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Year in review: Deaths, fires, explosions mark lethal year

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Denton County this year not only saw its deadliest holiday weekend in history, but a series of deadly and damaging explosions and fires.

Here is a rundown of the top crime and fire reports of the year.


Deadliest days in history

Denton County marked what is apparently its deadliest period in history during the Labor Day weekend this year.

Over a four-day period from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, there were drownings at Lewisville Lake, vehicle accidents and two homicides among a total of eight cases, according to Troy Taylor, the county’s chief death investigator.

“This was by far the deadliest and busiest time period in the 10 years I have been over this office,” he said. “To my knowledge, Labor Day weekend was not only the busiest holiday weekend but the busiest time ever in the county’s history.”


High school football player killed

The same holiday weekend in Montague County, Guyer High School student and football player Nathan Maki, 18, was accidentally shot in the head with a rifle by his friend Michael Bryce Underwood, according to Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham.

The pair were on a camping trip on Underwood’s family-owned property in the county, Cunningham said.

The group of friends — including two 18-year-old women — were awaiting the opening of dove-hunting season and were drinking on the 109-acre property situated in the 5900 block of Well Service Road when the gun went off, reports state. Maki was pronounced dead at Bowie Memorial Hospital.

Underwood, 17, was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of manslaughter on Oct. 14 in connection with the shooting death of Maki. The trial is pending.


Gas line explosion leaves one dead

A January gas line explosion in Lewisville demolished a duplex and left one man dead and two firefighters injured.

Scott Deahl, 55, died two days afterward from injuries he sustained in the explosion on Jan. 11 in the 500 block of East Main Street.

Lewisville Assistant Fire Chief Brian Freed said a gas leak reported by construction crews prompted Atmos Energy employees to start working on the line.

“At 12:34 p.m. — about two and a half hours after the initial report — the house adjacent from the line exploded,” Freed said. “The explosion is believed to have occurred inside the home.”

Officials on the scene said there was no warning, just an immediate explosion inside the home where Deahl was residing.

The injured firefighters have since recovered.


Former mayor loses prized possessions in fire

A blaze in April left former Dish Mayor L.E. Clark without some prized possessions.

The early morning blaze scorched a hangar at Clark Airfield Airport. The hangar is owned by Clark, who founded the town now known as Dish and formerly named Clark.

Clark, an antique car collector, lost two of his prized cars in the fire — a 1926 Model T sedan and a 1929 Model A. The fire was so hot the vehicles’ headlights melted.

Clark didn’t have a damage estimate but said the cost was very high.

Clark, who lives next door to the hangar, called 911 and reported the fire at approximately 4 a.m. April 8.

“It was a big fire and very hot,” he said. “I had a lot of fuel in the hangar and it just kept exploding over and over.”

Justin, Ponder, Krum and Denton fire departments responded to the blaze at the airport.

The fire damaged an adjacent hangar, causing minimal damage, according to county officials.


More than 200 animals seized from property

More than 200 dogs were seized in August by the Denton County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Humane Society of North Texas at a property in the 1600 block of Celina Road.

Sheriff Will Travis said his office received a complaint about the treatment of the animals — mostly large-breed dogs of various ages — and shortly after, a search warrant was obtained.

Shelly Meeks, assistant shelter manager for the Humane Society, described the conditions as horrifying, with urine and feces virtually everywhere on the property.

Four cats were also seized.

Food had been set out for the animals, but investigators said many didn’t have any water. Some of the dogs were kept in tin-roof buildings where temperatures reached 140 degrees, officials said.

Animal Guardians of America, the shelter from which the animals were seized, relinquished all rights in lieu of paying any fines, officials said.

The Humane Society hosted an adoption weekend to help the animals find new homes.


Murder-suicide in Denton

Also during the Labor Day holiday, a Denton couple were found dead in a residence in the 1800 block of Locksley Lane in what was apparently a murder-suicide, according to police.

Denton police discovered the bodies of Anne Huffhines, 55, and Anthony Farish, 46, outside their residence at about 9 p.m. Aug. 30, after responding to a report of a shooting.

Officer Ryan Grelle, spokesman for the department, said Huffhines was found in the bed of a pickup and Farish was found lying on the driveway at the residence.

“They both had wounds to the head that was caused by a pistol,” Grelle said.

Police say they believe Farish was the shooter and ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.


Homicide in Savannah Estates

In another death over the Labor Day holiday, a resident was found murdered in her home in Savannah Estates, a community-style development located off U.S. Highway 380, according to sheriff’s reports.

Artegus Konyale Madden, 34, was found dead at her home on Hayden Lane after 5 p.m. Sept. 1, according to Denton County sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Kish. She appeared to have been killed late Aug. 30 or early Aug. 31.

Madden was transgendered and lived her life as a woman, Kish said.

She died from a gunshot wound to the neck, but also suffered severe blunt-force trauma, officials said.

The case is still under investigation, officials said.


Krum student charged with arson

A former Krum High School quarterback was arrested in connection with lighting a dog on fire and burning down a school board member’s home Oct. 2 right outside Krum city limits, sheriff’s officials said.

William “Caz” Wojciak, 18, was arrested by Denton County sheriff’s deputies on a warrant charging him with burglary of habitation with other felonies (arson) intended.

Investigators say they believe the house fire was intentionally set, killing the family dog, cat and a chinchilla.

Donna Hooper, a Krum school board member and professor at North Central Texas College, said her family had lived in the home for 16 years.

On Dec. 19, a Denton County grand jury indicted Wojciak on arson, cruelty to non-livestock animals and burglary of a habitation charges.


Halloween stabbing death leads to arrest

A Ponder man was found dead in his home after being stabbed to death on Halloween.

Joshua W. Mabrey, 36, was found dead that morning inside a home in the 3100 block of Webb Road by sheriff’s deputies responding to a welfare call.

A Denton man, Garrett Madison Buelow, 28, was arrested later that day in connection with the stabbing.

Troy Taylor, chief death investigator for Denton County, said Mabrey died after he was stabbed in the lower abdomen at least once.

Buelow has been charged with murder and is currently in Denton County Jail on a $150,000 bond awaiting trial.


Man turns self in after indictment

A Ponder man turned himself in to authorities in March after grand jury indictments linked him to the attempted murder of his wife over the course of several years.

John Franklin Howard, 53, an accountant based in Carrollton, turned himself in on eight charges. He was charged with six counts of solicitation of murder, one count of attempted capital murder and one count of conspiracy to commit capital murder, according to the Denton County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators with the Carrollton Police Department said Howard is accused of plotting for years to kill his wife, Nancy Ann Howard.

In August 2012, Carrollton officers were dispatched to the 1500 block of Bluebonnet Way after someone shot Nancy Howard in the face in her garage, according to an arrest affidavit.

John Howard is awaiting trial. Nancy Howard recovered from the shooting.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.