CDC reports COVID-19 cases are ‘high’ in three Valley counties
COVID-19 cases in the Rio Grande Valley are on the rise and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the level of coronavirus is high in three Rio Grande Valley counties. According to the CDC, COVID-19 cases are high in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties. The hospital numbers are up but not in a terrible way.”On Friday, Cameron County reported 250 new cases and one death. He said those individuals who decided not to get vaccinated and are high risk, will likely contract COVID-19. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up health officials anticipate the COVID-19 cases will increase because of gatherings that will be held to celebrate America’s birthday.myrgv.com
Hospitalizations continue to increase as COVID risk level goes up
COVID-19 hospitalizations across the Rio Grande Valley are continuing their upward trend with the majority of the region now being at an increased risk of spread according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.myrgv.com
Starr County appoints new elections administrator following primary election errors
Following a string of errors in Starr County during the March Primary election, the county’s elections department underwent a change in leadership this week with the appointment of a new elections administrator and the resignation of the former administrator who rejected the demotion. On Monday, the Starr County commissioners court agreed to appoint Human Resources Director Armandina Martinez as the new elections administrator, essentially demoting Elections Administrator John L. Rodriguez within the department. The decision was done at the recommendation of the Starr County elections committee which met last week to discuss the issue. The county elections department mailed out outdated carrier envelopes that did not prompt voters to provide identification as required under Texas’ new voting law, Senate Bill 1. Starr County Republican Party Chair Claudia Alcazar was more generous in her assessment of Rodriguez’s handling of the primary election.myrgv.com
Starr County attorney abruptly retires from position
Starr County Attorney Victor Canales retired from his position Wednesday after more than 15 years in office. Canales submitted a letter of retirement Wednesday, notifying Starr County Judge Eloy Vera that he would be leaving office effective that day. Though the letter lacked details behind his resignation, Canales did recommend that the county commissioners court consider appointing Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Vasquez Gonzalez as his replacement. “She is a tireless worker and extremely capable Attorney and would assist in the continuity for the Office,” Canales wrote. “The County Attorney position will now have to be on the November 8, 2022 General Election ballot in Starr County,” wrote Sam Taylor, assistant secretary of state for communications.myrgv.com
A call, a text, an apology: How an abortion arrest shook up a Texas town
Interviews with several people in the community closely following the situation, as well as statements from leaders in the Texas antiabortion movement, suggest this was not part of a broader antiabortion strategy, but instead a hasty error by a first-term Democratic district attorney.washingtonpost.com
Legal experts scratch heads over abortion, murder indictment
Questions remain after the Starr County District Attorney’s Office backpedaled Monday on an indictment they sought against a woman who they said had a “self-induced abortion,” but legal experts wonder what law gave prosecutors confidence in their initial charge. QUESTION OF STATUTEAttorneys, legal advocates and pundits pontificated this weekend over which law was used to charge Herrera with murder. When the law isn’t clear, Kirschner said charges are raised in the absence of case law, but said it wasn’t the case when considering Chapter 19, Sec. “It’s not like there was some absence of law in Texas,” Kirschner added. “If they need to seek medical attention after a self-induced abortion, if they have taken abortion pills by mouth, there’s not a way for medical providers to ascertain that it’s not just a natural miscarriage,” Sepper said.myrgv.com
Motion filed to dismiss Starr County abortion murder indictment
A motion was filed Monday morning to dismiss the murder indictment against a Starr County woman who had a “self-induced abortion,” according to the district clerk’s office. The motion was filed at 9:30 a.m., the staff said. The motion comes a day after Starr County District Attorney Gocha A. Ramirez announced that his office would drop the indictment against Lizelle Herrera, who was arrested Thursday and charged with murder. “In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” the release read. Her arrest caused outrage throughout the Rio Grande Valley and generated interest across the country.myrgv.com
Indictment to be dismissed against woman arrested over ‘self-induced abortion’
Little else is known about what exactly led to Herrera’s arrest. In the indictment obtained by The Monitor, Herrera is accused of “intentionally and knowingly causing [sic] the death of an individual J.A.H., by a self-induced abortion,” on Jan. 7. Her arrest caused outrage throughout the Rio Grande Valley and generated interest from national media outlets. On Saturday morning, a protest was held outside the Starr County Jail, where Herrera was in custody, calling for her release. “Although with this dismissal Ms. Herrera will not face prosecution for this incident, it is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken a toll on Ms. Herrera and her family,” Ramirez said in the release.myrgv.com
Democratic race for Congressional District 28 too close to call
Cuellar had received 46.4% of the votes while Tannya Benavides, an educator who also ran as a progressive candidate, received 4.8% of the votes. There he received just under 70% of the votes while Cisneros received 26.4%. In Webb County, which includes the candidates’ hometown of Laredo, Cuellar also received the majority of support with nearly 60% of the votes while Cisneros received 37%. Benavides received 3% of the votes there, according to the county’s unofficial election results. The runoff election is scheduled for May.myrgv.com
EDITORIAL: Monitor stands by cold case coverage
In the same murder trial, a federal ATF agent also testified in court that he thought Terry Palacios was the one who leaked the informant’s identity. At no point did The Monitor or any of its employees link Palacios to the disclosure of the informant’s identity, nor did The Monitor convey that impression to readers. The Monitor simply reported in-court testimony by individuals — who have no relationship to The Monitor — in a murder trial and allowed readers to form their own conclusions. Any criticism by another news organization that The Monitor wrongly reported the testimony of these trial witnesses is completely unfounded. Readers are assured that, in the future, The Monitor will continue sourcing and reporting important news in the community, consistent with the highest journalistic standards.myrgv.com
Feds seek to protect rare Texas plant in the path of border wall construction
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule earlier this week to list the prostrate milkweed, which lives along the Texas-Mexico border, as an endangered species. The rare plant is threatened in part by border security activities, scientists say.
Hard freeze watch issued for parts of the RGV
As a strong cold front continues to impact the Rio Grande Valley, a hard freeze watch has been issued for some portions of the area. Starr County and portions of northern Hidalgo and Willacy counties are included in the watch area, the National Weather Service Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley reports. The watch will begin at midnight and will continue until 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Freezing temperatures as low as 24 degrees are anticipated. A freeze watch for the southern half of Hidalgo County, all of Cameron County and coastal portions of Willacy County will be in effect from midnight until 10 a.m. Saturday.myrgv.com
Appellate court affirms to throw out statements in Starr murder case
Statements made by a defendant in a Starr County murder case will not be admissible during trial, an appeals court affirmed Tuesday. Additionally, on two warning forms, Barrera checked off a request for law enforcement to return Torres to him after questioning so he could determine whether Torres’ statements were made voluntarily. However, Barrera testified that he didn’t meet with Torres afterward and he never determined he voluntariness of his statements. 51.095 of the family code and by not making a determination of voluntariness of Torres’ statements, they are now inadmissable. In their conclusion, though, the appellate justices acknowledged their ruling could lead to an unjust outcome in the case.myrgv.com
Another arrest made in Starr County voter fraud case
A third person has been arrested in Starr County’s ongoing investigation into voter fraud. Belinda Garcia, 45, turned herself in to the Starr County Special Crimes Unit Tuesday afternoon, confirmed 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar. Garcia was charged with one count of election fraud and one count of fraudulent application for ballot by mail. Escobar said this was another case of an application for a mail-in ballot indicating the voter is disabled. However in Garcia’s case, the district attorney said more than one voter was identified so more charges could be forthcoming.myrgv.com
Judge blocks part of Starr County electioneering rules
A temporary restraining order was partially granted against Starr County’s electioneering regulations. The decision allows the county to continue banning electioneering in parking areas under the county’s building and property use policy, adopted Feb. 12, but temporarily blocks the section of the policy which requires a permit to use other county property. Their application and lawsuit, filed on behalf of a Starr County candidate and the Starr County Republican chair, argued that the policy violated First Amendment rights. The lawsuit initially focused on an electioneering ban adopted in January, which prohibited electioneering on all county property. “When Starr County improperly tried to impose a blanket ban on electioneering, they also silenced Texas voices,” Olivares said in a statement.myrgv.com
Texas AG’s office ‘fully supports’ voter fraud investigation
The Texas attorney general’s office has offered to assist Starr County in its investigation into voter fraud. Omar Escobar, the 229th district attorney, launched the investigation after the Starr County Elections Department was notified of questionable applications for mail-in ballots. During a special session last year, the Texas legislature passed changes to the election laws through Senate Bill 5. On Monday, the attorney general’s office sent a letter to Escobar agreeing to assist in the county’s efforts. “Some people have and some people have not, so we’re going to continue working with the attorney general’s office to make sure that the new laws are implemented.”myrgv.com
Charges dismissed for ranch owner where ton of marijuana found
A federal grand jury has indicted three men in relation to the seizure of more than a ton of marijuana in Starr County in late October, while prosecutors dismissed the charges against the owner of the ranch where the drugs were found hidden in a recreational vehicle.myrgv.com
State to build border wall in Starr County
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced a lease agreement Monday that will allow the state to build a border wall in Starr County. The commissioner held a news conference in Starr County in July to talk about a lawsuit filed by his office over the unfinished border wall in a property stretching 3,099 acres. Greg Abbott visited Del Río, he announced his plans to create a border wall and barriers. That same day Bush said the construction would receive emergency authorization on state lands. During Bush’s visit to Starr County in July, he announced the General Land Office would be making its 20,000 state-owned border acres available to his plans.myrgv.com
Starr County to get $3M in border security funding
Nearly $3 million in federal funding will be going toward border security efforts in Starr County. This week, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, announced that the Operation Stonegarden program will be receiving over $2.9 million in federal grant money, funding which will impact Starr County residents, according to the congressman’s office. Under Operation Stonegarden, local law enforcement agencies, including the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, assist state and federal agents with border security measures. According to Cuellar’s office, the funding in Hidalgo County had exceeded previous years, which between 2018 and 2020 ranged from $4.5 million to $4.9 million. Like Starr County’s funding, the grant went toward equipment and personnel in Hidalgo County.myrgv.com
Starr County JP disciplined for misusing office, helping wife’s political campaign
A Starr County justice of the peace received a public reprimand Friday from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for using his public office to help his wife’s political campaign and violating other government codes.myrgv.com
Details revealed about Starr County bust that netted 2,100 pounds of marijuana
The complaint provides details into the large Oct. 27 bust that netted 2,157 pounds of marijuana, which Border Patrol and the Starr County Sheriff’s Office publicized in news releases. Border Patrol agents reportedly saw drug smuggling at the property while conducting surveillance on the ranch. Back at the sheriff’s office, the investigator began drafting a search warrant while Border Patrol set up a perimeter outside the ranch. According to the complaint, Muñiz told Border Patrol they could search his property but was informed that a search warrant was being obtained. During the search, the investigator, Border Patrol and DEA agents entered the recreational vehicle and found the frame molding of the interior walls had been tampered.myrgv.com
15th defendant named in Starr County drug conspiracy
A 15th person was named in a Starr County drug conspiracy indictment Monday. Ramiro Eden Clarke was arrested Monday and went before U.S. District Judge Nadia S. Medrano on Tuesday for his initial appearance. Clarke is the latest person to be named in the drug conspiracy involving 20 arrests made Sept. 15, mostly in Starr County. Clarke was charged with the overall drug conspiracy count and for his participation in an incident involving 207 kilograms of marijuana that were seized Sept. 1, 2020. Clarke shaked his head as he listened and later acknowledged he understood the charges made against him.myrgv.com
Bond set for Starr County JP’s alleged marijuana supplier
A man accused of supplying marijuana to a Starr County justice of the peace arrested last week on drug conspiracy charges went before a federal judge Wednesday morning. Then Gonzalez said he paid $230 for some hydroponic marijuana he intended to distribute to Valadez, according to an agent interpreting the call. The first was made at 12:19 p.m. when Valadez asked Gonzalez to sell him some drugs for $100. During that custodial interview, he admitted to FBI agents that Gonzalez provided him with “high grade marijuana,” according to the criminal complaint. Hacker set a $50,000 bond and required a $1,000 cash deposit and a co-surety approved by the court.myrgv.com
Money laundering accusations surface in Starr drug case hearing
Daisy Marie Garza, 23, took the witness stand for her stepfather, Isidoro Garza. Special Agent Weightman said other employees working for the company could fall under the same scrutiny as Isidoro Garza. Profit reminded the judge Garza did flee when he was arrested last week, although Treviño argued most people try to run when confronted with the possibility of arrest. At least one of the numbers identified by investigators suggested Isidoro Garza was talking to someone involved with coordinating a large methamphetamine load. GARZA’S PROPERTY AND MONEYAfter Isidoro Garza was arrested, some money, over $100,000, was found in a safe.myrgv.com
Texas National Guard teams will vaccinate residents for COVID-19 in five rural counties, Gov. Greg Abbott announces
Soldiers with the Texas National Guard work at a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in Smithville on May 5, 2020. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that National Guard troops will vaccinate residents in five rural counties as part of a new pilot program. (Credit: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK)Starting Thursday, state mobile vaccination teams staffed by Texas National Guard members will be deployed to five rural Texas counties to administer coronavirus vaccines to qualified residents. National Guard teams will visit DeWitt, Marion, Real, Sherman and Starr counties as part of a newly-created State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program announced by Gov. On Wednesday, President Biden ordered full reimbursement to states that use the National Guard to increase the pace of vaccinations nationally.
The Trump administration awarded border wall contracts to build on land it doesn’t own in Texas
The situation could become even more complicated if President-elect Joe Biden makes good on his promise to stop border wall construction. The agreements are to build 146 miles of border wall and install nearly three dozen gates. Biden has said he will cease wall construction and drop all the lawsuits on day one. Under the Trump administration, Starr has become one of the agency’s top priorities for the border wall. But Starr County, which lacks a levee system, had no wall before the Trump administration first proposed building there in 2017.
Boy, 5, rescued after falling into well on South Texas ranch, Texas Game Wardens say
STARR COUNTY, Texas – A 5-year-old boy was rescued after getting stuck in a well on a ranch in South Texas, according to the Texas Game Wardens. The incident happened Dec. 8 in Starr County. On Dec. 8th, Starr County dispatch received a 911 call about a child who had fallen into a well on a ranch. Multiple law... Posted by Texas Game Wardens on Thursday, December 10, 2020He was rescued around 10:30 p.m. and had no visible injuries. As of Thursday afternoon, officials said the boy is still hospitalized but in stable condition.
Primarily Democratic Texas border county with 96% Latino population brings in more Republican votes during 2020 election
STARR COUNTY, Texas – Located just west of Mission, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, Starr County almost went from stark blue to bright red on Election Day. 4 big takeaways for Texas, Bexar County after 2020 electionRoss Barrera, the Starr County Republican chair, was skeptical when someone first suggested organizing a Trump Train. Barrera said he asked, “You think that’ll work here in Starr County? Do not take us for granted.’”Garza said Starr County, being one of the poorest counties in the nation, deserves economic relief. We do go out to vote, and we can switch our vote,” Garza said.
Local health authority resigns in Texas border county battered by coronavirus
Dr. Jos Vzquez has resigned from his position as Starr Co. county health authority. Credit: Spencer Selvidge for The Texas TribuneNeed to stay updated on coronavirus news in Texas? The top doctor advising Starr County on local health policy resigned abruptly Monday, leaving temporarily vacant a key position in a rural border community already battered by the coronavirus. Starr County, population 65,000, is one of the poorest counties in the country. Starr County has had 68 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 2,213 cases as of Monday, according to state data.
South Texas county implements stay-at-home order following surge in COVID-19 cases
STARR COUNTY, Texas Starr County Judge Eloy Vera announced Friday a Stay at home/Stay Safe Emergency Order amid a surge in cases in the Rio Grande Valley. A Facebook post by the county said the order will remain in full force and in effect until 11:59 p.m., Aug. 10. STARR COUNTY STAY AT HOME/STAY SAFE EMERGENCY ORDER Starr County Stay Home/Stay Safe Emergency Order goes into effect... Posted by Starr County Texas on Thursday, July 23, 2020According to Texas Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 dashboard, as of July 25, Starr County has reported 1,559 cases of COVID-19. Starr County Memorial Hospital reported that it was at full capacity and was forced to transfer patients to other cities on Wednesday. Read also:Hidalgo County: New order issued Monday includes shelter at home, curfew
Hospital in Rio Grande Valley could make decisions based on patient’s chances of survival
STARR COUNTY, Texas – There is a growing COVID-19 crisis just south of San Antonio in the Rio Grande Valley. “Emergency rooms are holding patients for hours or days because, basically, we do not have any rooms inside the hospital to put those patients,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez, Starr County health authority. About 70,000 people live in Starr County, and more than 1,600 of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Starr County Memorial Hospital said its COVID-19 unit is filled with 29 patients. As of Wednesday morning, the hospital held nine patients for admission and transferred two patients to San Antonio hospitals.
Hard-hit Texas border counties urge residents to stay home
AUSTIN, Texas While some big cities in Texas are reporting signs that an alarming surge in cases of the coronavirus may be leveling off, officials in counties along the border with Mexico said Tuesday that the outlook there remains bleak. Greg Abbotts past mandates that do not allow local officials to set their own stay-at-home restrictions. Texas on Tuesday reported more than 9,300 confirmed new cases and 131 deaths, the states second deadliest day of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Texas is pressing ahead with plans for high school football this fall. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Virus surge visible across Texas: ‘The tsunami is here’
Texas today resembles the state in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Records for COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations are set almost daily and Texas, the state that embarked on one of America’s fastest reopenings, is in retreat. And it has been the deadliest week of the pandemic in Texas, with 95 new deaths reported Friday. Abbott announced at the end of that month that Texas would begin reopening after just a few weeks of stay-at-home orders. Mayors in Texas' big cities and health experts winced at the speed, saying it was too soon.
Rio Grande Valley hospitals reach capacity ahead of July 4th weekend, officials say
HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas – Hidalgo County, Starr County, and Valley Baptist Health System hospitals have now reached capacity due to the influx of COVID-19 cases in the area, according to a report from KRGV. The Valley Baptist Health System has reached its capacity as well with COVID-19 patients, according to a report from KRGV. KRGV reports the Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen had 141 COVID-19 related patients as of Friday afternoon, and Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville had 97. According to KRGV’s report, every hospital in the Valley is full and patients are being taken to other parts of Texas. As of Friday, the county announced a new daily high of COVID-19 cases with 1,334, totaling 14,212 cases total in the community.
‘Let’s do it’: Border landowner supports US-Mexico wall
STARR COUNTY, Texas – Ruperto Escobar is the first to admit his stance on the border wall is controversial and unpopular. Escobar admits he doesn't believe a border wall will end illegal activity but he's hopeful it'll slow it down. That barrier is going to slow them down enough to where our (Border Patrol) agents can catch them a lot easier," Escobar said. AdIf a wall isn't built, Escobar said he and his neighbors will continue to have problems with people trespassing on their property. Escobar said surveyors have come out to his land to see if a border wall is possible on his property.