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Public Safety
State commission closes Victoria day care after finding it left kids unattended

A Victoria mom was appalled to learn her 2-year-old son had been allowed to climb out the window of the day care where he was staying.

“I was shocked – I was really shocked,” said Jasmine Buckner, a 28-year-old single mom.

With Noah’s Ark Christian Daycare in Victoria adjacent to seven lanes of traffic at 7009 N. Navarro St. and less than 1,000 feet from highway traffic on Zac Lentz Parkway, Buckner feared that incident could have proved deadly for her only child, Amir Buckner.


After Amir Buckner, 2, was allowed to climb out a window while at Noah’s Ark Christian Daycare, his mother filed a complaint with the

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

. The department has since ordered the facility to close.

“He is my life,” she said.

What’s worse, she said, Buckner thought she might never have learned about the incident if a concerned day care employee had not called to tell her about it three weeks after it happened.

“I know kids will be kids,” the mother said. “I would not have had a problem if they had notified me.”

Months after reporting the January incident to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Buckner was relieved to learn her complaint had been investigated.

State commission revokes Victoria daycare permit

In fact, the department had not only determined there was enough evidence for a finding of neglectful supervision but also revoked the day care’s permit.

“Due to the severity of the risk to children’s health and safety and your inability and/or unwillingness to comply with licensing in an effort to protect children in care, (the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) determined revocation of your permit is appropriate,” states a notice issued by the commission Wednesday, which adds, “HHSC has determined that your operation poses an immediate threat to the health and/or safety of children.”

The next day, the day care’s owner, Debbie White, and Theresa Cano, its director, sent a letter to parents notifying them that the day care was closed.

Friday, White declined to answer questions about the matter. Cano could not be reached for comment.

“A situation happened in January by one of my old employees, and I just found out the result,” the letter from Noah’s Ark in Victoria states.


This letter from Noah's Ark Christian Day Care announces its closing to parents.

But according to the notice from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the day care has a history of noncompliance.

After receiving three separate complaints of abuse and neglect in January and February, the commission conducted three investigations, finding in each that children at the day care “were neglectfully supervised when they were alone, unattended and unsupervised on several occasions.”

Those three investigations found a total of 13 deficiencies that found the day care’s director did not fulfill statutory requirements in ensuring children’s safety or remove hazards dangerous to children and failed to notify parents of situations where children were placed at risk, among numerous other violations.

A 2014 investigation found the day care had violated five additional standards.

Buckner said she is pleased by the work done by the commission not only for her own child but for others.

“Who knows what could have happened?” she said.

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Calhoun County
Mermaid sighting has Magnolia Beach buzzing

She’s been a blonde, she’s been a brunette and she’s been in various states of undress.

She is a mermaid, the top of what appears to have been a three-tier water fountain that someone left on Magnolia Beach about two years ago.

And Brenda Hanselka recently staged an intervention for her after she got a bad tan.

What’s your favorite mythical creature?

“I think someone wanted to give her a bronze look, but it was more of a bear brown. She looked pretty tacky, and people were saying that it was discriminating,” she said.

Hanselka co-owns Indianola Fishing Marina, so she took the mermaid to the marina and pressure-washed it. A rainbow of colors dripped off.

Then, Hanselka scrubbed it with acetone and mended one of the mermaid’s arms, which she said had been broken in five places.

elewis / By Evan Lewis | elewis@vicad.com 

Brenda Hanselka, co-owner of the Indianola Fishing Marina, creates the sign that will accompany the mermaid statue.

Some beachgoers looked forward to seeing the mermaid’s makeovers.

“I walk my dogs at Miller’s Point and see the mermaid change all the time. It’s kind of neat,” Wanda J. Middleton, 62, of Jackson County, said before Hanselka moved it.

Others thought each makeover was worse than the last. They said the mermaid marked the spot where someone had spread a loved one’s ashes.

“It almost seems like a desecration of a grave to me, and I know that’s horrible to think that way, but I can’t even go look at her after seeing the photos of what they’ve done to her,” Sherrie Hulsey McGaharan, 51, of Morales, said also before Hanselka relocated it.

Hanselka fell into the latter group. She said Calhoun County officials told her that the mermaid was considered abandoned property, so the people decorating it could not be charged with vandalism. They also said they might remove it one day.

At the mermaid’s new home in a flower bed at the marina, a camera watches for vandals.

The mermaid’s blue tail glows in the dark, and Hanselka hopes passersby will channel their creativity in a new way by painting a shell in memory of a lost loved one and placing it in the mermaid’s base.

elewis / By Evan Lewis | elewis@vicad.com 

Hanselka said she was concerned the statue would be vandalized, so she brought it to the marina to live on as a memorial to anyone who loved the sea.

“I already have people who are giving me shells,” Hanselka said excitedly.

Some took to Facebook to praise Hanselka for making the mermaid look classy, while others decried the mermaid’s new look as sterile and corporate, proving once more that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Public Safety
Victoria man killed in highway crash involving his neighbor

A Victoria resident employed at the Calhoun Chemical plant was killed Friday morning just outside his place of work after crashing into a pickup driven by his neighbor.

Michael Kelly Burke Jr., 35, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash by Calhoun County Justice of the Peace Wesley Hunt, said Sgt. Ruben San Miguel, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Burke had just ended his shift and was leaving work, he said.

A little after 5:20 a.m., Burke failed to yield the right of way as he exited the plant onto SH 185, causing a 2014 GMC Sierra to crash into the driver’s side door of his 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier, San Miguel said.

Victoria resident Rigoberto Genaro Villarreal, the 32-year-old driver of the GMC Sierra, was severely injured and taken to DeTar Hospital Navarro, where he was then flown by helicopter to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

The initial impact caused Burke’s Cavalier to travel across the highway and enter a ditch, San Miguel said. Villarreal’s GMC Sierra came to rest in the center of the highway.

According to driver’s license records, Villarreal and Burke lived just a few houses away from one another on Londonderry Drive in Victoria.

Neither driver was wearing a seat belt, said San Miguel, adding the speed limit on that stretch of the highway is 70 mph. No other vehicles or occupants were involved, he said.

Weather conditions at the time of the crash, San Miguel said, were dry and clear. The crash remains under investigation.