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Police
Family members: Man kills mother, aunt at Kilgore apartments

KILGORE — Family members say two sisters were found stabbed to death at a Kilgore apartment complex Wednesday afternoon and that the son of one of the slain sisters is being held in connection with the deaths.

Two bodies in two apartments were found shortly before 3 p.m. by Kilgore police responding to a 911 call to Stone Creek Apartments in the 400 block of Pine Burr Lane.

About the same time the deaths were discovered, an adult male was arrested about two blocks from the complex, police said.

“The Kilgore Police Department believes the lone suspect is in custody, and there is not a continued threat,” the department said in a statement.

Police did not identify the two women and the suspect. However, three immediate family members who were at the apartment complex Wednesday evening identified the victims as sisters Daisy Wheat, 68, and Karen Sue Wheat, about age 63, who lived in separate units at the complex.

They also identified the suspect as Karen Sue Wheat’s son, Jemaine Wheat, 33, whose address is listed in Gregg County Jail records as that of the apartment complex.

The victims’ sister, Lizzie Griffin of Longview, said she headed to Daisy’s apartment after her brother, Jessie Wheat, called her to say that no one answered the phone after it rang 10 times.

“I got up the steps. I saw blood stains, and I got the maintenance man to get the door key,” Griffin said.

Griffin said the maintenance worker told her not to enter the apartment and that police arrived shortly afterward.

“There are multiple apartments that are considered crime scenes, and police will be on hand for hours while each apartment is processed for evidence,” Kilgore police said.

Griffin said Jemaine Wheat was released about two months ago from Terrell State Hospital, which is a psychiatric facility.

He was held Wednesday in the Gregg County Jail on $500,000 in bonds on charges of false alarm or report, emergency, and burglary of habitation from offenses dated Saturday, jail records show.

Griffin and her sister, Darlene Taylor of Kilgore, mourned the loss of their sisters. They said they grew up in a family with five sisters and three brothers.

“I love my sisters with all my heart, and they will be dearly missed,” Taylor said.

Griffin said she took both of her sisters to a coin-operated laundry Tuesday.

“Their lives were taken too soon. I’m going to miss everything about my sisters,” she said.

Karen Sue Wheat’s daughter, Marlissa Wheat of Kilgore, said, “I am shocked with what happened.”


Local
Longview's Christian Heritage Classical School celebrates 25 years

When Christian Heritage Classical School in Longview opened in 1994, board President David Mitchell said there were times the school wasn’t sure it would be open another year.

Twenty-five years later, he said the school is thriving with almost 300 students enrolled.

The school — which was called Christian Heritage School when it opened — will celebrate its 25th anniversary Oct. 25 with its annual fundraiser, The Big Event. Co-chair and parent Renee Robertson said The Big Event changes every year — past events have included a carnival and clay shoot — but this year’s will be a dinner and auction at Pineway Farms, 1410 S. Tyler St. in Gladewater.

“A big focus of our fundraising is to keep tuition affordable, and a lot of this money will go to scholarships,” she said. “We really desire for any family that fits the school that wants to come here, the tuition not be a hindrance.”

Some of the auction items at the fundraiser are experiences for students, such as being the principal for the day, a limo ride or lunch off campus, Robertson said. Other items are donated to the school, like a Christmas light set from Longview Lights, a handmade picnic table from a parent who is a welder and even a Lasik eye surgery donated by a parent who is an optometrist.

Robertson said the committee also will have budget items that parents and attendees can choose to fund. Those range from a set of classroom chairs to teacher training and more.

The school officially changed its name to Christian Heritage Classical School in 2016, according to its website, but it began teaching the classical method about 15 years ago.

Mitchell said a classical education is a style that emphasizes learning how to think versus just learning materials and facts.

An example is the senior thesis project, he said. While the project involves research, students have to pick a culturally relevant, current topic and give their own arguments and opinions versus citing others from research.

“It is trying to instill in students a lifelong love of learning,” Mitchell said. “Not just regurgitating information.”

Mitchell said the school is seeing momentum in enrollment and quality.

“We continue to see positive momentum in gaining traction within our community as people realize the benefits of not only having their children classically educated but in a Christ-centered environment,” he said.

The anniversary gives school leadership a chance to decide the direction of the next 25 years, Mitchell said.

“That’s really excited to think about,” he said. “We’re just getting started.”

Tickets for The Big Event can be purchased online at tinyurl.com/christianheritage and are $25 for one person and $250 for a table of eight.


Local
Northeast Texas water planners to discuss future needs with Dallas-area leaders

PITTSBURG — As Dallas-Fort Worth area suburban growth pushes east, the long-term water needs of communities in that path are forcing Longview and other Northeast Texas water users to seek solutions.

Those potential high-growth communities include Greenville and Celeste, which could see four-fold population increases by 2070, consultants suggested Wednesday.

“Wow, they’re going to be thirsty,” Longview City Manager Keith Bonds said, “so somebody has got to figure out how to get some water to them.”

Future water sources were a focus of discussion Wednesday for Bonds and other members of the Northeast Texas Regional Water Planning Group.

The board selected seven people to represent the region — known as Region D — in negotiations with the Dallas-Fort Worth area, or Region C, as both regions plan how to meet their water needs during the next 50 years.

Times and locations for those negotiations haven’t been set.

It’s been four years since both regions settled several years of contentious debate about whether to build a reservoir on the Sulphur River north of Mount Pleasant.

In 2015, despite Region C’s desires to build what would have been called the Marvin Nichols Reservoir, both regions entered a signed agreement to put that idea on hold indefinitely.

Richard LeTourneau, a Harrison County resident and Region D board vice chairman, called the past four years “a simmering time” for both regions to look at other similarly important issues. Now, with Region D working toward completing a regional water plan by 2021, the Dallas-Fort Worth region wants to find solutions, he said.

“Of course, we’ve got our feelings about what some of those options may or may not be, but we’re going to try to work with them to try to solve some of their problems,” LeTourneau said. “There’s a big hope that there will be a lot of mutual cooperation, and I’m certainly hoping so. I’m speaking primarily of existing reservoirs and utilizing what we already have before we go to destroying more river bottoms and mitigation and what-not.”

Bonds said Marvin Nichols would be “a great source of water” to the Sulphur River basin, adding that an inter-basin transfer with the Sulphur and Sabine river basins could be a possibility.

Other options could be more costly to water customers in Longview and other Northeast Texas communities, he added.

Among those options is what Bonds called the Sabine River Authority’s super plan, in which the Dallas-Fort Worth area would start getting water from Lake Fork and Lake Tawakoni, and then a water pipeline would be built from the Toledo Bend Reservoir to Greenville, with a spur connecting the pipeline to Longview.

“Water is one thing, but the electricity to pump it uphill” to Longview and Greenville is another, Bonds said. “That’s a long way to pump, and it’s very expensive.

“The customers of the Sabine River Authority will pay for it,” he added.

Longview is among those customers, as it gets 40% of its raw water from the Sabine River Authority. The remaining sources are 40% from Lake Cherokee and 20% from Lake O’ the Pines.

Water supply needs for they Northeast Texas region are estimated to triple just for municipal uses alone between 2020 and 2070, according to information presented Wednesday by consultant Tony Stone with Austin-based Corolla Engineers.

Corolla is developing the board’s 2021 regional water plan.

Selected to the subcommittee that will represent Region D in negotiations with the Dallas-Fort Worth area are David Nabors, Sulphur River Basin Authority board member Kelly Mitchell, International Paper-Texarkana Mill Environmental Manager Cindy Gwinn, former Region D board member Fred Milton, David Montagne, LeTourneau and Region D board Chairman Jim Thompson.

Montagne has served as executive vice president and general manager of the Sabine River Authority of Texas, and Nabors represents Lamar County agricultural interests.

Kathleen Jackson, a director for the Texas Water Development Board, called Region D negotiations with Region C an example of how to step forward and address concerns proactively.

“I’m encouraged,” Jackson said. “They came to a resolution before, because both groups kind of sat down and worked together. They’ve got some good talent, and certainly the folks that are on there are committed, so I quite frankly think it’s how the process was intended to work.”


Local
ETAA board exploring GPS for buses

The East Texas Advanced Academies board will explore options for GPS tracking systems on all Longview ISD buses and will investigate the possibility of placing a physician’s assistant on the campus with its youngest students.

When board president Alan Amos asked for a trustee at Wednesday’s board meeting to work with Deputy of Business Operations Donald Stewart to investigate GPS trackers and the cost for the transportation department, Sam Satterwhite volunteered.

“At some point, one of our students will be on that bus,” Amos said. “I think we might see what the cost is on all of those buses.”

Amos said GPS trackers offer several options, and he wants to be able to keep up with students on buses.

“I think it’s a safety issue with every ISD. The parents want to know exactly where their child is at all times,” he said.

A tracking system can enable a parent to pull up an app on their phone and see where their child’s bus is, he said. It also could allow bus drivers to know if a student is on the right bus, because the student could check in.

“We’re dealing with some small kids, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re kept safe,” Amos said. “It’s just another reassurance on our side and the parents’ side.”

Longview ISD in August fired Transportation Director Dale Bohannon. The move came as the district worked through transportation issues after parents had to locate two misplaced students — a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy — from East Texas Montessori Prep Academy.

Amos said he hopes to have more information at the next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 7.

ETAA is the nonprofit organization running Longview ISD’s six district-within-a-district charter campuses. Those campuses are East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, Ware East Texas Montessori Academy, Johnston-McQueen Elementary School, Bramlette STEAM Academy, J.L. Everhart Elementary School and Forest Park Magnet School.

Amos also called for someone to look into the laws of having a physician’s assistant on the East Texas Montessori Prep Academy campus, which serves prekindergarten and kindergarten students. Jud Murray volunteered.

The campus has about 1,140 students right now, Amos said. While the campus has two nurse’s stations, the board wants to eliminate the time parents have to spend taking their children out of school for doctor visits by contracting with a physician’s assistant.

The board also approved requesting that Longview ISD hire a K-8 special education supervisor and a behavioral specialist and, if the district denies, ETAA hiring the two positions on its own.

“Currently, the ISD has a special ed department,” Amos said. “With our size of six campuses, we want to dial in on those campuses to get just a little more support. If the ISD refuses to hire that position, ETAA is going to hire them, because we need a little more attention than what is being provided currently.”

Amos said the ETAA has the budget to add those positions to the payroll.

Action items approved Wednesday were Longview Incentive for Teachers pay for ETAA network teachers. ETAA campus teachers still are considered Longview ISD employees but are managed by ETAA, so the payment needs board approval, CEO Cynthia Wise previously said.

The board also discussed meetings being held every two weeks between ETAA and Longview ISD administration. Murray expressed concern about the meetings taking away from Wise’s time on campuses and ensuring the goals of the campuses are met.

Murray asked Wise to keep the board informed about her schedule, and the timetable for the meetings might be revisited in the future.

In her CEO report, Wise said Forest Park teachers have been trained on zSpace, the virtual reality technology purchased by ETAA, and it is being used in classrooms.

The board also agreed to join the Texas Association of School Boards.


Correction

A story on Page 1A Wednesday about Tuesday night’s Longview ISD town hall meeting incorrectly attributed quotes to Amy Hull.