23 People Indicted After Major Backlog in Brewster County

Josh Navarro
NewsWest 9

ALPINE- There is a major backlog of criminal cases in Brewster County and some cases go all the way back to 2008. But there's a new district attorney on the job and he says all of that is about to change.

19 people have finally been indicted in the Alpine area after a backlog issue at the district attorney's office. There are 23 controversial cases with offenses ranging from tampering with government documents to a jailer fondling a female inmate. 17 of the cases happened throughout last year but the pileup started long before.

"There has been a backlog of cases that haven't been presented to the grand jury. Some of these cases go back to 2009 and 2010," 83rd District Attorney, Rod Ponton, said.

Ponton took the new role just a few weeks ago and NewsWest 9 asked him why there was so many cases that have not been presented.

"I don't know, there has been a backlog of that backed up in the office before I took office," Ponton said.

Included on the list of the 23 indictments is of a former Brewster County jailer, 23-year-old Derek Jerome Thompson, who is accused of fondling the breast of a female inmate.

"We take that seriously and we want to protect people including people in jail. He admitted to what he did so he was fired and he's been indicted for having sexual contact with somebody in custody," Ponton said.

Another accuses 48-year-old Kellie Powell, an instructor at Sul Ross Law Enforcement Academy, who was told her passing test rates were too low so she raised it by helping students pass the exam by giving them the answers.

"She's been indicted three times with tampering with government documents and was another case that really upset the administration and Sul Ross University," Ponton said.

A mother daughter duo, Ilana Lipsen and Rosa Lipsen, tried to sell the synthetic drug "spice" out of their smoke shop in Alpine. The duo was indicted on two counts each of manufacturing, possessing, delivering and intent to sell a controlled substance.

Other crime cases listed are burglary of habitation, assault, injury to a child, bigamy and theft.

"This number of indictments is just a build up, we won't have this many every month. We're not going to be slackers in this, we're going to do everything we can to protect people." Ponton said.