Father of ex-Upshur commissioner writes letter detailing arrests
June 7, 2013 at 11 p.m.
After eight months of silence, a Big Sandy man is speaking out on behalf of his son, former Upshur County Commissioner Lloyd Crabtree, and grandson, Todd Crabtree, to present their side of the story as the two men await trial.
Both face multiple felony indictments stemming from an October incident in which they are accused of disarming a state game warden and holding him at gunpoint.
Lloyd H. Crabtree, father of Lloyd A. Crabtree and grandfather of Todd Crabtree, wrote a letter detailing events of Oct. 6, 2012, that led to the pair's arrest. Clifton "Scrappy" Holmes, who represents Lloyd A. Crabtree, and Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd each declined to comment, though Byrd indicated the letter does not contain "true facts" of the event.
"On Oct. 6, 2012, Todd Crabtree, 4,000 feet inside the property line, came upon a man wearing flop leaf camouflage, with no visible identification, trespassing on the Crabtree property. Todd Crabtree called 911 and said he had a trespasser," Lloyd H. Crabtree wrote at the beginning of his letter, sent to several area media outlets. "Game Warden (Shane) Bailey was searching the Crabtree property without just cause, undercover and without a search warrant," the letter went on.
The gate to the Crabtree land had been moved 40 feet inside the property line for large trailer access, Lloyd H. Crabtree wrote. Wire had not been installed beneath the top rail, and he said the game warden realized he rode a four-wheeler under the rail. Lloyd H. Crabtree said Bailey's four-wheeler was not marked when he rode it to search the property.
"Warden Bailey began to scream when Todd told him he had to wait for 911 to come. Lloyd A. Crabtree, a duly elected public official, 1,500 feet away, came in behind Warden Bailey," the elder Crabtree wrote. "Lloyd A. Crabtree called Sheriff (Anthony) Betterton. Sheriff Betterton told Lloyd to give Warden Bailey his gun. Lloyd A. told Sheriff Betterton that Warden Bailey was not in a good emotional state of mind to posses a gun. The sheriff insisted. Lloyd A. Crabtree said he would lay the gun on the ground and walk in front of Warden Bailey, if shot it would be in the back. They started to the gate."
Big Sandy police officers arrived first at the scene with Hawkins police officers behind them. Charles Crabtree, Lloyd A. Crabtree's brother, was sitting in a pickup at the gate, Lloyd H. Crabtree wrote.
"Hawkins City Police put Charles Crabtree on the ground, cuffed him without Miranda rights," Lloyd H. Crabtree wrote. "Upshur County deputy sheriff and Big Sandy police started walking in to meet Lloyd A. and Todd Crabtree and Warden Bailey. Two thousand feet from the gate the deputy and city police met the Crabtrees and Warden Bailey. Warden Bailey said the Crabtrees were in compliance. The Big Sandy police used brutality to cuff Lloyd A. Crabtree."
His letter goes on to make accusations of an illegal search and seizure of the property, noting that charges were dropped against Charles Crabtree; however, he has not had confiscated guns or a cell phone returned to him.
"Conveniently, all dashboard audio failed in this incident," Lloyd H. Crabtree wrote. "I think (the Texas department of Parks and Wildlife) are out of control as evidence: it is now a felony to dredge oysters at night! Equal to armed robbery. Can't use a boat to access a swamp on Big Sandy Creek for duck hunting! On Saturday Oct. 5, 2012, no search warrant necessary for unidentified warden to search. On Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, a search warrant signed by a district judge was necessary to search the same property? In 2013 in Liberty County, a 27-year veteran game warden was sentenced to one year in jail for law breaking. How many others get away with breaking the law?"
The letter is signed "Please help."
Lloyd A. Crabtree also declined to comment on the letter that his father wrote, as did his attorney.
"I have made a 48-year career out of not trying cases in the media," said Lloyd A. Crabtree's attorney, Holmes. "I understand that freedom of speech is freedom of speech and that freedom of the press is freedom of the press. I agree with all of it. But I have no comment."
Byrd also declined to comment on details of the letter saying, "We don't try cases in the newspaper."
"While I find it interesting that the father and grandfather of the accused, who wasn't even present at the scene, writes as if he knows the facts and evidence of his case. I would encourage him and others to come to the courtroom where the true facts and evidence will be admitted," Byrd said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Capt. Quint Balkom said in October that Bailey called 911 after he had been disarmed at gunpoint by the two men.
"(Bailey) was put into a very bad position by the Crabtrees," Balkom said in October. "It is accurate the lives of several law enforcement officers were threatened with firearms during the incident."
Bailey was conducting routine operations when he was threatened, Balkom said in October. Byrd stated in October that Bailey had been on multiple properties throughout the day and did not know who the land belonged to when he arrived at the Crabtrees' property near the Sabine River in Big Sandy.
"By no means was this a mistake, an accident. It was what we believe to be an intentional act," Byrd said in October.
Neither a trial date nor a pre-trial hearing is scheduled in the cases. Previous trial dates set in late May were cancelled and have not been reset.