Year in review: Fiery blazes, malfeasance lead to new starts, justice

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DRC file photo/Al Key
Denton police officers search for a shooting suspect July 2 on Cherrywood Lane. Musician Eric Keyes, 43, was hospitalized after being shot in the chest.
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Crime in Denton County occurs on a daily basis, and 2012 was no exception as the county saw fires, indictments and murder trials unfold.

 

Fire at Selwyn

An early-morning fire on Jan. 26 engulfed the main building at Selwyn College Preparatory School. The blaze destroyed the private school’s 50-year-old main building, a U-shaped structure that housed classrooms, administration offices and the school kitchen.

The school reopened for classes five days after the fire.

Kindergarten to fifth-grade classes displaced by the fire were taught in vacant classrooms on the campus and in portable buildings lent by the Denton school district, while lunch was served at picnic tables and in classrooms.

Based on lab results, investigators determined an ignitable liquid had been poured in part of a kindergarten room and hallway. In February, Denton Fire Marshal Rick Jones revealed the fire was intentionally set and that a criminal investigation would be pursued.

By May, Jones named Luther Joe Romines, a maintenance man who lived in an apartment at the school, as a person of interest in the fire.

School officials announced plans to establish a building committee to discuss rebuilding the school in July.

 

Randy Travis arrested

Country star Randy Travis, a resident of Tioga, spent time in the Denton County Jail in February after Sanger police arrested him on a charge of public intoxication.

According to Sanger police, an officer on patrol noticed a suspicious vehicle parked in the First Baptist Church parking lot on Fifth Street. He found Travis behind the wheel of the 1998 Pontiac, smelling strongly of alcohol and with a wine bottle in the passenger seat, according to the police report.

The officer reported that Travis spoke with slurred speech and stumbled when he got out of the car. Travis, 53, was brought to the county jail and later released on a Class C misdemeanor citation.

In August, Travis was arrested again, this time in Pilot Point.

Denton County sheriff’s spokesman Tom Reedy said county dispatchers received word of a naked man in his 50s demanding cigarettes in a convenience store and then leaving in a black sports car. Shortly afterward, dispatchers received a report of a black sports car being driven recklessly northbound toward Tioga.

Travis was arrested after he wrecked his car on FM922 and was found naked on the roadway nearby. Travis posted his own bail of $21,500.

 

Cowboy church fire

A three-alarm fire May 5 heavily damaged the main building at Denton County Cowboy Church on Robinson Road in Ponder.

Jim Terry, a senior deputy with the Denton County Fire Marshal’s Office, called the church’s main building a “total loss.”

Terry said eight departments responded to the May 5 fire. Officials who arrived at the scene saw some flames on the building’s northwest corner and found heavy smoke engulfing the church’s interior. It took nearly two hours to extinguish the blaze and suppress the smoke, Terry said.

Brandon Henderson, pastor of the three-year-old church, said he was in disbelief to learn the church was on fire but was relieved no one was injured. Henderson said investigators told him the blaze apparently started as an electrical fire in the kitchen.

 

Ex-trustee indicted

Former Argyle school board member Wendee Long turned herself in to authorities July 2 in connection with two felony charges after she allegedly recorded a video in a girls locker room in February. Long posted $25,000 bail and was released.

A Denton County grand jury indicted Long on June 28 on charges of improper photography or visual recording, and unlawful interception, use or disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications, according to Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney.

Beck said at the time that if convicted of the improper visual recording charge, Long could face 180 days to two years in a state jail and up to a $10,000 fine. The second-degree charge of unlawful interception, Beck said, is under the same statute as wiretapping and carries a punishment of two to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

At the base of the case is a video allegedly recorded in the visitors’ locker room at an Argyle-Sanger high school girls basketball game Feb. 7.

 

Local musician shot

Denton musician Eric Keyes was hospitalized in July after being shot in the chest by a Sanger resident who police say held a grudge against him. Ryan McGuire was charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.

According to Denton police, Keyes was walking his dog July 2 when McGuire, who police say had already visited Keyes and was still standing on his porch, opened fire with a handgun.

The bullet entered Keyes’ right chest, passed through without harming vital organs, exited his left chest and lodged in his left arm, police said.

Police said McGuire is related to a woman who accused Keyes of sexual assault in 2004. Keyes was arrested on the sexual assault charge, but a grand jury chose to not indict him.

 

5 accused of bilking UNT

A grand jury indicted five former University of North Texas College of Information employees, including the college’s budget officer, on charges that they conspired to bilk more than $75,000 from the university.

The grand jury indicted Tisha Slagle, John Pipes, Lindsey Collings and Theresa Jackson on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. Diane Green was indicted on a theft charge, UNT spokeswoman Kelley Reese said in September.

According to Reese, $75,408 was taken from the UNT payroll for work that was not performed between fall 2009 and summer 2011.

The charges for the five employees came nearly a year after UNT police first received an incident report. Engaging in organized criminal activity is a first-degree felony with a possible sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison.

Dogs dumped in county

Nearly 100 purebred dogs were dumped in Denton County within a 24-hour period in October.

On Oct. 8, 50 Maltese were dumped near U.S. Highway 377 and Stonecrest Road. The next day, at least 40 Cavalier King Charles spaniels were abandoned on Lois Road near Sanger.

Authorities suspected the animals came from a puppy mill, since a state law now requires dog breeders with 11 or more animals to be licensed and inspected.

Most of the dogs were dirty and with matted coats, Sheriff’s Sgt. Roger Griggs said. It appeared the dogs had been cramped in cages with their own feces.

The news received attention nationally as volunteers rushed to help the Humane Society of Flower Mound and the Humane Society of North Texas in Fort Worth handle the sudden influx of animals in need of special care. Shelters reported an overwhelming response to adopt one of the abandoned pups.

 

Deputy shoots motorist

A Denton County sheriff’s deputy shot a driver during a traffic stop Oct. 15 after the man rammed the deputy’s vehicle west of Krum.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Tom Reedy said two people were in the Honda Accord on FM1173 near Plainview Road when the officer made the stop at about 4:20 p.m. The Accord pulled into a driveway and the deputy pulled in behind it; then, the driver and passenger quickly changed seats, officials said.

The new driver “threw the vehicle into reverse and slammed into his [the deputy’s] vehicle,” Reedy said.

He said the deputy was not injured and fired at the driver twice. The driver, identified as Roberto Carlos Hernandez, 21, died at a Denton hospital at about 9:30 p.m., Reedy said. The original driver of the vehicle was later identified as Michael Chadwick Fry.

The deputy, whose name was not released and had been with the sheriff’s office for 11 years, was put on paid administrative leave until Texas Rangers completed their investigation of the incident.

 

Providence Village deaths

Sheriff’s deputies responding to a welfare concern Nov. 5 discovered the bodies of Nelson Rafael Rodriguez-Doran, 29, and Cristina Maria Allen, 27, in a home on Lakeview Drive in Providence Village. Investigators believe Rodriguez-Doran shot Allen with a semiautomatic pistol before shooting himself.

Allen was the mother of a 10-year-old boy, who was not present at the time of the shootings, officials said. Friends and neighbors in Providence Village organized a dinner fundraiser earlier this month to raise money to help the boy stay with his grandmother in the neighborhood.

 

Daniel Gary trial

Daniel Scott Gary, 35, was found guilty Dec. 13 in the 2011 shooting death of his father, William “Carl” Gary, 65. The elder Gary was killed with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun on family-owned property in Bolivar, in northwest Denton County, in April 2011.

Prosecutors Michael Graves and Matt Shovlin and court-appointed defense attorney Bruce Isaacks had presented the jury with two days of testimony.

A video interview played before the court by former Texas Ranger Tracy Murphree showed jurors Daniel Gary admitting to shooting his father but said it was not intentional. Character witnesses for the defense testified Gary had been “mentally and physically abused” by his father his whole life.

After hours of deliberation, the jury ruled Gary was guilty of murder and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Isaacks, on behalf of his client, said he still felt this was a manslaughter case. “He was emotionally and physically abused by his father his entire life,” Isaacks said after the trial.

Gary’s trial was held before Judge Margaret Barnes in 367th District Court.

 

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is mgray@dentonrc.com.


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