County officers stay busy during New Year’s weekend

By Jeff Shultz
Publisher

This past New Year’s weekend provided some excitement for area law officers while others reported a quiet holiday three-day period.

Most importantly, according to Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes, the weekend was a true test for the Garvin County 911 system as the countywide call center fielded a number of calls for various law enforcement agencies over the holidays.

The 911 Center has recently started dispatching for several law enforcement agencies in the county, including the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office.

The biggest test, Rhodes said, came when the 911 Center started getting a multitude of calls of a driver on I-35 driving north bound in the south bound lanes.

“The calls started coming in around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. The driver of the car had been spotted near the Pauls Valley exit driving northbound in the southbound lanes. He was finally stopped near mile marker 83 on I-35,” Rhodes said.

Arrested for Driving Under the Influence and possession of marijuana was 48-year old Mark Carlton of Pauls Valley.

According to Rhodes, this was Carlton’s second DUI arrest in 10 years, thus making the offense a felony.

Rhodes commended the 911 operators during the whole ordeal, noting the operators kept him and his deputies apprised of the situation as the calls were coming in from motorists on I-35.

There were three other DUI arrests made over the holiday weekend, Rhodes said.

A Garvin County Sheriff’s Deputy witnessed a 4-wheeler wreck while patrolling near Erin Springs.

The driver of the 4-wheeler fled on foot and was later apprehended after a short pursuit.

Levi Robinson, 21, of Weatherford was arrested for DUI. He also had an outstanding warrant out of Stephens County.

Shortly before midnight Saturday night, Deputy Brian Stuckey attempted to stop a vehicle south of Stratford on a county road.

A pursuit followed and ended when Robert Lynch, 55, of Stratford crashed his vehicle into a nearby field.

Lynch was arrested for DUI. He suffered some minor injuries in the accident and was taken to Norman Regional Hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Another DUI arrest was made around 10 p.m. Saturday, Rhodes said.

Weston Brooksher, 31, of Wynnewood was pulled over and charged with DUI near Klondike Road and Airline.

While Sheriff’s deputies were busy with DUI suspects, other law enforcement agencies in the county reported a quiet New Year’s weekend.

Maysville Police Chief Adam McMillen told the News Star he had three officers on duty during the holiday weekend.

“Actually, it was very peaceful. We didn’t have any problems at all,” he said.

A small bar ditch fire Monday night provided the most excitement for emergency responders, he said.

“The fire was in front of Mark Roberts’ house. It was contained mostly to the ditch it was in,” McMillen said.

Meanwhile, Stratford Police Chief Scott Collier reported a peaceful New Year’s as well.

“We had several officers out and we mostly had traffic stops but no arrests. All in all, I’d say it was a very quiet New Year’s,” Collier told the News Star.

Drought, weather head up 2011 top stories

By Jeff Shultz
Publisher

2011 is now behind us. Here’s a look back at some of the top stories of the past year as reported in the pages of the Garvin County News Star.

Click here to read full story

Deadline to register to vote is January 20

Friday, January 20, is the last day to apply for voter registration in order to be eligible to vote in the February 14th, Wynnewood and Maysville Annual School Election and Whitebead Special School Bond Election, according to Garvin County Election Board Secretary, Cathy Brinley.

Brinley said that persons who are United States citizens, residents of Oklahoma and at least 18 years old may apply to become registered voters.

Persons who have never been registered to vote before or who are not currently registered in the county of their residence and persons who are registered but who need to change their registration information may apply to register or to change name, address or political affiliation, by filling out and mailing an Oklahoma Voter Registration Application form in time for it to be postmarked no later than Friday, January 20, 2012.

Brinley said that applications postmarked after that time still will be accepted, but the applications will not be approved until after February 14, 2012.

The County Election Board will respond in writing to each person who submits an application for voter registration.  The response will be either a Voter Identification Card listing the new voter’s precinct number and polling place location or a letter that explains the reason or reasons the application for voter registration was not approved.

Brinley said that any person who has submitted a voter registration application and who has not received a response within 30 days should contact the County Election Board office.

Meanwhile, voters in Garvin County who want to have absentee ballots mailed to them for the February 14, 2012, Maysville and Wynnewood Annual School Election and Whitebead Special School Bond Election should apply now, Brinley said.

Although the County Election Board can accept applications for absentee ballots until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 08, 2012. Brinley urged voters that want to vote by absentee ballot to apply early.

Application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at the Garvin County Courthouse, First Floor, Room 8.

New Toy Museum Director named

By Jeff Shultz
Publisher

Pauls Valley’s top tourist attraction will have a new captain at its helm as a new director for the Toy and Action Figure Museum was announced this week.

Ryan Peacock will take over as the museum’s new director, replacing Lisa Driskill who recently resigned from the position to pursue other interests.

The Museum’s Board President, Kahn Nirschl, told the News Star Tuesday that Peacock was the right choice to lead the museum.

“He has a lot of passion for the museum and wants to see the museum as well as Pauls Valley continue to be a destination point for tourists in the future,” Nirschl said.

“He’s had a lot of experience in managing employees through the Marines and other positions he’s held in the past and we know he will be a good addition to the museum,” Nirschl added.

Peacock actually began his duties on Wednesday, January 3, and will be working closely with Driskill over the next few days to insure a smooth transition, Nirschl said.

“The museum’s board of directors is very appreciative of the work Lisa has put into the museum during her tenure and we wish her the best of luck in the future,” Nirschl added.

PV Health Coalition ready for healthier 2012

By Lindsey Temple
News Star Reporter

With the overall wellness of our state declining and the back and forth battle for health care on Capitol Hill at a standstill, grassroots efforts like the Pauls Valley Health Coalition have set out to raise awareness and lend a hand in making healthy lifestyles easier to maintain.

The Health Coalition is trying to improve health and wellness around the county through a series of projects focused on nutrition and fitness, healthy businesses and substance abuse help.

At the forefront of these projects is the possibility of a community garden for the Pauls Valley area.

With obesity on the rise in our state and Garvin County looming dangerously close to being a “food desert” the Health Coalition has proposed the possibility of a community garden.

“The Oklahoma obesity rate is growing and if we keep this up Oklahoma will be the nation’s fattest state by the year 2015,” explained D.J. Gentry, a member of the coalition.

The garden would provide much needed fresh fruits and vegetables to families in the area while giving area residents something to take pride in, as tending to the garden would be solely a community effort.

Another project the Health Coalition is working on is the second annual Wellness Fair.

The Wellness Fair is scheduled for Saturday, April 14, and will hopefully have a 5k run added to the morning’s events.

The coalition is also concentrating on helping businesses throughout Garvin County improve the overall health of their employees in hopes of making Garvin County businesses certified healthy businesses by the State of Oklahoma.

“We would like to make Pauls Valley and Garvin County a standard for the rest of the state,” said Gentry.

The coalition currently consists of approximately 45 members, including business owners and individuals.

These topics and others will be discussed at the next Health Coalition meeting on Tuesday, January 10, at 5:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Recreation Center in Pauls Valley.

The meeting is open to the public and area residents are urged to attend. For more information on the Health Coalition call Julie Selman at the Garvin County Health Department at 405-238-7346.

Holidays hard for victims of drunk and drugged drivers

Weldon Ward

By Susan Stone
News Star Reporter

He was a wonderful husband, a great father to his four children and a loving grandfather to his seven grandkids.

He was a hardworking man who built houses all of his life then started his own custom home building business with his wife.

He was a quiet man who most everyone around town knew and liked.

Today if you mention his name people are often heard saying, “What happened to him is awful and should have never happened.”

His name is Weldon Ward and what happened to him was senseless and could have been prevented.

It was March 6, 2006, and that day Weldon was at his business, Ward Custom Homes in Stratford, framing up the last house he would ever build.

“He always wanted me to feel important. I remember he would come in and ask me questions that he knew the answers to just so I would feel involved and needed. He was the love of my life,” Ward’s wife, Lisa, recalled.

“The last five years of our marriage we grew so close because all the kids were out of the house and it was just the two of us. The only time we were apart was on Monday night,” Lisa said.

The evening of March 6 Lisa had plans to go out with her sister like she always did on Monday nights. That evening Weldon had delivered a load of lumber to a jobsite and was going to make a quick stop at his office before heading home.

While waiting to turn into the driveway Weldon was hit from behind by a vehicle driven by Mark Wayne Hampton.

Hampton was traveling at 96 mph when he hit the trailer Weldon was pulling, causing his vehicle to fly through the air and shear off the cab of Weldon’s truck.

Hampton’s blood alcohol level was .18, more than twice the legal limit in Oklahoma, when he hit and killed an innocent man.

“When someone got to Weldon’s truck the motor was still running and the radio was still on everything else was gone,” Lisa said.

The holidays are especially hard for one Stratford mother.

Amanda Bennett

In 2002 Amanda Bennett had just graduated from high school and was planning on going to school to get her license to do hair and nails.

She was your average, fun loving teenage girl with her whole life ahead of her. She had a smile that could light up any room she walked into.

Amanda was the oldest daughter of Rene Hudson and a big sister to Michael, then age 11, and Summer, then age 5.

“She was the best daughter and most loving big sister,” said Hudson. “Amanda was my best friend we talked about everything.”

“I remember Amanda always gave great big hugs and always said, ‘I love you mom,’” Rene recalled.

December 17, 2002 would be the last time Rene ever heard Amanda say, “I love you mom.”

After Amanda got off work that night she went out to her cousin’s house to just hang out and have some fun.

She called her mom to let her know she made it and she loved her. Rene would never hear her daughter’s voice again all because 17-year old Billy Farnham chose to smoke marijuana and take two other prescription sedatives before getting behind the wheel of his vehicle.

“Amanda and Billy were dating and on the night of December 17 she told me she was going to break up with him,” Rene said. “Amanda called me later and told me she was at her cousins and she had broken things off with Billy.”

Amanda was at her cousins when Billy showed up and forced her into his car. They then took off down a county road at a high rate of speed.

A couple of miles down the dirt road Farnham lost control of the car. The vehicle flipped twice and threw Amanda 30 feet from where the car landed.

Rene recalls hearing her mother screaming, “Amanda’s been in a wreck! Amanda’s been in a wreck” as she ran into Rene’s house.

“My uncle is an EMT and he went out on the second ambulance to Amanda’s wreck. He was the one who identified her,” Rene said.

Rene went to the hospital where she was met by her Uncle. Rene asked how her daughter was she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear, “she didn’t make it.”

“My body had no feeling. I couldn’t walk or talk they carried me to the grieving room where all my family was,” Rene said. “I started living my nightmare at that moment and I’m still living it today.”

“The whole month of December is so painful because Christmas was Amanda’s favorite time of the year,” Rene said.

Farnham was charged in 2003 with first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of a controlled drug without a valid prescription and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

“I just want everyone to think about the choices they make in life,” Rene said.

These are just two examples of how a drunk or drugged driver forever altered a family.

Don’t be that person who destroys lives and kills innocent people. If you choose to drink then you need to make the decision not to drive.

Christmas Season brings giving to Garvin County area

News Star photo by Lindsey Temple: Christina Martin of Elmore City unwraps one of the many gifts she received from the Elmore City Angel Tree Program last week. All over Garvin County needy children and families have benefited from the kindness of county residents through such programs.

By Lindsey Temple
New Star Reporter

Garvin County residents have once again proven to be kind and giving people as more people opened their hearts and pockets this holiday season to help those who are in need.

With a struggling economy the holiday season hits young families hard, making simple joys like gift giving or large family meals hard to come by.

But in the weeks leading up to Christmas many area organizations and churches set out to lend help to area families in the way of gifts, food and necessities.

With no economic relief in sight and situations beyond the control of young families, many are turning to programs such as the Angel Tree program to provide Christmas for their children.

Although the holiday season has come and gone the impact some local churches and organizations made on the lives of area families, still remains.

Elmore City First Baptist Church assisted in filling bags full of clothing, shoes, household items and miscellaneous items for approximately 348 families in need during this holiday season.

Through EC FBC, 123 children were able to find and wrap a present for their parents, along with 65 new coats given to children in need and 22 new bicycles.

Elmore City United Methodist Church was able to once again help area children who have an incarcerated parent through the Angel Tree program offered through a statewide prison ministry.

“We hope to help more kids next year. This is really what Christmas is about,” said EC UMC Pastor, Brad Dery.

The Stratford Joy Store reached several area families in need with items that made gift giving easier. At the time of this printing no data was available from the Stratford Joy Store.

The Daughters of Maysville hosted their second annual Angel Tree program for Maysville and surrounding areas, through individual donations the program was able to help 103 area children.

“We definitely saw an increase in the need for this, last year we helped 85 kids, this year it was 103,” explains program coordinator, Heidi Gamble.

Pauls Valley Angel Tree organization kept the long running tradition going again this year.

Through private donations and contributions from area churches the PV Angel Tree was able to help 265 children, providing clothing, stuffed animals, books and baby blankets.

“It was our best Angel Tree ever, everyone went above and beyond,” explained program coordinator Billie Hayes.

Hayes went on to say that everything they do would have never been possible without the help from the numerous volunteers.

PVGH staff to count their blessings

By Lindsey Temple
News Star Reporter

Pauls Valley General Hospital has seen its fair share of struggles in the past year and had set out to start the upcoming year on new footing.

On Thursday, January 5, at 6 p.m, the community is invited to attend a “Blessings Reception” in the front lobby of the hospital.

“We want to change the community perception of us. We are working vey hard and have made some wonderful accomplishments and we just want the community to know about them,” explained D.J. Gentry, one of the event’s coordinators.

The reception will be a time to reflect on the hospital’s accomplishments and will include motivational speaker Susan Blake speaking about having a positive outlook in the upcoming year.

The evening will also include a blessing of the hospital from the Ministerial Alliance along with a very big surprise.

The individual departments within the hospital along with the hospital as a whole will get a chance to list their accomplishments for the community.

“We are now at a point where we feel like we are on the right track and we just want everyone to know how hard we are working despite how rough a year we have had,” said Gentry.

The event will be similar to an open house with refreshments. For more information on this event call PVGH at 405-238-5501.

Suspect eludes pursuit

By Susan Stone
News Star Reporter

What started as a domestic disturbance at a home in Pontotoc County ended with a short pursuit and the subject taking off on foot in the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 27.

Stratford Police Officer Michael Lewis observed a vehicle traveling North on Elm street going a little over the speed limit.

As the vehicle approached Officer Michael Lewis its speed increased to 86 miles per hour in a 25 mph residential area.

Lewis attempted to stop the vehicle when a short pursuit began.

According to Lewis he pursued the vehicle for about two miles until the suspect’s vehicle stalled around McGee Cemetery.

Once the vehicle stalled, the officer observed the driver, who was identified as Johnny Flowers, exit the vehicle and take off on foot behind a house.

Flowers, according to Lewis, ignored repeated commands from Lewis to stop.

At this time Officer Ray Niehus and Chief Scott Collier as well as Garvin County Sheriff’s deputies arrived to assist in the search for Flowers.

Officers searched the area for quite some time looking for Flowers with no luck.

“Garvin County brought their K-9 over to help track the suspect but due to weather conditions the dog couldn’t get a good scent,” Chief Collier said.

Officers also searched Flowers’ parent’s house where he lives but Flowers was not there. After hours of looking the search was called off.

Officers believe that Flowers ran because he has several felony warrants for his arrest out of Garvin County.

If anyone has information about Flowers whereabouts they are asked to please contact Garvin County Sherriff Department at 405-238-7591 or Stratford Police Department at 580-759-2371.

Christmas Services

Members of the Stratford First Baptist Church Youth Group reenact the birth of Christ during the church’s Live Nativity on Wednesday, December 21. The Live Nativity continues Thursday and Friday, December 22 and 23, at the church from 6-8 p.m. Along with the Live Nativity the church offers free hot chocolate and horse drawn buggy rides. The church will also celebrate Christmas morning with a special candle light service at 10 a.m. Pictured in the Live Nativity scene are Tylan Sawyer, Rylee Hatter, Sar Harper, D.J. Hickman, Jacob Hickman, Dawson Stevens and Emalie Harper. Animals in nativity scene provided by Sawyer Farms. (News Star photo by Susan Stone)

Below is a listing of area Christmas Eve and Christmas services at various Garvin County churches.

•The First United Methodist Church of Paoli will hold a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 24th.

The public is invited to share in our service of praise and thanksgiving for our Lord Jesus Christ.

•The First United Methodist Church of Stratford invites the surrounding community to join them for a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service to be held Saturday, December 24th at 7:00 p.m.

Sunday worship service will be at 11:00 a.m. (No Sunday School)

The church is located at 300 E. Smith in Stratford.

•The First United Methodist Church at 705 Mays Avenue in Maysville will be hosting their annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service on Saturday, December 24th beginning at 6:00 p.m.  Everyone is invited to join them.

Christmas Day services will be held at 10:30 a.m.

•Presbyterian Church of Pauls Valley will host its 59th Christmas Eve Service at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 24th.

•Pauls Valley United Methodist Church will host a Christmas Eve Candlelight service at 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 24.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

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