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Documents detail indecency case against GPD officer

GALVESTON

Two felony indecency charges filed against a Galveston police department officer stem from a complaint made by one teenager about incidents alleged to have happened in 2016 and 2018, according to a criminal complaint the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office released Wednesday.

Dion Watson, 50, of Galveston, was charged late Tuesday with two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact, law enforcement officials said.

Watson, on the Galveston force since 2001, has been on administrative leave since February when the department received a complaint, police officials said.

A teenage girl, referred to as “Jane Doe” in the documents, told investigators Watson had touched her in sexual ways on several occasions starting when she was 13, and had urged her to pose nude for photographs, according to the complaint.

Watson has denied the allegations to investigators, according to the complaint.

The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office investigated the accusations against Watson, which is routine in criminal complaints involving police officers.

The accusations first were made in January to Texas Child Protective Services when staff members at a Galveston private school told investigators they had heard the allegations through a classmate of a 17-year-old girl, according to the complaint.

The 17-year-old later repeated the accusations to interviewers at the Galveston County Child Advocacy Center, according to the complaint.

The teen told police Watson had first touched her in July 2016, when she was 13 years old, according to the complaint.

She alleged Watson had touched her while he applied hydrocortisone ointment to razor bumps he’d noticed while she was wearing a bikini, according to the complaint.

She alleged the abuse happened on “several different occasions” from when she was 13 until she was 17, according to the complaint.

The teen also told investigators Watson in September 2018 had asked her to model nude for money, and that she had disrobed while he was present, according to the complaint.

Investigators said they have copies of text messages alleged to have been sent between Watson and the teenager, including one in which the teenager confronted Watson about money he allegedly took from her, according to the complaint.

During that exchange the teenager wrote “don’t forget you touched me too but then I thought who would believe me with no evidence and you being a cop I would never win,” according to the complaint.

Watson denied the allegations during a March 5 interview with sheriff’s office investigators, according to the complaint.

Watson was arrested and charged Tuesday evening. His bond was set at $20,000, which he posted, according to the sheriff’s office.


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Woman seeks mom's ashes after Mardi Gras mishap

GALVESTON

Jean Skinner hopes you’ve seen her bag.

It’s a white tote bag, with a white plastic bag inside. You might have seen it downtown during Mardi Gras, maybe placed haphazardly against a wall or under a table.

If you took the bag, and maybe got excited about the number of Mardi Gras beads inside it, Skinner hopes you might consider checking again.

Because in that bag, Skinner left not only some Mardi Gras beads and an umbrella, but also the last earthly remains of her mother, Wanda Ogle.

Skinner, a Galveston resident, has spent the past two weeks trying to find who might have picked up her misplaced bag, because she believes it contains a necklace made from her late mother’s ashes.

“It’s a glass pendant,” she said. “It was made by an artist, and when they made the pendant, they put my mother’s ashes in the glass.”

She’s posted on every Facebook page she can think of, and has checked with the city to see whether police or cleanup crews might have picked up and put aside the bag.

The posts have prompted some leads from people who think they remember seeing the bag, but so far, she’s had no luck.

“Somebody posted that they found a bag with ‘something special it in,’” Skinner said, but so far she hasn’t made that connection.

Losing the necklace came after an unfortunate confluence of events, Skinner said.

She wore the necklace only to special events, ones her mom might have enjoyed attending, she said.

She didn’t intend to take the necklace off, but it apparently got caught up with a bunch of bead necklaces with which she had become overloaded with during the festivities.

“It was my first Mardi Gras, and I had beads all over my neck up to my chin, and a friend of mine was like ‘You’re drowning in beads,” she said. “I guess when I took the beads off, the necklace was in there as well.”

The bag she put the necklaces in disappeared during the normal course of Mardi Gras revelry, she said.

“I have no idea where I lost it,” she said. “I had no idea it was gone until I was going to go home.”

The hopes of finding a gem among the piles of Mardi Gras garbage seem slim. If the bag wasn’t picked up by a passerby, it could have ended up in the 2 tons or so of trash street crews pick up on Mardi Gras’ busiest nights.

Skinner hoped it ended up with somebody, rather than in a trash pile, she said.

“I just hope that I get it back,” she said. “If I don’t, I just hope that whoever does have it has more fun and that my mom can go with them.”


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School district must pay student's $76K lawyer fees

GALVESTON

A Federal court has ordered the Galveston Independent School District to pay almost $76,000 in attorney fees to a student whose family asserted the district denied their daughter special education services.

The March 11 decision from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas orders the district to pay $75,936.95 on top of the $70,839.05 the court told it to pay in March 2017, according to court records.

The original lawsuit asserted the school district denied special education services to the student in 2013.

After being enrolled in special education services in the district from 2004 to 2009, the girl was withdrawn for four years of home schooling, according to court records.

The original court 2015 decision ruled in favor of some points from the family’s case, a decision the school district then appealed, according to court records.

The court then ordered the school district to pay the initial $70,839.05 for attorney fees, a decision the school district appealed but lost in March 2018, the family’s attorney Dorene Philpot said.

The additional $75,936.95 will pay for the family’s attorney fees during the appeal process, Philpot said.

The district shouldn’t have appealed the second time, Philpot said.

“They basically doubled their losses and the taxpayers get to pay for this bad decision-making,” Philpot said.

The fees were reduced in part from what the family originally asked for, but the ruling still wasn’t what the school district was hoping for, Superintendent of Schools Kelli Moulton said.

“There is opportunity to appeal,” Moulton said. “We have not made our decision yet.”

District officials told the family they couldn’t find records showing the student’s special education records and determined she had been dismissed from the program, according to court records.

The student was given an evaluation in 2015 and the district determined the student met special education criteria, according to court records.

The case is from several years ago and the school is dedicated to providing resources to all students, district board of trustees President Tony Brown said.

“More recently, our current board of trustees has worked with staff to provide additional resources for special education testing and instruction,” Brown said. “I do hope that we will use those resources effectively, to provide our children the education they need and deserve.”

The district’s insurance carrier is the Texas Association of School Boards, district officials said. The association will pay all fees passed down from the court, officials said.


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Still no final deal on $450M League City development

LEAGUE CITY

When the city council in October unveiled plans for a massive $450 million commercial development that would rise through an unprecedented public-private partnership, administrators said they hoped to have a signed final agreement by the end of January.

But five months later — and almost two months past the city’s tentative deadline for a final agreement — there’s no agreement and new information about Epicenter League City has been scant.

“Soon there will be an announcement regarding progress with Epicenter,” Linda Merritt, spokeswoman for the developer behind the project, said Wednesday.

The project could one day bring four hotels, a convention center, arenas for a hockey and a baseball team, restaurants and shops and other businesses to an area of League City alongside Interstate 45. The council in late October approved a predevelopment agreement with a group called Epicenter of League City LLC.

Epicenter of League City LLC is a newly formed company, but the company behind it, Western Spherical Developers LLC, has more than 70 years of combined experience, according to the project’s website.

Western Spherical Developers LLC is listed to a Friendswood address, but has no apparent website.

City administrators declined Wednesday to comment on the project’s status other than to say they were continuing negotiations toward a development agreement.

The delay is a source of frustration for at least one councilman.

“I’m most disappointed in the fact that, with all the due diligence the city did leading up to this, we are still working through this,” Councilman Larry Millican said, while also saying the city was still in active talks with the developer. “Staff spent a lot of time and energy going in to validate the predevelopment agreement. So, I’m surprised it’s gone this long.”

Staff research into what eventually became the Epicenter League City project began several years before the council approved the predevelopment agreement, Millican said.

The city in May 2018, for instance, hired Washington D.C.-based Brailsford & Dunlavey for an initial $49,600 to study the feasibility of the project, said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city.

That group determined the project was viable, given the developer’s projections and ability to pay for the project, Millican said.

But even before commissioning that report, city staff for years lobbied for the legislation that eventually became House Bill 2445 and worked with two different sites for a future development like the Epicenter one, Millican said.

House Bill 2445, which the city hopes to use to provide some benefits to the project, went to the governor May 30, 2017 and was approved without his signature June 15, 2017, amending Chapter 351 of the Texas Tax Code.

The bill will allow League City to pledge the state’s share of hotel occupancy taxes collected in the city to pay for tourism-related improvements, such as a convention center, entertainment-related convention center facilities or hotel infrastructure.

Both Millican and Councilman Chad Tressler agreed that the city still hoped to reach a final agreement soon, but was just slightly behind schedule.

“When you’re working around developments, you are always going to have some hiccups,” Millican said.

The longer it takes before a final development agreement, the longer it could take for the project to begin, Millican said.

As part of the agreement, the developer would fund the design and construction of a new, larger sportsplex for the city on the growing western side of town on about 100 acres near the Bay Colony subdivision, replacing the Chester L. Davis Sportsplex.

The current sportsplex sits on prime real estate along Interstate 45 that would one day house the new development.

But depending on when a final agreement is signed, the developer might have to wait until baseball season is over to begin work, Millican said.

“You’re looking at about a nine or 10-month time frame to build a sportsplex on the other side of the freeway,” Millican said.

Once a final development agreement is signed, construction could begin as soon as 30 days later, officials have said.


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Former Crystal Beach fire chief pleads guilty to theft

A former chief of the Crystal Beach Volunteer Fire Department pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing more than $70,000 from the department over four years.

David Loop, 61, of Winnie, will be sentenced June 3 in connection with his guilty plea in the 10th Judicial District Court, records show.

Loop was indicted in 2014 on felony charges of misapplication of fiduciary property and theft of property less than $200,000, court records show.

Loop pleaded guilty Wednesday to the theft of property charge, court records show.

Loop was accused of using the department’s credit card to spend more than $25,000 at a racetrack and casino in Louisiana and of misappropriating more than $45,000, officials said.

In 2013, a member of the Crystal Beach Volunteer Fire Department’s board of directors went to the public integrity unit of the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office after the board found thousands of dollars missing from the department’s bank account and charges on the fire department’s credit card.

Loop spent fire department money for his own use between March 2009 and October 2013, according to Wednesday’s guilty plea.

Loop was voted out of his post in January 2014.