Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prosecutor says suspect in 1984 killing 'stabbed her again and again' - Fort Worth Star Telegram

FORT WORTH -- Murder suspect Ryland Shane Absalon hid in 18-year-old Ginger Hayden's closet until she fell asleep and then stabbed her repeatedly with a steak knife after she rebuffed his sexual advances, a Tarrant County prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

"He stabbed her again and again and again," Lisa Callaghan said during her opening statements in Absalon's capital murder trial. "She had rejected him."Confessions that Absalon made to acquaintances during drug and alcohol treatment and new DNA evidence link him to the crime, Callaghan said. Absalon's DNA was found on a towel in the bathroom and his pubic hair was found on a blood-soaked sock on the bathroom counter, she said.But defense attorney Gary Udashen pointed to still-unidentified male DNA found in Hayden's bedding and under her fingernails as evidence that the University of Texas at Arlington student may have been slain by a suspected serial killer who was believed to have been targeting young women in Fort Worth at the time."There was somebody out there," Udashen said. "Somebody was breaking into young women's apartments. Maybe someday we'll know who it was. Shane is not that person. Ginger was his friend."Udashen said Absalon falsely confessed to the killing after being pressured during a domineering treatment program that promised him confidentiality.Absalon, 45, who was 17 at the time of the killing, is accused of stabbing Hayden 57 times on Sept. 5, 1984.At the time, Fort Worth police had created a task force to investigate the rash of slayings of women, and Hayden's case was among them.Investigators said Tuesday that police eventually concluded that the slayings were not related.Hayden's case went unsolved until 2009 when the Fort Worth Police Department's cold-case unit got a federal grant for DNA testing.Absalon, who was among the suspects at the time, lived in the apartment above Hayden and her mother and frequently visited them.He has maintained his innocence and was living in Arizona with his wife and pre-school-age child when arrested.Callaghan, joined by prosecutors Jim Hudson and Anna Summersett, told jurors that Hayden was slain on the day she was set to start classes at UT Arlington for the first time. Her mother found the body after her daughter's alarm went off and she didn't get up."Sept. 5, 1984, was supposed to be a milestone in Ginger Hayden's life," Callaghan said. "It turned out to be a date on her gravestone."Testimony began Tuesday with detectives and crime scene investigators. Jurors were shown graphic photos of Hayden's blood-soaked bed and her bloodied body beside it. The young woman had apparently slipped from the bed after the stabbing and died in a kneeling position with her arms under her. Blood was splattered throughout the room, and the bent steak knife was beside her body.The sliding glass door leading into Hayden's bedroom appeared to be locked but was not pushed completely closed, according to Brad Patterson, then a crime scene investigator who has since retired. Jurors were also shown the closet doors taken from Hayden's bedroom. Blood spatters on one door but not the other suggest that the doors were open at the time of the killing or that the blood was blocked by the killer, Patterson said.Other investigators testified that semen was found on the body and on a quilt. Prosecutors have indicated that the semen was not found to be Absalon's.If convicted, Absalon faces a sentence of life in prison. He would be eligible for parole under the laws in place in 1984.Testimony is set to resume today before state District Judge Everett Young.Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084

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Texas Health hospital opens in far north Fort Worth - Fort Worth Star Telegram

FORT WORTH -- Emergency trips to the hospital in north Fort Worth could be shorter starting today with the opening of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance.

The average emergency medical trip could be reduced by 15 to 20 minutes, said Matt Zavadsky, MedStar spokesman. That's compared to trips from north Fort Worth to hospitals in Grapevine, North Richland Hills and downtown Fort Worth, Zavadsky said. The average time spent, starting when emergency personnel receive a call to the time when they are available for another call, is 69 minutes in that area, Zavadsky said.But shorter travel times are not a given. Other factors must be considered.The new hospital is located at Golden Triangle Boulevard near Old Denton Road and Interstate 35W and is only 3.5 miles outside Keller's city limits, said Steven Palmer, the Keller battalion chief for emergency medical services.Golden Triangle Boulevard is under construction and only one lane in each direction is open to traffic, Palmer said. Once the construction is complete, the travel time will change, Palmer said."When the traffic is backed up in both directions there's no place for us to go," Palmer said. "There have been times that I've driven that stretch of road in my own personal vehicle when it's taken five minutes to get where I'm going and there have been times because of the traffic when it's taken 30 minutes to get to the same place."The Golden Triangle Boulevard project, which stretches 3.4 miles from Interstate 35W to U.S. 377, is expected to be completed by February, said Val Lopez, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Transportation.Patients and emergency service providers can use Heritage Trace Parkway and Old Denton Road in some situations to avoid the construction, said Winjie Miao, Alliance Hospital president."From this area to downtown Fort Worth is about 15 miles," she said. "That drive can take anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour if you get stuck in traffic. That's an hour to come here and an hour to get back. That's two hours of not responding to other calls."The new 50-bed hospital will draw residents from Northeast Tarrant County and the new developments along the Interstate 35W corridor, said Wendell Watson, Texas Health Resources spokesman.The hospital cost more than $100 million to build and encloses 188,000 square feet. It has 24 medical-surgical beds, 12 intensive care beds, 14 post partum beds, an eight-bed level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit and three operating suites, Watson said.But "not all patients will be able to go to THR Alliance," Zavadsky said. "Acute heart attacks, acute strokes and multisystem trauma patients will need to be transported to facilities that have the capability to manage those patients."Heart attack and stroke patients who may require catheterization will be taken to a hospital that has that capability, Zavadsky said. The Alliance hospital does not provide the cardiac catheterization procedure, Zavadsky said. Patients with multiple organ or multiple system failure due to trauma will also be taken to other hospitals."People need to know that even if there's a hospital around the corner from them that may not be the hospital that we take them to due to protocol," Zavadsky said.Population growth spurred the new hospital's establishment. Between 2000 and 2010, the north side-Stockyards area and the Alliance Corridor added 82,665 people.The ER at Alliance, an emergency facility at Interstate 35W and North Tarrant Parkway that is affiliated with North Hills Hospital, is another option for EMS providers. But the Texas Health Resources facility is the only general hospital in the immediate area and there are services available there that an emergency department cannot provide, Miao said."We knew there was an unmet need," she said. "The Metroplex area is still growing and the Alliance area is the fastest growing area in the Metroplex. We're hoping to grow with the community and add services as we see they are needed."This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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American Airlines sends layoff warning notices to more than 11000 employees ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)

American Airlines has sent layoff warning notices to more than 11,000 employees, but a spokesman said the company expects job cuts related to its bankruptcy restructuring would be 4,400 or fewer.

The Fort Worth-based carrier on Monday sent letters to mechanics, ground workers, store clerks and airport agents company-wide. No letters went to flight attendants or pilots.

“The numbers are far less than what had been anticipated,” American spokesman Bruce Hicks said Tuesday.

Fewer than 40 percent of workers who received letters would lose their jobs, Hicks said. Federal law, however, requires the company to notify anyone whose position might be affected, including employees who could get bumped by more senior-level employees who lose their job, he said.

In February, American said potential job cuts could total 14,000, but that number was reduced as the airline negotiated new labor contracts, offered early-out options and other employee incentive programs. Such actions reduced the number of involuntary reductions needed among flight attendants and pilots.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents mechanics, ground workers and store clerks, was told that layoffs would occur in November and December, according to a letter American sent to the union that was obtained by The News.

In North Texas, 80 people in Fort Worth could be cut on or around Nov. 16 and 402 in Fort Worth and 1,431 at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport could be cut on or around Dec. 16, the letter said.

“Anytime you see that number and that information go out, it makes people nervous,” said Gary Peterson, president of TWU Local 565 at D/FW Airport. “The concern I have is that American Airlines A hasn’t really gone through and told us exactly how they’re going to do the reductions.”

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Fort Worth council passes budget, leaves door open for review of arts funding - Fort Worth Star Telegram

Fort Worth funding cuts

Here are some of the funding cuts in Fort Worth's 2013 budget.

Program

Cut

Remaining funding

Impact

Street maintenance

$204,762

$19.7 million

2.5 lane miles won't

be resurfaced

Directions Home

$239,336

$2.15 million

Partnership provides

housing services

for homeless

Park mowing

$231,349

$1.87 million

Mowing every 21 days

instead of 14, except

during rainy season

City right-of-way mowing

$250,000

N/A

Better pricing, no

impact on service

Coming Up Gang

$187,600

$1.68 million

Gang intervention

partnership with Boys &

Girls Clubs; would cut far

north Fort Worth location.

Nine remaining locations.

Arts Council of Fort Worth

& Tarrant County

$266,564

$799,691

Less funding for grants

Alley maintenance

$350,000

$332,184

Longer response times and

fewer alleys mowed;

responsibility falls back

on homeowners

United Way of Tarrant County

$70,250

$210,750

Less funding on contract

in place for years

Hispanic, black chambers

$63,252

$253,008

Cuts for Fort Worth Black

and Hispanic chambers

of commerce

Banking fees

$400,000

NA

Interest income expected

to offset fees

Source: City of Fort Worth

Fort Worth fees

The city's 2013 budget includes some fee increases and changes. Here's a look:

Current fee

Change

Sewer

Varies

+2.06%

Water

Varies

x-none

Will Rogers Memorial Center

parking, including

Western Heritage garage

$5

y-varies

Science museum parking lot

$5

z-see below

Meadowbrook golf,

weekday/weekend morning

$19/$24

+$1

Junior golf fees, Meadowbrook,

Pecan Valley Hills, Rockwood

$9

+$1

Log Cabin Village entry, youth/adult

$4/$5

+$1

ID cards, child/family

$6/$40

+$4/$10

Marine Park and Forest Park

pool rentals, two hours

None

$250

Parks youth athletic program activity

$10

+$5

Parks synthetic athletic

field hourly rental

$30/$40

+$5

Parks athletic field

hourly rental

$15/$30

+$5

Planning and Development,

various fees

Gas well, $500

+$100

Water impact fees,

new construction

$867 for typical

single-family home

-$398

Wastewater impact fees,

new construction

$185 for smallest

meter

+$267

Source: City departments. x-Council voted down increase; y-45 minutes to one hour, $3; one to two hours, $5; two to three hours, $7; three to four hours, $9; four hours or more, $10; z-Leased to science museum, which will determine its own rates and keep revenue

FORT WORTH -- The City Council approved a $1.4 billion budget Tuesday that adds more room for infrastructure and police and fire needs, maintains most city services, keeps the property tax rate the same but cuts funding for the arts and social services.

The budget doesn't include a water rate increase but does bump up fees in other areas, including the replacement of an unpopular $5 parking fee at the Will Rogers Memorial Center with a variable-rate menu.It does not include pay raises for employees but increases their health insurance contributions 8 percent to help cover a significant rise in the city's premium.The $583 million general fund portion of the budget is 4 percent higher than last year and keeps the property tax rate at 85.5 cents per $100 of valuation. On a house valued at $200,000, the city tax would be $1,710.The council voted 8-1 for the budget. Councilman Joel Burns voted no, saying he doesn't believe that it reflects the community's wants.Council members, pressed for weeks to avoid a 25 percent cut to the Arts Council of Fort Worth & Tarrant County, advanced the notion of creating a dedicated revenue stream for arts funding.Mayor Betsy Price said the city will likely move in the next 30 to 45 days to create a task force to come up with solutions, broadening the discussion beyond the arts. She wants to seek dedicated revenue streams for Sister Cities, the Directions Home homelessness program and streets.The new budget pares Sister Cities and Directions Home."You simply must be removed from that basic general fund," Price said in remarks before the vote.'The wrong place'Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman supports the idea of coming up with a source for the arts outside the basic-services general fund."The general budget is the wrong place for it," Zimmerman said. "Because it is in the general budget, it winds up being subject to ups and downs. I think the council is in agreement that we've probably got to find some other way to fund the arts."Councilman Sal Espino said he will press for a midyear budget review to determine whether any savings can be directed to the arts council.Espino had lobbied during budgeting to fund the arts council from the city's hotel tax, whose revenue goes to improvements at the Will Rogers complex and the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. The arts council was funded for several years by the hotel tax before the council moved it into the general fund."If we have cost savings [at midyear], I'm going to keep fighting for restoring the 25 percent," Espino said in an interview, noting that the arts council makes grants in February.Jody Ulich, the arts council's executive director, said in an interview that she is grateful that the mayor agreed to create a task force."I'm glad the mayor's teed that up," she said. "We're going to hold their feet to the fire."Water ratesArts patrons again packed a final budget hearing before the council's vote. Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren Woods and Kids Who Care Director Deborah Jung were among the speakers.In a skirmish earlier in the council meeting, members voted 5-4 against increases in the water and sewer rates. Price and Frank Moss, Jungus Jordan, Kelly Allen Gray, and Danny Scarth voted no.The council later separated the water and sewer rates, a move proposed by Water Director Frank Crumb, then voted down the water increase and approved the 2.06 percent sewer increase.Gray said she felt that ratepayers were being "nickel-and-dimed" by fee increases. Price had expressed concern about the impact of annual raises on large users.The council members also said the rationale for the sewer increase -- sewer volumes have dropped because of conservation, forcing the Water Department to raise those rates to cover fixed infrastructure costs -- is confusing to residents.Spokeswoman Mary Gugliuzza said the Water Department will use reserves to cover the loss of revenue from the voted-down water increase."Without the increase this year, we could be looking at a double-digit rate increase next year, just on the water side," Gugliuzza said.Price said in an interview that she is hoping for a water rate increase of no more than 6 percent in the 2014 budget.Parking feeThe council also dispatched the remains of the unpopular $5 Will Rogers Memorial Center parking fee that it put in place in 2010 to cover the costs of the Western Heritage garage.The fee, however, discouraged patrons of the nearby museums and events at the Will Rogers complex. The council replaced the $5 rate with a variable schedule that starts at 45 minutes for free and tops out at $10 for four hours or more.The fee is already unpopular with Will Rogers vendors who stay the whole day at the complex, but the museums said most of their visitors will end up paying significantly less than $5 to park.Last week, the council approved leasing a city-owned lot to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, which is coming up with a rate schedule that will likely give reduced-rate or free parking to members and continue to charge nonmembers.The museum agreed to make the lot available to visitors of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.The council created more room for investment in infrastructure and the construction of the new police and fire training center by shifting a penny and a half of the property tax rate into debt service.The budget includes three police academy classes and one fire academy class, upgrades the public safety radio system, and adds victim assistance positions.It adds maintenance and operations money for the new Marine Park pool on the north side; the repaired Forest Park pool on the near south side; the new Chisholm Trail community center in southwest Fort Worth; and the Z Boaz park, converted from a golf course, on the west side.The budget also adds two animal control officers but freezes 17 job openings and contains minimal potential layoffs. The city is reclassifying about 20 library management jobs into lesser-paying ones and is working on offering jobs to displaced employees."There are sufficient vacancies across the department and across the city that we don't believe anybody will be laid off," Horatio Porter, the city's budget officer, told council members Tuesday. Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

President of Alliance Airport will retire at year's end - Fort Worth Star Telegram

Alliance Airport President Tim Ward, who has overseen the north Fort Worth industrial airport's operations since it opened in 1989, will retire at the end of the year.

Ward, 63, will be replaced by another Hillwood Properties executive, Tom Harris, who has been involved in developing AllianceTexas for 20 years."Everybody reaches a time when they reflect and say, 'I worked my entire life and now may be a time to move on and do something different.' And that is what I'm planning on doing," Ward said.He said he was proud "to be part of the initial team as we started Alliance and seeing what it is today and how important it is to North Texas."Ward managed the airport's fixed-base operations and oversaw more than $200 million in public funding for the airport's expansion.This month, Alliance received a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to expand its runways.Ward said the project will allow the airport to continue to develop its cargo operations. Aircraft will be able to take off fully loaded to fly anywhere in the world."Tim has made a tremendous impact on Hillwood, on our city and on the aviation industry," Hillwood Chairman Ross Perot Jr. said. "Tim's leadership in managing not only the world's first industrial airport but also one of the first major airport privatization efforts in the U.S. is unparalleled."Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631Twitter: @Sky_Talk

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New hospital opens in north Fort Worth - Fort Worth Star Telegram

FORT WORTH -- Emergency trips to the hospital in north Fort Worth could be shorter starting today with the opening of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance.

The average emergency medical trip could be reduced by 15 to 20 minutes, said Matt Zavadsky, MedStar spokesman. That's compared to trips from north Fort Worth to hospitals in Grapevine, North Richland Hills and downtown Fort Worth, Zavadsky said. The average time spent, starting when emergency personnel receive a call to the time when they are available for another call, is 69 minutes in that area, Zavadsky said.But shorter travel times are not a given. Other factors must be considered.The new hospital is located at Golden Triangle Boulevard near Old Denton Road and Interstate 35W and is only 3.5 miles outside Keller's city limits, said Steven Palmer, the Keller battalion chief for emergency medical services.Golden Triangle Boulevard is under construction and only one lane in each direction is open to traffic, Palmer said. Once the construction is complete, the travel time will change, Palmer said."When the traffic is backed up in both directions there's no place for us to go," Palmer said. "There have been times that I've driven that stretch of road in my own personal vehicle when it's taken five minutes to get where I'm going and there have been times because of the traffic when it's taken 30 minutes to get to the same place."The Golden Triangle Boulevard project, which stretches 3.4 miles from Interstate 35W to U.S. 377, is expected to be completed by February, said Val Lopez, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Transportation.Patients and emergency service providers can use Heritage Trace Parkway and Old Denton Road in some situations to avoid the construction, said Winjie Miao, Alliance Hospital president."From this area to downtown Fort Worth is about 15 miles," she said. "That drive can take anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour if you get stuck in traffic. That's an hour to come here and an hour to get back. That's two hours of not responding to other calls."The new 50-bed hospital will draw residents from Northeast Tarrant County and the new developments along the Interstate 35W corridor, said Wendell Watson, Texas Health Resources spokesman.The hospital cost more than $100 million to build and encloses 188,000 square feet. It has 24 medical-surgical beds, 12 intensive care beds, 14 post partum beds, an eight-bed level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit and three operating suites, Watson said.But "not all patients will be able to go to THR Alliance," Zavadsky said. "Acute heart attacks, acute strokes and multisystem trauma patients will need to be transported to facilities that have the capability to manage those patients."Heart attack and stroke patients who may require catheterization will be taken to a hospital that has that capability, Zavadsky said. The Alliance hospital does not provide the cardiac catheterization procedure, Zavadsky said. Patients with multiple organ or multiple system failure due to trauma will also be taken to other hospitals."People need to know that even if there's a hospital around the corner from them that may not be the hospital that we take them to due to protocol," Zavadsky said.Population growth spurred the new hospital's establishment. Between 2000 and 2010, the north side-Stockyards area and the Alliance Corridor added 82,665 people.The ER at Alliance, an emergency facility at Interstate 35W and North Tarrant Parkway that is affiliated with North Hills Hospital, is another option for EMS providers. But the Texas Health Resources facility is the only general hospital in the immediate area and there are services available there that an emergency department cannot provide, Miao said."We knew there was an unmet need," she said. "The Metroplex area is still growing and the Alliance area is the fastest growing area in the Metroplex. We're hoping to grow with the community and add services as we see they are needed."This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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Fort Worth City Council approves $1.4 billion citywide budget, votes down ... - Fort Worth Star Telegram (blog)

The City Council approved a $1.4 billion citywide budget today that maintained most city services and kept the property tax rate the same, but cut funding for arts grants and social services.

The council voted down a proposed water rate increase, but left in place a hike in stormwater rates.

It  ditched the controversial $5 flat fee for parking at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and installed a new variable rate structure that starts with 45 minutes free and tops out at $10 for four hours.

Mayor Betsy Price and the council, without a vote, supported the idea of a midyear budget review to determine whether there are enough savings in the city’s Culture & Tourism Fund â€" funded by the hotel occupancy tax â€" to allocate to the Arts Council.

The council also supported, again with a vote, the idea of setting up a task force and coming up with ideas for dedicated revenue streams for funding of the arts, the city’s Directions Home homelessness program, Fort Worth Sister Cities, and street repairs.

“You simply must be removed from that basic general fund,” Price said in remarks just before the council vote.

The council voted 8-1 for the budget, with Councilman Joel Burns voting against.

The approved $583 million general fund budget created more room for capital investment in infrastructure and police and fire needs, and closed a $49 million funding gap largely by using surplus funds from 2012.

Besides the Arts Council cut, It trimmed spending for the United Way of Tarrant County, minority chambers of commerce, and city partnerships for the homeless and gang intervention.

It gives no employee pay raises, increases employee health insurance contributions 8 percent, freezes 17 job openings and contains minimal potential layoffs. The city is reclassifying about 20 library jobs and is working on moving displaced employees into other positions.

The budget, 4 percent higher than this year's, helps fund the new police and fire training center and upgrade the public safety radio communications system, brings on a new fire training class, adds to the victim assistance and animal shelter staffs, adds maintenance and operations for the Forest Park and Marine Creek pools and the conversion of the Z Boaz Golf Course to a park, and staffs the soon-to-open Chisholm Trail community center in southwest Fort Worth. Significant budget increases come from healthcare costs and fuel.  

The city's property tax rate remains 85.5 cents per $100 of valuation.

The budget shifts a penny of that to debt service from operations for the second year in a row, increasing the city’s debt capacity to pay for infastructure and the new public safety center.

- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter