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Crime
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Investigation
Woman still in critical condition after fatal Goliad shooting

Nathan Cortinas would have turned 20 years old Monday.

He was killed in a shooting Thursday night that also left his girlfriend, Brianna Bexley, 18, in critical condition. She is being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and has a bullet lodged between two vertebrae. Bexley and her doctors are still considering surgery to remove the bullet.

“I’m trying my best to stay positive and everything over the whole situation, but it’s hard,” Bexley said in a text Sunday night.

Alma Bexley, Brianna Bexley’s grandmother, said her granddaughter’s vitals were stable as of Sunday evening but that Brianna still has a tube and a pump to empty her lungs.

The family is mourning the loss of Cortinas, the father of her grandchild, she said. Cortinas and Bexley’s son, Zayden Cortinas, was also in the car with them when the shooting happened. He was unharmed.

“My little grandbaby doesn’t have a daddy anymore,” said Alma Bexley. “It’s just by the grace of God that she (Bexley) didn’t get killed at the same time.”

According to Alma Bexley, Cortinas worked for his grandfather as a fencer.

“He was real respectful young man,” Alma Bexley said. “I know that he loved my granddaughter.”

At the time of the shooting, Alma Bexley said Cortinas and her granddaughter were on their way to Whataburger and had stopped to pick up a friend near the intersection of South Mt. Auburn and West Franklin streets in Goliad. That’s where she said they saw Daniel Mendoza, whom the couple knew.

Mendoza was arrested Friday morning and charged with murder in connection with the attack, according to a news release from the Goliad County Sheriff’s Office.

Mendoza used a small-caliber handgun in the shooting, according the sheriff’s office. He ran on foot from the scene before deputies arrived, but he was arrested outside a Goliad convenience store about 5 a.m. Friday. He is being held in the Goliad County Jail.

Sgt. Donna Starry is investigating the shooting. Investigators think Mendoza began shooting because of an “ongoing dispute between the parties,” according to the news release.

The Goliad County Sheriff’s Office was not available for comment on Sunday.

This story was updated on June 17 to correct the age of Nathan Cortinas. 


Local
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Community
Harbor Hospice helps Victoria couple celebrate love they never thought they would find (w/video)

Albert Kitchen’s brother-in-law gave him an arm to lean on at the altar Saturday morning as he sang “I Found Love” by BeBe Winans to the woman at the end of the aisle.

The night before his wedding, he pointed to his oxygen machine and said he was going to get “pumped up” to sing to her. Kitchen coughed and took a few moments to breathe but managed to get through every angelic lyric before Robin Harris married him.

“I made her one promise when I asked her to marry me,” he said. “I told her that I don’t have nothing ... I can’t make her no promises but one, and that is if she will allow me to love her for the rest of her life, she will know what love is.

“I’ve waited so many years to tell someone that.”

Tissues were passed around the Sam Houston Room at 120 Main Place on Saturday, where the Victoria chapter of Harbor Hospice held the couple’s wedding and reception.

Kitchen, 52, has been a patient of Harbor Hospice since March. He is battling his second round of cancer and is not seeking treatment, said Roxanne McAdams, his registered nurse case manager at Harbor Hospice.

Kitchen is a man who has faced struggles but never lost his faith.

“Whenever we have our chats, they are very deep,” she said. “I always think when I’m leaving that it is mutual; I gain from what he imparts to me.”

Kitchen never thought he would find someone who would love him after he was first diagnosed with cancer.

“It started off with me only having about three years to live, and that was in 2014,” he said. “I thought nobody was going to want me because of my illness, and not only has God allowed me to live longer than those three years, he has allowed me to find my unconditional love.”

Gallery: Albert and Robin Kitchens Harbor Hospice wedding

When the local Harbor Hospice team heard their story, they decided to help.

“We usually don’t intervene in something like this, but it was all them,” said Jamye Huff, the director of nursing for the Victoria branch of Harbor Hospice. “They told everyone who walked through their door that they wanted to get married; they just needed a little help making it happen.”

What started out as vision of vows in their living room with a few family members turned into a fully decorated wedding with a meal, cake and about 50-60 loved ones, said Cindy Lampkins, Harbor Hospice’s volunteer and community education coordinator.

The family was blown away by the gestures of the Harbor staff.

“I think they both have been looking for this for a long time,” said Harris-Kitchen brother, Elliot Harvey Jr. “It is something that I know he (Albert) has talked about since the time they started dating, and then he became really sick, so they weren’t able to do those things. To have all of the hands come in and help them get to this point has been a blessing.”

Chamberlain Smith | csmith@vicad.com 

Robin Harris helps Albert Kitchen out of the car upon arriving at 120 Main Place in downtown Victoria for their wedding ceremony.

When Kitchen found out that the Harbor staff wanted to help with his wedding, he said he shamelessly “cried like a baby.”

“I just froze because we’re the ones who are always giving, and to see blessings come back to you is just overwhelming,” he said.

Kitchen and Harris-Kitchen have known each other since they were kids playing on the same block in Victoria but were merely distant acquaintances until two years ago. After reconnecting on Facebook, messages turned into phone calls, then visits and one day, Kitchen told his now bride how he felt.

“I told her, ‘I need to tell you this and I need to tell it to you fast before I pass out, but I am the person that you’ve been looking for,’” he said.

“He literally said that and hung the phone up,” his wife said and laughed.

“The connection they made was amazing and continues to be,” said Barbara Williams, the bride’s sister. “You know someone all your life, but you never know what lies beneath the surface.”

Harris-Kitchen said finding her husband is the answer to years of prayer. The 45-year-old Victoria native said he is the first person she has ever been in a romantic relationship with.

“For somebody to go from nobody to having this person that thinks the world of you is overwhelming,” she said. “It gives you hope that it is never too late, that somebody that you’ve waited for your whole life is there – they show up.”

Kitchen may be declining in health, but he refuses to let his condition define his idea of forever.

“I promise that I am going to love her,” he said. “Not for the rest of my days because my days are going to be shorter than hers, but I want her, even when I am gone, to feel the love that I have for her.”


Government
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Recovery
Victoria County expects to demolish 30 homes in buyout program

Victoria County expects to buy and demolish about 30 of the most flood-prone homes in the county as part of its post-Harvey buyout program.

County commissioners will discuss their application for the buyout process at their meeting Monday. If the county’s plan is approved, it unlocks about $2.5 million that’s been allocated to the county specifically to run a buyout program. The county’s budget anticipates spending about $1.2 million to purchase the homes, with the rest of the funding going toward demolishing those homes, administering the program, conducting environmental reviews and helping residents who participate to relocate.

Buyout programs have become increasingly common for flood-prone neighborhoods after a natural disaster. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, cities and counties throughout Texas expect to spend millions of dollars buying the homes most at risk of flooding again in the future. All Harvey buyout programs in the state are voluntary, so homeowners and some landlords can apply to have the government buy their homes if they meet certain criteria.

The government, once it has acquired the property, will demolish it and leave it as permanent open space. The theory behind buyout programs is that removing families from flood plains is safer and more cost-effective than trying to stop the floodwaters from rising during future storms.

According to a draft of the county’s application for the program, the county expects to be able to buy and then demolish about 30 homes. There will be some funding set aside to help tenants and homeowners participating in the program find new places to live, according to the draft.

Any homeowner in the county’s flood plain or flood zone is eligible to apply for the buyout. Homeowners will be offered the fair market value of their home before Hurricane Harvey hit. Households with lower incomes and with special needs, including accessibility concerns, will be prioritized, according to the county’s draft application.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to approve the application Monday.


Transportation
Victoria could lower speed limit along Ben Wilson university corridor

Victoria could lower the speed limit along a stretch of Ben Wilson Street to create a safer area for pedestrians as the city gets closer to building a new corridor near the University of Houston-Victoria.

The project, which will transform about 0.6 miles of Ben Wilson Street into the heart of UHV’s campus, has been delayed for years.

Tuesday, council members will consider an ordinance that would drop the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph on Ben Wilson Street between Sam Houston Drive and Red River Street. The project is still awaiting a final design approval from council, but current plans would narrow the street to from five lanes to three and build 8-foot-wide sidewalks, along with a through corridor for students to cross the street.

The university and the city began discussing the project in 2015, and current plans call for the city to oversee the engineering and construction of the project. The University of Houston-Victoria will pay the cost of the project’s final price tag in exchange for the outer two lanes of the street, which will become part of campus. The work is part of the school’s larger effort to turn UHV into a “destination campus,” along with plans to increase the undergraduate population to 6,000 students by 2025.

Also Tuesday, the council will review the city’s applications that unlock more than $8 million in federal funding for Hurricane Harvey recovery projects. The applications, which are submitted to the Texas General Land Office, release the funding that’s been allocated to the city for drainage projects and for buying out about 30 homes in the city’s flood plain.

Council members will also discuss proposed programs for the 2019-20 action plan for the Community Development Block Grant, the federal grant that annually gives about $500,000 in funding for projects in neighborhoods with low-to-moderate income. In past years, the program has paid for projects like improvements at the Hopkins neighborhood park and transit shelters at city bus stations.

Elected officials are also scheduled to have a work session to discuss the city’s Capital Improvements Program, the running list of the city’s biggest upcoming projects.