With 2009 winding down, the Empire-Tribune cracked open the archives in search of the stories that touched the people of Erath County over the last year. From economic hardships and issues affecting local government and its citizens, to senseless crimes and justice in action to the retirement of elected and appointed officials and historic first times, the past year has no doubt shaped the world we live in.
Editors note: This is the first in a three-part series on the local events of the last year, see the Thursday and Friday editions of the E-T for continuing coverage. The top 10 national headlines will be included in Sunday's edition.
Retail store closes doors
Goody's Family Clothing announced plans to liquidate all 287 of its retail locations in 20 states, including the Stephenville store. The announcement came less than three months after the clothing chain emerged from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.
J7 wrecked by bad business
Something was apparently amiss at J7 Vehicle Sales on the South Loop in Stephenville as vehicles began rolling off the lot. First Financial Bank lodged a civil lawsuit against business owners Terry and Jessi Staton after they allegedly failed to abide by the terms attached to more than $800,000 in loans.
Record set at livestock show
Darin Peters with the Stephenville FFA (Future Farmers of America) set a record at the Erath County Junior Livestock Show Market Auction when his Grand Champion exotic steer brought $10.25 per pound
Political milestones made
On the political scene, Barack Obama became the first African-American president to move into the White House and the 44th president of the United States as he took the oath of office on Jan. 20. Meanwhile, State Representative Sid Miller (R- Stephenville) marked the beginning of the 81st Legislative Session as he was sworn in to his fifth term as representative of District 59.
FMC layoffs began
Sixty-five of the 580 employees of local manufacturing plant FMC Technologies were laid off in light of the economic crisis gripping the nation.
Drug suspect sentenced
A man who evaded local authorities for almost two months in 2008 pleaded guilty to manufacturing and delivering methamphetamine and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Joseph Perry Madruga was sentenced to 15 and 30 years for the offenses and the sentences were set to run concurrently. The Dublin resident was tied to a major drug trafficking ring that was busted by federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Locals back dangerous dog
The community rallied behind homeless man Thomas Genova and his canine companion, Brandy. The pitbull was pinned at the Erath County Human Society after biting an off-duty restaurant employee. After months of debate, a hearing, failure to adhere to a negotiated agreement and another alleged attack, Genova signed an agreement to leave Stephenville with his dog in tow.
City halts projects
Two long-anticipated city projects, the library and multipurpose center, were put on hold in tough economic times. While the projects had been on the drawing board for years, City Administrator Mark Kaiser urged the council to forgo a May bond election and added stress on financially struggling citizens to finance the projects.
Opry marks three decades
The Cross Timbers Country Opry celebrated 30 years of music and melody making. Local resident Carroll Parham opened the opry on Jan. 27, 1979, and has held his position as the leader of the Country Express Band ever since.
Grocer gets beer
Wal-Mart SuperCenter became the first grocery store in Erath County to stock beer following a November 2008 election to legalize the sale of beer and wine for off premiss consumption.
Teen sentenced for sex assault
Michael Cantero, 19, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Donald Jones after he violated the terms of his probation for online solicitation of a minor and was found guilty of sexually assaulting two Dublin girls who were under the age of 17.
DISD super retires
Dublin ISD Superintendent Roy Neff announced he would retire after 23 years at the helm of the school district, brining an end to an educational career that spanned four decades.
City taps into lake water
Following a heated debate and at least two council members, Mark Murphy and Russ McDanel, rallying against the issue, the Stephenville City Council voted to implement Proctor Lake water into city supplies. The action was found to be the most cost effective way to maintain the disputed $7.5 million Dublin pipeline. Meanwhile, the council also voted to approve a $50,000 annual contract with lobbying firm Myers and Associates, LLC to represent the city in quest for federal funding.
UFOs spotted, again
'Unidentified freaky lights' once again hovered in the sky above Erath County. Several residents reported a string of UFO sightings on Thursday, Feb. 5.
Wrongful death suit dropped
A $7.5 million civil lawsuit lodged by Jim Roberson against his adopted son, Cody, his son's girlfriend, Erath County and county employees was dismissed. Roberson's wife, Jana, was murdered by Cody on Jan. 30, 2007. Cody was sentenced to 50 years in prison and Roberson sought compensation for her death and the county's failure to act quickly enough prevent the homicide.
After two days of testimony from several witnesses, including his 13-year-old accuser, Dublin resident Ray Rollins was acquitted in sexual assault of a minor who once lived with his family. It took the jury less than one hour to find him not guilty.
Stephenville's airport, Clark Field, was renamed to Stephenville Clark Regional Airport in an effort to make it more easily associated with the city while still honoring former Mayor Henry Clark. Clark served four terms in the 1920s - 1950s.
Chief appraiser files suit
Following months of debate, embattled Chief Appraiser Jerry Lee fired back at three Erath County Appraisal District board members, Neal Guthrie, Bill Bailey and Katherine Prater, when he filed a petition in the 266th Judicial District Court. Lee sought a temporary restraining order in an attempt to halt his termination. The action led to Guthrie's resignation in the days that followed. (LEE MUG)
Dublin mayor retires
Dublin Mayor James "Red" Seigars announced he would retire from his role at helm of the the city council. Seigars was in his 10th year as mayor and began serving Dublin when he joined the city council in 1992. (MUG)
Cowboy Capital makes top 20
Stephenville was ranked as one of the best places to live in the west by American Cowboy Magazine. While the city has long been called the Cowboy Capital, it made the top 20 for the first time in 2009.
SISD gets new appraisal rep
Stephenville ISD appointed Les Gandy to the Erath County Appraisal District board of directors. Gandy, former tax collector for the SISD, was chosen to represent the school district following the resignation of Neal Guthrie. (MUG - Gandy)
More layoffs at FMC
The troubled economy once again dealt a blow to the local workforce as FMC Technologies was forced to lay off an additional 60 employees, which brought the toll to 125 of the company's 580 employees. (LOGO)
Stephenville elections heat up
Twelve candidates stepped forward to vie for openings on the Stephenville City Council and Stepehnville ISD board of trustees. Eight candidates, including incumbents Don Zelman, Alan Nash and Mark Murphy, former council member Joe Cude and newcomers Jared Crow, Elizabeth Baxter, Virginia Abel and Martha Cashon would fight for four openings on the council. Meanwhile, Gary Sult, Andrew Hansen, Doug Svien and Todd McEvoy would compete to fill two openings on the school board. Meanwhile, the board planned to honor Susan Hutchins who announced she would not run for re-election after nearly a decade of service as a trustee.
Local bank robbed
Authorities searched for a masked gunman who made off with an undisclosed amount of cash after he robbed Members Trust Federal Credit Union on March 13. After a six-day manhunt, Stephenville resident David Crabtree, 41, was arrested in connection with the robbery. (PICTURE)
Dead man goes unnoticed
Authorities worked to identify human remains that were found inside a car, which had flipped into a culvert and remained unnoticed for weeks. The victim was later identified as Danny Joe Allen, 23, of Fort Worth, who was last seen in February. (MUG)
Fake funds distributed
Funny money made its way across Erath County and an investigation to determine the source of the counterfeit $20 bills got underway. Investigators from three different law enforcement agencies contributed to the effort.
Cigarette tax jumps
Smokers choked as the cigarette tax jumped from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack following a health initiative signed by President Barack Obama.
Local named Yell Leader
Erath County native Regan Thompson was elected by the Texas A&M University student body as one of three Senior Yell Leaders for the 2009-10 school year. More than 14,000 votes were cast in the Aggie election. (PHOTO)
Lee gets contract
Chief Appraiser Jerry Lee was finally extended a two-year employment contract after many months of debate. Katherine Prater, who represented Dublin's taxing entities, was the only one of four voting appraisal board members to vote against the contract. Board Chairman Bill Bailey didn't weigh in on the vote.
Locals get TEA'd
Republican and Democrats, youngsters and oldtimers, elected officials and everyday "Joes" gathered on the Erath County Courthouse Square on Wednesday, April 15. The crowd converged on the county seat in peaceful protest of government infringement on their rights and liberties. The peaceful protest was part of the National TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party Day (LOGO)
J7 owner arrested
Terry Staton, owner of J7 Vehicle Sales, was arrested on felony theft charges on April 17. He was charged with misappropriation of fiduciary property, a first-degree felony. (MUG)
Flu fears spread
As the number of H1N1, initially dubbed Swine Flu, cases spread rapidly across the nation, the University Scholastic League (UIL) halted all Texas high school athletic competitions until May 11. Local pharmacies and consumers faced a shortage of flu prevention items, such face masks and hand sanitizers, and the prescription drug Tamiflu, which is used to treat the flu.
Complied by Staff Writer Amanda Kimble