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DNA Doe Project releases new info on skeletal remains found in 2002 in Gregg County
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A partnership with a California nonprofit organization has brought new details in the case of unidentified human remains found almost two decades ago in Gregg County.

The DNA Doe Project recently released new information about skeletal remains found May 21, 2002, in the Liberty City area. The organization said it has narrowed the age of the woman to between 17 and 25 years old and says she was white with an unrepaired cleft palate.

According to the group, the woman might have relatives in Raleigh County, West Virginia; Patrick County, Virginia; or Surry County, North Carolina. Her possible relatives’ surnames include Bowman, Niten/Knighton, Grey and Jessup.

The DNA Doe Project released the updated information on the 19th anniversary of the discovery of the remains.

Gregg County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Josh Tubb said the woman’s skeletal remains were found by geologists who were sent by the state to do surveying ahead of a project to widen Texas 135 in Liberty City. While they were working, they found the remains, which had been there for some time. Tubb said the team found only a partial skeleton and that the remains, which could have been there for two years, had been bleached by the sun.

Tubb also said there was no way for investigators to determine the manner of death.

“She could have passed away of natural causes,” he said.

The sheriff’s office gained first-hand knowledge of The DNA Doe Project’s work a couple years ago when trying to identify a woman who had been known as “Lavender Doe” after she was discovered in October 2006 on an oil lease off Fritz Swanson Road north of Texas 31.

Tubb said investigator Lt. Eddie Hope was referred by a third party to the DNA Doe Project and became familiar with its work.

“He reached out to them and researched what they do, and that’s how he made the decision to utilize their assistance,” Tubb said. “He is in almost-weekly to daily contact with the representative from the DNA Doe Project.”

The DNA Doe Project announced in January 2019 that it had identified Lavender Doe. The following month, the sheriff’s office released her name — Dana Lynn Dodd. Dodd’s family traveled to Longview from out of state in September 2019 for a ceremony to lay to rest the woman who had finally been identified.

In December 2020, Joseph Wayne Burnette was sentenced to 50 years for Dodd’s slaying and another 50 years for the slaying of another woman in Longview.

Tubb said it took the DNA Doe Project such a short time to get DNA sequenced for Lavender Doe — a month to maybe six weeks — that it spoke to “their practices and the efficiency of what they do.”

He said some of the remains of the woman found in 2002 were sent to the DNA Doe Project, and the group had been working on it for about three months. In that time, the organization was able to through DNA sequencing to narrow her genealogy to the North Carolina/West Virginia area and is tracking down several possible family matches, Tubb said.

“We’re not too proud to ask for help whenever someone is able to help, because ultimately our goal is to bring closure to families who are missing a loved one and to identify these individuals,” Tubb said.

“It’s all about them. It’s all about the families. It has nothing to do with our pride,” he said. “Anything we can do to speed up a case and further it along — in any case — that’s what we’re going to do.”

Tubb also credited the DNA Doe Project with being focused on its mission.

“A lot of people don’t realize the DNA Doe Project is a nonprofit organization,” he said. “They do it for the victims and the victims’ families — for the John Does and Jane Does and their families. It’s truly a selfless thing they are doing.”

Anyone with information about the woman whose remains were found in 2002 is urged to contact the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office at (903) 236-8400 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

Blue and gold bash: Pine Tree High School holds graduation
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It was a Pirate party Thursday night as Pine Tree High School held its commencement ceremony for graduating seniors.

Valedictorian Emmanuel David Viramontes, salutatorian Jann Shane Frederick Cabudoy and other Pine Tree seniors collected their diplomas under the lights at Pirate Stadium in Longview.

Pine Tree’s ceremony means the graduation season in the Longview area is almost at an end.

Gladewater High School has planned its ceremony for 8 tonight at Jack V. Murphy Stadium, while Hallsville High School’s commencement is set for the same time tonight at Bobcat Stadium.

Pine Tree Graduation

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You’ve got to be kitten me: Longview shelter sees influx of cats, dogs; lowers or drops adoption fees

The Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center is in the midst of a yearly feline influx, taking in more than 150 cats so far this month.

Animal Services Manager Chris Kemper said the large number of cats and dogs brought into the facility is fairly normal for this time of year.

“It’s not terribly uncommon this year during kitten season,” Kemper said. Starting in February, the adoption center tends to take in more cats. As of Wednesday, 154 have been taken in during May, which is the highest number of felines brought into the facility during a single month this year.

Kemper said 127 cats were taken in during April and 87 in March.

It’s hard to say what the facility’s capacity is for cats as many mother cats are being housed with their kittens. Some are not able to be adopted yet because they are too young.

“We’re working on finding homes for the ones we can adopt out and finding fosters and rescues for the ones who aren’t old enough,” Kemper said.

He said the Longview facility isn’t alone in experiencing a large influx of cats, adding that a shelter in Dallas is almost at capacity.

“We are having a surge of animals like every shelter across the state and country right now,” Kemper said. “We’re committed to finding them all homes.

“We haven’t euthanized a cat in over two years, and we don’t plan on starting now.”

Kemper said the adoption center is seeing a little bit of everything this month.

“On Monday, we took in an injured turtle,” he said.

A large number of dogs also have been brought in to the Longview facility, with 162 so far in May. In April, 172 dogs were taken in and 184 in March.

“We shut down through puppy and kitten season last year,” Kemper said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most dogs the adoption center has ever taken in was 187 in October 2020.

“When we had the 187 dogs come in, we had a lot fewer cats,” Kemper said. “When you have a lot of both, you have a lot to do to take care of both. It takes a lot of staff to make it happen, and we want to make sure that they’re all getting handled.”

All adult dog and cat adoptions are free this month, while puppy and kitten adoptions are 50% off. The adoption fee includes microchip, spay/neuter and age-appropriate vaccinations.

“Our lobby is open,” Kemper said. “We invite anyone down.”

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Poultry breeding firm to build facility in Longview Business Park
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Poultry breeding company Aviagen North America is expected to make an investment of more than $24 million in the Longview Business Park and create at least 69 jobs in the next couple of years.

The Longview Economic Development Corp. board Thursday approved a package of incentives for the Huntsville, Alabama-based company that has locations across the globe.

LEDCO Chief Executive Officer and President Wayne Mansfield said the company will build a “high-tech” 50,000-to 60,000-square-foot facility on 15.7 acres in the Longview Business Park off Eastman Road. He said it’s been about five years since an economic development project located in the business park, and LEDCO is “excited” to bring the facility to South Longview.

“This is essentially a genetics lab,” that incubates and hatches breeder chicks that are then shipped all over the world when they are a day old. The chicks are not for consumption, he said, and there is no odor associated with the facility.

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Longview Mayor Andy Mack said the facility will have high standards for cleanliness and environmental controls, describing it as a “scientific genetic lab.”

“This isn’t your normal smelly chicken house,” Mack said.

It’s a “unique” project for Longview, Mansfield said, because it’s in the agricultural sector.

“Aviagen offers specialty breeding stock to customers in more than 100 countries worldwide under the Arbor Acres, Indian River and Ross Brand names,” according to information from LEDCO.

The facility is a response to “strong demand for boiler breeding stock” in North America and around the world, Aviagen reported.

“With the ability to set 1.1 million eggs per week, the parent stock hatchery will supply customers both domestically in North America and internationally,” the company reported.

Aviagen North America President Marc DeBeer said strong demand for “healthy, affordable chicken meat” was consistent throughout the pandemic.

“We are committed to securing the supply of quality parent stock to help our customers put food on the tables of families throughout North America and around the world,” DeBeer said in a statement. “The new hatchery in Longview will play a big part in this goal.”

Aviagen said the Longview hatchery will be its ninth in North American and first in Texas, with construction expected to begin in September and be completed in July 2022.

The company cited Longview’s “strategic” location.

Jason Mack, the company’s vice president of operations, said Longview was chosen because of its location near regional and international airports and its “biosecure location away from other bird populations.’

“After a long, research-intensive search for the ideal location for our new hatchery, we unanimously chose Longview, a city with a robust labor pool, good work ethic of its citizens, and a strong infrastructure for agribusiness,” Jason said. “We are looking forward to becoming part of Longview and doing our part to promote the success of this thriving community.”

The incentive package includes LEDCO giving 15.7 acres in the Longview Business Park to Aviagen. The land is worth $549,000. LEDCO also will pay up to $150,000 for the sewer connection needed for the new facility and pay Aviagen $125,000 once it receives its certificate of occupancy. That will help offset land development costs, Mansfield said.

The incentives are contingent upon an investment of $15 million in the first year and $9.245 million in the second year and the creation of 12 jobs in the first year. The company would be expected to create and maintain a total of 69 jobs by years two and three.

“I welcome Aviagen to Longview. I am thankful to the board and staff of LEDCO for helping make this project a reality,” Longview Mayor Andy Mack said in a statement provided by LEDCO. “It is encouraging to see our business parks continue to attract new industry, significant investment, and new jobs into the community.”

Natalie Lynch, LEDCO board chairwoman, said the organization is “thrilled” that Aviagen is locating in Longview.

“Aviagen will bring a diverse set of jobs to our community which will be great for our workforce. This project is also further evidence that Longview is on the map for global companies and that makes us very excited for the future of our city,” she said.