Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Drunk driver who killed Joplin child, Neosho man one step closer to regaining license

It may not be long before the driver who killed a seven-year-old Jessica Mann of Joplin, and her grandfather, Jim Dodson, 69, Neosho, is back on the streets legally.

McDonald County Circuit Court Judge John LePage took the decision under advisement Tuesday, after receiving documentation that Edward Meerwald, 62, Noel, had completed a Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders Program (SATOP).

Meerwald filed for reinstatement of his driving privileges in January.

Jessica Mann and Jim Dodson were killed on July 30, 2004, when according to investigating officers, Meerwald, intoxicated and driving at a high rate of speed, ran his car off Highway 86 and hit the two of them as they were standing in Dodson's driveway.

The deaths led to a new law in the state of Missouri, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, which allows prosecutors to charge drunk drivers whose actions lead to someone's death with second degree murder.

The law did not apply to Edward Meerwald, who was charged with two felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and after three changes of venue, first to Jasper County, then to McDonald County, and finally back to Newton County, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years on each count to be served consecutively, but was released early.

(Note: The post originally said that LePage filed for reinstatement of his driving privileges. It was Meerwald who applied. I accidentally typed in the wrong name. I apologize for the error.)

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