ROCKWALL — The past year was a year of firsts for Rockwall, some tragic and others victorious. From Rockwall County Deputy Keven Rowan’s heroic rescue of two woman trapped in a car sinking into Lake Ray Hubbard to U.S. Representative Ralph M. Hall making history as the oldest person to cast a vote in the House, Rockwall had its fair share of triumphs. Meanwhile, a tornado ripped through the southern part of the county and the murder of a Rockwall teenager gripped readers across the nation. Below are the top stories of 2012, as determined by our editorial staff. To comment on the list, or add an item of your own, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SURIE BAEZA MURDER
It was a shocking tragedy for Rockwall, a county that had not seen a homicide for almost a decade. The stabbing death of 15-year-old Surie Baeza, a Rockwall-Heath High School student, at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend was as grisly as it was surprising.
On Oct. 30, the Rockwall Police Department responded to a call in Lake Rockwall Estates and found Baeza a victim of multiple stabs wounds to the chest. They interviewed family and friends, and quickly zeroed in on Juan Enrique Torres, 41, of Belize. They arrested Torres on a separate warrant and he quickly confessed to the murder.
Torres, who police said was the father of one of Baeza’s half-siblings got into a verbal altercation with Baeza before stabbing her with a kitchen knife and depositing the evidence on Graham Street in Dallas.
Torres made his first court appearance in November and is still being held in Rockwall County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.
ROCKWALL DEPUTY SAVES TWO WOMEN FROM DROWNING
The men and women who serve Rockwall County as law enforcement officers regularly put their lives on the line and go above and beyond to keep county residents safe. Rockwall Deputy Keven Rowan displayed that sense of duty in January of 2012 by pulling two woman out of a car sinking into Lake Ray Hubbard. Deputy Rowan was patrolling the western side of Robertson Park off Interstate 30 and Dalrock Road about 12:50 a.m. Saturday when he saw the taillights of a car in the lake off the boat ramp.
At first, Rowan thought he would have to deal only with arranging to have a car pulled from the lake, Then, the deputy realized that two people were trapped in the back seat area of the rapidly sinking Honda Civic.
He learned later that the occupants were two young women who could not swim. A sheriff’s department news release stated they were in an air pocket just large enough for their faces.
Standing at the waterside, Rowan yelled at the occupants, asking them if they could get out of the car. At one point, he said, one of the occupants moved to the front of the car and possibly tried to open a door. The car began to nose-dive, he said, and the occupant returned to the back seat area.
Rowan then realized he had to respond.
He took off his equipment belt and waded into the water. Before he reached the car, the water was over the deputy’s head. He used a “window punch” to break out the right rear window, then started trying to get the young women out of the car.
The 6-foot-5 Rowan finally managed to wrap his arms around each woman’s waist and paddle out of the deep water. When they reached safety, the car disappeared into the water.
According to the news release, the two women had been driving in the park, unable to find an access road to I-30. One of the girls was using a cell phone, talking to her father and trying to get directions. They then headed down a boat ramp, thinking that it was a service road.
For his actions, Rowan was recognized by the North Texas Crime Commission, the Rockwall County Commissioners Court, the Rockwall City Council and the Sheriff’s Association of Texas