite claims by the defendant and his brother, Don Brewster, that he was working as an undercover informant for two Department of Public Safety narcotics officers.

Zeke Rodarte, a DPS narcotics officer from Fort Stockton, testified that he made a deal with Brewster Nov. 15, 1996, to provide information on the Armando "Hippy" Ramos drug smuggling organization in Mexico.

Brewster made several reports that Ramos was to ship drugs, but no specific loads were ever targeted, Rodarte said. Brewster made no attempt to contact either him or Van Horn criminal law enforcement trooper Bruce Jackson about the two loads he was arrested for, he said.

The first load of 136 pounds was confiscated in Odessa Feb. 4 after it was delivered to an undercover officer, said Jim Blankinship, prosecutor for the government. Brewster later was connected to that load through the gray Suburban that transported it from Van Horn to Odessa, through motel registration and telephone records.

One week later, Brewster and a co-defendant, Jose Corrales, were arrested on U.S. Hwy. 90 south of Van Horn.

Corrales was driving a car loaded with 342.38 pounds of marijuana, which Brewster admitted had been imported from Mexico and hidden in a barn located on his property.

Blankinship called 13 witnesses to connect Brewster to both loads and to paint him as an "informant" who was instead working with the drug smugglers. Brewster attempted to paint Rodarte as a crooked narcotics officer who splits proceeds from seized contraband "between himself and whoever."

Under cross examination by Blankinship, Brewster contradicted himself often. He admitted being present when both loads were being transported and that he did not contact law enforcement officers. But he claimed he was investigating the activity - not being an accomplice. The jury deliberated about two hours before reaching the guilty verdicts at 10 p.m. yesterday.

Six sentenced to prison

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Staff Writer

PECOS, September 18, 1997 - U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson this week sentenced six defendants to prison for drug possession and revoked probation for another.

Sergio Huitron-Trujillo drew the longest sentence, 54 months in prison plus four years supervised release, for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Adolfo Renteria-Hernandez was sentenced to 24 months in prison plus three years supervised release for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Another six months was added for failure to appear in court at an earlier sentencing date.

Other marijuana possession sentences are: Bardomiano Vargas-Alcantar, 46 months in prison plus four years supervised release; Rodolfo Esparza-Nieto, 27 months; Alvaro Vega Machado, 41 months; and Benjamin Montoya-Hernandez, 14 months.

Carlos Rosado-Gonazles drew six months in a halfway house for violating terms of his supervised release. He is to undergo drug counseling, attend parenting classes and perform 50 hours of community service.

Judge Furgeson approved a 12-month sentence for Francisco Morales-Gonzales on a marijuana possession conviction before Magistrate Judge Stuart Platt.

Platt also accepted a guilty plea to importing marijuana from Jorge Hernandez Ramos.


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PECOS, September 18, 1997 - High Wednesday, 103, low this morning, 73. Anyone looking for a break in the current late-season heat will have to wait a few more days. There's no break in the heat expected tonight and Friday although there is a chance of a few scattered showers and thunderstorms in some areas of West Texas and some portions of South Texas. Long-range forecasts are calling for cooler temperatures by Sunday and Monday. There is a slight chance of thunderstorms over northwest sections of the South Plains tonight and in extreme West Texas and in the Big Bend area through Friday. Lows tonight will be in the 60s and 70s in West Texas and in the 70s elsewhere across the state. Highs Friday will be in the 80s and 90s in West Texas and in the 90s across the rest of the state.

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