Randy Travis riding into town Friday

Fans of country singer Randy Travis can look for him at Storybook Ranch on Friday evening.

He’s coming to McKinney to ride horses. Plus, a movie is being filmed at Storybook Ranch at the old Western town.

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Terrance Black returned to Collin County

The suspect in the killing of Susan Loper has been brought back to Texas.

Police say that 48-year-old Terrance Black, has been charged with murder in connection with Loper’s death.

The 40-year-old mother of an 8-year-old son was taken in Plano from Gleneagles Country Club on April 19.

Police said that Black tossed her body in a field, where she was found in Frisco on April 20.

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Traxxas, hotel, fireworks, Randy Travis and Maylee

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Randy Travis will be at Storybook Ranch on Friday after 4 p.m. and for the evening during the Wild West Freedom Fest.

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Cars: Volvo says goodbye to S40 sedan, V50 wagon


I didn’t see this one coming.

Volvo has decided to discontinue the S40 sedan and V50 wagon for the 2012 model year in the U.S. Both were compact offerings derived from the same platform. The second-generation Volvo S40 debuted as a 2004 model, while the V50 came in 2005.

Both models have struggled to attract American car buyers – the automaker had reshuffled trim names and content offerings to make each more attractive over time. Even so, the S40 and V50 have seen double-digit decreases in year-over-year sales, which are down 29.5% for the S40 and 59.1% for the V50. “The S40 and V50 are great cars,” says Volvo spokesman James Hope, “but our focus, however, needs to be on our volume vehicles, specifically the S60, XC60, XC90, S80 and XC70.”
The C30 and C70 will continue to be offered, says Hope, even though neither is a particularly strong seller in the U.S. As reported earlier, Volvo also discontinued the larger V70 wagon in 2011, leaving an automaker once synonymous with wagons with just one entry left in the field: the rugged XC70.
Volvo’s only compact entry in the U.S. for 2012 is the C30 hatchback.

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Need help managing credit?

The New York Times recently reported that “millions of consumers have fallen out of favor with the credit scoring gods” leaving many consumers wondering what their credit may look like. LifeLock, an industry leader in identity theft protection, has a solution for consumers that will take the surprise out of wondering about their personal credit identity – LifeLock Credit Score Manager(TM).

Lifelock is available on http://www.CollinCountyHeadlines.com.

LifeLock Credit Score Manager(TM) utilizes a tri-bureau credit management approach, helping members maximize control of disposable income and credit reputation by monitoring all three credit bureaus daily and sending alerts when changes are made to the member’s credit files. The service also provides members with monthly updates to their TransUnion credit score, and annual updates to credit scores and reports for all three credit bureaus. Members will also have anytime online access to their scores and reports for all three credit bureaus.
“Credit can oftentimes be a complicated system to understand but knowing what is on your credit report and being able to manage your credit will provide you with the ability to make informed financial decisions,” said Todd Davis, Chairman and CEO of LifeLock. “With LifeLock, we work relentlessly to provide real, working solutions to consumers that want to improve their credit identity and unlike many other companies, LifeLock does not sell the data of its members.”
LifeLock Credit Score Manager(TM) provides the following set of credit management features to clearly lay out a credit identity:

  • Daily Tri-Bureau Credit Monitoring (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)
  • Monthly Credit Score Updates (TransUnion)
  • Annual Tri-Bureau Credit Reports
  • Annual Tri-Bureau Credit Scores
  • 24/7 Credit Dispute Assistance

Because of events like credit bureau errors, high balances, or too many credit inquiries that can have a negative impact on a credit history, consumers can end up paying higher interest rates or be denied employment or credit. LifeLock Credit Score Manager(TM) alerts members to these problems so that they know what lenders know and can make smart financial decisions.
For more than six years, LifeLock has been leading the way for consumers to help protect their identities from potential identity thieves. LifeLock Credit Score Manager(TM) is not identity theft protection but a solution for consumers looking to understand their credit history. Identity theft protection solutions help to safeguard personal information from being used to open new credit, rent an apartment or finance a new car as examples. LifeLock’s identity theft protection solution works relentlessly to help protect members from all of these threats and more.

Lifelock is available on http://www.CollinCountyHeadlines.com. See box on page.

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The Casey Anthony Trial: The Taste of Death


JB Blocker, a local writer and media consultant, has served as a Disaster Recovery Supervisor on several occasions across the USA. Based on his experience, he examines the Casey Anthony trial.

“That particular smell, whenever you smell it, is something you never forget. It’s a very distinct odor.” George Anthony, father of accused murderer Casey Anthony.


So many testified about ‘that smell’ in the Caylee Anthony murder case and yet many question those witnesses as they tell of how they recognized the smell of a decaying body. The tow truck driver detected the smell when he picked up Casey’s car and six previous incidents where he had picked up vehicles that had held decomposing bodies. He recognized that distinct scent.

And what about the cadaver dog? In multiple disasters the world has witnessed over the recent years, we have seen cadaver dogs used. They didn’t respond to rotting food, their highly trained and sensitive noses located decomposing bodies.

Could people actually recognize the smell of a dead human?

In the late ’70s, I tasted death twice.  As a teenager I used to wander the streets of little Sunray in the northern Texas panhandle. During one summer I would race past this cozy red brick home of a retired gas worker who was nice enough and lived alone. The house was on a large corner lot that my friends would cut across as we raced home.

A particular rotting smell got our attention on a sweltering summer day. Day after day, my buddy Johnny Underwood and I would cut across that lawn. The faster we would race, the closer we would cut near the house. Of course, we knew everyone in a town with less than a square mile of residences so we thought nothing of it.

The odor was stronger everyday, and we never saw the old man around so we started snooping around thinking maybe something wasn’t right.

Within a few short days, the smell became a pervasive and sickening sweet odor that filled our mouths and gagged us. That’s when we told my father about it. And that’s when they discovered the body!

Two years later, I was visiting a friend from college near Tulia, Texas. Steve and I were on the track team at Lubbock Christian College. His father was a mortician who was called to recover two bodies found long dead in an old motel. I went along.

We put on rubber gloves, and I helped lift the body of the deceased man from the motel bed to the gurney. The body was blackened and swollen from only a few days in an unairconditioned room during the heat of a Texas August.
I lost it when the skin of the man’s ankles stuck to the rubber gloves. I felt like I needed to scrape my tongue to remove that same sickening sweet smell that had led to the discovery of my old neighbor. You could taste. I can taste it now.

Manhattan 2001, Ground Zero, the Red Zone
September 29th was my first day as a Disaster Recovery Supervisor assigned to damaged buildings in the Red Zone.

The Red Zone is the block which contained the fallen World Trade Center buildings.

I was housed near Grand Central Station and would take the subway down to Lower Manhattan every day. At first, the subways only ran down to the Canal Street exit near Chinatown,and we would have to walk the rest of the way. Every few weeks, more of the southern tracks would be opened, and my walk was shortened.

By November the Fulton Street exit opened and by December, the Wall Street exit finally began to operate. Give or take a few bomb and biological scares that would shut down the subway lines, I didn’t mind the subways. There was a whole new sense of courtesy and respect among the riders. Many were coming to fill the streets around the disaster with cameras and missing signs.

I was dressed with all the trappings of an explorer. Carrying masks, helmet, and specialized equipment while usually covered in dust. I was often offered a seat and thanked by all I passed by for working the Zone. I couldn’t buy a beer and had several meals compted or paid for by a patron. All the obvious workers were treated this way.

My previous trips to New York had left me apprehensive of taking the subway back when everyone ignored everyone else. One girl friend was always certain we would be mugged. Truth be known, she was just a paranoid soul.

Now I looked forward to the common courtesies that extended to human dignity. There was a solemn reverent appreciation of Americans coming together.

Fresh Air?
I remember the first time I stepped out of the subway stairway and up in to the stale air that surrounded the miles around Ground Zero. As my head reached street level, I could instantly smell the dusty smoky air. Fires would continue to burn for several more months from hidden reaches of the underground garages adding to the smoky cloud that seemed to blanket a few blocks for months.

As I walked toward the Red Zone, the air would become more complex. At first there was a mixture of Chinese food as I walked south past the west side of Chinatown. But as I got closer to Wall Street, odors took on body and shape. I learned to not breathe from my mouth. I wore a variety of mask when ever I could. My mind raced with thoughts of the pulverized concrete, the sheet rock, the furniture, the mementos, plants, photos, and other personal items that had filled the buildings that were now a pile of rubble.

I have always had a remarkable palate and am very analytical. It has served me well in the kitchen and as a Food Reviewer. Now I would curse my ability to taste and smell. I could not stop my mind from trying to distinguish the sources of those aromas.

With each step toward Ground Zero, I began to mentally analyze the scents that were growing heavier and more palpable. I passed rotting garbage that was piled along Broadway. That garbage wouldn’t be picked up for a while. Farther south, I was no longer smelling, I was tasting the weight and flavor of the air.

An occasional soft breeze would waft in from the Hudson River. Normally the smell of the Hudson is a dirty oily thing. Now, those breezes were welcomed cleansings.

A block before you reach the Red Zone, the air held a heavier taste. A familiar sweetness. A lingering weight on the tongue. A taste you couldn’t scrape off or brush away. How do you wash away a memory of death?
Every day, day after day I watched as bodies were solemnly carried past honor lines of firefighters and workers in the Zone as they were carried out of the pit that lead to the garage opening in the center of Ground Zero.

I took my breaks at the main Salvation Army supply tent located just east of what was once Building 5. At that tent there was always hot food, beverages, clothing, medical supplies, and endless coffee. When I was on the job, I avoided stepping in to the honor line that often formed just a few dozen feet away from the Salvation Army tent several times a day. But one time, a gathering line began to form and word was out that a pocket had been opened with a missing group from a fire station.

I was bandaging my bloody aching feet that were ravaged by new steel toed boots. They had taken me up and down the surrounding high rises as we investigated the damages. With no elevators yet in operation and blocks to walk just to get there, my feet were ruined by broken blisters within a few days and they didn’t recover for weeks.

The Salvation Army tent was where I cleaned and bandaged my feet a couple of times a day. I was off duty at the time and was ready to head to my hotel when the word of an honor line was forming. Usually, when a fire fighter is located, they would get word out. There were always off duty PD and FD hanging around waiting for word about a missing officer. Those who had missing squad brothers and sisters came every day.

On this occasion, I joined the honor line.
As more stretchers were carried in, bodies began to be carried out. They had been dead for a few weeks by then. Parts were slowly and reverently carried out of the pit and down the long line of workers and off duty officers. Half of a torso on one stretcher. A leg on another. Broken bodies. A fireman’s helmet over a blanket. Other uniform parts. Dozen of stretchers carrying heroes and loved ones.

For more than two hours the honor line remained amid weeping and sobbing of grown men who were there operating cranes and bulldozers. Iron workers, drivers, heavy equipment operators, Fire, Police, National Guard, FEMA, all moved around the restricted zone day and night. They were all filling in to that growing line of workers and officers who were praying and saluting as the bodies passed by often in pieces. As word spread of the missing station, more and more fire fighters joined the procession until police had to intervene.

As stretcher after stretcher passed by, I fought off the gagging cloying scent that filled your mouth like peanut butter would. That smell I had experienced as a teenage was unmistakable. Unforgettable, Unforgiving.

Tic Tacs and Altoids
I tried chewing gum. I tried Tic Tacs. I filled my pockets with Altoids. I carried a tube of Mentholatum.
Every day, as soon as I would reach the ground level out of the subway, I put some strong potent mint in my mouth to avoid that smell. That taste!

But on that one day, as a fellow human in that long line of death, I didn’t even have s stick of gum. I tasted the death. It is not a scent when it gets to that stage. And it lingers for ever.

I am certain that all those witnesses in the Caylee Anthony murder trial knew immediately what they were experiencing.  The decay of a human being has its own signature, and it lingers like a bad memory. I hope you never have to bear that experience.

– J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Historic Downtown McKinney, Texas. Phone: 469-334-9962. Email: jbblocker@hotmail.com

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$315,000 to study FarmVille?

County Commissioner Matt Shaheen of Collin County, Texas, points out that according to a study by Senator Tom Coburn’s office, the federal government spent $315,000 to study how playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships.

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Bloomin’ and Boomin’ Wild West Freedom Fest

Bloomin Boomin is a month-long celebration of McKinney’s community culture including the arts, humanities and agricultural tourism.

Join us at Storybook Ranch for
Wild West Freedom Fest
July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
  • Friday: Rodeo, Country & Western Music and Dancin’
  • Saturday: Concerts all day long, 1870’s Saloon, Casino
  • Sunday: Boot-Scootin’ and Music

Daily Activities Include…
Pony Rides, Petting Zoo, Bounce Houses, Gunfight Shows, Face Painting, Wagon Rides, Horse Shoe Toss, and much more. The event benefits River Ranch Educational Charities. Go to  www.storybookranch.com

Roping and riding

Love to ride horses? Storybook Ranch is offering horse camps this summer at the ranch off Custer Road. McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller joined the campers on Friday at Storybook Ranch.

 Photos by J.B. Blocker

When you call Storybook Ranch at 972-369-0874, tell them you saw it on COLLIN COUNTY HEADLINES.COM.

In Celina …


YMCA honors McKinney councilman

In 1910, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd celebrated the first Father’s Day as we know it in conjunction with the YMCA of Spokane.  

The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas continued this tradition, and honored 23 area men as YMCA Fathers of the Year.  McKinney’s own City Councilman Ray Ricchi was one of the fathers honored.  

Ricchi, nominated in a letter by his oldest son Michael, along with daughter Heather, and youngest son Kyle, accepted the honor at the event held at Malibu SpeedZone.  Nominees and their families enjoyed dinner together prior to the award ceremony where each father was presented with an engraved glass award.

Michael Ricchi’s winning entry was selected based on the essay he wrote as to why his father deserved to be recognized as a YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas Father of the Year.

“My dad is always there for me through thick and thin…if I become anything like my father, I would consider my life to be a success.  He gives back, is loved, and has made the world a better place,”  said Michael Ricchi’s winning entry.  

“There were so many inspirational essays, but Michael’s stood tall among the applications as a wonderful reflection of his father, family, and his father’s influence in their lives, “ said Venieca Kusek, Director of Special Events/Projects, YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.

“What an honor,“ said Councilman Ricchi, “ but I am most honored that my son thinks so highly of me.  That is what is most important to me.”

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