MISSING GIRL FOUND — A missing 13-year-old Hidalgo County girl was found and her uncle was taken into custody Tuesday on U.S. 59 near Shepherd. The subject of an Amber Alert, Priscilla Elisabel Martinez was spotted in Liberty County truck stop but when officers approached the vehicle, the driver fled north. It was stopped near Shepherd when it collided with an unoccupied Texas Department of Public Safety vehicle (pictured above). Neither the girl nor the driver, Rudolfo Nuncio Jr., were reported as injured. Both were in custody.
CORRIGAN – A Corrigan man is facing felony charges and pending federal charges stemming from the findings of a search warrant executed on Monday night.
Joel Reuben Lambright Jr., 43, is currently in the Polk County Jail on three separate felony charges, with bonds totaling $300,000. In addition to those charges, Lambright is also awaiting federal charges from a bomb that was discovered during the search of his home.
According to Detective Bert Sims with the Corrigan Police Department, officers with Corrigan PD had received confidential information pertaining to the presence of narcotics at Lambright’s home. A search warrant was obtained by Corrigan PD Officer Cody Hardy, who along with officers Dana Vanya and Tyler Johnson, were dispatched on Monday night to execute the search warrant at Lambright’s residence on Eden Street at around 7 p.m.
When the officers arrived, they found a large amount of K2 (synthetic marijuana or “kush”) and an explosive device. Sims described the bomb as “a fairly simple device,” consisting of black powder inside a container with a detonating device attached.
“It would have still done a lot of damage…would’ve messed up someone’s day,” Sims said.
Two Houston Police Department bomb squad trucks and personnel, as well as officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, joined the Corrigan officers at the scene following the discovery of the bomb and call for backup.
The bomb specialists utilized high-tech equipment to scan the explosive device and disassembled it. The contents were taken into custody as evidence, along with the other contraband that was found.
In addition to the explosive device and the synthetic marijuana, Detective Sims said a trace amount of methamphetamine was also found in the home, along with a large amount of merchandise that officers initially believed was stolen. Detective Sims said that later the officers “determined that the property we thought was stolen wasn’t, so that charge was dropped.”
Lambright was taken into custody without incident, according to Sims, and booked into the county jail. Judge Wayne Yankie set Lambright’s bonds at $100,000 each, but federal agents are still assessing the bomb charge.
“At this time there’s still some loose ends to tie-up in the investi-gation,” Sims said.
The felony charges Lambright is currently being held on include manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance; prohibited weapon and possession of a controlled substance.
FRAZERLIVINGSTON -- A 29-year-old Coldspring man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to the first-degree felony offence of engaging in organized criminal activity.
John Lloyd Frazer had entered a guilty plea earlier to the charge but elected to have 258th District Court Judge Ernest L. McClendon assess the punishment.
The charge against Frazer stemmed from a series of residential burglaries and thefts in the area of FM 2665 near Goodrich in July 2016. During the punishment hearing, which was prosecuted by Polk County Criminal District Attorney Lee Hon, multiple victims testified they had returned to their homes after having been away for work only to discover they had been ransacked and property stolen.
Polk County Sheriff’s Detective Anthony Lowrie testified that following a vehicle stop near Goodrich on July 19, 2016, a search was conducted of Frazer’s residence on Coy Dodson Road where officers discovered many items of property stolen during the various burglaries along with firearms, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
Also arrested during the investigation were Melissa Van Winkle, 33, of Goodrich and Dusty Craig Hanson, 22, of Splendora.
Additional firearms stolen in one of the burglaries were later recovered in Spring at the home of a family member of Van Winkle.
During the sentencing hearing, Hon presented the testimony of DPS Special Crimes Investigator Kevin Hunt who said Frazer was a confirmed member of the Aryan Circle, a white supremacist prison gang commonly involved in theft, burglary and drug distribution offenses in Southeast Texas. Photographs of Frazer’s numerous gang tattoos and gang related social media postings were admitted into evidence by Hon for consideration by McClendon.
In urging the court to assess a 40-year sentence, the district attorney argued that a lengthy sentence would be a just punishment for Frazer given the ongoing organized nature of his criminal activity which included a lengthy history of drug and property crimes.
In addition, Hon implored the judge to “send a message that gang activity of the type engaged in by Frazer and his associates would not be welcome in Polk County and would be dealt with harshly.”
Frazer remained expressionless in the courtroom as McClendon pronounced the sentence.
Charges remain pending against Van Winkle and Hanson, who remained in the Polk County Jail under bonds of $350,000 and $220,000 respectively.
LIVINGSTON -- A head-on collision on U.S. Highway 146 caused two drivers and three children to be hospitalized, including one child that was flown to Houston on Saturday.
According to initial reports, the driver of a black Volvo, Ashlyn Drew Strange, 18, was traveling northbound on U.S. 146 around 1 p.m. on Saturday and was attempting to pass on the southbound lane with another vehicle in front.
When the other vehicle moved back into the correct lane, Strange was forced to swerve into the southbound shoulder to avoid oncoming traffic near the south end of Providence Road. As Strange quickly attempted to drive back into the northbound lane, her vehicle collided with the front of a red Chevy, driven by William Kendall Thompson, 29, traveling southbound.
Both vehicles came to a stop facing north, with Strange’s car being pushed into the grass and Thompson’s vehicle resting along the southbound shoulder.
Thompson had three children in his vehicle. Local EMS transported Thompson and two of the children to CHI St. Luke’s Memorial Hospital with undisclosed injuries. One child suffered serious injuries and was flown to a Houston hospital. A landing zone was set up in a nearby field by the Escapees Care Center to transport the child.
Strange was transported by ambulance to CHI St. Luke’s Memorial Hospital with unknown injuries. Texas Highway Patrol, along with deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the scene and blocked all traffic on U.S.146 during investigation and cleanup. Both vehicles appeared to be totaled and were later transported by wrecker.
The accident remains under the investigation of the Texas Highway Patrol.
LUFKIN -- Walter Diggles along with his wife Rosie and daughter Anita were found guilty Thursday on all charges stemming from a conspiracy to divert federal funds intended for hurricane victims to their own use or groups with which they were affiliated.
Diggles, 64, the former executive director of the Jasper-based Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), helped oversee the disbursement of a number of federal grants intended to help a 12-county region served by DETCOG, which includes Tyler County.
The federal jury found all three Diggles guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Walter Diggles was found guilty on a total of 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of stealing federal funds and three counts of money laundering. His wife, Rosie, was found guilty of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. His daughter, Anita was found guilty of one count of wire fraud
Sentencing by Judge Ron Clark will be held in four to six months. The three could be facing up to 30 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.
Closing arguments in the eight-day long trial were held Thursday in the federal courthouse in Lufkin in a case that began in March 2014 when FBI and other federal officers executed search warrants at the DETCOG headquarters, the Diggles residence and the New Lighthouse Church of God in Christ in Jasper where Diggles served as the pastor.
A federal indictment charging the three family members was handed down in Beaumont in December 2015
According to evidence presented during the trial, Diggles defrauded federal authorities by inflating the amount the Deep East Texas Foundation needed for social service programs. Diggles was listed as the "registered agent" for that foundation.
He received about $4.4 million from 2007 to 2012 through federal Social Services Block Grant funds. Of that, $1.3 million was spent on personal expenses, such as transportation, funeral expenses and church rent.
Prosecutors said members of the New Lighthouse Church operated an after-school program, and that Rosie and Anita Diggles prepared documents and reimbursement packets to request funds in support of the learning center.