Friday, December 15, 2006

SPORTS >>Owls top Harding Academy, Lady Wildcats stay perfect

IN SHORT: Abundant Life beat the Wildcats by a surprisingly wide margin Tuesday, while the HA girls remained perfect in league play.

Leader sports writer

Harding Academy and Abundant Life faced off Tuesday to begin the second week of 2-3A Conference play. The Lady Wildcats stayed perfect in league play with a 56-41 win over the Lady Owls, keeping Abundant Life winless through the first three division games. The Owls picked up their first conference win with a dominating 59-37 victory over the Wildcats.

The common theme with both losing teams on the night was the absence of some of their biggest playmakers.

Abundant Life senior shooting guard Sierra Durham went down with a knee injury early on, and did not return.

Durham did not see a full quarter of action in the contest, and retired with only three points.

James Kee was the missing man for the Wildcats on Tuesday. The senior post sat out the game after being disciplined by officials at last Friday’s game against Riverview. That combined with fellow senior Luke Tribble running at about 80 percent during the game made the Wildcats officially outgunned by Abundant Life.

Two straight losses are usually not enough for a coach to declare a losing streak, but for Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard, two losses to start the conference season were enough. The head Owl changed his normal procedure for prepping his team against Harding Academy, a move that most definitely payed off.

“I normally tell my guys every- thing they need to know about an opponent,” Ballard said. “What every player’s name is, his position, and what is his weapon. But after we lost those first two, though, I decided that we needed to worry about ourselves more than someone else. We didn’t talk about any of that, we just emphasized on learning to share the ball better.”

The players took Ballard’s advice to heart. Three Owls finished with double-digit scoring in the game. Senior John Michael Fowler led with 17 points, including the first nine points in the game to help the Owls rush out to a blistering 9-0 lead by the 4:11 mark.

Senior post Thomas Cheney scored 10 second half points to bump his game total to 14 points on the night, but the biggest surprise from the Owls’ offense was junior shooting guard Colby Woolverton.

Woolverton finished with a respectable 12 points, but he had several more looks. The youngster fought his instinct to launch a three-pointer on several occasions and kicked the ball back out.

He also came away with some very impressive assists, including a perfect alley-oop pass to Cheney that went for a slam, and two well-executed back-door assists to Fowler, both of which went for easy, wide open layups in the fourth quarter.

The first quarter was the John Michael Fowler show. Fowler put away four free throws, hit a three pointer and an inside basket to put the Owls out front 9-0 early. Nick Beene finally answered for the Wildcats with a three-point shot at the 3:42 mark of the first quarter.

Beene felt pressured by the Owls the entire night. The senior was double-teamed by Woolverton and Fowler for much of the game, and responded with rushed shots that fell short for the most part. Beene did finish with 20 points to lead Harding Academy, but was held to only two points for much of the second half until he scored a basket and a three inside the final 1:38 of the game.

Abundant Life took a 31-17 lead at the half, and the second half would be much of the same. The Owls led by 15 points heading into the final frame, and broke the 20-point barrier with a free throw from Cheney with 1:51 remaining.

“I needed that one, that’s all I can say” Ballard said. “I was going to jump off a bridge or something if we didn’t get a conference win before Christmas. I’m pleased with the effort, and it’s always good to get a win. I’m happy right now, but I will probably be depressed tomorrow when I look at the film.”

The win gave Abundant Life a 14-4 overall and 1-2 conference record. The loss puts Harding Academy’s record at 3-3 and 0-3.

The Lady Wildcats had an equally easy time in the girls contest.

Harding Academy got out to an early lead with two three-point shots from Katie Koch. By the end of the first eight minutes, the Lady Wildcats had jumped out front 18-9, but the Lady Owls were able to trim off a couple of those points in the next frame.

Liz Ashley continued the assault for the Lady ’Cats in the second quarter scoring eight of her total 16 points in the frame.
The Lady Wildcats led 29-21 at the intermission, but took advantage of Durham’s absence in the second half to pull away. Sophomores Hannah Pastor and Brittany Sharp took up a good deal of Durham’s slack in the final two quarters, but the Lady Owls field goal percentage sank without their best shooter on the floor.

Koch led Harding Academy with 22 points, with 16 points added from Ashley. Pastor led Abundant Life with 15 points, and Sharp added 10 points for the Lady Owls.

The Lady Wildcats are now 8-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play.

Harding Academy played at Brinkley last night, and will host Shirley today at 6 p.m. Abundant Life traveled to Pine Bluff to take on Drew Central last night, and will begin the Lutheran tournament starting Wednesday.

SPORTS >>Badgers fall to Eagles for second time

Leader sports writer

The Beebe Badgers suffered their fifth loss of the season at the hands of the Vilonia Eagles Tuesday night 56-42. The Badgers stayed close through the first half, trailing 27-21 at the intermission.

Vilonia was able to pull away in the second half, due mostly to the struggles of Beebe’s shooting game. There were only 12 turnovers in the entire game by the Badgers, but a dismal 15 of 54 from the floor meant several missed scoring opportunities.

The battle on the boards was a tight one, but missed second and third shot attempts for Beebe allowed the Eagles to hold a steady advantage throughout the final two frames.

The margin stayed at six points for most of the game, but Beebe was forced to foul in the closing moments in an attempt to close the deficit. A number of three-point attempts from the Badgers in the last two minutes fell short, and Vilonia took advantage. The Eagles were strong at the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, and padded their advantage going away.

Beebe head coach Chris Ellis did not make any excuses for his team’s performance against Vilonia. He says an increase in shooting accuracy is badly needed in order for the Badgers to be competitive in the tough 5A-East Conference.

“We just have to shoot better, that’s the bottom line,” Ellis said. “When you have 66 possessions in a game and only score 42 points, that’s just not going to cut it.” Ellis says he hopes that his football-player-heavy squad will improve from the floor as the season continues, but also knows that the competition will most likely do the same.

“I hope it would improve with more time that they spend in the gym,” Ellis said. “But the quality of competition will also improve as the season goes on.”

Sophomore Zack Kersey led the Badgers with 12 points. Charlie Spakes added 10 points for Beebe.

The loss gives the Badgers a 1-5 record. Beebe played Cabot last night after Leader deadlines, and will begin hosting the First Security White County Medical Classic on Dec. 28.

SPORTS >>Tigers rally, beat Red Devils

IN SHORT: Little Rock Central’s boys and girls teams went away with a pair of wins over Jacksonville Tuesday night.

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville dropped a pair of games at home to Little Rock Central Tuesday night in the Devils’ Den. The Red Devils fell for the second time to the Tigers.

They lost 60-59 earlier in the year at Central; Tuesday they lost 64-58 despite dominating the early going and jumping out to a 13-3 lead.

Jacksonville’s inside game did much of the damage early on. Post players Gerron Riddles and Norvel Gabriel each got buckets out of the offense, while forward Kajaun Watson scored in almost every way. He once drove the baseline for a bucket, hit a three and got a layup out of transition.

Trailing by 10 just three minutes into the game, Central called timeout. The comeback wasn’t immediate as both teams traded several turnovers for the next couple of minutes. Then Arthur King checked into the game for the Tigers, and got them right back into it.

King hit two quick three pointers, one from about 28 feet, to turn a 10-point margin into four in about 55 seconds.
Joyner commended King for the hot shooting, but thought his team should have been much farther ahead by that point.
“We had six possessions where we could have gone up 20, or more,” Joyner said. “Instead, we get crazy and start dribbling around and not running the offense. We stopped them on defense several times, but never could capitalize because we weren’t running our sets.”

By the end of the quarter, Jacksonville’s lead had shrunk to 15-11. It was a back-and-forth game for most of the quarter, and Central finally tied it up at 26-26 with 30 seconds left in the half. That score remained until halftime, but the Tigers came out hot in the third.

Central scored just a few seconds into the third quarter to take its first lead of the game. Jacksonville tied a few seconds later, but the Tiger guards harassed Jacksonville into two straight turnovers, which Central turned into two layups and a free throw for a 33-28 lead.

Jacksonville called timeout, and afterwards cut the margin to 35-33, but Central put together another run to move ahead 43-35, its biggest lead of the game, with 2:39 left in the third.

From that point, Jacksonville answered with a 9-0 salvo to reclaim the lead at 44-43 by the end of the quarter.
Again it was Watson that put the team on his back, scoring seven points during the run, but he disappeared in the fourth quarter.

Central clamped down on Watson, and the game turned into a free-throw shooting contest early in the fourth.
After all the free throws were traded, Jacksonville’s Damien Akins hit a three pointer that put the Red Devils up 56-54 with four minutes left in the game.

Central then scored the next five points, all by Eric Brooks, to take a 59-56 lead. Gabriel hit a bucket to make it 61-58 with 2:05 remaining, but it would be the last points Jacksonville would score.

Brooks made it seven straight to put the margin back at three points with 1:21 left.

Watson missed a jumper and Jacksonville fouled Keith Free-man with 31 seconds to go. He made one of two, but Watson missed again and Brooks got the rebound. Akins was then called for an intentional foul with 16 seconds left that effectively ended any hopes for a Red Devil win.

“I’m not mad at ‘em,” Joyner said. “There’s no reason to get mad at ‘em. If we can just learn to take care of the ball, we’re going to have a chance to win some games. We’re averaging 25 turn-overs a game and have had a chance to win all of ‘em but one. We always lose games in the last two or three minutes. They got to learn quick though, because time is getting short.”

Watson led all scorers with 18 points while Akins came off the bench to score 12 for Jacksonville.
Anthony Hurvey led the Tigers with 17 while Freeman scored 14. Brooks added 13 and King came off the bench to chip in 10 points.

Jacksonville dropped to 4-4 on the year while Central improved to 10-2.

The Lady Devils fell behind big early before mounting a comeback in the second quarter. Eventually the Lady Tigers were able to pull away for good and won the game 59-42.

Central ran out to a 9-0 lead, making it very difficult for the Jacksonville guards to get the ball up the court and the offense into the sets.

Jacksonville called timeout, and was able to get on track afterward.
The Jacksonville post players took over, and got the Lady Red Devils back into the game. Jacksonville dwindled Central’s lead to 17-13 by quarter’s end, with senior post Marie Livings doing the bulk of the scoring.

Livings proved a problem for Central throughout the game, but the Lady Tigers guards found the answer, to score without taking the ball inside.

Central did that by creating transition buckets off steals, beating Jacksonville back after missed shots, and shooting from the outside.

Jacksonville committed 25 turnovers while Central made four of their five threes in the second half.
Central again led by nine, 29-20, by halftime, and slowly extended that lead the rest of the game.

Livings led all scorers and rebounders with 17 and 11 respectively. Fellow post player Tarneshia Scott added 12 points.
Only two other Lady Devils scored in the game. Chunky Billingslea scored seven while Markela Bell added six.
Jacksonvilled dropped to 2-7 while Central improved to 6-4.

Jacksonville played North Pulaski last night after Leader deadlines.

Look for details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >>Lonoke ladies hammer Marianna

IN SHORT: The Lady Jackrabbits had no trouble at all against the Lady Trojans, but the boys faltered in the third quarter to drop what was a close game to that point.

Leader sports writer

It was a conference split for Lonoke Tuesday night in Marianna. The Lady Jackrabbits kept their league record perfect with a dominant 68-14 win over the Lady Trojans. The Jackrabbits suffered one bad quarter against the Trojans, and payed for the slip with a 57-47 loss, their first conference loss of the year.

The Lady Jackrabbits scored more points in the first quarter than Marianna scored in the entire contest. Junior guard Haley O’Cain had a career night, especially from behind the arc. Cain scored 16 of her total 18 points in the opening quarter, including four out of four three-point shots. She also hit 3 of 4 goals during her brief time on the floor. After a lead of over 30 points at the half, the clock ran continuously during the second half, and the Lady ‘Rabbit starters sat out the final two periods.

“It wasn’t real close, it was pretty much over before it started,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “Haley had one of those shooting nights where you really feel like you can’t miss. We pressed them on their first couple of possessions, and they struggled to get shots off.” The Lady Trojans would continue to struggle from the field throughout the game, only managing 5 of 27 from the field.

Cain led with 18 points, and freshman Asiah Scribner added 13 for Lonoke. Senior post Calisha Kirk had 10 points, Kristy Shinn added nine points and Lauren Harper rounded out high scorers with eight points.

The win improves the Lady ‘Rabbits’ record to 6-5 overall and 3-0 in 2-4A Conference play.

The Jackrabbits outplayed Marianna by one point through the first half, but no field goals in the third quarter for Lonoke allowed the Trojans to pull away. The difference in the game would be fought out on the boards, as Marianna took advantage of second and third shot opportunities, while denying the ‘Rabbits the same luxury on the other end.

“They really pounded us on the boards,” Jackrabbits coach Wes Swift said. “We shot pretty well in the first half, but when the shots started to not fall for us, we were not getting second chance shots, where they were.”

The two teams were in a dead heat at 17 all after the first quarter. It was more of the same in the second frame, but Lonoke managed one more point to take a 32-31 lead at the half.

It all came unraveled in the third quarter, however. All of Lonoke’s five points in the period came from free-throw shots, as Marianna tacked on 15 points to take control of the game. The ‘Rabbits regained their composure for the final quarter, but Marianna would not allow any kind of comeback, outscoring Lonoke 11-10 in the fourth to secure the win.

Stanley Staggers was the only double-figure scorer with 12 points in the game. Bradley Spencer and Clarence Harris each added seven points for Lonoke.

Lonoke hosted Mountain View last night after Leader deadlines for two very important conference games. Look for details of those games in the Wednesday edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >>Raiders sputter, still beat Brinkley

IN SHORT: The Riverview boys and girls started slowly, but still got good league wins Tuesday night over Brinkley in the conference home opener for both teams.

Leader sports editor

Riverview got a pair of easy wins Tuesday night at home against Brinkley. It was the first home game for the Raiders and Lady Raiders, and both teams came out flat against what was supposed to be an easy opponent.

Still, both teams came together to pull off relatively easy wins.

The boys won it in a rout, 63-23, while the girls pulled away late for a 50-35 victory.

The boys team led just 11-9 at the end of the first quarter, and drew the ire of head coach Danny Starkey.

“I just thought we were really sloppy,” Starkey said. “We didn’t come out focused and just played bad basketball. It wasn’t pretty for sure.”

Things turned around when Starkey called for full-court pressure. The Tigers couldn’t handle it. The two-point margin was 17 in just a few minutes, and Riverview went into intermission leading 31-14.

The third quarter finished it off. The Raiders outscored their overmatched visitors 26-4 in the third frame, and led 57-18 to invoke the mercy rule throughout the fourth quarter.

“There wasn’t much to comment on once we got rolling,” Starkey said. “Brinkley is very young and inexperienced. They-’re not very big either so they just didn’t have much of an answer.

“I thought we played well once we got our heads in the game, but we sure didn’t show up ready to play. That’s not all bad I guess. You know me, I don’t want us to be peaking right now.”

Senior Tony Hall led the team with 16 points. LaMarcus Banks added 12 while Thatcher Coop-erwood scored 10. Bo Banks and Ben Jones scored six each.

Banks, a senior and returning starter, had not played as well as Starkey wanted in the first several games, but he has come on strong since conference play began.

“He has put two really good games together now and that helps us a great deal,” Starkey said.

“It’s going to help us down the road too if he keeps it up. We’ve been waiting on him to start playing like we need him to.
The Lady Raiders actually trailed 11-8 at the end of the first quarter, and were still in a scrap at halftime. They led 22-17 at the break, but didn’t create any breathing room until the fourth quarter.

Brinkley stayed in the game through most of the third, but a late mini rally by Riverview made it 37-27, and the Lady Raiders were able to extend the lead to as much as 19 in the final frame.

Jasmine James led the team with 11 points while Kori Meachum and Courtney Webster ad-ded 10 apiece.

Jasmin Washington scored seven and Tara Holiday six for the Lady Raiders, who improved to 9-6 overall and 2-1 in league play. The Riverview boys are now 9-4 and 3-0 in the 3A-2 conference.

Last night they played Rose Bud in an already huge battle between the only two teams still undefeated in conference.
Look for details of that big game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

OBITUARIES >> 12-16-06

Don Ray
Don Keith Ray, 43, of Cabot passed away Dec. 13.

He was born April 28, 1963 in Fairbanks, Alaska, to Bill Ray and Mildred Lucille Hopper Ray.

Preceding him in death were two brothers, Gregory Bruce Ray in 1961 and Barry Lynn Ray in 2004.

He leaves behind his parents, Bill and Mildred Ray; one brother, Timothy Ray; one son, Keith Ray; one daughter, Lena Ray; one niece, Amy Ray; and one nephew, Joshua Robertson, all of Cabot.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at Mt. Springs Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Mt. Springs Cemetery. Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

Thomas King
Rev. Thomas B. King, 73, of Carlisle went on to be with the Lord Dec. 13.

He was born in 1933 at Simpson County, Kentucky, to the late Jesse A. and Pearlie Smalling King.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Maxine Park King; brother, J.A. King, and nephew, John Ronald King.
Rev. King is survived by three sons, Timothy King and wife Carol of Carlisle, Rick King and wife Christy of Washington, D.C. and Chris King of Carlisle; 11 grandchildren; two brothers, Joe W. King and wife Sylvia of Washington and Eddie King of Carlisle.

He is also survivied by two sisters, Dixie King Winn and husband Wayne of California and Mary King Gruenke and husband Dave of Carlisle.

Bro. Tommy started his ministry in his twenties and was one of the founders of Country Chapel Church where he was blessed to minister to many, many people over the years. He served there until his illness. He was loved and will be missed by many other family and friends.

Tommy also worked for Lowman Hardware at Cabot for several years and also owned his own hardware and paint store at Conway.

Funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at Country Chapel Church at Sylvania with burial in New Hope Cemetery at Carlisle. Funeral arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe.

Andrew Parker
Andrew Martin Parker, 45, departed this world on Dec. 14, to join our Lord in heaven.  

Andrew was born Sept. 10, 1961 at Great Falls, Montana.  

He resided in Jacksonville since 1975. He was a Christian and a member of Hope Lutheran Church. Andrew was a 1980 honor graduate of Jacksonville High School. He received an associate degree in business and management at Arkansas State University at Beebe, and continued his education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Being the gentle, caring soul that he was, he donated funds to many wildlife and animal-welfare organizations, and children’s charities.

Andrew is survived by his father, Davis Parker of Gillett; his mother, Erika Parker of Jacksonville; two brothers, David and Walter Parker of Jacksonville; a sister, Sonya and husband Jim Dunn and their chidren, Connor and Rebecca of Alpharetta, Georgia.  

Andrew was dearly loved by his family. The family would like to thank Andrew’s doctors at UAMS, Dr. Adada and Dr. Hutchins and his nurses at Arkansas Hospice for their care.

Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 19 at Hope Lutheran Church, 1904 McArthur Dr., Jacksonville, with the Rev. Kevin Conger officiating.  

Arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Teresa Simpson
Teresa Gail Simpson, 40, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 8, in Jacksonville.

She was born Dec 17, 1965 to the late Charles L. Sr. and Reva Cosby Simpson in Virginia.

She is survived by Danny Lacy; three sons, Timothy, Danny and John Simpson; one daughter, Crystal Simpson, as well as a brother, Charles L. Simpson.

Private service will be at a later date.

Madison and Landon Howard
Newborn twins Madison Faye and Landon Michael Howard of Beebe died Dec. 9.

They are survived by their parents, Shannon and Christie Howard of Beebe; grandparents, Leanna and Michael Howard of Cabot, Lisa Johnson of Terrell, Texas, John and Eva Fisher of Austin; great-grandparents, Bes-sie Burnett, Barbara and Dick Johnson, Val and Galen Poe.

They were preceded in death by their grandfather, Charles Eugene Kinney.

Graveside service was Dec. 15 at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Beebe.

EVENTS>>Fall 2006

The Central Arkansas Library System will hold its annual Food For Fines program Saturday, Dec. 16. Patrons may turn in overdue items and satisfy their ovedue book fine by returning the item with a non-perishable food item. The Arkansas Rice Depot in Pulaski County and Partners for Progress in Perryville will distribute the food.
Donations will be accepted for fines incurred on an item being returned only and may not be used to erase outstanding fines on items already returned. It is not necessary to have an overdue item to participate. Each of CAL’s twelve branches and the Cox Creative Center are collection sites. 

Comcast Cable is airing the Jacksonville and Sherwood Christmas parades back-to-back at 4 p.m. Saturday and at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

The 20th annual Christmas Road to Bethlehem will be open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. until New Year’s Eve. Homes along a four-mile stretch of Bethlehem Road in Lonoke County will feature lighted, life-size Biblical figures along with Bible verses to tell the story of the nativity and ends with the manger scene at Bethlehem United Methodist Church. There will be open house programs with music and fellowship from 7 to 8:30 p.m. through Jan. 1.

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department is offering bus tours of holiday lights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18 through Thursday, Dec. 21. Tour cost is $2 per person. Pre-registration is required. No refunds. For more information call 982-0818.

The Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) will have a savings account meeting at 5 p.m. Dec. 19 at 117 S. East St. in Lonoke. The program helps low-income working people who commit to saving $10 a month. When the saving goal is reached, CADC will match the savings $3 for every dollar saved up to $2,000 per individual or $4,000 per household. For more information, contact Angel Clingmon at 501-676-0019.

Any Jacksonville-area child can visit with Santa Claus and receive a toy from 8 a.m. until noon, Thursday, Dec. 21 at Fishnet Mission, 213 Marshall Road. Families can receive a bag of groceries.

Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, 1017 Ray Road in Jacksonville will present “Magnifying the Miracle,” a Christmas concert, at 4 p.m. Sunday. Victoria Woodard will be the director of the concert. The public is invited to attend. For more information, call 501-982-6215.

Holly Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church, 7007 Hankins Road, North Little Rock will be observing its First Quarterly Conference on Sunday. The Rev. Charles M. Cleaver, Sr., will be the presiding elder. Music will be provided by the church choir during the 11 a.m. services.

Jacksonville First Assembly of God will be performing the play “The Cobbler” at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.

The Adult Choir and Drama Ministries of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville will present “One King” at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The musical depicts Christ as the one King who holds the hope of the world and asks the question, “What will we do with this King?” The church is located at 401 North First Street.
Pastor, Dr. Marck Gibson and Minister of Music Doug Moore invite everyone to come to this free presentation as we celebrate the birth of our Lord. A nursery will be provided.
For more information, call the church office at 982-1519.

The Santa Shack at the Cabot Walmart will be open from 9 to 11 a.m., noon to 2 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday; and from 1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. From Dec. 18 through Dec. 23, the Santa Shack will be open weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

EDITORIALS>>Baker plan makes sense

Not even President Bush’s most biting partisan critics can rejoice at the terrible decision that he must make in this winter most bleak. The war that is the centerpiece of his presidency and the near totality of his legacy is reviled by some 70 percent of Americans, and nearly everyone, including his old and new secretaries of defense and his field commanders, believe that the war policies have failed miserably. He acknowledges that somehow he must change course.

Worse, no one — no one! — has a good solution, only options that have a remote chance of allowing the United States to escape with a measure of honor and the desperate people of Iraq to have a life outside the jungle. Every plan, from immediate and unconditional withdrawal to gradual pacification schemes, carries the dread of even greater slaughter and chaos in Iraq and throughout the region.

That includes the 79-point plan of the Iraq Study Group, whose leaders admit that they have only the slightest confidence that it will work. Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chairman, says it may already be too late, but if it is not that moment is surely near. The worst assessments are by James H. Baker, the Republican co-chair and the lead craftsman of the plan. That must be hard for Bush for he owes his presidency as much to Jim Baker as to anyone. Baker, the chief adviser to both the elder Bush and Ronald Reagan, managed the post-election judicial campaign that got Bush declared the president by a 5-4 majority of the U. S. Supreme Court exactly six years ago.

Before Bush’s tormented presidency ends, people may well conclude that the most provident course was that recommended this year by the old warrior Rep. John Murtha, who wants to pull all American combat forces to the perimeter and negotiate with Arab states and allies to help stabilize the country. The president insists that is cutting and running, and the American people are not quite there yet either. While it would end American bloodshed, we could be blamed for the greater bloodletting that some believe would follow when sectarian militias and bands turned with impunity upon those of errant faiths.

The Iraq Study Group, despite the hurrah, does not propose dramatic change on the field, except it sort of commits the country to withdrawing combat troops by the end of the Bush presidency if conditions permit. But the president immediately, but we hope tentatively, rejected the idea that United States troops will ever leave the battlefield short of outright victory.
He needs to see the Baker plan for what it is, his last best chance for political cover and a military miracle and embrace its fundamentals by the end of the year. We hope that his new defense secretary and the commanders he says that he listens to will persuade him.

The worst mistake could be for the president to ignore Baker’s insistence that the administration negotiate with unfriendly governments in the region, principally Iran and Syria. Bush says he won’t do it unless they agree in advance to surrender on all the issues he has with them. Except those already defeated in battle, no country has ever entered negotiations on those terms.

Every president from Roosevelt to Clinton has talked to enemies, frequently with good result. Eisenhower and Reagan found it productive to negotiate with communist regimes they despised and distrusted. Bush sounds brave and principled to say that he will not talk to sworn enemies, but it is schoolyard bravado. Remember, nearly 3,000 brave soldiers have died, another 20,000 suffered crippling wounds, more than 650 civilians working with military contractors have given their lives, and before Bush’s presidency ends we will have poured a trillion dollars of treasure to defeat and pacify a country already beaten and impoverished by two wars and sanctions. Our military, tied down and atrophied by the desert warfare, is no longer a credible deterrent to rascality anywhere else on the planet.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — no one keeps a good count of what happens to Iraqis — have died and some 1.6 million have fled to other countries, principally Jordan, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, to escape life that has turned more primitive and savage than they had known under Saddam Hussein.

What else can be risked by talking to men we know as rogues? The dictator in Syria and the democratically elected leader of Iran have no interest in helping George Bush or the United States, but they have self-interests in a stable Iraq. All but the most deranged leaders operate from self-interest. (We might make an exception of the lunatic who runs North Korea.) Iran, a Shiite country, has been helpful from the first in Afghanistan because the Iranians hated the anti-Shiite Taliban and al Qaeda. It rejoiced at the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the emergence of a Shiite-controlled neighbor.

Neither Syria nor Iran has any interest in a sectarian war that spreads across borders and threatens their own supremacy. All the Arab governments, democratic and totalitarian, in fact, fear such a conflagration because militant sectarianism imperils their shaky holds on power. The gathering refugee crisis along the borders, which includes Syria and Jordan principally but also Iran, threatens the economic and social fabric of those countries. In the end, it will be a joint Arab resolution that pacifies Iraq and gets us out.

It will be an honorable exit. Nothing will be hurt by trying, except the president’s pride. It will be a small price to pay on the outside chance that he can pull it off.

SPORTS>> Beebe gets by Clinton for first win this season

Leader sportswriter

Beebe split a pair of nonconference games with Clinton on the road Tuesday night. The Lady Badgers erased a 12-point halftime deficit down to four points late in the fourth quarter, but could not overtake the Lady Yellowjackets in the final moments of the 45-40 loss. The Badgers took off to an early lead in the boys contest, and held on to it throughout the duration of the game to take their first win of the season 59-41.

Beebe dominated the boards in the game, out rebounding the Yellowjackets on both ends of the court. Badgers coach Chris Ellis said rebounding was a key component of the decisive win, along with their strongest defensive effort of the year. “I thought the whole team did a great job on defense and with our rebounding,” Ellis said. “We protected the ball better in this game than we have before. We came out and played well in the first quarter, and we were able to maintain that through the third quarter. It was just a solid game for us.”

Jordan Geirach led all scorers for the Badgers with 20 points. Charlie Spakes added 14 points, and Colby Daly finished with 12 points. Now with a 1-3 record, Ellis says the team can stop worrying about getting that initial win, and focus on using the victory for added momentum. “Any win is a good win,” Ellis said. “Winning makes practice better, it gives you motivation. It boosts your team up and raises the level of excitement.”

The Lady Badgers also had plenty of excitement in their matchup with Clinton, but the Lady Yellowjackets held on after losing the momentum to Beebe in the second half. The Lady ‘Jackets built up a 30-18 lead by halftime, but the Lady Badgers came out determined to make up the deficit in the third quarter. They held Clinton to only five points in the period, while tacking on 12 points of their own. By the end of the third frame, Beebe cut the lead down to only 35-30.

The Lady Badgers cut it down to four in the final minutes of the game, but three straight turnovers that could have potentially gained them the lead proved devastating. A Clinton three-pointer in the final minute erased any opportunity for the Lady Badgers to post a comeback, putting their season record at 2-2.

“We didn’t play very well,” Lady Badgers coach Lora Jackson said. “We made a good run there in the third quarter, but we had a lot of breakdowns. I think our youthfulness still shows up on a lot of occasions. We have to do better with our half court offense, and spread the ball around a little better. Sophomores Neisha Upchurch and Ty O’Neil led the Lady Badgers in scoring for the game. Upchurch finished with 14 points, followed by O’Neil with 13 points. Beebe played Lonoke last night after Leader deadlines.

SPORTS>> Lady Panthers hammer Chapel

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers improved their season record to 7-1 with a 62-40 win over Watson Chapel Tuesday night at the Cabot gymnasium. The Lady Wildcats kept things close for one half, but could not keep up with Cabot in the decisive third quarter. The Lady Panthers scored 21 points while holding Watson Chapel to only six in the third frame, turning a smaller 27-20 lead at the half into a 48-26 runaway by the time the fourth quarter began.

“We changed our defense, and they didn’t recognize it for a couple of possessions,” Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “They took a time out to make an adjustment for it, and we switched back to our old defense. We just threw their timing off in the third quarter.”

Senior Maddie Helms pushed the Lady Panthers out into the initial lead with a pair of three-point baskets in the first quarter. Helms would also find the goal in the runaway third quarter, but fellow senior Jamie Sterrenberg would spread her scoring out evenly throughout the entire contest. Sterrenberg went on to lead all scorers in the game with 14 points. Helms got hot again in the third with four more of her total 12 points, but it was the team play of junior Rachel Glover off the bench that allowed the Cabot offense to generate maximum productivity. Glover’s eight third-quarter assists were picture perfect, helping the Lady Panthers build up a 22-point lead by the end of the third.

Sophomore Shelby Ashcraft added eight points in the third quarter. Ashcraft finished the game with 11 points as one of three Lady Panthers to finish with double-digit scoring. Ruple says the senior leadership on the team has left nothing to be desired in the early stages of the season. And while high-profile seniors Helms and Sterrenberg have received much of the accolades as team captains, Ruple says the behind the scenes leadership of the Lady Panthers third senior Kayla Cacklett?? has meant just as much.

“She’s a force in practice, and in the locker room,” Ruple said. “You have the other two who have both been All-State and started since their sophomore years, but Kayla is the only senior representative from South. She has been continuously improving, but its’ the hidden things she does that makes the biggest difference. All of our seniors have done an outstanding job.” The Lady Panthers will take most of next week off before hosting Beebe next Friday night. The postponed final game of the Ortho tournament with CAC will also be scheduled for make-up in the coming week.

SPORTS>> Devil press breaks Pointers

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville has played two drastically different types of games so far in the Wampus Cat Invitational tournament at Conway High School. In the opening game of the tournament, Jacksonville fell 51-45 to undefeated Benton in what Red Devil coach Vic Joyner described as his team’s most uninspired performance he’s ever seen. “There was just no energy at all,” Joyner said. “I’ve never seen a team of mine play like that. Even my teams that weren’t very good at least tried. We weren’t doing anything.”

The Red Devils bounced back in game two Thursday night to hammer Van Buren 67-41. The team got a lift from the return of point guard Turrell Eskridge, who missed the Benton matchup. Eskridge is the starting point guard on a team that’s very shallow on experienced perimeter players. His absence was apparent Tuesday, and his presence was equally as apparent Thursday.

“It just gave us a big lift emotionally as much as anything to have him back,” Joyner said. “What the real difference was, we spent about two hours breaking down the tape from the Benton game, and they got to see how bad they played. After that we had a really good, spirited practice, and they brought it to the game.” Jacksonville jumped ahead by double digits right away and maintained that lead throughout the evening. Playing an aggressive pressure defense, the Red Devils were able to force the tempo and create a lot of transition baskets early on.

“They only played seven guys and we knew that, so we wanted to really apply the pressure early,” Joyner said. “They weren’t quite ready for how quick we are, and we were able to get out to a good lead.” The Pointers settled down and protected the ball much better over most of the second and third quarters. Jacksonville’s 20-10 lead after one frame had grown to just 44-32 by the start of the fourth. That’s when depth began to play a major factor.

“They (the Pointers) run some really good sets and execute it well,” Joyner said. “Once they settled down and adjusted to what we were doing, I was real pleased with how we handled that. We went out and executed our offense. We weren’t great, but we were good enough to maintain the lead. We actually got some points in the paint from our post players and that kept us ahead until the fourth quarter. We challenged our post guys before the game and they stepped up. A lot of that was the guards not getting it to them, and they did much better too. It was like a different team.”

While the scoring pace slowed in the middle periods, the effort level didn’t. Jacksonville was still forcing Van Buren to work hard for open shots, and by the fourth quarter, the Pointers were ill equipped to fend off another wave of Red Devil pressure.
Damien Akins led the Red Devils in scoring for the first time this season with 12 points. Sophomore Cortrell Eskridge added 11 while Kajuan Watson and Antwain Lockhart scored nine each. Jacksonville also got a solid game from sophomore point guard Antonio Washington.

“He played his best game,” Joyner said. “For the first time he brought the ball down the court looking to set the offense in motion instead of looking for his shot first.” The Red Devils will face tournament host Conway at 2:30 p.m. today in the final of the boys consolation bracket.

SPORTS>> Raiders get crucial road victory at Abundant Life

Leader sportwriter

Riverview opened the 2-3A Conference season with a pair of road wins at Abundant Life on Tuesday night. The Lady Raiders took advantage of a much deeper bench for a mercy-ruled 68-50 win over the Lady Owls, but the Raiders had to sweat out a late surge from the Owls to barely escape with a 54-48 win. Junior guard Colby Woolverton kept the Owls alive late, hitting 4 for 4 from the free- throw line during the final minute after being held to just five points through the first three quarters. Riverview put big 6’4” senior post Tony Hall at the front to defend the explosive Woolverton, making for a unique matchup on the floor.

“This was a great win for us,” Raiders coach Dennis Starkey said. “We have been playing some really good teams, but we’ve been dropping it at the end. This was a quality finish to a game, because Abundant Life is a great team, so we’re very excited about the outcome.” Owls senior John Selby helped Abundant Life rush out to an 11-3 lead in the opening moments of the game. Selby dominated the boards in the opening minutes, pulling down four straight rebounds, three of them defensive.
Threes from Woolverton and John Michael Fowler gave the Owls a nice lead early, and a basket and free throw from senior post Thomas Cheney put Abundant Life up 11-3 at the 5:18 mark of the opening quarter.

Hall finally began to answer Selby inside for the Raiders late in the first. Hall pulled down three late rebounds, and hit a pair of free throws just before the end of the first frame to narrow the Owls’ lead to 13-10, but Cheney got in the last shot before the buzzer for 15-10 AL lead at the end of one quarter. The Owls held on to the lead until 3:16 left in the first half, when a dispute over a foul called against Abundant Life resulted in a technical foul against the Owls’ bench. Hall hit both of the T’s to give the Raiders their first lead of the contest at 20-19. They would never relinquish that lead, but they never were able to extend out to a comfortable margin.

The Owls matched up against the larger Raiders well despite the size disadvantage. The speed factor leaned in the advantage of Abundant Life, making it a battle of tempo in the second half. Riverview brought play nearly to a halt on a couple of occasions in the third quarter. The Raiders took their time to set up the offensive game and catch their breath after chasing the fast-paced offensive attack of the Owls. Riverview took one of its largest leads of the game at 37-32 heading into the final quarter, but it would not last long. Selby scored two of his eight points at the start of the fourth quarter to cut it to three, and the Owls got the ball back by forcing a five-second call against Hall on the inbounds. Ben Jones got the ball and momentum back for the Raiders with a steal and layup to put the lead back at five, but Fowler answered right back for the Owls with a jumper.

Woolverton cut the lead to one with his first goal since the opening period with 3:58 left in the game. His jumper made it 41-40, but a goal from Jones and a pair of free throws from Bo Banks quickly put the Raiders back out by five. The Raiders would hit 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch, keeping the Owls in catch-up mode the rest of the way. A late three-point attempt from Cheney that would have cut the interval to two points fell just short with seven seconds left, and Jones came up with his only rebound of the game to secure the win for Riverview.

Thatcher Cooperwood led the Raiders in scoring with 15 points. Hall finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Joe Overstreet added 10 points. For Abundant Life, Cheney led all scorers with 16 points. Woolverton and Fowler added nine points each for the Owls, and Selby added eight points and six rebounds. The win put Riverview’s record at 8-4 overall and 1-0 in conference. Despite getting into early foul trouble, Lady Raiders senior Kori Meachum helped Riverview launch out to a double-digit lead early in the girls’ contest. Meachum hit four-straight shots in the first three minutes of the game, including a three pointer at the 4:58 mark that put Riverview up by 10, 13-3. Meachum sat out a majority of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. Jasmine James took up Meachum’s slack and then some, pounding the ball inside for 10 points from the 3:01 mark of the first to the six-minute mark of the second quarter.

The score was 68-38 heading into the fourth quarter, but Abundant Life made up almost half of the deficit in the final frame while shutting out the Riverview JVs. “It was tougher than what it looked like,” Lady Raiders coach Russell Stupendous said. “They have a couple of really good players. We got into early foul trouble, and I was pretty worried. We had a couple of girls step up and hit some big shots for us, so that was good for us. They push it pretty fast, so we had to work hard to contain them.”

Meachum led all scorers in the game with 21 points for Riverview. James added 19 points for the Lady Raiders. Sierra Durham led Abundant Life with 20 points, and sophomore Hannah Pastor had 18 points, including 10 of 13 from the free throw line. Lady Owls senior Amanda Reynolds led all rebounders with seven boards. The win gives Riverview a record of 11-5 overall and 1-0 in conference. The Lady Owls’ record also stands at 11-5 and 0-1 in 2-3A. Abundant Life played at Pangburn last night after Leader deadlines.

OBITUARIES >> 12-09-06


Christopher Dale Copeland, 25, of Cabot was killed in an automobile accident on Dec. 5. He was born July 24, 1981 in Jacksonville to Roger and Stacey Copeland. On June 26, 2004 he married Tiffany Lee Phillips in Lonoke. Chris was currently employed as a fork-lift operator for Ace Hardware Distribution.

He is survived by his wife, Tiffany of the home; two children, Joshua and Trinity Copeland; father, Roger Copeland of Jack-sonville; two brothers, Harold Copeland of Cabot and Jimmy Copeland of Jacksonville; grandmother, Juanita Copeland of Jacksonville; mother-in-law and father-in-law, Cindya and Keith Phillips of Lonoke. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday Dec. 9 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Chapel with the Rev. Allen Copeland officiating. Burial will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park.


Harold “Papaw” Ellis, 73, of Cabot was called up Dec. 6. He was born Christmas morning 1932. He was a retired ceramic tile setter. Survivors include two daughters, Kim and husband James McKee of Cabot and Theda Edwards of Alexandria, La.; one son, Mel Ellis of Roland; five granddaughters; one grandson; four great-granddaughters; one great-grandson; and special friends Re-gina and Vicki.Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Cabot Church of Christ with a fellowship memorial service following.

The family wishes to offer a special thanks to Hospice of Arkansas. Cremation arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


William “Bill” O. Harris, 82, of Jacksonville stepped foot on the streets of Glory, Dec. 7. To be absent from this life is to be present with the Lord. He was born July 15, 1924 to the late Jessie C. and Mary Ethel Davis Harris in Grubbs. He was also preceded in death by two brothers, Clifford and George Harris; one sister, Claire Mae Whittington, and two sons, Billy Joe and Randle Harris. 

Survivors include his loving wife of 63 years, Mary Harris of the home; three daughters, Betty Bratton of Jacksonville, Linda and husband George Bussman of Lake Wales, Fla., and Sharon and husband Dave Covey of Sherwood; six grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and a sister, Ethel Moore of Morrilton.  Visitation will be at the funeral home Monday, Dec. 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with the Rev. Royce Lowe and the Rev. Leroy Morgan officiating. Burial will follow in Bell’s Chapel Cemetery at Atkins.


Catherine White Miller, 50, of Jacksonville died Dec. 6, in Jacksonville. She was born Feb. 12, 1956 in Hughes, to Eddie and Juanita Barrett White. On Nov. 27, 1982 she married Tommy Miller in Little Rock. Since 1987, Catherine has worked as a communications secretary at Camp Robinson.  She was a member of Rising Sun Missionary Baptist Church in Hughes.
Survivors include her husband, Tommy Miller of the home; six stepchildren, Markella Mitchell of Sidney, Ill., Tommy Miller, Jr., Felicia Miller, and Kimberley Miller, all of Chicago, Reggie Buchanon of Pine Bluff and Kimberley Dotson of Dallas, Texas; two sisters, Roberta White of Hughes and Linda Kadelack of Fayetteville, N.C.; six brothers, Jesse White, David White, Tommy White, Joe White and Charles Jones, all of Hughes, and Eddie White of Jacksonville; 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services are at 11 a.m., Monday, Dec. 11, at Rising Sun Missionary Baptist Church in Hughes with the Rev. Danny Montgomery officiating. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 at the funeral home. Burial will be at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12 at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.  Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Robert “Bob” Louis Davis, 49, of Searcy died Dec. 4. He was born May 30, 1957, at Fresno, Calif., to Laurence and Margaret Moulton Davis. He was an employee of Maytag for 28 years. He was an avid deer hunter, a devoted husband, father, grandfather and brother. Bob loved people and life, always put others above himself, and never met a stranger. He was preceded in death by one brother, Larry Davis, and two sisters, Helen Clem and Janice Couch. He is survived by his wife, Susie Davis; one son, Danny Davis and his fiancĂ©e Shannon of Pangburn; one daughter, Amy Trobis and husband Gabe of Beebe; two grandchildren, Bliss Davis and Braden Davis; one brother, Keith Davis of Springfield, Ill.; four sisters, Florence Stephens of Searcy, Sharon Peterson of Springfield, Ill., Bea McClung of Cabot and Margaret Rossback of Gig Harbor, Wash.
Funeral was Dec. 8 at Westbrook Funeral Home of Beebe with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens at Beebe.

TOP STORY >>High court could soon decide suit on funding

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville businessman and former Rep. Mike Wilson says he hopes the state Supreme Court will rule in his favor against funding what he calls pork projects and before the January session of the General Assembly is finished. All briefs have been filed in Wilson’s appeal of a lower-court decision allowing General Improvement Funds to be used toward a new Jacksonville public library and for certain other purposes, according to Matt DeCample, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.
On Nov. 9, the Supreme Court granted the state’s petition for a late filing but denied Wilson’s request for accelerated consideration.

Wilson sued the state Department of Finance and Administration to prohibit it from issuing the General Improvement Fund checks to local projects, mostly in the Jacksonville area. Statewide, legislators appropriated $52 million in General Improvement Funds last year. “It’s already high on the docket,” Wilson said. “I thought it was important to get this decided before it gets very far into the (January legislative) session.”

That’s why he waived oral arguments, fearing that would delay a decision until late January. Wilson says General Improvement Funds are not appropriate for projects unless they benefit the entire state and he would like the matter settled before members of the new state Legislature begin dividing up a new surplus pie at the end of the new session. The attorney general’s office is involved as the lawyer for Richard Weiss, director of the state Department of Finance and Administration. They write the GIF checks.

The ruling in Judge Willard Proctor’s court allowed local state legislators last session to earmark general improvement funds for the new Jacksonville library and several other projects including the Jacksonville Senior Center, the Museum of Military History, the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society and a Bigelow (Cleburne County) library—about $260,000 in all. Wilson seeks to overturn Proctor’s ruling, which allowed $190,000 toward the new Esther D. Nixon Library; $50,000 for the Jacksonville Senior Center; $10,000 for the Jacksonville Museum of Military History; $10,000 for the Reed’s Bridge (Civil War) Preservation Society and $10,000 toward the Bigelow library.

Wilson prevailed in the lower court in his challenge of a $10,000 earmark for the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club and a $20,000 award to the city of Jacksonville without a specified purpose, but he lost on five other challenges. Wilson sued to stop the state from releasing general improvement fund money for several projects, saying Amendment 14 of the state Constitution prohibits funding local projects. Wilson argued that allowing state legislators to earmark general improvement funds for local projects is “pork” plain and simple.

“If the state is going to simply give money away to anybody, that would require a constitutional amendment,” said Wilson, “a vote by the people.” In his arguments last year, Wilson maintained that state funding is appropriate only on projects that benefit the entire state, but Proctor, in allowing most of the challenged projects, accepted a broader interpretation of benefiting the state’s residents. Jacksonville voters in July 2005 approved a one-mill property tax increase to finance $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library.The city has bought or condemned the land it needs for the Library on Main Street and has torn down three buildings and an outbuilding in preparation for its construction.

TOP STORY >>Director search is now down to seven finalists

Leader staff writer

While mopping up mismanagement issues, the evolving Jacksonville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners has also pared down the number of applicants for its new executive director from 17 to seven. Thousands of dollars are in jeopardy of being lost by the Jacksonville Housing Authority, which oversees the Max Howell Place and rent subsidy vouchers for low-income families, disabled people and the elderly, according to Jim Durham, the chairman of the newly appointed JHA Board.
“Prior to the air-conditioning unit project that we got underway, there was $1.2 million in unexpended grants available,” Durham said. “And $40,000 from FY 2003 capital fund budget must be spent by the end of March 2007, or it will be lost.”
By lost, Durham means the money would be turned back to the federal government. He hopes this money will fund a project to make the entire Max Howell Place handicapped accessible by installing ramps, showers and doors to make life a little easier for disabled individuals.

The local JHA board, now comprised of all new members, is seeking to turn the tide following a federal review, which began in June. As the review by the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development got underway this past summer, the JHA executive director Virginia Simmons and its Board with the exception of one commissioner, all, resigned. The last remaining holdout—-Fred West—-eventually resigned and Jacksonville City Council appointed an entirely new JHA Board.

At the time she stepped down, Simmons was receiving an annual salary of more than $50,000. Before she left in July, Simmons who had served as JHA executive director for about 14 years also received $10,000. Jim Durham, the new chairman of the JHA Board, believes the former director did not deserve all of the additional cash. “This is generally given for a job well done,” Durham says. “I’m not satisfied she should have been paid those funds.” In mid-June, HUD requested records of contracts and work orders for more than $132,000 spent by the housing authority. HUD officials wanted to scrutinize all contracts and purchase orders. They also requested those documents to be pulled and made available on June 28.

On June 27, a JHA employee informed HUD that Simmons had directed her to create four contracts and to call contractors to come by the office and sign the contracts. On the same day, Simmons “admitted to Mr. Jesse Westover, Public Housing director, Little Rock Field Office, that she had falsely reported program obligation under the FY 2003 Capital Fund Program on Sept. 15, 2005 in the amount of $132,788.11,” according to the HUD review, which found that no application had been made for the grant making the authority ineligible for the grant.

HUD officials also concluded that these actions were taken in an attempt on the part of the then JHA executive director to document evidence to support contracts had legitimately been entered into before the obligation deadline of Sept. 16, 2005. The review also alleges that the housing authority “did not properly advertise for bids in excess of $25,000”, or adequately keep documentation of solicitations.

The new JHA Board is also concerned over a unit, which has been vacant for about the past two years. A meth lab bust rendered it uninhabitable. The new commissioners have already discussed the possibility of demolishing the entire building, which housed two units. After that, a new building could be constructed in hopes of attracting a police officer to live in one side while the other side could be used as computer lab for youth living at the Max Howell apartment complex. Funding for this project could come from a grant, commissioners surmised at one of their previous meetings.

Durham also recently reported to Jacksonville Police Department about a situation involving a Sam’s credit card and the former executive director. “The card has her name and the housing authority on it,” he says. Durham explained that no bills from this card have been received but if there were any debt not being paid, JHA could ultimately be held responsible. At this time, he is attempting to close the account. His first attempt failed here. “I was told that I couldn’t close it because I was not the primary cardholder,” Durham said. Asked about if any investigation was ongoing, Capt. Charley Jenkins, JPD public information officer, replied, “No, it is not under investigation…it is only an information report and there is no wrongdoing alleged in this report.”

The synopsis of the report reads, “credit card (company) still in wrong name.” According to the report, Durham told police the ex-director still has the company’s Sam’s credit card but he was unsure of any personal information as to Simmons and “also unsure if there have been any purchases” made with this card since she resigned. Durham also stressed the importance of finding an executive director because of a “memorandum of agreement,” which HUD has devised to eliminate deficiencies uncovered by the review team. “It is HUD’s expectations,” he says.

In search of the next JHA executive director

The new JHA Board immediately launched a search for an executive director who is a self-starter and knowledgeable in housing authority operations. After advertising the position, 17 people sent in their resumes. Of the 17 applicants, five have already been contacted by Marilyn Canon, one of the JHA commissioners by Wednesday. She indicated that she would be contacting the remaining two on Wednesday afternoon. “Today is my personal deadline,” Canon said Wednesday. “We need someone yesterday.”

So far, no interviews have been scheduled for any of the seven applicants. Canon indicated her questioning of the applicants dealt with matters in need of clarification. “Some of the applicants weren’t clear as to whether they had a college degree or experience working at a housing authority,” Canon explained. “All seven of those applicants may not be called for interviews.”

Asked when would a new executive director would be selected, Canon replied, “Either by the end of this year or early next year.” The JHA Board of Commissioners are looking for someone who has both a college degree and housing authority experience but such an applicant has yet to show up. If not, Canon hopes for a quick learner. The selected applicant will need to possess extensive experience with grant writing, financial budgeting and supervisory skills in dealing with personnel. At one of its first meetings, the phrase, “Hit the ground running,” was used in connection with the type of the person needed to fill the position of executive director. Canon also asked those applicants about their salary requirements as well.

TOP STORY >>Driver faces charges for accident on overpass

Leader staff writer

Arraignment has been set for the operator of a loaded gravel truck that slammed into two stopped pickup trucks in February, launching them through the Hwy. 67/167 overpass guardrail in Jacksonville, then landing on top of them, killing a 34-year-old Ward man in the process. Donald Ray Watkins, 35, of Cabot faces a misdemeanor negligent homicide charge and four counts of third-degree battery when he is arraigned Dec. 27 in Circuit Judge Willard Proctor’s court, according to Pulaski County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rob Berry.

Berry said Watkins, who had prescription drugs in his blood stream at the time of the accident, faces a $1,000 fine and one-year jail sentence on each of the five counts. Jerry Justice, his wife Monica and his mother were among four people transported to area hospitals after the collision on southbound Hwy. 67/167. Justice, driver of a black 1995 Ford pickup truck, was pronounced dead at the scene of injuries sustained when the Burns Trucking Freightliner dump truck hauling gravel from Bald Knob to North Little Rock came upon stopped traffic and swerved into the right lane, starting a chain reaction accident, slamming the two smaller trucks off the overpass and crashing down with them, according to the State Police’s preliminary fatal- crash summary and a statement by a state trooper working the accident.

Watkins had Diazepam, Nordiazpam and Trazodone in his blood, according to an April 4 state Crime Lab report, but no alcohol. The report noted that the quantities in his blood were “consistent with values widely considered to be normal or therapeutic.” The report did not say whether or not the quantities in question could have impaired Watkins driving and contributed to the accident. A pharmacist who asked not to be identified said that Diazepam—a generic Valium—and Trazodone used together could be “really sedating,” and should not be taken at the same time. Each would carry a warning not to operate heavy equipment or machinery, the pharmacist said.

The Nordiazepam was the Diazepam that had already been metabolized, said the pharmacist. Trazodone is an antidepressant used for sleep or for pain control. “Careless prohibited driving” on the part of gravel truck Watkins contributed to the seven-vehicle accident, according to the narrative included in the report. In addition to the Justices, Danny Crawford, 29, of 254 Overbeck Lane in Romance and Tommy Simpson, 32, of 166 Hodge, Mountain Vernon, also were injured in a 1990 GMC pick up.

Three other vehicles involved in the accident stayed on the overpass and the occupants were not hospitalized, according to the report. Justice was a security guard at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for the past six years, according to a hospital spokesman. Traffic was backed up in the southbound lane because the state Highway Department had closed off one lane to drill for soil core samples in preparation for future work on state Hwy. 67/167, according to department spokesman Randy Ort. The closure of the one lane resulted in a slowdown or backup of traffic as the lanes merged.

OBITUARIES >> 12-13-06


Kathy Burnett, 60, of Beebe went to be with the Lord Dec. 10. She was born Dec. 27, 1945 in Montana. She is survived by her husband, Don Burnett; two sons, Chad Skabronski and Joe Skabronski, both of Searcy; one stepson, Chris Burnett of McRae; two daughters, Jodie Skabronski, Cherie West and husband Robert, all of Searcy; seven grandchildren; and one sister, Gail Norton and husband Lou of Montana.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at the funeral home with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens.


Bobby Ray Foreman, 65, of Beebe died Dec. 9. He was born May 14, 1941 in Lonoke County to C. A. and Ila B. Foreman.
He was a resident of Byrd Haven Nursing Home in Searcy where he had so many friends, especially his best friend Jo Higgs.
He was preceded in death by his mother.

He is survived by three brothers, Charles, Larry, and James Foreman; two sisters, Debi Davis and Diane Foreman who was his caregiver and went far beyond her duties as a sister. He had many nieces and nephews. Graveside services were Dec. 12 at Sixteenth Section Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were made by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Virgil Paul Lamb, 83, a lifetime resident of Jacksonville died Dec. 2 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
He was born Sept. 17, 1923 to the late Harvey and Mabel Lamb. Lamb was retired from the Veterans Administration and was a veteran of the Second World War. He was a member of the Church of Christ and past master of Jacinto Masonic Lodge 216.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mable Lamb; sons, Paul and wife Cathy of Smyrna, Tenn., William and wife Nancy of Maumelle and James and wife Joyce of Jacksonville; daughter, Susan Bell of Memphis, Tenn.; nine grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; one great-great grandchild.

He is also survived by one brother, Marion Lamb of Jacksonville; three sisters, Mary Alice Cole and Joann Smith, both of Jacksonville and Margaret Howard of Harrisburg, Penn. Funeral services were held Dec. 5 at Jacksonville First Baptist Church with LeRoy Wood and Craig Poole officiating. Burial was in Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville. Pallbearers were grandsons and friends. Memorials may be made to Bayou Meto Cemetery fund P.O. Box 827, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076.


James Beard, Sr., 74, of Cabot passed away Dec. 11. He was born April 28, 1932 in El Paso to the late Leonard Sr. and Wilma Beard. Also preceding him in death were three brothers, Leonard Jr., Howard and Frank Beard.

He is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Valeria of Cabot; four sons, Mike, Steve and James Jr. Beard of Cabot and Jeff Beard of DesArc; three sisters, Sarah of Jacksonville, Grace of Little Rock and Virginia of Alabama; and nine grandchildren.
Private family memorial services are planned. Cremation arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service of Cabot.

SPORTS>> SHS Lions sweep up trophies at Batesville

For the second week in a row, both Searcy teams came away from a tournament final round with two championships. The Lions and Lady Lions won in the final round of the White River Medical Center Pros Roundball Classic tournament on Saturday after claiming titles in their own Bank Classic tourney the weekend earlier. The Lions downed a stubborn Harrison team 43-35, while the Lady Lions remained undefeated with a win over host team Batesville in a re-match of three weeks earlier.
The Lions built up as much as a 13-point lead on the Golden Goblins in the first half. Harrison rallied in the second half to cut the lead down to as little as four, but the Lions’ defense held strong in the final moments to stay out front.

The Lions were held to just 12 points in the second half after building a 31-16 lead through the first two quarters. “We played really well in the first half,” Lions coach Roger Franks said. “We knew they would be making a run at us in the second half. They did come back on us, but we were able shut them down towards the end.” Searcy’s biggest defensive accomplishment was holding Golden Goblins’ offensive leader Trey Sanders to only six points in the entire game. In fact, only Matt Walters reached double-figure scoring for Harrison with 11 points. Offensively for Searcy, senior guard Matt Cramblett led with 20 points. Lions post player Bryan McGrath added 12 points for Searcy. Cramblett and McGrath, along with senior Justin Rowden, were named to the all-tournament team.

The win gives Searcy a 9-1 record, which is pretty impressive considering pre-season talks of the Lions having a down year. Franks says that while the team is off to a solid start, there is always room for improvement. “We’ve got a long ways to go,” Franks said. “Hopefully, we can continue to get better. I’m happy with the start that we’ve had, we just need to keep going.”
The Lady Lions improved their record to 10-0 with a close 52-50 win over an improved Lady Pioneers team. In the first meeting, the Lady Lions rallied back from an early second-half deficit to win 61-47, but it would not be near as easy this time.

Searcy led 24-21 at the half, but the Lady Pioneers came back to lead in the early minutes of the third quarter. The Lady Lions regained their composure and the lead before the end of the frame 45-39. The Lady Pioneers cut it to within a single score with less than 30 seconds remaining, and had two scoring opportunities in those final ticks. Batesville couldn’t get a pair of free throws or a jumper from Marci Moffitt to fall in the last seconds, and the Lady Lions took their second straight tournament title while holding on to a perfect record, now at 10-0. Kayla Medley led the Lady Lions in scoring with 15 points. Kallie Bartee added 12 points, and Taylor Clark finished with 10 points. All three were named to the all-tournament team for their performances in the finals.

SPORTS>> Raiders split with Academy

Harding Academy did everything it could to stop Riverview’s Tony Hall, while Riverview did everything it could to stop Harding Academy’s Alex Beene. Neither was stopped, as each scored 23 points, but a few more Raiders than Wildcats got in on the scoring as visiting Riverview outlasted Harding Academy 53-45 last Friday night in Searcy. The crosstown rivals were playing each other as conference foes for the first time, and the result was a huge road win for the Raiders.

“To start out at Abundant Life and at Harding Academy, and get two wins is pretty big,” Riverview coach Danny Starkey said. “We made it harder on ourselves than it should have been by missing all those free throws, but we’ll take it anyway we can get it.” Trailing by as much as 14 in the fourth quarter, Harding Academy was forced to begin fouling early. Hall was sent to the line seven times and hit all seven free shots. The rest of the team combined to hit just two of nine in the final frame, and that gave the Wildcats a sliver of hope until the very end.

After Riverview had missed its second front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the line, Academy’s Luke Tribble hit a three pointer with 1:28 remaining that cut the margin to 45-39, the closest the Wildcats would get. Hall got the inbound pass after a Harding timeout and was fouled with 1:26 left. He hit both free throws and Beene missed a three at the other end. The Wildcats fouled Bo Banks, who missed both free throws, but Hall got the rebound and was fouled hard by James Kee, who was hit with an intentional foul, which gave Riverview the ball back after the foul shots. On the inbound play, Hall got the ball again at the top of the key, and was nailed again by Kee after dribbling around a screen. Kee’s intent was unclear, but the foul put Hall flat on his back and the officials tossed him for a second flagrant foul. Hall again hit both shots which put the game out of reach with a minute to go.

Academy coach Rick Beene didn’t believe Kee meant to hit Hall so hard, but didn’t argue too much with the ejection. “It looked really bad, but James Kee is not that type of player to do something like that intending to hurt anybody,” Beene said.
Outside of Alex Beene and Tribble, the rest of the Wildcats only scored two points in the second half as the scoring pace dipped dramatically for both teams. Riverview was hot from the floor at the start of the game and jumped out to an 18-7 lead in the first quarter. The Raiders held close to that margin for most of the remainder of the game.

Hall scored eight points in the first quarter, and Academy switched to a box-and-one in the second. The strategy did a good job of keeping Hall out of the offensive sets, but he still got two trash buckets off offensive rebounds. He picked his third foul with 3:30 left in the second quarter, and had to take a seat. That drew Academy out of its box-and-one, and the Raiders executed well without Hall. Harding closed to within 28-20 shortly after Hall went to the bench, but Riverview closed the half with a 5-0 run to take a 33-20 lead into intermission.

Hall managed just two points in the third quarter, but the Wildcats could only cut two points off their deficit. Beene highlighted the third period of action with an acrobatic, backwards, over-the-head, one-handed bank shot from the middle of the lane. The Wildcat defense didn’t give up a second-half bucket until 2:17 left in the third, but had only scored five points to get to within eight. Tribble took over in the fourth quarter and scored 10 of his 12 in the game, and 10 of the team’s 14 in the final period. “What can you say about Luke Tribble,” Rick Beene said. “That was all heart. He’s got a hurt shoulder and he’s only practiced with us four times. To go out there and score 10 points in the fourth quarter and keep your team in it, that says a lot about that kid.”

About the two leading scorers, the HA head coach was impressed with both. “That was about the best game I’ve seen Alex ever play, and he only had 23. He’s had games that he’s scored twice that, but he earned every single one of those tonight. They did an incredible job on him. The same thing can be said about Tony Hall. I thought our defense on him was really outstanding, he’s just a great player that found a way to score. He shoots free throws as well as anybody you’re going to see.”

Starkey was satisfied with the win, but still expressed some concerns for his team down the road, most notable the performance at the line. “Hitting two of nine in the fourth quarter isn’t going to win any close ball games,” Starkey said. “We’ve got to be better than that, and we’ve got to be more patient and play smarter when we have a good lead. Just because you’ve got a wide-open look at a three, doesn’t mean you take it, not when you’ve got a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter.”

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats staved off a strong rally by visiting city rival Riverview Friday night in the first-ever conference match between the two teams. The Lady Wildcats got a 48-42 victory on the strength of a very balanced effort by Katie Koch. Koch’s 13 points didn’t lead the team, but she also finished with six rebounds and six assists. “She played an incredible game all the way around,” Harding assistant coach Rusty Garner said. “We needed it tonight and she came through.”

Riverview post player Jasmine James was shredding Academy’s zone defense. Despite packing the lane, Riverview’s guards still found James open from mid-range when she would flash in the paint. “They did a great job of executing that offense and Jasmine was amazing,” Garner said. “She just couldn’t miss. She was killing us with those mid-range jumpers.” James finished with 20 points, but she went cold late in the fourth quarter. That allowed Academy a little breathing room, and enior perimeter player Jennifer Kee thrust the dagger into the Lady Raiders with a pair of late three pointers.”

“She hadn’t scored much the whole game, but she is so clutch,” Garner said. “She’s been doing that since she was a freshman. We know we can rely on her.” Kee finished with nine points. Loghan Lowery actually led the team in scoring with 16. she was four of seven from beyond the three-point stripe. Liz Ashley added 10 points and six boards for the Lady Wildcats, who improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. James’ 20 led Riverview while Amy Jo Davis added 11 and Jasmin Washington scored seven for the Lady Raiders. The Riverview ladies fell to 8-6 and 1-1.

SPORTS>> Rabbits take two from Beebe

Leader sportswriter

A fourth quarter surge from the Lady Jackrabbits helped Lonoke secure a doubleheader sweep over Beebe Friday night at the Badger Sports Arena. The Lady ’Rabs trailed the Lady Badgers from the four-minute mark of the first quarter until four minutes left in the game, but were able to rally to take a 48-41 come-from-behind win.

The Jackrabbits dominated the Badgers in the boys contest 60-37 despite only scoring four points in the opening period.
The Badgers presented trouble for Lonoke in the first quarter with a strong defensive attack. The stiff defense from Beebe made the first quarter a low-scoring struggle, with the Badgers edging out to a 6-4 lead after the first eight minutes. The Jackrabbits were able to adjust to begin the second quarter, and took their first lead of the game with 3:16 left in the first half with a three-point shot from Sammy Coleman.

Coleman had tied the game moments earlier with an inside jumper to make it 14 all, after a pair of free throws from Stanley Staggers brought Lonoke to within two points. Coleman launched another three in the final 22 seconds of the quarter to give the Jackrabbits a 24-15 lead at the half. The game was still within reach for the Badgers at the start of the third quarter, but it would not be by the end of the frame. Lonoke outscored Beebe 19-12 in the period, and extended the lead further in the opening minutes of the final period to check out going away.

The Badgers came out strong to start the second half. Trey Smith scored the first basket of the third quarter for Beebe, and Jordan Geirach backed up his teammate’s score with a jumper of his own to close the gap to 24-19 with 6:12 left in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits put their advantage back into double-digits with 3:20 left in the third with an amazing shot from Staggers. As he headed to the goal, Staggers cleared his way to the left side of the paint with three direction fakes on the assembled Beebe defenders. His third move tricked Badgers’ post Geirach to the other side, and Staggers extended the ball just enough to make it sink. The shot gave Lonoke a 32-21 lead, and Coleman added a pair of free throws on the ’Rabbits’ next possession to extend the lead to 36-21.

The Beebe starters prevented a complete rout from Lonoke through most of the fourth quarter, keeping the deficit within twenty points. When both teams’ JV players took to the court in the final three minutes, however, the Jackrabbit subs added five more points to set the 23-point final margin. Coleman led all scorers with 15 points for Lonoke. Smith led the Badgers with 11 points; Geirach added nine points for Beebe. The win gives Lonoke a record of 6-3, and Beebe’s record went to 1-4 with the loss.

The girls contest was much closer. The Lady Badgers dominated the first three quarters on the game, but couldn’t stop a determined Lady ‘Rabbits squad in the late going. Beebe’s lead was as much as 18-7 in the first minute of the second quarter. Ty O’Neil put in a layup off a steal, and drew the foul from Kristy Shinn to make it a three-point play at the 7:03 mark for a nine-point Lady Badgers’ lead.

Lonoke slowly chipped away at the deficit, and finally got the lead with 4:42 left in the game with an inside jumper from freshman Asiah Scribner. Lonoke seniors Jenny Evans and Calisha Kirk used their size advantage to rack up 16 points each to lead Lonoke in scoring. Beebe sophomore Ty O’Neil led all scorers in the game with 22 points. “The girls played great down the stretch,” Lady ’Rabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “We talked about it all week, how this game is a good rivalry game for us. We wanted to get our record back to .500 with a win, and we were able to do that tonight.”

The win gives Lonoke a 5-5 record on the season. Beebe now has a 2-3 record with the loss. Lonoke will play Mountain View at home on Friday after opening the conference schedule on the road last night at Marianna. Beebe hosted Vilonia last night, and will play at Cabot on Friday.

SPORTS>> Red Devils disrupt Conway

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville answered its worst performance so far with two good wins. After opening the Wampus Cat Invitational with a dismal loss to Benton, Jacksonville bounced back to defeat Van Buren and Conway to take fifth place in the event. The Red Devils closed the tournament by beating the host Wampus Cats 66-54. They grabbed a sizeable lead early and maintained it throughout the contest. Several times the Red Devils seemed on the brink of running away with the game, but Conway wouldn’t go away. The tournament host started hot from the outside in the third quarter and stayed that way, and that kept the game close.

Leading the way to the early lead for Jacksonville was senior post player Gerron Riddles. Riddles turned in his best game of the season, scoring 15 points, almost all of which came out of offensive execution. He also got a few buckets by crashing the offensive boards.

“Gerron knew they had a big guy,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “He knows he has to step up to the plate especially when there’s a guy two or three inches taller than him. He’s also got Antwain Lockhart trying to take his place every day in practice. He’s been playing hard and things are starting to come to him. His conditioning is getting better too. He’s in the best shape he’s been in since I’ve been here, and that’s helping him with his footwork and getting up and down the floor.”
The Jacksonville guards, much maligned recently by Joyner for failing to make the entry pass to the post, did so with regularity in the first half Saturday, and Riddles capitalized on those opportunities.

“We changed some things and put in a couple new sets that emphasized that the ball had to go in there,” Joyner said. “They were more patient. The guards are getting a little better.” Riddles’ fellow post player Norvel Gabriel was second on the team in scoring with 10 points. Conway hit seven of 11 three-point attempts for the game, including six of nine in the second half.
Jacksonville committed one major lapse early in the third. They quickly built its advantage from 11 points at the start of the half to 18 midway through the third. After that, the Red Devils got sloppy and Conway got hot.

Junior reserves Alex McKnight and Ammon Martin came off the bench to nail five three pointers. Martin his two in the third quarter, while McKnight kept things interesting with three in the fourth. “They got hot but some of that had to do with us,” Joyner said. “We quit doing the things that got us the lead there for a while. Overall though I thought that was of our best games so far. Our defense was good and we disrupted everything they were trying to do. They had a couple kids come off the bench and hit threes, but they weren’t able to do much offensively other than hit long shots. Our defense has really been our bright spot all year. We’re playing pretty good defense.”

Jacksonville forced lots of turnovers and the slower Wampus Cats found themselves reaching and fouling in order to slow down the quicker Red Devils. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, it couldn’t hit free throws. That also helped Conway stay close.
Jacksonville made just six of 18 from the foul line in the game. Conway hit 10 of 15. The Red Devils, now 4-2, played a rematch with Little Rock Central last night after Leader deadlines. They will travel across town Friday for a rematch with North Pulaski.

EDITORIALS>>He's chasing Huckabucks

Our advice to Gov. Huckabee, if he were to ask, would be to begin his presidential campaign on the highest possible note by observing the spirit and letter of the laws governing the financing of campaigns. People are impressed with rectitude in high office. A man who runs against so many odds needs at least to be squeaky clean.

Or else have tons of money. The governor did not ask and he decided that the second path is more likely to get him elected. He is skating as close to the edge of law-breaking as humanly possible. The Federal Election Commission will need to give him every benefit of doubt. When people explore the idea of running for president, they are expected to form — what else? — an exploratory committee. That subjects their fund-raising to the federal rules that are designed to forestall undue influence and corruption.

Although he has been campaigning in the early presidential primary and caucus states for a year and talking openly about running, Huckabee has not created an exploratory committee. In that, he is not alone among the potential candidates. But he did take one deceptive step down that path. He created a political action committee and registered it in Virginia, which has the weakest campaign-finance rules in America. He called it the Hope for America PAC. It was to be used by the governor to help conservative candidates for political office and help Americans adopt healthy lifestyles. In truth, it is a vehicle for financing his early presidential campaigning. His campaign gifts have been to local Republican candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire — the bellwether presidential states — and to two losing Republican candidates in Arkansas. The PAC has paid his national political consultants and for flights and other expenses of Huckabee and aides to political events in the early primary and caucus states.

But the PAC’s Web site carefully avoids explicitly mentioning the presidential race and so do his solicitations. Saturday, Huckabee will throw a gala at the Little Rock Convention Center to raise money for his Hope for America PAC. His invitation said the contributions “will be the seed money I need to travel to critical 2008 states and see if my message for our country resonates with our fellow Americans.” Notice that nowhere did he say “president” or explicitly why he would be traveling to “critical 2008 states.” It could be to encourage people in those states to lose weight, right?

What is different about this fund-raiser and the rest of the gifts to the Hope for America PAC is that there are no limitations on the gifts, either in amounts or the source. Unlike Arkansas and 47 other states, Virginia doesn’t impose any limits. As the invitations note, corporations and partnerships are free to give him any sum. Corporate contributions are forbidden in all federal campaigns and in other elections as well in most states. Campaign gifts also cannot exceed $2,100, but none of those restrictions apply to Huckabee because officially, you see, he is not running for anything or even thinking about it.

Corporations, partnerships and individuals are urged to give Huckabee at least $100,000 at the event, for which they will get virtually exclusive access to the future president for a spell during the evening, a good table at the dinner and several free autographed copies of his book about losing weight and living healthily. Gifts of $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000 will get donors lesser sets of benefits but all better than what the run-of-the-mill guest receives for his or her $500. Money is the fuel of politics, and if Huckabee cannot generate it in sizable sums he will go nowhere in the presidential race. We understand that basic political dictum. But his opponents will see to it that one day he will pay a price for how he raised it.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Rape victim in Lonoke recalls her nightmare

One of Joe Rounsaville’s three rape victims was crying as she recalled her attacker menacing her in her home in Lonoke. “The only thing I could relate him to is Charles Manson with his cold eyes,” the tearful rape victim told us before her attacker was to appear in Lonoke County Circuit Court. Rounsaville, a former Jacksonville realtor who is serving 10 years for rape, kidnapping and third-degree assault in another case, was a no-show Monday morning in Lonoke County Circuit Court on the latest charges against him. Rounsaville had been transferred from the Pulaski County Detention Center to the state Correction Department, according to Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Lona McCastlain for the earlier rape.

Rounsaville will be arraigned for the Lonoke rape Jan. 16 instead, she said. Those two cases are in addition to a third rape charge involving a boy. Rounsaville was charged last month with the rape of a 7-year-old Jacksonville boy. He has pled not guilty, and his trial is set for March 8, 2008.

In the incident involving the young boy, the boy’s mother came forward after seeing articles of Rounsaville’s rape conviction in the Leader. She said Rounsaville sexually assaulted her son in November 2003. Rounsaville was sentenced in late September for the December 2005 rape and beating of a 51-year-old Jacksonville woman. “He knows a girlfriend of mine,” the Lonoke rape victim told us. “He’d assaulted her boy.”

If he’s convicted in all three cases, the three-strikes-and-you’re-out-rule will likely apply and Rounsaville will face life in prison without a possibility of parole. As for the rape, kidnapping and terroristic threatening charges in Lonoke County, his victim came forward and told of her nightmarish encounter with Rounsaville, who barged into her house, attacked and raped her and threatened to kill her if she told anybody about what happened. Rounsaville is accused of attacking her like a madman, then threatening to kill her if she told anybody what had happened.

“I’m your master,” his victim said he told her. “You’re going to call me this.” She has long hair, and he tied her hair around her neck, nearly choking her. “He threatened to slit my throat,” she continued. “He put his knee against my back and tried to gag me with his sock. I told him you’re hurting me.” She’d been in a car wreck, and her leg was in a cast, and that made it more difficult to defend herself. “I said my son was going to be home any minute,” the victim continued.

He teenaged son soon returned to the house and chased Rounsaville off. “In 15 minutes it was over,” she said, “but when you’re fighting for your life, every minute is like an hour.” “If I didn’t go to church on Sunday, I’d say I wish he was dead,” she told us. “I have a great pastor who has helped me through.” She’s moved out of her house, but she now has a rifle at her bedside to defend herself against intruders.

“My father gave me a rifle and it’s loaded, and I was going to use it if he came back. I put the gun right by bed.” “He took advantage of every inch of my life, but I can’t wait to see him in court so I can confront him,” she said. “It’s my turn now.”

TOP STORY >>Highway widening gets under way in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

The northbound passing lane on Hwy. 67/167 is temporarily closed as workers take preliminary steps on a two-year project to widen a 1.5-mile long segment to three lanes between the Hwy. 440 overpass and Redmond Road in Jacksonville, according to Glenn Bolick, a state Highway Department spokesman.

Workers are strengthening northbound shoulders to handle traffic while the road is widened and a new Bayou Meto bridge built, Bolick said. Part of the overall Hwy. 67/167 widening project be-tween I-40 and Jacksonville, this $13 million northbound section will be four lanes wide where it includes the merging lane from Hwy. 440 onto Hwy. 67/167.
Weaver-Bailey Contractors of El Paso (White County) is the contractor.

Construction of a new, wider 850-foot long bridge spanning Bayou Meto and its flood plain, is a major contributor to the cost of the project. It will replace the current 175 ft. bridge, Bolick said. The new bridge also will be higher, he said. At one time, it was thought the new bridge would need to be about 1,200 feet and cost about $16 million, but the new design, which complies with FEMA floodplain and backwater requirements, was estimated to cost about $10 million about a year ago.
The three through lanes and the interchange merge lane all will cross the new bridge. The current bridge is wide enough for only the existing two lanes.

Work on the southbound lanes is slated for 2009, about the time work is completed on the northbound segment, Bolick said.
The missing link in widening to three lanes both the north and southbound lanes of Hwy. 67/167 from I-40 to Redmond Road will then be a 1.5 mile segment from Kiehl Avenue to the Hwy. 440 overpass, according to Bolick.

TOP STORY >>Sherwood signs MEMS contract

Leader staff writer

Sherwood has just signed a five-year agreement with Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services for that agency to provide ambulance and other services to the city. Both Sherwood and MEMS are excited about the agreement. “I hope it’s forever,” said Mayor Bill Harmon who is ecstatic about the job the ambulance service has provided the city since Oct. 10.

MEMS took over the contract from Arkansas Emergency Transport in October after the Sherwood city council voted to terminate service with AET after a number of late responses, including one that contributed to the death of a middle school teen. “We just weren’t pleased and felt they weren’t providing for the safety of our citizens,” Harmon said. Under the contract, MEMS will have at least two ambulances on call in the Sherwood area at all times. “Once that second ambulance is called out, we’ll roll a third one into the area, and then a fourth and so on, if necessary,” explained Jon Swanson, executive director for MEMS.

Since taking over Oct. 10, MEMS has responded to 95 life-threatening calls (Code 1’s) and 206 non life-threatening calls (Code two’s). The agency is required by their policy and standard to respond to life-threatening calls within 9 minutes 90 percent of the time. Their Sherwood response time has averaged just over five minutes. “We we’re only late once,” said Swanson, “That’s a 98.9 percent.”

For non-life-threatening responses, the ambulance service must respond within 13 minutes 90 percent of the time. The agency’s average response time was 5 minutes and 38 seconds, with no late responses. “I’ve got to tell you, those are great times,” Swanson said. Systemwide, during that same time period, MEMES responded to 11,254 calls. MEMS has 41 ambulances and a staff of 250 full time and 80 part time employees and provides ambulance and others services for all of Pulaski County except Jacksonville and large portions of Lonoke, Faulkner and Grant County. It provides service to the cities of Lonoke and Cabot.

The ambulance service is an agency of Little Rock and was formed by city charter in 1984 to provide service for Little Rock. It receives no government or tax funds, according to Swanson. It survives on fees. “All of the money we collect goes right back into the service,” Swanson said, “and we are debt-free and that help tremendously.”

The charter that set up MEMS allows the ambulance service to provide mutual aid to nearby communities and to expand into other communities with the approval of it governing board and Little Rock city council. Because off the mutual aid agreement, MEMS was able to come into to Sherwood on an interim basis in October. In late November, the Sherwood city council approved a resolution allowing the mayor to sign an agreement with the ambulance company. The agency’s board of director’s approved the agreement the next day, and the Little Rock city council approved the expansion at its meeting early this month. Harmon has already signed the agreement, and its awaiting Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey’s signature to make it all official.

North Little Rock, Pulaski County and Maumelle quickly asked and received approval from Little Rock for MEMS to provide services to their areas. Since then, Grant County, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway joined in. Cabot started using MEMS two years ago, and now Sherwood.

With Sherwood as one of the communities served by MEMS, the city has a seat on the agency’s board. Currently Alderman Marina Brooks is filling that seat. “We are off to a get start in Sherwood,” Swanson said. “We applaud and compliment the Sherwood fire and police departments. We appreciate their warm welcome and they are critical to our success.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TOP STORY >>Parking lot fight ends in shooting

Leader staff writer

A man, presumed to be in his twenties, died after being shot in the abdomen mid-day Tuesday. Jacksonville police have launched a search for a suspect, who was last seen fleeing in a gray Chevrolet Avalanche from a parking lot at the Swiss Village apartment complex in Jacksonville where the shooting occurred.

Late Tuesday, Jacksonville Police Capt. Charley Jenkins said he was hopeful the suspect would be apprehended quickly. Jenkins, public information officer for the Jacksonville Police Department, said the victim was shot once in the abdomen, but he couldn’t give the name of the victim because the next of kin had not yet been notified. Jacksonville paramedics arrived on the scene just before noon and just after the police arrived and made sure the area was clear.

Paramedics stabilized the victim and called for a Med-Flight. The paramedics then moved the victim to McArthur Church of Christ parking lot so the medical helicopter could land. The victim went into cardiac arrest before the helicopter arrived.
“He couldn’t be transported while we were giving him CPR and working on him,” said Fire Battalion Chief Eddie Hill. Crews from Med-Flight joined in efforts to save the victim, but he was pronounced dead on the scene at 12:30 p.m. The body was then turned over to the coroner.

Details of the shooting were sketchy at press time, but both the victim and the suspect were described as black men who appeared to be in their 20s. No motive is known at this time, nor is the relationship between the victim and the suspect. The victim reportedly was not a resident of the complex.

The apartment complex where the shooting took place is located in the 1000 block of Quince Hill Road. The incident began around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jenkins estimated. “There was some type of scuffle between the victim and suspect before the shooting,” Jenkins said. Jenkins believes only the suspect was armed and fired shots.