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New Year's Harvest

Local resident Lonnie Graham bundles sweet potatoes in baskets Tuesday morning on South Broadway Street between AutoZone and Broadway Buffet. Graham’s sweet potatoes come from Grand Saline and the onions he also sells are shipped from Oregon. 
Staff Photo by Isabel Reyna

Library hosts best selling author

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Sulphur Springs Public Library will be hosting the New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck on Thursday evening.

“She is going to join us by Skype from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.,” said Sulphur Springs Public Library Director Hope Cain.

Cain got in touch with Houck through her publisher, Sterling Publishing Co., and booked the event well ahead of time for the final Meet Me in the Stacks event.

“I really anticipated that this might be the big finish of the season and, if it goes well, we can continue it,” said Cain.

Houck started her career as a American Sign Language interpreter for 17 years. After attending the University of Arizona, she started writing and currently lives in Salem, Ore., with her husband. In 2011, Houck published the New York Times best seller “Tiger’s Curse” and has continued the series with her fourth book, “Tiger’s Destiny.”Her Tiger series blends action, fantasy, science fiction and romance and is written for young adult audiences.

“We were looking for authors that spoke to the teenage and young adult readers,” said Cain. “All the authors we feature in our book displays for Meet Me in the Stacks go in and out of the library all the time.”

The library will provide free pizz and drinks while patrons visit with Houck.

“Many of the readers that come here love to write themselves and ask about how authors get published and what are the first steps in the process,” said Cain. “Others are very interested in how to write a good book and how to get people’s attention.”

Cain said that the best part of the evening is asking Houck about her characters and what makes them so believable. Readers will get a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how her books came together and why certain characters were created.

“Some readers really want to get into the characters and that is so cool,” said Cain. “The authors are always very interested in answers any questions readers might have.”

Relay For Life kicks off 2014 campaign Thursday

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Theme is “Lights, Camera, CURE!”

Hopkins County residents will be gearing up this week for the official campaign kickoff celebration for the 2015 Relay For Life, which is schedule this spring downtown.

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Insurance will save county in capital murder trial

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The costs for defense attorneys and costs of trial in a capital case — one involving the death sentence — are considerable, and Hopkins County is preparing to try two men on capital murder charges. In looking at those costs, County Judge Robert Newsom and county commissioners are thankful for steps taken just more than two years ago when the commissioners court took advantage of the opportunity to purchase an insurance policy to cover the cost of a public defender in a trial seeking the death penalty. Without this public defender insurance, the county would have to use surplus funds in the county's budget since the entire indigent defense budget for the year is $125,000. “I can easily see that eaten up by one case as opposed to the whole year's worth of cases the district judges would hear,” Newsom said. “So, it's something we can't really prepare for.” Initially, county commissioners were not too impressed with this kind of insurance policy. There had been only one capital murder trial in the county since 2001. Two years ago, however, the county agreed to purchase the insurance policy, a move that will benefit the county with two murder defendants — Patrick Wayne McMahan and Cody Scott Shaw — awaiting trial and, if convicted, a possibe death sentence. Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker was on the commissioners court when the insurance policy was purchased. “At that time, the legislature had put forward a funding mechanism to fund the public defender insurance on a sliding scale for the money you had to be out,” she said. “On this, Regional Public Defenders were the ones that had received the grant. The first year, we paid a little over $9,000 and this year we've paid $12,000 and we have three more years with this program. It was a safety mechanism that the court made a commitment to.” The insurance comes into play when the court must appoint an attorney for a capital murder defendant. “Most people in this situation, where you have a capital murder case, cannot afford a capital murder defense attorney or, especially, two of them,“ Newsom said. “They simply just cannot afford them.” Another element is the availability of a local attorney who is certified to try a case involving the death penalty. “One of the challenges to this is we have only one attorney who is qualified to be on a capital murder case, and he will be on the second case,” Newsom said. “Because we have the insurance, two of the attorneys that have been on the Kaufman County capital murder case just recently will actually be defending the person who law enforcement believes is the 'trigger man,' one of the defendants in the case.” At this point, the county has invested just more than $21,000 in the public defender insurance policy and, with the attorneys the county will have to appoint, the costs of the capital murder trial will in no way be cheap. “It's been about 13 years since we've tried a capital murder in Hopkins County and we did it as economically and as quickly as possible,” Newsom said. “Still, it was extremely expensive. I'm sure it was more than $100,000 and we did it as inexpensively as possibly. “The stories I hear now, with the new regulations and high requirements for the capital attorneys that defend these as well as all the evidence and all the work the district attorney does that would not be done on just any case, I hear $300,000 at a minimum for almost any capital murder case. Then, you hear the nightmares of a million dollars plus.” With two capital murder defendants now awaiting trial, the county could be looking at a cost that could range anywhere from about $600,000 to $2 million. Thanks to the foresight of the commissioners court in spending a total of about $50,000 for the public defender insurance, the savings to county tax payers will be from $250,000 up. “One the things we are concerned about is that, yes, one of the defendants has some very fine attorneys from the public defender firm.” Newsom said. “The insurance company has also told us that the second defendant, who is also facing the death sentence, the county will have to carry that burden. “Two attorneys have been appointed to the second defendant and and that will be a burden on the county,” He continued. “The insurance policy covers one [defendant], one total until we have another one — one per episode.” With two men charged as co-defendants in this murder case, the attorneys for the second defendant will have to be paid for by the county. “That's the cost of doing business. Justice is not inexpensive, but justice is the right thing to do,” the county judge said. “We must go forward and justice must be done. We will support the courts financially, whatever they need to be able to see the cases go forward.”

Commerce woman held on felony drug charges

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A Friday evening traffic stop by Commerce police led to the arrest of a 31-year-old Commerce woman on two first-degree felony drug charges, according to Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews. Crews said officers arrested Heather Ann Long, initially, on a misdemeanor warrant. “Subsequent to the arrest, officers discovered what appeared to be Lysergic Acid Diethylamide blotters commonly known as LSD in the woman's purse,” Chief Crews said. “Officers also found an off white crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine that Ms. Long attempted to get rid of in the back of the police vehicle. “At the jail, a female police officer also found more drugs that Ms. Long was hiding on her person,” the chief continued. “Ms. White was found to be in possession of about 6 grams of suspected methamphetamine valued at $600 and 175 units of LSD valued at about $875.” The woman was charged with manufacture and delivery of a penalty group 1 controlled substance, over four grams but less than 200 grams in a drug-free zone and possession of a controlled substance, penalty group 1A, greater than 80 abuse units but less than 4,000 abuse units in a drug-free zone. Long was held in Hunt County jail in lieu of bonds totaling $130,000 on the two first-degree felony charges.

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