Witnesses indicate that he drove off Highway 86 at a high rate of speed July 31 and killed two people, but super-sensitive Edward Meerwald Jr., told Newton County Circuit Court officials today that he didn't want cameras in the courtroom.
Court records indicate Meerwald was not represeented by a lawyer at his arraignment earlier today. He was given an application for a public defender. Meerwald entered a not guilty plea. His bond was increased Monday from $100,000 to $250,000. He is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of James Dodson, 69, and Dodson's granddaughter, seven-year-old Jessica Mann of Joplin.
Those charges could be upgraded if it turns out Meerwald has at least three DWI charges within the past 10 years, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers President Jim Murray told Neosho Daily News reporter Michelle Pippin Monday.
Newspapers and television stations are not always good at following up on stories. One of those concerns the rape and incest charges that were filed in 2003 against former Carthage police officer Michael Wells, who was serving on the Carthage R-9 Board of Education at the time. Those charges were dropped earlier this year, except for a charge of violating a restraining order.
The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office refiled the charges against Wells last month, according to court records. Wells, 51, waived formal arraignment July 15 and entered a not guilty plea. The next hearing in the case has been set for 9 a.m. Thursday, but will probably not take place since Wells's attorney, Ross Rhoades of Neosho, has asked for a continuance.
Wells is charged with committing forcible rape on Sept. 1, 1993, incest on the same date, sexual assault in the first degree on April 1, 2001, and incest on that same date.
Wells was working as a Carthage police officer when he allegedly had sex with an 11-year-old female relative on Sept. 1, 1993. According to the probable cause affidavit filed by an investigator with the Jasper County Sheriff's Department, the woman, now a young adult, claims Wells got into her bed and had sexual intercourse with her.
The last story filed by The Joplin Globe on this case came in April and involved a judge's decision to permit information obtained from a computer at Wells's home to be used even though the search warrant was defective. Wells's former wife, Kathy, who had legal possession of the computer, turned it over to the deputies, which made the search warrant claim moot, the judge said.