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Year in Review: Grim firsts, notable ongoing cases round out top crime stories of 2017

Grim firsts for county police departments, hazy homicide-suicides and ongoing high-profile cases were the most impactful crime stories of 2017. 

Denton police officials say there was only one homicide in the city in 2017, but local investigators dealt with a string of sexual assaults and robberies. Other county departments experienced their share of notable crimes as well. 

Jan. 17: Little Elm officer shot and killed during standoff 

Detective Jerry Walker was laid to rest on Jan. 24 after he became the first Little Elm police officer shot and killed in the line of duty. 

The  48-year-old father of four had been with the department since 1998. Rudy Garcia was accused of shooting Walker on Jan. 17 during a roughly six-hour standoff at a home in the 1400 block of Turtle Cove Drive, near Lakeside Middle School. 

Walker was with Little Elm police officers who responded to a report of a man with a long gun in a residential neighborhood. Garcia, who was shooting from a barricaded position in the home, was fatally shot in the exchange of gunfire. 

March 4: Elderly man kills wife, self to keep them out of nursing home, affidavit says  

Joe Bain told police dispatchers he shot and killed his 82-year-old wife, Ruth, before turning the gun on himself at their south Denton home in the 200 block of Royal Oaks Place.

During the call, the 79-year-old said "there was no way [we are] going to a nursing home," according to a search warrant affidavit. Denton police found a folder with information explaining how to take care of the couple's affairs inside the home. They also found a black revolver laying near Joe Bain, who died later at Medical City Denton. 

Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer said it's the only homicide in the city in 2017. 

March 10: Denton police investigate years-long embezzlement at Good Samaritan Society

The suspect accused of stealing about $345,000 from Good Samaritan Society-Denton Village remained at large on Friday evening. But felony theft charges were filed last week by the Denton County District Attorney's Office. 

The suspect's name won't be released until an arrest is made, according to officials at the DA's office. The former Good Sam employee is facing a first-degree felony charge of theft of more than $300,000 from the nonprofit. 

Denton police were notified of mishandled funds at the 27-acre senior care campus on March 10. Detectives have since been able to prove through account records the person embezzled at least $345,303 in four years, police said. 

March 16: Long-running booster club theft case in Ponder ends in arrest 

Bronwyn Wright, Denton County Jail mugCourtesy photo
Bronwyn Wright, Denton County Jail mug
Courtesy photo

Ponder police Detective Toby Crow finally handcuffed a woman accused of stealing about $21,000 from the Ponder Fine Arts Booster Club between August 2014 and December 2015. 

Bronwyn Lenore Wright, the club's 44-year-old former president, was taken to Denton County Jail on March 16 on a charge of theft of property between $20,000 and $100,000, which is a third-degree felony. Crow had been investigating the case since January 2016. 

Wright has an announcement hearing scheduled for Jan. 18 in Judge Bruce McFarling's 362nd Judicial District Court. 

June 2: Earl Thompson Jr. arrested in connection with multiple sexual assaults 

Earl Leroy Thompson Jr.Courtesy photo
Earl Leroy Thompson Jr.
Courtesy photo

Earl Leroy Thompson Jr. is awaiting a February jury trial in connection with multiple sexual assaults and attempted sexual assaults at various apartments around the University of North Texas campus and Quakertown Park. 

Thompson, a former custodian at UNT, was accused of leaving work during his night shift and stalking women in their apartments in April and May. 

The 32-year-old was arrested June 2 on two counts of attempted burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony and three counts of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony. His trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 5 in Judge Brody Shanklin's 211th District Court. 

June 17: Sanger man stabs grandparents to death before suicide 

A mental illness likely led to Ryan McGraw's double homicide-suicide at a Sanger home in June, family members said at the time. 

McGraw is accused of stabbing his grandparents — 66-year-old Gladys Greeney and 71-year-old Douglas Greeney — to death in their home in the 2500 block of Wichita Trail. 

Police said a family member called police when she walked into the home to find McGraw and his grandparents dead with multiple stab wounds. Neighbors said the "quiet" elderly couple moved into the home about eight months before the incident. 

Ryan McGraw's mother, Krystie McGraw, said he was diagnosed with a severe form of bipolar disorder when he was 19. 

Aug. 1: Eric Johnson sentenced to 44 years for killing 20-year-old UNT student 

Eric Johnson, right, stands and listens Monday as the judge reads the jury's verdict that Johnson had been found guilty in the murder of 20-year-old University of North Texas student Sara Mutschlechner on New Year's Day 2016. Monday, July, 31, 2017, Denton County Courts Building in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC ORG XMIT: txderDRC
Eric Johnson, right, stands and listens Monday as the judge reads the jury's verdict that Johnson had been found guilty in the murder of 20-year-old University of North Texas student Sara Mutschlechner on New Year's Day 2016. Monday, July, 31, 2017, Denton County Courts Building in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC ORG XMIT: txder
DRC

A jury sentenced Eric Johnson to 44 years in prison for the murder of 20-year-old University of North Texas student Sara Mutschlechner on New Year's Day 2016.

The former U.S. Marine admitted to firing two shots from a handgun at a four-door sedan that Mutschlechner was driving on North Elm Street near University Drive about 2 a.m. Jan. 1, 2016. People in both vehicles got into a heated exchange prior to shots ringing out, according to testimony, and Mutschlechner was shot in the head.

The trial was emotional for the Mutschlechner family, including the mother Gloria, who said "there's no elixir for our pain" during testimony.  

Nov. 6: Denton police arrest alleged serial robber 

Xavier Perkins, 28, sits down for an interview at the Denton City Jail.

Perkins has been charged with two counts of robbery, and police said further charges are pending. 

Perkins, who had recently been living in various hotels in the city, has been taken to Denton City Jail. , Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRCDRC
Xavier Perkins, 28, sits down for an interview at the Denton City Jail. Perkins has been charged with two counts of robbery, and police said further charges are pending. Perkins, who had recently been living in various hotels in the city, has been taken to Denton City Jail. , Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC
DRC

Xavier Perkins has been indicted on 10 counts of robbery in connection with a string of holdups at convenience stores and hotels in Denton from Sept. 5 to Nov. 6.

In a jailhouse interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle, Perkins attributed his actions to his inability to find work. He said he couldn't provide for his wife and 8-year-old son. 

Perkins is accused of robbing convenience stores and hotels with what police believe to be an airsoft gun, which fires only plastic pellets. Perkins said he removed the orange tip of the gun to make it seem more realistic. In all the robberies, Perkins' head was wrapped in pieces of a T-shirt that had been cut in half, police said.

Nov. 19: UNT student found shot dead in Corinth 

Corinth police still are looking for a suspect in the city's first reported homicide since 2001. 

Amanda Clairmont ORG XMIT: glxmld6auoZTOP8eXZtiFacebook
Amanda Clairmont ORG XMIT: glxmld6auoZTOP8eXZti
Facebook

Amanda Clairmont, a 21-year-old University of North Texas student, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in a car parked in a vacant lot in the 5700 block of South Interstate 35E. 

A witness and a family member said she was with at least one person near Fry Street the previous night. A resident who lives near the vacant parking lot said they heard four gunshots between midnight and 1 a.m. 

Dec. 14:  William Reece indicted on capital murder charge in Kelli Cox slaying

About 20 years after the disappearance of  20-year-old University of North Texas student Kelli Cox, a Brazoria County grand jury indicted William Reece in connection with her 1997 kidnapping and killing. 

Reece is facing a charge of capital murder with bail set at $3 million, according to the indictment. He has now been charged in the death of two women, including Cox, and two girls who all disappeared within a four-month span in 1997.

Cox disappeared from Denton on July 15, 1997, after a tour of the Denton City Jail with her criminology class. That day, she left her parents' home, dropped off her daughter at a baby sitter's and eventually joined her class at the Denton Police Department. She called her boyfriend from a nearby payphone after the jail tour, saying she couldn't get back into her car. That was the last anyone heard from her.

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.