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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - May 9, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Herald-7 i,.............. TM11    -.I    VTV?':.'    „ -    ,...   .....    ..,— - TNG Vol. 149 No. 122 14 pages in 2 sections May 9, 2000 Tuesday Serving Comal County since 1852 50 centsFierce competition Canyon’s Jarrell Skrobarcek and New Braunfels’ Lauren Walker competed Monday in the state tennis tournament. Find out how they did on Page 1B. Eight jailed in cockfight raid By Ron Maloney Staff Writer SOLMS — A months-long investigation into illegal cock fighting culminated early Sunday in a large scale raid in which eight men — three of them New Braunfels residents — were arrested on charges of gambling, money laundering and organized crime. About 75 officers from the Department of Public Safety and other agencies, including the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, surrounded the alleged operation at 5152 Farm-to-Market Road 482 shortly after midnight Sunday morning. The raid began when a DPS Special Weapons and Tactics team entered the property to secure two residences there and the perimeter of the grounds. A police helicopter lit the area with floodlights, said Tom Vinger, spokesman for DPS. RON MALONEY/Herald-ZeitungState and local lawmen reported they raided an alleged cockfight operation at 5152 Farm-to-Market Road 482 early Sunday. The lights revealed an operation that included rings or pits with fold-up, theater-type seats; an open bam; and facilities for feeding and housing hundreds of chickens. Patrons of the operation began climbing fences and running off through the woods, the officials said, but about 300 were corralled onsite, photographed, identified, checked for outstanding warrants and then released.Vinger estimated about I OO or more might have escaped. Booked into Comal County Jail on charges of keeping a gambling place, money laundering, engaging in an organized crime activity and cruelty to animals were: Domingo R. Hernandez, 54, Mario R. Hernandez, 41, and Christopher L. Soto, 26, all of New Braunfels; Anthony R. Lee, 40, Leesville; Daniel Lopez, 30, McDade; Anthony W. Clark, 40, Seguin; Leslie R. Hastings, 42, Elgin; and Domingo P Hernandez, 29, of San Antonio. Additionally, George P Rodriguez, 41, of New Braunfels, was booked for suspected publicSee RAID/5A Friends: Drowned man could swim well From Staff Reports Friends of a 25-year old quadriplegic who drowned in the Guadalupe River Saturday evening said the man was an active swimmer although it was his first tubing trip down the river. Kelly Butler, a friend of the victim who was at the scene at the time of the drowning, reported the man was Phillip Nicholas Roshon (Price). She said Price, 25, lived in Venice, Fla., and Austin and his family lived in Florida. Butler said Price was a certified scuba diver who loved to swim and had previously lived in Hawaii. Price and Butler were part of a tubing group that included members of a wheelchair rugby group from Austin. Butler said the group, of which some members were quadriplegic, went tubing on the Guadalupe River every year but it was Price’s first time Saturday. Butler said although Price was quadriplegic, he could still use his arms to swim. Emergency dispatch reported a possible drowning on the Guadalupe River in the 1200 block of Sleepy Hollow about 6:30 p.m. Saturday Witnesses reported Price was tubing behind the main group when he got out to swim. “He disappeared all the.sudden,” Butler said. “We all felt helpless.” Rescue workers spent three hours searching the river. Divers with the Canyon Lake Dive Team were on the scene by 7:30 p.m. and recovered Price s body about 9:30 p.m. where he was last seen by witnesses. Letter carrier hurt in rollover ERIN MAGRUDER/Herald-Zeitung A 44-year-old New Braunfels woman and local rural mail carrier was airlifted to a San Antonio hospital after her Jeep flipped three times Monday afternoon on Texas 46 near Mission Valley Road. Mail truck flips on Texas 46 By Erin MAGRUDER Staff Writer A 44-year-old rural mail carrier with the New Braunfels Post Office was transported by helicopter to a San Antonio hospital Monday afternoon after she lost control of her mail Jeep and flipped three times on Texas 46 near Mission Valley Road. As of press time Monday, New Braunfels resident Peggy Harper was listed as in either stable or critical condition at University Hospital, New Braunfels Police Department officer Frank Moreno said. Harper suffered facial lacerations, knee injuries and abrasions on her legs and torso — and might have been ejected from the Jeep in the rollover, New Braunfels Fire and Rescue personnel said. The 1977 mail carrier Jeep was headed westbound in the 2600 block of Texas 46 about 2:30 p.m. when Harper reportedly lost control of the vehicle, NBPD Lt. John Wommack said. The Jeep traveled about 75 to IOO feet on the shoulder of the road before Harper most likely overcorrected the vehicle, causing it to flip multiple times, NBPD officers said. “We have received conflicting stories about whether she was ejected from the vehicle,” Moreno said. “Some witnesses said she was, and others said she wasn’t.... We’re just not sure at this point.” What is known is that the Jeep came to rest upside down in the center of Texas 46. By the time police and EMS arrived, Harper was lying in the center of the highway not far from the Jeep, witnesses said. Exactly how Harper ended up in the middle of the highway was unknown Monday night. New Braunfels Fire and Rescue Captain Ray Hacker said Harper, the only occupant of the Jeep, was alert and conscious at the time of transport. “She is a very lucky woman,” he said. NBPD officers routed traffic around the accident site while post office employees gathered going mail scattered around the Jeep. Inside Abby......................... .......7 A Classifieds.................. . ...4-6B Comics....................... .......3B Crossword................. .......7 A Forum......................... .......6A Local/Metro................. .......4A Movies......................... .......7 A Obituaries................... .......3A Sports........................ ..1-2B Today.......................... .......2A Television..................... 3B www.heraid-zeitung. com Key Code 76 Driver in fatal wreck gets 15-year sentence By Heather Todd Staff Writer 'Hie parents of a 3-year old boy killed in an alcohol-related accident this past year placed their son’s picture in front of the Comal County woman sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for causing his death. “This is my son” a sobbing Noreta Rutherford, the mother of Joshua Rutherford, said while pointing to the picture on District Judge Gary Steel’s bench Monday morning. Canyon Lake resident Melissa Watson Choina, 32, was sentenced to 15 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility for intoxication manslaughter. “You got off easy” Ray Rutherford, the boy’s father, said. “My son didn’t.” Choina was chaiged with intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault in connection with the July 1999 accident that killed Joshua Rutherford and critically injured four other family members. The accident occurred about noon July 8 on Farm-to-Market 306. A Comal County grand jury indicted Choina Oct. 13 on charges of intoxication manslaughter and four counts of intoxi- “You got off easy. My son didn’t.” Ray Rutherford, father of victim, to Melissa Choina CHOINA cation assault with a motor vehicle. Choina was arrested by Comal County Sheriff’s officers Oct. 27 and released from Comal County Jail in November on a $20,000 bond. The grand jury also returned an affirmative finding of the use of a deadly weapon —the Ford Mustang Choina was driving at the time of the accident. See DRIVER/5A Council OKs tax increase By Heather Todd Staff Writer The average homeowner in New Braunfels will pay about $4 more on their tax bills after New Braunfels City Council approved a 2 percent tax rate increase Monday. Tile city council approved a $.32 per $ I OO valuation tax rate that could increase the city’s total tax revenues by IO percent despite protests from one resident that the tax rate was unnecessary in light of recent property appraisals. The newest notices of appraised value began arriving May 2 in the mailboxes of owners of about half the property in the Comal Appraisal District. Local resident Walter Sears said he had a IO percent increase on his property values this year and said others have reported up to an 18 percent increase. “I see no reason why we should feel shameful that we have a lower tax rate than many other cities of comparable size,” he said. “In view of the appraisals, we shouldn’t add any new tax onto the citizens. We should hold the rate as last year.” The average household (with a value of about $80,000) already pays $ 199 a year in property taxes. The 2 percent increase would bring that total to $203.47, or about a $4 increase. The current tax rate is $.31312 per $ I OO valuation. The maximum allowable tax rate possible without requiring a rollback election is $.33125 per $100 valuation — a rate that would cost the average household about $211. With the 32-cent tax rate, the city could get about $165,000 more in revenue than the effective tax rate of $.30783 per $100 valuation. The effective tax rate generates the same amount of property tax as the previous year. Chet Lewis, chief financial officer, said as property values increased the effective tax rate decreased, which meant the city would not collect more revenue unless council raised the tax rate. “Overall, no additional money would be received by the city except for new construction or newly annexed properties,” he said. Council unanimously approved the $.32 per $100 valuation tax rate and a $20 million budget for fiscal year 2001. The budget is about $1.6 million more than the $18,394 million budget council adopted last year. The 2001 budget includes spending $50,000 on downtown improvements and $25,000 on media equipment and improvements for council chambers. The budget will become effective July I. The general fund budget for street repairs will stay the same as this past year at $ 160,000. A number of new items to the city’s $20 million budget include: • $27,000 in capital machinery and equipment for the golf course; • $10,000 for library computer equipment; • $120,000 for two new sanitation drivers and two sanitation collectors; and • $393,000 for sanitation-related vehicles. See COUNCIL/5A ;