The year started off on a sad note with the unexpected suicide of former Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant and the continuation of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement’s investigation into the sheriff’s office.
We are taking a look back at other big headlines that made a debut in 2017.
Sheriff Coates sits down for first formal interview
The morning after Bryant’s death, Erath County commissioners appointed Matt Coates, who was working as an investigator for District Attorney Alan Nash, to interim sheriff. Just hours after he was sworn into office, Coates suspended four top officials with the sheriff’s office.
Trump becomes 45th U.S. president
Pledging to empower America's "forgotten men and women," Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, taking command of a deeply divided nation and ushering in an unpredictable era in Washington. His victory gave Republicans control of the White House for the first time in eight years.
Former EMT gets 12 years for aggravated assault
Former EMT Cody Miller was sentenced to two 12-year terms after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated assault on a public servant using a firearm. The sentences will run concurrently. Miller was arrested on Sept. 4, 2015 after firing twice at Deputy Jerry Sharp and Trooper BJ Hill who responded to Miller’s home in Morgan Mill on a welfare check.
Allen Barnes becomes city administrator
After a closed executive session of the Stephenville City Council, it was announced that Allen Barnes had been selected as the new city administrator. Since the October 2015 resignation of former City Administrator Pat Bridges, who left to return to law enforcement work, the position had been filled by Wayne McKethan.
Tarleton student dies after home gas leak
A 22-year-old Tarleton State University student, Jacey Smathers, was found dead inside her home in Erath County. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The sheriff’s office warned others that if they use gas inside their home to get a carbon monoxide detector.
Man accused of intoxicated manslaughter speaks out
After agreeing to a jailhouse interview with the E-T, Fred Gonzales, 42 — accused of running over Jai-Mee Williams, 33, with his truck and killing her on Feb. 11 — spoke out about the night it all happened claiming it was just an accident.
H-E-B purchases land for remodel
With plans to remodel, H-E-B entered into an agreement to purchase nearly an acre of additional land adjacent to the Stephenville property to allow for more parking and opportunity to broaden its selections.
SHS Heart of Gold documentary wins fifth in state
Stephenville High School seniors, Emily Moore and Caleb Gibbons, had big success at the UIL Young Filmmakers Festival in Austin by winning fifth place in the state for their powerful Heart of Gold documentary. SHS's Heart of Gold football game honors someone every year who is struggling with illness.
SPD, DA and sheriff's office form Special Crimes Unit
The Stephenville City Council approved a request by Stephenville Police Chief Jason King for the department to participate with the District Attorney’s Office and Erath County Sheriff’s Office in forensic examinations of electronic devices, and a Special Crimes Unit. Detectives working in a special crimes unit investigate cases involving sexual assault, domestic abuse or crimes against children or the elderly.
Court of Appeals upholds conviction of Eddie Routh
The Eleventh Court of Appeals in Eastland upheld the capital murder conviction of Eddie Ray Routh. Routh was sentenced to life in prison without parole in February 2015 after killing American Sniper Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge in 2013.
Honeybee soccer makes history
The Honeybees and head coach Casey Weil captured their first state soccer championship after defeating Boerne, 2-1, in Georgetown.
SISD hosts first ever Special Olympics
Volunteers, community members, parents and school faculty came together to cheer on student-athletes at Stephenville ISD’s first ever Special Olympics. And special it was.
Longtime city secretary Cindy Stafford retires
It was a memorable 23 years for city secretary Cindy Stafford. During her time at City Hall she worked for five city administrators, six mayors and 49 council members. Stafford's last day with the city was July 14.
The Purple Goat opens its doors
The brand new restaurant located directly across from City Limits and The Agave is a stunning venue with an upbeat dining room filled with large TVs, pool tables and bar.
Inmate escapes through chainlink fence
Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates said a structural problem in the chainlink enclosure that surrounds the jail’s recreation yard allowed inmate Josh Daniel to escape on June 9. Daniel was apprehended within hours and the problem was identified immediately and fixed.
Former sheriff's officials sue Coates, commissioners
Two former Erath County sheriff’s officials - former chief deputy Jason Upshaw and former captain Randy Fowler - filed lawsuits against Sheriff Matt Coates and commissioners Dee Stephens, Herbert Brown, Joe Brown and Scot Jackson. The suit alleges that the men were terminated without pay and escorted out of the sheriff’s office in a “humiliating” way because they were “under investigation.”
Tarleton Police unveil new facility, celebrate 50 years
The Tarleton State University Police Department celebrated 50 years with a new facility unveiling, ribbon cutting and tour.
Couple found dead inside home; incident under investigation
Investigators are still trying to piece together a puzzle that ended in the deaths of two Stephenville residents. Coates said the man and woman were facing some personal issues, including possible eviction. Law enforcement officials were dispatched to the scene following a call of a welfare concern. Their cause of death has still not been released.
Inmate dies from medical complications
The Erath County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release stating that an inmate had passed away following medical complications during dialysis. John R. Ingle had been awaiting trial after he was indicted in February 2016 for indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault.
Ranger College gets enough signatures for ballot
Residents in Erath, Brown and Comanche counties had a chance to vote on whether to allow themselves to be annexed into the Ranger College District. Residents would have paid a property tax rate of $.11 per $100 valuation in exchange for more services and decreased tuition, but the motion was voted down in November.
Damaging Hurricane Harvey settles over Texas
The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade made landfall about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi as a category 4 storm with 130 mph winds and dumping torrents of rain over hundreds of miles of coastline that braced for what forecasters predicted would be life-threatening storm surges — basically walls of water moving inland. Stephenville churches, students, law enforcement, businesses and individuals did their part to help those affected by Harvey by donating supplies.
County judge, treasurer announce retirement
County Judge Tab Thompson and treasurer Donna Kelly officially announced they will not seek re-election in 2018.
Statewide law prohibits texting while driving
Texting while driving became illegal across the state of Texas on Sept. 1 as the result of a new texting-while-driving ban passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session. The law prohibits motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages while driving.
$25 million project to bring new restaurant, retail center and hotel to Stephenville
EG Tejas LLC, a company that Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson and three other executives created last year, are behind the multi-million dollar development deemed Project Blue by SEDA.
Humane Society, city reach agreement to keep doors open
The Erath County Humane Society and city of Stephenville reached an agreement that will keep the doors to the animal shelter open for the foreseeable future. Plans for a new facility are underway.
The 2018 race for sheriff, county judge gets crowded
Clell Murray, Bobby Harpole, Paul Tyus and Matt Coates filed their campaign treasurer with the Erath County clerk’s office to run for sheriff. Meanwhile, Alfonso Campos, Jon Koonsman, Shelby Slawson, Heath Allen and Jack Bragg filed to run for county judge. The Republican Party Primary will be held March 6.
Police arrest alleged prostitute inside massage parlor
A woman suspected of running a prostitution ring inside a massage parlor on Washington Street was taken into custody in an undercover sting. Law enforcement officials working with the special crimes unit began investigating the business after Stephenville Police Chief Jason King received information that more than massages were taking place there.
Audit reveals slew of past wrongdoings, infractions at sheriff's office
The findings were released in a special called meeting at the Erath County Courthouse and outlined a range of administrative wrongdoings while the late Tommy Bryant was acting sheriff.
SHS names Homecoming King, Queen
Stephenville High School senior, Calvin Jones, was chosen as the 2017 Homecoming King and Rebecca Tuggle was named 2017 Homecoming Queen.
Man sentenced to 40 years for possession of child porn
District Judge Jason Cashon sentenced Rickie Allen Osborn to 40 years in prison for possession of child pornography.
Man sentenced to 34 years for shooting Erath County resident
District Judge Jason Cashon sentenced Bruce Duane Vannoy to 34 years in prison for the March 10 shooting of Erath County resident Cody Dickson.
Underwood talks SISD projects, possible bond election
The Stephenville ISD Facility Planning Committee met for months to narrow down improvement projects for Stephenville High School, Henderson Junior High, Gilbert Intermediate and Hook Elementary, paving the way for a potential bond election in 2018.
Sundown raises $37K for Stephenville museum
Sundown on the Square was a huge success this year raising $37,000 for the Stephenville Historical House Museum.
26 dead after worst mass shooting in Texas history
The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, a tiny town about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, became the scene of mass death after a lone gunman killed 26 people and injured many others in the deadliest shooting at a place of worship in American history.
City council strips HOT tax from Chamber
A nearly hour-long discussion by members of the Stephenville City Council culminated in a stunning vote that stripped the Chamber of Commerce of its hotel (HOT) tax to the tune of $240,000 annually. Plans are underway for the city to develop its own tourism center.
Tarleton accepts fifth bowl invitation in school history
Tarleton head coach Todd Whitten announced that the Texans would take the field one more time in 2017 as a competing member of the first-ever Corsicana Bowl. Sadly, the Texans lost to Central Oklahoma in the game.
Erath County votes down Ranger College annexation
Erath County voters spoke loud and clear when they decisively voted down the Ranger College annexation proposal. The defeat became clear when early voting totals were tallied shortly after 7 p.m. with 3,248 (97.27 percent) votes against the measure and just 91 (2.83 percent) voting in favor.
Former youth minister charged with seven counts of child porn
Former Graham Street Church of Christ youth minister Timothy Travis Simon, 33, was charged with seven counts of possession or promotion of child pornography and is being held at the Erath County Jail on a combined bond of $1.2 million.
Man arrested in connection with shooting of Tarleton student
Stephenville police arrested a man who they say shot a 19-year-old Tarleton State University student in the face. Shawn Patrick Layton, 26, was taken into custody and booked into the Erath County Jail charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second degree felony. Investigators eventually determined the shooting was a case of mistaken identity after another resident of the apartment complex, Jeremy Lau, told police that he was a marijuana dealer and believed that he had been the intended victim.
Jackets’ end season after loss in state semifinals
Stephenville High School’s remarkable run in the Class 4A, Div. I state football playoffs ended with a 54-28 state semifinal loss to seventh-ranked Kennedale at AT&T Stadium.