Thursday, July 03, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Hardin owes an apology

Lu Hardin, whose promotional bravado and wizardry turned the University of Central Arkansas at Conway into the fastest-growing and flashiest university campus in Arkansas, lost a little of his bloom this week. He managed to look greedy and sneaky and, worst of all for a college president, perhaps a little dishonest. His political ambitions took a hit, too.

It turns out that Hardin had cadged a $300,000 bonus from the university’s board of trustees and not been straight with anyone about it. The board gave him the bonus at a closed meeting back in May and the action was not recorded at an open meeting, as the law clearly requires.

Now the board has to decide how to correct it: alter the minutes of the May meeting or vote again to give him the bonus, although he long ago cashed the check. Either course will not remedy the fact that it violated the law.

But as serious as flouting the law is, Hardin’s own handling of the matter is the most distressing. The university’s faculty will get no raises the next school year because Hardin said the university could not afford it, notwithstanding a 5 percent increase in tuition. He said he was not going to take a raise either.

Word leaked that day that he was, indeed, getting a raise, a big one, but Hardin through an assistant flatly denied it. John Brummett, a newsman for the Stephens newspapers, dropped the matter when he heard Hardin’s denial. But the Arkansas Democrat Gazette heard the same rumor later and made a request for pay records under the Freedom of Information Act, which turned up the $300,000 payment from the university’s privately raised funds. The board’s president said that it was merely an oversight not to record a vote for the bonus at a formal board meeting. Hardin lamely contended that he had been technically honest when he said he did not get a raise because the bonus was not a recurring payment. The IRS considers it annual compensation, as we imagine everyone else does. It cashes just like a paycheck.

Hardin explained that he had been approached by another university a year or so ago about applying for the presidency and he had taken it to the UCA board. The trustees pledged a $300,000 bonus payable in five years if he did not seek the other job.

Then, two months ago, because of speculation that the University of Arkansas might approach him about the presidency of the U of A system— that does not seem to be a reasonable prospect — the board decided to go ahead and give him the bonus now to discourage him from pursuing that job. Hardin’s aggressive promotion of UCA through newspaper and television advertising in which he stars has pumped up UCA’s enrollment and visibility, and the board does not want anyone else to get his talents. Understandable.

But the former state senator and candidate for the U.S. Senate isn’t going anywhere. His job now is to restore some credibility with the faculty and students — and the public at large. Truthtelling ought to be an unconditional requirement for an academic leader.

TOP STORY > >Man surrenders in child’s death

By EILEEN FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

Lekedrin Smith, 30, of 11 Sheila in Sherwood, turned himself in to Jacksonville police on Thursday afternoon. He was wanted on a capital murder charge for the death of 2-year-old Braylon Alexander, who was taken to North Metro Medical Center’s emergency room Monday evening by Smith and the toddler’s mother, Delois Alexander of 1801 Kelly in Jacksonville.

The toddler was transported to Arkan-sas Children’s Hospital where he died later from multiple head injuries.

Emergency room personnel at North Metro were told that the child had fallen twice outside the Kelly Drive residence from a standing position and that he had vomited between 8 and 9 p.m.

The child had noticeable bruising on his forehead.

Jacksonville Detective Mark Humphries noted that the toddler’s injuries included a handprint on his buttocks, multiple bruises on the forehead and a noticeable knot on the back of his head.

His mother told investigators that her son was fine and appeared in good health when when she woke up for work at 4:30 and when she left for work at 5. She left her son with Smith who later called her reporting that Braylon had fallen and thrown up.

She went home and found Smith holding her son who was unresponsive when she picked him up. She took him to the emergency room at that point.

Humphries and Lt. Martin Cass met Alexander and Smith at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and advised them of their Miranda rights.

Smith told the officers that Braylon had fallen twice and that he hadn’t seen him fall the first time. He said he picked him up and put him on the porch and the child fell backwards off the porch and went limp.

Smith said he picked the child up and shook him as the child was in and out of consciousness.

He said he shook him several more times and the child vomited.

He called the child’s mother at that point. The officers noted that Smith changed his story several times and also said he left the residence to go to the store.

He said that he didn’t call 911 because he didn’t think it was an emergency but Alexander said it was obvious that her son’s condition was an emergency.

The Arkansas Children’s Hospital physician’s report said the child suffered a closed head injury with subdural hematomas of both front lobes, skull fracture of the parietal and occipital bones, hemorrhages in both eyes and bruising on the buttocks, abrasions on the lower back, and bruises on the upper back (scapula), groin and abdomen.

The examining physician said the severity of the injuries could not be consistent with a fall from standing or a step height even if there had been more than one fall.

One injury in particular indicated a high force injury to the head, the report said.

The physician reported that “in the absence of a major accidental injury such as a crush injury, these findings were indicative of an inflicted head injury, which could occur by shaking when a caregiver gets frustrated with a child. There was evidence of impact injury to the head as well.”

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville may get annexed land

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Less than three months after winning the rights to annex 2,500 acres of the Gravel Ridge community over Jacksonville, Sherwood is considering giving about 68 acres of the land to Jacksonville.

“We’ll be happy to have it and work with the developer,” said Jay Whisker, Jacksonville city administrator, adding that Sherwood has not approached them yet about the acreage.

The acreage, known as Lake Lorean, near Fears Lake Subdivision and Northlake, is pretty much undesirable and worthless to Sherwood, but to monitor and patrol the area could be costly to the city.

Jack Wilson, the developer who owns the land, told the Sherwood council it would be better suited to be part of Jacksonville.

He said the north shoreline where housing lots are located are within the Jacksonville city limits, but the moment you step into the lake you are in Sherwood.

He also told the council that the housing lots themselves extend into the lake, meaning the two cities would split responsibilities for the lots. Jacksonville would be responsible for the portion on dry land and Sherwood for that part in the lake.
The southern end of the lake goes into Kellogg Creek and does not reach Sherwood’s Indianhead Subdivision, according to Whisker.

“If something were to happen in the lake, it would be Sherwood’s responsibility,” Wilson said.

Alderman Becki Vassar quipped, “We don’t have any patrol boats do we?”

Wilson was not asking the council for a decision, but making them aware of the situation and suggesting they de-annex the area.

City attorney Stephen Cobb told the council we would research the situation.

“I don’t think we can de-annex the acreage, but we can turn it over in an agreement with Jacksonville,” he said.

TOP STORY > >Simulators for C-130s save fuel, wear, tear

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Three new flight simulators will save fuel and help reduce wear and tear on the aging C-130 fleet used for training pilots and crews at Little Rock Air Force Base, according to Vic Torla, Lockheed Martin’s program manager at the base.

The simulators are part of a $23.3 million modification to the C-130 Aircrew Training System contract with Lockheed, which provides comprehensive academic and simulation training for C-130 weapons system aircrews.

The modification will update the current Little Rock AFB Formal Training Unit (FTU) curriculum to move training events from the aircraft to aircrew training systems and enhance existing training capability, Torla said.

Each airman will receive 33 hours of simulator training instead of the current 22 hours, Torla said, presumably reducing the number of air hours by a similar amount.

“We are moving additional training into the simulators in school house, off-loading demand for planes on flight lines,” he said.

Pilots, navigators, flight engineers and loadmasters will now spend more hours training in the simulators than in actual C-130s, he said.The three new part task trainers, which will supplement the existing simulators, should be on base by next February, according to Torla. In addition to the three new trainers – an Instrument Approach Trainer, a Station Keeping Emulator and a loadmaster Crew Resource Management Trainer, Lockheed Martin will start a Flight Mission Planning Room within the schoolhouse and update the academic curriculum. The company also will upgrade the schoolhouse’s local area network to expand the capability to distribute C-130 courseware over the intranet according to Torla.

The actual teaching is done by the 714th Training Squadron, which trains not only crews for the Air Force, the Navy, the Coast Guard, the National Guard and the Reserves, but also crews from around the world.

Virtually all C-130 training is done at Little Rock Air Force Base, the country’s premiere C-130 base.

The new trainers don’t provide training on the new C-130J, although such training is also the task of the Little Rock base.

The new simulators and programs were initiated by the Air Force, a company spokesman said.

Air Force personnel at LRAFB were unavailable for comment.

TOP STORY > >Rice farmers in court

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Claiming that contamination with genetically engineered rice in 2006 drove down prices, an England (Lonoke County) farmer and Carlisle landowner have filed a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit against Riceland Foods of Stuttgart.

Harold West and Joanne West, the landowners, and Robert Webb, the farmer, filed suit in Lonoke County Circuit Court on Wednesday on behalf of approximately 4,000 Lonoke County farmers and landowners. They claimed that Riceland Foods knew the rice seed stock was contaminated in time to head off planting the strains in question, but suppressed that information until the crop was already in the ground and nearing harvest.

The contamination made the rice ineligible for purchase by two of the largest markets in the world.

“Today’s filing is a continuation of the long, painful road Arkansas’ rice farmers have traveled since the August 18, 2006 announcement that tainted rice had entered the state’s rice crop became public,” attorney Paul Byrd said.

“While Riceland Foods is a very important corporation in Arkansas, they breached the trust of their farmer members—and that’s all rice farmers—by failing to act in a timely and proper manner.”

The case has been assigned to Lonoke County Circuit Judge Philip Whiteaker. Local counsel is Jerry Kelly of Carlisle.

Byrd, handling the case for Hare, Wynn, Newell and Newton Law Firm, would not say how much he thought farmers were due in actual and punitive damages.

“It kind of affected the market, by keeping the information to themselves,” Webb said Thursday. “Riceland knew it eight months before they released the information.”

Webb, who has farmed 40 years, said he and his two sons generally plant 1,200 to 1,500 acres of rice with a potential harvest of 250,000 bushels.

“If that put the price off 50 cents a bushel, that would be $125,000,” said Webb.

“It didn’t hurt production,” he said, “It hurt the market.”

Locally, producers who had hoped for $4.50 or $5 per bushel of rice may have settled for prices closer to $3.50 to $4 a bushel, according to one farmer.

West wouldn’t comment Thursday other than to identify himself as a landowner, not a farmer.

When 17 producers sued Riceland and Bayer CropScience LLD, which had planted and tested the genetically modified Liberty Link rice in August 2006 over the same incident, Riceland spokesman Bill J. Reed said the problem was industry wide, not just with Riceland.
He said that Riceland heard in January of that year from a customer that the rice was contaminated with the genetically engineered variety, but that it wasn’t confirmed until Bayer CropScience contacted Riceland July 31.

Reed said at the time that Riceland did not notify its members because it was Bayer’s responsibility to tell the USDA of the problem, which he said it did promptly. “We understand the emotion that surrounds the situation,” he said.

Two of the country’s largest rice markets—the European Union and Japan—refuse to import genetically engineered rice, and even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the contamination was equivalent to only about six rice kernels per 10,000, it sent rice prices down.

Farmers said that given sufficient notice, they could have planted rice strains known not to be contaminated or had their seed stock tested, but by the time Riceland and Bayer CropScience told them of the problem, it was too late.

Genetically engineered rice is sold without distinction in the United States and some other countries. Byrd said Wednesday that the Liberty Link rice experimental plots were grown in proximity to commercial rice fields and that Riceland and Bayer should have expected such a problem.

He said they were betting that the Liberty Link would be approved, kind of like a driver with his foot on the gas headed for a red light and hoping it would be green by the time he went through the intersection.

The suit charges Riceland with six counts of general negligence and four counts of ultra-hazardous activity.

It maintains that Riceland had exclusive control over the experimental Liberty Link 62 rice in question and that its planting, testing, growing, harvesting, storage, transporting and disposal of that rice constituted an abnormally dangerous activity.

In the cases filed in August 2006, the 17 plaintiffs each claimed actual damages of $250,000.

Named plaintiffs in the 2006 suit were Randy Schafer; End of the Road Farms, Inc.; Shafer Planting Co.; Wallace Farms; Robert E. Moery; Kyle Moery; Carter Farms Partnership; Robert Petrus; Petrus Seed and Grain Co., Inc.; Gosney Farms; Randall Amaden; R&B Amaden Farms; Randall J. Snider; S&R Farms; A.S. Kelly and sons, and Neil Daniels Farms.

TOP STORY > >Memorial set for murdered

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

A murdered couple who called Sherwood their home for more than 20 years will be buried in their hometown of St. Louis.

A memorial is planned for Tom and Jill Estes from 1 to 4 p.m., July 18 at Sherwood Forest on Maryland Ave.

The pair was found dead behind a trash bin at a gas station in Festus, Mo., on Monday. They were staying at a neighboring Comfort Inn.

According to police reports, the pair had attended a graduation Sunday in nearby Florissant and returned to the hotel about 10:30 p.m. that night, but apparently never made it to their room. Another guest found the pair’s dogs wandering the parking lot. Police and animal control were called. The dogs, although unharmed, were covered in blood. The animals, a schnauzer named Webster and a miniature pinscher named Reggie had tags listing the Esteses as their owners.

Police checked the Esteses’ hotel room and found the room in order. The Esteses’ car was still in the parking lot, but police did find two pairs of glasses and a lot of blood nearby in the parking lot.

The couple was officially listed as missing at this point, and the bodies were discovered Monday.

The suspect in the killing, Nicholas Sheley, 28, of Sterling, Ill., who was also wanted in killing of six others over five days in a trail from Galesburg, Ill. to Festus, was captured Tuesday night after an intense multi-state, multi-agency manhunt outside a bar in Granite City, about 10 miles north of St. Louis.

Sheley, so far, has been officially charged in two of the eight murders and is being held on a $1 million bond. He has supposedly told police nothing about what caused his murderous rampage.

Jill Estes, 52, worked as para-educator at Tolleson Elementary in Jacksonville, helping special education students. She had been with the Pulaski County Special School District since 2001, working first at Oakbrooke Elementary in Sherwood and then at Tolleson.

Her husband Tom, 54, was a 30-year veteran with the Union Pacific railroad company.

Diane Ashenberger, principal at Tolleson, said the school staff gathered earlier in the week at a teacher’s home to share and pray. “It’s what we needed,” she said.

“We are a very close-knit family at Tolleson,” she said, “and there will be a large void in our school family.”

Sheley is also accused of killing a 65-year-old Galesburg man, a 93-year-old Sterling man whose body was found in the trunk of a car, and four people—two men, a woman and a child—in an apartment in Rock Falls, Ill.

According to the FBI, the 93-year-old man, the toddler and the Esteses appeared to have been killed by blunt force trauma to their head, possibly with an ax.

SPORTS>>Colts down Cabot senior team, 8-4

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

North Little Rock’s midnight madness left Cabot Community Bank empty-handed after a stellar comeback on Wednesday night.
Cabot erased every bit of an early 4-0 deficit to North Little Rock to force extra innings, but the Optimist Colts rallied with four runs in the top of the ninth to take an 8-4 win at Conrade Memorial Baseball Field in Senior Legion play.

A long junior game to start the evening and a trophy presentation put the game behind schedule, and the two additional frames pushed the game into the early moments of Thursday morning.

Drew Burks belted a solo home run in the sixth inning to tie it, but North Little Rock parlayed two hits, two walks and a Cabot error into four runs in the ninth against reliever Josh Brown.

UAFS’ Colin Fuller started on the mound for Community Bank, and struggled in the first inning before gaining his composure in the top of the second.

Fuller gave up singles to NLR leadoff man Clark Sims and two-hole hitter Dean Larson, who eventually came in on a bases-loaded walk and a ground out to give the Colts a 2-0 lead.

Walks and errors contributed to the Colts’ two runs in the third to extend the lead to 4-0.

But Cabot began its comeback in the bottom half. Powell Bryant led off the frame, reaching on an error. Burks drove him in with a single to right field.

Starting NLR pitcher Kyle Thompson had walked only one batter through the first three frames, but started out the bottom of the fourth inning with walks to Matt Turner and Tyler Erickson with a strikeout in between. Powell Bryant drove Turner in with a ground out, and Ericson made his way in on a passed ball to narrow the deficit to 4-3.

Fuller gave up a pair of hits to start out the top of the fifth inning, but turned up the heat on the Colts after that with two strikeouts and a ground out to first to leave the potential runs stranded.

Burks’ blast over the right field wall tied the game up at 4-4, and Fuller had to work a little more magic in the top of the sixth to preserve that tie.

Fuller got himself in another pickle to start out the top of the sixth inning. He got the first out with a strikeout of Carroll Newton, but Kell Krane doubled from the nine-hole slot, and made his way to third on a return throw from the outfield. An error put runners at first and third, and Cabot coach Jay Darr made the decision to intentionally walk Dean Larson to load the bases.

That move paid off, as Cabot shortstop Tyler Erickson fielded a grounder and threw to catcher Ben Wainright for a force at the plate. Hunter Benton flew out to center for the third out.

Burks was 2 of 5 with a home run and a RBI to lead Cabot. Community Bank is now 10-8 on the season. They will play a doubleheader at Forrest City on Monday.

SPORTS>>Finally, some new pyrotechnics to liven up the Fourth

Tired of the same old pyrotechnics every Fourth of July?

I know I am.

I realize I’m probably behaving like a spoiled teenager, easily bored and always demanding something new, something to make me sit up and say, ‘Wow!’

Frankly, I haven’t seen anything innovative in fireworks since I was a kid. We’d all pile into the family station wagon, head to the drive-in, and wait for the show to begin. The first few bursts would inspire us with awe and delight. Then, it was 15 more minutes of the exact same thing, perhaps with a change from red to blue or from white to green.

The last time I saw fireworks a year or two ago I might as well have been back in that 1965 Impala wagon, with my head out the window, my expression of delight fading fast as I tried to stifle my growing sense of disappointment.

Now there’s hope! A new line of sports-themed fireworks are available this year and while I can’t swear they won’t be just another in a long line of pyrotechnic party poopers, at least it’s something new.

Flying Tiger: A facsimile of 14-time major winner Eldrick Woods with a fuse on the end of his driver. Often will explode off the launching pad and never looks back. Also known to pace itself early, perform some dazzling loops, then shoot ahead in its final stages. Marketers insist that, when the wind is right, you can hear the words ‘You da man’ trailing off behind a Flying Tiger. The first few batches of the item were damaged in production, but consumers are urged not to worry. The damaged ones work just as well.

The Rocket Rocket: Endorsed by Roger Clemens, this is marketed as an enhanced bottle rocket, a gadget which may have excited teens in the 60s, but merely makes them scoff today. The Rocket Rocket is alleged to go much, much faster and receives an extra boost of energy in its final stages when most bottle rockets would fizzle and fall. It is rumored that this item is propelled by possibly illegal fuels.

The Shaq Attack: Perhaps the least anticipated of the new fireworks entrees, this is a very big, but ultimately slow and plodding piece of pyrotechnics. It doesn’t move, just sends up an occasional spark. Critics maintain that the only marginal entertainment it provides is a rap lyric, but Consumer Reports complains that most of the words are inaudible and the ones you can hear don’t make any sense. Considered one of the safest fireworks on the market.
n Kobe Candle: This is an amazing display of flash and dash, yet early reports are that it is strangely unsatisfying. Pyrotechnicians report that the Kobe Candle is often enhanced when used in conjunction with the Shaq Attack and vice versa.

Demolition D-Mac: A variation on the M-80, this new item is explosive and pretty much unstoppable. When you light this one, just stand clear and watch it go.

Felix Fireball: This one won’t hurt you if it hits you, but chances are it won’t hit you. Inspired by former Razorback running back Felix Jones, this flitting darter will delight you with its serpentine slashing and now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t jitterbugging.

A-Rod Sparkler: Dazzling in its early stages, but ultimately disappointing. You keep expecting it to do more – especially toward the end — but it never does. Worth a look, though.

Federer Flame: Sleek, consistent and often awe-inspiring, this update of the Roman Candle is especially mesmerizing when launched from your lawn. Not as effective on clay surfaces.

Houston Howitzer: Currently a popular choice in the state of Mississippi, this ball of fire in a little package packs lots and lots and lots of noise, but early reports are that it leaves many viewers feeling empty, disappointed, even angry. People seem to either love or hate this new entrant.

The Petro Petrino: Beware this high flier in the unassuming package. Comes in a plain brown wrapper that is hardly eye-catching, yet unwrap it and watch the sparks fly!

If you really like fireworks, though, wait until the Houston Howitzer and the Petro Petrino hook up on Oct. 25 in Fayetteville.

Here’s hoping you had a safe, and not-too-boring Fourth!

SPORTS>>Finally, some new pyrotechnics to liven up the Fourth

Tired of the same old pyrotechnics every Fourth of July?

I know I am.

I realize I’m probably behaving like a spoiled teenager, easily bored and always demanding something new, something to make me sit up and say, ‘Wow!’

Frankly, I haven’t seen anything innovative in fireworks since I was a kid. We’d all pile into the family station wagon, head to the drive-in, and wait for the show to begin. The first few bursts would inspire us with awe and delight. Then, it was 15 more minutes of the exact same thing, perhaps with a change from red to blue or from white to green.

The last time I saw fireworks a year or two ago I might as well have been back in that 1965 Impala wagon, with my head out the window, my expression of delight fading fast as I tried to stifle my growing sense of disappointment.

Now there’s hope! A new line of sports-themed fireworks are available this year and while I can’t swear they won’t be just another in a long line of pyrotechnic party poopers, at least it’s something new.

Flying Tiger: A facsimile of 14-time major winner Eldrick Woods with a fuse on the end of his driver. Often will explode off the launching pad and never looks back. Also known to pace itself early, perform some dazzling loops, then shoot ahead in its final stages. Marketers insist that, when the wind is right, you can hear the words ‘You da man’ trailing off behind a Flying Tiger. The first few batches of the item were damaged in production, but consumers are urged not to worry. The damaged ones work just as well.

The Rocket Rocket: Endorsed by Roger Clemens, this is marketed as an enhanced bottle rocket, a gadget which may have excited teens in the 60s, but merely makes them scoff today. The Rocket Rocket is alleged to go much, much faster and receives an extra boost of energy in its final stages when most bottle rockets would fizzle and fall. It is rumored that this item is propelled by possibly illegal fuels.

The Shaq Attack: Perhaps the least anticipated of the new fireworks entrees, this is a very big, but ultimately slow and plodding piece of pyrotechnics. It doesn’t move, just sends up an occasional spark. Critics maintain that the only marginal entertainment it provides is a rap lyric, but Consumer Reports complains that most of the words are inaudible and the ones you can hear don’t make any sense. Considered one of the safest fireworks on the market.
n Kobe Candle: This is an amazing display of flash and dash, yet early reports are that it is strangely unsatisfying. Pyrotechnicians report that the Kobe Candle is often enhanced when used in conjunction with the Shaq Attack and vice versa.

Demolition D-Mac: A variation on the M-80, this new item is explosive and pretty much unstoppable. When you light this one, just stand clear and watch it go.

Felix Fireball: This one won’t hurt you if it hits you, but chances are it won’t hit you. Inspired by former Razorback running back Felix Jones, this flitting darter will delight you with its serpentine slashing and now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t jitterbugging.

A-Rod Sparkler: Dazzling in its early stages, but ultimately disappointing. You keep expecting it to do more – especially toward the end — but it never does. Worth a look, though.

Federer Flame: Sleek, consistent and often awe-inspiring, this update of the Roman Candle is especially mesmerizing when launched from your lawn. Not as effective on clay surfaces.

Houston Howitzer: Currently a popular choice in the state of Mississippi, this ball of fire in a little package packs lots and lots and lots of noise, but early reports are that it leaves many viewers feeling empty, disappointed, even angry. People seem to either love or hate this new entrant.

The Petro Petrino: Beware this high flier in the unassuming package. Comes in a plain brown wrapper that is hardly eye-catching, yet unwrap it and watch the sparks fly!

If you really like fireworks, though, wait until the Houston Howitzer and the Petro Petrino hook up on Oct. 25 in Fayetteville.

Here’s hoping you had a safe, and not-too-boring Fourth!

SPORTS>> Cabot juniors wrap up zone with win

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Andy Runyan added cheerleading to his coaching duties on Wednesday night at Conrade Memorial Baseball Field. The Cabot Community Bank junior Legion team rallied from an early 3-0 deficit against North Little Rock, but needed to close out strong in order to wrap up the regular season zone championship with an undefeated mark.

Scoring seven runs in the bottom of the fifth did just that. Matt Turner’s 3-run homer busted open a tie game and Community Bank won its first-ever zone title with a 10-3 win over the Optimist Colts. Cabot finished zone play with a perfect 7-0 mark (19-4-1 overall), which will put them in the No. 1 seeding for next week’s zone tourney at Burns Park.

“I challenged them, and one thing that this group does is respond to challenges,” Runyan said. “I told them we’ve got a tie ballgame and we have a chance to win the regular season zone championship. Go establish a lead and then give Matt (Evans) a chance to throw his ballgame. Don’t leave it up to a bleeder or an error or a chink hit, go establish a lead and let’s win it going away.”

The Colts did all of their damage in the early going, with two runs in the top of the first inning, and their final score coming one frame later. The Cabot bats were silent until Powell Bryant’s triple sent in walk recipient Ty Steele in the bottom of the second inning. Bryant then pulled Community Bank to within one when he crossed the plate on a Chase Thompson single.

Andrew Reynolds scored the tying run in the bottom of the fourth. He reached on a single, and Powell Bryant’s second hit of the game, this one a single to left field, put him across to make it 3-3.

Evans (5-1) shut the Colts’ bats down in the late going. He faced only three in the top of the fifth, and struck out two with a groundout to first for the third out.

Joe Bryant led off the Cabot fifth with a double to left field and Cole Nicholson reached on an error on a bunt. Turner then followed with a smash over the left field fence to put Community Bank up 6-3. It was a solid cushion with the time limit running out, but Cabot wasn’t done. Reynolds walked, followed by a double for Powell Bryant, his third hit of the game. That scored Reynolds for a 7-3 Cabot lead. That led to a complete meltdown of the NLR defense from there.

Bryant scored on a passed ball, as did Thompson and Evans shortly afterward. The Colts finally got one last chance to answer in the top of the sixth, but Evans finished them with a 1-2-3 inning to end it.

“Their pitcher was doing a good job of keeping his stuff down,” Runyan said. “He was getting strikes low in the zone; he was getting his breaking ball over. It took our guys a little while to adjust to it, but one of the things I’ve been so proud of our kids for all year is that very seldom have we gotten dominated by the same guy all game.

“We’ve been able to make adjustments and get that guy out of the game. There’s been times when they brought a stopper in and shut us down after that, but very seldom have we not made adjustments and not gotten to the starter at some point.”

Powell Bryant was 3 of 3 with a triple and 3 RBI. Thompson was 2 of 3 with a RBI. Cabot will host Greenbrier in a doubleheader on Monday.

SPORTS>> Gwatney wins two

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

BENTON — Gwatney Chevrolet swept a doubleheader from Benton on Tuesday night in Saline County.

The junior Chevy boys got a solid performance from starter Tom Sanders in winning the opener, 6-2, while the senior team completed the sweep with a 4-3 win in the nightcap.

The Gwatney juniors jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first, aided by a pair of RBI singles from Alex Tucker and Orlando Roberts.
Ken Cumming singled to start the rally. After Matt McAnally walked, Sanders reached on an error. Tucker and Roberts then came through with base hits.

Benton got a run back in the bottom half, but the Chevy boys pushed another across in the fifth. After Patrick Castleberry was hit with a pitch, Hayden Simpson singled and Jordan Gardner drove in Castleberry with another base hit to make it 4-1.

Gwatney got more insurance in the sixth on consecutive singles by Drew Hampton, Castleberry and Simpson to make it 6-1.

Benton collected only three hits. It left the bases loaded in the first and had two other runners picked off. Catcher Nick
Rodriquez threw out a would-be base stealer in the fourth, and Sanders picked off a runner at first in the first.

Simpson had two of the Chevy boys’ seven hits.

The senior Legion team held on behind a good outing by starter Clayton Fenton. Fenton, following up on his 3-hit shutout in the Wood Bat Tournament last Thursday, suffered some arm soreness during the contest, but got the win.

The game was a see-saw affair, with Gwatney jumping on top with two runs in the second. Jarod Toney singled and scored on Seth Tomboli’s single. Tyler Wisdom and Adam Ussery followed with base hits to make it 2-0.

Benton tied it in the third, but Gwatney recaptured the lead in the fourth on Wisdom’s single, Ussery’s fielder’s choice and Terrell Brown’s double.

Gwatney got what proved to be critical insurance with a run in the sixth that extended its lead to 4-2. Walks to Scott and Brown and a single by Michael Harmon loaded the bases. Cameron Hood delivered a sacrifice fly.

Benton got one back in the sixth, but a double play prevented further damage. Benton then put the tying and winning runs on in the final inning, but couldn’t push either runner across.

Benton finished with nine hits, while Gwatney collected eight, two by Wisdom.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

TOP STORY > >Governor says no to Stocks

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe has denied clemency for a Furlow man who asked the governor to reduce his life sentence for killing his mother, father and younger sister to a sentence in years so he might someday be eligible for parole.

Heath Stocks’ petition was denied Monday. Matt Decample, spokesman for the governor, said no explanations are given when requests are denied.

Stocks, 31, pleaded guilty to killing his family in January 1997. This was his second request to have his sentence commuted.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee also turned him down.

Stocks is incarcerated at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit near Pine Bluff.

He was sentenced without a trial to life without the possibility of parole.

But he testified later during the victim impact hearing for convicted rapist Charles A. “Jack” Walls III of Lonoke that he was under the influence of Walls and killed his parents and sister because Walls told him to.

Stocks told Judge Lance Hanshaw that Walls had sexually abused him since he was 10 years old. He said Walls always said that if you had a problem you should kill it. And when he told Walls that he told his mother about their relationship, Walls told him to “take care of the problem.”

Walls, a Boy Scout leader who pleaded guilty to raping five boys under 14 years of age and no contest to raping Stocks, was sentenced to life plus 90 years. Walls is serving his sentence at the East Arkansas Regional Unit at Brickeys in Lee County.

TOP STORY > >Parental involvement stressed

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Student safety turned out to be the main concern voiced at a public forum Sunday afternoon on the merits of Jacksonville’s gender-specific middle schools. About 50 people attended the two-hour meeting hosted by the Jacksonville NAACP at the Jacksonville Boys Middle School.

No one attending disputed gains in test scores since the sex-segregated schools opened in fall 2005. More on people’s minds were concerns about bullying and inadequate adult supervision in the halls, on the playgrounds, and in the cafeteria at both the boys and girls middle schools.

After the meeting, Jacksonville NAACP chapter president Ivory Tillman said that the NAACP would decide at its July 13 general meeting what its formal position would be. A likely next step for the NAACP would be asking the school district for security monitors to control disruptive and sometimes violent behavior that threatens safety of students at the middle schools.

Mike Nellums, principal of the Jacksonville Boys Middle School, told the group that school patrons need to join him in pushing the district for more monitors. Nellums said that he has a reputation in the community for dealing proactively with behavior problems, but that to do so, parents and students must come forward with information about bullying.

“We can’t do anything about something we know nothing about,” he said.

Several parents complained about their boys being bullied while students at Jacksonville Boys Middle School. Two who did not want to be identified said that the school administration had done little to remedy the problems. Others were more supportive.

Bill Hansen, the father of twin boys who just graduated from the boys school, lauded Nellums and his staff for “handling complaints quickly and professionally.” However, Hansen, who is white, said that his sons had been victims of repeated bullying by blacks. He believed his sons were targeted because they were white.

“That was a big hill for them to climb because I raised them to not be sexist or racist, to believe everybody is equal, but they were assaulted at every turn,” he said. “They encountered a lot of stress at the school, were treated in ways that are not allowed out in society, in the workplace.”

Hansen said that if the same problems persist for his boys at Jacksonville High School, he will school them elsewhere. He predicted other whites will leave the schools for the same reason.

Another father, Rizzelle Aa-ron, who is black, related how his son had been bullied by gang members off school grounds. He told the group that adults are oblivious to the gang system of intimidation and retaliation that keeps students silent. Gang members are not afraid to direct aggression at adults either, he said, so parents volunteering as hall monitors is not a reasonable solution.

“One is likely to get a black eye,” he said. “We need different ways to deal with that problem in our schools.”

Tillman said that the impetus for his calling the meeting, after consulting with the chapter’s executive committee, was a June 21 article in The Leader that described a disagreement at the last Pulaski County Special School Board meeting between Jacksonville boys middle principal Mike Nellums and school board member Bill Vasquez about gender-specific schools.

Vasquez is strongly against separate schools for boys and girls. At the June board meeting, Vasquez tried to get the board to suspend the rules and open discussions about the issue. This was the last board meeting where such changes could be made for the next school year, according to Vasquez, and the administration had refused his request to place the issue on the agenda.

His motion to suspend the rules and discuss the issues of single-gender education and combining the two existing schools failed four to two, with board president Charlie Wood voting with him.

Tillman invited Nellums, Vasquez, and Kim Forrest, principal of the Jacksonville Girls Middle School to the Sunday meeting, so that all three could express their views in a public forum, citizens could also speak their minds, and then the NAACP would decide its next step in dealing with the controversy.

On Monday Vasquez apologized for not attending, but said he was on vacation and that he had explained to Tillman that he “had prior commitments.” Vasquez said that he does not foresee taking part in any future public meetings about the matter, because the opportunity has passed, at least for now, for the district to merge the two middle schools.

“There is no desire on the part of the board or the district to reconfigure the schools, so there is nothing to discuss,” Vasquez said. “It is a moot point.”

Vasquez claims a large number of Jacksonville parents have removed their children from the two schools because they are against separate schools for boys and girls. He says Nellums and Forrest are doing a poor job and wants them “transferred” to other posts in the district.

Nellums maintains that Jack-sonville schools, and the gender-specific middle schools especially, have been unfairly singled out as the main contributors to declining enrollment that is occurring across the entire district. He noted that seven other Jacksonville area schools have lost students, but so has Mills High School, a school which has a national reputation for academic excellence but has lost 71 students nonetheless.

As for academic gains, no one at the meeting Sunday disputed that test scores have improved since the boys and girls were put in separate schools for the 2005-2006 school year.

Nellums contends that five years’ of test-score data are needed to really know what impact the new arrangement is having on student achievement.

The percentages of students at the two schools scoring proficient or above in math and literacy are still the lowest among all district middle schools, but Nellums argues that before passing judgment, overall percentage gains and socioeconomic factors need to be considered. Twenty percent of the boys schools students are classified as “special needs,” 65 percent come from single-parent families, and 73 percent are on the free or reduced-price lunch program.

“You can’t compare between an apple and a walnut,” he said. “You are talking about totally different student populations when you compare us with Maumelle or Robinson.”

Others, including Jeanie Till-man and Forrest, speculated that gains might have been larger if the district had not fallen down on its promise of several years ago to train teachers about the different learning styles of boys and girls. Forrest said taking boys out of the classroom markedly changes the dynamic for girls – mainly in positive ways. With boys present, girls are often shy about answering a teacher’s questions, for fear of embarrassment. Now, girls often speak up and are willing to admit in class when they need a little tutoring; others now will offer help.

“With the boys, they don’t want to look stupid, but without the boys, the girls support one another, take care of one another, instead of poking fun,” Forrest said. She maintained most students at her school liked the all-girl classes. Recent girls school graduate Jessica Moser, who was at the meeting with her mother and brother, agreed.

“I thought it made a great environment for learning. I loved it,” she said.

Nellums did not deny that bullying is occurring at the boys middle school, but argued that the incidence is no greater than anyplace else where there is such a concentration of young males. He faulted the school district administration for failing to provide the school with security personnel to keep the lid on behavior problems.

Forrest said the shortage of monitors was the result of the teachers union negotiating re-lease of teachers from “doing duty” as monitors one week a month in the cafeteria and halls and after school as buses load.

Teachers now have the option of working as monitors with extra pay. Maintaining order is difficult even though part-time workers fill the gap.

Nellums said a new school district would not automatically wash away the complex problems that trouble Jacksonville.

“You need to start preparing for your own school district and have a plan in place for kids who are struggling,” he said.

“You will continue to lose kids until you get your own district, and then you might still lose them. Meanwhile we have to be concerned about educating them,” he added.

TOP STORY > >Parental involvement stressed

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Student safety turned out to be the main concern voiced at a public forum Sunday afternoon on the merits of Jacksonville’s gender-specific middle schools. About 50 people attended the two-hour meeting hosted by the Jacksonville NAACP at the Jacksonville Boys Middle School.

No one attending disputed gains in test scores since the sex-segregated schools opened in fall 2005. More on people’s minds were concerns about bullying and inadequate adult supervision in the halls, on the playgrounds, and in the cafeteria at both the boys and girls middle schools.

After the meeting, Jacksonville NAACP chapter president Ivory Tillman said that the NAACP would decide at its July 13 general meeting what its formal position would be. A likely next step for the NAACP would be asking the school district for security monitors to control disruptive and sometimes violent behavior that threatens safety of students at the middle schools.

Mike Nellums, principal of the Jacksonville Boys Middle School, told the group that school patrons need to join him in pushing the district for more monitors. Nellums said that he has a reputation in the community for dealing proactively with behavior problems, but that to do so, parents and students must come forward with information about bullying.

“We can’t do anything about something we know nothing about,” he said.

Several parents complained about their boys being bullied while students at Jacksonville Boys Middle School. Two who did not want to be identified said that the school administration had done little to remedy the problems. Others were more supportive.

Bill Hansen, the father of twin boys who just graduated from the boys school, lauded Nellums and his staff for “handling complaints quickly and professionally.” However, Hansen, who is white, said that his sons had been victims of repeated bullying by blacks. He believed his sons were targeted because they were white.

“That was a big hill for them to climb because I raised them to not be sexist or racist, to believe everybody is equal, but they were assaulted at every turn,” he said. “They encountered a lot of stress at the school, were treated in ways that are not allowed out in society, in the workplace.”

Hansen said that if the same problems persist for his boys at Jacksonville High School, he will school them elsewhere. He predicted other whites will leave the schools for the same reason.

Another father, Rizzelle Aa-ron, who is black, related how his son had been bullied by gang members off school grounds. He told the group that adults are oblivious to the gang system of intimidation and retaliation that keeps students silent. Gang members are not afraid to direct aggression at adults either, he said, so parents volunteering as hall monitors is not a reasonable solution.

“One is likely to get a black eye,” he said. “We need different ways to deal with that problem in our schools.”

Tillman said that the impetus for his calling the meeting, after consulting with the chapter’s executive committee, was a June 21 article in The Leader that described a disagreement at the last Pulaski County Special School Board meeting between Jacksonville boys middle principal Mike Nellums and school board member Bill Vasquez about gender-specific schools.

Vasquez is strongly against separate schools for boys and girls. At the June board meeting, Vasquez tried to get the board to suspend the rules and open discussions about the issue. This was the last board meeting where such changes could be made for the next school year, according to Vasquez, and the administration had refused his request to place the issue on the agenda.

His motion to suspend the rules and discuss the issues of single-gender education and combining the two existing schools failed four to two, with board president Charlie Wood voting with him.

Tillman invited Nellums, Vasquez, and Kim Forrest, principal of the Jacksonville Girls Middle School to the Sunday meeting, so that all three could express their views in a public forum, citizens could also speak their minds, and then the NAACP would decide its next step in dealing with the controversy.

On Monday Vasquez apologized for not attending, but said he was on vacation and that he had explained to Tillman that he “had prior commitments.” Vasquez said that he does not foresee taking part in any future public meetings about the matter, because the opportunity has passed, at least for now, for the district to merge the two middle schools.

“There is no desire on the part of the board or the district to reconfigure the schools, so there is nothing to discuss,” Vasquez said. “It is a moot point.”

Vasquez claims a large number of Jacksonville parents have removed their children from the two schools because they are against separate schools for boys and girls. He says Nellums and Forrest are doing a poor job and wants them “transferred” to other posts in the district.

Nellums maintains that Jack-sonville schools, and the gender-specific middle schools especially, have been unfairly singled out as the main contributors to declining enrollment that is occurring across the entire district. He noted that seven other Jacksonville area schools have lost students, but so has Mills High School, a school which has a national reputation for academic excellence but has lost 71 students nonetheless.

As for academic gains, no one at the meeting Sunday disputed that test scores have improved since the boys and girls were put in separate schools for the 2005-2006 school year.

Nellums contends that five years’ of test-score data are needed to really know what impact the new arrangement is having on student achievement.

The percentages of students at the two schools scoring proficient or above in math and literacy are still the lowest among all district middle schools, but Nellums argues that before passing judgment, overall percentage gains and socioeconomic factors need to be considered. Twenty percent of the boys schools students are classified as “special needs,” 65 percent come from single-parent families, and 73 percent are on the free or reduced-price lunch program.

“You can’t compare between an apple and a walnut,” he said. “You are talking about totally different student populations when you compare us with Maumelle or Robinson.”

Others, including Jeanie Till-man and Forrest, speculated that gains might have been larger if the district had not fallen down on its promise of several years ago to train teachers about the different learning styles of boys and girls. Forrest said taking boys out of the classroom markedly changes the dynamic for girls – mainly in positive ways. With boys present, girls are often shy about answering a teacher’s questions, for fear of embarrassment. Now, girls often speak up and are willing to admit in class when they need a little tutoring; others now will offer help.

“With the boys, they don’t want to look stupid, but without the boys, the girls support one another, take care of one another, instead of poking fun,” Forrest said. She maintained most students at her school liked the all-girl classes. Recent girls school graduate Jessica Moser, who was at the meeting with her mother and brother, agreed.

“I thought it made a great environment for learning. I loved it,” she said.

Nellums did not deny that bullying is occurring at the boys middle school, but argued that the incidence is no greater than anyplace else where there is such a concentration of young males. He faulted the school district administration for failing to provide the school with security personnel to keep the lid on behavior problems.

Forrest said the shortage of monitors was the result of the teachers union negotiating re-lease of teachers from “doing duty” as monitors one week a month in the cafeteria and halls and after school as buses load.

Teachers now have the option of working as monitors with extra pay. Maintaining order is difficult even though part-time workers fill the gap.

Nellums said a new school district would not automatically wash away the complex problems that trouble Jacksonville.

“You need to start preparing for your own school district and have a plan in place for kids who are struggling,” he said.

“You will continue to lose kids until you get your own district, and then you might still lose them. Meanwhile we have to be concerned about educating them,” he added.

TOP STORY > >Board asked to pursue funding for golf course

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Sherwood took a step closer to having its funding in place when a jury later this month tells the city how much it will have to pay for the 106-acre North Hills Country Club it condemned earlier this year.

In a pair of specially called council meetings Monday and Tuesday, aldermen unanimously voted to support a resolution calling on the Sherwood Public Facilities Board “to pursue alternatives for financing acquisition” of the golf course property.

Monday’s short meeting was called for the public-facility board to meet and work out financing for the golf course, but set no specific amount.

The council met again Tuesday morning to pass a second resolution requesting the facility board to come up with financing “from $3 million not to exceed $6 million of tax-exempt revenue bonds or other evidences of indebtedness for the purpose of providing funds to finance the acquisition, construction, improving and equipping of recreational facilities.”

The members of the facility board are Jack Wilson, Forrest Penny, Linda Napper, Bob Dawson and Bob Franks.

The recommended funding mechanism discussed at a June 24 workshop for the council was to use a bond issue and a sizeable down payment taken from the city’s reserves or other available sources.

Tim Grooms, one of a number of attorneys working with the city to acquire the defunct golf course property, said at the workshop that the city should have $1 million ready for a down payment and be ready to issue bonds for up to an additional $5 million.

Grooms said the appraisals on the property run from just under $3 million to more than $5 million. There’s also the possibility that the jury will make the city pay the owners’ legal costs.

City Attorney Stephen Cobb said if the amount the jury decides is too high, the city can just walk away and let Club Properties retain the property. What amount was considered too high was not clarified during the workshop. But it was made clear that if the city backs out of the condemnation that action would more than likely result in another lawsuit.

Mayor Virginia Hillman said that the down payment suggestion was a lot of money. “That’s half of our reserve fund,” she said, adding, “That’s a lot if we don’t have much.”

A $5 million bond issue, according to attorney John Bryant, one of the attorneys working on the bond issue, would cost the city about $500,000 a year for 20 years.

On top of that is a possible damage payment the city may have to make to the golf course owners if a federal lawsuit is decided in favor of the owners, and the money needed to make improvements to the acreage.

Alderman Becki Vassar suggested during the workshop that the land could be used to build a water park similar to Jacksonville’s Splash Zone, which cost about $2.5 million to build four years ago. Jacksonville funded the water park’s construction through a sales tax increase.

Grooms said the city’s public facilities board needs to meet as soon as possible to initiate the bond issue request to pay for the property.

“Then a public hearing needs to be scheduled with 10 days notice, and then the city council needs to approve the bond issue, including the down payment and monthly payments,” Grooms said, adding that all of that should be in place before the condemnation issue is decided in a jury trial late next month.

Tuesday’s short council meeting started the ball rolling.

Under the procedures that the city used to condemn the property, the fair market value that the city will pay the owners, Club Properties, must be decided by a jury trial.

That trial is set for July 24-25 and July 30-July 31. The first two days are for legal wrangling, and the last two days will be the actual jury trial to determine the fair market value.

Grooms said the city could get by with less than a $1 million down payment, but a smaller payment could negatively affect the rate and terms of the bond issue. “The equity credit markets are as tight as I’ve seen them in my lifetime. A 20 percent down will help with rate and terms,” he said.

Bond attorney Joseph Gregory told the workshop attendees that the city’s public facilities board would actually buy the golf course land through the bond issue and lease it to the city. The amount of the lease should cover the bond payment, Gregory said.

TOP STORY > >Group gets new commander

Col. George Risse took over command of the 314th Mission Support Group at Little Rock Air Force Base, succeeding Col. Scott Lockard in a change-of-command ceremony on Monday.

Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr., commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, was the officiating officer.

The mission support group provides supply, transportation, contracting, aerial port, security forces, services and civil-engineering functions, which keep the 6,128-acre base operating.

“Change of command is a time to say congratulations,” Schatz said. “Congratulations to Col. Lockard for doing a fantastic job leading this group for the past two years, (and) three years of contributions total to Little Rock. He was previously the deputy commander for the 463rd Airlift Group. And also congratulations to Col. Risse for coming here; getting to step into perhaps one of the most rewarding jobs in the Air Force is to command a fantastic group like the 314th Mission Support Group.”

Risse comes here with a background in international relations, such as implementing military policy and coordinating military sales to foreign countries, combating drugs in Panama, serving in Iraq as a United Nations observer and playing a supervisory role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In his previous assignment, Risse was senior executive officer to the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, where he was chief of the Europe/NATO/Eurasia division, which is responsible for formulating Air Force policy on complex international issues affecting U.S. political and military relations with 54 countries in Europe and Eurasia.

Risse managed and directed Air Force foreign military sales programs and oversaw management of security-assistance policy for foreign military sales valued at more than $30 billion. He coordinated with senior Air Force, the office of the secretary of defense, State Department and foreign government officials on international security issues. He represented the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff in executive-level negotiations with senior foreign officials.

“There are so many people to thank,” Risse said at the change-of-command ceremony, “but most importantly, there is a mission that we share as Americans, so it is truly an honor to have a place in history in that mission.

“Make no mistake about it—I had heard about Little Rock and the relationship that existed between the base and the surrounding communities and teamwork that goes on with everyone here long before I was selected for this command,” Risse added.

“My father taught me a deep and abiding love for my country, but he taught me patience, persistence and love,” the new
commander said during the ceremony.

“I’m the oldest of seven children, and my youngest brother was not quite a year old when my mother passed away, which left my father with seven children. And what a tremendous job he’s done raising all seven of us, and now I stand before you today as a colonel in the United States Air Force assuming command of one of the greatest units in the country.”

Lockard, who relinquished command of the 314th Mission Support Group, moves with his wife, Gina, to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where he will be responsible for readiness and resources at the Air Education and Training Command, including manpower and strategic planning for the command’s operations.

Describing his command of the 314th Mission Support Group, Lockard said, “We spent the last two years focused on teamwork and making each member of the team a valued contributor and together we built an organization filled with pride, respect, and a can-do attitude that most other organizations can only emulate.”

Risse is a master navigator with more than 2,700 hours in various KC-135 tanker aircraft and the EC-135 DV aircraft.
As a KC-135 detachment commander in Panama for counterdrug operations, his unit received the Joint Meritorious Outstanding Unit Award.

He was a volunteer UN observer in Iraq, where he developed key plans and oversaw UN air operations.

As commander of the Fourth Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron at MorĂ³n Air Base, Spain, he led a team in staging operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Risse’s new command in-cludes the 314th Civil En-gineer Squadron, 314th Com-munications Squadron, 314th Contracting Squadron, 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 314th Mission Support Squad-ron, 314th Security Forces Squadron and the 314th Services Squadron.

The group is made up of 1,800 military and civilian personnel employing seven squadrons and $1.4 billion worth of assets.

The mission support group supports the base’s 314th Airlift Wing but also sustains 36 other tenant units, including Air

Mobility Command’s 463rd Airlift Group, the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing and Air Force Reserve personnel.

The group supports 6,100 military and civilian personnel, 6,500 military families and 34,000 retirees.

Among his awards and decorations, Risse has received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with 2 devices, United Nations Service Medal, United Nations Observer Medal, NATO Medal and two Liberation of Kuwait medals, one from the government of Saudi Arabia and one from the government of Kuwait.

(Senior Airman Jason Elkins of Little Rock Air Force Base contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

TOP STORY > >Friends shocked by death of couple

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

A suspected serial murderer was arrested Tuesday in Illinois for the beating-death of a Sherwood couple in Festus, Mo., and possibly killing six other victims.

The bloody bodies of Jill and Tom Estes were found Monday behind a dumpster at a gas station in Festus not far from the Comfort Inn where the couple had spent the night.

Jill Estes, 52, worked as a paraprofessional at Tolleson Elementary in Jacksonville, helping special-education students. She has been with the Pulaski County Special School District since 2001, working first at Oakbrooke Elementary in Sherwood and then at Tolleson.

Her husband Tom worked for a railroad company.

Diane Ashenberger, principal at Tolleson, said the staff gathered Tuesday at a teacher’s home to share and pray. “It’s what we needed,” she said, to deal with the tragic loss.

“We are a very close-knit family at Tolleson,” she said, “and there will be a large void in our school family,” she added.

Ashenberger said Jill Estes was known by students as Miss Jill and was very loving and caring.

“She was our animal lover. If someone found a lizard or spider Miss Jill was always the rescuer and took them to safety,” the principal said.

A convicted felon, Nicholas Sheley, 28, of Sterling, Ill., was arrested in a St. Louis-area bar.

He is also a suspect in the deaths of four people found in a Rock Falls, Ill., apartment Monday afternoon and the death of a 93-year-old Sterling, Ill., man found in the trunk of Sheley’s car Thursday.

Sheley has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking in the recent death of a 65-year-old Galesburg, Ill., man. Police say Ronald Randall’s 2007 pickup truck was found in St. Louis, and evidence discovered inside points to Sheley’s involvement.

According to police reports, the Esteses checked into Comfort Inn in Festus, a small community about 35 miles southwest of St. Louis, on Friday and attended a graduation party in nearby Florissant on Sunday evening.

Hotel guests found the Esteses’ two small dogs, covered in blood, wandering in the hotel parking lot. The dogs were unharmed and the couple’s 2007 Corvette untouched, but the couple was nowhere in sight.

Police found two pairs of eyeglasses, a pair of earrings and a 10-foot-wide pool of blood that stretched for a mile and a half.

Jill Estes’ wallet was inside the Corvette, but Tom Estes’ wallet was gone. Nothing else was stolen.

They had struggled with their attacker, who killed them with a blunt instrument.

About 10:30 a.m. Monday, a woman walking her dog behind a Philip’s 66 station not far from the hotel saw a man’s bloody foot near a trash bin and told the gas station owner. He went to look and found two bloodied bodies matching the description of the Esteses.

Because the bodies were found without identification, family members had to identify them. After the discovery of the bodies, Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis said, “It looks like a random act.”

The homicides were turned over to the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis and both Missouri and Illinois law enforcement officials searched for Sheley.

Sherwood police were called Monday after the bodies were found to check on the Estes’ residence.

TOP STORY > >Builder to finish housing on base

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

It’s still dim, but the light is getting brighter at the end of the tunnel for Little Rock Air Force Base families living in privatized base housing.

Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, base commander, told residents during Monday’s town hall meeting that construction of new homes should resume after the new year with the Hunt-Pinnacle Group at the reins.

But until then, he urged residents to continue reporting any maintenance and upkeep problems to defunct American Eagle Communities, the company responsible for property management in base housing until its contract is sold.

“American Eagle is still responsible for the maintenance and upkeep until the sale is final,” Schatz said, adding that by late August or early September, the purchase and sale agreement will be completed and signed by all parties.

By November, Schatz said, the sale will hopefully be completed with Hunt-Pinnacle the new owner and then the company and the Air Force will probably reshape the project.

“In the end we may not have as many new homes as we planned,” he said. “There are no exact figures yet on the number of houses (that will be built) and renovations.”

The original contract called for 1,200 homes by 2011 – 468 new housing units and 732 remodeled existing units — with 803 existing 1955-model homes torn down. When construction came to a standstill in May 2007, there were only 25 houses completed.

Schatz is optimistic that within a month of finalizing the sale agreement, a team from Hunt-Pinnacle will be at LRAFB and get to work. “We hope,” he said. “We heard they move fast.”

In the meantime, residents who made the choice to live on base must continue to live in homes that are more than 50 years old and in desperate need of renovations – renovations that cannot be done because American Eagle does not have the money to do them.

More than 900 homes need roof repairs following the January wind storm that swept the area.

According to the general, 937 homes received roof damage ranging from losing a few shingles to major holes.

“My biggest fear and concern on the project is that since March of 2007, the goal of American Eagle was to sell,” Schatz said.

“What about the maintenance and upkeep and how do we keep updates on 50-plus-year-old homes?” the general asked residents. “The money is not there for American Eagle to do things, but I send letters monthly telling them of things they need to do. I’ll keep the pressure on and get whatever funds we can flowing to Little Rock,” he said.

Schatz said the roof damage was covered by insurance and as of June 25, the check was in the mail.

On June 27, Schatz said, the bond holders agreed to release $600,000 for roof repairs.

“Those with tarps on their roofs will be first and we’ll work our way down. Help is on the way,” he assured residents.

But even with roof repairs on the horizon, Airmen and their families continue to live in conditions one spouse described as horrible.

“It’s frustrating that we have to live in homes that are horrible and it’s not right. It’s not our fault…we’re in limbo until they get their act together,” Carrie Boyd said.

Another spouse told the general her family’s housing contract was up in November and if they move to another base with privatized housing, she didn’t know if they would be living on base there because of the experience at the Jacksonville air base.

Schatz responded that living on base is a personal choice but told everyone not to lower their standards and expectations just because the project is on hold.

“Don’t expect substandard. They should fix things. Anyone having any problems with their home today needs to call it in; if you don’t call it in, American Eagle doesn’t know there’s a problem,” he said.

Schatz has been cautiously optimistic, but he said moving the project forward has taken longer than he wanted. Still, he said, there has been “quite a major improvement” when it came to local subcontractors getting paid.

“All liens against the project have been lifted,” he said.

Three outstanding subcontractor claims remain, but two have been negotiated and the checks, as of Monday, were ready to send out – $148,000 to JR Construction and $137,000 to Cadena Drywall.

The third claim was new, Schatz said, and still being negotiated — $11,000 to Arkansas Blinds and Shades.

EDITORIAL >>Polluters first, people last

No one has ever mistaken the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission for a stern watchdog for the state’s water, air and land and those who depend upon their relative purity, but you would expect it to be a little ahead of the Flat Earth Society.

Since its creation in 1949, the commission has been as much a watchdog for industries that profit from the resources of the earth as for those whose good health depends on them, which is all of us. The legislation set up the agency to do that and despite some modest reform in Bill Clinton’s last term as governor, in 1991, it still operates on the same philosophy. Industry comes first, the people last. The interests need not clash that much but sometimes they do, and every regulatory body owes its highest allegiance to the people.

It was not in evidence Friday when the commission took up a proposal by the Audubon Society and two other environmental groups to begin to regulate large-scale carbon dioxide emissions in Arkansas.

The groups asked the commission to alter its rules to remove carbon dioxide from the short list of emissions that are not regarded as pollutants and thus not subject to any restrictions. The list includes water vapor, oxygen and nitrogen, all of which occur naturally in the environment and are needed for life. A lobbying group for industries and businesses that are engaged in some form of pollution on some scale in Arkansas wrote a motion for the commission to reject the carbon-dioxide proposal and the commissioners read it and adopted it.

They said they lacked conclusive scientific evidence that carbon dioxide was harming the environment and that even if the change was needed, there should be a study first of the consequences. They said Arkansas should wait for a state commission that is studying what the state can do about global warming to make recommendations.

Any modern high school biology textbook ought to have sufficed for evidence if the commissioners have not been reading the papers and scientific journals for the past quarter-century. Carbon dioxide is by far the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases that are heating the globe and altering the earth’s weather patterns.

All that the environmental groups were asking was that carbon dioxide be removed from the list of non-pollutants so that over the next year or two the agency could develop regulations for big carbon-producing industries like coal-fired generating plants, which now pump nearly 30 million tons of CO2 into the Arkansas air every year.

What undoubtedly was on the commission’s mind was that if CO2 became a pollutant, the agency would have grounds, if it wanted to do so, to reject an application from utilities to build a big coal-burning plant in southwest Arkansas to produce electricity for three states, mainly Texas. The plant will pump between 4 and 7 million tons of CO2 into the air every year, speeding global warming although by a relatively small degree on a global scale.

The federal Clean Air Act, which the Arkansas agency as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to enforce, requires regulation of air pollutants. The Bush administration refused to recognize carbon dioxide as a pollutant until the U. S. Supreme Court last year sternly ordered it to follow the law. Now the EPA is dragging its feet on CO2 until Bush leaves office. Even China, in the midst of a vast economic boom, is beginning to take steps to stem the growth of CO2.

But the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission wants more proof.

That question settled so easily, the commission took up the question of whether to allow three big chemical companies and the city of El Dorado to dump 20 million gallons of wastewater a day into the Ouachita River over the protests of conservation groups and the pollution-control agency of the state of Louisiana, which say that the waste will poison the Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge and the fishing habitats and communities downstream in Louisiana that depend upon it.

Nah, the commission said, the Ouachita is probably big enough to handle the stuff without hurting anything. It was just another day’s work at the Arkansas Pollution Permission Commission.

SPORTS>>Local girls reach nationals after strong showings at Joplin meet

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Two Jacksonville-area athletes moved on to AAU Nationals after strong showings at the Region 8 track meet at Joplin, Mo., over the weekend.

Daijah Harris, 8, advanced to the national meet in Detroit later this month in both the 200 meter and long jump, while 18-year-old Kiara Vinson, a Jacksonville girl from North Little Rock High School, has advanced in the mile relay.

Khaila Jones, 13, briefly set a regional meetrecord in the long jump before her 15 foot, 10 ½ inch leap was eclipsed later in the day. Jones finished second and advanced to Detroit.

The three girls are part of the NCA Elite Track Club, headed by coach Wilford Jones. The club turned in an outstanding performance by qualifying 22 of 54 harriers at the regional meet.

“We were shocked, to be honest,” said Jones, the father of University of Arkansas-bound Whitney Jones of Searcy. “Based on the times that were listed going into it, we only had a few in the top four. We really had to compete and a lot of these kids did personal bests.

“The kids really stepped up, especially in the relays, and gave it all they had.”

SPORTS>>Sherwood Miller leaving Ole Miss, heads to Fayetteville

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Former Sylvan Hills football star Hunter Miller will not be heading out of state to pursue his career after all.

Miller, who had signed with Houston Nutt and Ole Miss last February, has decided instead to attend the University of Arkansas.

“He enrolled this morning and we’ve found out he’s been accepted,” said Miller’s father, Scott, on Tuesday morning.

According to Scott Miller, Ole Miss had oversigned their scholarships and had askedHunter to grayshirt, which would have meant he would not have received scholarship money nor been allowed to practice with the Rebels for the first semester.

“Hunter didn’t want to do that,” his father said. “It would have been fine if he could have practiced with the team.”

Scott Miller said that it appears Hunter will be given the opportunity to walk on with the Razorbacks. Both Hunter and Scott had spoken to Razorback recruiting coordinator Tim Horton on their way back from Oxford last week to express an interest in Hunter playing for Arkansas.

“Tim Horton told us he’d have to talk to some people,” Scott Miller said. “He called us back and said they’d love to have Hunter.”

Scott Miller said Arkansas had been Hunter’s first choice all along, but after receiving limited interest from the Razorbacks, Miller went with Ole Miss.

Miller was a standout quarterback and free safety at Sylvan Hills. He was also an All-State baseball player, who scored the winning run in this year’s 6A state championship.

Miller, who has 4.51 speed (in the 40-yard dash), rushed for 1,379 yards and passed for 1,128 in his senior season with the Bears.

“He’s excited about it,” Scott Miller said of his son’s enrollment at Arkansas. “There are no hard feelings. It worked out for the best.”

SPORTS>>Sherwood Sports Complex back in business

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Perhaps nothing will better signify the resurrection of the Sherwood Sports Complex than the sound of bats hitting balls this weekend.

The Cal Ripken 7-8 year-old state tournament gets under way this Friday, just three months after storms ripped through the complex and left it in a shambles.

The April 3 storms tore up fencing and lighting all through the park, causing thousands of dollars of damage, and completely destroying the high school/American Legion field. That field still remains unplayable.

Little League and softball action returned to the fields on May 29, but this weekend’s state tourney will be the first major event since the storms.

Preparation for the 7-8 year-old pitching-machine tournament was still ongoing early this week. Finishing touches were being put on the new fencing around various fields, and more than 25 volunteers worked over the weekend checking for debris, picking up trash and filling up holes on six fields that will be used.

Normally, only four fields are used for Cal Ripken play, but the tournament will also use two T-ball fields for the 48-team event will help move play along, particularly in the 16-game first round that begins on Friday at 9 a.m.

Former Sylvan Hills/Sherwood Optimist Club president Mike Sanders, who is still working closely with current president Troy Hayes, said that even with all the progress that has been made, thereis still much more work to be done.

“It’s been a major task,” Sanders said. “From new fencing, to replacing most of the backstops, to roofs on the dugouts and resetting and re-aiming the lights, there’s been a lot to repair or replace.”

The progress on the park cleanup has been steady, especially considering park employees and volunteers lost a lot of time immediately following the storm while insurance adjusters evaluated the damage and safety crews made the area safe for cleanup.

“There’s still a lot more to be done,” Sanders said. “On the boys side, we have a couple of tournaments coming up at the end of July. That’s a work in progress, but we have three good weeks to get ready.”

Although the storm damage was a significant setback for the park, the long-term results will be an improved and upgraded facility. The old wooden light poles will be replaced with more modern lights using a concrete foundation. Two softball fields will be converted to youth baseball diamonds.

While work continues to revamp the youth fields, one of the biggest undertakings by the parks and recreation department will be the rebuilding of Kevin McReynold’s Field, the home of both the Sylvan Hills High School and American Legion teams.

Current Optimist president Hayes said the field will have a new look altogether once it is completed.

“It will most likely be turned,” Hayes said. “They haven’t determined if it will actually be opposite of how it set before or what, but there were visibility problems before that made it tough to play sometimes, so we think having the field face a different direction will resolve some of that.”

Sanders said that meeting the spring deadline to have the field in shape in time for the defending 6A state champion Bears to open their season next March will be tough, especially with all the changes in store, but he added that it is doable.

“It takes a long time to get everything cut out and measured,” Sanders said. “They are getting an engineering company to come in and get things lined out, and I’m sure we will be involved in some aspects. Everything will have to be redone, even getting grass to grow where there wasn’t any before.

“There is a lot of talk, not from the city, but by this person or that person wondering if it will really be done in time, but I think we’ll get it done.”

Assistant director Darren Austin said that as of this time, no exact cost figures are available for the park repairs. He added he hopes the new lights will be completed in the next few months.

There are a number of local teams that will be on hand for the six-day tournament. Cabot Nicholson will kick off the tourney Friday morning with a 9 a.m. first-round game against Pine Bluff Seabrook. Sylvan Hills Gilbert will also play a Friday morning game against Maumelle select, Sylvan Hills Bash will play at 10:45 Friday against Magnolia Belt, and Jacksonville Bobo will take on Monticello Preston on field 7. Lonoke will take on Dumas Hill in the round of 12:30 p.m. games, while Jacksonville Lovercheck and SH Eddleman will sit out the first round with byes.

Jacksonville Lovercheck will play the winner between Monticello Griffin and Lakewood Renshaw at 2:15 p.m. Friday, and Eddleman will play either England or Star City Maynard at 5:45 p.m.

SPORTS>>Jacksonville opener grand for Rhinos

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Defense and three Garrett Morgan field goals helped lift the Arkansas Rhinos to a 22-0 win over the Memphis Blast on Saturday night at Red Devil Field.

It was the second North America Football League win over the Blast in three weeks to start the 2008 season, but this one didn’t come quite as easy, at least early on.

Both teams struggled through a scoreless first half on the damp field. The Rhinos had difficulty with the Memphis blitz, and both teams found holding on to the ball to be a difficult task as well. The Rhinos fumbled the ball away three times in the first half, but the momentum shifted toward the Rhinos at the 2:41 mark of the second quarter when linebacker Daniel Brown snagged the second of the Rhinos’ five interceptions in the game.

The Rhinos failed to cash that in, but a Marcus Yarbrough interception two minutes into the second half led to Morgan’s 34-yard kick with 13:12 left in the third quarter for the first points of the game.

“It was tough,” Rhinos coach Oscar Malone said. “It seemed like we hadn’t practiced all week, and we looked bad, especially in the first quarter. But the third quarter, we came in and we made some adjustments and picked up their blitzing.

“After we figured out who to block, which we should have already known who to block, we got it done.”

From there, Rhinos free safety and crowd favorite Lawrance Coupling grabbed two more interceptions to kill a potential Memphis comeback.

The Rhinos added to their lead with Morgan’s second field goal, this one from 45 yards that put Arkansas up 6-0 with 7:21 in the third, then made it 13-0 less than three minutes later when fullback William Lamar bulled over from two yards out.

Lamar set the score up one play earlier when he rumbled 38 yards up the middle to the Memphis’ 2-yard line.

Jacksonville capped the scoring with 8:51 left to play when former Red Devil Marcus Tate went around the right side for a 6-yard touchdown and a 22-0 lead. The extra point was missed, but it was the result of a bobbled snap.

“We could have had a little more than that,” Malone said. “(Morgan) got his confidenceshook a little bit, but once we got him going, and get our kicking going, he’s fine. He was our MVP on offense last game.”

Lamar led the Rhinos in rushing with five carries for 67 yards. Wesson had eight rushes for 41 and a touchdown, and Tate had three carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.

Malone said he was also proud of the effort from the defense.

“Overall, our defense was outstanding,” he said. “That’s what kept us in the game. Every time we had our backs against the wall, they came back and made great plays.”

Linebacker Enrico Wilkins didn’t join in in the interception extravaganza, but his efforts everywhere else kept the Blast’s offense off balance. Wilkins led the Rhinos for the second straight game with 11 tackles — eight solo.

Memphis’ big-time playmaker Kevin Veal was still out of commission after missing the opener two weeks ago, and Williams and the Rhinos ‘D’ took advantage by stopping halfback Antonio Wells in his tracks. Wells, at 5-6, 165 lbs., was no match for Arkansas.

Wells carried a total of eight times for only three yards, forcing the Blast to resort to the air.

A Rhinos fumble with 6:19 left in the second quarter gave Memphis the ball at its own 27-yard line, but Ken Thomas got it back quickly for Arkansas, intercepting a first-down pass that bounced off of Memphis receiver Carlos Alexander’s chest and right into Thomas’ arms.

The Rhinos coughed it up again on their first play. A 60-yard pass play put the Blast in their best position to score all night at the Rhinos’ 12-yard line, but Brown’s pick near the goal line ended the threat.

Memphis got in position to try a field goal in the closing moments of the first half, but kicker James Lawton shanked it badly, sending the ball into the back of his line defenders.

Morgan was a little shaky in the first half himself for the Rhinos, missing tries of 42 yards and 40 yards. Both were wide right, but he went 3 for 3 in the second half.

Quarterbacks Josh Dixon and Jeremiah Crouch combined for 151 yards through the air, completing 11 of 22 pass attempts.

The Rhinos had 306 total yards of offense.

The Rhinos are now 2-0, and will play at Clarksville against the Knights on July 12.

They will not play at home again until Aug. 2.

SPORTS>>Cabot brings the lumber

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

A season that had begun in fits and starts received a big injection of confidence Sunday when the Cabot Community Bank senior American Legion team captured the Sheridan Wood Bat Tournament.

Cabot, which barely survived its final pool play game to win its division, held off Sylvan Hills, 1-0, in the semis, before beating Bryant’s junior team, 4-2, in the title game.

Community Bank went 4-1 over the weekend to improve its record to 8-7 overall.

“Our kids do realize they have the talent to win,” said Community Bank coach Jay Darr. “This high school season, we struggled and we’ve struggled early (in Legion). But I’ve been trying to convey to them they’ve got the talent to put it all together.

“We beat some great teams in this tournament.”
Offense is typically stymied in the annual tournament in which only wood bats are used, putting a premium on pitching and defense. Cabot received both on Sunday and throughout the weekend. Colin Fuller tossed a 3-hitter and struck out 14 in Community Bank’s 3-0 win over Russellville on Saturday, andJosh Brown, normally a relief pitcher, was masterful in shutting out Sylvan Hills in the semis.

In the championship game, Andrew Reynolds and C.J. Jacoby combined to limit Bryant to just six hits.

“In a wood bat tournament, you have to make the routine plays and pitching is going to dominate,” Darr said. “I’ve got six or seven great pitchers and four or five who would be starters in most teams in the state in high school.”

But it was a heads up play by catcher Ben Wainright and centerfielder Jeremy Wilson that helped preserve the win against Bryant. Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, Bryant placed its first two batters on base with a walk and a single.

When Austin Quick wandered too far off second after a pitch to Brennan Bullock, Wainright ran toward the mound, freezing Quick between second and third. Wainright’s throw to second sailed into center field as Quick took off for third base.

But Wilson was backing up the play, caught Wainright’s errant throw and delivered a perfect strike to third baseman Ty Steele, who put the tag on Quick, and Bryant failed to score in the inning.

“We’ve been working on things like that,” Darr said. “We haven’t been swinging the bats that well, so we’ve had to try to keep runs from scoring. Ben has been making plays and picking people off. He’s got a great arm and a quick release.

“And Wilson was right there to back up the play. It’s a team ballgame. Wilson did his part.”

Cabot then got an insurance run in the seventh on Steele’s leadoff single, a sacrifice by Tyler Erickson and an error on the Bryant shortstop.

Austin Benning led off the Bryant seventh with a single but was doubled off when second baseman Sam Bates turned Sergio Arias’ soft liner into a double play at first. Shayne Burgan finished things off by making a spectacular game-ending catch in right field after running a long way to reach out and haul in Brady Butler’s fly ball down the line.

Burgan had got things started for Community Bank in the first when he singled. Powell Bryant forced Burgan at second, then scored on Bates’ line single to center to make it 1-0.

After Erickson and Wilson singled with one out in the second, Burgan bounced a 2-1 pitch through the box for a 2-run single to make it 3-0.

Reynolds pitched around a leadoff walk in the first and a two-on, nobody-out jam in the second. He struck out the side in the third, pitching around an error.

But Bryant busted through in the fourth. A walk, two singles and another walk forced in a run, ending Reynold’s day. Jacoby came in to record a strikeout, but Benning beat out an infield hit to make it 3-2.

Reynolds got the win, allowing three hits over 3 1/3 innings, striking out seven. He walked four. Jacoby saved it with 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Jacoby allowed three hits and a walk and struck out three.

Community Bank’s 7-hit attack was led by Burgan’s two hits and two RBI. Drew Burks was unavailable for Cabot on Sunday as he was attending the Xtra Innings Classic in Jonesboro.

COMMUNITY BANK 1, SYLVAN HILLS BRUINS 0

Over a 4-batter span in the sixth and seventh innings on Sunday afternoon, Blain Sims lost a perfect game, a no-hitter, a shutout and the game.

“He threw one heck of a ball- game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mike Bromley. “He’s had several outstanding outings like that.

Almost every time he shows up, he has a good outing.”

Community Bank’s Josh Brown matched the Sylvan Hills hurler nearly pitch for pitch and eventually got all the run support he would need when Cabot broke through in the seventh inning of the semifinal battle.

Sims retired the first 17 batters he faced before Jeremy Wilson dropped a 1-1 pitch in front of a diving Ryan Dillon in left for Community Bank’s first base runner of the game.

Catcher Cody Cormier threw out Wilson trying to steal, but Sims issued a leadoff walk to Matt Evans to start Community Bank’s seventh-inning rally. One out later, Powell Bryant executed a perfect hit-and-run when he slapped a single through the hole at second. Evans easily reached third on the play, then alertly raced home when right fielder Ross Bogart held on to the ball too long.

That run held up as Brown finished off his gem by pitching around a one-out single to Sims in the bottom of the seventh. After Sims singled, third baseman Ty Steele made a nifty short-hop backhand scoop of Cormier’s sharp grounder and got a force out at second. Brown closed it out with a strikeout, his third of the game.

“This is wooden bat and (a pitcher) can sometimes sit there and get away with a lot of things when you’re using a wooden bat,” Bromley said.

Brown allowed only five hits and four walks. Sims surrendered two hits and a walk, while striking out six. He was unhittable through the first 5 2/3 innings, striking out the side in the third, and the final two of the fifth.

The Bruins put two base runners on three innings in a row. Clint Thornton singled to begin the fourth, but Wainright picked him off and Thornton was out after a lengthy rundown between first and second.

Wainright also came up big in the sixth, throwing out the fleet Hunter Miller trying to steal second when his throw was right on the bag for Bates to apply the tag.

Miller had two of the Bruins’ five hits to lead Sylvan Hills.