The Big Country has seen a number of unusual and devastating crimes in 2013.
Just one day into the year, Jingbo Xu was arrested for allegedly molesting a customer during a massage at the Mall of Abilene. Not long after his arrest, KTXS learned his place of employment—Li Sun’s Accupressure and Massage—was not licensed with the state and was forced to close. Xu’s case has not yet gone to trial.
Also in January, Eliseo Garza took a plea deal for 20 concurrent years in prison for the drunk driving accident that killed two of his female passengers on FM 600 in 2012. Later that month, Myron McDonald Jr. and Christopher Johnson were arrested following a 10-hour standoff in Colorado City and shots fired at a state trooper. They are now serving life sentences.
The biggest story that came out of Colorado City was the sad truth that Hailey Dunn would never come back home alive. The teen had been missing since Dec. 2010 and her scattered remains were found near Scurry County’s Lake JB Thomas in March. To date, no arrests have been made in connection to her death.
In April, Ricky White was charged with the murder of his temporary roommate Willie D. Anderson. The same month, Martin Hererra was arrested for the arson/homicide of Bobby McLane Sr.
Synthetic drugs became infamous over the summer – leading to dozens of overdoses and hospitalizations. Abilene police worked with city council and federal authorities to push the over-the-counter sale of synthetics (i.e. K2 and bath salts) outside of the city through rezoning efforts.
For the July robbery of south Abilene’s Citibank, Jacob Powell took a plea deal for a near 16-year federal prison sentence. Also in July, Brian Berry was arrested for allegedly shooting and killing his estranged wife Keri Berry and brother-in-law Brandon Block. He allegedly then took his young children on the run in Tom Green County; however, the children were found OK.
In August, a missing person’s case out of Rising Star quickly turned into a murder investigation. Michael Lowery reached out to KTXS about his missing wife, Amber. Shortly after an interview, he was arrested for her murder. Authorities served a search warrant on their property and said they found human remains.
The Klapheke case was set to go to trial in October; however, it hit a major road block. Tiffany Klapheke was arrested in 2012 after her toddler, Tamryn, died of malnutrition and dehydration on Dyess Air Force Base. Just weeks before her trial, Klapheke asked the judge in her case for new representation. That took her court-appointed attorneys, David Thedford and Ken Leggett, off her case. With the help of her adoptive mother, Klapheke hired George Parnham of Houston and John Young of Sweetwater. Several years ago, Parnham defended Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in a bathtub. Instead of prison time, Yates got mental health services. In an exclusive interview, Klapheke told KTXS she wants her lawyers to take a closer look at her extensive mental health history, which includes abuse at the hands of her biological family.
Klapheke was married to a deployed airman at the time of her toddler’s death, but in October, her live-in boyfriend Airman Christopher Perez was sentenced to three years in military prison in relation to the case.
Abilene and Wylie ISDs had to deal with big accusations about two students. Cordell Dorsey of Cooper High School was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl. Though his case has not yet gone to grand jury, he was allowed back onto the football team after a brief suspension. Montell Whitney at Wylie High School was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 18.
In November, police arrested the president of a motorcycle club in connection to a very public stabbing at a south Abilene restaurant. Police said Bandido President Jack Lewis got into a fight with members of the Cossack Motorcycle Club in the Logan’s Roadhouse parking lot—sending two to the hospital with stab wounds.
In Brownwood, Pedro Rocha Jr.—one of four charged in connection to the murder of Ronald Philen—was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
By mid-December, a standoff at a home near Merkel put two young men behind bars. Taylor County Sheriff’s deputies told KTXS a woman caught Shawn Shankles and JP Smith messing with a car on her property. She said she was shot at when she called 911 and the shots continued when law enforcement arrived. Deputies said Smith surrendered but Shankles continued the standoff for approx. four hours. Fortunately - there were no injuries.