The families of two drunk-driving victims have filed lawsuits against the drunk driver in Jasper County Circuit Court. The family members are also suing the owners of the Joplin bar where the man allegedly was drinking before the accident.
According to court records, two wrongful death lawsuits were filed Aug. 23 against Edward James Meerwald Jr., 51, Noel. Missouri Highway Patrol reports indicate that Meerwald was behind the wheel of a car that ran off 86 Highway and hit James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and his granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, as they were walking in Dodson's driveway. Dodson was pronounced dead at the scene. Miss Mann was flown to Freeman West Hospital where she died several hours later.
Meerwald, who is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, is being held in the Newton County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bond. He waived his formal arraignment Aug. 26, entering a not guilty plea. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Sept. 16.
The lawsuits against Meerwald were filed by Dodson's widow, Betty Jean Dodson, and by Miss Mann's parents, Amy and Michael Mann. Also listed as a defendant in both lawsuits is Midwestern Music Company, Joplin, doing business as The Pub Bar, 904 South Main, Joplin. The agent listed for that company in the court records is Denia Kay Beason, Joplin.
The cases have been assigned to Jasper Circuit Court Judge William Carl Crawford.
On the same day the lawsuits were filed against Meerwald, his wife, Kyung Suk Meerwald, 44, filed for divorce, according to Newton County Circuit Court records. The case is listed as a dissolution with children.
In a case that has flown under the media radar, a 1:30 p.m. Sept. 16 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for former Carthage R-9 Board of Education member and former Carthage Police officer Michael Lloyd Wells.
Wells is charged with one count of forcible rape, one count of sexual assault in the first degree, and two counts of incest.