TEXAS DIGEST: Big rig crash spills avocados, snarls part of I-35


Big rig’s avocado spill snarls part of I-35

About 40,000 pounds of avocados spilled across part of Interstate 35 in North Texas when the big rig hauling them crashed and caught fire.

WFAA-TV reports that the spill in Forreston, south of Waxahachie, Thursday snarled traffic and diverted drivers, closing Interstate 35E for three hours. The 18-wheeler went up in flames.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has not released the cause of the incident or the condition of the driver.


4-year-old boy dies after treehouse falls on him

Authorities say a 4-year-old boy died of head injuries after a treehouse collapsed and fell on him in Southeast Texas.

Rex Evans, the Cleveland Independent School District’s police chief, said Kade Contreras was hurt Christmas Eve at a relative’s home in Splendora, about 35 miles northeast of Houston.

Evans, who is also a family friend, said Kade died Wednesday at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston where he had been on life support. Evans said tests showed the boy had no brain activity.

Kade was the youngest of four brothers. Evans said the boy had been “looking forward to Christmas.”


Cigarette butt helps find murder suspect

A breakthrough in a long-stalled murder case in Baytown has come in the form of a discarded cigarette butt.

Byron Lloyd Collins was picked up by authorities last week at the same complex where 50-year-old Natalia Shal was discovered slain on May 8, 2016, the Beaumont Enterprise reported.

Crime scene DNA didn’t initially match anything in police databases.

In early 2017, investigators learned about using familial DNA testing to help identify suspects not already in the system.

In June, they got a hit, matching the DNA to Collins’ brother in prison.

Keeping watch on Collins, police said, they matched a cigarette butt he discarded to the crime scene on Dec. 18.

The 29-year-old has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bond. It is not clear whether he has an attorney.


Board to reconsider Mexican reporter’s asylum request

The asylum petition of a Mexican journalist who believes he will be killed if he is deported home will be reconsidered.

The National Press Club said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals will reconsider Emilio Gutierrez’s asylum request after the club’s campaign along with other press freedom advocates.

Gutierrez says he began receiving death threats after he wrote articles that alleged military forces were robbing and extorting local people in Chihuahua, which borders New Mexico and part of West Texas.

Now 54, Gutierrez fled north with his teenage son and entered the U.S. in 2008, seeking asylum.

They have been held in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in West Texas, between El Paso and Van Horn, since the immigration board halted a deportation order earlier this month.


Man accepts life without parole in slayings

A 42-year-old man facing a possible death sentence for the slayings of two people more than three years ago in suburban Houston has pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Montgomery County prosecutors say Russell Lee Ketchum also agreed Wednesday to not appeal his conviction for the Oct. 2014 slayings of 58-year-old Louis Wilkerson and 42-year-old Lisa McWashington. Both were strangled in Conroe, north of Houston, in what prosecutors said was a drug dispute. Ketchum was arrested about three months later.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Blackburn tells The Courier of Montgomery County that authorities believe a fight broke out when Ketchum stole drugs from Wilkerson. Authorities believe McWashington was attacked when she tried to intervene. Prosecutors describe both victims as disabled.


Couple found dead in home

A 48-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman were found dead at a home on San Antonio’s northwest side with gunshot wounds to their heads, police said.

Police spokeswoman Romana Lopez said in a statement Wednesday that relatives told police that the two had a “contentious relationship,” and that the woman had recently allowed the man to return home for the holidays after kicking him out.

The statement adds that a gun was found under the man. The victims’ identities have not been released pending police notification of kin. No further details have been made available.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that the woman’s 10- and 14-year-old sons were at home during the shooting. The older boy found his mother and her boyfriend dead in the master bedroom.

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