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61 arrested in Healing Touch case - Odessa American: News

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61 arrested in Healing Touch case

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Posted: Monday, June 28, 2004 12:00 am

Sixty-one area residents-- including prominent attorneys, business owners and a senior editor for the Odessa American-- slogged into rain-soaked Salinas Park throughout the morning Tuesday to surrender as suspects in a yearlong prostitution investigation.

Warrants remained outstanding Tuesday night for another 13 suspects who didn't show up at the Odessa Police Department's makeshift booking station in the park-- including one for a former ECISD board member.

In all, the 74 people -- seven women and 67 men-- made arrangements to turn themselves in to face charges in the local and federal investigation.

The investigation focused on activities at The Healing Touch massage parlor, 3631 N. Dixie Blvd., and Middessa Therapy, 810 E. Eighth St.

Among those charged is attorney and community volunteer Scott Tidwell, who faces two Class A misdemeanor charges of promoting prostitution.

Former Deputy District Attorney Lee Hadden was charged with three counts of misdemeanor B prostitution. Hadden was asked to resign from the DA's office shortly after the investigation came to public attention in late May.

The others on the list were charged with one count each of misdemeanor B prostitution.

Of the warrants filed Tuesday, 54 were for Odessans, which includes the three women identified by police as "madams," 11 were for Midlanders and eight were for men from area communities including Lamesa, Monahans, Robert Lee, Seminole and Andrews. One of the warrants was issued for an Artesia, N.M., man.

Gene Powell Jr., assistant managing editor of the Odessa American, was among those arrested Tuesday. He was released Tuesday on a $500 bond, the amount preset for all those charged with Class B misdemeanors in the case.

Also arrested Tuesday were prominent rancher James "Buzz" Ratliff Hurt; Vince Vines, owner of an Odessa insurance company; and Sidney Ingram, owner of M&M Elevator Co.

Among those with outstanding warrants is former school board member Thomas "Tommy" Lee Salmon Sr. But police officials said some suspects had notified them they wouldn't be able to be present for the prearranged bookings.

"Some of those with outstanding warrants are out of town, and they let us know about that in advance," Odessa police Deputy Chief Lou Orras said.

Orras said for those who just didn't turn themselves in Tuesday, the police department would continue to look for them.

"We'll get them in the computer as wanted," he said. "We won't give up."

Of those arrested Tuesday, women identified as "madams" -- Sharon Ann Joyner, Kathy Sue Shrum and Janet Elaine Lietz -- were each charged with third-degree felony aggravated promotion of prostitution.

Other class B misdemeanor offenders include Odessa City Planner Randall Brinlee, who was charged Tuesday. He was included on what has become known as "the list."

"He's been an outstanding employee for 21 years," City Manager Richard Morton said. "Assuming he did it off the clock  it's not an offense we would terminate him over."

A former Andrews high school counselor on "the list," Jerry Good, resigned from AHS in May and has since moved, a school board member said.

Midland physics teacher Andrew Franks and former ECISD substitute teacher David Lee Stice also made "the list."

Orras said many on the list cooperated with police.

"We've had tremendous cooperation in this case," Orras said. "Sixty-one people turned themselves in."

The men and women were arrested in an early morning operation at Salinas Park, 600 W. Clements Drive.

Odessa police officers arranged for suspects to turn themselves in Tuesday morning.

Officers began surrounding the community center at Salinas Park about 7:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Detectives pulled up a short time later. Just before 8 a.m., attorneys began arriving at the community center.

Shortly after, men and women -- some in handcuffs -- began to go into the building. Detectives and uniformed officers inside helped process the people for the jail.

It was a dismal, gray and rainy morning as officers began the process of ending "The Healing Touch" investigation. It rained all morning-- some times much harder than others.

Some arrived, went in through the front door, and shortly after were escorted in cuffs to a police car.

Odessa police Capt. Harold Thomas said the south Odessa park was chosen for its proximity to the Ector County Detention Center.

"For efficiency purposes, we're using the community center to process the people," Thomas said. "We did it here so as not to overburden them. We wanted to make the process easier."

Police Chief Chris Pipes, who is attending mandatory police chief training in Fort Worth, issued a prepared statement addressing some community concerns about the case.

"To those who may say we have covered up' cases involving individuals unnamed here today, I give my assurance that our adherence to high professional standards doesn't permit us to provide an unethical veil of secrecy to any person," he said.

Tuesday afternoon, Odessa Mayor Larry Melton encouraged Odessans to be tolerant of those arrested.

"The city's thoughts and prayers are with those suspects and more importantly, with their families," Melton said. "It's not our place to sit in judgment of these people. That's up to the judicial system and that person's God or supreme being."

Melton also commended the Odessa Police Department and other cooperating law-enforcement agencies for their handling of the operation.

The Healing Touch owners, Joyner, 49, and Shrum, 45, pleaded guilty to federal charges of "distribution of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school" about 11 a.m. Friday.

Sentencing for the two has been set for 8 a.m. Oct. 12 before U.S. District Judge Rob Junell.

Since the original arrests of Joyner and Shrum on May 27, the OPD worked quickly to wrap up the investigation, Orras said.

"In this particular case, we had to do a multitude of interviews," Orras said. "We took as much time as necessary to put together a tight case."


Suspects in cases of prostitution are charged according to the manner of their involvement, including:

Prostitution is "engaging or agreeing to engage in sexual conduct for a fee or solicit someone in a public place for sexual conduct for hire."

Prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor. Convictions may result in up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Promotion of prostitution is "receiving money or other property pursuant to an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution or to solicit another to engage in sexual conduct with another person for compensation." It is a Class A misdemeanor, subject to up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $4,000.

Aggravated promotion of prostitution is "knowingly owning, investing in, financing, controlling, supervising or managing a prostitution enterprise that uses two or more prostitutes." This is a third-degree felony, the punishment for which is two to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

A person convicted of prostitution twice may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, the punishment for which is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

Multiple convictions of prostitution may be prosecuted as a state jail felony, the punishment for which is 180 days to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Conviction of a state jail felony results in the loss of the right to vote in elections.

Prostitution is also a crime of moral turpitude (a base or depraved action). Persons convicted of a crime of moral turpitude may be impeached as witnesses in legal matters. If they are licensed by the state, conviction could lead to the revocation of the license. Members of the judiciary who are charged with a crime of moral turpitude may be removed from office.

City and county prosecutors and the police may file misdemeanor prostitution charges; they do not need to take the case to a grand jury.

SOURCES: Texas Penal Code; Webster's New World Dictionary

Odessa, TX

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