The Times-Review Top 10 No. 1 stories of the past decade.





2000: County purchases Guinn

Johnson County became title holder of the Guinn Building on Dec. 11, 2000.

Built to house the former Cleburne High School some 80 years before, it was used for other school purposes when the new high school was opened in 1976.

The Guinn Building was named for former Superintendent Ernest Guinn and would become the Guinn Justice Center when renovated by the county.

There were several snags in the transaction between the school district and county, one of them historical. CISD had to obtain the approval of Texas Education Agency to deed the structure to the county.

That was easily accomplished. The school district also had to legally acquire the property before it could sell it for the agreed upon $50,000. That was not so easily done.

The deed holder was the city of Cleburne. Col. B.J. Chambers, among the town’s founders, deeded the property to the city in 1883, stipulating it to be used as city hall and a school.

After that building, known as Central High School, burned down, the decision was made to build the Guinn Building in 1917. A $250,000 bond was approved on April 17, 1917, for the high school and Adams Elementary School.

No records were found to indicate when ownership of the property changed hands after the city ceased operating the school and Cleburne ISD took over.

The last deed filed on that property was a quit claim deed for a city drainage project.

Plans called for a $10 million renovation to convert the Guinn Building to 100,000 square feet of office and court space.

“Out of respect to the history of the building and the school district, I am proposing we call it the Guinn Courts Building,” County Judge Roger Harmon said at the time.



2001: Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

Terrorism took center stage as a nation watched landmarks in New York explode into flames and crumple to the ground.

Even Cleburne, far from the unfolding horror, felt the grip of shock and disbelief. The events prompted Cleburne City Council to cancel its meeting that night.

City Hall lowered the flags to half staff, and council members said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by these tragic events.”

City manager Chester Nolen said the city is “under a heightened state of operation.” He said access to city hall and other city offices was limited.

A police official stood in the city hall lobby, and the only access to the building was through the front door.

Municipal court was shut down. The water department building was closed, but the drive-through was open.

The administrative offices of the fire department on East Wardville were also closed. Both the police and fire departments were on standby, Nolen said.

The Federal Aviation Agency closed all airports in the country that morning and ordered all planes in the air to land at the closest airport after the attack in New York City.

Cleburne Municipal Airport manager Sam Ball said only one plane landed in Cleburne in the morning before the attack, and it was unable to leave once the FAA made its decision. The pilot had to rent a car to continue on his journey.

Ball said another plane, a small business jet, was scheduled to land in Cleburne during the morning but had a stop at the Addison airport and was forced to remain there.

He said the only other time he could remember the nation’s airports being closed was right after Pearl Harbor.

But there weren’t nearly as many planes and airports then as there are now, he said.



2002: Salamanca nabbed

A golf tournament organized by Bubba Schafer to raise money for rape victims from Johnson and Tarrant counties was held May 29 in Arlington — a little more than a year after Schafer apprehended the now-convicted rapist identified as Manuel Salamanca Jr. of Cleburne.

Arlington police arrested Salamanca when he attempted to burglarize a home occupied by a woman and her daughter. They heard noises and called 911 and a neighbor.

Schafer was the neighbor, and he confronted Salamanca at the suspect’s 2000 Ford F-150 pickup and held him until police arrived.

Schafer turned the steering wheel of the pickup all the way to the left, toward the curb, and held onto the wheel with both hands.

He tried to remove the keys from the ignition, and Salamanca reportedly hit him twice in the chest. Schafer reportedly asked him, “Is that the best you got?”

Salamanca was tied to rapes in Cleburne, Benbrook, Arlington and Burleson and was sentenced in Tarrant County to life in prison for the sexual assault of a 30-year-old Benbrook woman.

After Salamanca was jailed, Schafer received many honors, gifts and a cash reward.

He was honored with a plaque by Cleburne City Council on June 11, 2002. The other cities — Benbrook, Arlington and Burleson — also recognized Schafer’s action.

On June 15, 2002, residents in the Winchester addition in Cleburne held a block party to honor Schafer. Two women in the addition were victims.



2003: War in Iraq

No other story of 2003 had such far-reaching ramifications as the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The conflict started loudly with “shock and awe” bombing and ended quietly with former dictator Saddam Hussein being pulled from a hole in the ground.

The story preceded the first Baghdad bombing on March 20, 2003 and extended far beyond Hussein’s capture on Dec. 13 of that year.

The drumbeat of war had been sounding for months.

President Bush pushed for enforcement of a U.N. Security Council resolution threatening Hussein with “serious consequences” if he did not disarm or prove he had no weapons of mass destruction.

The issue polarized the Security Council, as some nations, led by France, opposed any new resolution that would authorize military action. On March 17, 2003, a frustrated Unites States, Britain and Spain announced the window of diplomacy had closed.

Americans waited as war seemed imminent.

When it came, it seemed to move quickly.

By early April, U.S.-led forces had taken Baghdad, and the world witnessed TV footage of Iraqis celebrating in the streets.

Hunts quickly began for the Iraqi leader, as well as the banned weapons. No WMDs were found.

On May 1, 2003, Bush declared an end to major combat. But continuing deaths of American troops in violent attacks — coupled with the lack of recovered banned weapons — emboldened the president’s critics.

Many saw the conflict as a distraction from the war on terror and hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden.

The Iraq war was a major issue in the year’s presidential race.



2004: Johnson County Sesquicentennial

The history and people who made it were celebrated throughout 2004 during Johnson County’s 150th birthday.

The contributions of cultural groups across the spectrum were highlighted during the year.

The sesquicentennial was chosen as the top story of 2004 for its relevance to the community and comprehensive examination of the forces that helped the county change over the past century and a half.

The sesquicentennial flag was unveiled during the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in February. On a snowy day that month, residents re-enacted the signing of the petition asking the Legislature to create the new county.

Two plaques commemorating soldiers who died at an Illinois prison camp were unveiled in March at Cleburne Memorial Cemetery. The plaques recognized 26 soldiers.

More than 40 people participated in an April trail ride meant to highlight the county’s western roots.

The Chisholm Trail and the railroad hold historical significance with many who have studied elements of Johnson County’s past.

In June, Venus residents gathered to watch the annual homecoming parade. The downtown event was part of the county’s birthday celebration.

Other cities in the county welcomed events, but the signature activity took place Sept. 17-19 at Buddy Stewart Park.

From a cattle drive to activities for children, the mid-September weekend featured something virtually everyone could enjoy.



2005: Allmon, Mason killed in Iraq

The Iraq War continued to claim American lives in 2005, but two military deaths hit particularly close to home for many Johnson County residents.

Spc. Jeremy O. Allmon, 22, died Feb. 6 after an improvised explosive device detonated near his tank in Taji, Iraq.

The Cleburne native was believed to be the first Johnson County resident to die fighting in the war, which began in March 2003.

Tragedy struck again on Dec. 19 when Staff Sgt. Johnnie V. Mason, 32, died in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, after an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee.

Mason, a 1992 graduate of Rio Vista High School, was a 101st Airborne Division soldier who worked as an explosive ordnance disposal supervisor. He left behind a wife and two stepchildren.

Allmon was born May 23, 1982, in Cleburne and attended Cleburne schools. He was in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, stationed at Camp Cook in Taji, Iraq.

In a 2004 interview, Allmon said he believed in the mission.

“If we don’t do it,” he told the Times-Review, “somebody’s got to do it.”

Mason was born Nov. 23, 1973, in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. He attended Rio Vista schools from sixth through 12th grades.

By October 2005 more than 2,000 members of the U.S. military had died since the war began. At least six Texas service members died in Iraq in December of that year, and at least 190 had died since the war began, according to the Associated Press.



2006: Duncan injured in freak train accident

A 36-year-old Cleburne man who lost his legs June 25, 2006, when a rail car rolled over them displayed remarkable clarity of thought as he called 911 and relayed, coherently, what had happened.

As Truman Duncan lay on the ground bleeding profusely and fighting to stay conscious at the Gunderson Southwest rail yard, he pulled out his cell phone and called 911.

“I just got run over by rail cars,” Duncan said calmly. “I need 911, CareFlite. I think I’m cut in two. You need to hurry up now.”

The operator asked Duncan where he was, and he again said Gunderson Southwest.

He told the operator more than once he was about to pass out and feared he was going into shock.

The operator kept talking to Duncan, trying to keep him on the line.

Emergency personnel arrived at the scene at 8 a.m. and searched the rail yard along with a security guard. They were unsure of his location.

When he was found, workers began treating his massive leg wounds and discovered that one of his legs was caught between a steel wheel and brake and the other leg between wheel and axle parts.

The workers used a heavy-duty airbag to lift the rail car off Duncan.

He was immediately flown by CareFlite helicopter to Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, where he remained in critical condition until July 6.

News of Duncan’s incident and 911 call circled the globe.



2007: House explosion

A house exploded May 29, 2007, in Cleburne, leading to two family members’ deaths and injuring three others. Hazel Pawlik, 64, of Cleburne died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas four days after the explosion, and her daughter Hazel Sanderson, 44, died at the same hospital in July.

Family members David Pawlik, 66, David Sanderson, 49, and Stephanie Sanderson, 9, were hospitalized with injuries of varying degrees. Another daughter, Misty Sanderson, 17, escaped the blast without injury.

The explosion destroyed the house on Woodard Avenue and led to the evacuation of 31 nearby homes.

Cleburne Fire Marshal Bill Wright concluded that several events caused two explosions in the house.

Although the home did not use gas, a gas leak in the street in front of the Pawlinks’ home migrated into the sewer line and into the Pawlinks’ home, according to Wright’s report.

A match used to light Hazel Pawlink’s cigarette caused gas accumulated at the ceiling to explode. The first explosion caused gas accumulated in the attic to also ignite, according to the report.

The family sued Atmos Energy Corp for unspecified damages, and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount in February 2009.



2008: Cleburne ISD investigation

Like a house of cards tumbling inward, Cleburne ISD continued to take hit after hit in a scandal that cost the school district $360,000 in federal funds that Texas Education Agency ordered Cleburne ISD to repay because of financial malfeasance.

Along with money going out the door, a number of CISD employees said their farewells for reasons either related or unrelated. Among them was Superintendent Robert Damron

TEA sent a preliminary report to the district in March asking it to repay more than $367,000 from federal grant funds awarded between 2003-06.

After the report’s release, Damron was reassigned from superintendent and resigned shortly after.

Dr. James Warlick came aboard as interim superintendent and Dr. Ronny Beard, formerly of Sweetwater, as full-time superintendent.

TEA assigned Dr. Monte Geren, a resident of nearby Whitney, as a monitor to help CISD oversee its rehabilitation.

TEA’s 19-month investigation uncovered misspending in eight of 10 cases investigated. The other two cases involved no funds that had to be returned, although the agency had recommendations for compliance in those cases.

The report also recommended more audits of the district.

The district asked TEA to reconsider $166,000, but TEA only agreed with the documentation for $4,723.33, leaving the repayment of $362,000.

The investigation arose from a complaint from watchdog group Access Cleburne member Harold Gentry, who sent a letter to the agency in October 2006 questioning the district’s use of federal Title I funds, travel and meal expenses for school board members and furniture purchases at CISD, among other financial uses.

In February 2007, the TEA’s on-site investigation began when TEA auditors went to the district administration building to collect financial records and documents.

The agency’s report addressed $826,951.71 of $5.147 million that was awarded the district for seven grants.



2009: Road to nowhere?

County Commissioner John Matthews described the Texas 121 project as a bouncing ball careening to and fro.

The on-again, off-again project appeared back on track at the end of the year.

Plans that stretch back to the 1970s call for extending the road from its present Fort Worth location into Cleburne.

Local officials have repeatedly called the road as important to the county’s future as the railroads were 100 years ago.

Optimism at the beginning of the year, when work on the project looked imminent, gave way to dismay after rumors surfaced that Texas 121 funding might be diverted to Tarrant County projects.

Local officials turned to state Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, and state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, for help. They also traveled to Washington, D.C., to confer with U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco. Those efforts, and subsequent meetings with officials from the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Texas Tollway Authority, appeared to pay off.

The award of stimulus funding to help pay for interchanges in Cleburne and Fort Worth bolstered confidence that the road was a go.

A September announcement from NTTA officials that rising costs had created a funding gap dashed those hopes.

More meetings followed. Cleburne Mayor Ted Reynolds filed to challenge Orr in 2010, a decision Reynolds said he made in large part because he believed Orr wasn’t doing enough to fight for the Texas 121 project, assertions Orr strongly rejected.

The latest plans call for a scaled-down — two lanes instead of four — stretch of Texas 121 through Johnson County to save on costs.

Those plans still require approval from TxDOT, NTTA and the Regional Transportation Council. All three are expected to address the matter early this year.

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