Murky Waters: Oystermen Battle Over the Future of Texas Oyster Reefs

Categories: Cover Story

Lisa Halili had to scream into the phone to get her old friend and longtime competitor in the Texas oyster industry, Mihael Ivic, to calm down enough so that she could understand what he was saying.

"The Nelsons are stealing the bay!" Ivic yelled. Lisa's stomach knotted and her hands grew slick with sweat as she handed the phone to her husband, Johnny Halili, to see if he could get Ivic to make sense. The story Ivic told seemed like some kind of sick joke. After everything they'd been through the past few years -- the hurricanes, the drought, the oil spill, an entire litany of disasters -- even Ben Nelson, known curmudgeon that he was, couldn't really do this.

But Nelson's son-in-law, Tracy Woody, confirmed it when Johnny Halili called him.

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Tim Miller Thinks He Knows Who Killed His Daughter, But Is He After the Right Monster?

Categories: Cover Story, Crime

Photo by Max Burkhalter
Shortly after Tim Miller's teenage daughter Laura went missing from her League City home in September 1984, he had a feeling he wasn't really searching for Laura but for her body.

Six months earlier, a dog had dug up a human skull in a pasture off Calder Road in League City, leading police to the rest of what turned out to be a 25-year-old woman who'd disappeared in October 1983. Heide Fye lived with her parents, about three blocks from the Millers. The medical examiner believed she'd been beaten to death. She was last seen at the same convenience store where Laura's mother dropped Laura off in September 1984. TheĀ 16-year-old had planned to use the pay phone to call her boyfriend and walk home afterward.

Miller was bothered by the coincidence.

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40 Weeks Later, No One Has Been Charged With the Murders of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson

Brian Stauffer
The bodies were impossible to miss. They were the first thing the beer-truck delivery man saw when he stepped out to haul the trash to the dumpster behind the little convenience store on Bolivar Point on Friday morning, March 7, 2014. They'd been left in a messy pile and could almost be mistaken for stacked mannequins if it weren't for the trail of blood dribbling toward the street.

One was dressed in men's clothing and work boots and was lying face-down on the pavement. Her head was swaddled in a reddish-brown plaid sheet that covered her face entirely and caught most of the blood. She was small-framed and only about five feet tall, and at first detectives mistook her for a teenage boy because of her clothes. She'd been beaten to death, with the killing blows administered to her head. A young black woman was piled on top of her, their legs tangled. Pretty with a triangle of a face composed of high cheekbones and a small rosebud mouth, the woman was even shorter, with long, dark hair. Her large brown eyes were wide open and blank, her mouth shaped in an almost-perfect circle of surprise. A quarter-size gunshot wound marked her right temple.

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Great Hair, Stellar Entertainment: We're Really Going to Miss Rick Perry

For the past 14 years, the state of Texas has been run by the guy with the best head of hair in professional politics. Now we are reaching the end of an era. Come January 20, Gov. Rick Perry will leave office after serving the longest gubernatorial term in the state's history, roughly 5,110 days. Whether he follows through on his threat to go into quiet California Dreamin' retirement or takes the more likely path and tries another quixotic run at the White House, one thing is certain: We're going to miss that hair and the strange and wondrous mind beneath that gorgeous dome.

Perry has been many things to us in Texas -- an Aggie, a Sam Rayburn-inspired Democrat, a state legislator, a more-conservative-than-your-most--conservative-relative Republican, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor -- but he has also been something infinitely more priceless -- dear Lord, even when his policies have been the stuff of nightmares, Perry has been entertaining.

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Life Hacks: Armed With Smartphones, Young Houston Entrepreneurs Work to Live, Not Live to Work

Categories: Cover Story

Vaughn Chung, 22 and a student at the University of Houston, doesn't have a job. Correction: He doesn't have "a" job. Subsequent further correction: He doesn't have a job as most people define the term, though he certainly works and makes money.

Every Friday and Saturday from about 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., he's in his car getting paid to give people rides home from the bars. If he's feeling like making an extra bit of effort, he'll keep going until 4 a.m. in order to pick up some of the strip-club crowd when those venues close.

It's exciting work and he meets exciting people doing it. Strippers and escorts make up part of his clientele, but also celebrities and other notable people who need a ride.

"One time I picked up the road manager of a bunch of metal bands, Ozzy and the like," says Chung. "She asked me to take her to this vegan restaurant in the ghetto. I said okay, and apparently she thought I was cool enough to ask if I'd pick her up afterwards. I took her to the venue. This was Walters, because she was there for Senses Fail."

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Setting New Standards in Stupid: The 2014 Turkeys of the Year

Categories: Cover Story

John Ueland
Albert Einstein once said that the only difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. Obviously Einstein didn't factor the Turkey of the Year, a creature with a seemingly infinite capacity for senseless, ludicrous and ill-advised decisions, into the equation.

This has been a remarkable year for turkeyism and we had to make some truly tough choices in determining which turkeys had outrun, outflapped and out-dumbed all the competition. It was the best of times -- because there were so many turkeys to choose from -- and it was the worst of times -- because seriously, there were so many viable befeathered options.

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Selling Homes, Ruining Lives: Getting Rich in Real Estate the Scott Wizig Way

Categories: Cover Story

Forget those late-night infomercials -- here's how you get rich in real estate:

First, find a city with a large population of vulnerable consumers. We're talking first-time home buyers, undocumented immigrants, people with no credit or with credit shot to hell. Houston will work perfectly -- these folks are on their own here.

Next, get thee to the Secretary of State and incorporate a boatload of limited partnerships. Go crazy. When it comes to LPs and LLCs, there's no such thing as "too much." Now, pluck one of these shell corporations at random and go down to the courthouse on the first Tuesday of the month, and buy whatever dilapidated properties you can. No windows? No problem. You aren't going to live there.

Now go around the city and illegally slap your ugly and un-ignorable bandit signs all over the place. Between those suckers and your Greensheet ads, you're going to get a ton of traffic. That's why you'll want a smooth-talking sales force. Mind you, these people don't need licenses, because they're selling your property on your behalf. That way, they're out of the reach of the Texas Real Estate Commission, which has jurisdiction only over licensed personnel.

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Fountain of Youth: The Low T Industry Cashes in on Some Dubious Science

Categories: Cover Story

Joshua Carr is 54 and in solid shape, with a healthy weight and average build. He'd been feeling a bit tired in the days before he got his blood drawn for his yearly physical, but he didn't volunteer that to his family doctor because he didn't have illusions about his age. He didn't eat as much or work out as hard, but that was just the years adding up.

The doctor told Carr his blood work was fine, but by the way they needed to talk about something. There's a gravity in his voice that gave Carr pause. "You have low T," the doctor said, showing him a chart with corresponding age and testosterone levels. "See, you're at this number, and it should be in this range. Go see a urologist."

Carr, who asked that we not use his real name, was surprised at the diagnosis. Low T. He'd never heard of it before, but there it was, a chart showing that men his age ideally have a total testosterone level of about 600 ng/dl -- nanograms per deciliter -- of blood. His levels were about half that, although, considering that 400 to 800 ng/dl is an acceptable range for the average man, he was only borderline low.

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The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Unleashed Toxins Into the River and, Residents Say, Their Bodies

Categories: Cover Story

Image by Andrew Nilsen
After a series of storms in March 2012, John Bonta is sorting through the wreckage on his Highlands ranch, 20 miles east of Houston. He's just gotten home from work when his wife, Pam, asks him to help her pick up a portion of the fence that had fallen during the night. He doesn't wait for her, thinking he can get it done more quickly on his own. As he strains to fit a heavy beam back in place, the post suddenly snaps. John jolts forward and there's a second snap -- his back. He goes down. In the distance, Pam is calling his name as she runs out to him.

Pam half-carries, half-drags John into the house, where he lies down in a daze, insisting he doesn't need an ambulance. The family already has substantial medical expenses, and he doesn't want to make something out of nothing.

The days pass, and the pain worsens. Early one morning as Pam sleeps, John collapses on his way to use the bathroom. There's no arguing the second time. They check him into the ER, where doctors run a series of tests confirming he has fractured his spine. They also tell him he has multiple myeloma -- a rare blood cancer that starts in the bones and affects about .02 percent of Americans, according to the National Cancer Institute. He already has it in more than 80 percent of his body.

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With Riverside Hospital Shut Down, Patients Scramble for a Place in Houston's Recovery Care System

Categories: Cover Story

Photo by Daniel Kramer
It's a late morning in August as Verenice Lopez leans against the passenger seat window of her boyfriend's pickup truck, watching the leafy residential streets of Houston's Fifth Ward speed by. They're on their way to Riverside General Hospital's drug treatment center on Lyons Avenue, which had been Verenice's home for the past three months. She isn't talking much, so her boyfriend cranks up the radio to Country Legends 97.1.

Verenice's mind is on the certificate waiting for her at the hospital, proof of all the work she's put into an intensive 30-hour-a-week drug treatment program to kick her crack addiction. She's proud of that, but she's also worried about where to go next. What she needs is just a little more help, this time to find a halfway house that will ease her into living alone.

A part of her is afraid that if she returns home to old friends and falls back into an old grind, she'll want to use again. Detox and rehabilitation were only the first steps on the road to recovery. It's like what a tech told her when she graduated from Riverside just the day before: "Get ready for your new life to be uncomfortable."

The recovery campus looms up around the corner, a four-story, 100,000-square-foot facility tucked behind a metal wire fence that runs the length of the block. As they pull into the parking lot, maneuvering around potholes cratering the gravel, Verenice sits up. There's a thin cluster of patients gathered outside, arms full of their personal things.

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