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Couple beat baby before dumping her in bayou, police say


A man and woman arrested Thursday and charged with tampering with a human corpse are accused of beating a 2-year-old child to death, putting her body in a trash bag and attempting to sink it in a Texas City bayou, police said.

Tiaundra Christon, 21, and Kenny Hewett, 32, were arrested Thursday, and are suspected in the death of Christon’s daughter, 2-year-old Hazana Anderson. Authorities released details about the charges against the couple on Friday.

Hazana Anderson was dead days before she was first reported missing to police in College Station on Oct. 28, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Texas Rangers.

Christon, Hewett and Anderson were staying together in a Houston hotel on Oct. 17, according to the complaint. On Oct. 19, Hewett and Anderson left the room to get food and returned after 30 minutes. When they came back to the room, the child was crying, according to the complaint.

To quiet her, Christon and Hewett hit Anderson in the legs, arms and face with a belt to the point where she began to lose consciousness, according to the complaint.

They put the child in a bathtub to try to revive her, but she died, according to the complaint.

The couple put Anderson’s body in the back seat of a car for three days before placing it in a trash bag on Oct. 23, according to the complaint

They drove to Galveston County, to a bayou near state Highway 146, tied a rope and a rock around the trash bag and put it in the water, according to the complaint.

Christon reported Anderson missing on Oct. 28. At the time, she told police the child disappeared after being briefly left unattended in a College Station park.

Christon was arrested and charged with making a false report after College Station police found a doll like one belonging to the missing child in a trash can, according to the complaint.

Christon led police to the body on Oct. 31, according to the complaint. Hewett later pointed police to the same location, according to the complaint.Hewett was in custody at the Galveston County Jail on Friday afternoon, according to jail records. He was being held on $500,000 bond, according to jail records.Christon was in custody at the Brazos County Jail, and being held on $750,000 bond on Friday afternoon, according to jail records.


Anthony Mason of Conroe, Texas watches riders as the cruise The Strand on the second day of the annual Lone Star Rally in downtown Galveston on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.

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Astronaut/UTMB graduate videoconferences from the space station

A group of University of Texas Medical Branch students, medical residents, faculty and staff from the aerospace medicine program gathered in Levin Hall on Friday for some face time with their colleague, Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor.

The live videoconference connection was clear, even though Auñón-Chancellor happened to be orbiting in space 250 miles above the Earth aboard the International Space Station.

A physician and engineer who completed her master’s degree in public health and her aerospace medicine residency at the medical branch, Auñón-Chancellor calls the Houston-Galveston area home. She has worked as a NASA flight surgeon since 2006 and was selected in 2009 as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.

In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering at the St. Vincent’s House community clinic on the island, according to her official bio.

Auñón-Chancellor and two other astronauts, one from Germany and one from Russia, launched on a Soyuz rocket as part of Expedition 56/57 on June 6, marking her first space mission.

She has been in space 150 days and expects to return to Earth a little before Christmas.

Her crew’s expected time in space was extended by about a month on Oct. 11 when the launch of another Soyuz rocket, intended to transport replacement personnel to the station, aborted after takeoff and its crew ended up instead in waters off Kazakhstan.

Asked whether the Soyuz failure affected her, Auñón-Chancellor was circumspect.

“We call it a spectacular failure,” she said, her hair floating above her head as she hovered in the air, wearing a UTMB T-shirt, her hands gesturing expressively. “That’s because the failure showed that the launch abort feature works.”

“It saved the crew’s lives. It was a wake-up call, a stark reminder of how dangerous it is to be in space.”

On a lighter note, asked what was her favorite thing about being in a micro-gravity environment, Auñón-Chancellor deftly turned a slow-motion flip.

“I love being able to work in any direction,” she said, tilting to the side and turning upside-down. “Floating to work every day, there’s nothing like it.”

While on the space station, Auñón-Chancellor has been conducting research on such topics as the effect on bones and muscles of living in a micro-gravity environment.

“We’ve been looking at the impact of inactivity on bone marrow,” she said, explaining that without gravity, the body is in a perpetual state of inactivity. Bones and muscles begin breaking down immediately.

“It’s an analog for people on bed rest on the ground,” she said.

Auñón-Chancellor also has been studying endothelial cells, the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels.

“They love to grow in micro-gravity,” she said, information that could contribute to studies targeting vascular tumors.

To counter the effects on her own body, Auñón-Chancellor exercises two to two-and-a-half hours a day, using a device that can simulate weight loads for squats, crunches and curls, she said.

“A workout specialist on the ground gives us exercise prescriptions,” she said.

Auñón-Chancellor told a student on the aerospace medicine track that she wanted to be an astronaut from age 5, and studied electrical engineering for that reason before becoming a physician.

“I went to medical school in Houston, then I heard about the program at UTMB,” she said. “It worked out for me because everything was right there in my back yard.”

Both she and administrators at the medical center’s aerospace program said they see a bright future for work opportunities in space as more civilians enter into the business of launching rockets for space transport.

“UTMB is a very special place to train,” Auñón-Chancellor said. “It has such a diverse patient population, and it’s one of very few places with an aerospace medicine program in the country. The majority of flight surgeons at NASA come from UTMB.”

As the videoconference wrapped up, after Auñón-Chancellor waved goodbye to her colleagues and friends, she looked into the camera, smiled, stood-up straight, arms to her sides, and lifted off upward, out of the camera’s view, just like a rocket.

Kenny Hewett

Hazana Anderson

Tiaundra Christon

Coming Sunday

After 15 years of ownership disputes, an eyesore island property gets a clear title and chance for redevelopment. Read about that and much more in Laura Elder’s Biz Buzz.

Laura Elder

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City to fund $450M development with new legislation


Rather than lure developers to a $450 million project with promises of large tax incentives, the city plans to use recent legislative changes to help fund the work, officials said.

The city council voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve a predevelopment agreement with Epicenter of League City LLC for a project that could bring four hotels, a convention center, arenas for a hockey and a baseball team, restaurants and shops, among other business, alongside Interstate 45.

Residents in the days since the vote have questioned the move, asking what incentives the city offered developers and citing frustration with recent deals such as one that brought Nebraska-based Cabela’s Wholesale Inc. to the city.

The city in 2015 inked two agreements in that deal. One was a so-called 380 agreement under which the city will reimburse developer Pinnacle Fund Alliance up to $9.3 million over 15 years. The reimbursement will be paid from the sales tax revenue generated by the Cabela’s store and the other new retail at Pinnacle Park, 2471 Interstate 45. The city also agreed to pay Cabela’s $825,000 directly.

But unlike some previous developments, this one won’t be paid for with resident taxes or city funding, according to a city spokesman.

Rather, city officials will provide some benefits via House Bill 2445, a piece of legislation that went to the governor May 30, 2017, and was approved without his signature June 15, 2017, amending Chapter 351 of the Texas Tax Code.

“Basically, for those that qualify, a city can pledge up to 10 years of the state sales taxes and hotel taxes for eligible expenditures on qualifying projects,” said Scott Livingston, League City’s director of economic development.

The state generally takes a share of sales and hotel taxes collected in cities.

The bill added League City as one of only about 20 communities in Texas that can use the state’s share of the tax revenue for qualifying projects, he said.

For a project to qualify it must include a convention center and at least one hotel within a 1,000-foot radius of one another and the city must own the convention center and land under it, Livingston said.

The proposed $450 million commercial development would include four hotels, a convention center for a hockey team and a baseball team, restaurants and shops, and other businesses.

Once a project is approved, the state rebates sales and hotel taxes on the property for 10 years for use on convention center-ancillary facilities, Livingston said.

But the state comptroller can declare some businesses, such as a dry cleaner, as not ancillary to the hotel and convention center, Livingston said.

The state refunds sales and hotel taxes for qualifying businesses to the city, which then gives it to the developer, officials said.

The rebates can only be used on the development, officials said.

As part of the agreement, the developer would fund the design and construction of a new sports complex for the city on the growing western side of town on about a 100-acre site near the Bay Colony subdivision.

The new sports complex would replace the Chester L. Davis Sportsplex, which sits on prime real estate along Interstate 45 where the proposed new development would rise.

The Chester L. Davis Sportsplex is near the intersection of I-45 and state Highway 96 in League City.

Builders couldn’t begin construction on the new development until the new sports complex is constructed, city officials said.

Officials with Epicenter League City LLC said they were excited to work with the city on the new development.

“It will be a spotlight as travelers come down I-45,” said David Miles, one of the principals with Epicenter League City LLC.

The principals involved in the project have a combined 70 years of experience and have worked on projects of different sizes across the region, Miles said.

Now that the city has reached a predevelopment agreement, staff will work with the developer over the next several months toward a development agreement to be finalized perhaps by the end of January, officials said.

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

City, resident at odds over lingering East End leak

Two weeks ago, Jhonny Langer heard water flowing outside his house. That wasn’t unusual. He kept a small fountain outside, powered by electricity, but the power was out and the fountain was off. Langer turned off the water supply to his house and still heard water flowing.

He peered under the house at 12th Street and Avenue M on Galveston’s East End and found a crumbling iron pipe spewing water onto the underside of the house — after the house’s water supply was turned off.

When he touched the pipe, “it became an absolute gusher,” Langer said in an email to City Manager Brian Maxwell.

City workers came out within an hour and were generous with their time trying to determine the source of the water flowing through what was apparently an abandoned pipe, Langer said.

All to no avail, a city official said.

“We’ve excavated at the city’s expense, trying to help him the best we can,” Maxwell said Thursday. “We’ve dug as deep as our main all around the house and we don’t know where this water is coming from.”

It’s not an unheard-of problem at an old house — Langer’s was built in 1903 — especially in the historic East End, where, after the 1900 Storm, the elevation of the island was raised with infill, covering all manner of pipes and other infrastructure. Over a century, new water lines were hooked up to the city’s mains and, when they could be found, old pipes no longer in use were capped.

And the leak under Langer’s house is an example of much larger problem on the island, where 25 percent of the water the city buys goes missing before it ever reaches a meter, officials have said.

A much larger example came to light in December last year when city workers discovered a leak in a main water line that nobody knew existed had been pouring an average of 3 million gallons of water, worth thousands of dollars, into the storm sewer system each day for years.

A city utility worker showed him the patch in the street in front of his house where a new line was laid in the 1990s, Langer said.

“The problem is that a new line was added, but the old line that was under my house was abandoned,” Langer said. “It was abandoned because they couldn’t find it and somebody said, ‘We’ll let somebody else take care of it in the future.’ Well, the future is now.”

The continuously running water has caused considerable damage to the underside of his house and continues to run, despite a temporary patch placed over a large hole in the crumbling pipe, Langer said.

“I can fill a gallon container in a minute with what’s flowing out,” he said.

The water apparently isn’t running through Langer’s meter, however, he said.

Langer’s councilman, Craig Brown, said Langer contacted him when he discovered the problem and Brown told him the leak, on private property, needed to be taken care of by a privately hired plumber.

“When he said why it couldn’t be done, the city manager agreed to go out and have the city try to locate where the pipe may be connecting to the main water line,” Brown said.

Brown, Langer and Maxwell all agreed that emergency crews were sent out, vast numbers of holes were dug over several days and, ultimately, no progress was made.

“Throughout all this, the city continued to mention to Mr. Langer that all he needed to do is contact a plumber,” Brown said.

The city wants to see the water stop flowing, many thousands of gallons over 15 days, but getting it stopped is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the city, Brown said.

Langer said in his initial message to Maxwell that he’d contacted four plumbers who “would do nothing because the pipe was too old and rotted.”

His insurance company won’t pay to have the water stopped and will compensate only for damages incurred by the leak, he said.

On Thursday, he said he has found a plumber who will attempt to cap the pipe once a part comes in.

But he contended that finding the source of the water flow should be the city’s responsibility and that stopping the flow should be the focus of everyone involved.

Maxwell said the city has done its part to the tune of “tens of thousands of dollars in public funds” to locate the source of the water, but stopping the flow is Langer’s responsibility.

“The bottom line is that he has to get a plumber out there to cap off that pipe,” Maxwell said. “It’s no different than your faucet leaking in your kitchen or your toilet leaking.”

Langer said the damage to his house is substantial and he will file a claim with the city and his insurance company if the water flow is not cut off quickly.

Maxwell said that’s not likely.

“The only other thing we could do to locate the source is begin shutting off main valves around his neighborhood, but that would put hundreds of homes out of service.”