District Court: More than a dozen defendants enter guilty pleas

Over a dozen defendants entered guilty pleas last week during proceedings of the 46th Judicial District Court for Wilbarger County.

Juan Manuel Cedillo, Jr., 37, of Vernon, was sentenced to twenty years in prison following his plea of guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. On August 21, 2019, Vernon Police Department officers were conducting surveillance and attempting to serve a felony warrant on Cedillo for assault family violence. Officers observed Cedillo in the passenger seat of a vehicle and attempted to make a traffic stop. The vehicle refused to stop and led police on a high-speed chase through Wilbarger County and into Archer County. Speeds exceeded 100 MPH. The vehicle was stopped after a DPS trooper put spike strips on the highway. Cedillo claimed ownership of the firearm that was inside the vehicle. Because of two prior felony convictions, Cedillo is unable to possess a firearm. He was represented by David Rasmussen of Wichita Falls.

Waylon Hernandez, 34, of Vernon, was sentenced to four years in prison after he entered a guilty plea to tampering with physical evidence. On October 1, 2019, a Vernon police officer made a traffic stop on a vehicle being driven by Hernandez. The officer was aware that Hernandez had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. During the course of the stop, the officer observed a white substance, suspected to be narcotics, in Hernandez’s hand. When the officer asked about it, Hernandez put it in his mouth and swallowed it. He was represented by Angela Baskerville of Wichita Falls.

Edward Bryan Taylor, 27, of Vernon, was sentence to two five-year prison sentences in two different burglaries committed in 2018. On July 28, 2018, a burglary occurred at a location inside the Vernon city limits that resulted in cash and other household items being stolen. A burglary occurred in the county on September 10, 2018, where a four-wheeler, .22 caliber pistol, and other items were taken. Investigation revealed that Taylor was involved in both burglaries. He was represented by Randall Walker of Wichita Falls.

Benjamin Switzer, 33, of Vernon, was placed on probation for a period of seven years following his plea of guilty to indecency with a child by contact. On July 20, 2019, the victim and her mother arrived at the Vernon Police Department to report that the victim had been touched inappropriately by Switzer. The victim’s mother had become aware of the situation after reading text messages on her daughter’s phone that alluded to the improper touching. The victim was interviewed at Patsy’s House Children’s Advocacy Center in Wichita Falls and provided additional details of the events. In addition to the terms of probation, Switzer will be required to register as a sex offender for life and will be required to successfully complete sex offender counseling. According to DA Staley Heatly, the plea bargain was reached after discussions with the victim’s mother and considering the wishes of the victim. Switzer was represented by Paul Stuckle of Dallas.

Luis Esmundo Guerra, Jr., 50, of Vernon, pleaded guilty to evading arrest with a vehicle and was sentenced to three years in prison. On March 28, 2019, a Vernon police officer observed Guerra driving a vehicle with an expired registration. When she attempted to stop Guerra, he rapidly made the block and pulled into a house, got out, and ran into the backyard. When the officer arrived at the house, the car was still running with the keys in the ignition. Guerra was represented by Collin Jordan of Wichita Falls.

Sharon Kay Quisenberry, 57, of Vernon, was sentenced to 15 months in state jail following the revocation of her probation in a case of possession of a controlled substance. Quisenberry was originally placed on probation on May 10, 2018. Her probation was amended in October of 2018 with a special condition that she complete a term in a substance abuse treatment facility. In January of this year Quisenberry tested positive for methamphetamine. She pleaded true to the violation of her probation. She was represented by Scott Stilson of Wichita Falls.

Amanda Nichole Williams, 35, of Mustang, Oklahoma, was sentenced to nine months in state jail in a case from Hardeman County. On February 14, 2018, the Hardeman County Sheriff’s Office received a call in reference to suspected drug activity in the bathroom of the Love’s truck stop. An officer went into the bathroom and found Williams and another female. On the ground in a stall the officer located a pipe containing a small amount of methamphetamine. Williams claimed the drugs. She was represented by Sage Seal of Childress.

Stephanie Jean Byars, 48, of Vernon, pleaded guilty to forgery and was placed on probation for a period of three years. On October 30, 2019, Vernon police responded to a call at a local grocery store about a potential forgery. Officers discovered that Byars had received a check for $1.20 from a local salvage yard but had altered the amount to read $100. Byars will also be required to pay a fine of $1,500, complete 150 hours of community service, and attend outpatient services at Helen Farabee. She was represented by Randall Walker.

Ariel Olanzo McCray, 25, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was placed on probation for a period of four years and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine following his plea of guilty to possession of marijuana. On October 23, 2018, a DPS trooper stopped a vehicle driven by McCray for a traffic violation. After noting several indicators of criminal activity, the trooper called for a K-9 unit to perform a free-air sniff around the vehicle. The K-9 provided a positive alert and a search revealed several pounds of marijuana in the trunk. McCray was represented by Angela Baskerville of Vernon.

Ranse Templeton, 23, and Brandon Carballo, 23, both of Garland, were placed on probation for a period of two years for state jail theft. On April 16, 2019, Wilbarger County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about a stolen Gator UTV. The Gator had a GPS tracker and it was located by the owner at residence in the county where Templeton and Carballo were staying. Both defendants admitted to their involvement in taking the Gator. In addition to the term of probation, both will have to pay a fine of $1,000 and complete 100 hours of community service. Templeton was represented by Greg Merkle of Wichita Falls, while Carballo was represented by Jeff Eaves, also of Wichita Falls.

Charles Harris Rahe, 63, of Vernon, was placed on probation for three years following his plea of guilty to terroristic threat of a public servant. ON April 19, 2019, Vernon police responded to a disturbance call at a RV park in the city. At the location, they found Rahe outside of a camper yelling and screaming obscenities. He refused to obey officer commands and made several threats to the officers, including that he would kill them. During most of the interaction, Rahe was on the phone with a counselor from the VA who was attempting to calm him down. In addition to the term of probation, Rahe was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 and complete 100 hours of community service. He was represented by Frank Trotter of Wichita Falls.

Mikal Jamal Lewis, 28, of Cedar Hill, Texas, pleaded guilty to a forgery and was placed on probation for three years. On May 23, 2019, Vernon police were contacted about a check that had been cashed at a local grocery store on Blattner Energy. The check had been returned. An investigation revealed that the check looked like a Blatner Energy check, but that the account and routing numbers were incorrect. Lewis was identified as the person that had passed the check. In addition to the probation, Lewis was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, complete 100 hours of community service, and pay $484.00 in restitution. He was represented by Collin Jordan of Wichita Falls.

Toni Lynn Norman, 49, of Vernon, was sentenced to three years’ probation following her plea of guilty to forgery. On August 29, 2019, Vernon police responded to a local grocery store about two checks written by Norman that had been returned as forged. The checks were taken from a burglary that had occurred in Oklahoma. Norman was identified as the person that cashed the checks. Norman was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, complete 150 hours of community service, and make restitution of $750.00. She was represented by Angela Baskerville of Vernon.

Five cases of mandatory probation were handed down in cases of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) of less than one gram. All of the defendants were placed on probation, as required by law for a first offense, and ordered to complete an outpatient substance abuse program through Helen Farabee. The cases included the following: Cody Shawn Hagerman, 28, of Vernon; Amber Marie Edwards, 34, of Vernon; Carrie Nicole Connywerdy, 25, of Vernon; Amy Gale Ditmore, 39, of Vernon; and Tyler Ryan Keeney, 24, of Vernon. All of the cases were made during the course of traffic stops by the Vernon Police Department.

The cases were prosecuted by the 46th Judicial District Attorney’s office while District Judge Dan Mike Bird presided over the hearings and assessed the sentences.

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