BY JEFF TRUESDELL , PEOPLE magazine

The Bevers Family

The Bevers Family

Marsha Tucker knew she’d found a girl that her son would like.

“She was just a very down-to-earth country girl,” she recalls of Terri “Missy” Bevers, the victim in a still-unsolved mystery: Police in Midlothian, Texas, continue to search for the person who entered a church early on the morning of April 18 and killed Bevers, 35, a married mom of three girls, as she readied to teach a predawn fitness class.

When they met in 1997, Tucker and Missy were co-workers at a Bealls department store. “I liked her,” says Tucker. “I thought about my oldest son: ‘I think he’d like her.'”

So Tucker decided to play Cupid. Phone numbers were exchanged, and Missy began chatting with Tucker’s son, Brandon, 42, who works with his family-run fuel distribution business. They arranged a first date for lunch during one of Missy’s work breaks.

“He’d been to a wedding that day, so he showed up in a tuxedo,” Tucker recalls with a laugh. “So he made a really good impression.”

Her son was smitten, too. “She was definitely the one,” Tucker says. “That was it for him, more or less.”

At the time, Brandon was considering a move out-of-state. “I didn’t want him to move, of course,” says his mother. “But Missy was star-struck. She was like, ‘I’d follow him anywhere.'”

Nine months later the couple married. Tucker had gone along with her future daughter-in-law as Missy picked out a wedding dress, “and I knew that when my son saw her, he’d get tears in his eyes,” she says. “He did.”

After a honeymoon cruise to Alaska, Missy got her certificate in special education and taught for two years before becoming a stay-at-home mom after the couple’s first daughter was born in 2001. A second and third daughter followed.

But she finished each pregnancy vowing to get back into shape – and after the youngest of her children, now ages 8, 13, and 15, had reached second grade, Missy embraced fitness training as a new career.

Her frequent social media posts about her fitness classes and whereabouts may have provided a clue to her killer, Tucker believes.

Surveillance video from inside the Creekside Church in Midlothian captures the suspect, dressed head-to-toe in concealing black SWAT-like gear and wielding a hammer, as the person broke into the church around 3:50 a.m.

Missy entered about 30 minutes later. She was found by a student who arrived for the 5 a.m. exercise class, crumpled on the floor and with fatal puncture wounds to her head and chest.

In an open letter shared with PEOPLE, and another posted on her Facebook page, Tucker pleaded for the killer to come forth.

“I hope they read it,” she says. “I hope they just really have a heart and this is something they regret.”

Missy’s husband, says Tucker, “misses his wife.”

As for the couple’s daughters, now surrounded by “a bubble of God’s grace,” she adds, “A lot of people are praying for them.”

 

 

13263818_10154139303597095_8644097714886987319_nA baby gorilla and a young girl shared a moment of bonding when the two encountered each other on opposite sides of the glass at a Texas zoo.

Fort Worth Zoo shared a photo of the 5-month-old gorilla named Gus and 2-year-old girl Braylee pressing their hands together through the glass.

“As he gets older, Gus is exploring more and more of the world around him, which includes encounters with new friends like Braylee of Fort Worth,” the zoo wrote.

Gus had previously captured the hearts of animal lovers when he was named to USA Today’s list of Cute Baby Zoo Animals for Spring 2016.

He also became the first gorilla to be born at Fort Worth Zoo when he arrived on Dec. 5, 2015.

The zoo encouraged visitors to share their own “animal encounters” and offered to share some of their favorites.

(from UPI)

by Matthew Watkins, The Texas Tribune 

Texas House of Representatives

Texas House of Representatives

Two committee chairmen from the Texas House of Representatives lost their seats in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoffs, dealing a small victory to anti-establishment conservatives frustrated with the leadership of the lower chamber.

State Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, chairman of the House Special Purpose Districts Committee, lost to Fredericksburg hardware store owner Kyle Biedermann 55 percent to 45 percent, with Biedermann earning 10,481, votes to Miller’s 8,438, according to complete but unofficial returns.

Meanwhile, Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, was defeated by Deer Park attorney Briscoe Cain by less than half a percentage point — 23 votes. Cain ended the night with 3,045 votes to the incumbent’s 3,022. A recount is possible in that race, although Smith has conceded defeat.

“It has been my distinct honor and high privilege to have served the hard working men and women of District 128,” Smith said in a statement. “Mr. Cain will now enjoy that same honor.”

The two victories likely won’t affect House Speaker Joe Straus’ hold on the 150-member, GOP-dominated chamber. Enough Straus supporters won their primaries in March that it’s unlikely that a serious challenge to his leadership will emerge.

But the defeats of Miller and Smith serve as energizing wins for anti-establishment conservatives, who have said that Straus is too moderate and needs to be unseated.

“We were outspent 6 to 1 and our opponent nearly spent $2,000,000,” Biedermann said in a statement. “It was a tough fight, but this fact also means that I do not owe the Austin lobby, the entrenched interests and the capitol power brokers anything when I arrive in Austin.”

Biedermann’s race was heated throughout. Pictures surfaced of him dressed as “Gay Hitler” in a 2008 charity fundraiser surfaced early in the race. During the runoff, he faced questions about a 16-year-old custody battle with his ex-wife, during which she received a court order requiring him to stay at least 100 yards away from their daughters.

Biedermann produced statements from his ex-wife and children condemning Miller for raising the custody battle as a campaign issue, saying the issue was misrepresented during the legal fight. He later made the attacks a campaign issue of his own, sending out flyers to voters criticizing Miller for even bringing up the issue.

“We thank the voters for seeing through the lies and embracing our issues based, conservative campaign,” Biedermann said Tuesday night.

Democrats, meanwhile, seized upon Biedermann’s victory, saying the Republican Party had elected a “crackpot.”

“There can be no doubt, this is the Republican Party of Trump,” said Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Tariq Thowfeek.

In the GOP races for open seats, the mainstream Republicans fared well. Lynn Stucky, a Denton County veterinarian, defeated anti-establishment candidate Read King in the race to replace Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton. Coldspring rancher Ernest Bailes defeated attorney Keith Strahan, who had support from the anti-Straus crowd, in the race to replace Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton. And former Rockwall city councilman Justin Holland defeated John Keating by less than half a percentage point, winning the nomination to replace Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco.

Meanwhile, the anti-establishment group scored a victory when Mount Pleasant businessman Cole Hefner defeated Jay Misenheimer.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, won re-election despite a spate of legal problems. Last year, he was convicted of ambulance chasing — a case that’s currently being appealed. And this year he was ordered to pay more than $500,000 to a former client, who sued him for malpractice for keeping her share of a settlement he helped her win in a civil lawsuit. Still, he defeated challenger Angelique Bartholomew 53 percent to 47 percent.

And in the runoff for the San Antonio seat being vacated by Democrat Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, businesswoman Barbara Gervin-Hawkins defeated activist Mario Salas.

 

Bruner

Bruner

A retired Texas schoolteacher who received national attention for her outrageous conspiracy theories and claimed President Obama was once a gay prostitute was denied a spot on the state board of education Tuesday.

Only several months ago, Mary Lou Bruner, 69, of Mineola, Texas, had been the front-runner for the powerful seat on the Texas State Board of Education, the second-largest school system in the nation.

But as conspiracy theories in Bruner’s old Facebook posts surfaced, her lead shrunk. Voters ultimately chose fellow Republican Keven Ellis, a local school board president, for the GOP nomination. Bruner lost by about 18 percent in the primary runoff.

Bruner’s Facebook posts, which have since been deleted, ranged from the biblical to bizarre. The posts went back several years and were published by left-leaning government watchdog group Texas Freedom Network.

In one, she wrote that a flood (for which Noah needed an Ark) destroyed dinosaurs — not a meteor invented by atheists.

In another, she claimed Democrats killed John F. Kennedy. And in one of multiple anti-Islam comments, she said House Speaker Paul Ryan’s beard made him look like “a terrorist.”

She also took swings at Obama, claiming he spent years as a prostitute in his twenties, which she claimed enabled him to pay for drugs and explained why he now has a “soft spot for homosexuals.”

Her defeat was celebrated by the group that had outed her Facebook posts.

“Texas escaped an education train wreck tonight,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said in a statement. “If Bruner had ultimately won election to the board, she would have instantly become the most embarrassingly uninformed and divisive member on a board that already too often puts politics ahead of making sure our kids get a sound education.”

Bruner was an elementary and special education teacher for 36 years. During her campaign for the 15-seat state school board that oversees the education of 5 million students, she vowed to restore “traditional” educational values to Texas’ public schools, including keeping gay “subliminal messages” out of textbooks, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“We need to stick with the basics of teaching phonics, cursive writing, English grammar and multiplication tables,” she told Reuters. “I stand for truth in education, not political correctness.”

Her Facebook posts came to light after the primary in March, where she nearly ran outright, but fell short of the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff. Her campaign lost even more steam after an influential Tea Party group dropped its endorsement of her.

(From NBC News)

(From Bloomberg News)
shutterstock_2999090.jpgChina’s Yantai Xinchao Industry Co. is pursuing U.S. oil acquisitions worth as much as $1 billion in the Permian Basin, and it won’t be satisfied letting others run the show, according to the head of the company’s U.S. subsidiary.

Unlike other Asian companies that bought stakes in U.S. energy prospects in recent years, Xinchao is seeking so-called operated positions, or deals that give it primary authority over everything from how deep to drill to how intensively to frack each well, said Curtis Newstrom, chief executive officer of Blue Whale Energy North America Corp., the U.S. arm of the Shanghai-listed company.

Houston-based Blue Whale made a splash last year with its first two deals on behalf of its Chinese parent, a company virtually unknown in U.S. exploration circles: a $315 million acquisition of drilling rights across 7,100 acres from Juno Energy II in April 2015 and a $1.1 billion transaction in November with Tall City Exploration LLC and Plymouth Petroleum LLC.

Both deals involved Texas oil fields. It is now on the search for other assets valued at between $500 million and $1 billion, he said.

“We’re going to continue looking for opportunities,’’ Newstrom said in an interview on the sidelines of Hart Energy’s DUG Permian Basin conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday. “Xinchao is a very aggressive company and it’s looking to grow.’’

Texas Competition

Xinchao and Newstrom are up against some stiff competition in trying to expand their portfolio in the Permian basin of West Texas and New Mexico. International heavyweights and domestic titans from Exxon Mobil Corp. to Occidental Petroleum Corp. have been ramping up acquisition efforts in the region at a breakneck pace.

Drilling rights in the richest part of the region have been commanding selling prices as high as $35,000 an acre, reminiscent of the height of the shale land grab half a decade ago, according to Mike Winterich, president of Three Rivers Operating Co III LLC, an Austin, Texas-based Permian oil explorer backed by private equity giant Riverstone Holdings LLC.

Private equity firms are also scouring the Permian Basin for acquisitions, heightening competition for relative newcomers such as Blue Whale, which was formed in 2014. More than 100 private equity firms have teams evaluating potential Permian transactions, Winterich said during a presentation at the Hart Energy event on Tuesday.

Growth Plans

Blue Whale hired former ConocoPhillips experts in the use of water-flooding to sweep crude out of aging fields to boost results from the wells acquired from Juno along the northern edge of the Permian, Newstrom said.

On the Tall City-Plymouth assets, Blue Whale plans to raise the number of rigs drilling new wells to three from two. The company has identified 1,500 to 1,600 attractive targets across the 78,000 acres of drilling rights it acquired, Newstrom said. He didn’t give a timeframe for adding the next rig.

Blue Whale is at a disadvantage to domestic investors as it tries to snap up more U.S. oil fields because its ownership by a Beijing-based entity means every deal must undergo scrutiny by the Treasury Department’s Committee of Foreign Investment in the U.S., known as CFIUS, Newstrom said.

The vetting process usually takes from 45 to 90 days, a time lag that makes some American sellers balk, he said. Blue Whale hired DLA Piper to steer it through the CFIUS process in both of last year’s acquisitions, he said.

Newstrom described himself and Xinchao as “agnostic’’ with regard to which U.S. oil regions in which to invest. Still, given current crude prices, the Permian is probably the only region where new wells will make money, he said.

“In this price environment, the Permian’s really the only place that works,’’ he said.

 

Kari and her mother

Kari and her daughter

A bill inspired by an East Texas mother killed in a Marshall, Texas hotel room in December 2013 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Monday afternoon.

It will now move on to the Senate.

Kari Hunt was killed by her estranged husband.

Her nine-year-old daughter tried calling 911 from the hotel room four times but wasn’t able to get through because she didn’t know to dial another nine to reach an outside line.

The legislation ensures that anyone who dials 9-1-1 will reach emergency personnel, even if the phone typically requires that user to dial ‘9’ to get an outside line.

The bill now goes to the Senate for passage.

Kari’s Law was adopted in Texas in 2015, but this bill pushes for direct 911 access in all multi-line phone systems across the country.

 

 

Capt. George Webster Smith

Capt. George Webster Smith

On this day in 1869, during reconstruction, twenty-four defendants went on trial before a military commission in the celebrated Stockade Case.

(The U.S. military occupied Texas for nine years following the Civil War.)

The case was the result of events that occurred on the night of October 4, 1868.

On the previous night, George W. Smith, a former Union soldier and a Marion County delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1868–69, and four black men, were incarcerated in the Jefferson city jail after a Republican meeting, which ended in gunfire.

Smith was shot at by four men, including Col. Richard P. Crump, a leading citizen of Jefferson. Smith then fired his gun and injured two of the four men.

He sought protection from the army post, but Maj. James Curtis allowed the civil authorities, including Crump, to take custody of Smith on the charge of assault after they promised he would not be harmed.

Marion County

Marion County

On October 4, an armed group of seventy to 100 hooded men overpowered the civilian and military guard, and, unable to dislodge Smith from his cell, shot him through the windows.

The four black men were taken into the woods, where two of them, Lewis Grant and Richard Stewart, were killed, and the other two, Anderson Wright and Cornelius Turner, escaped

After the killings, Reconstruction officials arrested some thirty-five suspects, and eventually tried twenty-four of them.

A total of 176 witnesses were heard in what one historian has described as a tortuous session, during which one of the military judges was arrested and another was withdrawn from the bench for acting more as a prosecutor than as a judge.

A verdict was not delivered until August 23, 1869.

Only seven of the defendants were found guilty of any of the charges, and it is unclear whether any of them served any time in prison.

 

Nykerion Nealon in a photo released by the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. Handout via REUTERS

Nykerion Nealon in a photo released by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. Handout via REUTERS

DALLAS–A Texas teenager was found guilty on Monday of murdering an Iraqi man who had just arrived in the United States and was shot as he took family pictures in an apartment parking lot last year.

A Dallas jury convicted Nykerion Nealon, 18, of killing Ahmed al-Jumaili, 36. The jury immediately began deliberating on a sentence for the teen, who faces up to 99 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Nealon fired 14 rounds from an AK-47, striking al-Jumaili once in the chest in the parking lot of the complex where he and his family lived.

Al-Jumaili, who had only been in the United States for about three weeks, ran to his apartment and collapsed.

He was pronounced dead at an area hospital. Dallas police said Nealon did not know al-Jumaili’s ethnicity and the murder charge was not prosecuted as a hate crime. Nealon appeared to have been trying to retaliate for a separate shooting that took place at his girlfriend’s apartment, authorities said.

A lawyer for Nealon was not immediately available for comment.

“While no verdict can bring our beloved Ahmed back, and there are no winners today, the family is relieved this trial has rendered a guilty verdict and that justice has prevailed,” said Alia Salem, executive director of the local branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, from Reuters News Service)

920x920The emerald ash borer, an invasive species of beetle responsible for killing tens of millions of ash trees across the country, has made its way to Texas, federal and state officials confirmed Monday.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service and Texas A&M Forest Service trapped four adult beetles in Harrison County, just south of Karnack in northeast Texas. Lab results confirmed those beetles are emerald ash borers, which can kill ash trees within three years of infestation.

The beetle is a native to Asia but turned up in the United States in Michigan in 2002. Since then, it has been found in 26 states including Arkansas and Louisiana.

“We are the 26th member of a club nobody wants to belong to,” said Shane Harrington, forest health coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Texas officials have been anticipating the beetles’ arrival for years, setting traps across the state to provide an early warning.

In the United States, there are 16 ash species susceptible to the emerald ash borer. Texas is home to seven of these species, most of which can be found in the state’s urban forests.

“Removal of poor quality ash, planting trees that aren’t susceptible to emerald ash borer, and protecting high value ash by treating them will help us weather this attack,” said Paul Johnson, urban and community forestry program coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service.

If landowners suspect an emerald ash borer infestation, they should contact their nearest Texas A&M Forest Service office for help.

(From The Houston Chronicle)

Bonnie & ClydeOn May 23, 1934, The Texas Rangers and Louisiana police ambushed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in Bienville Parish, near Sailes, LA. and shot them to death.

The bank robbers were riding in a stolen Ford Deluxe.

Bonnie Parker met the charismatic Clyde Barrow in Texas when she was 19 years old and her husband (she married when she was 16) was serving time in jail for murder. Shortly after they met, Barrow was imprisoned for robbery. Parker visited him every day, and smuggled a gun into prison to help him escape, but he was soon caught in Ohio and sent back to jail.

When Barrow was paroled in 1932, he immediately hooked up with Parker, and the couple began a life of crime together.

After they stole a car and committed several robberies, Parker was caught by police and sent to jail for two months. Released in mid-1932, she rejoined Barrow. Over the next two years, the couple teamed with various accomplices to rob a string of banks and stores across five states–Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Louisiana. Bonnie-and-Clyde_Lovers-on-the-Lamb_HD_768x432-16x9

To law enforcement agents, the Barrow Gang–including Barrow’s childhood friend, Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones, Henry Methvin, Barrow’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche, among others–were cold-blooded criminals who didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who got in their way, especially police or sheriff’s deputies.

Among the public, however, Parker and Barrow’s reputation as dangerous outlaws was mixed with a romantic view of the couple as “Robin Hood”-like folk heroes.

Their fame was increased by the fact that Bonnie was a woman–an unlikely criminal–and by the fact that the couple posed for playful photographs together, which were later found by police and released to the media.

Police almost captured the famous duo twice in the spring of 1933, with surprise raids on their hideouts in Joplin and Platte City, Missouri.

Buck Barrow was killed in the second raid, and Blanche was arrested, but Bonnie and Clyde escaped once again.

In January 1934, they attacked the Eastham Prison Farm in Texas to help Hamilton break out of jail, shooting several guards with machine guns and killing one.

Texan prison officials hired a retired Texas police officer, Captain Frank Hamer, as a special investigator to track down Parker and Barrow.

After a three-month search, Hamer traced the couple to Louisiana, where Henry Methvin’s family lived.

Before dawn on May 23, Hamer and a group of Louisiana and Texas lawmen hid in the bushes along a country road outside Sailes. When Parker and Barrow appeared, the officers opened fire, killing the couple instantly in a hail of bullets.

All told, the Barrow Gang was believed responsible for the deaths of 13 people, including nine police officers. Parker and Barrow are still seen by many as romantic figures, however, especially after the success of the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.