Crime News: Week of January 13, 2022 | #College. | #Students

Car chase shootout crosses county lines

After a high-speed, county-crossing car chase and shootout on Interstate 10, Chambers County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies arrested an Illinois man for a bevy of offenses, including possession of a controlled substance and attempted capital murder.

“I am thankful that the deputies and troopers were uninjured in this high speed pursuit and gunfire exchange,” Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said. “I want to personally thank the Jefferson County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices, Beaumont Police Department,  DPS Highway Patrol, and the Texas Rangers as well as the Chambers County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance and unwavering support in the securing of evidence and the thoroughness of investigation to bring this violent criminal to justice.”

According to a report by Hawthorne, on Thursday, Jan. 6, at approximately 12:18 p.m., Deputy Ethan Kahla noticed a gray 2019 Chevy Trax, eastbound on I-10 near the Trinity River bridge without any license plates attached to the vehicle.

Deputy Kahla initiated a traffic stop on I-10, east, near the Wallisville exit. As Kahla approached the vehicle, the driver, identified as 25-year-old Audel A. Villafuerte-Mora, of Aurora, Illinois, took off in the vehicle and began evading the deputy.  Kahla began pursuing the vehicle and was soon joined by Deputy Cody Burk, as well as troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Villafuerte-Mora took the Highway 61 exit at speeds around 120 mph and ran through the stop sign at Highway 61 at over 100 mph. He continued to travel east, down the I-10 frontage road as well as I-10, traveling over 120 mph at times. The suspect drove through the median on several occasions and was continually swerving in and out of traffic.

Deputies and troopers continued the chase east through Chambers county, into Jefferson County, where the suspect exited Hamshire Road.

Villafuerte-Mora allegedly traveled at high rates of speed on Hamshire Road, through a school zone, near Hamshire Fannett High School. The suspect turned around to continue back to I-10 and was able to drive around a set of spike strips that had been deployed by deputies. Shortly after, the suspect fired multiple rounds from a handgun at Kahla and Burk. Both deputies returned fire during the pursuit.

The suspect still continued to refuse to stop and comply.  When the suspect reached the end of Hamshire Road, back in Chambers County, Kahla used his vehicle to disable the suspect’s vehicle, as more shots were fired. The suspect was taken into custody and it was discovered that he had received an injury to his face which appears to be a bullet wound.

Villafuerte-Mora was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont to be treated, and later was placed in custody at the Chambers County Jail for possession of a controlled substance, evading arrest, aggravated assault on a public servant and attempted capital murder.

Child abuser earns four life sentences

Criminal District Attorney Bob Wortham announced Jan. 5 that 252nd District Court Judge Raquel West sentenced William Rivera, 58, of Beaumont, to four consecutive life sentences in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for four cases involving sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Rivera pled guilty on Nov. 17, 2021, without a plea agreement and elected for Judge West to decide his punishment in all four cases. Rivera faced 25 to 99 years or life in prison without the possibility of parole for two charges of Continuous Sexual Abuse. Due to prior convictions, he also faced an enhanced punishment range of 25 to 99 years or life in prison for two charges of indecency with a child.

On Oct. 30, 2019, the Beaumont Police Department initiated an investigation into Rivera after an outcry of sexual abuse by a 14-year-old child. The child told officers Rivera had been abusing her and her sister for several years. The victims were interviewed at Garth House, Mickey Mehaffy Children’s Advocacy Program, Inc. and received sexual assault forensic exams at CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Both victims detailed years of sexual abuse by Rivera beginning when they were 9 and 11 years old. Rivera sexually abused both victims and paid them money according to a price list he created. Rivera was arrested in Brownsville in May 2021, and later brought to the Jefferson County Jail. In handwritten letters from jail, Rivera confessed to the sexual abuse of both victims but showed no remorse for his actions and placed blame on everyone but himself.

The case was prosecuted by Special Crimes Chief Kimberly Hobbs Duchamp and investigated by Detective Staci Landor with the Beaumont Police Department.

Duchamp said, “From the moment he began abusing them up until his sentencing today, Rivera never showed any compassion for his victims. In return, the justice system showed him the same lack of compassion. Rivera’s sentence ensures he will spend the rest of his life in prison and will never be able to hurt another child.”

“The District Attorney’s Office would also like to acknowledge the bravery of both victims in coming forward,” wrote officials from Wortham’s office. “Thank you for trusting in us to see that justice was done.”

Beaumont resident earns federal prison time

Colby Allen, 20, pleaded guilty on Aug. 11, 2021, to distributing child pornography and was sentenced to 162 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield on Jan. 6.

According to information presented in court, on Feb. 20, 2020, an undercover law enforcement officer accessed an instant messaging chat group known to have users who posted images and videos of child pornography. The officer observed that a particular user posted two videos to the group, including a video depicting the sexual abuse of a minor.

Further investigation revealed that the user of the messenger account was Allen. On Nov. 19, 2020, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at Allen’s residences in Lufkin and Beaumont. During the search of Allen’s Beaumont residence, officers seized his cellular telephone, which was later forensically imaged. A review of the forensic imaging revealed numerous video and image files depicting child pornography. The images and videos located on Allen’s phone included the two videos uploaded to the instant messaging group on Feb. 20, 2020. A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Allen with federal violations on Jan. 20, 2021.

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Murder suspects captured

Within days of putting out a bulletin seeking the whereabouts of two suspects wanted in connection to a December 2021 murder, the Beaumont Police Department announced that both were in police custody.

The men are accused of being responsible for the death of 25-year-old Dexter Anderson of Beaumont, who was shot at a residence on Willowglen before driving to the Citgo on Major Drive seeking help. Another victim in the vehicle with Anderson was transported to a local hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Murder warrants were later obtained against 18-year-old Anthony Johnson and 19-year-old Joseph Lee Seymoure, both of Beaumont. Subsequently, Johnson surrendered to Beaumont police and Seymoure surrendered to police in Galveston.

As of Jan. 12, both suspects were being held in the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $1 million bonds for the murder.

Hour-long robbery spree suspect(s) at large

Tuesday, Jan. 11, between 7- 8 p.m. Beaumont Police Department officers responded to three businesses in reference to aggravated robbery: at 7:08 p.m., O’Reilly Auto Parts, 1040 Washington; at 7:17 p.m., Family Dollar, 2290 Gulf; and at 7:45 p.m., Domino’s Pizza, 1395 College.

During each of the aggravated robberies, police report, a black male suspect displayed a handgun and robbed the employee of the business. During the robbery of Family Dollar, the suspect struck the clerk in the head multiple times with the handgun. No other victims were injured.

The suspect was described as a thin, light-skinned black male. Detectives are working to obtain video surveillance from each of the robberies in an attempt to identify the suspect(s) and to determine if the crimes are connected.

Anyone with information is asked to call Beaumont police at (409) 832-1234 or submit an anonymous tip to Southeast Texas Crime Stoppers at (409) 833-TIPS (8477). Anonymous tips can also be reported through the P3 Tips app on any cell phone.

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