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  • Location: New Braunfels, Texas
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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 28, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas A '»    NEWrBltAUiHFELSHerald-Zeitung secret ballot By LISA FALKENBERG Associated Press Writer AUSTEN (AP) - A state district judge has barred the Texas Senate from electing an acting lieutenant governor in secret, ruling Wednesday that the vote for Texas’ second-ranking official must be picked in public and on the record. It was a victory for the Texas publications who brought the case before state District Judge Lora Livingston. The newspapers filed the petition against the Senate and President Pro Tem Rodney Ellis, a Democratic senator from Houston. It was unclear how the decision would affect the Senate’s plans to hold a secret ballot Thursday to elect one of its members to replace former Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, who became governor last week when George W. Bush resigned to become president. “I obey the law. I think everybody ought to have their day in court. I don’t know if the day in court is finished, however,” said Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, said. Represented by Attorney General John Comyn, the senators argued that the state constitution authorized them to elect their presiding officer by secret vote. Senators supporting the private ballot say it helps avoid the political retribution that might result if votes are known. But Livingston ruled otherwise, saying the lieutenant governor is an executive position normally elected by the people and not merely an officer of the Senate. “It seems to me in this case they are not choosing a president of the Senate. Rather, they are choosing the lieutenant governor. It seems to me that is something required by the (Texas) Open Meetings Act to be done in public,” Livingston said. Perry’s replacement will assume the duties but not the title of lieutenant governor and will continue to be a senator. He will control the flow of legislation while presiding over the Senate and keep a vote as a legislator. A new lieutenant governor will be elected in 2002, when Perry’s term would have expired. Senators agreed informally in a private caucus Dec. 23 to pick Perry’s replacement through a non-record vote, but they would have to approve the rule formally Thursday before casting ballots. Last week, an Austin law firm representing the publications faxed letters to the 31 senators, warning that a non-record vote would violate the Open Meetings Act, which requires government bodies to act in public. “This is perhaps the most powerful state official we have in this state,” said Austin attorney Jennifer Riggs, who represents the publications. “He’s a lot more than just an officer of the Senate.” The publications involved are the Bryan-College Station Eagle, San Antonio Express-News, Houston Chronicle, Waco Tribune-Herald, Austin-American Statesman and Texas Monthly magazine. Before the ruling, Sen. Bill Ratliff, an 11-year veteran legislator who has expressed interest in the lieutenant job, told the San Antonio Express-News that the senators should continue with plans to vote privately, See BALLOT/7A CRANES MILL — A 62-year-old Cranes Mill woman was found dead with reported gunshot wounds after a fire destroyed her lakefront home Tuesday night. Comal County Sheriff’s Capt. Dennis Koepp said Barbara G. Casey was found dead in her Canyon Lake Drive home shortly after firefighters extinguished a blaze there. On Wednesday, Koepp said Wednesday the fire was under investigation by county and state officials but provided no other information. In a news release, Koepp reported that Comal County Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Howard Smith had ordered an autopsy. In Austin, Travis County Chief Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo would release no information on Casey’s autopsy. “Everything has to come out through Comal County,” he said. In Sattler, the justice of the peace said the woman had been shot twice. He would not say whether the death was a suspected homicide. “You’ll have to talk to the detectives,” Smith said. K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Above, Deputy State Fire Marshal Tommy Pleasant works with his dog Heico in the Cranes Mill home of Barbara Casey Wednesday afternoon. Right, this map shows where the home is located on Canyon Lake Drive. Neighbors tried to rescue elderly fire victim By Ron Maloney Staff Writer CRANES MILL — Neighbors of Barbara Casey tried to save her home and her life Tuesday afternoon but to no avail. Now they will watch as detectives scour the Canyon Lake Drive home for clues about her death and the fire. Ken and Nancy Ellis heard a loud noise late Tuesday afternoon that they said might have been an explosion. “We thought someone might have run into a telephone pole w ith a car and blown a transformer,” Ken Ellis said. When he went outside, he saw smoke billowing out of Casey’s home two doors down. Its windows had been blown out, and a fire raged inside. Smoke was filling the neighborhood. Nancy Ellis dialed 911. Ken Ellis ran to help. He tried the door to the main floor and went around to the side. He kicked in lattice beneath the elevated home to open up a utility area, turn off electricity and free a garden hose. “I was yelling for anybody inside, but I didn’t get anybody to respond,” Ellis said. ' He sprayed water through an exploded window, trying to beat flames back from the ceiling behind the front door. Then he kicked in the door. Ellis didn’t know' whether Casey was inside or whether her grandchildren, who had visited during the previous weekend, were there with her. “I laid on the floor, calling for people inside, and See NEIGHBORS/7A Sheriff’s Detective Tommy Ward was unavailable Wednesday night. Canyon Lake Fire/EMS Chief Shawn Wherry said firefighters were dispatched to the Casey home in the 1900 block of Canyon Lake Drive at 5:12 p.m. Tuesday for a structure fire. “'When we got there at 5:19 p.m. the house was about 60 percent involved in flames,” Wherry said. A mutual aid call went out to all Canyon Lake fire companies and the Spring Branch Volunteer Fire Department. Wherry also said New' Braunfels Fire Department Engineer and Comal County Assistant Fire Marshal Darren Brinkkoeter was dispatched with thermal imaging equipment used to help find hidden “hot spots” in walls — and fire victims. In all, 15 or so firefighters tackled the blaze, knocking it down in about two hours. Wherry said the design of the tri-level contemporary lakefront home and its exposed location on Canyon Lake made fighting the fire especially challenging. “The home is elevated on stilts and designed so See FIRE/7A CHRIS KOURI/Herald-Zeitung Ruling prohibits Death under investigation Woman found shot twice in burned home By Ron Maloney Staff WriterVol, 150 No. 40    14    pages    in    2    sections    December    28,    2000    r    I\    Serving    Comal    County    since    1852    50    cents Thursday- Inside Abby......................... 5A Classifieds................... ....4-6B Comics..................‘..... 8A Crossword................. 5 A Forum.......................... 6A Local/Metro................. 4A Movies.......................... 5A Obituaries.................... 3A Sports......................... ....1-4B Today.......................... 2A Stocks.............................. ......SA www.herald-zeitung. com Key Code 76 Police: Restaurant robberies may be linked By Ron Maloney Staff Writer New Braunfels police believe two recent closing-time armed robberies at local fast-food restaurants could be related. Detective Sean Gabbard said a black or Hispanic man escaped from Mr. Cath s restaurant at 11:10 p.m. Saturday with the night shift’s cash receipts. The man confronted the employees of the Walnut Avenue restaurant during their nightly cleanup, forcing them into a walk-in cooler at gunpoint. He then escorted the restaurant manager to the office and took the cash. Gabbard did not say how much money was taken. The manager then also was forced into the cooler and told them not to call police, Gabbard said. The robber escaped. He was described as being 6-foot-1 and weighing more than 200 pounds. He was wearing a dark cap, a green bandana over his head and a blue or green and white bandana over his face. He was wearing dark baggy pants and a red, white and blue long-sleeved shirt, black and white tennis shoes and gloves. Gabbard said he might have been involved in a similar robbery a weekend earlier at the Sonic Drive In on Loop 337. “The two robberies share characteristics that suggest this likely will be the same guy who robbed Sonic,” Gabbard said. Gabbard said he had not confirmed a connection betwen the New Braunfels incidents and similar robberies of San Antonio area restaurants. However, he acknowledged he was working with investigators to determine whether one existed. “San Antonio is aware of our robberies, and they’re including that information in their investigation to determine if there s a connection,” Gabbard said. “At this point, it’s my belief we’re dealing with a completely different group.” Gabbard said restaurant operators should exercise extra care at night — particularly at closing time. “Right now, it looks like these incidents are centering on restaurants. I’d encourage everyone to use good safety measures,” Gabbard said. “Try to leave the doors locked after closing. Nobody should think that because they’ve never been a victim they won’t be.” Another idea worth considering is having the crew take out trash in the morning so employees aren’t outside behind a business late at night, Gabbard said. Employees should stay together at night and not work alone — particularly outside, he said. ;