Part One – Crime

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

 EAST TEXAS – The year 2018 brought many joyous, new and surprising things to the East Texas area but one thing that didn’t change last year was the crime behind the Pine Curtain.

Methamphetamine continued to ravage the area as its use often resulted in other criminal activities and it began on New Year’s Eve 2017 when a couple was arrested for meth possession after an argument.

The year of 2018 also saw many cases held over from the previous year result in arrests. In mid-January, 62-year-old Gary Lee Wood and 30-year-old Jessica Arredonda-Cepeda were booked into custody for their alleged roles in the burglaries of the Lake Side Food Mart in Ratcliff, the Latexo Hotspot, burglaries in Angelina, Leon and Trinity Counties, a store in Hudson and the Brookshire Brothers in Apple Springs.

As the month of February got underway, a Palestine teacher identified as, 32-year-old Samantha Woolverton was taken into custody at her home. She was charged with an improper relationship between educator and student, a second-degree felony. Her case is still winding its way through the judicial system.

On Valentine’s Day, an Anderson County jury handed down a 99-year sentence to habitual offender Darryl Wayne Lewis, 44.

According to Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell, “Darryl Wayne Lewis of Palestine was found guilty of Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver – Penalty Group one – one to four grams on Feb. 14, 2018 by an Anderson County Jury.  On Feb. 15, 2018, he was sentenced by the same jury to 99 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”

While meth led the way, crack cocaine also made a comeback of sorts. Following two arrests in January, a DPS traffic stop resulted in the arrest of Tonya Denise Renner, 47, who was in possession of more than four grams of crack.

Another 2017 case was cleared in February 2018 when   Keyshaun DeAngelo Chatman along with Javiounce Sha’mhadd Johnson – both 17 – were booked into custody on Thursday, Feb. 22. They were charged with aggravated robbery as well as theft of a firearm. Both men are from Crockett and are considered as adults.

The theft occurred in a graveyard and offered up one of the better quotes of the year. During the robbery, Johnson raised the Ruger 9mm handgun, pointed it at (the victim) and stated, “You just been robbed b***h.”

Meth continued to be a problem for the area in March as James Dennis Malnar, 34, was arrested on Saturday, March 10 and charged with the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance. Malnar was busted by Game Warden Zak Benge who discovered over a quarter ounce of meth in Malnar’s possession while doing a water safety inspection.

Also in March, a video surfaced which showed a disabled man being assaulted by a female named Justine.

An affidavit of probable cause filed on the matter indicated a complainant came by the Crockett Police Department “… to report that her disabled brother was assaulted by a female known as Justine (legally identified as Justin Nauls.)”

The affidavit indicated the complainant showed Crockett Police Detective Leea Price “… a Facebook video that shows Justin – aka Justine – hitting (the victim) with a metal cane in the head and arms. (The victim) attempts to block the hits by putting his hands up to protect himself but is not able to, due to the severity of the attack.”

Nauls was charged with a third degree felony.

As the month of March continued, a 27-year-old case was cleared by the Houston County Sheriff’s Office when William Earl Weedman, Jr., a 48-year-old convicted felon – previously residing in the Ft. Bend County Jail – was charged with manslaughter for his actions in the death of Rusty Redman on Sept. 13, 1990.

HCSO Investigator Jerry Kaelin began working the case in late February of last year after new information surfaced in the Redman investigation.

Another 2017 case was cleared in March of 2018 after Donald Ray McAfee who was arrested for crimes he committed in July of 2017. He was charged with two first degree felonies and two Class A misdemeanors after he allegedly broke into his former girlfriend’s residence and assaulted her.

April of 2018 started off with a bang as HCSO deputies arrested Daniel Groot, 28 from Elysian Fields, and 40-year-old Richard Hayslett, from Del Rio, on Easter Sunday. They were both charged with the manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, penalty group one, after over an ounce of meth was found in their possession.

A wound was ripped open in mid-April when it was learned William George Davis, 34, a Tyler nurse was arrested and charged with murder. According to an arrest affidavit, one of his alleged victims is thought to be former Grapeland High School Band Director Perry Frank who died following a heart procedure during the summer of 2017.  Davis is still confined to the Smith County Jail while the investigation into several murders is continuing.

Crack and powder cocaine were back in the news when three Lufkin men were stopped by the Crockett Police on a routine traffic stop. A search of their vehicle yielded over 13 ounces of cocaine and over eight ounces of crack.  Twenty-six year-old Rondarius Smith, Derek Williams, 30 and Tori Wise, 23 were all arrested and charged with:  Possession of marijuana, less than two ounces; possession of a controlled substance – penalty group one – greater than or equal to four grams but less than 200 grams; theft of a firearm; and unlawfully carrying a weapon.

Yet another cold case was seemingly closed as an indictment on an 18-year-old murder was handed down by a Houston County Grand Jury on May 15. Curtis Allen Shoemake was indicted for the murder of his ex-wife Dina Shoemake, who disappeared in 2000. The case is still in the pre-trial stages.

As the month of June began, several suspicious fires came in the Cottonwood area of Crockett came under investigation and have been ruled as probable arsons. The fires are still under investigation as of this article but so far, despite rewards being offered, no arrests have been made.

A third suspect in a string of 2017 burglaries was apprehended in early June as 42-year-old Clifton Wiley Burns was booked into custody for his alleged role in the burglaries of the Lake Side Food Mart in Ratcliff and the Latexo Hotspot. He is also a suspect in several other East Texas burglaries.

For part two of the year in crime, please check back online or see the Jan. 13 edition of The Messenger.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.