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2007: Odessa’s broken heart - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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2007: Odessa’s broken heart

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Posted: Friday, September 25, 2015 8:45 am

Tragedy is the only word to describe 2007 in Odessa.

No event was more shocking than what occurred on Sept. 8, 2007, when three Odessa police officers were shot in the backyard of a west Odessa home.

OPD corporals Arlie Jones Jr. and Scott Gardner were killed while responding to an incomplete 9-1-1 call in the 2900 block of Ventura Avenue. Cpl. Abel Marquez died five days later at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

Larry Neil White, the man charged with the shootings, faced three counts of capital murder but would eventually die of cancer before ever going to trial. White was in a drunken rage when his wife called 9-1-1 for help.

The community rallied around the families of the slain officers, collecting funds for widows and children. Funerals were a sea of people, and Odessans lined the streets as the funeral processions headed for funerals attended by thousands.

The wars hit home: A roadside bomb killed Army Staff Sgt. Kristopher Allan Higdon, 25, in May in Iraq. It was Higdon’s second tour of duty there, and he was the first Permian High School graduate to die while serving in Iraq. Friends and family remembered a good-looking, clean-cut, reliable, easy-going man devoted to the military and his family.

A 1999 graduate of Permian, Kris Higdon played soccer, loved football and was a devoted JROTC member.

In April, an Andrews soldier was killed in Iraq. U.S. Army Cpl. Ray Michael Bevel was killed by an IED. His father, Jerry Bevel, said his son knew the dangers of military life but the Army was the highlight of his life.

“The Army changed my son, and he was so proud and held his head high because of the Army,” his father said. “He was going to stay (in the Army). He wanted to do something else besides infantry, but he loved Army life.”

Other tragic events: Within the city limits, there were six reported homicides in 2007. Odessa police Cpl. Sherrie Carruth said that total was double the number of homicides of 2003 and 2005 and triple the amount of 2004 and 2006.

We are the champions: The Odessa College Lady Wranglers reached their goal March 24 with a 73-50 victory over Central Arizona College in the NJCAA Division I national basketball championship game at Salina, Kan., capping a 32-2 campaign. The national title was Odessa College’s third in women’s basketball, following crowns in 1986 and 1991, and the school’s 46th national championship in 11 different sports.

Some positives: Several West Texas churches made moves and added new programs or facilities in 2007 to further expand their ministry. Construction at several facilities continued through the beginning of 2007 with congregations taking root later on.

After meeting at LBJ Elementary for more than a year, New Life Church made an Easter move-in to its renovated facility at the old Odessa Country Club at 7184 Club Drive. The 40,000-square-foot facility came complete with 12 acres of land, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a golf course view.

On July 8, the Hindu Association of West Texas officially unveiled its new Radha Krishna Temple in Midland. Costing $1.1 million, the 8,000-square-foot temple contained bright Indian décor and the craftsmanship of hand-carved marble statues of Hindu deities.

Grace Christian Fellowship dedicated its renovated 7-acre site at 3450 Billy Hext Road in August, nearly tripling the church’s finished space with a fellowship hall, baptistery and children’s area. At the same time, First Baptist Church of Odessa completed its $1.6 million expansion project for its children’s ministries department called UpStreet.

In December, St. Mary’s Church dedicated four new classrooms onto its facility for educational purposes.

Some of the biggest church moves of the year came from the historic downtown Temple Baptist Church, led by the Rev. Griffin Jones. Nearing completion of the church’s more than $20 million, 80,000-square-foot facility in northeast Odessa, the church name was changed to CrossRoads Fellowship, referencing the new location.

Some members left over the changes, but CrossRoads Fellowship held grand opening services on Oct. 21 at its new campus at Highway 191 and Billy Hext Road. Two other churches — Life-Change Baptist Church and New Life Chapel — purchased most of the former church complex on Texas Avenue.

No FutureGen: A late December bit of bad news was that Mattoon, Ill. — not Odessa — was picked by the FutureGen Alliance as the site for the world’s first near-zero-emissions power plant.

But even as a wave of initial disappointment swept through the capacity crowd at the UTPB Center for Energy and Economic Diversification when FutureGen Alliance CEO Michael Mudd made the announcement, there was a solid recognition that while the alliance’s choice may have knocked Odessa down, the community is certainly not out of the running for a major power plant based on clean- coal technology.


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