Austin Burtnett, a Trinity Valley Student, just completed the final phase of restoration on his 1986 GMC Sierra truck two weeks ago, and had reason to be proud.
It wasn't your routine grease-monkey garage job. Austin, 19, had painstakingly rebuilt it in honor of his hot rod-loving father, Foley Burtnett of Springtown, who helped him get the truck on his 16th birthday several years ago, and died in June 2011 from stomach cancer.
But the pickup, a sparkling black 1986 GMC Sierra 1500 with a fresh muffler job, was stolen from the dorm parking lot at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens in East Texas, where Austin is on a football scholarship, shortly after 8 a.m. on Oct. 12.
The thief left a stolen vehicle from Palestine in its place, and might not have made a clean getaway if Austin - a 6-foot 3-inch, 300-pound lineman - hadn't been admitted to a hospital the previous day. He was injured a few weeks ago at football practice and developed a serious staph infection requiring medical attention.
"He called me in tears on Friday," said his mother, Kyle Spaulding of Keller. "I'm just heartbroken for him. He's just had tragedy left and right."
Spaulding said Austin and his twin sister, Kendall Burtnett, who plays for the UT-Tyler girls soccer team, have been struck by their father's absence at such events as graduation, his birthday, their birthdays, Father's Day in the past year.
"Austin spent the money his father left him to rebuild that truck in honor of his dad, and in memory of their time together," Spaulding said.
Police at Trinity Valley say they have video of the car thief stealing Austin's pickup and leaving the other vehicle behind.
They're asking for the public's help in finding the '86 GMC Sierra - Texas license plate No. 62W WL5 - and the criminal who stole it.
Anyone who has seen it or has information about the case should contact TVCC Police Chief Heath Carike at 903- 675-6235, or Spaulding at 817-980-7582.
This story was reprinted from the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
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Fighting for life
Family and friends have rallied around 20-year old Aaron Jenkins.
Three weeks ago Jenkins, a Mabank resident and former Trinity Valley Community College student, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
Aaron's Aunt Sheila Guill said, “He's pretty sick, but Aaron has a high pain tolerance and doesn't complain.”
Lake Palestine, Athens above levels, CCL close
Lakes Athens and Palestine are above their normal levels, while Cedar Creek Lake to the west still needs a good downpour to close the gap.
On Monday, when the average Texas lake stood at just 64.3 percent of full. Lake Athens had a reading of 440.06 feet, just above its average.
Three arrested for drugs
Drug offenses led to three Athens Police Department arrests over the weekend according to reports.
The first incident on Friday night resulted in the arrest of Joshua Paul Rogers, 25, for evading arrest and possession of a controlled substance. Rogers remained in custody on Monday, with bond set at $9,000 on the two charges.
County unemployment edges upward
Henderson County unemployment edged upward in January, falling between the state and national rates.
The January Texas Workforce Commission Report, issued on Friday, gave Henderson County a 6.1 percent reading, after a 6.0 percent rate in December. The national unemployment figure was 7.1 percent, while Texas enjoyed its lowest mark since 2008, 5.7 percent.
O’KEEFFE coming to Malakoff, April 12
Carolyn Wickwire will star in the one-woman play O’Keeffe! by Lucinda McDermott, presented by the Greater Malakoff Area Garden Club and the Malakoff Historical Society in partnership with Flower and Bone Productions, directed by Ouida White.
Color run coming to Athens
Have you been seeing those pictures on the internet of people in wild costumes, running through clouds of neon pink, blue, purple, and green and coming out looking like a rainbow?
If you have, you’ve been looking at the hottest thing to hit the walking and running world – the color run. And it’s coming to Athens on March 22 to benefit Hope Springs Water and celebrate International World Water Day.
AISD students honored for reading challenge
To get kids excited about reading and encourage more adults to spend time reading with their children, the National Education Association launched the first NEA's Read Across America day in 1998.
On March 3, NEA's Read Across America marked 17 years of celebrating reading and the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
Athens Independent School District participated in the event, but added a twist to encourage students to read more often.
The minimum standard for living
The average minimum wage worker renting a living space in Henderson County will spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on their home.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports Henderson County renters would have to work 85 hours at minimum wage for a two bedroom apartment. Of the six counties in the 5th Congressional District, Henderson ranks second, behind Dallas, for the most hours required.
Chandler, BMC to settle contract
Since the beginning of the year, Chandler city officials and leaders of the Brownsboro-Murchison-Chandler Youth Foundation have worked to finalize an agreement on use of the facilities at Winchester Park.
County preparing to address roads
With hundreds of miles of pavement to deal with, three Henderson County Road and Bridge Precincts may soon be getting a tool to help them keep track of the tasks involved.
The Henderson County Information Technology Committee discussed on Wednesday whether to acquire Precinct Tracker software and will present its findings to Commissioners Court.
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