JUNE 22, 2006

JUNE 22, 2010
Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts awarded 26 horses on Tuesday to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, following a lengthy hearing.

The horses belonged to Jerry Svoboda of Splendora, who represented himself in court. Ray Johnson from the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office represented the state. Pct. 4 Livestock Deputy Don Smith testified first. The veteran livestock deputy stated he had dealt with Svoboda concerning the horses for three consecutive years. Each of the previous encounters left Smith confident the issue would be resolved since Svoboda initially made corrections and the horses’ conditions showed improvement.

However, the severity of the conditions this year coupled with previous attempts to have Svoboda bring conditions into compliance resulted in a decision by Precinct 4 to seize the animals and ask the Judge to award them to the SPCA. Smith stated he first saw the conditions of Svoboda’s horses from the road because he lives nearby, and his office had numerous reports of neglect from citizens.

Deputy Smith cited issues with lack of feed, overcrowding, and hoof problems. He also stated Svoboda previously had a property on Brown Road where he kept horses and when citizens complained, Smith found them in poor condition and found evidence they were fed tortillas which can cause colic and potentially kill them.

Smith said the horses found on Svoboda’s properties in 2008 and 2009 were in a similar condition to this year. He called the horses’ living conditions “deplorable.”

“We didn’t try to seize them because he complied and brought them back up to condition,” Deputy Smith said. “We thought he’d abide by what we asked.”

“We try to work with the owners of the horses,” he said. “We don’t want their horses- the county doesn’t want their horses.”

Deputy Smith testified the property faces FM 2090, and he noticed the horses had torn down part of the fence along the busy roadway trying to reach food, and the fence was inadequately repaired, posing a danger to motorists on the busy thoroughfare.

Pct. 4 Deputy Dwayne Morrow’s testimony concurred with Deputy Smith’s. He was the first livestock officer to speak with Svoboda this year and said Svoboda told him “the horse market was down and it had been a hard winter.”

“I told (Svoboda) he needed to do something, we’re having continual complaints,” Deputy Morrow said. “I told him we’d give him a couple of weeks for improvement and we’d be checking.”

Svoboda promised to comply. However, deputies testified they returned to find what Deputy Smith called “deplorable conditions,” citing lack of food, clean drinking water, and necessary care for hoofs and teeth.

“They had prominent ribs, hip bones, and backbones,” he said. “There was no feed anywhere.”

Debbie Michelson, Cruelty Investigator for the Houston SPCA testified she had also dealt with Svoboda and his horses over a period of years, making the most recent visit her third. She said many were severely underweight with hips and ribs showing, and many hoof issues such as cracked hoofs. There was a barn with several horses inside and no ventilation. The windows and doors were closed, the stalls were filthy and there were indications of parasites, she said. Michelson also cited open wounds, poor skin conditions, loss of hair, one horse that was severely lame with no evidence of recent care.

SPCA Veterinarian Dr. Susan Skelly also testified, saying her opinion and that of two other staff veterinarians was that the majority of the 26 horses were in poor to very poor condition, with some scoring a 1 on a scale of 1 to 9.

Judge Metts began by saying he believed Svoboda had been “open and honest” during the hearing.

“I believe you do have feelings for horses and I don’t think you got up one morning and decided to be cruel or inhumane to horses,” Judge Metts said.

The Judge continued telling Svoboda he and his family always had horses and he realized their upkeep is expensive and could become a financial burden.

“I also understand about dreams,” Judge Metts said. “Most of the dreams in my life have come true, but sometimes things just happen, whether it’s beyond our control or within our control.”

“The bottom line is, there were 26 horses, and for whatever reason, they wound up on 10 acres of property,” he said. “There’s certainly not adequate grass there.”

Judge Metts said he was a lifelong resident of East Montgomery County and was familiar with the property in question. Based on the majority of the photos and testimony presented, the Judge awarded the horses to the SPCA, along with $7,470 in reimbursement for expenses.

Pct. 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden said the case was a sad situation for the horses and for Mr. Svoboda and his family.

“It’s unfortunate when we have to seize livestock, but when animals are suffering and their owners are unable to correct the situation for whatever reason, we have no choice,” Constable Hayden said. “Mr. Svoboda had more than one opportunity to get into compliance.”

Deputy Smith said as the economy has worsened, the number of neglect cases has grown, along with the number of large animals abandoned.

“Hay costs $9 per bale, feed costs about $10 per 50 lb. sack,” Deputy Smith said. “People lose their jobs and with the average horse eating 8 to 10 lbs of food and a half bale of hay daily, they just can’t afford it.”

It is a crime to abandon a horse, and some of the horses have caused major accidents injuring or killing people and horses. Two horses have died on were seriously injured recently on area roadways. People should instead contact the SPCA, the Houston Humane Society or any equine rescue organization. Those organizations will take the horses, no questions asked, get them healthy and find carefully screened adoptive homes for them.

“If you have a problem and can’t take care of your horses, please notify somebody,” Deputy Smith said.

JUNE 22, 2010
About 3:30 pm this afternoon a 23-year old Kevin Burgess of Cleveland was with several other young adults at a swimming hole at the end of Midline Road in Splendora.
The approximately one-acre lake has a zip-cable across it attached to trees at both ends. Burgess climbed the tree to get the handles for the cable which was approximately 30 feet off the ground. As he started out to the other side the cable hung jarring him loose. Burgess fell to the ground almost head first resulting in a severe head injury.
Another person there was then flagged down and after loading Burgess in the Chevrolet Suburban started for the hospital.
When they got to the intersection of US 59 at Fostoria EMS was called.
EMS arrived on the scene and at 4:01 p.m. pronounced him deceased.
Judge Jame Metts was called to the scene and ordered an autopsy at the Southeast Forensic Center in Conroe.

JUNE 22, 2013
Four workers have been injured — three critically — when a portion of the Texas A&M equine center under construction on the west side of the campus collapsed.

Between 25 and 30 workers were on the scene in the 3500 block of F&B Road near FM 2818 at the time of the collapse, according to College Station Fire Department spokesperson Bart Humphries.

A number of workers were in elevated positions tying steel together on the 35-foot-tall, 300-foot-long barn when they came down, Humphries said.

Emergency crews rushed to the scene, and as of early Saturday afternoon, primary and secondary searches of the collapsed structure have been completed. All those injured and trapped have been accounted for, and the searches are complete.

According to a timeline provided by the CSFD, they received the call at 10:49 a.m. First responders were on the scene six minutes later. They were told four workers were in the portion that had collapsed. By 11:18 a.m., those four were on their way to hospitals.

The three critically injured workers were taken to St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan with what are described as “multi-trauma” injuries. The fourth worker was taken to the College Station Medical Center.

Names of the injured have not been released, nor have the extent of their injuries.

Once the structure was deemed stable, a secondary search was started. By 11:56 a.m., that search was complete and no others were found.

Gamma Construction Company based in Houston is the lead contractor on the project. Gamma is a well-known construction company in Texas. They have constructed buildings around the state and the Montgomery County area including Harley Davidson in The Woodlands and Harley Davidson of Kingwood.

JUNE 22, 2013
A 34-year-old Houston man is lucky to be alive after crashing the glider he was piloting in a subdivision near Navasota around 6 p.m. Saturday.

Patrick Ramone was mowing his lawn when the crash occurred in the property across the street. Ramone said he saw what he believed to be the pilot near the wreckage and he was waving his hand.

“When I saw that, I knew that somebody was still alive, so I ran inside and told my wife to call 9-1-1,” Ramone said. “Then I ran (to the crash site) and the pilot was sitting there.”

“I don’t know if he fell out of the plane, but he was sitting there and I sort of stabilized him a little bit – asked him how he was doing and tried to keep him talking,” he said.

Ramone’s wife called 911, which brought emergency responders, while her husband kept the pilot talking. The pilot had obvious serious injuries to his left arm and left leg.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Kenneth Balzekas said the pilot was attempting to land at Navasota Municipal Airport and coming into low when a gust of wind came up causing the to glider stall before crashing nose-first into a field north of the airport in Navasota near the River Haven community on SH 105.

PHI Air Medical responded and transported the victim to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. He was conscious and alert and appeared stable, but the extent of his injuries is unknown as of this writing.

Balzekas said law enforcement would secure the scene overnight and investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to arrive and take over Sunday morning.

Ramone said he and his wife had always been a little concerned about all the planes that flew over their home but never really expected one to crash so nearby.

Ramone, a former volunteer firefighter, also said based on other scenes he had responded to, the pilot in Saturday’s crash was very lucky.

JUNE 22, 2014

JUNE 22, 2016
American Flags, Flowers, balloons, notes and trinkets surrounded a Patton Village Police patrol vehicle in front of the YMCA, near US 59, as hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil in the wake of Sunday night’s tragic officer-involved double fatality accident.

While many were under the impression the vigil was dedicated only to PVPD’s fallen sergeant, Stacey Baumgartner, Patton Village Mayor Leah Tarrant said otherwise. The memorial and prayers were not only for Sgt. Baumgartner, Tarrant said, but also for now-deceased 11-year-old Adan Hilario, Jr. and his family members who were seriously injured. The mayor went on to say she wanted everyone to also remember the family of Garett William Nee, the fleeing suspect who has been arrested and charged in the deaths.

“(Nee’s family) didn’t make the decision that he made, but now we have children, and mothers and fathers, and aunts and uncles that are living with the decision he made,” Tarrant said.

She reminded everyone to love the people in their lives, saying “Life is way too short.”

Tarrant described Baumgartner as “one of the most simple, loving, kind people that you would ever want to meet.”

“…and I do know one thing,” she said, “I know that Stacey passed away, but had he not, he would gladly give his life for that child that passed away.”

Baumgartner left behind two children of his own, with the youngest being his 4-year-old daughter Chloe. His widow, Donna helped Chloe light a candle at the vigil, but then Chloe grabbed a second candle, and when her mother started to tell her she only needed one candle, Chloe said the second was for her daddy. Once it was lit, she held it up with her arm extended toward the night sky.

The crowd was filled with law enforcement officers, many of whom worked with Baumgartner at some point in his career. Among them was Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Duane LeBeau, who said he had known Baumgartner for quite a while, mentioning Baumgartner once worked for the MCSO in the county jail. LeBeau has been assigned to East Montgomery County for 22 years, so he also worked with Baumgartner while he was employed by other agencies on that side of the county.

LeBeau spoke of how personable Baumgartner was, and how easily he would go out and talk to neighbors and kids.

“It’s tough any time you lose someone in law enforcement,” he said. “We lost another officer in Pearland last week – It’s tough when you lose someone you work with, but we have a big family in law enforcement, and we always come together and show support.”

The Pearland Police Department was also represented with one of their officers attending the vigil. Every local agency had representatives on hand, as well as many citizens who went to show their support.

JUNE 22, 2019
Liberty County Deputy Richard Whitten remains in the hospital in critical condition still since the May 29, 2019 shooting in Liberty County. A benefit was held for him today at Trinity Armory in Cleveland. With only just over 3 weeks to plan over 4,000 people attended. More than anyone had expected. What started out as selling BBQ plates turned into a huge event. By noon they ran out of food. having served over 800 pounds of meat. Hundreds of items were donated for a silent auction and even more for a live auction. Several police and fire agencies put their equipment on display. Deputy Whitten’s wife presented the TDC Tracking K-9 “Rader”, who found the shooter with a box of Kong’s. Several awards were handed out to persons directly involved in the shooting incident.