Cheer Empire

A single company (Varsity Brands, a for-profit business headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, with offices in Florida, California and Dallas) controls almost every aspect of elite cheerleading. They’re also fighting harder than anyone to keep cheerleading from becoming an official sport.

Source: Houston Press
Published: Jul 21, 2015
Length: 22 minutes (5,730 words)

Treating a Mystery

A disorder triggered by the common strep virus may be causing psychiatric symptoms in children, or it might not exist. Inside the controversial “Pandas” diagnosis:

Candi went into full-tilt research mode. The sensory stuff clicked, but from there she wound up on a site that may just as well have been tailor-made for Reagan. Every symptom matched. On these forums, it was as if every kid was Reagan and every scared and helpless mom was Candi. Some of the symptoms even went beyond Reagan’s, including anorexia, depression, age regression, violent rage.

Source: Houston Press
Published: Jun 18, 2014
Length: 14 minutes (3,509 words)

Billie Bob’s (Mis) Fortune

Less than two years after Billie Bob Harrell Jr. took the $31 million lottery jackpot, he took his own life.

He sat in his easy chair one evening and looked at his Quick Pick and then at the Sunday newspaper. Harrell studied the sequence of numbers again and began to realize the wildest of notions. He and wife Barbara Jean held the only winning ticket to a Lotto Texas jackpot of $31 million.

Harrell, a deeply religious man, knew he had a godsend from heaven. After being laid off from a couple of jobs in the past few years, Billie Bob had been reduced to stocking the electrical-supply shelves of a Home Depot in northeast Harris County. He was having a damn hard time providing for himself and Barbara Jean, much less for their three teenage children.

Source: Houston Press
Published: Feb 10, 2000
Length: 17 minutes (4,375 words)

The First 48 Makes Millions While the Innocent Have Their Lives Ruined

Once you’re charged with murder on A&E’s The First 48, you’re guilty for life – even if you’re innocent.

In July 2009, 18-year-old Cameron Coker’s life was ripped apart for future viewing by a national audience.
Coker, who’d previously been convicted of dealing drugs, was now the prime suspect in the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy at an apartment complex just east of Highway 6. For this homicide case, Harris County Sheriff’s investigators had company: A film crew from the A&E show The First 48 was there to show the nuts and bolts of the investigation. Entering its tenth season, the series was based on the premise that the first 48 hours of a police investigation are the most crucial. After that time frame, potential evidence goes missing; crime scenes become contaminated; witnesses disappear.

Source: Houston Press
Published: Jan 29, 2014
Length: 17 minutes (4,301 words)