Last updateFri, 22 Jan 2016 2pm

Back You are here: News



GILMER--A 115th District Court jury sentenced Robert Wayne Fry to 10 years in prison and fined him $6,000 last week after convicting him of burglary of habitation, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.

Fry, 34, of Gilmer, was convicted Oct. 19 of the Jan. 2 burglary of a home on Old Union Grove Road just down from Union Grove School, said Byrd, who prosecuted the case. Fry's attorney, Gilmer lawyer Matthew Patton, argued "the abandoned house was a building and not a habitation since no one was living there" at the time of the break-in, Byrd said in a news release.

"The homeowner (who was not identified in the press release) received a call that someone was breaking into her house. She, along with her son-in-law, went to the house armed. The defendant was found coming out of the rear of the home," and "the son-in-law made him drop the bolt cutters and pliers he had in his hand and (told him to) face the house with his legs crossed or he would be shot," Byrd said.

"The homeowner called 911 and Upshur County (sheriff's) deputies took the defendant into custody. Inside the home, copper and metal wires were found inside a backpack belonging to the defendant," Byrd added.

The 11-woman, one-man jury, selected Oct. 12, heard all evidence before noon Monday, Oct. 19, and took only about 45 minutes to convict Fry, said Byrd. After evidence showed the defendant had a prior felony conviction in Wood County in 2000 for possession of methamphetamine, jurors took about 30 minutes to determine the sentence, said Byrd.

Fry did not testify in the case in which 115th District Judge Lauren Parish presided, the prosecutor said.

Byrd said he was "thankful for the jury's verdict and sentence."









GILMER--A 46-year-old Lindale man was killed, and two men were injured, in a three-vehicle accident on U.S. 271 north of Gilmer Thursday afternoon, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Jean Dark.

Donald Gene Scott was pronounced dead at the scene by Upshur County Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter, said Dark.

Wayne John Glover, 47, of Roxton, and Todd Christopher Williams, 42, of Tyler, were taken to ETMC--Pittsburg in stable condition, she said.

Scott was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro auto while Glover was operating a 2013 Freightliner truck-tractor, towing a semi-trailer, and Williams was driving a 2012 Volvo truck-tractor, also towing a semi-trailer, Dark said.

Preliminary investigation showed the northbound Volvo had stopped for a stopped school bus, and the Camaro was stopped behind the Volvo, when the northbound Freightliner struck the back of the car before hitting the back of the Volvo's semi-trailer, said Dark.

Gilmer Independent School District Superintendent Rick Albritton said the stopped bus was from his district and that it was on the opposite side of the road with its flashers going when the crash happened. A child had been safely let out and the driver was raising the elevator of the southbound bus when the accident happened, Albritton said.

The crash occurred at 3:51 p.m. seven miles north of Gilmer, said Dark. All three drivers were wearing safety belts, she added.

Since the investigation report by DPS Trooper Bobby Dean is preliminary, any charges which may be pending in connection with the wreck would not be reflected in that document, Dark said.

Scott's body was taken to Croley Funeral Home in Gilmer.





By Phillip Williams/Correspondent

GILMER--Upshur County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, who had said that creating the office of county election administrator could cause her to close her office’s Gladewater substation, said last week she will try to keep the branch office open “as long as we can.”

She said on Sept. 8 she would assign one of her deputies, Mary Anne Farrow, to the substation and that its fate is subject to how much business the main tax office in Gilmer has during its peak season from October to January, when patrons are paying property taxes.

In voting 3-1 Aug. 31 to create the EA post, the Upshur County Commissoners Court moved Deputy Voter Registrar Pam Dean’s position and her $24,000 salary from the tax office into the new EA office. The $24,000 will now be applied toward the $40,000 annual salary for the EA, who has not yet been named.

Dean had been manning the Gladewater substation, and Laminack had said that the branch office would close if a worker in her office moved to the EA office. (The Gladewater office of Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch will remain open.)

The commissioners court created the EA position effective Oct. 1. But the Upshur County Election Commission--a separate body from the court--can wait up to a year to fill the position if it decides not to do so by Oct. 1, said County Judge Dean Fowler, who chairs the commission.

The 5-member election commission met Sept. 8  to begin the process for filling the newly-created EA post.

At that meeting, Fowler said the commission could hire the EA as soon as Oct. 12, when its next meeting is scheduled. However, the commission’s vice-chairman, County Clerk Terri Ross, said the body was not planning on the new administrator holding the Nov. 3 elections.

The commission’s membership is set out by state law. Besides Fowler and Ross, members are Laminack, who is secretary; Upshur County Republican Party Chairman Cynthia Ridgeway and county Democratic Party Chairman Dan Miles Jr. All five attended the Sept. 8 meeting.

The commission decided to post the job opening for the new EA post on the Internet and advertise it in a local newspaper. Applications must be filed in Fowler’s office on the county courthouse’s third floor by noon Oct. 9, and qualifications for the post may be obtained from Ross’s office on the second floor.

Fowler said he already had two applicants for the new job.

State law establishes that being a “qualified voter” in Texas is a requirement for the post. The new EA may also be required to post a bond not exceeding $20,000 in an amount set by the commissioners court, and Fowler said he would put that matter on the court’s next meeting agenda. (On the agenda for the court’s Sept. 15 meeting, the only item pertaining to the EA was to consider extending the tax assessor-collector’s deputy voter registrar position until an election administrator is appointed.)

Fowler also noted at the Sept. 8 meeting an EA cannot engage in any political activity, such as holding office, running for office, or “contributing in any way” to a campaign.

Laminack pointed out that in several counties, an EA is additionally required to be able to physically lift election machinery. The commission decided to let the tax assessor-collector assist Ross in formulating the job description for the position.

Commission members will individually review the applications for the post and notify Fowler which applicants they want present at the Oct. 12 meeting to be interviewed. Until the post is filled, Fowler said, Laminack remains the county’s voter registrar.

Fowler also warned the commission that the new post is “tenuous at best,” and that “this position could be abolished (by the commissoners court) before it even got filled.” He said that could occur if the court believed the commission will not hire the type of applicant the court wants.

“The (court’s) vote (to establish the office) could change,” the judge warned.

Noting state law allows the court to abolish the office “at any time,” Fowler said commissioners have told him the new EA must be able to program election machinery “because we’re not going to spend the money on Hart (Intercivic),” a firm which has performed that task for the county.

But when Fowler said the court would “expect someone that can (already) program the machines,” Ross disagreed, saying the new EA should be able to “be taught to program the machines” by being “trainable.”

Said Ridgeway, “We need to emphasize the technology.”

As for whether the new EA office would include more than one person, Fowler said, “I thought we would hire the administrator and let them hire their own deputy.”

Ridgeway said the commissioners court sets the number of deputies.

Fowler meantime said that if an EA is appointed before the Nov. 3 elections, he would like for her/him to be present election night to observe the county’s process since “it’s going to be a transition” eventually.

But “in reality, the (county) clerk’s office is going to be handling the election in November, whether we have an EA or not,” Fowler said.

The commission will hire the new administrator by majority vote, and the commissioners court’s approval for the selection is not needed, Ridgeway told this newspaper. The county GOP chairman added that she believed the EA’s office will be in the central vote counting station room at the east end of the county courthouse’s second floor in Gilmer.