Local News

Appeals court upholds conviction of local man sentenced to 50 years
In a ruling released Wednesday, November 13, Waco’s Tenth Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of an Aquilla man who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for continuous sexual abuse of a child earlier this year.
Paul Darvin McDaniel was convicted by a Hill County jury Tuesday, February 12, and District Judge Lee Harris pronounced a sentence of 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole for the 42-year-old.
Testimony was presented by the state regarding numerous acts of aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child committed at the home of McDaniel and his family, as well as an incident at Wallace Park in Hillsboro.
District Attorney Mark Pratt and assistant district attorneys Matt Boyle and Sherri Wagner prosecuted the case.
The offenses began when the victim was 10 years old and was visiting the family during the summer of 2017.
The crime was ultimately uncovered several months after the victim returned to her home near Lubbock, when she made an outcry to a school counselor who immediately contacted law enforcement officials.
In his appeal, McDaniel asserted that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the last incident of sexual abuse transpired the way that the victim described, which he believed rendered the entire testimony unreliable.
He also claimed that he suffered “egregious harm” due to the trial court failing to limit or tailer the definitions of “culpable mental states” in the jury charge.
The appeals court overruled both of McDaniel’s issues and affirmed the judgment of the court.
McDaniel’s wife, Laura “Michelle” McDaniel of Aquilla, who operated Busy Bees Daycare, received deferred adjudication probation for a period of five years in May.
She was charged with endangering a child after she was reportedly informed about the sexual assault but failed to report it to authorities.

Multiple departments battle Whitney house fire
Multiple area fire departments responded to a house fire in the Whitney city limits Tuesday morning, November 12. The fire was reported just after 10:30 a.m. by the homeowners on Circle Drive. The family was able to escape, but the home sustained heavy damage. The fire was originally believed to have originated from a fireplace that the occupants were using at the time, but a preliminary investigation indicated that it was likely an electrical fire that started at an outlet in a bedroom.

Hill County commissioners prepare for redistricting
HCSO weapon trade approved
The Hill County Commissioners’ Court met in a regular session Tuesday, November 12, and began discussing the upcoming redistricting process that the county will be tasked with following the 2020 Census.
Waco attorney Michael Morrison, an expert on local government and redistricting, was hired by the court to assist the county with the process.
County Judge Justin Lewis told commissioners that while the process is contentious, redistricting is necessary and must be done by law.
Morrison spoke to the court and briefly outlined the process, stating that the ideal precinct is one-fourth of the county’s population. If the precincts with the lowest population and the highest population differ more than 10 percent, redistricting is necessary.
Census data is expected to be released to counties in February 2021, and any new county precinct lines must be in place for the March 2022 election date.
The court also authorized the sheriff’s office to trade its Glock GEN 4 model 22 handguns, along with other weapons owned or forfeited to the department, in to GT Distributors in order to purchase new Glock 9mm pistols.
According to documents presented by the sheriff’s office, law enforcement agencies around the country have been switching to 9mm handguns due to a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) study showing that 9mm weapons are just as effective as other caliber weapons.
The study concluded that officers miss 70 to 80 percent of shots fired, and the projectile of the round—not the size of it—is what determines its effectiveness.
Another benefit listed by the sheriff’s office is that the 9mm rounds have less recoil, higher capacity magazines and lower cost.
Due to the decreased cost of ammunition, deputies could train with their firearms more often with the  goal of making them more effective in a life-or-death situation, according to the sheriff’s office.
The 38 handguns purchased by the sheriff’s office in 2014 are nearing the end of their service life, and GT Distributors will credit the sheriff’s office approximately $250 for each traded weapon.
After the trade of these weapons and an additional 92 weapons that have been seized, forfeited, confiscated or become outdated, the total cost incurred by the sheriff’s office to purchase 45 new 9mm pistols will be $734.
Commissioners scheduled a public hearing over the placement of a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit sign on Meadowville Lane in Precinct 3. Commissioner Scotty Hawkins said that residents of the subdivision had requested a speed limit due to the number of children living in the area.
The transfer of a vehicle from the Hill County Sheriff’s Office to the Hill County Veterans Service Office was approved by the court.
A 2005 Ford Crown Victoria was stripped of its law enforcement equipment and sheriff’s office markings and serviced by the sheriff’s office prior to the transfer. Sheriff Rodney Watson also arranged for the car to be repainted at only the cost of paint and materials before transferring the vehicle.
Preliminary discussions were held with a developer planning to build a 132-home subdivision in teh Carl’s Corner area. The developer questioned the court about possible variances regarding the subdivison’s layout and was advised to fill out an official variance request so the county’s engineer and legal counsel can consider the request.
An amended tax abatement agreement between Hill County and Sun Valley Solar, LLC was approved to allow minor adjustments in wording and the project timeline following negotiations.

Lady Bobcats defeat Abbott to advance
Blum High School’s varsity volleyball team is in the final four after sweeping Abbott 3-0 in the regional finals Saturday, November 16.
The Lady Bobcats will face Neches at 11 a.m. Wednesday, November 20, in a semi-final game. It will be held at Garland ISD’s Curtis Culwell Center, located at 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland.
Blum ISD will not have school Wednesday to allow the community to attend and support the team.
The Blum varsity football team won the bi-district championship game Thursday, November 14, against Perrin-Whitt 54-6.
The Bobcats will compete in the regional round Friday, November 22, against Union Hill at Scurry-Rosser High School beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of that game will face the winner of a matchup between Saint Jo and Avalon in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

TDCJ sentences handed down in Hill County’s district court
The office of District Attorney Mark Pratt prosecuted the following felony criminal cases in the 66th Judicial District Court of Hill County in October:
Robert David Mielnicki Jr., aggravated robbery, 50 years prison
Ernest Otto, theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000, six years prison
Eric Ray Herrington, possession of heroin under one gram, three years prison; possession of methamphetamine under one gram, three years prison
Christopher Lee Raper, possession of alprazolam between 28 and 200 grams; bail jump and failure to appear, seven years prison
Dezaray DeShawn Cockrell, engaging in organized criminal activity, four years prison
Jacob Aaron Elting, theft of a firearm, 13 months state jail
Shane Ryan Baxter, theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000, 15 months state jail; unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, 15 months state jail; theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000, 15 months state jail
Travis Quincy Dilks, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams, four years prison
Edward Charles Campos, assault against a peace officer, harrassment of public servant, eight years prison
Thomas James Rossetter, sexual assault of a child, 10 years prison; sexual assault of a child, 10 years prison; indecency with a child sexual contact, 10 years prison; indecency with a child sexual contact, 10 years prison
Ronald Gregg Smith Jr., possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 14 months state jail
Raymond Earl Smith Jr., assault family violence with previous conviction, five years prison
Lena Cileen McKindra, possession of a material, compound, mixture or preparation under 28 grams with intent to deliver, 12 months state jail
Amanda Leigh Bradford, failing to comply with duties following accident involving death, 15 years prison; failing to comply with duties following accident with serious bodily injury, 10 years prison
James Dawson McGuffin, tamper/fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair, five years prison
Dillan Lee Bow, possession of heroin between one and four grams, four years prison
Samantha Leann Garcia, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams, five years prison
Justin Emil James, assault bodily injury of a public servant, assault bodily injury of a public servant, six years prison
Fernando Reyes Moreno, possession of cocaine under one gram, 10 months state jail
Markeist Daquan Reed, possession of cocaine under one gram, 12 months state jail
District Judge Lee Harris presides over the court.

Local organizations receive HILCO funds
At its October meeting, HILCO Electric’s Operation Round Up Trust Board voted to disburse $11,073 to six organizations in the HILCO service area. These funds were donated during the third quarter of 2019.
The Trust Board, which is comprised of representatives from all the HILCO districts, meets once a quarter to review applications and to decide how the funds are to be allocated.
Operation Round Up is a voluntary program in which residential members of HILCO Electric Cooperative, Incorperated sign up to have their electric bills rounded upward to the next dollar.
Every month, those additional pennies, nickels and dimes are added to a special fund. Money from that fund is then distributed to local qualifying organizations with the community. The most that any member’s account would donate in a 12-month period is $11.88.
Grant checks were presented Thursday, October 15, at the Itasca HILCO office. On hand to help with the presentation were HILCO Electric Board of Directors.
The following organizations were recipients of the third quarter funds disbursements:
• Church on the Hill/Hillsboro Foursquare in Hillsboro – $4,000 for Hill County Kids Program to feed children in need
• Lake Whitney Ministerial Alliance in Whitney – $3,000 for a school supply program;
• Isaiah’s Place in Whitney – $250 for American Sign Language (ASL) to purchase training and educational program materials.
Since the Operation Round Up® program began in 2001, over $833,344.28 has been returned to communities within the HILCO service area. This has been made possible from the generosity of residential members who have voluntarily opted to participate monthly in the program.
Members may have their names added to or removed from the program by calling HILCO at 254-687-2331 or 800-338-6425. Members can also sign up for the program online at http://www.hilco.coop/oproundup.html.
The next deadline for Operation Round Up® is noon December 15. Applications are available online at http://www.hilco.coop, or can be picked up at one of the three HILCO offices located at 115 East Main Street in Itasca, 4581 FM 933 in Whitney or 300A Silken Crossing in Midlothian.
Organizations can contact Brandi Shore for more information at 254-687-2331 or 800-338-6425, extension 1120.

Sales tax data released for November
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently announced that he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $849.6 million in local sales tax allocations for November, four percent more than in November 2018.
November payments to Hill County entities and changes from last November include: Abbott – $11,981.30, up 41 percent; Aquilla – $863.17, up 26 percent; Blum – $6,040.75, up  38 percent; Bynum – $823.02, up 38 percent; Carl’s Corner – $5,315.09, up eight percent; Covington – $4,974.13, up 34 percent; Hillsboro – $345,762.61, up 17 percent; Hubbard – $22,081.11, up 15 percent; Itasca – $17,644.29, up 31 percent; Malone – $1,938.08, up one percent; Mertens – $178.32, down 29 percent; Mount Calm – $914.78, up seven percent; Penelope – $710.61, up 11 percent; Whitney – $69,576.42, up 23 percent.
Bosque County allocations were: Clifton – $62,875.28, up eight percent; Cranfills Gap – $2,770.44, down 22 percent; Iredell – $2,794.05, up 43 percent; Meridian – $20,264.13, down 18 percent; Morgan – $4,332.96, up 95 percent; Valley Mills – $11,696.35, up 18 percent; Walnut Springs – $4,429.54, down five percent.
These allocations are based on sales made in September by businesses that report tax monthly, and sales made in July, August and September by quarterly filers.

Teens learn about safe driving at Aquilla ISD
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office of Hill County partnered with the Extension “Watch Ur Bac” program, Texas Department of Public Safety and State Farm to present a safe teen driving event at Aquilla Independent School District recently. Organizers presented information and hands-on activities for the high school students at Aquilla promoting safe driving, explaining the effects of driving under the influence of substance abuse and warning against texting and driving.


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