QUESTION: I would like an update on the arson investigation involving Kimberly Bruton.

ANSWER: Her case is continuing to make its way through the legal system, with a psychologist hired by the defense saying she is incompetent to stand trial, according to documents in court records. On May 29, the court also ordered a mental competency examination by the state’s expert witness.

Now, let’s go back and review for people who are wondering what this case is about: Bruton, 33, has been in the Gregg County Jail since March, charged with arson that caused death or injury. She was charged in the March 9, 2018, fire and deaths of Randall Russell and his daughter, Lisa Tesmer. She originally was arrested the night of the fire but released because of a lack of evidence, previous News-Journal reports said.

However, she was arrested May 23 in Denton County on an unrelated arson charge, at which point Longview fire officials re-interviewed her. That’s when she told investigators that on the night of the Cherie Lane fire, she placed a burning piece of board from the fireplace onto a chair. The fire spread throughout the duplex, resulting in the deaths of Russell and Tesmer, whom she was living with at the time.

Dr. Thomas G. Allen, a Flint psychologist, met with Bruton, with an April report about his conclusions filed as part of the court record. Allen said Bruton’s ability to understand the charges against her is “contaminated by paranoid delusions.”

“Her ability to communicate rationally and relevantly with her attorney is problematic,” Allen’s report says. “In speaking with her attorney, she apparently told him what she told this examiner and the paranoia was apparent. He was unable to obtain relevant details from the defendant due to her bizarre presentation and his report was consistent with my observations of the defendant.”

He noted that she described a history of psychiatric problems and early drug use, as well as methamphetamine use about the time the fire happened. Bruton also told the doctor she has post traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety, but she was wasn’t taking any medications.

Allens’ report says Bruton told him that Tesmer told her “a dirty black cop was looking for me so me and my boyfriend got a motel room....” Bruton also told Allen that her “father is missing and it is somehow related to this case,” the report says. “She states ‘This started three years ago in Louisiana. I was running from stuff there and came to Texas.’ ”

Allen says Bruton told him that people were after her, including the cartel.

Q: In driving around Longview, I noticed that some Realtors have posted for sale signs where the yards have been left to grow up for weeks causing unsightly views for the neighbors and potential buyers. Whose responsibility is it to maintain these lawns even if the seller has moved out?

A: It’s the property owner’s responsibility. I spoke to Dona Willett, a local Realtor who heads up the Greater Longview Area Association of Realtors. She explained to me that when a homeowner hires a Realtor to sell a property, there’s a listing agreement that typically includes a requirement for the homeowner to continue to maintain the home while the real estate agency markets the home, even if it’s vacant. She’ll remind clients of that requirement if necessary. (It’s not typical for there to be an agreement for an agency to maintain the lawn for a home it’s representing, she said, but it’s possible that a property management agreement for homes that are for lease, for instance, might include an agreement that the property manager maintains the lawn.)

She did say, however, that Realtors appreciate it if someone calls them about problems at homes they’re representing — grass that’s too high, water where it shouldn’t be, etc.

“It’s harder for a home to be sold when it’s not presentable,” she said.

You can also notify the city’s code compliance office about high grass complaints. That usually requires what I suspect is a more lengthy process to get these types of situations addressed, compared with a friendly phone call to a Realtor or agent representing a property. The city’s code compliance office can be reached at (903) 237-2760.

Q: Is there a way to search the paper’s archives online? I am looking for a list of Lobo graduates from 1928-29.

A: The Longview News-Journal uses, an online service that provides access to digital copies of old Longview newspapers (and other newspapers). (I actually was able to find those old graduation lists you’re looking for by searching that site.) It is a subscription service, but there is a free trial available. The Longview Public Library provides free access to News-Journal articles through a service called Newsbank from 2002 forward.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.