Schoolteacher arrested in 2008 shooting death of partner

Vaughn told police Judy Bell was shot by an intruder, but police say Vaughn was a suspect all along

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn

CEDAR HILL — Few details emerged this week about what may have led a woman to fatally shoot her lesbian partner in this suburb south of Dallas in 2008, or how authorities finally linked her to the crime three years later.

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn, 41, was arrested Monday, Dec. 6, on a charge of first-degree murder in the February 2007 murder of her partner, Judy Marie Bell, 34.

After being taken into custody at the high school where she teaches in Oklahoma City, Vaughn waived extradition and was brought Tuesday to the Dallas County jail, where she was being held on $500,000 bond.

Vaughn called 911 in the early morning hours of Feb. 29, 2008, and said an intruder had shot Bell in the Cedar Hill home they shared. But there were no signs of forced entry, and authorities never believed Vaughn’s story.

“She’s always been a person of interest, and our detectives have actually kept up with her location over the years because of that,” said Corky Brown, a spokesman for the city of Cedar Hill. “Recently, they came across some information that gave them what they were looking for.”

Brown declined to elaborate and said the motive for the crime remained unknown.

“We don’t typically try them [cases] in the public,” Brown said. “The idea is to get the information to the district attorney and let them try the case.”

Marshall McCallum, the assistant Dallas County district attorney assigned to the case, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons said court records contained no additional information because the case was referred by a grand jury.

According to media reports, both Vaughn and Bell taught at Permenter Middle School in Cedar Hill at the time of the murder. They’d lived together for four years.

Bell was a special education teacher and basketball coach. Vaughn taught English and language arts.

Bell’s 10-year-old son and three of Vaughn’s children — ages 11-20 — were in the home sleeping at the time of the shooting.

Vaughn began teaching in Oklahoma City in February 2009.  Bell’s son now lives with his father in Houston.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: ‘The butt drag’ — legal wrestling move or form of bullying and sexual battery?

Preston Hill, 17, is charged with sexual battery.

A 17-year-old high school wrestler in Clovis, Calif., is charged with sexual battery for executing what experts say is a legal and common maneuver — “the butt drag” — in which you grab the opponent’s butt cheek and insert fingers into the anus to get leverage. The “butt drag” is also known as “checking the oil,” and you can watch some examples in the video below.

As a one-time wrestler in middle school, I can tell you that I never heard of this move, but who knows, maybe it’s something they don’t teach until high school.

Anyhow, 17-year-old Preston Hill’s parents are outraged that their son, a star wrestler who’d been named captain of his team, was expelled from school and charged with a sex crime for executing a move they say his coaches taught him. However, the parents of the unidentified 14-year-old alleged victim claim Preston’s use of the “butt drag” was a form of bullying in retaliation for an earlier encounter.

From the Fresno Bee, which has an extensive story about the controversy (with a hat tip to OutSports):

The boy’s father, Ross Rice, said Preston is a bully who targeted his 14-year-old son because he stood up to Preston in an earlier encounter. Now, Preston’s friends are teasing the boy at school, Rice said. The Bee is not naming Rice’s son because of the allegation that he is the victim of a sex crime.

“Preston took it beyond a simple wrestling move,” Rice said. “He crossed the line.”

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office has charged Preston with sexual battery. His trial begins Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.

The case has some scratching their heads.

Former Fresno State coach Dennis DeLiddo said the butt drag is a common move used by wrestlers all the time. “I’ve never heard this move used as being ugly or dirty,” he said.

—  John Wright

Texas GOP leaders consider call to pardon DeLay

Former Congressman Tom DeLay high-fives staff members outside his Washington, D.C. office back in April 2006 — before he was convicted on felony money laundering charges

A week ago, on Friday, Nov. 6, John Wright posted this item on Instant Tea about the conviction of former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay on felony charges of money laundering for illegally funneling corporate dollars into Texas state legislative races in 2002, and how Travis County’s lesbian district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, helped get that conviction.

Now comes word, from the Austin American-Statesman, that members of Texas’ State Republican Executive Committee plan this weekend to consider a resolution calling on Gov. Rick Perry to pardon DeLay. The proposal — submitted by SREC member Clint Moore of Spring — was to be considered today by the SREC’s Resolutions Committee and, if approved, then advance for consideration by the full SREC.

DeLay, in case you don’t remember, represented a Houston-area House district from 1984 to 2005, and was known as one of Congress’ most anti-gay members.

Although I was rather stunned to read that the SREC is considering calling on Perry to pardon DeLay, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, that’s pretty much par for the course for the party whose state platform calls for LGBT people to be declared criminals.

The resolution uses the word “desperately” a lot in describing how former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle Jones worked to get DeLay indicted, and calls the trial that culminated with DeLay’s conviction “a mockery of a show trial.” The resolution says Perry should grant DeLay a complete pardon on all charges “to end the absurd political circus and gross abuse of our judicial system by Earle and his successor, as well as the corrupt Democrat judges of that county,” and concludes by calling on the Texas Legislature to “permanently eliminate the authority of the Travis County District Attorney’s office to prosecute state and federal elected officials like Tom Delay, due to the grossly politicized environment of Travis County, as well as to devise a special prosecutor system for cases involving state and federal elected officials, to be overseen and administered jointly by the Attorney General and the Governor of Texas.”

Go ahead and read the full text of the resolution after the jump.

—  admin

Local briefs • 12.03.10

National Stonewall leader to attend Dallas group’s holiday party

Michael Mitchell, the new executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, will be the special guest at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ annual holiday party Monday, Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. The program begins at 7 p.m., and the event is free and open to everyone.

The event will include a holiday basket auction, and proceeds will be divided between Stonewall Democrats and Youth First Texas’ anti-bullying and suicide prevention efforts.

There will also be an auction where participants can bid on a lunch with their favorite elected official from among the list of elected officials who have signed up to participate. And Stonewall Democrats will be collecting donations of toiletry items for clients at Legacy Founders Cottage, a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. Legacy clients need paper towels, laundry detergent, latex and nitrile gloves, men’s socks, new men’s underwear, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, disposable razors and shaving cream, tissues, body lotion and baby powder.

Stonewall Democrats will also present its annual awards to members, allies and elected officials. Nominees for the “Distinguished Democrat” award are Judge-Elect Tonya Parker, Dallas County District Attorney Gary Fitzsimmons, Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia and Judge Carl Ginsberg.

Nominees for the Buck Massey Member of the Year Award are Pamela Curry, Michael Wetter, Laurie McClurg and Tony McMullen. Nominees for Ally Organization of the Year are the Dallas County Democratic Party, Equality Texas, Preston Hollow Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. And nominees for the Pink Pump Award are Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jassa, Judge Elizabeth Crowder, Judge-elect Tina Yoo and George Freeman.

Bill Fry and Darryl Sanchez will be presented with the P.L. Moore Philanthropist Award, and Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore will present the Board Member of the Year Award.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas elected new officers at the organization’s Nov. 16 meeting. They are Omar Narvaez, president; Michael Wetter, vice president; Phyllis Guest, secretary and Mike McCue, treasurer. Outgoing officers are President Erin Moore, Vice President Jay Narey and Secretary Kenneth Denson.
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Round-Up holding benefit for Resource Center food pantry

Demand is up and donations are down at Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS. So to help bring donations up to the level of demand, the Round-Up Saloon will host a raffle during Retro Sunday, beginning at 7 p.m. Anyone who brings at least three non-perishable food items to donate to the pantry will get a free raffle ticket for a drawing for a new DVD player. Movie tickets and other prizes will also be raffled off during the evening.
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Tarrant Area Food Bank offers to send holiday cards for donors

Sending holiday greeting cards can be such a chore. But now there’s a way to let somebody else do the tedious part, while at the same time donating to a worthy cause.

Just send a donation and a list of up to 20 recipients to the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and the food bank will mail out special cards — hand-addressed and stamped — to those on the list.

The 5-inch-by-7-inch cards say “Season’s Greetings” on the front and have a special holiday recipe from Chef Blaine Staniford with Grace Restaurant in Fort Worth inside the front cover. The message inside reads: “Thanks for making eating a part of everyone’s holiday season. A gift has been made in your honor to Tarrant Area Food Bank by ___________.”

Deadline to participate is Friday, Dec. 10. There is no minimum donation required.

TAFB officials said all information and mailing lists remain strictly confidential. Capital One has helped underwrite the cost of the project so that all donations go directly to helping feed North Texans in need.

Tarrant Area Food Bank has 300 partner agencies, including the food pantry at AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County, which provides food for people with HIV/AIDS.

TAFB officials said those agencies have seen the need for food assistance grow by 40 percent over the previous two years.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Gay murder victim Richard Hernandez’s friend to launch website documenting ‘delay of justice’

Victim Richard Hernandez, left, and suspect Seth Lawton Winder

While we’re on the subject of local gay murder victims whose friends want to see justice, we thought we’d let you know about a note we received this morning from one Rudy Araiza.

Araiza was close friends with Richard Hernandez, who was murdered and dismembered at his apartment in Far North Dallas more than two years ago, in September 2008. Seth Lawton Winder is charged with first-degree murder in Hernandez’s slaying and is awaiting a trial that’s been postponed several times. According to the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, Winder’s case is now set for trial in late January.

We aren’t sure whether Araiza, Hernandez’s friend, was inspired by the actions of Lisa Stone’s friends, but he wrote to inquire about obtaining copies of Dallas Voice articles on the murder, because he’s interested in launching a website. Here’s part of what he said:

“I want to start a Richard Hernandez Justice website to keep journals and updates on his delay of Justice! As we leave 2010 and into 2011, we are still in suspense mode waiting to hear, or see ‘Justice’ happen here from delay after delay of Seth Winder. I had a dream the other night, and in my dream Richard was there, in a place where Happiness and Life were the heavens. I was extremely angry with him and told him that he left a lot of people with heavy hearts, he said that everything was going to be okay, and that he was watching over us. It was a typical answer that only Richard would have said to me, which let me know that he was happy and right! It sounds crazy, but I woke up knowing and feeling good inside knowing that Richard for a mere 5 minutes was having a conversation with me. My heart believes that he knows what’s going on, and  he knows Justice will come soon.”

—  John Wright

School district blames Asher Brown’s suicide on problems at home, not anti-gay bullying

The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District on Friday released preliminary findings from its investigation into the suicide of Asher Brown, the gay 13-year-old whose parents say he was “bullied to death.” Once again, the district is denying that it ever received any complaints about bullying from Asher’s parents. Instead, the district’s findings insinuate that problems at home led to Asher’s suicide. Here are the district’s findings, according to KHOU.com:

• Upon enrollment, his mother reported his personal history, which included post-traumatic stress disorder. • Asher had established relationships and accessed both his sixth-and seventh-grade counselors.

• His recent academic progress report reflected all A’s in his classes and his class conduct was excellent.

• Prior to Asher Brown’s death, the parents made no contact with the school regarding concerns of bullying.

• Although the campus did not receive concerns from the family regarding bullying, his mother contacted his counselor approximately two weeks prior to his death requesting assistance from school staff members in monitoring Asher’s behavior due to a significant emotional struggle within the family. Asher’s counselor alerted all his teachers and assistant principal of their family’s situation.

• The following week, an assistant principal followed up with Asher’s mother by phone.

• District administrators have been unable to substantiate specific instances of alleged bullying of Asher; however, some student information indicates a perception that Asher was mistreated by classmates, but those concerns were not reported.

As it turns out, Cy-Fair ISD spokeswoman Kelli Durham is married to an assistant principal at Asher’s school — a possible conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos says she is “very concerned” about whether bullying led to Asher’s suicide. Lykos’ office is looking into whether there were instances of “egregious conduct” before his death.

Services for Asher were set for 10 a.m. Saturday, and those attending were encouraged to wear shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, which his family said is how he would have wanted it.

—  John Wright

Harris County prosecutors want to know what led to the suicide of gay 13-year-old Asher Brown

This just in from The Associated Press:

HOUSTON — Prosecutors said Friday they will look into what led to the suicide of a 13-year-old Houston boy whose parents say was relentlessly bullied at his middle school for two years because of his religion and sexual orientation.

Asher Brown’s parents, who claim school officials ignored their pleas for help, said they hope “justice will be served” by the investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

“Once they find out what’s been hidden, we would want the people responsible to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Brown’s stepfather, David Truong.

Read the full story here.

—  John Wright

Republican DA hopeful visits Log Cabin — PLUS, full text of Rob Schlein’s intro for John Cornyn

Danny Clancy

Danny Clancy, the Republican candidate for Dallas County District Attorney, will speak at Log Cabin Republicans’ monthly meeting on Monday night, Sept. 27.

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin, said Clancy’s campaign manager approached him and asked whether the candidate could address the group.

“I think it’s his first time to our club, and I think it may be the first time we’ve had a DA candidate.” Schlein said, adding that he thinks District Attorney Craig Watkins, the Democratic incumbent, is “vulnerable.”

“I think Dallas County’s going to go red,” Schlein said. “Republican voters are energized about this election, and Democratic voters are not.”

The meeting is at Mattito’s Restaurant, 3011 Routh St., at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Also, Schlein sent over the full text of his remarks last week, when he introduced Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn at a reception prior to Log Cabin’s National Dinner in Washington, D.C. We’ve posted Schlein’s Cornyn intro in its entirety below.

—  John Wright