Around East Texas

It's Rodeo Time

A big boost to the local economy continues tonight in Lufkin. It is day two of the annual Angelina County Benefit Rodeo. A big crowd showed up last night for opening night of the rodeo, which was also KTRE-TV night. The audience enjoyed some of the top rodeo performers around. Money raised by ticket sales at the rodeo will go to help the Lufkin State School and several other local charities. The rodeo not only brings in money for charity, but it also helps the local economy. "There are 870 some odd cowboys coming into town this week and they will be buying gas and staying in the hotels and stuff like that. So, it's a major event for the community and we are just happy that so far the fundraising is looking good," said Lions Club President Jimmy Cloonan. The rodeo is sponsored by the Lions Club and the Angelina County Mounted Patrol. The action at the Expo Center continues through Saturday.

Meals on Wheels Employee Arrested

There's still no word at this writing on whether the executive director of Meals on Wheels in East Texas will keep his job. Michael Paul Powell was arrested on April 5th in Mineola along with his brother. In Powell's truck authorities say they found methamphetamine and marijuana. In an interview with East Texas News Tuesday night, Mike Powell said the drugs belonged to his brother Kent, and he had no idea they were in the truck. Wednesday, we got reaction from board member and former Tyler Independent School District superintendent Jim Plyler said he is concerned but understands Powell has done a fine job over the years.

Sexual Assault Acquittal

An Angelina County man has been acquitted of sexually assaulting a child. Jurors came back Wednesday with a not guilty verdict for William Strait. He had been accused of performing sexual acts with a 15-year old girl.

JP Acquittal

A decision has been made in the trial of a former East Texas Justice of the Peace. Former Wood COunty Justice of the Peace Larry Pack was acquitted Wednesday. An appeals court reversed Pack's perjury conviction based on insufficient evidence. Pack was convicted in 2005 for allegedly misleading Child Protective Services in a sworn statement.

Coin Theft

Bullard police need your help finding suspected coin thieves. Police are looking for men, caught on Xtreme Carwash surveillance video on February 22nd, who stole about 45 dollars from the car wash in Bullard last month. This is not the first time this car wash has been a target. Back in September, police say a man and woman also caught on surveillance video took more than 600 dollars from the car wash. It's the same thieves, Rusk police say stole 600 dollars from a local laundromat coin machine last month. If you have any information on these crimes, call Bullard or Rusk police, or Crime Stoppers.

Hydrilla Clean-up

A 300-thousand dollar plan to clear up hydrilla on an East Texas lake is in the works. The water weed has made boating impossible on parts of Lake Tyler East. The Tyler city council approved the plan to spray herbicide along the shoreline. Much of that money comes from a one percent hike in your Tyler water bill.

Lightning Strikes

More homes were struck by lightning as storms rolled through East Texas Wednesday morning. Around 3 a.m. yesterday, the first house was struck at 6409 Boca Raton in the Hollytree Subdivision of Tyler. Then, just before 5 a.m., a second house was struck on Jeffrey street. And, an hour later, a third house on Fairlawn street was hit. The worst damage was at the first house in Hollytree. Investigators don't know where the lightning struck, but the worst fire damage was in the garage. Smoke quickly spread throughout the rest of the house. There were no injuries reported.

A&M Bonfire Ruling

A federal court has ruled Texas A&M University officials can not be held responsible for th bonfire collapse. Attorneys for victims argued officials created a "dangerous university-sponsored event," however, the court could find no evidence of "state created danger" from the bonfire. Twelve students died in the 1999 collapse. Twenty-seven students were also injured. The tradition has been carried on unofficially off campus since the collapse. Since 1909, Aggies have built and burned the bonfire on the eve of A-and-M's annual football game against the arch rival Texas Longhorns. A state level lawsuit is still pending against the University.