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‘Things are so uneasy right now’: New text messages show Texas high school principal’s worries about ‘political machine’ before shocking suicide

Police refuse to share surveillance video of the parking lot where Dennis Reeves shot himself, says family lawyer

Correction Appended

The Texas high school principal found dead of an apparent suicide last month spoke of concerns he had about the “political machine” in his school district in the weeks before his death.

According to a report from KDFM, Reeves sent multiple online messages to an unidentified person (or people) in May, complaining that he was “extremely tired” and had “inherited a problem.”

The messages obtained by the news station begin on May 9, a few days after a school board election that reportedly saw some school officials Reeves respected lose their seats.

“They have a political machine going strong, setting up an empire I guess,” Reeves wrote.

“I love KHS, but I am extremely tired,” he said in another message. “I’ve had to deal with more than just the standard politics. It’s just too much. I inherited a problem and it just won’t go away.

KDFM reports that Reeves was particularly concerned about Dustin Rutherford, who sources said was angling for Reeves’s job, and school board president Chad George, the son of Kirbyville Mayor Frank George.

Reeves was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on May 23, within an hour of offering his resignation to Superintendent Tommy Wallis. The superintendent and the assistant superintendent had called the meeting to confront Reeves with allegations he’d had an extramarital affair with his former secretary, Marcia Morgan. Reeves reportedly denied the affair then, as he did the year before when another school official question him and Morgan about the rumors, but chose to resign rather than face an investigation by school district officials.

Wallis told police that after the meeting, he became concerned that Reeves had been sitting in his pickup truck for a while.

Instead of calling 911 or contacting Reeves, Wallis called Chad George, who then called this father, the mayor, who then contacted Kirbyville Police Chief Paul Brister on his cell phone.

Brister arrived to the scene with another Kirbyville police officer and found Reeves dead in his pickup truck.

The unexpected death has torn the Southeast Texas community, with some questioning the circumstances of Reeves’s apparent suicide and others — namely town and school officials — accusing skeptics of promoting a conspiracy theory.

Although there is widespread speculation in the community that school officials may have in some way contributed to Reeves’s desperate state of mind that day, the Kirbyville police and even the Reeves family lawyer appear to be working from an assumption, for now, that Reeves himself pulled the trigger.

Crime Online obtained a preliminary autopsy report that says Reeves died of a bullet to the head that entered on the right side and exited on the left. Chief Brister confirmed that Reeves was found in the driver’s seat of his pickup truck, which had its door locked and all the windows shut.

Asked why the bullet didn’t break the glass of the driver’s side window, Chief Brister said that bullet had likely lost velocity. Police found the bullet under a floormat in the car.

The late principal’s wife Tammy Reeves hired attorney Chip Ferguson to assist in what appears to be preparations for a wrongful death suit against the school district.

Ferguson said he also inspected the car, and agreed that the bullet may not have been accelerating fast enough to break the window. He said he did notice a dent in the driver’s side window that could have come from a bullet, but Brister did not mention finding any damage to the window.

Ferguson accused Morgan, who released a statement earlier this week detailing the alleged affair and claiming that Reeves’s wife had threatened her, of making false claims.

“My personal opinion is it’s a work of fiction,” Ferguson said. “I look forward to obtaining her testimony and placing that statement under scrutiny.”

Morgan is among over a dozen witnesses that Ferguson is requesting to depose.

In her statement, Morgan claimed that Tammy Reeves texted her four days before Dennis Reeves’s death to say that he had admitted to the affair, which Morgan says ended a year ago.

But Ferguson says that is simply not true, insisting that Reeves had told his wife that Morgan had essentially been “stalking” him at the high school, though she now works at the town’s elementary school.

The attorney said he had spoken to sources at the high school who could corroborate claims that Morgan was “bothering” Mr. Reeves there, but declined to identify any of those people.

Ferguson also said that police have refused to release CCTV footage of Reeves’s car recorded around the time of the principal’s death. Brister confirmed to Crime Online that the recording “skips” and does not capture any movement inside or outside of Reeves’s truck at the time he is believed to have shot himself. Chief Brister suggested we contact the camera manufacturer for answers to questions about why the recording skipped and did not capture anything of apparent value to the investigation.

Chief Brister also reiterated that while he is confident Reeves died of suicide, the investigation is ongoing and police are waiting for ballistics and DNA test results before a final cause of death determination is made.

Ferguson said he found some elements of the preliminary autopsy report questionable, claiming that some of the findings are not consistent with a shot fired at close range.

Still, Ferguson said he is working from the assumption that Reeves did commit suicide, and is waiting for a full report before he forms an opinion.

“If gunpowder is found on his hands I will be more satisfied,” Ferguson said.

 

Feature Photo: Facebook

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that police were asked about why the bullet didn’t break the passenger side window. The question was about the driver’s side window.