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Sheriff's Office establishes Safe Exchange Zone

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Too many times, police officers or sheriff's deputies are called to stand by when divorced parents meet to let the non-custodial parent pick up children and return them to the other parent. And with the increasing need for a safe place to complete a transaction that originated on one of the many sale and trade sites on the Internet, Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum has established a safe place for those transactions on the parking lot of Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center on Houston Street.

“Child custody exchange is one of the reasons why this Safe Exchange Zone was created,” Tatum said Thursday morning. “That is always a tender or rough issue for parents swapping children, and we want to give them the opportunity to do it here in front of the Law Enforcement Center. People have already been using our parking lot anyway. Now we have two spots designated for that and video cameras are designated for those spots.”

Tatum said another high-resolution camera will be installed for the exchange area in the near future.

The Safe Exchange Zone is also designed to provide an additional measure of safety for people meeting to make an exchange in an agreement made on the Internet.

“We have some parking spaces we have designated exchanges and e-commerce trade,” Tatum said Thursday morning. “If you are exchanging something you've bought or sold over the Internet with someone you don't know, you are not for-sure about, we have designated two spots in front of the sheriff's office to make sure these exchanges are made safely.”

The two spaces on the front parking lot at Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center are monitored around the clock, seven days a week.

“They are monitored by high-resolution cameras in dispatch and also the central control room in the jail,” he explained. “There is a number on the sign, 903-438-4040, that goes directly to dispatch. If when you first arrive you will call that number the dispatchers will make sure they know you are there and will be monitoring you while you are there. They can actually zoom in on the cameras.

“I think that will put some people at ease — and it will also put us at ease — knowing that we are watching. Anybody that had any bad thoughts or wants to do something that is not on the up-and-up — maybe that will be a deterrent for them,” the sheriff said.

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A faulty switch at an Oncor Electric substation put two Sulphur Springs schools and other areas of the west side of the city in the dark on Wednesday morning.


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As the North Texas Orienteering Association prepares for a pair of events in March at Cooper Lake State Park, club leadership hopes to get more area residents interested in an activity the group’s president calls inexpensive, fun and easy to do.


Fugitive captured in Birthright after 24 hours

Female companion also jailed


Almost 24 hours after he ran from a traffic stop on FM 71 about two miles west of Sulphur Bluff, 35-year-old John Samuel Maxwell was apprehended by Hopkins County sheriff's deputies in Birthright.

A deputy had stopped Maxwell just before 8 a.m. Tuesday because the trailer he was pulling had no tail lights.

The man, when asked for identification, told the deputy he did not have any with him. While the deputy was asking a female passenger for identification, Maxwell took off running into a brushy wooded area.

Additional sheriff's officers arrived and immediately established a perimeter around the area they suspected Maxwell to be in.

When questioned by deputies, the female passenger in the vehicle — identified as Tara Diann Slough, 40, of Talco — initially gave the name of a man who was in prison in Winnsboro. Officers then learned that John Samuel Maxwell was the fleeing felon.

As the search got underway Tuesday morning, a helicopter from the Texas Department of Public Safety was called to the area and searched the woods using infrared cameras without success.

Tracking dogs from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were brought to the scene, along with Hopkins County Sheriff's Office canines.

The intense search was called off Tuesday afternoon but deputies remained in the area.

Sheriff's officers received a tip about the wanted man from the area of FM 69 and FM 900, according to HCSO Lt. Tanner Crump.

“We got two calls at the intersection of FM 69 and 900 about a person matching the description who was asking for directions and gave a phone number to call his wife,” Crump said. “Officers were in the area and got positive information from the person at the home to make sure it was the person we were looking for.”

Officers then set up a new command center in the area and the search again shifted into high gear as members of Hopkins County Sheriff's Posse were called to the scene with several officers in the area around the intersection of the FM 69 and FM 900.

Crump said the DPS helicopter and tracking dogs did not respond to the area.

“We didn't have a confirmed 'he went that direction' sighting,” he said.

Officers on the ground searched for more than an hour and patrol officers stayed in the area after midnight.

The break in the chase came this morning when Maxwell approached an elderly man and asked for a ride to Birthright.

“The elderly man's wife called — the man knew who he was giving a ride to and his wife knew who he was giving a ride to — the sheriff's office and said 'My husband is giving this guy a ride to Birthright,'” Crump said. “All my guys went up there and [Inv. Sgt. Corley] Weatherford spotted the vehicle turning south onto State Highway 19. He initiated a traffic stop and Maxwell took off on foot behind a building.”

The manager at the convenience store in Birthright helped out by spotting the fugitive behind a plumbing business.

“The suspect reached into the back of a vehicle and grabbed a bumper jack and started beating himself in the head with it — he was trying to kill himself with that jack once he knew he was cornered,” Crump said. “Deputies were able to Tase him and take him into custody.”

Just before noon Wednesday, Maxwell was still being held in a violence cell at Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center.

Deputies learned Maxwell was wanted by Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for a parole violation. He also faces two charges of evading arrest or detection, criminal mischief and a Lamar County warrant for criminal trespass.

Tara Diann Slough was arrested for hindering the apprehension or prosecution of a known felon. Her bond was set at $50,000 on the charge.

A young boy who was also in the vehicle was taken to the law enforcement center to await a family member to come pick him up.

State Parks Centennial ideas being addressed at Cooper Lake

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as it gears up for its centennial in 2023, is primarily focused on major maintenance needs at its parks. However, the Texas State Parks Centennial Plan that it recently released mentioned other goals for the state’s 74 parks, 13 historic sites and eight natural areas. 

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