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October 27, 1997

Grand jury indicts Pecos man
for sexual assault of 7th grader

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Reeves County grand jurors indicted a 23-year-old Pecos man Thursday for the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl. Nine others were also indicted on various charges.

Felix Ornelas Jr. is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a seventh grader on July 20. Ornelas, otherwise known as "Nunie", was arrested in Midland earlier this month after Crimestoppers received an anonymous tip about him. A reward was being offered by Crimestoppers and the FBI had been called in to help with the case, according to Pecos Police Investigator Kelly Davis.

Last week, District Judge Bob Parks set bail for Ornelas at $50,000, with the stipulation that Ornelas not go within 300 yards of the alleged victim nor Zavala Middle School, which she attends. Ornelas is to have no contact with the girl by telephone, writing, or any other means, and is not to consume alcoholic beverages.

Arturo Gallegos, 25, is charged with burglary of a habitation and with theft - possession of stolen property - on May 12. He allegedly entered the habitation of Elva Contreras and stole household goods and electronics valued at $1,500 to $20,000.

Two prior convictions for aggravated robbery and criminal mischief are alleged in the indictment, which would enhance punishment if Gallegos is convicted.

Ismael Ramirez Reyes, 22, is charged with escape from Pecos Police Patrolman Billy Hull on October 3.

Ynez Querez Galindo, 60, is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly striking Germana Baeza on the head with a flashlight Aug. 26.

Anival Pando, 23, is charged with theft of firearms from Abel Natividad on July 24.

Jose Alberto Silva, 32, was indicted for intoxication assault on Aug. 30. He allegedly operated a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and caused serious bodily injury to Margo Mendoza by driving the vehicle into her. His bail is $7,500.

Deania Gonzales Garza, 29, and Fernando Baeza Acosta, 29, are charged with possession of marijuana, over four ounces but under nine pounds, on June 25. Bail was set at $15,000 on each charge.

Allen Warsh Oxford, 24, is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle on Aug. 26. He allegedly took a vehicle owned by Gilberto M. Juarez without his permission.

Mario Franco Escontrias, 28, is charged with driving while intoxicated on Arpil 18, with two prior convictions making the offense a felony.

15 laid-off at Freeport sulphur mine operation

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Recent layoffs at the Freeport-McMoRan sulphur mine have left 15 workers unemployed. All 15 were in management positions at the mine and about half were residents of Pecos. Freeport spokesperson, Bill Collier, said that the lay-off had nothing to do with the merger between Freeport-McMoRan and IMC Global due to be completed at the end of the year.

According to Collier, the layoffs were "the result of the ongoing monitoring of costs" and were necessary if the company is to remain competitive.

Freeport's Culberson Co. mine continues to operate at reduced rates in response to market conditions. U.S. sulphur prices have experienced about an eight percent increase over the last year, but sales have dropped. Freeport-McMoRan sulphur sales in the third quarter of 1996 stood at 738,000 long tons of product, in 1997's third quarter sales had slumped to 690,100 long tons.

Republic trials may end turbulence

Associated Press Writer

ALPINE, Texas (AP) October 27, 1997 - The days of fear and frustration, when Richard McLaren and his Republic of Texas held sway, might soon be over for residents of the Davis Mountains.

Jury selection began today for the first group from McLaren's separatist movement, bringing the hope of relief to those who suffered as McLaren waged paper war on his neighbors before actual gunplay that resulted in a week-long standoff with police.

"We'd like to think we'd be rid of his shadow hovering over us," said Joe Rowe, who was taken hostage along with his wife, Margaret Ann, in the incident that sparked the siege outside Fort Davis.

About 200 prospective jurors arrived this morning at the Brewster County Courthouse in Alpine, nearly 30 miles north of Fort Davis.

As McLaren and follower Robert Otto were brought into the courtroom, McLaren announced, "We're taking it to Washington," an apparent reference to his belief that U.S. laws are valid but the Texas justice system is not.

Court officials were to decide this morning whether to try McLaren and Otto, his chief lieutenant, or Gregg Paulson and his wife, Karen. All four are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity for allegedly plotting to kidnap the Rowes.

They face five to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine if convicted of the first-degree felony.

Those not selected for trial today will go to court later, as will Richard Frank Keyes III, accused along with the Paulsons of carrying out the abduction.

"Whichever one is ready to go, that's what we'll try," said Judge Kenneth DeHart.

Authorities say Keyes and the Paulsons were retaliating for the arrest of a group member April 27 when they shot their way into the Rowes' house in the Davis Mountains Resort, a rural subdivision 175 miles southeast of El Paso.

By the time the siege ended May 3 with the group's surrender, 300 state troopers, Texas Rangers and other officers had poured into the area where McLaren had set up an "embassy" in a trailer and wooden cabin.

Republic followers believe Texas was never legally annexed by the United States and remains an independent nation.

The trial was drawing keen interest in the resort, where residents have watched closely as their one-time tormentors make their way through the legal system.

McLaren was generally viewed for years as a thorn in the community's side, making life miserable by filing liens on people's property and harassing them through lawsuits they had to waste time and money to fight.

The locals called it paper terrorism.

Resort residents later came to consider McLaren an outright threat as he helped launch the statewide Republic movement and surrounded himself with armed supporters, his so-called embassy forces.

Now they're hoping the trials will help heal the community.

"It may provide some closure for the people here that someone is trying to dispense justice," said Rachel Barr, who remained shut away in her home during the standoff's first day.

A cynicism born in the days of the siege lingers, however. Residents say they have seen McLaren escape the fate he deserves too often and don't believe they will have heard the last of him, even if he goes to prison.

McLaren proved the skeptics right to some extent when he sued DeHart, the Rowes and other officials while in jail for what he called unlawful imprisonment and acts of war against the Republic.

"I was extremely disappointed that the man left here alive. I may seem like a witch, but that's just the way I feel about it," said Michele Behrent, another resident.

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

"Top Ten" list of business complaints

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Debt collection agencies top the list of businesses that most raised Texans' ire in fiscal year 1997, according to the State Attorney General Dan Morales.

Last week Morales announced a "Top Ten Consumer Complaints" list of businesses most complained about by consumers during the past fiscal year. During the year, consumers filed 1,999 complaints against debt collectors and 27,492 complaints against various other businesses. In response to the complaints, consumers received 663.8 million in refunds through mediation or as a result of lawsuits filed by the Attorney General. White-collar criminals also paid $3.4 million in fines and state costs.

"White-collar criminals are no less evil and ruthless than those who use guns," Morales said. "They prey on the innocent and generous. They destroy lives by targeting our financial resources, especially those of senior citizens. The criminals build confidence and trust then betray you with thievery, causing both financial and emotional pain."

Most of the complaints flied with the Attorney General involve disagreements between consumers and merchants over specific transactions, rather than violations of consumer protection laws, Those complaints are mediated by the office. Of the 29,491 complaints received, 19,154 were put into mediation and 9,165 were resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Those consumers received $6,539,745 in restitution.

Many other consumer complaints are the impetus for legal action by the Attorney General against various enterprises for illegal business practices. Morales filed 298 legal actions, such as lawsuits and Assurances of Voluntary Compliance, resulting in $56,509,159 in restitution to consumers, $715,000 in recoveries for charitable entities and $3,424,510 in civil penalties, investigative costs and attorneys fees for the state.

In addition, Morales' Consumer Protection Division also represents the state as a consumer of utilities before the Public Utility Commission. As an advocate for the state in utility rate hearings, Morales saved the state $3,458,500 in fiscal 1997 on the state's utility costs. As a result of the Attorney General's actions to reduce state utility costs, utility consumers across Texas also realized a savings of $39 million in utility costs.

Morales recommends that consumers protect themselves from unscrupulous business enterprises by arming themselves with information. He suggests consumers research the companies with which they are dealing by calling the Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. He also suggests that consumers be suspicious of hard sells, one-time-only offers and deals that sound too good to be true.

Also, the Attorney General is sending to television stations across Texas three Public Service Announcements offering tips on how to deal with telemarketers, auto repair shops and used car dealers.

The Consumer Protection Division's Annual Report for fiscal year 1997 is online at

The Top Ten Consumer Complaint Categories (with number of complaints)

for Fiscal 1997 are:

1. Debt Collection Agencies (1,999)

2. Direct Mail Advertising Services (1,787)

3. Used Motor Vehicle Dealers (1,610)

4. Long Distance Service Companies (1,575)

5. General Automotive Repair Shops (1,109)

6. Business Opportunities (754)

7. Landlord/Tenant Disputes (682)

8. Credit Card Companies (633)

9. New Motor Vehicle Dealers (586)

10. Credit Reporting Agencies (547)

Early voting in Nov. 4 election ends this week

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Voters have until 5 p.m. Friday to cast their ballot early in the Nov. 4 constitutional amendment election.

Fourteen proposed amendments are on the ballot.

As of today, 89 individuals have voted by personal appearance at the Reeves County Courthouse, while none have voted by mail-in ballot.

"I had a request for two, but they haven't come back in," said Reeves County Clerk Dianne Florez.

Florez urges people to come cast their vote in this important election.

"People that want to can also come by and get a sample ballot to take home and read and study carefully before casting their ballot," she said.

Florez has also been giving out 'hand-outs' of the proposed ballot with information on amendments.

Last day to request applications to vote by mail is tomorrow, Oct. 28.

School offers challenging courses

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - "The purpose of the gifted and talented program is to serve the special needs of the students who are identified as gifted," said Nancy Russell, Pecos High School teacher and coordinator of the Gifted and Talented (G/T) program for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school district.

"We identify students in the areas of general intellectual ability, special subject areas, creativity, leadership and artistic ability," Russell said.

Russell explained that identification for the G/T program is not based upon Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test scores. Exceptional students are identified with the Renzulli Scales of Rating Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students. "The student must receive an excellent' rating in at least three of the five categories."

"We have different ways of rating students in different areas," she said.

In art, program leaders have to depend on portfolio items, teacher recommendations and observations, according to Russell.

She said that about 6.2 percent of the PBT student population is identified as gifted. The state only provides funding for five percent, so the district supplements the program.

"People expect them to be the 'good' students who always earn good grades and are the ones teachers love to have in their classrooms. They aren't always the students with the best grades," Russell said. "Sometimes they finish work early and get distracted waiting for others to catch up, get bored, get frustrated because their curiosity isn't being satisfied, or they see no point in what is being done."

In the elementary grades, G/T students use techniques such as cluster grouping and independent study, Russell said.

Lamar (sixth grade) has a pull-out program, where G/T students leave their classes twice a week, for about 45 minutes, and meet with a G/T teacher and work on special projects.

At the middle schools, Russell said, there are G/T classes in English, math, science and social studies, that are advanced courses.

Pecos High School has advanced level courses in math and social studies, plus pre-advanced placement (AP) and AP classes in English and biology, as well as AP Studio Art. "Next year, we're going to offer AP Calculus and AP Chemistry," Russell said.

"We also have what is called the distinguished achievement program at the high school. For that, the students have to complete four measures. That can consist of scoring three or above on advanced placement tests, independent research or projects, or one professional license," Russell said.

Advanced placement tests can earn college credit if the student scores well enough. "I hope there will be more interest in it, because it's a test that is accepted nationally," said Russell.

She also said that there is more emphasis this year on "curriculum compacting" where students are tested to see what they already know and their educators move on from there. For instance, an eighth-grader could take Algebra I and receive high school credit.

Nineteen students from grades 7-12 participated in a creative problem solving conference attended by students from throughout Region 18 last weekend at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, according to Russell. At the conference students dealt with a global problem as it they were a governmental agency or a corporation.

Russell also mentioned that one of the district's goals this year is to start a G/T parent association. Those interested can call Russell at 447-7236.

Commissioners to award day-room bids

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Awarding bids to a general contractor for day-room addition to the Reeves County Detention Center tops the agenda for this evening's meeting of the Reeves County Commissioners.

The court will also cover some 19 other items including an RCDC educational agreement with Odessa College and an agreement with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school district for a girls softball facility.

In addition, there will be a disucssion on funding with the PBT ISD for a juvenile peace officer, a golf course management contract and a contract for the Older Americans Act Program for Pecos and Balmorhea senior citizens centers.

Discussion and action is scheduled on a resolution to retain five percent for administrative fees on civil cases filed in Justice of the Peace, county and district courts and on family matter cases in county and district courts.

There will also be discussion and action on water wells for Balmorhea and Saragosa cemeteries as well as naming an election judge and alternate judge for voting box nine.

Other items are mostly routine that are included on all agendas for discussion and action.

Week of tests lined up for many PHS students

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Tests, tests, tests, are what's happening this week for Pecos High School students.

Six-weeks testing will be held all this week along with TAAS testing.

Tuesday, the writing portion of the TAAS exam will be given. The math portion of the TAAS test is scheduled for Wednesday and the reading portion of the TAAS will be Thursday.

"This is an exit exam," said PHS counselor Jim Adams.

The TAAS test will be given to all juniors and seniors and is mandatory to get their diplomas, according to Adams.

A 'mock' SAT exam is scheduled for 8 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Pecos High School cafeteria, for juniors and seniors.

"These students have already registered for this test and should be ready to take it," said Adams.

Counselors have 'mock' exams and study guides, that they can follow, which can be picked up at the counselors' office at the high school. This is for all junior and senior students.

Another SAT exam is scheduled for Dec. 6, with students registering by Oct. 30.

A PSAT exam was given recently and counselors stated that they had a good turnout.

Only shadows know about future careers

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Next month, sophomore students in Julie Payne's Career Connections class hope to become shadows for a day. No, this isn't anything mystical, it is a way for the students to find out what a real work day consists of in the career fields they hope to enter.

"I want it to be a positive experience for the students as well as the employers," said Payne.

The shadowing activity will let the youths see what a day at work in their chosen field will actually be like. "When they actually go to the workplace and follow an employer around, they get a better idea of whether or not they actually like the job," said Payne.

"This course helps them make the transition from high school to the world of work," said Career Planning Coordinator Michelle Workman.

This is the first year the Career Connections class has been offered. Students have been researching career pathways through personal assessment projects and by using computer software especially designed for this purpose.

The software covers many areas of career investigation such as job duties, educational requirements, working conditions, salary ranges, recommended high school subjects and information on colleges across the nation, to name a few.

Payne and Workman hope to find shadowing opportunities for the first three weeks of the next marking period, which begins Nov. 3.

Right now, professional people and employers who would be willing to be shadowing partners are being sought for the program. Interested parties can contact Payne at 447-7232, or Workman at 447-7262.

Trial set on limited access

Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN (AP) October 27, 1997 - A state law limiting public access to traffic crash records remains blocked, but a state judge on Friday declined to leave the law on hold until the Legislature can reconsider it.

The Texas Daily Newspaper Association, Texas Press Association and Texas attorney general's office on Friday asked District Judge Paul Davis to keep the new law shelved until the 1999 Legislature can decide whether to rewrite it.

An attorney for the city of San Antonio, which supports the law, said such a lengthy delay would be unconstitutional.

Davis declined the request, setting a September 1998 trial date instead to determine whether the law is constitutional.

Under the law, anyone seeking information about a traffic wreck must know the name of at least one person involved and either the location or date of the wreck.

The law also limits public access to motor vehicle records that contain personal information about Texans and would make it illegal for such information to be posted on the Internet without permission from the person involved.

Earlier this month, Davis put those sections of the law on hold.

Attorneys for the newspaper groups argued that some local government officials aren't aware that the law is not in effect. They said other local officials have claimed that the block on the law doesn't apply to them because they are not involved in the lawsuit.

Davis agreed to expand the lawsuit to cover all law enforcement agencies in the state and all other agencies that hold any of the records in question.

On Dec. 5, the agencies and their associations will have a chance to become active in the trial to determine whether the law is constitutional.

The city of San Antonio began that argument Friday, saying the law in effect will help cut the amount of money it spends to make public records available to the public.

"What we have now is the worst situation," said Donald Bayne, an assistant attorney for San Antonio. "People are coming in with portable copy equipment and portable fax equipment and setting up shop. It's like a flea market."

Under the Texas Public Information Act, government offices can charge for copies of public records but can't charge for access to records unless the records must be produced. Part of the blocked law would allow reasonable charges for access to motor vehicle and traffic records.

Bayne said while it was not lawmakers' focus to save money for local governments, it is a benefit of the law.

Lawmakers have said they passed the law to prevent ambulance chasing. Some, including Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, have indicated that they are interested in re-evaluating the law because of its wide affect. They can't make any changes until the 1999 legislative session.

Attorney David Donaldson and Attorney General Dan Morales' office agreed that it would be in the public's interest to delay the law until lawmakers could reconsider it. But Donaldson said as long as the law remains blocked and local governments don't enforce its limits on access to information, the public will not be harmed.

"We believe, as a matter of law, that it is unconstitutional," Donaldson said. "If it go badly for us (at trial), perhaps we'll have three or four months of silence on the tragic accidents ocurring in our state. That might encourage (lawmakers) to do something."

Bayne, meanwhile, accused the attorney general of abandoning his job to defend the constitutionality of the law. "The attorney general has switched sides," he said.

Assistant Attorney General James Pinson said his boss is doing his job by representing the best interests of the public.

Donaldson, newspaper officials and Wentworth have said while news reporters most often use the records, it is important for all people that the information remain public.

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Judge refuses Envirocare's request to move suite

ANDREWS, Texas (AP) October 27, 1997 - A state district judge on Friday denied a Utah company's change of venue request of a $500 million lawsuit filed by its Pasadena-based rival.

Envirocare of Utah had asked state District Judge James L. Rex to move the case out of Andrews County, where Waste Control Specialists LLC operates a hazardous waste treatment facility. He declined.

It was the second courtroom defeat for Envirocare this month. Earlier, a Texas federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Energy that could allow WCS to compete for the agency's low-level radioactive waste. Envirocare's Tooele County, Utah, site currently handles almost all of the DOE's low-level radioactive waste.

WCS' Andrews County lawsuit, filed in May, alleges that Envirocare and its Texas lobbyists sought to sabotage WCS' attempts to vie for DOE radioactive waste.

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Record temperatures damage crops, knocks cable

PECOS, October 27, 1997 - Local temperatures over the weekend fell to within a few degrees of record lows for the area, but a new record low temperature of 31 F. was set this morning, breaking the previous record of 33 F., set back in 1967, according to a National Weather Service spokesperson.

The cold temperatures over the weekend did some damage to Pecos Cantaloupe's bell pepper crop, but it is too early to determine the extent of the damage, according to Clay Taylor, a salesman for the produce company.

"It harmed them a little bit," Taylor said, but "it is hard to say just how much until later on this afternoon or tomorrow morning, when it warms up."

Taylor did say that the frost "burned the tops" of the peppers. How many peppers suffered damage or what the frost damage will cost the company is also unknown until company workers are able to inspect the crop.

The cold has also been blamed for cable television outages over the weekend, according to Clasic Cable area technical supervisor Manuel Gonzales, who operates out of the Monahans office.

"I'm pretty sure they (Pecos technicians) are having some equipment problems. With this cold weather, the cable will contract, then expand when it warms back up. We probably have a break somewhere."

No cold-weather damage, such as water lines freezing and breaking, was reported to the city health department.


Walter Kingston

Walter Henry "Cotton" Kingston, 76, died Saturday, Oct. 25, 1997, at his residence in Balmorhea.

A memorial service is being planned.

Kingston was born Feb. 23, 1921, in Balmorhea. He retired from the U.S. Army and was a lifetime Balmorhea resident.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret Holt in 1989.

Survivors include: one son, Kenneth Gene Kingston of Tennessee; one daughter, Karen Kay Kingston of Alabama; two brothers, George Lee Kingston of Brenham, Tx. and William L. Kingston III of Big Spring; one sister, Beatrice Paul of San Antonio; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Juan Perez

Juan Nabarete Perez, 88, died Sunday, Oct. 26, 1997, at Odessa Medical Center in Odessa.

A rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 28, at Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass is scheduled for 2 p.m., Wednesday, Oct 29, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with Father Juan Narez officiating. Burial will be in Mount Evergreen Cemetery.

Perez was born April 27, 1909, in Candelaria, Tx. He was retired, had lived in Pecos for 69 years and was a Catholic.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Josefina Carrasco Perez in 1957 and one son, Ernest Perez in 1972.

Survivors include: one son, Juan Perez, Jr. of Woodward, Okla.; one daughter, Frances Garcia of Pecos; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, October 27, 1997 - High Sunday, 64, low this morning, 30. Clear skies will bring warmer temperatures to all of Texas tonight and Tuesday. The cold front that brought the much colder temperatures to most of the state had moved southward out of the state before dawn today. Temperatures dipped into the 30s and 40s and approached record low levels across the northern half of the state before dawn today. It was 19 degrees at Amarillo just before midnight Sunday, making it the coldest October 26 ever, breaking the record of 25 set in 1957. Midland recorded a low of 31, breaking the record for the date set in 1967. But the clearing skies will bring temperatures closer to seasonable levels tonight and Tuesday. It will be sunny during the day and clear at night across West Texas. Clouds will be increasing tonight across North Texas, but the warming trend should continue for several days. Lows tonight will be in the 40s across West Texas. Highs Tuesday will be in the 60s and 70s.

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