Odds and Ends

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"I thought it [the GHB] was legal," Davis says. "I bought it through a pharmaceutical company because I have insomnia."

Davis has a federal lawsuit pending against the North Richland Hills Police, claiming excessive force was used during the raid on her home and that her late son's civil rights were violated.

Wardrip's reverse

When Faryion Wardrip, the convicted killer of five young women in Wichita Falls in 1984, chose to plead guilty to his crimes as his trial began in late 1999, the job of prosecuting attorneys became considerably easier ("Burden of Proof," July 13, 2000). All that was left to do was provide a change-of-venue jury in Denton with sentencing evidence. In short order, the killer of Terry Sims, Toni Gibbs, Ellen Blau, Debra Taylor and Tina Kimbrew was sentenced to die by lethal injection.

"The burden of what I did has been lifted," the former Sunday school teacher said at the time. "I've told God to take me. I'm ready." He would not, he said, appeal his death sentence beyond the routine review by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Then, on the December 20, 2001, anniversary of his stabbing and rape of Sims, Wardrip initiated a federal appeals process that he now hopes will help him avoid his scheduled trip to the death chamber.

The most outspoken critic of his decision is Bryce Wardrip, who recently told the Wichita Falls Record-News that it is time his brother "quit wasting taxpayers' money...He needs to just let it go and quit hurting these people. Case closed. Take him down to Huntsville, put a needle in his arm and execute him."

Spores galore

Of all the state's elected officials, Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor has the best reason to hope the new year will not resemble the old. Montemayor found himself refereeing the year's most contentious, if not bizarre consumer fight. The battleground was the home insurance industry, and the flashpoint was mold, specifically the toxic kind that infests homes, disrupts nasal passages and, most important, costs oodles of money to repair ("Planet Mold," February 22, 2001).

The trouble began when a jury ordered Farmers Insurance Group to pay Melinda Ballard an unprecedented $32 million for failing to repair her mold-infested mansion located near Austin. By then, reports of toxic mold driving families out of homes, among other buildings, were common fodder for newspapers across the country, though no state seemed to generate as many stories as Texas. With visions of more Ballard verdicts dancing in their heads, Farmers led an industrywide effort to pressure Montemayor into revising state law to exclude mold from the most commonly purchased Texas homeowners policy.

In November, Montemayor issued what he called a "common-sense, middle ground" ruling, but it only left homeowners grumbling that it was too vague and some insurers still swearing they'll leave Texas for good.

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