• March 7, 2021

1983: Homicide capital of America - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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1983: Homicide capital of America

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Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 6:00 am

Drought: Ranchers watched the skies in vain for rain in the spring and summer as a drought began to kill grasslands and force cattlemen to sell livestock. In November, President Reagan signed a dairy price support bill that included a provision that made up to 160 million bushels of government-owned corn available to drought-stricken ranchers.

"Murder Capital": The National Coalition to Ban Handguns, an anti-handgun group, brands Odessa the "homicide capital of America," based on its 1982 murder rate of 29.8 per 100,000 residents. Odessa edged Miami, which had 29.7 murders per 100,000 residents. On May 17 one of the city's most sensational murder stories was wrapped up with a capital murder conviction and death sentence handed down to Odessa oilfield worker Michael Eugene Sharp. Sharp was convicted of killing a Kermit woman and her daughter.

TV crew killed: Eight people, including six KOSA-TV employees, were killed in the crash of their private plane near Midland Airport on Nov. 26. The victims were assistant news director Gary Hopper, production assistant Bruce Dyer, pilot Keith Elkin and Hopper's brother-in-law, Jay Alvin Price, all of Midland; and sports director Jeff Shull, chief engineer Bob Stephens, assistant engineer Ed Monette, and production assistant Brent Roach, all of Odessa. The men had been covering high school football playoff games in Wichita Falls and Fort Worth.

Pipeline explodes: On March 15 a pipeline explosion 10 miles west of Odessa killed six people, seriously burned three others and sent flames billowing 600 feet into the sky. Santiago Gutierrez and Manuel Chavez were digging fence postholes several feet from their mobile homes when they accidentally punctured the high pressure propane line running under the south boundary of the lot near Chaparral and Meadowcrest drives. The blast and fire also killed the wife and three children of Gutierrez, who died from his burns the next day at Lubbock General Hospital.

Acquittals: In December, an Ector County grand jury acquitted City Manager John Harrison and Fiscal Services Director Frank Muser three months after they were arrested by police. Harrison was charged with official misconduct and Muser with official oppression, both Class A misdemeanors. But the grand jury ruled that no crime had been committed. The arrests were in response to complaints filed by Municipal Court Administrator John Minor, who alleged the two men violated city codes by ordering that the warrant division be incorporated into the Police Department. Minor was terminated on Sept. 13, after which he sued the city for retaliation.


    >>On Oct. 23, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon is destroyed by a car bomb, killing 241 servicemen. Earlier, on April 18, terrorists blew up the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans.

    >>On Oct. 25 U.S. troops invade the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, ostensibly in response to a coup led by pro-Cuban Marxists.

    >>Barney Clark, the first person to receive a permanent artificial heart, dies on March 23, 112 days after the surgery.

    >>A federal holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King was approved in a bill signed in November by President Reagan.

    >>Notable deaths in 1983 included lyricist Ira Gershwin (Aug. 17), trumpet player Harry James (Jul 6), actress Gloria Swanson (April 4) and playwright Tennessee Williams (Feb. 25).

>>Super Bowl XVII goes into the books with the Redskins defeating the Dolphins 27-17.

>>Michael Jackson moonwalks and thrills us all.

>>Watch out for that car! Stephen King releases “Christine.”

>>A little blonde thing debuts with a self-titled album, “Madonna.”

>>Vanessa Williams becomes the first African Amercan Miss America. She resigned after nude photos of her became public.

>>Mike Rozier wins the Heisman.

>>Say hello to my little friends. “Scarface” is released.

    Information is drawn from news accounts, archives and other historical records.

Odessa, TX

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