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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sheriffs that go bad



One of the most powerful positions in Texas is the county sheriff. I've been doing research for a project I'm working on about corrupt lawmen. Some of the stories are as frightening as anything a Hollywood scriptwriter could dream up.

Norman Hooten was the well liked, respected sheriff of Kinney County (Brackettville)when he was arrested in 1994 at a pit bull fight in Bastrop. When the investigators swooped in, Hooten ran off into the woods in the middle of the night. The next day, he told reporters that he thought he was going to a dog show. He didn't explain why he was advertising fighting pit bulls for sale. He was indicted by the feds on other corruption charges, and famous Texas Ranger Joachim Jackson testified as a character witness. Which supports a theory of mine, that the Rangers generally look out for local law enforcement when they get jammed up.

The same year, Kimble County (Junction) Sheriff Hal Bynum and his wife died in a bizarre case officially classified as a murder-suicide. The sheriff claimed he found his wife's naked body outside the pen where they kept a Rottweiler. She had been bound, tortured, and stabbed to death. Although Bynum was the only suspect, the investigators didn't take him into custody or search the house. The next day his body was found at a remote airstrip used by drug planes, dead from a pointblank shotgun blast to the chest. The case was closed without further investigation. The conclusion was that the sheriff murdered his wife in a jealous rage over her affair with a drug pilot, then killed himself.

People in Kimble County won't talk about it.

I googled "sheriff indicted," and here are just a few of the hits I got:

Feds probe drug task force in south Texas
The police officer sons of two south Texas law enforcement chiefs who made fighting corruption the cornerstones of their careers have been taken into custody on suspicion of waylaying drug caches coming across the border from Mexico.

Federal agents investigating several border departments west and south of McAllen arrested Jonathan Treviño, the son of Lupe Treviño, sheriff of Hidalgo County, and Alexis Espinoza, the son of Rodolfo Espinoza, Hidalgo’s police chief, the McAllen Monitor is reporting.


Former sheriff’s captain indicted for sexual assault
An Erath County grand jury has indicted Terrell Dickerson, a former captain with the Erath County Sheriff’s Office, on charges of sexual assault.
The grand jury met Tuesday morning to hear the case before issuing the indictment, according to Hood County District Attorney Rob Christian, who will serve as the special prosecutor.
Dickerson is accused of sexually assaulting a female co-worker inside a closet at the sheriff's department. He is being represented by Stephenville attorney Shay Isham.

Sheriff arrested on sex charge bonds out of jail
SHELBY Co., Ohio (WDTN) - The Shelby County, Ohio Sheriff was arrested after being indicted Sept. 20 by an Auglaize County grand jury.

Dean Kimpel, 57, was arrested Wednesday morning on a charge of sexual battery. The charge carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison.

The indictment follows allegations by a former Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy Jodi Van Fossen. Van Fossen claimed that on July 24, 2010 Kimpel sexually assaulted her at her home in Auglaize County.

Former Early County Sheriff's investigator indicted
BLAKELY, Ga. -- A former Early County Sheriff's Investigator and the son of Early County Sheriff Jimmie Murkerson, has been indicted in federal court for extortion and lying to FBI agents in connection to purchase of anabolic steroids, court documents show.

#Jarrod (J.D.) Murkerson was released on a $10,000 bond following an initial court appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in Albany. An arraignment has been set for 10 a.m. Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Tommy Langstaff.

McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Indicted On Sexual Assault Charges
A McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy faces federal charges for committing sexual acts to a child under 12 years old.

Gregory Pyle, 37, was arrested last month, but a grand jury indicted him today at the federal courthouse downtown.

SAPD sergeants indicted in wake of bizarre wreck
A former police sergeant accused of being high on cocaine when he was found wearing just boxers and a T-shirt after his city-owned pickup was wrecked on U.S. 281 has been indicted in connection with the incident.
Former Sgt. Joseph Myers, 52, was one of two sergeants charged with tampering with evidence from the Feb. 2 incident.


Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/SAPD-sergeants-indicted-in-wake-of-bizarre-wreck-4132217.php#ixzz2FazsJ8g2

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/SAPD-sergeants-indicted-in-wake-of-bizarre-wreck-4132217.php#ixzz2FazU5UfU

Monday, December 17, 2012

101 % Texan - The Kerrville Slave Ranch



I think the only writers who could to do justice to the Kerrville Slave Ranch story would be Flannery O'Connor or William Faulkner.












Thursday, December 13, 2012

Amos Barton strikes again, or, how not to win friends and influence people



Today's Kerrville Daily Times front page reports another contretemps that outgoing 198th DA Amos Barton has stirred up. Menard murder case hits a snag - Judge accuses Kerr DA of Stalling
The facts and legal issues are different from a recent child pornography case, where Barton refused to allow the defendant to plead guilty and insisted on a jury trial, but the principle is the same - in some misguided crusade to set the judges in the Hill Country straight, he is crowing to reporters how he will not allow judges to misapply the law. As I've written many times, if he really believed this bullshit, he would ask for a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute a blatant case of aggravated perjury, where a plaintiff in a civil law suit testified in not one, but two depositions in this county, that he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam for a year, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals, a Purple Heart, a a Bronze Star or two, then served 30 years in the Army Reserves, retiring as a bird colonel. In truth, he was in the National Guard, never went near Vietnam, and his MOS was radio fieldman. His highest rank was Private.

Barton can't prosecute it himself, because he is a material witness - he presented the perjurer, with a DFC ribbon on his lapel, to a grand jury, who returned an indictment. Barton and the perjurer are co-defendants in a federal suit against them for official oppression.

In the Menard case, he has complicated a straightforward murder case, tying it up for over two years in the appeals court. The county judge, Richard Cordes, said "If Mr. Barton was truly interested in the timely pursuit of justice, he could have proceeding in this murder case in the past year." Barton's antics have cost the county an unnecessary $40,000. Barton showed his country boy with with these gems: "The count judge wouldn't know legal wrangling from calf roping," and, for Cordes to comment on a pending felony case is like asking a dog catcher about brain surgery."

I ran for DA against Barton in 2008, as a Democrat. Even if I had run as a Republican or independent, the outcome would have been the same. He had the establishment behind him, as the heir apparent to Ron Sutton. He set up his own police force, with vehicles marked "198th District Attorney Police," set up as a profit making enterprise. I take some credit for getting that shut down.

On a different note, The movie Lawlessis out on DVD and it's one of the best movies I've seen this year. It's based on a true story about a war between a family of local moonshiners with a crooked thug cop and DA controlled by the Chicago mob. The more things change they more they stay the same.

And the third season of Justified is out on DVD. Timothy Olyphant (the sheriff in Deadwood) plays a modern day Deputy U.S. Marshal fighting thugs, meth dealers, hthe Dixie Mafia, crooked sheriffs and politicians, in his home state of Kentucky. Great show.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pictures from Kerrville's Colorful Past - Slave Ranch



I've self-published a long article or short book on Amazon Kindle, titled Texas Grotesque: the Texas Slave Ranch - How a Degenerate Ranching Family Got Away With Murder. I'm working on some more true crime tales from deep in the heart of Texas, and when I have enough material will go the traditional publishing route. Meanwhile . . . .

These are some pictures I found in the Kerr County District Clerk's file on the Slave Ranch trial in 1986. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Wesley Ellebracht, Sr. hosted a wedding in their home for one of his foremen and his bride. Everyone was dressed up for the occasion. Wes, Sr. is the one who looks like one of the Walking Dead zombies. The one who looks like a mini-Buddy Holly is Wes, Junior. The skinny redhead is his wife Joyce.

Except for the old man, you wouldn't suspect from looking at them that they were a bunch of sadistic kidnappers (not the groom and bride, I don't even know who they were -they may well have been victims themselves). There's one of Wes yukking it up pointing a rifle at the bride and groom.








Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lone Star Grotesque - the True Story of the Texas Slave Ranch - How a Degenerate Ranching Family Got Away With Murder



I've published a short book on Kindle titled Lone Star Grotesque: The True Story of the Texas Slave Ranch How a Degenerate Ranching Family Got Away With Murder, available for purchase on Amazon
From the jacket:
“You’re digging your own graves,” one of the henchmen said. “We don’t bury them,” Junior said. “We burn them.”
A Texas Trial: Tale of Death and Torture” KERRVILLE, Tex., May 29— Two Texas hill country ranchers and one of their workers are accused of kidnapping, enslaving, and torturing hitchhikers on an isolated 3,500 acre ranch in the scenic cedar-and oak-covered hills near here . . . [T]he trial of Walter Wesley Ellebracht Sr., 55 years old, his son, Walter Wesley Ellebracht Jr., 33, and a former ranch worker, Carlton Robert Caldwell, 21, is turning into a ghoulish glimpse of a dark, remote world that seems like the stuff of a low-budget exploitation film.
New York Times, June 1, 1986
Newspapers as far away as Moscow called it the “Texas Slave Ranch case.” This is the true-life account of how famed trial lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes persuaded a West Texas jury to give his kidnapper/torturer/murderer client probation. Out of a dozen indicted, only two ever saw the inside of a prison.

If you have enough money, and the right lawyers, you can get away with murder.


I've always been fascinated at how the criminal justice system really works, compared to how it's supposed to work. More times than we want to admit, the innocent are punished while the guilty go free. Texas has a rich history of cold blooded killers getting away with murder, ably described by criminal defense attorney Bill Neal in his book, Getting Away With Murder on the Texas Frontier: Notorious Killings and Celebrated Trials. Human life could be cheaper than that of a horse on the frontier. If the defendant was a respectable, local rancher, and the deceased an undesirable, a good lawyer could get just about anyone off. The vestiges of this frontier mentality help explain what happened in the Texas Slave Ranch case, where a family of local ranchers and their henchmen enslaved, tortured, and in at least one instance, killed hitchhikers they picked up on the interstate. Out of a dozen indicted, only three went to trial. The patriarch got probation.

This is the first in a planned series of feature length articles about bizarre criminals in Texas, especially in the Hill Country, which is a target rich environment. Genene Jones, the pediatric nurse was continuing her career as a serial killer of babies at the same time as the evens related in this story. At the same time, the sheriff of next door Kimble County, Hal Bynum, and his wife Connie, were involved in some bizarre activities involving drugs and Rottweilers. In 1985, Bynum claimed he came home to the naked, mutilated body next to the dog pen. Although investigators thought he was the number one suspect, they let him go, only to find his body at a remote airstrip used by smugglers two or three days later. In the Slave Ranch case, a demented family of ranchers, led by Walter Wesley
Ellebracht, Sr.,
a “good Christian” father and grandfather, kidnapped, enslaved and tortured men they picked up hitchhiking on Interstate 10 west of San Antonio. At least one victim died, and his body was burned and the ashes scattered to the winds. Walter's borderline retarded son fancied himself an up and coming country and gospel singer-songwriter. He enjoyed tying women up, shocking them with a cattle prod while his wife watched, and raping them. In a real life nightmare version of the Stanley Milgram experiments and the Stockholm syndrome, many of the men the ranchers employed became willing participants in the torture and abuse of other victims.
When it all unraveled, Walter's 82 year old mother hocked the family ranch to hire Richard “Racehorse” Haynes for a million dollars. After a three month trial, the old man got probation, and Junior got a relatively light sentence of 15 years. They got away with murder.

You can probably see where I came up with the title for this series, Lone Star Grotesque, with a tip of my hat to Sherwood Anderson for Winesburg, Ohio.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Who you gonna call when the zombies come?


The Jan. 2013 issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine has a feature article by former Navy Seal Matt Bracken that should get the bowels of the anti-gun crowd in an uproar. Titled When the Music Stops: How American’s Cities May Explode in Violence - The Surburban Armed Vigilante Response, he describes a nightmare scenario where law and order breaks down, and flash mobs of what he calls Minority Urban Youth go on rampages. Bracken describes some of the ways law abiding people could protect themselves, using tactics that our veterans have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, the sniper ambush: the new tactic of choice. Teams of snipers would have preplanned ambush sites and escape routes. After shooting enough of the rioters to dissuade their friends to flee, the sniper teams would disappear. Now, Bracken is a novelist, and maybe article is a clever ploy to publicize his books, Enemies Foreign & Domestic, and Castigo Bay. If you think this is fantasy, remember what happened during the Rodney King riots when the Koreans armed with AR’s prevented the looters from burning their shopping centers. I am puzzled by all the movies, tv series, and books about zombies and vampires. The best explanation is probably that people are afraid that society is going to collapse and the police and the government won’t be there to help.

What's Wrong With Williamson County?


Murder charges dismissed against man who spent more than year in Williamson County jail Round Rock — After spending 427 days behind bars, and just one week before his murder trial was scheduled to begin, a former University of Texas basketball player walked out of the Williamson County Jail on Friday when prosecutors dropped a murder charge against him. One of Fairs’ attorneys, Jeremiah Williams, said there were “multiple items of evidence, including DNA and fingerprints, which had yet to undergo forensic testing by law enforcement.” Williams said he discovered that some evidence hadn’t been tested after he made a request for the complete file on Fairs from law enforcement and in July received 4,500 pages, 25 DVDs, reports and photographs. After studying the file he found out there were fingerprints from the scene that didn’t match the fingerprints of Fairs and also blood that hadn’t been identified, Williams said. “During the course of preparing for trial, the

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Government Surveillance of Innocent Citizens; A Local Victory on Fourth Amendment


Did you know that every email you've ever sent or received is stored in government computers? The National Security Agency records them all, using devices called "Naris." NSA has a big complex in San Antonio, one in San Francisco and one on the East Coast to collect all emails. I'm sure they do the same for text messages. If the government ever decides to target you - like it did Gen. Petreaus for not falling on his sword over the Libyan fiasco - they can retrieve all your emails, text messages and so on and crucify you. How do you like the idea of Obama having that kind of power? 'Everyone in US under virtual surveillance' - NSA whistleblower The FBI records the emails of nearly all US citizens, including members of congress, according to NSA whistleblower William Binney. In an interview with RT, he warned that the government can use this information against anyone. Binney, one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in the history of the National Security Agency, resigned in 2001. He claimed he no longer wanted to be associated with alleged violations of the Constitution, such as how the FBI engages in widespread and pervasive surveillance through powerful devices called 'Naris.' This year, Binney received the Callaway award, an annual prize that recognizes those who champion constitutional rights and American values at great risk to their personal or professional lives. On a brighter note, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction of a Kerrville woman for possession of methamphetamine, holding that the deputies violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. Patrick O'Fiel was her trial lawyer, and Pat MaGuire, both court appointed, did the appeal. Anyone who thinks that court appointed lawyers won't fight for their clients should read the article in today's Kerrville Daily Times. Great work, gentlemen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Texas Slave Ranch; Modern Day Slave Trade; Madeleine McCann


I'm fascinated by the Texas Slave Ranch case, from the 1980's, where a family of Kerr County ranchers picked up hitchhikers, held them captive and forced them to work as slaves. Walter Wesley Ellebracht, Sr. and his son Junior could have stepped out of the movie Deliverance. The son's wife was just as depraved. They got their kicks beating, shocking, and otherwise tormenting their prisoners. Junior tied at least one woman to a bed and shocked her with a cattle prod while his wife Joyce watched. When it all unravelled, after a three month trial starring Richard Racehorse Haynes, a Kerr Co. jury gave the old man probation, the son 15 years, of which he served less than five, and one of the foreman 15 years. Joyce never went to trial. Two very prominent lawyers were indicted for evidence tampering (they removed evidence from the murder scene before the investigators found them) and their case disappeared from the district clerk's office. One question that I keep asking is how such a thing could happen in modern day Texas. The shocking thing is, human trafficking and slavery is still practiced. As Faulkner said, the past isn't dead; it isn't even past. Here are just two examples: From thd 07/12/12 The Independent, by Manuel Barcia, The slavery happening on our doorsteps is a collective problem The slavery happening on our doorsteps is a collective problem The slavery happening on our doorsteps is a collective problem Back in September 2011 a police raid on a travellers’ site in Bedfordshire uncovered a story that left many of us perplexed. It was revealed that a well-organised operation to turn rough-sleepers into modern-day slaves had been taking place. At the time, and according to the Thames Reach charity, more than 20 eastern and central European immigrants had ran away from similar gangs and contacted them searching for help and shelter. The Bedfordshire gang in particular seems to have run a profitable business. Once the homeless victims were picked up and promised jobs and good money, they were kidnapped – literally – and forced to live a life of servitude, isolated from the rest of the world, separated from their families and friends, thrown into crammed accommodations, and ordered to do hazardous and backbreaking jobs for the rest of their lives. The fact that all this was going on for years under the gaze of Bedfordshire police is difficult to digest, but in all fairness blaming the police would be a very easy route in this case. Bedfordshire residents who hired the services of these men must have come across their enslaved workers repeatedly during this time, and yet, somehow they failed to make enough noise about it to attract the attention of the authorities. Fellow travellers who might have been aware of this situation also failed to come forward and denounce what was going on, although one can guess than fear may have stopped them from doing so. The second piece is an update on the the mystery of a four year old girl who vanished from her parents' hotel room in Portugal while they were at dinner (pretty reckless parenting): New Report Finds Madeleine McCann Could Be Alive—And Living as Someone Else’s Daughter One theory is that the child was sold to a ring of pedophiles operating out of Morroco. And from The Sun: 30 kids lost in Portugal since Maddie went missing For an age progression photo, go to Findmadelaine.com I am not a member of any church or adherent to any organized religion. The one that comes closest to making sense is Zen Buddhism, when stripped to its basics, and it's pretty close to Greek stoicism. Once I got old enough to reason, I couldn't get past the problem the philosophers and theologians call theodicy - if God is all good and all powerful, how can such horrendous things happen to innocent children. I do believe that evil is a real force. And you never know where you'll encounter it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Amos Barton Struts & Crows


Amos Barton is strutting and crowing like a bantum rooster because he recently won a couple of appeals on fairly obscure legal points. The way he sends out the press releases, you'd think he won some big death penalty case at the U.S. Supreme Court. He told Zeke MacCormack this week, "“One role of my office is to ensure that judges follow the law,” Barton said Friday. “The appellate court's reversal of a judge makes it clear that judges have to follow precedent.” Our other DA, Bruce Curry (216th) gets his fair share of wins, but is modest and doesn't call a press conference to pound his chest. Here's a thought - before Mr. Barton leaves office after his one and only term, how about asking the judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Herbert C. Williamson III (a/k/a "Cav Secret Squirrel") for aggravated perjury in two separate depositions taken in Kerr County. Williamson falsely testified under oath that he was a Vietnam helicopter pilot who received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a few Air Medals, a Purple Heart, and a few Bronze Stars. After that heroic service, he swore he served in the U.S. Army Reserves for 30 years, retiring as a bird colonel. When he testified as Barton's star witness at the grand jury, he wore a DFC ribbon on his lapel. The truth - Mr. Williamson was in the Connecticut National Guard, his MOS was radio wireman, and his highest rank was private. Mr. Barton knows all this, because I have provided him with the records I obtained from the National Personnel Records Service. Mr. Barton can't prosecute it himself, since he is a fact witness and a co-defendant in a federal civil rights and conspiracy law suit. The vets over at This Ain't Hell But You Can See It From Here put this on their site: In sworn depositions for the lawsuit, he said he was in the Army from 1970 to 1973, rising to the rank of chief warrant officer, second class. He also claimed to have served one year in Vietnam, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1971 as a scout helicopter pilot. But Connecticut Army National Guard records indicate he served in that state from January 1971 to August 1972, working as a communications wireman at the rank of private first class. “Our records don’t reflect that he went to Vietnam, or that he received any decorations,” said Lt. Col. Tim Tomcho of the Connecticut Army National Guard. He noted that Williamson was honorably discharged when he moved to Maryland, where he joined the Maryland Army National Guard. Documentation was similarly lacking to support claims by Williamson, 63, that he was awarded a Purple Heart and served 30 years in the Army Reserve, retiring in 2003. “I did not find a record for Herbert Williamson having served in the Army or Army Reserve,” said Mark Edwards, media relations chief at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. I am delighted to announce that Mr. B has sold the building that he rents to the county for the DA office. I'm told he is leaving office early to go share our good Kerrville Christian values with the heathens in Panama. I guess the Catholic churches aren't good enough.