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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 21, 1999, New Braunfels, Texas /iv NEwAydflNFELS 20332 MO09 10/22/99 SO-WEST MIC RO PU BL I SH I NG 2627 E YANDELL DR EL PASO; TX 79903Herald-Zeitung Vol. 148, No. 66    50    pages    in    3    sections    February    21,    1999 Sunday Serving Comal County since 1852 $1.00 Inside ► Future star Houston Astros prospect and Canyon High School graduate Lance Bedeman hopes 1999 will bring continued success at the professional level and a chance to play in the big leagues./ 10A Best friend of SWT pledge beating suspect apparently kills himself SEABROOK (AP) — First, a pledge was beaten to death after a fraternity party at Southwest Texas State University. Three days later, the main suspect killed himself before police could question him. Now, a third man — the suspect’s best friend — apparently has shot himself to death. All three were 21 years old. The latest victim, Sonny Mullen, died Feb. 12 at a Seabrook apartment after shooting himself in the head, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday. Seabrook is 25 miles southeast of Houston. Police said Mullen had been drinking heavily and was distraught over the death of his best friend, Jeremiah Wilkerson, who had shot himself in the head three days earlier in the northeast Texas town of Edgewood. Wilkerson was wanted in the Feb. 6 beating of Nicholas Armstrong at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house on the San Marcos campus. Armstrong died Feb. 8 at an Austin hospital. Mullen did not leave a note when he died from one shot to the head while seated on a couch at an apartment that belonged to his sister’s friend. River cleaner Rick Rivers of Rockin ’R’ River Rides adjusts a cable to pull concrete out of the Guadalupe River Saturday afternoon. Rivers was one of many volunteers who worked to dear the river of debris from the October 1998 flood. Outfitters and local government officials hope to have the job done in time for Memorial Day. ROBIN CORNETT/Herald-Zettung ► Stained art Sheri Tomko of Canyon Lake is well-known in Comal County for her work with stained glass, but ifs just one of her passions. Read about the others in Lifestyle./ 1B ► Debutantes The 1999 Mid-Texas Symphony debutantes make their grand entrance and raise money for a worthy cause at their annual bally 4A Weather Will it ever rain? 1999 has been a dry year thus far, but that may change this week. See page 2A for a look at the forecast. Index Abby................................. ........2B Business..................... .......9A Classified......................... ...6-16B Crossword........................ ........2B Forum.............................. ........6A t ocfM................................ ........4A Sports.............................. 10-13A Stammtisch...................... ........3B Today............................... ........2A Television.......Montage/Section C County officials have work available — for truants Bv Chris Crews Staff Writer Area students contemplating skipping school in the near future might want to give the idea a second thought. Comal County officials are working on a program to mete out a severe punishment for truancy offenders — manual labor. Criminal District Attorney Dib Waldrip said this past week he would establish a work program for students who habitually miss school. Waldrip said students 16 and older could have their drivers’ licenses suspended for repeatedly skipping school. Since offenders ages 13 to 15 do not have drivers’ licenses, it was difficult to find a proper encouragement in getting the offenders to school. The program would be similar to the county’s inmate work program, in which prisoners were allowed out of their cells to perform labor for the county. Waldrip said truants would perform a variety of tasks, including picking up trash along county roads. The program will be coordinated with the sheriff’s office and county jail. Chief Jail Administrator Bill Collins said the jail would provide transportation for the offenders and a deputy for supervision. “If we put some of these juveniles to woik, maybe it will keep them out of trouble,” Collins said. Ray Martinez, a former justice of the peace, said he heard about IOO truancy cases a year and supported the idea of work crews for truancy offenders. “Sometimes it seemed like you could not do anything of substance to them to get their attention,” Martinez said. “This will tell them that we mean business.” Martinez said state law allowed for judges to impose fines on parents of truants, but that was rarely a practical solution. “Many of the families with truancy problems are poor to begin with and if you subject them to a fine you just add to the burden,” Martinez said. Martinez said he believed less than I percent of local students were habitual truants. On April 7,1982, Sandra Kay Griffith of Bulverde was murdered in her home. Her husband, Larry Griffith, was acquitted by a Comal County jury IO years later. Nearly 17 years after the crime and seven years after the trial, her parents live with An unsolved mystery Lipseys still searching for answers to crime By Bill O’Connell Staff Writer Sandra Kay Griffith had finally found some quiet time in her otherwise busy life. On April 6,1982, the 37-year-old housewife returned to her home in the Bulverde Estates subdivision after a day of shopping. Her teen-age children were visiting grandparents and her husband, Larry, was out of town on business. The phone rang at about 8:30 p.m. It was Larry, calling from a pay phone at a La Quinta Motor Inn in Austin. Sandra and her husband spoke briefly about her day. “She told me she had bought two books and was going to take a bath .... That was the last time I talked to her,” Larry told police. Someone entered the Griffith home at 271 Hiline Drive sometime between the phone call and the early morning hours of April 7. The intruder struck the housewife on the right side of the head with a blunt object, then turned a handgun on her. Two shots were fired into her back. Motivated by rage or a desire to eliminate evidence, Sandra's attacker then took a can of charcoal lighter fluid, doused her with its contents and set her on fire. The assailant set a second fire in another part of the house and fled the scene. Less than a quarter of a mile away, Hiline Drive resident Dan Baker heard his dogs barking. He went outside to see what was the matter and saw the blaze. Bulverde firefighters rushed to the scene shortly after 4 a.m. and encountered a conflagration. The The Sandra Griffith Murder a four-part series The Crime— Feb. 21 The Investigation — Feb. 28 The Trial — March 7 The Aftermath — March 14 split-level home was burned to the ground by the time the fire was extinguished. Sandra's body had been burned to a shrunken mass of charred remains. Comal County Sheriff’s Office detectives and state arson investigators were summoned to the fire scene as daylight spread across the hilly subdivision. Howard and Evelyn Lipsey took a phone call at their home in Mississippi that morning and heard the news every parent dreads. “The minute I heard it, it put me in shock,” Evelyn said this past week. Howard and Evelyn are in their mid-70s now. They live in New Braunfels, less than an hour’s drive from where their daughter was slain. Several photographs of Sandra adorn the shelves and walls. “She was a beautiful thing,” Evelyn said softly. “I don’t know why anybody would want to do anything to her.” Sandra’s killer was never brought to justice. Authorities suspected Larry Griffith despite his alibi. The investigation lasted more than nine years. Griffith was indicted for murder by a Comal County grand jury in 1991, but a jury acquitted him in January 1992. ‘The only thing I can say is that See MYSTERY/5A ROBIN CORNETT/Hefald Zeitung Evelyn Lipsey gazes at a portrait of her daughter, Sandra, who was murdered in 1982. The portrait was made around the time of Sandra’s graduation from high school. Both Evelyn and her husband, Howard, looked toward to spending more time with her when they retired. “(Sandra) could light up the room just by walking into it.” Howard Upsey said. ;