The Joplin Globe's top reporter, Jeff Lehr, continued his reporting on the Newton County offshoot of the investigation as he related the surrender of fugitive pastor George Otis Johnston, who faces eight felony statutory sodomy counts.
The Globe story revealed that Johnston, the pastor of the Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, may have been holed up in Newtonia during the time he was purportedly on vacation outside of the area:
The Globe received anonymous tips on Friday that Johnston was staying at a house in Newtonia. But neither the newspaper nor the Sheriff's Department has been able to confirm Johnston's whereabouts prior to his surrender on Friday.
Neosho Daily News Associate Editor John Ford, given his most meaty story in years, continues to run with it, holding his own and more, with the Globe's Lehr and Derek Spellman.
Ford's story concentrates on the children who have been removed from the East Newton-area compound, highlighted by this quote from Newton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Bill Dobbs:
"These allegations are extremely disturbing, especially in the view of the element of religious coercion which is present," said Dobbs. "Another thing that is extremely disturbing is the behavior has gone on for a period of several years with the possibility of several victims. I feel there is certainly the danger of the disturbing acts continuing to be at the church as long as Mr. Johnston is at large."
Of course, that statement was made before Johnston turned himself in. The Daily updated the story at that point, with Ford again handling the reporting duties.
Local television stations naturally played up the news of Johnston's surrender and his subsequent posting of $100,000 bond. I didn't notice any station having a particular edge in the reporting.
It should be interesting to see which local station takes hold of the investigation and runs with it now that the initial notoriety has worn off. Tara Brown of KODE pulled ahead early, but KOAM's reporting has been right up there the whole way.