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Area Newspapers


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, November 3, 1998

RCDC escapees caught in Balmorhea area

Staff Writer
Four inmates who escaped from the Reeves County Detention
early Sunday morning were recaptured late this morning and
are currently back "home" at the center.

The four men were recaptured about 11 a.m. at an
intersection located eight miles south of I-10 and Highway
17, near the Reeves-Jeff Davis County line.
The manhunt ended 56 hours after they broke out of the
detention center, located on the southwest side of Pecos.

The four escapees were identified as Milton Alarcon, age 39,
a 5-foot-9 165-pound Colombian male; Luis
Castillo-Rodriguez, a 31 year old from the Dominican
Republic; Mariano Benavides-Flores, 24, and Jose
Jaramillo-Hernandez, 22, both Hispanic males.

RCDC Warden Rudy Franco stated that the inmates escaped
between 1 and 3 a.m. Sunday from the dormitory area of the
center. "These individuals scaled four fences," said Franco.

A search was conducted by local law enforcement agencies,
who were aided by federal marshals and the U.S. Border
Patrol, along with a Border Patrol helicopter and a Texas
Department of Criminal Justice dog unit from the TDCJ's Fort
Stockton prison.

Officers received a tip from a rancher in Balmorhea that had
spotted them early this morning, according to Reeves County
Sheriff Andy Gomez.

Gomez along with some of his deputies, Franco, 20 RCDC
officers, INS officer Alex Rodriguez, Border Patrol
trackers, federal marshals and Department of Public Safety
troopers were all on hand to help apprehend the four.

"They apparently were headed towards Prude Ranch," said
Gomez, referring to the area in Jeff Davis County near Fort

"We were there within 20 minutes from when the sheriff's
department received the tip," said Franco. "I think they
were headed towards the mountains."

A mobile command center was set up at the intersection of
Highway 17 and I-10 immediately. "We're thankful to Clay
McKinney (Pecos Police Chief). He was up on the plane trying to locate them from there," said Franco.

He said Gomez led the group along with the trackers, who are
border patrol agents trained in hunting down individuals.

"As soon as we were radioed by McKinney that he had spotted
them we converged in that area," said Franco. The four were
then placed in a van and returned to the RCDC about noon

"We believed all along that they were still in the area and
had it heavily patrolled," said Franco.

He said that some of the RCDC personnel worked about 30
hours straight without any sleep and some had to be forced
to go home. "They just showed tremendous heart and we're
thankful we have them on our team," said Franco.

The RCDC staff deserves a tremendous round of applause,
according to Franco. "These officers showed their skills and
their expertise in helping locate the inmates," he said.

The investigation into how the inmates escaped is
continuing. However, Franco said some things which may have
helped in their escape have already been corrected.

"There were just some areas that needed correcting and that
has already been implemented," he said. "Our function is to
protect this community and I believe we did just that."

The inmates were examined by a U.S. Bureau of Prisons
representative as soon as they were captured and were termed
to be in good health, despite some minor cuts and bruises.
"They were exhausted, hungry and tired, but other than that
they are doing well, they are in good physical shape," said

The inmates received another health inspection upon their
arrival at the center and were then placed in segregation.
"It's up to the U.S. Marshals now," said Franco.

Since they are escapees they will remain at the center until
the U.S. Marshals take them into their custody, the warden

Local Election Day voting starts slowly

Staff Writer
Polling places were quiet this morning, with only a handful
of ballots cast at each of eight locations in Pecos.

At the 9:30 a.m. count, Box 1 at the Pecos Community Center
had recorded only six votes, but by 11 a.m., the tally was

Pecos Elementary counted 20 by 9:30 and another nine during
the next hour.

Lamar Elementary had nine voters by 9:30 a.m., while the
Reeves County Library had 10, Bessie Haynes 13, Texas-New
Mexico Power Co. 14, and Pecos High School Gym 20.

"It's been slow everywhere," said Reeves County Clerk Dianne
Florez. "We have had no problems."

With only one contested race involving a write-in candidate
on the ballot, along with two local referendums, a total of
1,402 people cast their early ballots for today's election,
while 247 of the 454 mail ballots sent out had been sent
back to the county clerk's office by Monday.

Florez said she had no notice from the U.S. Attorney that a
special team would be investigating complaints of voter
fraud today, though a press release was sent out by the U.S.
Attorney for the Western District of Texas on Monday.

Vote suppression and voter intimidation are among the voting
rights violations the special task force are watching for

Bill Blagg, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas,
has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Jahn to head the
task force that includes FBI agents and prosecutors from
throughout the district.

They will be available to receive complaints of election
fraud while the polls are open.

The unit is part of a nationwide enforcement program
implemented every election cycle to protect voting rights
and to prosecute election crimes. Its purposes are to
protect voting rights and to prosecute election crime,
thereby securing public confidence in the integrity of the
election processes throughout the country, Blagg said.

"Fraud at the polling sites undermines our democratic
system" said Blagg. "Election fraud dilutes the value of
honest votes. It also corrupts the essence of our
representative form of government. As a crime against both
the individual and the government, it will be dealt with
promptly and aggressively here in the Western District of

Blagg said that it is illegal to intimidate or bribe voters,
forge ballots, alter vote tallies or coerce the votes of the
poor, the elderly and the illiterate. The law also protects
voters' rights to mark their ballot in private -- free from
the watchful eye of election partisans. Every voter also has
the right to be assisted by a person of their choice, if
they so choose.

Some forms of election crime are easily recognized, such as
voter bribery and ballot forgery, Blagg said. Other forms
are more subtle. It is, for example, a federal offense to
seek out the elderly, the socially disadvantaged or the
illiterate for the purpose of subjugating their electoral
will. Economic coercion not to vote or to vote for a
particular candidate would also violate federal election law.

Any suspicious activity targeted at the socially
disadvantaged or other minority groups should be reported.
These activities might include the intimidating use of
unauthorized security guards and video or audio recording
devices at a polling place. Federal law specifically makes
it a felony to post "armed men" at a polling place.

"It is imperative that those who have been asked to
participate in questionable election practices, or who have
observed or have information regarding such practices, make
that information available immediately to my office or the
FBI," Blagg said.

"The cooperation of this country's citizens in helping to
protect the sanctity of the ballot box is crucial. It is
also appreciated."

AUSA Tom Beery of Midland is the designated prosecutor for
this area. His telephone number is 915-686-4110.

The only local items on today's ballot for all county voters
involves a effort to abolish Reeves County's eight-year-old
unit road system. A `no' vote would eliminate the current
system and return the one used before 1990, when each of the
four commissioners would run their own road department.

Voters in Pecos will cast their ballots for the 4A sales tax
proposal, which would take one-quarter cent of the city's
current 1 1/2 cent sales tax for use in economic
development, while in Precinct 2, Democratic nominee David
Castillo is being challenged by write-in candidate Marlow
Summitt for the commissioner's post being vacated by
two-term incumbent Dr. W.J. Bang.

Local businesses prepare for troubles

Staff Writer
Elevators will stop between floors, cities will go dark and
telephone conversations will be interrupted in mid-sentence
at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, doomsayers predict.

No, it's not an alien invasion; just a millennium bug that
will affect every civilized society in the world.

It's not a virus, but a computer glitch that can shut down
systems that do not recognize the year 2000 as a valid date.

That glitch, known as "the Y2K problem," involves older
computer chips that have a two-digit year in the date field.
Software with the two-digit year is also vulnerable, and
COBOL programmers of yesteryear are in great demand to
engineer a fix.

Financial institutions are taking the lead to update both
hardware and software so they can continue to shift funds
electronically between banks through the Federal Reserve
Bank; service customer deposits and loan payments; keep ATMs
operating and handle all the other banking functions.

Garrett Timmins at First National Bank and Bill Oglesby at
Security State Bank have already been at work on the problem
for well over a year, responding to guidelines issued by the
Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

Bank examiners periodically check on the progress of each
bank as it follows the guidelines toward becoming Y2K

Oglesby said that having federal oversight of the process
may be of some help, but the paperwork it creates
exacerbates the problem.

"I think I could have figured it out by myself. We are 75
percent there," he said. "The main core processing software
and hardware has been renovated and tested and installed. We
have to do some continued testing of the Federal Reserve
software (that handles all paper-less transactions such as
direct deposits and debits).

"The Federal Reserve has done renovating on their system,
and we will be testing that this month," he said.

Timmins said that First National has also upgraded hardware
and software for daily processing of accounts.

"We installed Y2K programs two weeks ago, tested them, and
they work. We are running on them now," he said. "They
changed over 250 programs in our system."

Both banks opted to change their systems to reflect a
four-digit year so the problem will be fixed permanently.

"We are basically a rural area where a lot of things are
agriculture oriented, so we don't have quite the concerns
(of larger banks), but we still have a lot," Oglesby said.

Both Oglesby and Timmins opted to change software to a
four-digit year so it will continue to operate well into the
new century. A few of the older computers still have a BIOS
chip that uses a two-digit year, but Timmins said the date
can be changed manually.

"We will put in a new autoexec.bat file where you have to
enter the date and time before it boots up," he said.

Besides the year problem, computers face other date crises,
such as Sept. 9, 1999.

"Some old programs are still being used where 9999 is the
default for end of file. It will shut it down," Timmins said.

Neither is worried that their vaults will refuse to open on
Jan. 1, 2000, because the timers are wound manually.

Although their internal systems are Y2K compliant, the banks
are required to determine if their vendors and customers are
compliant, as well - "especially those who use a lot of
computers in their business," Timmins said.

Telephones are essential to banking, and GTE, who serves
Pecos, says it is getting its national systems compliant.

"We have been working for a year and have a large task force
working on that," said Charles Watkins, public information
officer for GTE. "We will be ready with our national
systems. The concern everyone has is what international
connections will be."

Rhonda Lenard, senior counsel for Texas-New Mexico Power
Co., said the electric utility initiated a Y2K compliance
plan in January.

That plan includes replacing some non-compliant systems,
upgrading others and eliminating those that will not be
needed beyond the Year 2000.

"The scope of the Year 2000 project also encompasses
consideration of potential impacts on the company's business
operations. This includes any process with embedded systems
or electronic chips that could affect the operations of
equipment and control systems in the power plant,
transmission and distribution systems, etc.," Lenard said.

"T-NMP is taking steps to ensure that the challenges of the
new millennium are being met, which should result in a
seamless transition for our customers and business
partners," she said.

Dannie Shelton, Southern Union Gas Co. manager, said that
Information Technology of Missouri is working to bring all
company computers into compliance.

"To our knowledge, we are not going to have any problem,"
Shelton said.

Only billing and customer accounts will be affected, as
"there is not that much in the field" that is computer
controlled, Shelton said.

"There is no chance service will be disrupted," he said.

Steve McCormick said he has purchased new computers for
billing water and sewer customers of the Town of Pecos City,
and they are Y2K compliant.

"Our system was very, very outdated," McCormick said. "We
were going to have to do a major upgrade or go to NT
(Windows network operating system), so we did. I felt like a
network system would be better. It gives every employee word
processing, spread sheets and things I hope I can get them
trained to use."

He hopes to have the system fully operational by Jan. 1,

Equipment in the water field does not rely on dates, so
there should be no disruption in service, said utilities
director Octavio Garcia.

Police Chief Clay McKinney said the 9-1-1 computer will be
updated through the Permian Basin Regional Planning
Commission, and the state crime computer is being updated.

Pecos Ambulance Service Chief Bill Cole said his department
does not rely on computers except for training. "We will be
doing continuing education training on the Internet.
Hopefully, we will inherit one of the city's old computers
for that," he said.

Emergency Management Coordinator Armando Gil said his
department will not be affected. "We are not linked to
anything. We just have our own programs," he said.

Telephone systems at the city, Reeves County Hospital, Pecos
Enterprise and other local businesses served by Oilfield
Phone Co. are compliant, said owner Dick Alligood.

"Each customer will receive a letter saying your system is
Y2K compliant," Alligood said.

"The switching world is a different thing," he said.
"Everybody is hustling."

That's what is happening all across the country. Everybody
is hustling to update computers so they will continue to
operate past midnight Dec. 31, 1999.

Just in case their customers panic and want to withdraw
their funds, the banks will have plenty of cash on hand. One
bank will even be open on Jan. 1, 2000 just to reassure
customers that they're still in business.

Tarantulas joining bats in Carlsbad

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) -- Carlsbad is becoming home to the
creepy and crawly.

Already known for the bats at nearby Carlsbad Caverns
National Park, the city is now home for the American
Tarantula Society.

Tarantulas are misunderstood -- just ask Spider Bob.

``They eat rodents and grasshoppers and cockroaches and
things like that,'' said Robert Gale Breene III, an
arachnologist and the society's treasurer.

And most tarantulas are gentle, he said. ``You do get some
hyper ones,'' Breene said.

``There have been no documented deaths from tarantula bites
around the world, ever, he said.

Breene, who earned his doctorate in entomology at Texas A&M,
started the society in 1991 at South Padre Island, Texas.
The society moved to Artesia in 1996 and then to Carlsbad a
couple of months ago.

The society has 800 members, said Breene, editor of the
society's ``Forum Magazine.''

The society sells tarantula's on-line via The ATS Pet Shop,
where spider-lovers can order a curlyhair tarantula for $4
or a Mexican redknee for $20.

``There is not a huge market for spiders but it is bigger
than you'd think,'' Breene said.

``People start with reptiles and snakes and then move into
tarantulas,'' said Breene, a faculty member at the College
of the Southwest-Carlsbad, where he plans to teach courses
on ecology and entomology.

There are estimates of more than 100,000 tarantulas imported
to the United States each year from Africa and South America
by dealers and pet stores, Breene said.

``A lot of the spider dealers are very angry with us because
we've become a low-cost alternative for people who are
interested in spiders and want to breed and sell different
species,'' he said.

Spiders are capable of learning to some extent, said Miep
O'Brien, the magazine's associate editor who also moved to

``They have quite a large central ganglia in their head
which kind of passes as a brain more or less. There have
been examples of some pretty intelligent thought,'' O'Brien

``We had one redknee that took her plastic tube that's used
to hide in and is about the size of a toilet-paper cardboard
tube and had it in her fangs and was using it to try and
push off the top of her container. So she was actually using
a tool, which is a definite sign of intelligence,'' O'Brien

Tarantulas are fragile. If dropped, their abdomen can crack
and their legs can break.

``But the cracks can be glued back together again with
Superglue,'' said Breene, who has written a medical manual
on how to care for, repair and heal sick and wounded spiders.

High Monday 68; low last night 44. Tonight, mostly cloudy
with a 20 percent chance of light rain. Low in the mid 40s.
East wind 5-15 mph. Wednesday, areas of fog and light
drizzle, otherwise cloudy with a 30 percent chance of light
rain. High in the mid 50s. east wind 5-15 mph.

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Pecos Enterprise
Ned Cantwell, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise