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Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 12:00 am

A list of stories that made headlines in Odessa in 2009.

January 5 – House Speaker Tom Craddick dropped his bid for a fourth term in the Texas House of Representatives after declining support in favor of Rep. Joe Straus. Craddick was the first Republican speaker in more than 130 years and led the GOP to win the House majority in 2003.

 

January 8 – Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush made plans to come to Midland following President Barack Obama’s inauguration January 20. The welcome back event at Centennial Plaza was their first public appearance in Midland since they initially left for Washington in 2001.

 

January 11 – ECISD officials qualified to apply for unitary status, ending a 1982 desegregation order on the district. The desegregation order included court supervision and end-of-year reports on district progress.

 

January 20 – Former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrived late afternoon for their welcome back rally after they attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Around 30,000 people attended the event, which featured remarks from Bush as well as Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Tom Craddick.

 

January 26 – An afternoon grass fire burned over 300 acres in South Odessa a mile southeast of Odessa Petrochemical Complex. Firefighters took over three hours to control the blaze that, some onlookers described, had flames as high as 30 ft.

 

January 28 – An early morning ice storm created slick roads, leaving four people dead. Icy roads were blamed for 34 accidents in Odessa between 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.

 

February 1 – A riot broke out at Reeves County Detention Center, the second in nearly two months after a December riot damaged part of the federal prison. There were no reports of injuries, but a Pecos Enterprise reporter said he saw smoke coming from one wing of the complex where the riot occurred.

 

February 2 – Martin and Midland county sheriff deputies arrested 83 people in a cockfighting ring located north of Midland. Martin County Sheriff John Woodward said it was the biggest drug and organized crime ring in the history of Martin County with 105 fighting rooster seized along with marijuana, cocaine and $90,000 in suspected betting cash.

 

February 6 – The Second Street post office was renamed in dedication to Cpl. Alfred “Mac” Wilson, who died in the Vietnam War when his platoon was attacked. U.S. Rep Mike Conaway sponsored the bill to put Wilson’s name on the post office.

 

February 10 – Weekly newspapers Iraan News and McCamey news announced that they would stop their presses. According to Texas Press Association Executive Director Mike Hodges, Iraan and McCamey had some of the smallest weekly circulations in the state, with 275 and 560, respectively.

 

February 13 – State Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, was appointed to the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee and Public Safety Committee. Republican House Speaker Joe Straus gave preference to those who were more loyal to him during his candidacy.

 

February 14 – Big Tex Trailers and Oxy Permian announced they were laying off workers, coinciding with the nationwide recession. Although there were many layoffs, Willie Taylor, chief executive officer of Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, said the effects of the recession were still not as strong in the Permian Basin as they were on the rest of the country.

 

February 26 – Darren Allman, Permian’s head coach and athletics coordinator since 2005, was named head football coach and athletics director at Austin Westlake. Allman replaced Westlake Coach Derek Long in a unanimous decision by the Eanes Independent School District Board of Trustees.

 

February 27 – A man with a gunshot wound to the head was found in an alley near intersection of 35th Street and Walnut Avenue. This was the second confirmed homicide in Odessa this year.

 

 March 1 - A severe fire destroyed two homes at 1764 and 1762 E. 53rd Street, leaving the homes uninhabitable. There were still people inside the 1764 home when the fire first started, but they were evacuated in time and no one was injured.

 

Home-schooled sixth-grader Jonathan Hohstadt won Odessa American’s Regional Spelling Bee for the second year running with the winning word “divestiture.” Jonathan moved on to the national spelling bee in Washington late May – his trip, including airfare, room and meals for him and a parent, sponsored by the Odessa American.

 

March 4 – Medical Center Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Webster received a four percent pay raise to $338,476, approved by the Ector County Hospital District Board of Directors. The board also approved of a $423,000 contract for architectural and interior design for MCH’s Northeast Ambulatory Care Center on Highway 191 near Faudree Road, which had the projected total cost of $10 million.

 

March 5 – Richard “Rick” Ellsworth McLaughlin, former Winkler County News Publisher and Odessa American reporter, was scheduled for sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography September 2008. Mclaughlin was arrested August 2008 in Kermit when the Midland FBI found electronic media containing images of prepubescent children.

 

March 6 – Richard “Rick” Ellsworth McLaughlin, who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, received the maximum sentence of 10 years at a federal men’s prison in Butner, North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Rob Junell based his sentence on the 34 videos, 625 total minutes, of pornography on McLaughlin’s computers.

 

A grassfire burned through 645 acres in western Ector County near FM 1053 and the Crane County line, requiring three air tankers, a helicopter and two planes from the Texas Forest Service to put it out. The fire was caused by a malfunctioning oilfield heater-treater.

 

March 10 – The ECISD school board hired Gary Gaines to replace Darren Allman as Permian’s head football coach. Gaines previously served the same position from 1986 to 1989 with his 1988 season documented in H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s book “Friday Night Lights.”

 

UTPB expanded its Falcon Promise Program, which gives free tuition and fees for up to 12 hours each semester to qualified undergraduate students. The household income rose from $25,000 to $60,000 a year for the program, an increase provided by President Barack Obama’s expansion of the Pell Grant program.

 

March 12 – Century Plant, a $1.2 billion facility, broke ground in Pecos County, just 30 miles south of Fort Stockton. The plant is a collaborative effort between Sandridge Energy and Oxy Oil and Gas.

 

March 16 – Key West Senior Village began plans of adding 36 units to its former 120 units. The additions, which cost $4,007,000, were based on the community’s wait list of 180 people at that time.

 

March 17 – The Odessa Police Department launched an online system where people can report on minor crimes that have no suspects, crime scene evidence or injuries. Cpl. Sherrie Caruth said the alternative reporting system allows for more officers to patrol the streets.

 

March 18 – Anthony Carter was found dead in a motel room at Executive Inn after he was suspected of robbery and sexual assault of an employee at the East 42nd Street Pizza Hut. The cause of death was undetermined and Cpl. Sherrie Caruth said the death did not appear to be a homicide and there were no signs of foul play.

 

March 19 – District 5 City Councilman Michael Sanchez was pronounced dead at 39 after being found in his office by his brother, Steve Chavez. Sanchez was elected to his position in 2006 and was the council representative to Main Street Odessa.

 

March 22 – The OC board began looking at options for KOCV-FM and considered moving the radio station’s tower or even transferring the license. OC President Richard Abalos said the college’s budget couldn’t continue to pay the millions of dollars the station requires over the next five years.

 

March 24 – Chris Clark was chosen to take over as justice of peace in Precinct 2 by the Ector County Commissioners. Clark, who started his position April 6, had experience in prosecution cases in the four justice of the peace courts and also had experience in working with the county.

 

UTPB announced it was ready to break ground on the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center next to UTPB’s CEED building. The center, which has the expected completion date of early 2012, would cost approximately $90 million.

 

March 25 – A 54-year-old man was killed in an industrial accident at Hollice Clark Fabrication after he fell into an empty crude oil tank he was cleaning. The man had no supervision at the time he fell.

 

April 2 – Michael Dean “Spider” Gonzales’ resentencing trial was moved to Ector County Coliseum’s Barn G to accommodate 217 prospective jurors after the possibility of a death sentence, county officials said. Gonzales was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering his two neighbors in 1994.

 

April 4 – Officials broke ground on the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center, moving the ceremony inside UTPB’s CEED building due to windy weather. The center is intended to serve primarily as a performance space as well as the new home for the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale.

 

 April 7 – High school dance groups and other related groups reviewed their standards of behavioral consequences in their club procedures to make them similar for a February ruling by the board of trustees. The groups moved towards a common standard for eligibility and suspension.

 

 April 12 – An unconfirmed tornado damaged some hangars at Odessa Schlemeyer field and several homes near the airport. A hangar at the north end of Schlemeyer airport had part of its roof ripped off in the storm that also brought golf ball-sized hail to Ector County.

 

 April 16 – “Tea Party” protesters gathered outside Odessa City Hall for the Taxed Enough Already Party, protesting increased government spending on taxes and bailouts. Over 500 people attended the event, which was modeled after the original Boston Tea Party.

 

April 17 – Midland police officers discovered the body of 21-year-old Sheeva Sharda Miller inside the trunk of a Cadillac. Miller’s family reported that they received text messages from an unknown man that stated Miller was killed.

 

April 19 – Waste Control Specialists’ proposal to determine if Andrews County would be allowed to issue up to $75 million in general obligations bonds for a low-level radioactive waste disposal site was included in the county’s May 9 ballot. If the proposal passed, waste control would put up a total of $500 million in assets of the company and parent company Valhi Inc. to securitize the bond.

 

The City of Odessa started the process of annexing a total of 1,928 acres in the northeastern part of town, increasing the city’s size by 7.8 percent. 784 acres of the land lies between east 52nd Street and Yukon Road.

 

April 21 – Crocket Junior High went into lockdown for nearly two hours when Odessa police received a hoax call of a student in possession of a gun on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. It was unknown whether or not the call was related to the Columbine anniversary, but the hoax call could lead to felony charges.

 

PetSmart announced its store opening on the corner of Grandview Avenue and 42nd Street in early 2010. Developer Larry Lee of Leeco Properties negotiated for six months with PetSmart, which will offer between 35 to 40 full- and part-time jobs once it opens.

 

April 24 – Blanton Elementary School was put on lockdown for nearly an hour after reports of a handgun on school property. Four students, at least three sixth-graders, were arrested when other students reported that one of them had a gun, which was later found in one of the classrooms.

 

April 25 – Rex TV & Appliances closed its stores to shift their focus on producing ethanol. Their John Ben Sheppard Parkway store closed May 2 as the company’s last store in Texas.

 

April 26 – Tom and Rhonda Stark raised concerns on issues involving the low credit rating of Valhi, the parent company of Andrews’ nuclear waste disposal site. Valhi had a Standard and Poor’s credit rating of B- out of AAA and was on negative credit watch, meaning the downgrading conditions were continuing.

 

April 29 – ECISD math TAKS results increased for grades five and eight. At the fifth-grade level, 83 percent passed compared to last year’s 80 percent passing rate; at the eighth-grade level, 70 percent of students passed compared to 64 percent last year.

 

May 6 – A Medical Center Hospital employee filed a complaint against Abraham Torres, an elected board member of the Ector County Hospital District. Torres said it was most likely a misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion.

 

May 7 – Ector County Hospital District board secretary Delma Marin filed a report against ECHD board member Abraham Torres, telling the Odessa Police Department that Torres assaulted her by nudging her “upper left arm with a closed fist causing a large bruise.” Torres declined to comment on the incident.

 

May 8 – Michael Dean “Spider” Gonzales was sentenced to death for murdering two of his neighbors in 1994. Gonzales returned to death row in Livingston where he is waiting to die by lethal injection at a date to be determined.

 

May 10 – Waste Control Specialists received a $75 million bond to build a low-level radioactive disposal site and expand its hazardous-waste facility. WCS won by a three-vote margin with 642 votes by Andrews County voters for the bond opposed to 639 against the bond. 

 

May 20 – Orion Pacific received a $5 million grant from the Odessa Development Corp. to keep at least one production line at Flint Hills’ recently shut down chemical plant. The development agreement entailed Orion to change its name to REXtac LLC, keep 101 jobs for seven years and have $7.6 million in payroll annually, as well as produce a $19 million capital investment.

 

The Presidential Museum announced its possible closure after museum curator Lettie England’s request for $25,000 from the Ector County commissioners was denied. England sought funding from public sources to avoid a July closure.

 

May 22 – Two ninth-grade students were expelled for the remainder of the school year after their involvement in a stabbing fight at Bonham Junior High. The boy who stabbed another student with an X-ACTO knife during a fight in a science classroom faced aggravated assault charges for giving mostly superficial wounds to the other student. 

 

June 2 – Fuddruckers opened a new location inside Music City Mall. Over 150 people waited for the restaurant’s doors to open since 5:30 a.m. that morning.

 

June 3 – Francisco Sauseda described a Monday night shooting where two Hispanic men were shot and killed in the 1400 block of Anderson Avenue. Sauseda, who was also shot in the left arm, said some people “just drove up and they started shooting.”

 

June 5 – An attempted armored van robbery and shootout outside Western National Bank at University Boulevard and Grandview Avenue resulted in a guard taken to the hospital after being shot four times. The two men involved faced federal charges on attempted bank robbery.

 

 June 6 – Joshua Ryan Bell, Christopher Lee Simmons and Preston Loren Savell were charged with a federal count of attempted bank robbery after they tried to rob an armored van and shooting an H&K Armored Services guard four times. Bell was a disgruntled employee of H&K and the leader of the heist.

 

June 7 – Permian’s Shartanae Swearengin and Ryan McDowell won gold at the UIL State Track and Field Championships at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium for their class 5A girls 800-meter run and class 5A boys 110-meter hurdles, respectively. An ECISD athlete had not won a state gold since 2000 when Permian’s Roy Williams received one for long jump.

 

June 11 – Jojo’s Drive Inn at 3506 E. University Blvd. Announced its reopening under new ownership after being closed for more than a year. The restaurant closed early 2008 due to tax and health reasons under its previous owners.

 

June 24 – Autopsy results indicated that Lenin Polanco, Martha Isela Caballeo, Gladisela C. Polanco, Maurilio Hernandez and Adan V. Saucedo died of carbon monoxide poisoning when their Ford F-150 got stuck in a retention bank while mudding at a racetrack, Ector County Sheriff Sgt. Gary Duesler said. The truck windows were closed and investigators found the exhaust pipes were clogged with water while the engine was running when the truck got stuck in about four feet of water at a south Odessa horseracing track.

 

June 27 – City officials and members of the Kasper Memorial Skate Park Organization broke ground at the Sherwood Skate Park. Susana Pier and her family have been campaigning for the skate park since her son, Ruben “Kasper” Pier, was killed at age 16 on Sept. 13, 2003, when a car struck him while he was skateboarding.

 

June 28 – A new 20-inch-diameter underground pipeline, which began construction last September, started transporting natural gas from the Yates formation in north-western Andrews County to the gas-fired Odessa power plants, Odessa Energy Power Partners and Navasota Engergy’s Quail Run Energy Center. The gas was once considered unusable due to its high nitrogen content, but now could be used for power generation.

 

June 30 – Three people, including one Odessan, remained at large after a massive drug sting by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Kermit Police Department. Twenty-nine people were put in jail on federal and state felony drug charges.

 

July 1 - Ten men were arrested by the Permian Basin Oilfield Theft Task Force for stealing around $2 million worth of oil and gas condensate from oil companies and producers in Midland, Ector and Andrews counties. Six men were charged on federal wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy, and four men were arrested on state money-laundering charges.

 

July 9 – Odessa’s received a sales tax check for $1,577,882.82, down 18.25 percent from July 2008’s check of $1,905,740.57. The city received $1,246,306.26 of the sales tax revenue, while the Odessa Development Corp. got $311,576.56.

 

July 12 – Permian Booster Club hosted a 50th anniversary celebration to mark the school’s fall anniversary of 50 years of football. The event invited the community to speak with past and present coaches and players, such as U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway who was a member of the 1965 team.

 

July 20 – The tobacco ban at Medical Center Hospital, Odessa Regional Medical Center and Midland Memorial Hopital forced hospital employees and visitors to go off-campus to smoke. People were also banned from smoking on the sidewalks adjacent to the hospitals because they are maintained by the property owner and are therefore part of the hospitals, according to MCH attorney Brooks Landgraf.

 

July 26 - Businesses saw little change and lack of new business on the new overpass at John Ben Sheppard Parkway and Business I-20, which opened July 3. The $23.8 million overpass was designed to connect Odessa’s business district with Interstate 20 and the industrial parks in the southeast part of town.

 

July 29 – The Odessa City Council approved optometrist Dr. Russell D. Subia to be the newest member of the Odessa Development Corp. by a 3-2 vote. The vote displaced Jim Breaux as the ODC board representative from District 5.

 

July 30 – A strong storm that brought another half-inch of rain had winds as high as 71 mph, knocking down approximately 34 power poles. Over 600 customers were without power in Odessa.

 

July 31 – The Texas Education Agency gave an “unacceptable” rating to the Ector County Independent School District due to the high school rate of economically disadvantaged subgroups falling below the required 75 percent level. This was the first year the high school rate counted in accountability ratings.

 

August 1 – Two unrelated accidents in Ector County resulted in five fatalities and five people sent to Medical Center Hospital. The first accident occurred at 6:40 a.m. when a 1999 Chevrolet S10 headed southbound and ignored a stop sign, colliding with a 2006 Chevrolet 2500 HD; the second fatal accident occurred at 6:22 p.m. when, according to witnesses, a yellow jeep attempted to pass another car without enough clearance, colliding with the other car head on.

 

August 7 – ECISD failed to pass the federal government’s Adequate Yearly Progress Report due to the district’s graduation rate. This is the second year ECISD failed, which means that ECISD had to amend its district improvement plan during the fall semester as the first stage of a School Improvement Program.

 

August 9 – Permian’s Class of 1989 was honored during a Saturday pep rally during their 20-year reunion weekend. The 1989 class’s football season was documented in H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s best-seller “Friday Night Lights.”

 

August 12 – The Odessa City Council approved a 3 percent water and wastewater rate increase. The increase was caused by a 5 percent rate increase in raw water cost from the Colorado River Municipal Water District, according to Assistant City Manager James Zentner.

 

August 14 – REXtac and Orion Pacific bought Flint Hills Resources petrochemical plant August 7 and restarted a line at the plant in October, preserving nearly 100 jobs in the Odessa area. Flint Hills was previously shut down in May.

 

August 18 – The Ector County Hospital District Board of Directors gave the go-ahead for about $49,000 worth of continued construction on the Center for Women and Infants, which will replace Medical Center Hospital’s women’s center and neonatal intensive care unit. Officials have already spent $2.5 million on the center since they began working on it in 2006.

 

 August 22 – The Presidential Museum closed after 45 years. Lettie England, the museum’s curator, and its trustees tried fundraisers, private contributors and several grants but ultimately could not get enough money to keep the museum running.

 

August 23 – Ector County Independent School District made plans to reconfigure Permian High and Odessa High into a 4-year configuration and to shift the junior highs into middle schools within five years. The reconfiguration plan would move ninth-graders to high schools and sixth-graders to join seventh- and eighth-graders.

 

August 28 – Joshua Bell, Christopher Simmons and Preston Savell all pleaded guilty for an attempted armored car robbery June 4 outside Western National Bank on North Grandview Avenue, facing a minimum of 10 years in jail. The three men pleaded guilty to attempted bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

 

August 30 – The City of Odessa announced its progression on repairing and replacing its 6-million-foot-long water and sewer system, costing as much as $42.6 million. According to city engineer Ajay Shakyaver the city is systematically determining what parts of town need water and sewer repairs the most to replace first.

 

September 2 – Julio Rangel, a varsity offensive lineman at Permian, was sent to Medical Center Hospital’s intensive care unit following an injury to his spinal cord during practice. Rangel was injured when he collided with a teammate while practicing a play.

 

September 5 – Former soldier Steven Dale Green of Midland was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for raping and murdering and Iraqi teenager and killing three of her family members. Green is not eligible for release from prison unless he gets a presidential pardon or a successful appeal.

 

September 16 – Ector County Independent School District officials determined that the high school completion rate was cause for the district’s overall rating of “unacceptable” in spite of district schools meeting nearly all acceptable academic standards. There was only a 62 percent completion rate among “economically disadvantage students” during the 2007-2008 school year.

 

September 22 – Ryell Pride, 17, was in serious condition at Medical Center Hospital after being shot in the upper torso and leg while walking in the alley behind Brownstone Manor at 3720 Tanglewood Lane. Pride was shot at 8:41 p.m. while taking a walk with two of his friends; there were no suspects in the case because it was dark when the incident occurred.

 

Odessa firefighter Richard Kilgore, 37, was charged with burglary of a habitation and was accused of breaking into the home of the Odessa Crime Stoppers Executive Director Susan Rogers and Ector County Medical Examiner Carl Rogers. There was no indication that any property was stolen according to the police report.

 

September 24 – Richard Kilgore voluntarily resigned from his firefighter duties after being charged for attempting to break into the home of Ector County Medical Examiner Carl Rogers and Odessa Crime Stoppers Executive Director Susan Rogers. Following his resignation, Kilgore said, “The truth will come out there.”

 

September 25 – Odessa High School celebrated its 100th anniversary. The centennial celebration was marked with a parade at the intersection of Lee Avenue and West Ninth Street where Odessa High first began as an institution.

 

September 26 – UTPB President David Watts and Presidential Museum and Leadership Library Board Chairman Juan Alcantar signed a letter of intent to negotiate a partnership, which would reopen the museum to the public. The letter of intent would transfer control of the Presidential Museum’s library and collection to the university with the museum functioning more like an archive.

 

Midland-based Turbo Trac USA received $2 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to develop and market a patented mechanism that would improve the energy efficiency of several mechanical applications, from wind turbines to trucks and buses. The company claimed the mechanism would reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency by nearly 20 percent in similar mechanical systems.

 

September 27 – Odessa High School celebrated its 100th anniversary with a parade beginning at Austin Elementary, where OHS once stood, and ending at the present-day campus. Bronchos from the past, present and future came to the event, some from out of town and others from just the east side of town.

 

West Texas Wind Energy projects were put on hold until 2013, when the construction on transmission lines connecting West Texas to state population centers would be expected to be near completion. Ector County currently has 11 turbines.

 

September 29 – Eighth-grader Alexis Fabella, of Nimitz, was in critical condition in Lubbock after an Ector County Independent School District bus ran over his shoulder and collarbone. Alexis was playing with his friend when he tripped over his shoelaces and fell under the bus.

 

October 6 – Attorney Richard Abalos was in serious condition at Medical Center Hospital when a horse fell on top of him. Abalos’ daughter, Feliz Abalos, said that Abalos was riding a newly trained horse when he pulled back the reins too hard causing him to fall and subsequently the horse to fall on top of him.

 

October 7 – Medical Center Hospital board members delayed work on MCH’s Center for Women and Infants due to a drop in sales tax receipts in July. Board members did agree to move forward with the Center for Health and Wellness being built on the northeast side of Odessa.

 

October 8 – Odessa’s sales tax revenue dropped for the sixth month in a row and was 24.6 percent less from October 2008’s revenue, going from $2,033,757.37 in 2008 to $1,532,527.23 this year. October was the first month of the fiscal year for the city.

 

October 9 – Brian Swearengin, 25, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Dec. 29, 2006 death of Lourdes Maria “Lou Lou” Medrano. A jury of six men and six women found him guilty of capital murder.

 

October 16 – Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward visited the University of Texas of the Permian Basin for the John Ben Sheppard Public Leadership Institute distinguished lecture series. Bernstein and Woodward spoke on their investigative journalism and the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

 

October 20 – April Thompson, 24, was charged with manslaughter for the shooting death of Pvt. Cody Ryan Patterson near Blum, 40 miles north of Waco. Thompson shot Patterson, 20, in the chest when Patterson told her the gun was unloaded.

 

October 21 – Tammie and Jamie Castillo and four other Odessa residents filed a civil lawsuit against four Odessans for a reported Oct. 3 forcible home invasion. The Castillos sued for monetary damages against local attorney Brian Chavez, his brother Jacob Chavez, Bowie football coach Stan Wilkins and Odessa resident Rosemary Soto when they, and another 11 unnamed individuals, forced their way into the Castillo’s home and “struck the plaintiffs with their fists, kicked them with their feet, etc.,” according to the court filing. 

 

October 26 – Kinky Friedman – singer, humorist and gubernatorial candidate – appeared at the Ector County Democratic Party’s Local Heroes Banquet at the Odessa Country Club. The banquet honored local democrats in addition to featuring statewide candidates such as John Sharp, the former Texas comptroller who was running for the U.S. Senate Seat held by Kay Bailey Hutchison.

 

City officials started putting up warning signs in schools zones warning that people could face fines up to $200 for using cell phones while the zones are in effect. The statewide cell phone law was enacted Sept. 1 but couldn’t be enforced until the warning signs were up.

 

October 27 – A judge ruled Oct. 26. that Dwayne Dale Billings is competent to stand trial. Billings was arrested in January 2007 and faces charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and aggravated kidnapping.

 

Ector county commissioners voted 3-2 Oct. 26 to ban smoking at the county’s three senior citizen centers. An informal ban had already been in place at the north-side center before commissioners voted to put an official rule in effect.

 

October 28 – The Odessa City Council amended a previous proposal to give developer Larry Lee $5.1 million to plan a shopping center. The amount changed from the $4.48 million originally agreed upon to develop the Chimney Rock Center, which will be located at the northeast corner of Highway 191 and Northeast Loop 338.

 

October 30 – Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland recused himself from a case involving Odessa Attorney Brian Chavez, his brother Jacob Chavez, Bowie Junior High football coach Stan Wilkins and Odessa Resident Rosemary Soto. Bland said he didn’t want there to be an appearance of either favoritism or overcompensation in the prosecution of the defendants.

 

November 1 – The Ruben Pier Memorial Skate Park opened Oct. 31. The park commemorates the death of 16-year-old Ruben Pier, who was killed while skateboarding at the intersection of 16th Street and Golder Avenue.

 

November 5 – A possible agreement between the Odessa Development Corp., the city of Odessa and the former Flint Hills Resources Odessa chemical plant site could allow the entities to share 15 percent of the revenue from any sale of land at the plant’s site, if referred by the city and ODC.

 

November 6 – Bowie Junior High School’s high standardized test scores led the school to want to treat itself to a renovation: building a two-story slide in its lobby. Bowie fundraised by throwing a block party whose funds were to go to building the slide.

 

November 7 – A robbery suspect walked into Security State Bank, 404 E. 42nd St., flashed a gun and demanded money. FBI agents, the Odessa Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter, ECISD police, the Texas Rangers and Ector County sheriff’s deputies were among those searching for suspect described as a black male around 20 years old, 5-feet, 10-inches tall and 180 pounds.

 

Two dead bodies were found in a Gardendale residence. Ector county sheriff’s deputies were investigating the possible double homicide of Lonnie Ray Cooper, 57, and Cindy Jennings Cooper, 58.

 

November 10 – Preliminary autopsy results indicated that the double homicide of Lonnie Ray Cooper and Cindy Jennings Cooper was a murder-suicide. A news release from the Ector County Sheriff’s Office states that Lonnie Ray Cooper shot and killed Cindy Jennings Cooper and then himself at their residence.

 

November 12 – Odessan Gabriel Rodriguez Ortega, 40, was charged Wednesday with the robbery of two area agencies. The two robberies occurred Oct. 23 at Allstate Insurance, 1806 N. west County road and Nov. 5 at Fred Loya Insurance, 4031 E. 42nd St.

 

November 13 – Gardendale citizens concerned with recent robberies crammed into the Gardendale community building to get answers from the Ector County Sheriff’s department. Many resident’s complained about the department’s supposed gradual arrival to emergency calls.

 

November 20 – Seventy-two dogs, three cats and a pig were found abandoned at the 12200 block of Drivers Haul and Fame Street in West Odessa. The animals were found in their own dry defecation, which usually indicates that the animals had not been fed in weeks.

 

November 21 – An Ector County jury acquitted Christopher David Lyson of one count of murder. Lyson had been charged in connection with the stabbing death of Ryan Adam Moon, a 26-year-old Odessa man killed in a fight last year on the 700 block of Bunche Avenue.

 

November 24 – A family of four dies after they apparently asphyxiated in their mobile home in south Ector County, Sheriff Mark Donaldson said. Foul play was not suspected.

 

November 25 – Joshua Bell, 20, Preston Savell, 19, and Christopher Simmons, 20, were sentenced to 25 years and 11 months in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Rob Junell ordered them to pay $30,154.63 in restitution to the victim, 26-year-old Matthew Parker. Parker was shot four times while in an armored car in an exchange of gunfire with Bell and Savell.

 

Four victims of the asphyxiation Oct. 25 are identified as Jesus Martinez, 30, Judy Quezada Martinez, 22, Juan Jesus Martinez, 4, and Miguel Martinez, 2. The family’s 6-year-old child was staying with some relatives and was not in the mobile home.

 

November 27 – David Sanchez Jr., 33, died when he lost control of his motorcycle driving northbound on Dixie. He hit a curb, sideswiped the stoplight pole and crashed into the cinderblock pillar of the Rose Hill Cemetery fence.

 

December 1 – Defendants, attorney Brian Chavez, his brother, Jacob Chavez, Bowie Junior High football coach Stan Wilkins and Odessa resident Rosemary Soto signed a settlement to the tune of $362,000 with plaintiffs Jamie and Tammie Castillo. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants broke into their Odessa home Oct. 3 and “struck Plaintiffs with their fists, kicked them with their feet, struck them with fixtures and statues from within Plaintiffs home, and held Plaintiffs down with their bodies.”

 

December 2 – Duke Energy’s Notrees Windpower Project receives $21.8 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The funds will go toward designing, building and installing large-scale batteries at the site.

 

December 3 – City officials broke ground Dec. 2 for a major renovation of the 56-year-old Sherwood Park. $4.5 million will go to restoring the park’s allure and enhancing the park’s safety, but the work to build a new playground, a three-field baseball complex (complete with a new irrigation system, a new restroom and a new concession stand) and a new perimeter walking trail has temporarily displaced the Sherwood Little League.

 

December 4 – The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center said it has suspended its practice of purchasing feral cats from the Odessa Animal Control for use in its emergency response training. The 20-year-old practice came to a halt after coming under fire from critics who say that mannequins should be used to train for maintaining breathing in infants instead of the animals.

 

December 5 – Summit Texas Clean Energy LLC is one of three recipients of a $350 million federal grant. The money is expected to get construction started on a $1.7 billion project nicknamed “NowGen,” at a site in the Permian Basin. It will be a 400-megawatt plant designed to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide it produces.

 

December 6 – 473 students in ECISD were found to be homeless during the fall recession. Last year, the district had its highest homeless student count to date at 743, and Student Assistant Services lead counselor Wayne Wallace said, “…this year it looks like it will be about the same.”

 

December 8 – The state agency that governs law enforcement training has voted to revoke the license of the Odessa College Law Enforcement Academy because it failed to meet exam pass rate standards in its correctional program. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education Board in 2007 imposed a probationary minimum pass rate of 85 percent for the academy’s peace officer and correctional programs in an attempt to improve OC’s first-time pass rate.

 

Daniel Subia Orona was sentenced Dec. 8 to life in prison without parole. He was convicted of capital murder in the Aug. 16, 2007 shooting death of Hector Medrano, 18.

 

December 11 – Dwayne Dale Billings’ defense attorney David Zavoda changed his client’s plea from guilty to insanity. Billings is accused with the 2007 aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping of a 9-year-old autistic girl in Odessa.

 

December 12 – OC failed to mention its respiratory care program’s loss of accreditation in January 2007. The school reported in a news release that it had not lost accreditation for a program since 35 months prior to losing accreditation for its law enforcement program.

 

First American Home Buying Protection Co. will close its Odessa office March 12, leaving around 120 people unemployed. In a statement, First American spokeswoman Carrie Gaska said the company was relocating the call center to Phoenix to take advantage of that city’s “enhanced infrastructure, more convenient location and access to a larger labor pool.”

 

December 14 – A new case is being made to lessen criminal penalties for violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. Four Texas cities, including Alpine, have joined 20 public officials in a plan to file a lawsuit seeking to declare criminal penalties in the law unconstitutional.

 

Galen Ballard, a maintenance man at Bonham Junior High, won the Ronnie Ray ESP Advocate of the year award. As an education support professional, Ballard won for playing an active role in his local TSTA organization, working with teachers and students on campus and volunteering at the White Pool House.

 

A child dies after being hit by a vehicle Dec. 13 at the intersection of West University Boulevard and Conover Avenue. Luis Najera, who witnessed the accident, said he rushed over to help the young victim, who he said was hit by a Ford Mustang and appeared to have a broken leg and a facial injury.

 

December 15 – Burlington Coat Factory will occupy the vacant space left in Mervyn’s in Music City Mall. The closest Burlington Coat Factory is in Lubbock.

 

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Sunny
95°
Humidity: 31%
Winds: S at 13mph
Feels Like: 97°

Your Extended Forecast

Tomorrow

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High 103°/Low 79°
A few clouds. Highs 101 to 105F and lows in the upper 70s.

sunday

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High 105°/Low 77°
Plenty of sun. Highs 103 to 107F and lows in the upper 70s.

monday

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High 101°/Low 75°
A few clouds. Highs 99 to 103F and lows in the mid 70s.
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