2001 in review: A year of history

A new year, a clean slate and a fresh boost of motivation will act as the driving force in 2002 as the Brady Standard-Herald pushes to bring its readers the latest, up-to-date news coverage and advertisements. But what about the news of the past’ Will the hottest topics and controversial events that made headlines in 2001 be chalked up to news of yesteryears and eventually forgotten’ News and controversial events brought to the forefront in 2001 will mold and shape the news items in 2002 and beyond. Everything from fraud to attempted murder and terrorist attacks to the largest drug raid in McCulloch County history covered the front pages in 2001. As is tradition with the coming of a new year, the Brady Standard-Herald has rated the hottest news topics in 2001 in its “Top Ten” list and provides its readers a chance to review and reflect on the issues that affected Brady and McCulloch County over the past 12 months. The following is a compilation of 10 story synopses that crossed the headlines on one or more occasion in 2001. Their importance or significance of each is debatable, but all are part of what life in Brady was about during the year. H Judge sentences Stearns to 30 years The final chapter in the intriguing saga of Brian Russell Stearns and his influence on some 400 McCulloch County citizens came to a close in a federal courtroom in Austin Thursday, July 12, 2001. Judge James R. Nowlin sentenced the “mystery” man, who married a former Miss Heart of Texas in 1998, to 30 years in a federal prison. Stearns had been convicted of 80 counts of fraud and money laundering in Judge Nowlin’s court in Austin back on Feb. 8, 2001. In September, the Judge awarded the largest group of investors involved in Stearns’ investment scheme to get back 73 cents on the dollar in a settlement with the Texas law firm that represented Stearns. The $8.5 million agreement was between the Locke Liddell and Sapp law firm and 436 of Stearns’ investors, mainly from Brady and surrounding Hill Country communities. The investors agreed to pay their lawyers 35 percent of the settlement amount’almost $3 million. Brady residents invested about $4.5 million with Stearns. H America under attack September 11, 2001’A day that will go down in American history as the largest catastrophe ever brought on by incredible, vicious acts of terrorism. Just before 8 a.m. (Central Standard Time), the United States of America got an unsightly glimpse of terrorism at its worst. One after the other, New York’s World Trade Center’s twin towers fell target to mass destruction as American Airlines Flight No. 11 en route from Boston to Los Angeles and United Airlines Flight No. 175, also traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, were hijacked by terrorists and flown straight into both high-rise structures. The two 110-story buildings, under stress from the attack, gave way shortly after the planes struck the buildings and plummeted to the earth. Two other planes, one unsuccessful at reaching its destination point, were also hijacked by terrorists Tuesday morning, Sept. 11. The third plane, American Airlines Flight No. 77, traveling from Washington D.C’s Dulles to Los Angeles, struck the Pentagon, America’s hub of the military defense system. A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight No. 93, en route from Newark to San Francisco, was also taken over by terrorists. American Airlines Flight No. 11 which hit the first tower, was reported to be carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members. United Flight No. 175, the second plane to strike one of the twin towers, was suspected to be carrying 56 passengers and nine or more crew members. The third plane to change course, American Airlines Flight No. 77 crashed into the Pentagon with 58 passengers and nine crew members on board. It was suspected that the final plane, United Flight No. 93, was thrown off its destination point by passengers who interfered with the terrorists’ mission. The plane came down in a desolate area some 80 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. The twin towers were reported to have had 50,000 people employed between the two facilities. More than 6,000 were trapped and covered in rubble when the towers went down. After more than three months, the search still continues daily to recover the fallen victims. H Bomb threats shut down Brady ISD campuses One after the other, bomb threats kept coming in October, 2001 as Brady Independent School District officials received notice of two bomb threats: the first on Monday, Oct. 1 and the second the following Monday, Oct. 8. According to BISD Supt. Max Gordon who commented on the first bomb threat, the anonymous caller phoned each of the campuses including the South Ward Cafeteria beginning around 7:15 a.m. The caller, believed to be an adult male, gave a brief and general statement that there was a bomb on one of the school campuses each time the phone was answered. Upon receiving the calls, each campus was evacuated. Once each location was empty, law enforcement officers along with selected school officials, conducted a physical search of the buildings. Reality struck again the following Monday when a Brady High School office staff member, received a call around 7:40 a.m. According to Gordon, this time the caller only called one campus and did not mention the word bomb, only that the staff needed to get everyone out of the building. As a result of the ongoing investigation into the bomb threat, an anonymous caller contacted the CrimeStoppers hotline and identified the suspect by name and gave enough information which had not been released to the media and general public to verify its truthfulness. The caller identified the location from where the threatening call was made and also gave a description of the vehicle used. The information was relayed to Brady Police Chief John Stewart who with the assistance of the Brownwood Police Department arrested the suspect previously identified by the anonymous caller. After a short interview, the suspect admitted to his involvement and stated that he intended for the call to be a prank after hearing about the original call that occurred on Oct. 12. Brady ISD received an “all clear” inspection by a bomb detection team Saturday, Oct. 13 when two dog and handler teams from Hill Country Dog Center searched every school building in the BISD system. H Brady youth, 17, survives knife attack A brutal attack that left 17-year-old Anthony Soto of Brady with a slashed throat had local law enforcement investigators building a case in April against 19-year-old Anthony Bone, also of Brady. Brady law enforcement dispatchers received an early morning call on Monday, April 9 reporting an individual walking down the road that “appeared to have something wrong with him.” Shortly after that phone call, dispatch received a call from the emergency room at the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital stating that they had a patient who had what appeared to be a knife cut to the throat. Soto, soaked from head to toe in blood, apparently was walking toward the hospital on FM 2028 near the hill just past the G. Rollie White Complex when a passerby stopped and gave him a ride to the hospital. Conscious, coherent and barely able to speak, Soto reportedly walked into the ER under his own strength where he received treatment for a knife cut to the throat. After being stabilized in the ER, he was flown by helicopter to Columbia Medical Center in San Angelo where he remained for a time in serious condition. While in the Brady emergency room, Soto was able to communicate to officers who he claimed to have attacked him with sketchy details about the location where the attack occurred. Preliminary investigations stated that the attack occurred around 10 p.m. Sunday, April 8. Soto was reportedly tied up and left for dead in an abandoned car, but was able to free himself and walk back to the road. He apparently walked all night toward the hospital until he was found Monday morning. A cooperative effort by the Brady police, sheriff’s office, Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers eventually led officials to the crime scene located off County Road 112, nearly seven miles from where Soto was picked up. When officers first arrived at what they believed to be the crime scene, they found traces of blood on the gate. They then proceeded to have evidentiary search warrants issued for the premises. While investigators were at the scene, Bone resurfaced at the scene for unknown reasons. He was taken into custody for a revoked bond (he was out of jail on bond for a sexual assault indictment handed down on Nov. 9, 2000). In custody for over six months, Bone’s trial for attempted capital murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping was moved to Kerrville and jury selections began the first week in December. The trial originally was scheduled to be heard in New Braunfels reportedly because of the amount of local publicity. Defense attorneys reportedly requested the change of venue. The case was moved to Kerrville when a change in court schedules cleared a time slot. Heard by 198th Judicial District Judge Karl Prohl, Bone pleaded guilty to all charges after only one day of testimony. H 31 warrants served in early morning drug bust A massive effort by Brady and McCulloch County law enforcement officials in cooperation with the Southwest Texas Narcotics Task Force swept through McCulloch County early Tuesday morning and caught many suspected drug dealers by surprise. In the largest concerted effort in this area, law enforcement officials equipped with warrants for 31 individuals on 63 indictments began arresting named individuals around 6 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27. The culmination of an investigation that began June 1, 2000 by Southwest Texas Narcotics Task Force, five teams of six officers each began the single largest roundup in the history of this area in the predawn drug bust. All of the 63 indictments were for felony delivery of a controlled substance including cocaine, methamphetamines, hydrocodone and marijuana. Of the 63 indictments, five were first degree felonies, 30 were second degree felonies, two were third degree felonies, 26 were state jail felonies and three were misdemeanors. By July of 2001, four individuals were sentenced to probation with a mandatory stay in a Substance Abuse Punishment Facility (SAPF) while several others accepted plea bargains of probation or deferred adjudication for as long as 10 years. H Brady first grader dies from sudden illness Six-year-old Kelsey Ledezma, daughter of Abel and Candice Ledezma of Brady, died Monday, Jan. 8 in the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital after a short illness. Rumors spread rapidly around Brady as parents across the community began to express concerns of a possible contagious disease. Those rumors were dispelled as a result of an autopsy ordered by Justice of the Peace Doris Bryson. According to police and EMS report logs, rescue personnel were dispatched to the home of Abel and Candice Ledezma at 1:59 a.m. Monday in response to a report of a child not breathing. Emergency personnel transported the six-year-old girl to the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead. After an extensive examination was performed by the Travis County Medical Examiner, findings concluded that the cause of the young girl’s death was not due to any communicable disease. Instead, the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be a non-contagious viral inflammation. H Local hospital reopens surgical suite While rural hospitals across the state were battling to keep their doors open in 2001, the Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital opened a new set of doors to offer its patrons a newly-revived surgical suite. After more than nine years since surgeries were performed at the local hospital on a routine basis, the first surgery, a relatively minor procedure, got off without a glitch in July. Two board certified general surgeons, Dr. Thomas Noonan and Dr. Jay Stauffer are on staff to perform surgical procedures, with the assistance of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Charles Buchanan. H New airport hangar constructed at Curtis Field The Brady Economic Development Corporation (EDC) kept its plate full in 2001 overseeing the construction phase that culminated in the addition of Hangar C at Curtis Field airport. The new hangar, was constructed with the intent of housing airplane painting company, Texas AeroColor. The entire cost of construction of the hangar will be recouped over the next 15 years and following that, the hangar will become the property of the City of Brady. H Emergency response vehicles roll into town in 2001 A sight not seen in Brady in over 17 years, a brand new fire engine polished and fresh from the factory rolled into town Friday Jan. 30. A four-door Pierce Contender Series pumper truck, the $164,000 apparatus was delivered complete with hoses, nozzles, a set of hydraulic rescue tools and all the equipment necessary to put the engine into service. Less than two weeks later, Brady Emergency Medical Service received its newest addition to the emergency response fleet for Brady and McCulloch County. The ambulance was purchased by the City of Brady for $87,080, and it replaced the last of three original units that were put into service in 1989. The Voca Volunteer Fire Department and the Rochelle Volunteer Fire Department were also the recipients of new fire trucks in 2001. H Courthouse extended family continues to grow The extended McCulloch County courthouse family grew at a rapid pace in 2001. First came the introduction of Adeline, the lone vagrant farm animal that mysteriously appeared on the lawn of the courthouse around December, 2000. Adeline quickly made her presence known as she began to roost in the trees on the courthouse grounds, spending most of her days milling about and pecking at whatever she could find to eat. It took only two months for a male companion to come calling. Appropriately named, Foghorn moved into town in February, 2001 to spend his days roaming about the courthouse lawn with Adeline. County Clerk Tina Smith reported to the Brady Standard-Herald in February that “Nobody knows where either of them came from.” Mrs. Smith, along with other courthouse staff, began feeding them chicken feed on a regular basis and even found two eggs in two different locations. Just two months later, the family grew’by two’when Adeline and her significant other, Foghorn, became the proud parents of two new baby chicks. In no time the courthouse and its new tenants had made it to the big league as a feature in one of Rick Smith’s columns in the San Angelo Standard-Times. The article featured several Texas courthouses, but it was Adeline, Foghorn and the two baby chicks that stole the show and brought the most attention to the McCulloch County courthouse.

Leave a Comment