From the Pen of Carter P. Smith
The incident on Lake Buchanan was both a horrific and a senseless one. Three local teenagers from Lampasas were out enjoying a carefree evening of fishing on Lake Buchanan when a boat recklessly slammed into their vessel, immediately throwing all three kids into the water’s darkness. Two of the teens survived and were found floating on the lake before being rescued. The other young man, Justin Roberts, a well-liked and well-known teenager heading off to Texas A&M University for his freshman year, did not. His parents, friends and community have grieved his loss ever since.
For the better part of the last eight years, the driver of the boat who prematurely ended Justin’s life went unidentified. Following the incident, area game wardens had very little to go on by way of evidence. All that was left behind was some residual blue paint that suggested the perpetrator’s boat was either a Checkmate or MonArk. Lampasas County Game Warden Jim Lindeman, who led the investigation for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, doggedly followed lead after lead after lead. They all turned up empty.
For wardens like Jim, who worked the case night and day, and for Justin’s family, the unsolved case was excruciating to bear.
That all changed one night late last year when an anonymous caller to the department’s Operation Game Thief hotline offered a solid tip about the boat’s driver. That tip spawned an immediate and focused operation by members of the department’s law enforcement team, with support from local authorities. Thanks to some exemplary police work, TPWD law enforcement staff secured a search warrant for a local property owned by the newly identified suspect.
With the aid of some sophisticated aerial imagery and an old-fashioned backhoe, the wardens found exactly what they were looking for. Buried under the ground was a blue Checkmate boat that had not been re-registered by the suspect since the year of the accident. And, with that evidence now firmly in hand, TPWD game wardens brought into custody a man who is now facing charges of manslaughter for the senseless and tragic death of Justin Roberts.
It was a very proud, yet bittersweet, day for Justin’s family and for TPWD law enforcement with the making of that arrest. All of them could now take some measure of comfort knowing that a suspect was finally in custody awaiting a formal grand jury panel to convene and to consider the charges at hand.
There is another part of this story worth telling, and that is the fate of Justin’s friend, teammate and fishing companion, Jim Daniels, who survived that tragic incident.
Inspired by the professionalism, dedication and service by the Texas game wardens who worked this case, Jim Daniels is now one of them. Two years ago, he graduated from the 53rd Texas Game Warden Academy class and was assigned by TPWD to serve in King and Knox counties, where he dutifully works to protect your lands, waters, fish and wildlife.
Your state game wardens, from Jim Lindeman to Jim Daniels and all who preceded them and all who will follow them, give Texas much to be proud of. Since 1895, these law enforcement officers have represented Texas and the many interests they serve with great dignity and determination.
Thanks for caring about the dedicated men and women who work to conserve Texas’ wild things and wild places. They need you more than ever.