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Warren Man, Working in Monticello Facility, Is Accused of Child Sexual Abuse, story courtesy of FOX 16 News

December 7th, 2007 by

Police investigators are looking at the possibility of additional victims in a sexual assault case after a Warren man was charged with sexual assault of a minor and reveals to police he works around children for a living.

The Department of Human Services and state police led Warren Police Department detectives to Ronnie Lopez.  Detectives have only a story from one child victim of alleged sexual abuse, but detectives say the background of Lopez, 35, could lead to more charges.

Lopez is free as of Wednesday night on $25,000 bail after being charged with sexual assault of a child under the age of 14.

“According to Mr. Lopez he does work around underage children and juveniles,” says detective Shaun Hildreth with Warren P.D.

Lopez told investigators he works at the Day Spring Behavioral Health Services in Monticello.  Police say it’s a center for troubled teens.

Reports indicate Lopez is a former employee of the Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Home in Monticello.

For more information on this story, click here to go to the Fox 16 News site


One Monticello Life: Larry Wilkerson

November 25th, 2007 by

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Several years ago, the church I was attending had a visiting preacher, who preached like he knew exactly what all was going on in my life at that time.

That preacher was Bro. Larry Wilkerson.  Bro. Larry is now pastor of Ladelle Baptist Church, a “country church” that averages around 75-80 people attending on Sunday mornings.  One of Bro. Larry’s friends was at lunch with us, and described the church as “country people and potluck meals, that make you feel at home.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Thanksgiving Day Special Report, Drew County’s Historic Rosenwald School

November 18th, 2007 by

Thanksgiving morning, MonticelloLive will be running a Special Article, about Selma’s Historic Rosenwald School.

This award winning report was written by Mrs. Sheilla Lampkin a few years ago, but is extremely interesting, especially to History buffs, here in Drew County.

Check back Thanksgiving Day, to learn more about the rich history of Drew County.


One Monticello Life: Truman Hamilton

November 11th, 2007 by

100_0378.JPGMost Monticello residents know Truman Hamilton from when he owned the radio stations.  Others remember when he managed the Magic Mart store, but there’s more to know about Truman than where he used to work.

Truman has just accepted the position of executive director of the Monticello Economic Development Commission. 

I think the job is in good hands.

MEDC’s director, Derrill Pierce, is stepping down because of health reason, but is helping it’s new director during the transition. 

Truman has just been in the office a few days, but the first thing that I noticed about his desk, was that his Bible was on it.  That’s a sign of leadership.

Read the rest of this entry »


One Monticello Life: Beverly Lobitz

November 4th, 2007 by

Mrs. Beverly Lobitz has been a member of UAM’s Music faculty for 35 years.  So many times, when someone has the same career, they just do their job.  That’s not the case with Mrs. Lobitz.lobitz.JPG

David Johnston, who’s daughter, Dailyn, is a first year piano student of Mrs. Lobitz, considers her to be “an outstanding piano teacher.  Dailyn is already reading sheet music, and can sing and play at the same time.”

Johnston added, “She is a very sweet person who allows parents to sit in on lessons with their children. Seeing her work with kids the way she does, shows that she is a very patient and talented teacher.  She always seems eager to share her love of music.” 

Beverly Lobitz grew up in Manhattan, Kansas.  She earned her Bachelor of Music degree at Kansas State University, and then completed her Masters of Science in Voice degree, at Emporia (Kansas) State University.

Mrs. Annette Hall, her colleague in the Division of Music since 1972, considers Mrs. Lobitz to be “a multi-talented musician, dedicated teacher, and exemplary role model for students.”

Mrs. Hall added, “She has the heart of a teacher.” 

Mrs. Lobitz has taught piano and voice, both in school settings and privately, since college.  She has been a member of UAM’s Music Department for 35 years. 

Betty Matthews told me last week, how helpful Mrs. Lobitz was when she taught Ms. Matthews daughter, Laura.  “Personal involvement” makes a world of difference.”

Larry Lobitz, retired, is Mrs. Beverly’s husband, and has preached for many years.  Together, they serve at Lakeside Presbyterian Church, in Lake Village.  Mr. Larry leads the choir, and Mrs. Beverly has played the organ for 11 years.

Their son, Brice is a construction contractor in New Orleans, and his wife, Becky (formerly Becky Jacobs, of Monticello), is an electrical engineer with Shell Oil.  They spend many weekends working with church projects there, such as missions, and construction for people with special needs.

Mrs. Lobitz has 2 grandchildren, Colton and Tyler.

Mrs. Lobitz says she doesn’t watch very much television, but does enjoy an occasional “Extreme Home Makeover”, when someone does something helpful to improve someone else’s life.

Mrs. Lobitz considers music, “a vocation, and a hobby”, and has taught hundreds of students in private lessons, where she can make the most of “one on one” contact, in teaching.

She explained her ambitions with this phrase, “My goal is to see students succeed, not just in music, but in life.”

It seems that Mrs. Beverly Lobitz has reached her goal; many, many, times.  Including with me.

I became a voice student of Beverly Lobitz in 1982, when i started at UAM.  3 years later, while living and working in Dumas, but just a few hours short of graduation.  Mrs. Lobitz kept in touch with me by sending messages by my church’s pianist (also a student of hers), encouraging me to finish.  Mrs. Lobitz kept saying, “When you’ve got that degree, you’ll be so glad to have achieved that goal in life.”  25 years later, I see that she was right.  The fact that Mrs. Lobitz never gave up, has really made a difference, as it does to so many other students, that she still calls “My Kids”.

Thanks, Beverly Lobitz, for sharing your One Monticello Life.


One Monticello Life: Calvin Murphy

October 28th, 2007 by

I’ve known Calvin Murphy for several years, and the more I’m around him, the more I learn.

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Calvin, and his wife Mrs. Carolyn, operate O&M Oil Co., on East Gaines street.

Mr. Calvin has always lived in Drew County, and was born in the “Sipio” community, south of Ladelle and Lacey.  At the time, the Ashley, Drew, & Northern Railroad had a stop in that area.  Calvin grew up and graduated from Monticello High School.

Calvin started out as a meat cutter at “Clay’s Grocery Store”, which was located on North Main St., across from where Union Bank is now.

Calvin served in the U.S. Army, and was stationed at Ft. Chaffee, AR, Ft. Sill, OK, and was sent to Germany, shortly after the Korean War.  After he was released from the Army, he joined the National Guard, and served there until he’d completed 39 years of service to his country.

Next month, Calvin & Carolyn Murphy will have been married to each other for 50 years.

They have 2 grown children.  Their son, Les lives in Star City, and runs O&M’s bulk plant there.  Les is married to Jacque, who teaches 1st grade.  Calvin’s daughter, Kim, lives in Springdale, and teaches 1st grade there.  Kim is married to Rob Tanksley, who works at the Tyson corporate office.

Calvin got into the oil business back in the 1950’s, when he went to work for his father-in-law, Mr. Hellums Owen.  Back then, the station was at the corner of S. Main, and Shelton streets, and the bulk plant was located right where O&M is now.  This was when all “service stations” were “full service” stations.

Mr. Calvin told me, “I believe a man should work 5 days.”  He added, “Saturday is mine, and Sunday belongs to the Lord.”

On Saturday’s, if the Razorbacks play a home game, Calvin is usually somewhere close.  If the Hogs are playing an away game, he’s probably at Monticello Speedway.

On Sunday, he’ll be at Northside Baptist Church.  Calvin is the senior deacon at Northside and sings in the choir. “Quietly,” he adds.  Northside has been the only church he’s been a member of.

Over the years he has served as Sunday School teacher and director, “Training Union” teacher and director,  youth and building committees, and anywhere else that there was a need.

Calvin is also a member of Gideons, Int., which provides Bibles to schools, hospitals, and to our soldiers.

Mr. Calvin’s other passion, besides Mrs. Carolyn, is cars.  He has two “older” cars he’s working on restoring now. “Very slowly”, he comments.  One is a 1948 Lincoln Continental Mark I, and the other is a 1939 Cadillac LaSalle.

As you can tell by the photograph, Calvin Murphy loves his cars, and Mrs. Carolyn doesn’t like being in pictures.

Thanks, Calvin Murphy, for sharing your One Monticello Life. 


One Monticello Life: George Strain

October 21st, 2007 by

It was around 1:30, Monday morning, January 29, 2007. Monticello Police Dept. Patrolman George Strain was working a call at the intersection of E. Gaines and Conley streets.

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That was when officer Strain was run over by an oncoming vehicle. The force of the impact that cold, early morning, either fractured or broke his right wrist, left leg, left ankle, and multiple ribs. One of the broken ribs punctured and collapsed his right lung. He also had a broken pelvis.

George spent the next 19 days hospitalized. When he was able to go home, he still had to use a wheel chair.

It’s now 9 months later, and he’s still in physical rehabilitation to overcome some of the muscle deficiencies from the accident, but George never gave up.

George grew up in Tamo, AR., just north of Dumas and Grady.

He joined the U.S. Army, received his high school diploma, and even earned college credit, while he was serving his country.

In the military, George was stationed in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky,and was a member of the 101 Airborne, and the 2 / 17 Cavalry Unit.  His military duties carried him to Germany, Egypt, & Panama.

When he left the service, George worked in construction and in food-service, until he entered law enforcement.

George’s police career began in McGehee, then Grady, before coming to the Monticello Police Dept. in August, 1999.

Next month, George will be celebrating his eighth anniversary to Mrs. Dorothy.

They are very active in First Missionary Baptist Church, on Bailey street, here in Monticello, and Mrs. Dorothy sings.

Mrs. Dorothy is a member of the McLettic Stars, a family singing group, that has traveled to over 20 different states, singing about God’s love, mercy, and grace.

Through George’s accident and recovery, they’ve been blessed by that love, mercy, and grace.

George told me, “going through the accident, and everything that followed, has given me the chance to talk, and to witness, to many people that I wouldn’t have had the chance to, without the accident.”

When I was talking to him, I realized that he sees this as an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives.

George isn’t still in that wheel chair.

Last week I saw him at City Hall. He was on his way to work.

Officer George Strain is back in uniform, in Monticello, serving as the School Resource Officer for the Monticello School System. His office is at the high school, but he’s on duty at all of the Monticello School facilities, spending time with the students, and he’s teaching them something, simply by being there.

Officer George Strain, now there’s a good roll-model for our kids, and for us.

George Strain, thanks for sharing your One Monticello Life.

Click here to read MonticelloLive.com’s original story about the accident.

Click here to read MonticelloLive.com’s original report, Officer Comes Home.


How Deep Wuz Them ‘Taters?

October 16th, 2007 by

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A local roadside was used to serve a couple of different purposes, recently.

A local produce vender was selling sweet ‘taters, next to a piece of road working equipment.

The super-sized digger was not used in the harvesting process.


One Monticello Life: Rhonda Brooks

October 14th, 2007 by

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When most people meet Rhonda Brooks, they see her as a “lady in a wheelchair”, but there are many things that they don’t realize about Rhonda.

Rhonda grew up in Dewitt, where she lived with her parents and two sisters.

Her hobbies include listening to music, her favorites are Christian and bluegrass.

She also enjoys computer crafts, such as making cards, boxes, and similar projects, that make other people feel appreciated.

She is also well known for making balloon animals for nurses, patients, and drive through bank tellers. 

Rhonda graduated from Dewitt High School in 1979, attended UAM, and received her teaching degree in 1983.

Rhonda also got married in 1983.

Her husband is Sanders Brooks, who grew up just east of Hamburg, and was also at UAM.

Rhonda taught kindergarten for the Hamburg School District, Portland Campus, from 1983-2000.

During this time, Sanders was pastor at Parkway Baptist Church (Lake Village) and New Hope Baptist Church (Eudora).

Life so many times changes.

Rhonda is in the wheelchair because of complications from juvenile diabetes, a broken leg, and knee deterioration.  She also had a kidney transplant in 1998.

So many people would have given up, but not Rhonda.

When her husband became pastor of Northside Baptist Church, in 2004, Sanders and Rhonda moved back to Monticello.

Rhonda may be in a wheelchair, but she still is able to teach her Northside Baptist Church Sunday School elementary class and serve on the youth committee.

Between the many trips to out of town doctors, Rhonda spends a lot of time with the Northside Baptist Sr. adults, and goes out with the Wednesday night missions group to visit the Guest House residents, and other shut-in elderly members, and feed 11 stray cats.

At other times during the month you may see her spending time at the Other Way; visiting patients as a hospice volunteer; or maybe even hear of her visiting patients at a clinic or hospitals, that need a “pep talk” to gain encouragement to help deal with life’s struggles.

Rhonda may be a “lady in a wheelchair”, but she certainly doesn’t live a “wheelchair life”.

Thanks, Rhonda for sharing your ONE MONTICELLO LIFE with us!


MonticelloLive: Up for sale or phasing out

September 2nd, 2007 by

The cross roadsAfter a banner first year of activity, interaction, new relationships and community news and information, we’re ready to set MonticelloLive aside. We’ve loved having the interaction with people from all areas of Monticello and the surrounding community. We truly live in a wonderful area! Amazing people. Perhaps one of the most well-loved features of the site has been One Monticello Life – the weekly feature of your friends, neighbors and family.

We deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve the community in this way. We hope someone else will take up the mantle of MonticelloLive, but if not, it’s been a great season of life.

One of the primary reasons for turning loose of MonticelloLive is simply the high expectations it’s generated among so many. We simply can’t live up to it!

Another reason, and probably more meaningful, is that as a local pastor, I can no longer afford to divide my focus and time in the way I have with MonticelloLive. Being bivocational, I initially began the website as a hobby and possible source of supplemental income. It quickly – almost dramatically – surged to become a community icon. I simply was not prepared for the time demands – with meetings, interviews, deadlines and the need to justify all the investment by seeking advertising for revenue. I simply didn’t want to be seen as a “reporter” or as attempting to sell ads when folks saw me coming.

Therefore, we’re putting MonticelloLive up for sale. We’ll consider all offers. Please use the contact form to inquire. I will offer website support and full training. It really is a wonderful opportunity for someone, and it’s a vital source of community news and information. For someone who can give it more time than I, its future is indeed bright!

If no one expresses any interest, we’ll simply phase the site out. It will remain online for reference and archiving purposes.

We’re grateful for all the support, kindness and participation of our readers. We’re also very grateful for our regular banner advertisers that made the work more worth it. Thanks to Parkway Bank, A&B Rentals, and Union Bank & Trust.


MonticelloLive to scale back for summer

June 6th, 2007 by

With summer upon us and kids home, as well as other responsibilities crying out for more attention, we’re making the hard decision to scale MonticelloLive back over the summer. We will still be accepting submissions for stories and news releases, but we will not be actively covering news events until sometime in August.

Last month was the first month that our traffic decreased…. by 5 total hits. In May, the site saw 12,450 pageviews, down from 12,455 hits in April! We continue to be grateful for your participation and help in making MonticelloLive your community site.

We’re offering 50% off on all advertising during the summer months. Just look at the advertising page and figure 1/2 off. With between 400-500 hits per day, that is still the best ad money you can spend in the area. While we expect that traffic will decrease as posting is scaled back, you may want to seriously consider placing an ad with ML over the summer.

We also encourage you to send us news stories, announcements, engagements and wedding information. Your continued participation may provide the “fix” that some MonticelloLive addicts need to get through the summer! ;)

Again, thanks for helping make this site fun and interactive! Oh, and as always, if you’d like to make a donation, you can do so by clicking the donate button on the main page.


Recycling Reminder

May 4th, 2007 by

images.jpegThe January article on recycling definitely brought out some new recyclers in our community. Cathy Davis, in charge of recycling for the city, says the increase has been positive.

Here are some reminders from her about recycling:

  • Call 367-4407 if you have any questions or would like to begin recycling.
  • Plastics with the number 1 or 2 on the bottom may be recycled. It is helpful but not mandatory if they are rinsed prior to sending to the recycle center.
  • Fast food containers are not accepted (including cardboard pizza boxes or any styrofoam containers).
  • Please do not send tissue, paper plates, paper towels, or napkins. Paper that has been shredded is the only paper accepted at this time.
  • Please sort your recycle items into cardboard, plastics, paper, and newspaper.

Thanks for recycling.


One dead, others injured in wreck on Thursday

April 13th, 2007 by

One Monticello resident is dead, and two others are injured after a one-vehicle accident in Drew County yesterday.

According to a report by the Arkansas State Police the accident occurred at 12:48 p.m. on Midway Route in Drew County. The report states that a 1999 Mercury Sable driven by Don Simpson, age 18, of Monticello was traveling north on Midway Route at a high rate of speed. The driver lost control after over-compensating for a curve, and the vehicle left the roadway and overturned multiple times. All three passengers were then ejected from the vehicle.

Also injured in the accident were Steven Piper, age 34 and Austin Piper, age 4, both of Monticello. According to the State Police report Simpson was pronounced dead at the scene by a Drew County coroner. The other passengers were transported to Drew Memorial Hospital and Austin Piper was later transferred to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. The report states that no seatbelts or child restraints were in use by any of the occupants. According to officials at the Arkansas State Police, toxicology tests results are pending.


Accident reenactment reaches students

April 13th, 2007 by

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As many drove by Monticello High School this morning something out of the ordinary was happening on school property. Unfortunately, the scene was all too familiar for the many public servants who took part in helping. An organized reenactment of a drunk driving accident was staged for high school students to observe, complete with rescue teams from the Fire Department, Police Department, State Police and ambulance service. A helicopter even landed to med-flight some of the victims.

madd1.jpgTeresa Belew, Executive Director for the Arkansas Mothers Against Drunk Driving, visited from Little Rock and spoke to students. She related to the audience that a survey of the youth of Drew County reveals shocking facts. Twelve years of age is the age most reported for having a first taste of alcohol. Of young people who regulary drink alcohol, most say they began regular use at age fourteen. She also reported that in Arkansas alone, there are four to five people killed each week because of an alcohol related accident. Countless others are injured.

Steve Brantley, organizer of the reenactment today, has first-hand experience of an alochol related accident. Today, he shared his story with students of how his wife, Patricia Brantley, was killed in a collision with a drunk driver on June 21, 1996. It forever changed his life and the life of their four children. Steve is passionate about educating others about the dangers of drinking and driving and is very involved in the local chapter of MADD as coordinator for the county.


Monticello radio stations sold

April 10th, 2007 by

In another large media sale, Monticello radio stations KHBM, KGPQ, and KXSA owned by Community Radio Network were purchased recently by Pines Broadcasting Inc., owned by Jimmy and Gwen Sledge. The sales prices of the stations was $1.05 million, according to the broadcastingcable.com site. In a letter to advertisers and businesses, Jimmy Sledge stated, “We have retained all of the employees at the stations, and we appreciate your patience during this time of transition of ownership.”

Pines Broadcasting announced that it plans to provide more local news, weather, and sports, as well as offering six different music formats to listen to on the stations.


Sold! Cablevision

March 31st, 2007 by

It has been confirmed by MonticelloLive that Community Communications Company, better known as Cablevision, has been acquired by former general manager Bill Copeland.  Discussions have already begun on upgrades and the addition of new services.

Cablevision provides cable television to 27 South Arkansas communities and both cable television and high-speed Internet services in Monticello. Cablevision was founded in 1973 and was owned by the late Paul Q. Gardner, Jr. until his death in June 2006. His widow, Donna Gardner and sons, Chad Gardner and Paul (Chip) Q. Gardner III, assumed control of the company at that time.  Community Communications Company still remains the largest independently owned cable company in Arkansas.

An official press release has been promised by the new management, and MonticelloLive will publish it as soon as it’s released.


Two-year old drowned at Monticello Speedway

March 27th, 2007 by

On Saturday night, March 24, Faith Reed, two-year old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Chris Reed of Rison, AR, died after drowning. Her death is the result of an accident on a Polaris Ranger four-wheeled ATV. The accident occurred at Monticello Speedway in a resevoir used for watering the dirt track.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Drew County Sheriff’s Department.

Other News Sources:


One Monticello Life: Terry Koone

March 18th, 2007 by

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“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.” These words can be heard from the mouths of millions of young 4-H members across our nation. What started in the early 1900s to educate the young children of rural farmers has now grown into one of the country’s largest extracurricular youth programs. 4-H is not absent in Monticello. In fact, one of the fastest growing features of our local 4-H is the shooting sports program, and this group is mainly organized by Terry Koone. This is his story:

Terry Koone grew up in Conway, Arkansas. His dad worked for Southwestern Bell and his mom was a Farmers Home Administrator. He was the second oldest of four boys in his family. He grew up hunting, fishing and camping. All of these were a family affair and happened almost every weekend. He attended UCA and received a degree in business. He has worked for Farm Bureau as a claims adjuster most of his life.

In 1981 he married Jackie who was from Vilonia. That same year they moved to Monticello and made it their home. Terry and Jackie have two children, Kristen, 21 and Steven, 16. Terry became involved in 4-H for them. When his daughter was nine, she joined the organization. She was involved in several aspects of the club. She won state competitions in cooking. In photography she once was featured in the national 4-H calendar. Although Terry was not a part of 4-H when he grew up, he loved that his kids were a part of a group that had a “hands-on” philosophy. He loved to see them “grow and excel.”

His son, Steven, received a bow for Christmas at age 12. Terry didn’t bow-shoot and found the Drew County Bow Club ready and willing to help him and his son with their new hobby. At that time, Terry realized that 4-H had a shooting sports program on a national level but not in Monticello . He made a decision then to help begin one for the Drew County 4-H.

This is now the sixth year for the 4-H shooting sports program. The first year there were two students. In the third year, they had 8 students but no full teams to compete on a state level. In 2005, they had enough students to compete on a state level. They had a Junior Team (ages 9-13) and a Senior Team (ages 14-19). That year the Junior Team brought home 34 trophies and received a total of 60 ribbons. Last year they raised the bar and brought home 86 ribbons. The group is excited about the possibilities this year now that it has grown to over 40 students.

koone1.jpgThe 4-H Shooting Sports Progam has been a “blessing” for Terry. He does not get paid financially for his involvement or time but says that watching the kids grow and learn is payment enough for him. Terry is passionate about the organization and what it teaches the kids.

Although there are no gun clubs in Drew County, and there are no gun ranges around for the kids to practice, it didn’t stop Terry from making this possible for the kids of the shooting club.The 4-H shooting club started and still meets in Terry’s 20-acre backyard. He uses old signs from around town for targets, and there is always a firearm for someone to use. When the program started they had no equipment. Terry has used his own money at times to see that the needs are met. He has also involved as many people and parents as he can to see the program succeed. The Drew County Bow Club lets the 4-H club run a concession stand for their invitationals and have also given several bows to the 4-H group. The Friends of the NRA has a grant program that the Drew County 4-H applies for each year, and the 4-H students sell raffle tickets for the Friends of the NRA which allows the 4-H to receive some of the proceeds and/or equipment. Terry has seen the program grow by leaps and bounds and says it is “the best kept secret in the state of Arkansas.”

This program is not just about kids and firearms. The 4-H Shooting Sports Program has 4 disciplines: shotgun, .22, black-powder and archery. Terry has completed the instructional programs to train in these areas both on the state and national levels. The participants not only shoot targets, but they also learn the importance of safety, competition, life skills and practice. 4-H is open to all students ages 9-19, and there are many different 4-H programs here in Drew County. For about 40 shooting-sport students who meet twice a month in Rock Springs, the lessons they learn and fun they have make them thankful for Terry’s dedication and vision. He is a great example of the 4-H pledge. His heart has helped many young Monticellonians. Thank you, Terry Koone – one Monticello life.


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