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Local man held for sexual assault $75,000 bond set in case involving 16-year-old

LIVINGSTON – A 27-year-old Livingston man was being held in the Polk County Jail under a $75,000 bond after being charged with sexual assault of a child.

Brandon JamesBrandon Lee James was arrested Thursday by Livingston police in connection with incidents believed to have occurred at the end of 2014 involving a 16-year-old girl.

According to Police Det. Leon Middleton, the girl's mother contacted police after discovering telephone text messages that were sent between the girl and the suspect.

"The mother brought it to our attention and when we investigated, we learned there had been a sexual relationship between the two on at least two occasions," he said.

Middleton said the matter is still under investigation.

Under Texas law, a child under the age of 17 cannot give consent to have sex.

Meth arrest ends with life sentence

LIVINGSTON – A 32-year-old Livingston man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being found guilty of a first-degree felony charge of possession of a controlled substance.

Patrick Nicholas Taylor also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Patrick TaylorPatrick TaylorThe conviction stemmed from Taylor's arrest by Polk County Sheriff's Department deputies in which nine grams of methamphetamines were seized.

After a Polk County jury found Taylor guilty, First Assistant District Attorney Kari Allen presented evidence regarding his lengthy criminal history, which included his prior juvenile adjudication for sexual assault as well as a conviction for robbery and two convictions for failure to register as a sex offender.

Also during the punishment phase of the trial, multiple women testified about Taylor's abusive behavior and domestic violence. The jury also saw a video of him assaulting a Polk County deputy in the jail and heard testimony regarding his damage of county-owned property.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before returning the maximum punishment of life in prison and the $10,000 fine.

According to Polk County Criminal District Attorney Lee Hon, Taylor "was well on his way to becoming a career criminal. At some point, rehabilitation is no longer an option and the criminal just needs to be removed from society for as long as possible. Obviously, this jury felt that way. This was a well-deserved outcome and I appreciate the message this jury chose to send."

County unemployment hits six-year low

Polk County Unemployment

LIVINGSTON – Unemployment in Polk County fell to its lowest level in over six and a half years in December, dipping down to 5.7 percent, according to figures posted by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

The December number is below the 6.2 percent jobless rate recorded in November and significantly down from the 7.0 percent recorded one year earlier in December 2013.

The latest unemoployment figure also is the first time the local rate has come in under 6 percent since an identical 5.7 percent was posted in May 2008.

The 5.7 percent December rate – which is the latest rate available from TWC – translates to mean that out of an estimated workforce of 17,784, there were 1,016 county residents looking for work during the month. One month earlier, TWC's revised estimates put the local labor force at 17,957 with 1,107 looking for jobs.

Since 2000, the lowest unemployment rate recorded by the county was the 5.1 percent number posted in April 2008 and the highest was the 10.5 percent listed for January 2010.

Statewide, December's actual unem­ployment rate of 4.1 percent was down from November's 4.6 percent but well below the 5.6 percent jobless figure recorded in December 2013.

When seasonal factors are added to the equation, the state's December adjusted unemployment rate was listed at 4.6 percent, which was down slightly from the 4.9 percent posted for November but well below the 6.0 percent listed in December 2013.

The actual national unemploy­ment rate for December was listed at 5.4 percent, which was down slightly from the 5.5 percent figure recorded in November. It was down significantly from the 6.5 percent number posted in December 2013.

The December sea­sonally adjusted U.S. rate of 5.6 percent was down from the 5.8 percent listed in November and well below the 6.7 percent rate listed for December 2013.

According to TWC officials, Texas employers added 45,700 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs in December for a total of 457,900 jobs over the past 12 months.

"Texas finished 2014 on a positive note adding 457,900 jobs over the year, its fifth straight month of record-setting annual job growth," said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. "Every major industry added jobs over the year, benefiting from a strong business climate and a growing, competitive and high quality Texas workforce."

Seven of 11 major industries saw an increase in jobs in Texas in December. Those increases included 14,800 positions in Professional and Business Services, 6,800 jobs in Education and Health Services and 5,100 Construction jobs added.

"The state's steady job growth is great news for Texas workers," said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton. "We continue to work with our local Workforce Solutions partners to strive for an environment where there is a good-paying job for every Texan who wants one. Many great opportunities can be found on WorkInTexas.com. We encourage employers and job seekers to use this valuable resource."

Mining and Logging employment rebounded in December, adding 4,900 jobs after a loss of 2,400 positions in November. This was the second largest monthly gain for the year for the industry, which saw an 11.5 percent annual growth rate over the year with the addition of 33,900 positions. Job gains were also seen in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities industry with 5,900 positions added in December.

"Texas' private-sector employers added 420,200 jobs over the year," said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Hope Andrade. "This growth continue s to position our state as one of the best places in the world to live, work and do business."

From among the 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) monitored by TWC, the Midland MSA had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.1 percent. The Odessa MSA was next at 2.6 percent while the Amarillo MSA was listed at 2.9 percent.

The MSAs with the highest jobless rate in December was the McAllen–Edinburg–Mission MSA at 7.8 percent. The Brownsville-Harlingen MSA was next at 7.2 percent and the Beaumont-Port Arthur MSA was third from the top after recording a rate of 6.4 percent.

Unemployment rates posted for other East Texas counties include:

DEC. %
COUNTY RATE CHANGE
Anderson 4.5 -0.7
Angelina 4.2 -0.4
Cherokee 5.2 -0.7
Grimes 3.8 -0.5
Hardin 5.0 -0.5
Harris 4.1 -0.5
Houston 5.9 -0.7
Jasper 6.3 -0.6
Jefferson 6.8 -0.5
Leon 3.8 -0.4
Liberty 5.5 -0.1
Madison 3.9 -0.5
Montgomery 3.5 -0.4
Nacogdoches 5.7 -0.5
Polk 5.7 -0.5
Sabine 10.3 -0.2
San Augustine 7.6 -0.4
San Jacinto 4.6 -0.4
Shelby 4.3 -0.4
Trinity 4.8 -0.2
Tyler 6.2 -0.7
Walker 4.2 -0.5

Service to community recognized by chamber

POLK COUNTIAN OF THE YEAR — Livingston Police Det. Marty Drake (second from left) was honored as the Polk Countian of the Year during the annual Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet Thursday night. The award was presented by Savanah Steffey (second from right), the new 2015 Miss Polk County. U.S. Rep Brian Babin (right) and Shawn Dunn (left) of State Rep. James White’s office also were on hand to present Drake with special commendation awards from their respective offices. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)POLK COUNTIAN OF THE YEAR — Livingston Police Det. Marty Drake (second from left) was honored as the Polk Countian of the Year during the annual Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet Thursday night. The award was presented by Savanah Steffey (second from right), the new 2015 Miss Polk County. U.S. Rep Brian Babin (right) and Shawn Dunn (left) of State Rep. James White’s office also were on hand to present Drake with special commendation awards from their respective offices. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)

BY BRIAN BESCH
Enterprise staff
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LIVINGSTON -- The 79th Annual Polk County-Livingston Chamber of Commerce Award Banquet celebrated outstanding community service award recipients for 2014 and recognized the efforts of several chamber members Thursday at the Polk County Commerce Center.

Chamber Executive Director Christi Sullivan was the night's master of ceremonies, while the Go Texan Committee Cookers provided steak dinners to those in attendance. Texas Congressman Brian Babin was on hand to present special commendation awards as was Shawn Dunn of State Rep. James White's staff.

Polk Countian of the Year Marty Drake is a detective with the Livingston Police Department. He is newly elected to the Livingston ISD school board, but does much more.

The officer was responsible for starting many groups and activities in both Onalaska and Livingston ISD when he served at each.

He becomes Coach Drake for three months of the year when he leads the Polk County Go-Getters, a local Special Olympics basketball squad.

An additional transformation is when he is the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department's "Bunker the Safety Clown," teaching fire safety to the children of Polk County.

Drake takes part in SAAFE House, Miss Polk County, Childrenz Haven Gala, Polk County District Attorney's Crime Victims 5K, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Timber Creek Elementary Carnival and City of Livingston Employee Appreciation Banquet, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Lunch and Learns, school employees, bank employees and youth groups — just to name a few.
For the past five years, community service award winner Peggy Huson's association with the Rotary Club has been a large part of her daily activity.

A nurse for 44 years in critical care and case management, most of what Huson did related to career and family.

Huson is part of a group that takes the 'Don't Meth with Me' program from Lufkin to Galveston and throughout Polk County. The nonprofit program began under the umbrella of Rotary, but now stands on its own. In its fifth year of existence, the focus is on educating every fifth grader in Polk County each year on the dangers of methamphetamine.

After just two years with Rotary, Huson was given the Paul Harris Fellow for her contributions to the club. She has been active with Project Play, the Rotary Golf Tournament, and Habitat for Humanity.

Huson is also a large part of the Dolly Parton Library that provides a new book each month from the day the child is born, until his or her fifth birthday.

Kelly Shadix has spearheaded the creation of a home for the history of Corrigan and the surrounding area at the Corrigan Heritage Center. It will include images of artifacts, historic data, and genealogical materials that preserve the history of the north Polk County town.

On the Union Springs Cemetery Board and the Polk County Historical Commission, the community service award winner said she somehow became the town's collector.

As a chamber member, she realized north Polk County had no tourist attraction and hopes the Corrigan Heritage Center can fill that need.

Elfriede Zipprian may have been the biggest winner on the night. The retired registered nurse received a community service award for her endless hours of volunteer work in Polk County.

Before winning the award, she was also acknowledged as the senior ambassador of the year for the second year in a row.

Zipprian loves to travel with friends and visit her family in Germany. She is an active member of the Lions Club and Catholic Church.

She can be found at ribbon cuttings all across the county, helping to welcome new businesses.
Colleen Provasek of First National Bank received ambassador of the year for being a dedicated individual and the example she sets for the rest of the community. She is a past president on the chamber board and currently serves as vice president at First National Bank. On Friday nights in the fall, she can be seen cheering on the Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs.

The 2014 chamber director of the year, Ryan West, has been active in the chamber since joining. She is participates in the Rotary Club, chamber board of directors, and chamber ambassadors. West runs her own business, The Piney Woods Pathfinder.

Also honored at the event were Dan Ellis of Livingston Physical Therapy, Terry Gentle of Lake Livingston Telephone Company, and Jason Pedigo of Pedigo Furniture, Inc. all of whom are retiring directors from the chamber.

Angela Goin received recognition as the 2014 Polk County Chamber Chairperson. She is active in Habitat for Humanity, and has taught on the high school and college level. She has a PhD from Laval University in Quebec and speaks fluent French.

Marty Williams of Lakewood Builders will succeed Goin in serving as the 2015 chairperson.

Miss Polk County Crowned

PHOTOS COURTESY OF RHONDA HUNTER/DHP STUDIOPHOTOS COURTESY OF RHONDA HUNTER/DHP STUDIO

Savanah Steffey, 17-year-old daughter of Kurt and Sheri Wilson and Sean and Michelle Steffey of Livingston, was crowned as the 2015 Miss Polk County during Saturday's pageant. She was the first winner in pageant history to place first in all three of the contest categories -- interview, talent and evening gown. In addition to the title, the new Miss Polk County won a total of $3,250 in scholarships. Shown are all of the scholarship winners including (L-R) Kenzi Leggett, ad sales, $500 scholarship; Darian Drake, Miss Congeniality, Committee's Choice Award and the People's Choice Award, $700 in scholarships; Miss Steffey; Kameron Tucker, first runner-up, $1,000 scholarship; and Anna Bass, second runner-up and Miss Photogenic, $1,150 in scholarships.

One killed in U.S. 190 crash

LIVINGSTON – A 46-year-old Livingston woman died from injuries sustained in a one-vehicle accident at 9:25 p.m. Monday on U.S. 190, 1.5 miles west of Livingston, according to the Texas Highway Patrol.

Pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Larry Whitworth was Rechelle Ann Campbell.

Campbell was driving a 2004 GMC Envoy eastbound when the vehicle left the road to the left, the driver overcorrected to the right, and the vehicle continued across the westbound lanes and off the road, where it struck a sign pole near Old Mill Center, according to Trooper Kevin Burman.

The victim was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, according to the accident report.

Campbell's body was taken to Cochran Funeral Home.

Also investigated were two separate weekend accidents that resulted in two people being transported by medical helicopter to area hospitals.

The first accident occurred at approximately 12:20 p.m. Saturday on FM 2457 near Pinckard Road.

Billy Lafour, 38, of Livingston was driving a Yamaha motorcycle southbound when a pickup truck in front of him slowed to make a turn, according to Trooper Ashlee McBride. Lafour lost control of the motorcycle, which overturned, ejecting the driver onto the pavement.

The motorcyclist was transported by ambulance to a landing zone near Blanchard Baptist Church and then flown by medical helicopter to Conroe Regional Hospital with serious injuries.
The second serious accident occurred at approximately 2:25 p.m. Sunday on Providence Road near the Escapees RV Park.

A 1998 Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Charles Buffington, 42, of Livingston was eastbound when it left the pavement to the right, traveled through a wet grassy area, became airborne and struck a pine tree, according to McBride. The pickup came to rest upright.

Buffington was transported by ambulance to a landing zone off FM 2665 then flown by medical helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.