Part Two – 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 crime behind the Pine Curtain.

In first half of 2018, meth and the resolution of several criminal cases took center stage. The second half of the year saw a continued spike in meth arrests, two murder trials come to conclusion and a general uptick in violent actions.

The uptick in violence began in June when a man was forced to defend himself with a machete while being attacked with flower pots.

Xavier W. Mitchell Grogan-Walker, 27, was taken into custody and charged with: two counts of criminal trespassing (Class B misdemeanor); burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit another felony (first degree felony); assault causing bodily injury to a family member or member of a household (Class A misdemeanor); and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (second degree felony).

The charges stemmed from Grogan-Walker’s alleged actions when he barged into a residence located at 420 Anthony St. in Grapeland without the resident’s permission and assaulted her both physically as well as verbally.

Towards the end of the month, Angela Michelle Mettlen, 31, and John Paul Kennedy, 36, were charged with possession of a controlled substance, penalty group one, in an amount greater than four grams but less than 200 grams and possession of a controlled substance, penalty group three, less than 28 grams.

Mettlen and Kennedy were stopped in the middle of the intersection of CR 1840 and FM 2423 when Houston County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputies stopped to assist the pair.

While speaking with the two, deputies observed they were very nervous and failed to obey commends. Consent to search the two vehicles was obtained and during the search, Xanax and methamphetamines were found.

If you thought the meth problem in East Texas might be an exaggeration, the list of Houston County indictments for the month of June cleared up any misconceptions floating around the county.

On Wednesday, June 13, Houston County District Attorney Donna Gordon Kaspar and Assistant District Attorney Roger L. White met with the Houston County Jury.

The meeting resulted in 18 people being indicted, without pending capias included, according to the DA’s office. One person was indicted twice for the same crime, but on different dates of occurrence.

Of the 18 people indicted: 13 were for drug related offenses; two were for taking wildlife resources without the landowners consent; two were for driving while intoxicated; one was for forgery; and one was for sexual assault of child.

Carrying this one step further, the DA reported 11 of the 13 drug related offenses involved the possession or distribution of methamphetamine.

As the month of July got underway, the city of Crockett was gripped by a manhunt after two people were stabbed. The suspect was identified as 32-year-old Maurice O. Peterson. Peterson was arrested two days later after he turned himself in.

The month of July also saw the first of two murder trials in Houston County commence. Leonard Intelisano stood accused – along with Brandon Hill – in the murder of Frank Thomas on Jan. 13, 2016.

More than three hundred prospective jurors were summoned to the Houston County Courthouse on Monday, July 9 for possible jury selection. The trial was held in the 349th District Court with Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding. The State was represented by Houston County District Attorney Donna Gordon Kaspar while Intelisano was represented by Crockett-based attorney William R. (Bill) Pemberton.

The case concluded on Thursday, July 19 as the jury deliberated just over an hour and 20 minutes before handing down a verdict of guilty. Intelisano was sentenced to 61 years of confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutions Division, along with a fine of $10,000.

As the month of July turned into August, a Trinity woman hit the drug possession bust trifecta after the vehicle she was traveling in was pulled over for not displaying a front license plate.

Peggy Moseley Groze, 58, was arrested and charged with: possession of a controlled substance, penalty group one; possession of a controlled substance, penalty group two; and possession of a controlled substance, penalty group three. She was also arrested and charged with possession of a dangerous drug as well as a warrant out of Walker County for theft of property.

August also saw the Texas Department of Banking issuing a new Consent Order against Diane R. Parker, the former director and vice-president of Elkhart State Bank.

According to an Aug. 9 press release Texas Banking Commissioner Charles G. Cooper “… determined that Parker caused losses to the Bank by her activities, and that those activities constitute violations of Texas Finance Code Title 3, Subtitle A.”

“The Commissioner also determined,” the media release continued, “that as a result of those violations, Parker exposed the Bank and its depositors, creditors, and shareholders to harm. The Commissioner found that Parker’s actions support the issuance of an order requiring payment of a penalty in the amount of $75,000.”

Parker had previously been issued a Consent Removal Order on Aug. 28, 2014 which removed her “… as director and vice-president and from any other employment by The Elkhart State Bank, Elkhart, Texas and as director and vice-president of Elkhart Bancorporation, Inc.”

An ongoing arson investigation was also launched in the month of August concerning several structure fires in the city of Crockett. While evidence has been collected and persons of interest have been questioned, no arrests have been made as of yet.

As the summer months dragged on, the heat apparently got to 44-year-old Ella Marie Broussard as an incident of domestic violence very nearly turned deadly when a Houston County woman shot her boyfriend on Saturday, Aug. 25. She was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after she shot her boyfriend.

The boyfriend, 52-year-old Bryan Swoveland, was shot on Aug, 25 and then arrested on Aug. 27 on one count of injury to a child, a disabled person or the elderly. His arrest stemmed from an incident on Aug. 25 where Swoveland was accused of assaulting an elderly male subject.

The month of September did not get off to a good start as a Houston man has been arrested and charged with murder following an incident during the early morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 2.

According to an affidavit of probable cause Houston County Sheriff’s office deputies were dispatched to a deer camp off of County Road 2175, in reference to a reported shooting.

CR 2175 is located between Latexo and Grapeland, west of US Highway 2817.

When the deputies arrived at the location, 51-year-old Edward Perez – also from Houston – was found dead at the scene, from apparent gunshot wounds.

As the investigation began, “Joe Fernandez (63) informed law enforcement that he had shot the decedent with his .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, which was recovered at the scene,” the probable cause document stated.

Shortly afterwards, Houston County inmate 55-year-old Booby Eugene Wood escaped from custody on Sept. 3. Wood was finally captured in Trinity County after five days on the run.

While arrests appeared to taper off in the late summer/early fall, meth reared its head again in late September when Jody Lee Baker, 44, and Mary Karin Low, 32, both from Crockett, were arrested and charged with first degree felonious possession of methamphetamine, in an amount over 400 grams.

A third person connected to Baker and Low was later arrested in conjunction with the incident. James Watson, 40, from Grapeland – was taken into custody on Friday, Sept. 21 and charged with possession of a controlled substance, penalty group one and possession of a controlled substance, penalty group three.

As September rolled into October, a second manhunt came about as Johns Paul Kennedy eluded law enforcement on a parole violation until his apprehension on Oct. 5.

On Tuesday, Oct. 16 the murder trial of 34-year-old Brandon Hill began with jury selection and opening statements from the prosecution and the defense. Hill stood accused in the murder of Houston County resident Frank Thomas on Jan. 13, 2016 and is alleged to have been one of two men involved in the homicide.

The other man is 75-year-old Leonard Intelisano who was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 61 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison by a Houston County jury earlier this year.

The trial is being held in the 349th District Court with Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding. Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar is representing the state while Hill is represented by Palestine-based attorney Stanley A. Sokolowski.

After just over a week, Hill was found not guilty of murder but was convicted on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced on Thursday, Oct. 25 to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) – Institutional Division and a fine of $10,000 by a jury in the 349th District Court of Anderson and Houston Counties.

Meth continued to be an issue in Houston County as Jerry Daniel Watkins, 38, was charged with the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, the possession of a controlled substance and bringing a prohibited substance into a correctional facility after he was stopped for speeding.

Watkins was busted when he attempted to bring a camera bag into the Houston County Jail. The bag was unzipped by jailers and the contents found in the pouch included: a large baggie of meth, weighed at 12.2 grams; several pills; numerous small, clear empty baggies and a set of black scales.

As the month of November drew to a close, Stephen Eric Delance, 32, was arrested and charged with robbery after he stole several items from the Family Dollar Store in Kennard and then hit the manager of the store with his truck as he was fleeing the scene.

As the year drew to a close, Crockett Police Chief David “Buddy” Cross announced his retirement and a new manhunt began for 25-year-old Teresa Ilean Hague.

Hague was eventually determined to be safe and secure in another state, but her ex-boyfriend, 37-year-old Gary DeWayne Whitney, wound up getting arrested and charged with several crimes.

On Dec. 21, Whitney was charged with three felonies: fraudulent use or possession of identifying information (state jail felony); unauthorized use of food stamps, alteration or transfer in an amount greater than $200 (a third degree felony); and assault of a family member or member of a household by impeding breath or circulation (a third degree felony.)

And thus we come to the end of our 2018 crime year-in-review. It was a busy year for law enforcement in the area and if the first few two weeks of January are any indication, the men and women in blue will have a busy 2019. Stay safe!

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