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The law caught up with Rhonda Lesher on a quiet Monday afternoon in April She was doing the books at Unique Touch, the hair salon and day spa she owned in the small northeast Texas town of Clarksville. She would have walked the five blocks. Rhonda followed the deputies out to the street fronting the town square. She knew her arrest would soon be big gossip. Rhonda, like many who grew up in town, remained an object of fascination into adulthood.
Some county residents work at the Campbell Soup factory in Paris, 40 minutes to the west, in the neighboring county. There is a hospital in Red River, ranch land, and not much else. People are fleeing Red River County, seeking success elsewhere. The county seat of Clarksville, population 3, has shrunk by a quarter over the past 20 years. More leave every year, and the empty buildings stand there and age. Certain relics are accorded higher honors. A hanging tree still presides over the main cemetery, marked by a plaque from the Clarksville High School Junior League. A statue in the town square of Confederate Col.
John C. Burks faces northwest, according to local lore, because Burks is keeping watch over the historically black section of town. Clarksville remains deeply segregated. The town is majority black today, but county law enforcement is almost completely white. Some residents say the Red River County justice system saves its harshest treatment for the black community.
It got so bad decades ago that a federal judge had to set up a civil rights commission just for Red River County. Mark Lesher said something. When his wife was being arrested that Monday afternoon inMark Lesher was an hour away, at his other office in Texarkana. The deputies searched his truck while rubberneckers on the highway slowed Married women sex Clarksville Texas TX for a better look.
Stuck in the back seat with the air conditioning off, Mark began to sweat. Mark was a defense attorney, but, more accurately, he was a professional agitator. Lesher says the D. Lesher left for private practice and led a successful movement to vote Cooksey out of office.
InLesher moved to a ranch in Red River County, bought some cattle, opened a second office just off the Clarksville town square, and soon met and married Rhonda. He had landed in another bubble of local power run wild. Emboldened by success in Texarkana, he started speaking out.
When Mark and Rhonda both arrived at the county jail, they learned they were facing sexual assault charges. A county grand jury had secretly indicted them without ever hearing testimony from Mark or Rhonda. A few months later, they were indicted again on enhanced charges of aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony punishable by life in prison.
The allegations were lurid: Prosecutors told of homemade drugs, sex parties, and a bizarre rape scenario. Married women sex Clarksville Texas TX it looked like the law in Red River County might have the last say. With his thick mop of brown hair, he was voted class favorite and most handsome. He was an honors student and starting quarterback for the Clarksville Tigers.
After law school at Texas Tech University, Varley returned to find his hometown had turned against its county attorney, who refused to prosecute a principal accused of stealing from the high school. Varley seized the moment and easily unseated the incumbent. He took office inand felt right at home in the system. Most of his cases were fast-tracked to probation, a neat way to ensure a win. The constable managed to misspell the word even though the man ing off on the warrant was County Judge Powell Peek. Sneak-and-peek warrants were created under the Patriot Act for federal anti-terrorism and drug investigations.
This one was issued to check out a rumor that someone had a stolen truck in their yard. Lesher appealed the verdict, armed with a ed affidavit from the informant CIOO2 claiming he lied in his testimony against Doolittle. Doolittle, who is African-American, lost his appeal and is serving a life sentence.
Cases like that are why people like Pastor Stovall and Mark Lesher say that Red River County seems especially hostile to the black community. The Red River County justice system has long had problems. Today, the narrow flat stretch between the Red River and the slow, murky Sulphur River may be a mostly forgotten corner of the state, but in some ways, it was part of storied Texas history. It was cotton country, and more recently a manufacturing center. But as the jobs went overseas, the exodus to urban centers quickened. Walmart arrived and closed the shops on the square.
A few years ago, Walmart left too. He says local unease with law enforcement goes back decades, rooted in scandals involving people long dead. The Leshers had already heard the bizarre rumors about them, so it was no surprise that their arrests resulted from a complaint by a woman named Shannon Coyel. She told her family that her husband Jerry was dangerous, abusive and deviant, and court records detail her allegations against him: That Jerry would tell her year-old daughter Melissa to massage her breasts each day to make them grow; that her year-old son Donnie caught Jerry watching Melissa have sex with her boyfriend; that Jerry brought men to have sex with Shannon so he could watch.
Jerry Coyel is still an imposing presence at 65, tall and solidly built. Shannon knew Jerry was a powerful man in Red River County, and he proved it again when she left. Jerry told police that Shannon beat her daughter with a belt, and Shannon was arrested for child endangerment. McCarver was arrested the same day for possession of marijuana and dynamite. I can do anything. In the summer ofMark and Rhonda agreed to help Married women sex Clarksville Texas TX divorce Jerry and get her daughter back.
Mark found lawyers for Shannon, typed up her allegations against Jerry, and Shannon ed every. He sent Shannon to get drug-tested, to prove to the courts that she was clean. She passed. Then, on Labor Day weekendShannon went back to Jerry. A powerful man in Red River County can get what he wants. It was around at night, and he and his half-brother Kevin Calloway were playing dominoes at the dining room table. Vergil grew up in Clarksville, played high school basketball there and got his start coaching a year after he graduated.
He owned the house they were sitting in, and Calloway rented it from him. The windows and front door were open and the screen door was shut, but in one violent instant, men from four separate law enforcement agencies reduced it to scraps on the floor. They burst into the house, most wearing masks over their faces. Some wore helmets with the visors down. They threw Vergil and Calloway to the floor. The officers removed their masks and helmets. After all the excitement, one would forget his helmet on the floor when he left.
Vergil looked around at his bound family and wondered what was going on. The group was an unofficial successor to a regional task force that had disbanded two years earlier, and at first it had seemed a great success. Earlier that day, Deputy Sheriff Robert Bridges was with an informant who bought three ounces of marijuana from Calloway outside the house, and now that drug buy had led them to seven suspected drug dealers.
They were both arrested as well. But there were problems. Perhaps strangest of all, County Attorney Val Varley had come along on the raid, wearing body armor and carrying a rifle. The Richardsons hired Texarkana lawyer Clyde Lee to defend them in court. In springthe Clarksville forum on Topix.
But on April 4, a new story appeared about an unnamed woman who had lived with Mark and Rhonda for a time:. Comments about this new scandal grew to a flood, thousands of them, lascivious and juvenile, and about Rhonda too. Feel Good pills. On the night of July 26 Shannon had a migraine, she told the grand jury, and when she complained, Mark gave her a new kind of pill. It made her a little woozy. She claimed she woke up naked in her bed a few hours later, with Rhonda Lesher performing oral sex on her as Mark and Red stood naked in the corner, masturbating.
She was immobilized by the drug. She said Rhonda got up and Mark came over and raped her, then let Red rape her, too. Though she knew what the town was saying about her, working at her salon gave Rhonda a chance to profess her innocence each day. Rhonda even gave a speech to the Rotary Club, with Varley, who was also a member, in the room.
Red McCarver spent 90 days in jail after being arrested for the sexual assault, an unlucky bit player in the Lesher-Varley feud.
But inconsistencies in her story surfaced during cross-examination. Varley admitted it looked pretty ugly. But he gave Shannon one last shot on redirect:. In his closing argument, Varley promised still more juicy details. The now-cleared defendants celebrated the verdict that night at a nearby steakhouse, with friends and supporters around the table. Vergil Richardson figured it was good news that Calloway, his half-brother, pleaded guilty to the drug charges. So Judge Miller declined to drop the charges against the Richardsons.
He slipped into deep depression. In Octobernearly three years after the raid, a visiting judge finally dropped the charges against the Richardsons. Liberty-Eylau lost in the regional finals the season after his arrest, without him on its bench. With the arrest still on his record, he says, no school will hire him. They destroyed my reputation.
They did too much for me to let go. But it can be hard to get attention from outside the county, because people are so accustomed to strange stories from East Texas. Two days before ChristmasRhonda Lesher closed her salon and put the building up for sale.
She wanted to be done with the Clarksville gossip. Mark and Rhonda also sold their ranch and cattle to pay their lawyers and bought a house outside the county, near Mount Pleasant. Rhonda does the books for him two days a week, then goes back to work in her garden. From Mount Pleasant, they have waged holy war on those they feel have wronged them back in Red River County.
They pursued perjury charges against Shannon.
They filed a malicious prosecution suit against Shannon, Jerry and Varley. They gathered atures on a petition to remove Varley from office. His cause now is vengeance, and this is his best shot at making them pay. Rhonda blames Varley most of all. The Leshers filed a defamation suit in Tarrant County against anonymous commenters on the Topix boards, and Topix agreed to identify a few of the most prolific offenders.
Mark and Rhonda were national news, even being interviewed on CNN. But Rhonda says the biggest thrill was reading about their win in the Clarksville Times. But then in mid-June, a Tarrant County district judge threw out the award. Now the Leshers are planning their appeal. Meanwhile, Mark continues to represent clients mistreated in Red River County. Reed searched it and arrested the man, who spent a night in jail even though the search for drugs came up empty.Married women sex Clarksville Texas TX
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