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Local
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Courts
Texas Ranger: Edna man was doing situps when girlfriend shot him

Jarrett Parker was doing situps when his girlfriend shot and killed him, a Texas Ranger testified Thursday.

That testimony contradicted the version of events by defendant Amber Sorensen, who said she had shot Parker while he was standing in the bedroom of their Edna home. Sorensen told investigators that she had killed Parker, 33, in self-defense after he had assaulted her and threatened her life on Feb. 7, 2017.

“That was not possible with the injuries he received,” said Texas Ranger Drew Pilkington to jurors.

The 37-year old mother is charged with murder, aggravated assault of a family member with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter.

For hours Thursday, Pilkington led jurors through the conclusions of his forensic testing and analysis, which examined the likelihood of Sorensen’s version of events.

More than 60 people attended the trial on its ninth day.

Sorensen, who was intoxicated on the night of Parker’s death, had told investigators that she had shot Parker after he beat her, threw her to the ground, dragged her by the hair and held a gun to her head.

She said she shot Parker after gaining control of the .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol by knocking it out of his hand.

Previous testimony showed Parker did not refute text messages made by Sorensen in which she said he had beaten her.

“I’m not taking your verbal abuse just because you stopped hitting me,” one such message reads.

Thursday, Parker’s mother, father and stepfather disputed the allegation, saying they had never witnessed anything to cause them to suspect their son was abusive.

They instead testified about a New Year’s Eve incident in which they said Sorensen had lied to them about being abused.

Sorensen’s first cousin, the only defense witness to be called so far, said he saw bruises on her arms at two holiday parties in 2016.

When asked about them, Sorensen said they were from working out, he said.

But a variety of forensic analysis and testing refuted Sorensen’s claims, said Pilkington, who was questioned by former Victoria County district attorney Stephen Tyler.

“Is this scenario confirmed or rebuffed?” said Tyler of Sorensen’s narrative.

“It was disproved,” said Pilkington.

Tyler is serving as a Jackson County assistant district attorney in the case.

Prosecutors displayed photographs of Parker’s blood-spattered body to jurors, pointing out how his feet were under their bed’s frame. Pilkington noted the positioning of Parker’s feet as unlikely for a person standing.

Lying on his back, Parker’s arms were raised above his head, and his legs were bent.

During the repeated projection of those photos on courtroom screens and televisions, some of Parker’s loved ones cried. Others comforted them silently.

Pilkington said he himself has performed situps and crunches by placing his feet under his bed.

“What really stuck out to me was his body position,” Pilkington said.

According to differing statements made by Sorensen to investigators and grand jurors, she was kneeling on the master bed when she pulled the trigger. Parker was standing at various distances away when he was shot, which the ranger tested.

None of the distances offered by Sorensen in her statements to police and grand jurors, the ranger said, matched the fatal bullet’s trajectory.

According to medical examiners, the bullet pierced his chest at a 45-degree angle and punctured his aorta, a vital artery connected to the heart.

Jurors viewed a variety of diagrams with trigonometric calculations made by Pilkington that he said proved his point.

But Sorensen’s attorney, Stephen Cihal, pointed out that the height taken from Parker’s driver’s license and used by the ranger differed by two inches with measurements taken by medical examiners.

Other theories that included Parker standing and leaning forward, the Ranger said, were possible but not probable, considering his other evidence and analysis.

The ranger said patterns left by Parker’s blood on the wall and bathroom door jamb indicated his gunshot wound was about a foot off the ground when it began bleeding.

District Judge Bobby Bell approved Pilkington as a blood-spatter expert for the trial, but Cihal pointed out the ranger had not passed the most advance levels of his ranger certification.

Two other rangers in the state have completed those advanced levels, Pilkington said.

Pilkington also conducted tests on the pistol that killed Parker by measuring the trajectories of unfired bullets and spent shell casings ejected from the gun.

He said those trajectories placed Sorensen on the bed, but Cihal questioned him about whether the ranger had sufficiently replicated the bedroom at the gun range where the tests occurred.

Pilkington said the bullet and shell casing could have struck the bedroom’s ceiling and furniture.

To test Sorensen’s statements that Parker wielded the gun, the ranger painted a pair of deer skin gloves, which he then handled the pistol. The test’s aim was to determine whether dry paint would have rubbed off onto the weapon’s hard, course grip.

Investigators found white paint on Parker’s hands after they photographed his body. They found no paint on the pistol’s grip.

Because the deerskin gloves, which mimic human skin, Pilkington said, left paint behind on the test pistol, the ranger determined Sorensen’s claim unlikely.

Cihal questioned the effectiveness of that testing and asked whether the paint on Parker’s hands was wet or dry at the time of his death.

Pilkington said he did not know.

Although the ranger said his work may have left some unaccounted variables, he ultimately concluded the situp theory was the most likely to have happened.

“What scenario best fits the physical evidence in this case?” Tyler asked.

“Mr. Parker was on the ground ... doing situps or crunches,” Pilkington said.


Local
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Bootfest parking, shuttle services change location this year

Bootfest kicks off Friday evening with a day and a half full of free entertainment, including live music, a car show, kids’ play area, trick roping performances and a downtown fireworks show.

Available for sale will be items from craft vendors, and food and drink vendors.

The festival will be 6-11:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday at DeLeon Plaza.

Because parking is limited in the downtown area, visitors are encouraged to use the free shuttle bus system. Shuttle buses will pick up festival goers at 405 Memorial Drive in Riverside Park from 5:30 p.m. Friday to 12:30 a.m. Saturday and from 9:30 a.m. Saturday to 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

The location was moved from previous years because the parking lot at the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center is being re-built.

Street closures will affect downtown Victoria during business hours on Friday. Parking for the Victoria County Tax Office will be accessible, along with the Prosperity Bank drive-through bank.

The following sections of streets will be closed for the festival:

  • Main from Santa Rosa to Commercial
  • Bridge from half a block past Constitution to Commercial
  • Glass from half a block past Constitution to half a block before Goodwin
  • Forest from Liberty to Glass
  • Constitution from Liberty to Moody
  • Goodwin from Liberty to Glass

The city reminds motorists not to attempt to drive through or around any street barricades that are set up, as this poses a great safety risk for all staff, volunteers, and vendors in the barricaded area.


Calhoun
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Education
Calhoun teacher's deleted Facebook post sparks controversy

A Calhoun High School employee deleted a photo on Facebook that the district said violated policies regarding political neutrality.

Ashleigh Wood, a history teacher at the school and one of its drill team and cheerleading coaches, posted a photo of a group of students with a “Trump 2020” political campaign flag to Facebook about 2:15 p.m. Monday, when the school was celebrating ‘Merica Monday as part of its homecoming spirit week.

Krystal Stringham said her son, Levi Stringham, brought the flag to school to participate in ‘Merica Monday. He is a 17-year-old senior at Calhoun High School and captain of the cheer team. In the photo, which she said was taken during school hours, he is holding the campaign flag.

Stringham was upset to hear that the teacher was asked to take the photo down, she said.

“I think it is violating the kids’ rights to express themselves and makes the teachers afraid to speak up and express themselves,” she said.

Should public school teachers be allowed to promote a particular political candidate or cause?

Wood did not respond to requests for comment, but Kelly Taylor, Calhoun’s assistant superintendent, said the photo was deleted from Facebook about an hour after it was posted. She declined to comment about whether the teacher received any sort of retribution for posting the photo.

Even though a student brought the flag to school, the photo violated policy because the teacher tagged the Calhoun Cheer Facebook page in the post “and employees cannot associate the school or a school-sponsored group in political matters.”

Students are encouraged to read, think and develop their own opinion, but employees are not allowed to take political stances with students regardless of the candidate or political party, she said.

“It is not the role of a teacher to impose political opinions on children,” Taylor said. “Political views are to remain private.”

Jeffery Molands, a father of two children who lives at Magnolia Beach, said he disliked seeing so much disagreement and “bashing” on Facebook, where the Advocate’s article received hundreds of comments and shares.

Molands is a self-described die-hard Trump supporter, but said he still does not think school is an appropriate place for political campaign messages.

“It would have been a whole lot better if they had a banner that said, ‘We Love our Country,’ or ‘We Love our President,’ but not something futuristic,” he said. “I don’t think your teacher, your principal or even fellow students should be able to influence your political decisions … people should be able to sit down with information and facts, and form their own beliefs.”

Taylor stressed that students are encouraged to be politically involved and express their ideologies, but Stringham said she disagreed. Her other son, Jax Stringham, who is also a senior at Calhoun High School, was recently told he needed to paint over his parking spot.

Seniors at Calhoun High School were given the option to pay $40 to decorate their parking spots for the school year.

Contributed photo 

{span}Jax Stringham, a 17-year-old Calhoun High School senior, painted a John Deere tractor and ‘Trump 2020’ on his parking spot at school that he paid to paint. Krystal Stringham, his mom, said he was asked to paint over the political message on Tuesday by the high school’s assistant principal.{/span}

Stringham said her son was called into the assistant principal’s office on Tuesday after he painted “Trump 2020” on his spot. He was told he had to cover up the political message because it was not allowed, she said.

“We have not painted over it yet, but it is wrong on so many levels,” Stringham said. “We spent well over $100 painting the parking spot to begin with and now they are wanting him to paint over it.”

Taylor said the student was asked to paint over the message because it was on school property.

“Children can wear T-shirts, can have a hat, can have bumper stickers on their cars sharing their political views, but the parking lot cannot and the parking lot is part of CISD,” she said. “Schools are neutral zones where children can learn, but political advertising is not something the school district can promote.”

Stringham still disagreed. He paid to paint the spot temporarily and had a right to share his views, she said.

“It is his parking spot that they’re allowing them to express themselves on and he was expressing himself,” she said. “He is a very opinionated kid and put the ‘Trump 2020’ on there because that is what he believes in.”


Home_and_garden
Garden Dirt
Orchid care to keep them alive, well

Orchids are strikingly beautiful and make wonderful gifts, yet, all too many people enjoy them until they quit blooming and then throw them away.

Can live for many years with attention

Many believe that orchids are difficult to keep alive, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, with a little attention to their needs, orchids can live for many years and reward you with new blooms regularly.

Two categories

Orchids are divided into two categories, the epiphytes, which in the wild grow in trees, and the terrestrials, which grow in the ground.

  • Epiphytes
  • Epiphytes are the orchids most widely available in stores and the best as house plants. Phalaenopsis orchids, our Texas Super Star orchids, are the most popular and, hands down, the easiest orchid to grow. What’s more – anyone who can grow African violets should be able to grow them.

  • Terrestrials
  • Terrestrial orchids grow on the ground. Some have actual roots that spread in the soil, but most grow from pseudobulbs, which are enlarged, aboveground portions of the stem in which moisture is stored.

    Epiphytic orchid care

  • Water
  • Overwatering is the single most common cause of orchid death. Epiphytes grow on trees and need to be periodically drenched completely and then allowed to dry out before being watered again.

    Be sure to avoid letting the crown of the plant, where roots meet leaf bases, stay wet for an extended period of time as this will cause the plant to rot. The common marketing gimmick of “ice cube orchids” is just that, a gimmick that experienced orchid growers do not recommend for these tropical plants.

  • Light
  • In most cases, keeping your orchids near an east-facing window is the best option, although a semi-shaded south- or west-facing window will work as well. Another possibility, especially for the orchids that need higher light levels is using full spectrum artificial lighting.

  • Temperature
  • Best room temperatures are over 50 degrees at night and 72 to 85 degrees during the day.

  • Humidity
  • Orchids like high humidity between 50% and 80%. If your humidity is below 40%, group your plants in a tray with gravel that you keep wet. Never let the pots sit in water, however.

  • Fertilizer
  • Any good water soluble fertilizer with a 20-20-20 ratio diluted to half the recommended strength will work for orchids. When they are actively growing, fertilize with every watering; when they are cooler and resting, every second to third watering is fine.

  • Potting
  • Clear pots work well, as you can see how wet the medium is and keep an eye on root health. If your new orchid is in sphagnum moss when you get it, repot it immediately as the roots are likely to rot.

    You can buy commercial orchid mix, not too coarse, or make your own from fir bark, tree fern fiber, coconut husk fiber, perlite and even a small percentage of sphagnum moss. Whatever you use must allow for good drainage.

    Repot every one to three years, after blooming and carefully remove old medium from roots, cutting off dead roots, working new medium down into the roots and filling any air pockets. Then, wait one to three days before you water the plant.

    They will also do well in wire hanging baskets lined with coconut fiber or sphagnum moss and holding standard orchid mix.

    Terrestrial Orchid Care

  • Water
  • Always try to water early in the day to discourage fungus. Twice-weekly watering during summer usually works well, soaking thoroughly each time and keeping the soil moist but not soggy. In winter, water only when really dry.

  • Light
  • Morning light and light shade in the afternoon works best for these plants. If they do not bloom, move them to a brighter area.

  • Temperature
  • These plants should be hardy in our area, but it is a good idea to protect them when temperatures drop into the 30s or lower.

  • Humidity
  • During really dry weather, your orchids will benefit from being misted.

  • Fertilizer
  • Any good water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer mixed at half of the labeled strength should be applied every two weeks during summer and once a month during winter.

  • Soil
  • Grow in either large pots or raised beds. These plants must have well drained soil, so incorporate sand, bark chips or composted bark, perlite and the like.

    Pests, diseases

    Pests and diseases are generally not a problem with properly cared-for orchids, but fungus diseases and rot can occur if the plants are overwatered or do not get enough air circulation.

    Follow these recommended care practices, and become the proud owner of exquisite blooming plants for your home or to share as gifts. You could likely become the envy of family and friends.


    Crime
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    Public Safety
    Crossroads police can now receive 911 texts

    Crossroads residents can now text 911 in emergencies when they are unable to speak or if they are hard of hearing.

    The Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, which runs the 911 systems in DeWitt, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca, and Victoria counties and Calhoun County, which runs its own 911 system, have both upgraded their emergency systems to allow for the capability.

    The new service will allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or those who are unable to speak during an emergency, to contact emergency services by simply putting “911” in the number field of a text message.

    Cellphones on any of the four major U.S. carriers – AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T. Mobile – are able to text to 911.

    Accessibility advocates have increasingly called for more localities to upgrade their 911 systems to allow for texting to 911 to provide easier communication for people who are deaf or who have trouble speaking to alert authorities in the event of an emergency. Texting can also provide a method of communication for victims of domestic violence, children who are abducted, or during active shooter situations, when speaking aloud could put a person in greater danger.

    During the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando, terrified hostages trapped in the club texted friends and families begging them to call police as they hid from the gunman. The people trapped inside the club couldn’t call 911 and speak to police without risking revealing their location to the shooter.

    To contact police via text, simply send a text as you normally would with “911” in the recipient field. If you are in an area where the 911 system does not have the ability to receive texts, you will receive an automated response telling you to call instead.

    The Federal Communications Commission guidelines say that when in danger, you should always call if possible, because voice-based 911 service is still the fastest and most reliable method of contacting emergency responders.

    More than 270 emergency systems in Texas have the capability to receive emergency texts, according to the Federal Communications Commission.


    Business
    Business
    Montana Mike's building demolished, making way for new restaurant

    Raising Cane’s Restaurant has been issued a demolition permit for 6409 N. Navarro St., the former location of Montana Mike’s steakhouse.

    As of Thursday, the building was in the process of being demolished and a construction fence has been put up around the property.

    The steakhouse closed in November.

    In late August, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers posted a job application for a general manager in Victoria. This would be the first Raising Cane’s in Victoria.

    A company spokesperson did not return a request for comment Thursday.

    But in August, a company official said in a statement, “Raising Cane’s is continuously evaluating opportunities to grow restaurants all over the world, and especially here in Texas. Many factors go into our decisions, and ever-changing market conditions can affect planned locations and launch dates. We will make a public announcement if and when an official expansion decision has been made.”

    According to its website, Raising Cane’s, which is known for selling fried chicken fingers, has more than 400 locations across the country.