Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

April 30, 2008

Watchdog group member receives death threat

Threat comes after release of TEA financial report

By Philip Navarrette

“You are ‘dead meat.’ We know who and where you and your family work! Life as you know it is over! Move or be blasted.”

These words greeted Cleburne resident Harold Gentry when he opened a letter he received in the mail Friday afternoon.

The letter apparently came from an anonymous individual upset about Gentry’s work with local watchdog group Access Cleburne and the Texas Education Agency’s investigation of Cleburne ISD’s financial practices, which stemmed from a complaint written to the agency, Gentry said.

But this isn’t the first letter the group’s members have received, member Alden Nellis said.

“This is the fourth one,” Nellis said. “Harold’s gotten two, and I’ve gotten two. It started when we first sent our complaint into the TEA.”

Gentry said he received his first letter in 2005.

“Police tell us it's written by the same person,” Gentry said.

Nellis and Gentry said the letters contain the similar styles and syntax.

“There were some very similar terminology used,” Gentry said.

But both said they’re not deterred in their work to uncover misused district funds.

“We’re getting close to some other stuff, and I just think it’s somebody wanting us to stop digging,” Gentry said. “I think this is someone who has something to lose.”

Gentry said he doesn’t expect anyone will follow through on the threats made on him, “but of course, you never know.”

The men report the threatening letters to the Cleburne Police Department every time they receive a new one.

“They’ve gone and put everything together and are pursuing an investigation on that basis,” Nellis said. “They do a good job.”

Nellis said he wasn’t immediately alarmed when he received his threats, but Cleburne Police Chief Terry Powell told them there could be a concern.

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