Local News

Museum offers glimpse into county’s past 

The Hill County Cell Block Museum opened for the 2018 season this month, and one of its first visitors was a new addition to the Hill County Sheriff’s Office who has a strong connection to its past. 

J.J. Freeland of Dawson was recently hired as a deputy by the sheriff’s office, and he found plenty of information about his fourth cousin, former Hill County Sheriff J.W. Freeland, at the museum. 

Sheriff Freeland was credited with tracking down and arresting Raymond Hamilton, a member of the Clyde Barrow Gang, made famous by members Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. 

The deputy recalled family stories that have been passed down about his cousin’s claim to local fame, which began when Hamilton escaped from the county jail, now the museum, in 1933. 

Hamilton and Clyde Barrow had been identified as suspects in the robbery and murder of Hillsboro businessman John Bucher, who ran a jewelry store from his home at the edge of Hillsboro. 

After seven months on the run committing crimes as part of the “Bonnie and Clyde” gang, he was arrested and returned to Hillsboro, where his first trial ended in a mistrial. 

While awaiting his second trial in the county jail, and with residents on edge as they feared Barrow would try to break him out of jail, Hamilton and two other inmates stole keys from deputies and escaped from jail on the afternoon of March 23, 1933. 

The three escapees stole a car and headed west, turning north at Aquilla Creek. Sheriff Freeland caught up with them as they attempted to change a flat tire, and two of the men immediately surrendered. 

Hamilton refused to give himself up and hid behind a tree, at which time Freeland demanded he give himself up and shot at a tree branch, which fell and hit Hamilton, allowing the sheriff to capture him. 

After being convicted of the Bucher murder and receiving a sentence of life in prison, he was eventually executed in 1935 for being a “habitual criminal.” 

Hill County residents and visitors are encouraged to visit the museum to view this display and many others on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. 

Those touring the old jail will get a glimpse of the early days of Hill County through artifacts and stories dating back to the origin of the county. 

The museum is located on North Waco Street in Hillsboro, just north of the county courthouse. 

The building was completed in 1893 and designed by architect W.C. Dodson, who also designed the courthouse. The jail was built by Lovell & Hood at a cost of $26,220.  

The front part of the building served as living quarters for the sheriff’s family, and the rear housed the cell blocks, kitchen facilities and sheriff’s office.  

Prisoners were kept at the building until April 1983, at which time the Hill County Historical Commission obtained the building to restore and use as a county museum. 

Volunteers are also welcome to work at the museum in two-hour shifts each Saturday. For more information, call Joyce Hollingsworth at 254-582-2640. 

Early voting to be conducted in upcoming city, school elections 

Early voting for the Saturday, May 5, city and school elections will get underway Monday, April 23. 

The City of Whitney and Whitney Independent School District (ISD) will hold a joint election with multiple citizens seeking available city and school positions.  

Three full three-year terms are available on the Whitney school board. Incumbents Jill Hall, Karen Lochridge and Annette Ayers will attempt to keep their seats and will be challenged by Jason Sneed and Holli Denise Feeley. 

Lyle Eubank, who has been filling an unexpired two-year term on the board, will also seek a position and will be challenged by Gloria Cox Havard. 

The terms of Whitney City Council members Robert Ross and Chip Hundley are up for grabs, and there is one open position on the council. 

Seeking one of the three two-year terms on the council will be incumbents Ross and Hundley along with Thomas King, Carol Roy and Valery Peacock. 

Early voting for both the City of Whitney and Whitney ISD will be conducted all next week from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Monday, April 30, and Tuesday, May 1, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. 

Early voting and election day voting will be held at the Whitney ISD Administration Building Board Room at 305 San Jacinto in Whitney. 

On Saturday, May 5, voting will be conducted from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

Blum ISD has two two-year terms available on its board of trustees—one currently held by Steve Stone and one that is vacant. 

Stone will not seek re-election, but Joe Maxwell, Jonathan Arrington and Tommy Hester will all run for positions on the board. 

Early voting in Blum will be conducted April 23-May 1, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. weekdays. Early voting is being held in the district’s administration office, located at 310 South Avenue F in Blum. 

On election day, Blum voters will cast ballots at the Blum Community Center from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

Covington ISD voters will have some choices to make, as five candidates filed for three three-year spots on the school board. Incumbents Andy Lopez, Shane Johnson and Paula Ratliff will be challenged by Dusty McLain and Kevin Ray. 

Early voting in the Covington election will be conducted each weekday at Covington City Hall, located at 402 Gathings in Covington.  

Covington voters may cast early ballots between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until noon on Friday beginning Monday, April 23, and ending May 1. Extended hours will be offered on Tuesday, April 24, and Tuesday, May 1, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 


Whitney ISD denies HCAD building expansion request 

The Whitney Independent School District (ISD) Board of Trustees met in a regular session Monday, April 9, and denied a request from the Hill County Appraisal District (HCAD) for an office expansion project. 

Entities throughout the county have been considering the proposal from HCAD, which is seeking funding from the jurisdictions it serves to increase its office space. 

While other entities have had concerns about the proposed price tag of up to $425,000, many conceded that the space was needed and approved the request after presentations from HCAD Chief Appraiser Mike McKibben. 

If the project is approved by three-fourths of the HCAD’s taxing jurisdictions, the largest share of the payment will come from Hill County. County commissioners ultimately accepted the proposal in a split vote that called for a tie-breaking vote from County Judge Justin Lewis recently. 

After the 25-percent payment from Hill County, the next largest share in the county would come from Whitney ISD, with 18.6 percent of the cost. That figure comes to 10 annual payments of $9,830. 

Hillsboro ISD follows closely behind, taking on just over 18 percent of the cost. 

At last week’s meeting, WISD board members echoed many of the concerns other entities have had during the process, including the lack of concrete numbers for the project. 

McKibben has said that as a conservative, he did not want to spend taxpayer dollars formulating a detailed plan until he knew the project would be approved, and he feels confident that the district can come in under the proposed maximum amount. 

After discussion around the table, WISD board members voted 4-2 to deny the HCAD request, with Annette Ayers, Jill Hall, Ray Mabry and Lyle Eubank opposed and Bobby Cryns and Brad Brunett voting in favor of the proposal. 

As of press time Monday afternoon, April 16, Whitney ISD was the only entity that had denied the proposal.  

McKibben said that 23 of the 24 required “yes” votes had been received, and four other jurisdictions were set to vote this week. 

If three-fourths of the other entities approve the project, it will still pass. 

The board also approved an order of election for the upcoming May school board election. Early voting will begin Monday, April 23, with election day set for Saturday, May 5. 

The board voted to accept an Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) Grant from Education Service Center 12. The ACE Grant will help fund the district’s after-school program that assists students in meeting academic standards in core subject areas. 

A contract extension for Interquest Detection Canines was approved by the board. The district has contracted with the company for drug dog visits for the past several years, and the only change this year was an increase in the cost per visit from $250 to $270. 

In closed session, the board discussed possible Whitney ISD employees who could assume the responsibility of carrying firearms under the district’s Guardian Plan.  

Around 20 individuals were considered by the board, and further discussions will be held to determine who is willing to take on the responsibility. 

Court selects engineer, okays new Hill County juror software 

The Hill County Commissioners’ Court met in regular session Tuesday morning, April 10. The court approved a proposal for professional engineering services in the county and voted to purchase jury software in an effort to improve juror turnout. 

County Judge Justin Lewis has been working on developing subdivision rules and regulations to ensure responsible development as the county continues to grow. 

Lewis said that the assistance of an engineer is necessary to complete the process.  

Under the agreement with the county, BSP Engineers will provide subdivision rules and regulations, including construction, roadway and storm drainage design standards and infrastructure design standards for mobile home subdivisions. An update to the existing floodplain ordinance is also included. 

The cost for these services is $5,200, according to the agreement. 

The second part of the agreement involves BSP Engineers performing as-needed engineering review services for subdivision plats at an hourly rate. 

Jed Sulak of BSP Engineers told the court that the company provides the same services to many clients, including the City of Hillsboro. 

Lewis recommended charging a plat review fee to developers to keep the county from absorbing the full cost of engineering services. 

Commissioners also approved the purchase of Tyler Technologies jury software that will assist courts and prospective jurors in the county. 

With fewer and fewer citizens showing up for jury service, the courts have looked for solutions to help manage the issue. 

Information Technology Director Sharon Camarillo said that the program will be beneficial for the county, and the district judge and district clerk are in favor of its implementation. 

County Attorney David Holmes said that he is also in favor of the program, which he said is similar to the federal system and allows prospective jurors to log in and fill out a questionnaire. 

Holmes said that juror turnout is a problem, adding that there have been times when 150 juror summons were mailed and only around 30 people showed up. 

The jury web portal and software will allow those who receive a jury duty summons to access their jury information online and make any requests to change their scheduled date without calling or visiting the courthouse. 

In addition to assisting jurors, the program is expected to give courts a more accurate count of jurors who will be onsite for jury trials. 

The cost of the web portal and software is $13,729, which is a decrease from the original quote for the web portal alone at $21,600.  

Camarillo recommended the county act to take advantage of the lower cost and fund the project out of the information technology software budget.  

The county had previously considered funding the project with leftover funds from the case management software project, but Camarillo said that the books had already been closed on those funds and that would not be possible. 

After a review of bids received for outside auditing services for fiscal year 2018, commissioners selected Wayne Beyer and Company to perform the county’s audit. 

Lewis said that the county attempts to change auditors every few years to get a fresh set of eyes on the finances. 

The recently-updated Hill County Fairgrounds Exhibit Building rental agreement was approved by the court. 

The agreement covers the responsibilities of those renting the facility and sets fees for various uses. 

Organizations like the Hill County 4-H Clubs, FFA, fair board and AgriLife Extension will continue to have permission to use the fairgrounds free of charge.  

Non-profit organizations that benefit Hill County and booster clubs will be able to rent the facilities at a reduced rate. 

The court approved the county’s participation in the Heart of Texas Council of Governments (HOTCOG) air quality monitoring program. 

Lewis told commissioners that HOTCOG has historically maintained the McLennan County air quality monitoring station for the area with state funding. 

With state funding for the project pulled by the governor, Lewis said that the responsibility now lies with counties.  

The judge said that major employers ask for the county’s air quality information, and the numbers are also used to determine vehicle registration fees. 

If local monitoring is not done, the federal government will use its own algorithm to determine air quality in the area, and the judge said that result may not be accurate. 

McLennan County is absorbing most of the cost of the project HOTCOG area, but the issue is coming before Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill and Limestone counties for the remainder of the money. 

Lewis said that the City of Hillsboro will consider sharing the local cost of $4,500 with the county pending the city council’s approval. 

The court approved a contract with Kaddatz Auctioneering to sell a former Emergency Management command post trailer, with an auctioneer fee of 6.5 percent. 

Commissioners appointed Melissa Barnes to the Hill County Child Protective Services Board, and a list of residents chosen to serve on the Hill County Historical Commission from communities throughout the county was also approved by the court. 

Laguna Park Library receives $5,000 grant for new books 

Laguna Park Library is pleased to announce that a grant for $5,000 for purchase of new books has been received from the Tocker Foundation.   

This is the first time the library has applied for a grant for new books for the adult area. 

The Tocker Foundation promotes Texas public libraries in communities of 12,000 or less. Its purpose is to support, encourage and assist small rural libraries.  

The foundation partners with these libraries to meet the particular needs of the community. Along with making provision for collection development and library automation, grants are distributed to assisting libraries to serve as community centers and information resources.  

In past years, Laguna Park Library has taken advantage of the automation and computer upgrades available through the foundation. 

“We are proud of our patrons who have been donating gently used media since 2005,” said Library Director Cynthia Choate. “It is time now, however, to fill in series, add new authors and expand the works of popular writers. So this grant causes much excitement!” 

The library will be selecting both fiction and nonfiction books in the next few weeks.  The orders will begin arriving later this spring.  

The library will consider all suggestions of favorite fiction authors or topics to fill the nonfiction area.  Community members are welcome to contact Choate with requests. 

Laguna Park Library is located at 356 SH 22 at the Whitney Dam.   

The library is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and may be reached at 254-622-2665. 


 April sales tax  allocations announced 

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has announced that he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $651 million in local sales tax allocations for April, five percent more than in April 2017.  

Locally, Whitney’s payment came to $48,640 in April, up 12 percent from last April. 

April figures for other Hill County cities included: Abbott – $3,723.44, down 62 percent; Aquilla – $493.59, down 27 percent; Blum – $5,446.32, up 232 percent; Bynum – $414.08, up 25 percent; Carl’s Corner – $4,248.93, down half a percent; Covington – $2,854.79, down 21 percent; Hillsboro – $236,362.62, up six percent; Hubbard – $8,986.22, down three percent; Itasca – $8,670.02, down 23 percent; Malone – $1,221.47, up 19 percent; Mertens – $344.47, up 24 percent; Mount Calm – $530.02, down 36 percent; Penelope – $302.60, up 53 percent; Whitney – $48,640.40, up 12 percent. 

Bosque County allocations included: Clifton – $50,374.35, down 15 percent; Cranfills Gap – $2,312.06, down seven percent; Iredell – $1,332.21, down 13 percent; Meridian – $11,636.95, down six percent; Morgan – $1,279.64, down 30 percent; Valley Mills – $6,257.53, down 26 percent; Walnut Springs – $2,879.17, down 14 percent. 

These allocations are based on sales made in February by businesses that report tax monthly. 

 First Families Of Hill County Certificates still available 

Early settlers who were living in Hill County between 1853 and 1903 can be honored with a First Families of Hill County, Texas, 1853-1903 certificate by one of their direct descendants.  

To qualify, a person must prove that their ancestor settled in Hill County sometime during the first 50 years of its existence, 1853 to 1903.  

Evidence must also be presented to support that the applicant is a descendant of the family.  

Pioneer families were honored with six First Families of Hill County, Texas 1853-1903 certificates in 2017.  

The certificate program originated before the Hill County and Hillsboro Sesquicentennial Celebrations and the awards ceremonies were part of the celebrations in 2003.  

There have now been 396 certificates issued by the Hill County Genealogical Society in honor of early Hill County settlers. 

Request an application by mail at Hill County Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 636, Hillsboro, TX 76645.  

Forms are also available at Hillsboro City Library. Enclose $10 with each completed application.  

Approved applications are filed in the genealogy section of Hillsboro City Library and are a valuable resource for researchers.  

For information, contact the society by mail or contact Mollie Stinson at 254-582-3242 or E-mail: CrescentJ2@hillsboro.net. 

It is not necessary to be a member of Hill County Genealogical Society to apply for a certificate.  

Ranchers could recover grazing losses 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Executive Director in Hill County, Arianna C. Thedford, has announced that ranchers and livestock producers may be eligible for assistance from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for grazing losses incurred in 2018. 

According to Thedford, “Hill County recently met qualifying drought ratings that ‘trigger’ eligibility for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program on full season improved pasture, native pasture, and long season small grains.” 

LFP provides compensation to livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought. Qualifying drought ratings are determined using the U.S. Drought Monitor located at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/. 

Eligible livestock include alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, reindeer or sheep that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the normal grazing period. 

Applications are required for 2018 losses. To expedite applications, producers who experienced losses in 2018 are encouraged to collect records documenting their losses.  

Supporting documents may include information related to grazing leases or federal grazing permits, contract grower agreements, and more. 

“We encourage producers to contact our office for an appointment and to learn what records are required to apply for assistance,” said Thedford. 

For more information, contact the Hill County FSA office at 254-585-8411 ext 2.  

Information can also be found online at disaster.fsa.usda.gov. 

Lakeside VFD Auxiliary to hold fish fry 

The Lakeside Village Area Volunteer Fire Department and Ladies Auxiliary will hold its Spring Fish Fry Saturday, April 28, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Lakeside Village Fire Hall/Community Center.   

“This is the first of the three scheduled fish fry meals for 2018.  Others will follow in June and October,” said Vicki Johnson, auxiliary president.   

“We know that everyone expects to get one of the best fish dinners available anywhere around the lake, so we’re gearing up to serve our very best as usual,” she added. 

The menu will include fried fish, hush puppies, potato salad, pinto beans, all the expected garnishes, dessert and drinks for $11 for adults and $8 for children under 10 years of age.  

The Lakeside Village VFD Fire Hall is located at 136 CR 1275, just east of Highway 56 and FM 927 next to the water tower.   

For any newcomers using GPS, it is shown as “136 CR 1275, Morgan,” not Lakeside Village. 

As with all of the department’s fundraisers, all proceeds go toward keeping Lakeside Village Area VFD and the fire hall open and operating, which is getting harder every year.   

“We truly need the support of all Lakeside Village Area residents and those from other areas who attend our functions, and we thank you for your generosity,” Johnson said.  

“Both the VFD and the Ladies Auxiliary need area residents to volunteer as so many of our workers have ‘aged out’ and are no longer able to do the necessary work,” she added. 

For information about volunteering for the VFD, contact Rex at 254-775-4253, and for Ladies Auxiliary, call Jackie at 254-775-4425.   


HCSO detains man wanted on felony 

The Hill County Sheriff’s Office made a felony warrant arrest at 11:55 a.m. Friday, April 6. 

According to reports, a 42-year-old Aquilla man surrendered to authorities at the Community Supervision and Corrections Department in Hillsboro. 

The suspect was wanted out of Hockley County for aggravated sexual assault of a child. 

Bond was set at $100,000 on Paul McDaniel by Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell. 

Making the arrest was Deputy Rachel Callendar. 

Hill County Grand Jury returns April indictments 

A Hill County Grand Jury that convened Friday, April 6, returned the following indictments: 

Joe Denton Amos, 59, no address, two violations of bond/protective order within 12 months 

Mark Scott Bailey, 20, of Blum, forgery-two counts 

Steven Brian August Borom, 21, of Irving, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Amanda Leigh Bradford, 46, of Kennedale, manslaughter; aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; failing to comply with duties following accident involving death; failing to comply with duties following accident involving serious bodily injury 

John Clint Braswell, 24, of Whitney, evading arrest detention with vehicle 

Treveous LaCray Andre Brown, 23, of Hillsboro, assault family violence with previous conviction 

Corey Robert Buckner, 38, of Kountze, escape while arrested/confined  

Helen Levida Cathey, 35, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Billy Clyde Crelia III, 38, of Waco, escape while arrested confined 

Robert Monroe Cress, 41, of Fort Worth, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams 

Alyssa Jean Dunn, 24, of Hillsboro, abandon/endanger a child-two counts 

David DuWane Floyd, 35, of Whitney, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Leonotdra Garrett, 36, of Whitney, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams with intent to deliver 

Norman Lee Garza, 31, of Bynum, driving while intoxicated – third or more 

Stephanie Rebecca Gilbert, 37, of Hillsboro, hindering apprehension/prosecution of known felon 

Clinton Ray Haygood, 35, of Hillsboro, theft between $2,500 and $30,000 

Jacob Daniel Hernandez, 30, of Dallas, forgery financial instrument – elderly 

Amanda Yvonne Hood, 26, of Rio San Antonio, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams 

Brian Kevin Howard, 38, of Axtell, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 years of age 

Christopher Carlyle Jenkins, 25, of Hillsboro, abandon/endanger child – two counts 

Bradley Scott Lassetter II, 32, of Morgan, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Emigdio Leon-Gonzalez, 30, of Grand Prairie, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Tony Edward Looper, 48, of White Settlement, hinder apprehension of a felon; failing to comply with duties following accident involving death; failing to comply with duties following accident involving serious bodily injury 

Gerardo Jair Lopez, 24, of Austin, driving while intoxicated – third or more 

Daniel Ray Maler, 32, of West, hindering apprehension or prosecution of known felon – two counts 

Calvin Wayne Marshall, 30, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Emmit Alexander Hernandez Martinez, 23, of Dallas, theft of livestock 

Jason Wes Randall, 34, of Austin, tamper/fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair 

Ernest Josh Rivera, 29, of Iredell, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Damon DePaul Ross, 31, of Hillsboro, possession of cocaine under one gram 

Vincent Marc San Agustin, 36, of Killeen, bail jump and failure to appear 

Trinidad Diaz Sandoval, 24, of Hillsboro, theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000 – two counts, place serial number with intent to change vehicle identity, place serial number with intent to change vehicle identity 

Mitchell Glenn Sims Jr., 48, of Grandview, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams 

Jamariay DeShawn Shelby, 18, of Itasca, theft of firearm 

Ouida Daniella Sutton, 30, of Iredell, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Cody Lee Trousdale, 31, of Whitney, assault family/household member with previous conviction 

Kyle Houston Vanet, 23, of Hillsboro, abandon/endanger a child – two counts 

Dante Rayun Vernon, 30, of Waco, bail jump and failure to appear 

Roberto Villarreal, 24, of Round Rock, fraudulent use/possession of identifying information between 10 and 50 items, credit/debit card abuse, possession of cocaine under one gram 

Jennifer Ann Wagers, 36, of Cleveland, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Justin Cheyenne Walker, 31, of Whitney, assault public servant 

Joshua David Wallace, 35, of Whitney, violation of sex offender’s duty to register life/annually 

Detrick Darrnell Walter, 25, of Whitney, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams 

Gary William Watts, 59, of Whitney, online solicitation of a minor 

Rodney DeWayne Williams, 42, of Hillsboro, evading arrest with previous conviction 

DPS trooper makes arrest near Whitney 

The Department of Public Safety made an arrest at 5:28 p.m. Monday, April 9. 

According to reports, authorities made contact with a 19-year-old Whitney man in the northbound lanes of Farm Road 933 near Whitney. 

A computer check revealed that the man was driving with an invalid driver license. 

Upon searching the vehicle, troopers located a small amount of marijuana. 

The suspect was detained for driving with an invalid driver license and possession of marijuana. 

Transporting the man to the Hill County jail was Trooper David Stevens. 

Man returned to Hill County on felony 

A felony inmate transfer was made by the Hill County Sheriff’s Office at 1:01 p.m. Wednesday, April 11. 

Reports indicated that a 60-year-old Whitney man was returned from Wise County. 

The suspect was wanted locally on a felony stalking charge. 

Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bond at $7,500 on Joseph Lulloff. 

Conducting the transfer was Deputy Marie Doty.