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Thursday, November 18, 1999

More arrests made in Tercero murder case

Staff Writer
PECOS, Nov. 18, 1999 - Two more arrests have been made in connection with a body that was found buried near the Pecos River in Ward County in May of this year.

Warrants had been issued earlier this year, for Mario Hernandez, Jr., 30 and Arturo Ortiz Gallegos, 27, both of Pecos, and were being sought in connection with the death of Ruben Garcia Tercero, whose body was found in Ward County on May 20.

The warrants out of Ward County were both felony murder charges, according to sheriff's department reports.

Hernandez was found in Kansas following a traffic violation, while Gallegos was located in Corpus Christi.

Hernandez, who also uses an alias, Mario Hernandez Navarette, had his bond set at $150,000, while Gallegos' is facing a $50,000 bond. Both are still in Ward County Jail.

"We're trying to finish up the case, so that we can take it before the grand jury," said District Attorney Investigator Freddy Contreras.

Contreras added that there was more evidence and that the case was still being investigated thoroughly.

The 39-year-old Tercero had been sought since mid-1998, after having been reported missing in April of that year.

Acting on a tip received by Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, Ward County sheriff's deputies and Texas Rangers excavated a grave site on the east side of the Pecos River below Barstow Dam, where Tercero's body had been buried.

With tears streaming down her face, Tercero's mother, Catalina Garcia, recounted today how she waited for her son to come home _ he never did.

"I knew something had happened to him and deep in my heart, I knew he was already dead," she said.

A third suspect had already been served with a warrant for murder earlier this year, in connection with Tercero's death. Joe Angel Hernandez, 31, of Pecos, was served with a warrant for murder and his bond for that offense set at $100,000, according to Ward County Sheriff Jerry Heflin.

The warrant was served in the Ector County Jail, where the suspect was being held on other charges, according to Heflin.

Hernandez was in the Ector County Jail charged with evading arrest, robbery, evading arrest, threat causing bodily injury and death, murder and robbery.

Total bonds for Hernandez have been set at $202,000, according to Ector County Jail personnel.

At the time of his arrest Heflin said, "We're still investigating this incident and more arrests will be made."

The grave, about the length of an adult male and three feet wide, was not filled to the top. Anthropologist Dr. Robert Paine of Lubbock was called to the site and helped officers to excavate Tercero's body.

In an interview last year with the Enterprise, Garcia said she had not seen her son since April of 1998, when he told her he was going to a friend's house.

"My brother gave him a ride to his friend's house because he said they were having a meeting," said Garcia.

The friend Tercero was visiting turned out to be Gallegos.

"He stayed at Arturo's house and I went and questioned him," said Garcia.

Garcia said she never got a straight answer from Gallegos. "He kept telling me different stories, including that my son had taken off for San Antonio," she said. "But I didn't believe him."

Garcia said her son had a drug problem and knew there was a warrant out for his arrest, but said Tercero had been planning to turn himself in after he visited with his two sons who were scheduled to be in Pecos in June.

"He was just waiting to see his children and he said that after that he would turn himself in and seek some help for his drug problem," she said.

"He's my youngest son, and yes, I know he has problems, but I don't want to think the worst right now," she said.

Now, Garcia is seeking justice for a son she'll never see again. "I want the same thing for them, that my son received," she said. "I have heard that he died brutally."

Garcia said she has been told several things, including that her son had to dig his own grave. "Then they tell me that all of them got to shoot him first," she said.

"I just want to talk to somebody and let them know that what I want for them, is the same thing my son received _ death," she said.

Garcia also is seeking answers for this terrible tragedy. "I want to know why they killed him, what were their motives," she said.

She said she is still not completely at ease and has not found closure to her dilemma. "I feel sick all the time, I don't feel like things are right," she said.

So far a funeral for Tercero has not taken place either, since his remains are still in the custody of law enforcement officials.

"We want to plan a funeral for him, when they release him," said Garcia. "We want to remember the good times we had with him and pray for him, that he be in a better place."

Trucker critically burned in Salt Flat  blast

Staff Writer
SALT FLAT, Nov. 18, 1999 - Two truck drivers were injured Wednesday afternoon, one critically, when their vehicles were blown off the highway by a pipeline explosion along U.S. 62-180 near Salt Flat, in northeastern Hudspeth County.

The explosion occurred about 3:30 p.m. CST on a liquid propane transmission line operated by Rio Grande Pipeline Co., just outside Salt Flat, about 110 miles northwest of Pecos. The explosion sent a 200-foot tall flame into the sky alongside the highway, and set the two trucks on fire while blowing them off the road just past the Salt Flat Café.

According to Department of Public Safety Trooper Lucila Torres of El Paso, the drivers were identified as Oscar Acosta and Umberto Villalobos. Torres said MASH helicopter units from El Paso flew both men to Thomason General Hospital, and Villalobos was later airlifted from El Paso to University Medical Center in Lubbock. He was listed in critical condition this morning in the hospital's burn unit.

Acosta was treated for minor burns at Thomason General and released Wednesday evening.

In order to get through the 5,700-foot Guadalupe Pass just 10 miles to the east of Salt Flat, several pipelines run alongside U.S. 62-180 between El Paso and the Midland-Odessa area. Their close proximity caused the Rio Grande Pipeline blast to engulf a pipeline operated by Chevron USA, which supplies crude oil to the company's El Paso refinery.

A Chevron Pipeline employee in the company's Midland office said crews are being assembled to go to the explosion site, but could give out no further information.

The fire continued to burn all night and into this morning, Torres said. "They have not been able to shut it down yet, and all four pipeline companies have people out there," Torres said. Mid-America and Navajo Pipeline are the other two companies with transmission lines through Salt Flat.

U.S. 62-180 remained closed as of late this morning, and traffic between El Paso and Carlsbad, N.M. is being detoured along Interstate 10 and State Highway 54 through Van Horn to avoid the explosion site.

The fire was not expected to continue burning until the oil and propane in the two pipelines had burned off.

According to the El Paso Times, a pocket of gas that had built up from the leaking pipeline was ignited when two westbound school buses carrying about 20 children passed by, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper said at the scene. The children were not harmed, but the two trucks driving behind the buses were engulfed in flames, he said.

A secretary at Dell City High School said the buses involved did not belong to the Dell City ISD. Salt Flat is part of the Dell City ISD.

Ex-guard gets probation in coke case

Staff Writer
PECOS, Nov. 18, 1999 - Former Reeves County Detention Center corrections officer Ruben Baeza was sentenced yesterday in federal court to five years probation with an $1,100 fine by U. S. District Judge Royal Furgeson.

Baeza plead guilty to two counts of a three-count indictment on September 10. The third count was dismissed on motion of the state during the sentencing hearing, assistant U. S. District Attorney Jeff Parras said.

Parras was not the prosecuting attorney on the case since he knew Baeza, but did stand in for Assistant U. S. District Attorney J. Miller during the sentencing phase.

Count one charged Baeza with using the U. S. Mail to obtain marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute.

Count two charged him with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute cocaine and count three charged him with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute.

Baeza plead guilty to the first and third counts and the second count was dismissed.

Approximately one half of the public seating in the courtroom was filled with supporters of Baeza during the hearing.

"I have received an incredible number of letters on your behalf from your friends and family," Ferguson said. "All of these letters speak of you as a good guy with great potential and express astonishment that you got yourself into this position."

The judge asked everyone in the courtroom who was there to show their support for Baeza to stand and then thanked them all for attending. He then asked Baeza if he would like to make a statement.

Baeza, reading from a prepared statement, told the court that he knew that what he did was wrong and accepted full responsibility for his actions.

"In a way getting caught was a blessing in disguise," he said. "It forced me to realize that I was an addict and I thank God for the treatment I've received."

Baeza also spoke of his desire to be a good father to his seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter and his goal to eventually become a licensed counselor for those with addictions.

"At this point I would appreciate the opportunity to get back on the right track," he said.

"In some ways I guess I'm a second chance judge as far as probation goes," Ferguson said in reply.

Ferguson told Baeza that he had made a terrible mistake, compounded by the fact that he had been a law enforcement officer.

"On the good side, you've done so many of the right things after making this terrible mistake and shown a wonderful commitment to getting it back together," Ferguson said. "You've also obviously led a good life for most of your life and that counts for something."

Ferguson also told Baeza that while he might be a second-chance judge, he was not a third chance judge and that if Baeza came before him again he would "lock him away for as long as the law allows."

Ferguson then sentenced Baeza to five years probation and fined him a total of $900 plus another $200 special assessment ($100 for each count not dismissed).

"I hope it works for you," Ferguson said.

According to Parras, Baeza was involved in a scheme where a relative of an inmate would mail drugs to Baeza and then Baeza would deliver a portion of the drugs to the inmate.

A drug dog alerted on a package at the post office leading to Baeza's eventual arrest, Parras said.

In other proceedings Parras tried a case before a jury on Tuesday.

Rosalba Dominguez-Hernandez was convicted of possessing 125 pounds of marijuana.

After the one-day trial the jury only deliberated nine minutes before returning the guilty verdict, Parras said.

PIP meetings for parents, kids set for Saturday

PECOS, Nov. 18, 1999 - The first meetings for both children involved in the Players in Progress youth basketball program and their parents will be held this Saturday at the old Pecos High School gym.

The PIP program is sponsored by the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department and is for boys and girls in kindergarten through sixth grade. It is designed to teach them both ball handling skills and the fundamentals of basketball.

The first session for the players will start on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the old Pecos High School gym, with a parents meeting to follow at 11 a.m. For further information on the PIPs program, call the RCCRD at 447-9776.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 1-15-16-35-36-50. Estimated jackpot: $4 million. Number matching six of six: 1 Winning ticket(s) sold in: Cockrell Hill. Matching five of six: 96. Prize: $1,056. Matching four of six :3,493. Prize: $105.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 0-2-6 (zero, two, six)


James R. Leigh

Services are incomplete for James R. Leigh, 74, who died Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1999, at his residence.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Thomas Lee Payne

Thomas Lee Payne,  80, of Pecos, died Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1999 at Methodist Hospital in Lubbock.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, Nov. 19, at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. J.E. McCormick and Monty Huffman officiating.

He was born Oct. 24, 1919, in Pampa, was a U.S. Army Veteran of World War II and a retired shift supervisor at the Automotive Proving Grounds outside Pecos.

Survivors include one nephew Roy D. Prewit of Pecos; two nieces, Beverley Lindemann of Pecos and Barbara Bradley of Girvin, their children and many friends.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, Nov. 18, 1999 - High Wednesday 86. Low this morning 47. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 40s. West to northwest wind 10-20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High in the mid 70s. North to northeast wind 5-15 mph.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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