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Newsmonger: DPS under fire, Woman nabbed in murder-for-hire plot, Millions spent on school punishment in TX

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Anna Vasquez, 37, was released from prison Friday after serving more than 12 years of her 15-year sentence for sexually assaulting two young girls. Vasquez is one of four women (the other three still incarcerated) working with the Innocence Project of Texas to clear their names, saying the bizarre story presented to jurors was fabricated. One of the victims, now 25 years old, recently recanted saying the assault never happened. 

In late June, Martha Perry Evanoff approached a coworker at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston to vent about her bitter, ongoing divorce. Evanoff, a 53-year-old Installation Management Command contractor at Fort Sam, groused about her lawyer and a husband who "was fighting for things that were not his," according to court records. Evanoff then asked the coworker if she knew of anyone who could "take out" her husband for a fee. She ended the chat with, "If you ever tell anyone we had this conversation, I'll deny it."

In all, Evanoff approached three of her Fort Sam coworkers to see if any had contacts she could hire to kill her estranged husband, according to federal court records. Following an FBI investigation, Evanoff was arrested in late July. She pleaded guilty in federal court last week to attempting to hire a man to kill her husband.

FBI agents began watching Evanoff last summer after she'd shopped the murder-for-hire plot to her three coworkers on base. One eventually contacted the FBI and worked with the feds to set up a series of recorded meetings with Evanoff at a Sears department store across from North Star Mall. In one meeting, Evanoff told and undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man to find "some way to make it look like he (Evanoff's husband) took drugs," according to records filed in the case. "I'm trying to help you think of ways to do something that nobody's fingerprints are left on it, so to speak," she said.

Court records show Evanoff's estranged husband, James Grant Auchter, had moved into the downtown homeless shelter Haven for Hope, while she continued to live in a $600,000 home in the Dominion. In July, Evanoff met with an undercover agent, giving him an envelope containing a $2,000 cash downpayment for the hit, her husband's Haven for Hope address, the name of his workplace, and the make and model of his car. Evanoff faces up to 20 years in prison.

Millions spent on school punishment in TX

Suspensions and referrals to alternative schools and the county's Juvenile Justice Academy are costing local districts state funding that is already scarce, according to a report released last week by Texas Appleseed. Northside ISD and San Antonio ISD were included in the Austin think-tank's study of disciplinary expenses at eleven districts which cumulatively educate a quarter of the state's students. The report found schools have lost millions due to exclusionary discipline, like suspending students or sending them to alternative schools, all while managing the ballooning cost of other security measures districts have undertaken.

In the 2010-11 school year, NISD lost $679,244 in state funding for absences due to suspensions. SAISD lost $447,940 for absences attributed to suspension that year and spent $4,797,013 operating two Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs. NISD spent $5,718,073 on their three DAEP's that year. "We're spending all this money on what is not an effective method of disciplining students," said Kathryn Freeman, a staff attorney at Texas Appleseed who co-authored the study "Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets." Freeman points to a 2011 study from the Council of State Governments connecting exclusionary discipline to high drop-out rates and future contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. "Even one disciplinary referral increases your likelihood of dropping out and not completing high school," she says. "Kids who had disciplinary referrals had a higher likelihood of being held back a grade and a higher likelihood of future juvenile justice involvement."

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