Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Carl Junction woman, 37, found naked in bed with underage boy, enters not guilty plea

A 37-year-old Carl Junction woman is charged with felony statutory rape after police found her naked and about to have sex with an underage boy.

Francesca Lauren Mathis pleaded not guilty during a video arraignment Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court. Judge Joseph Hensley rejected Mathis' request to have her $5,000 cash-only bond reduced and scheduled a bond hearing for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, January 8.

The discovery of the alleged illegal activity took place when Jasper County Sheriff's deputies were allowed to enter a house at 110 Birch Street by its owner while conducting a follow-up. The deputies found the man they were looking for, but stumbled across another crime, according to the probable cause statement.

The owner let us into the northeast door of the residence and (the suspect) was found in the shower. As another deputy was getting him detained, there was yelling coming from an adjacent room. The door was being held open by an older style hook and loop type lock and I looked in and could see a naked woman (later identified as Francesca Mathis).

I stated it was the police and she replied, "Don't come in, I'm naked."

When she slid down to the foot of the bed, I could see the skin of another person in the room. I asked who was in the room with her and a male identified himself as (name redacted). They came out and (the boy) went outside with me to speak about what was going on.

As we walked up, I asked if he and woman were having sex and he said they were getting ready to. I then had Mathis step outside step outside (and) read Miranda warnings to her. She stated she understood and then confessed at the scene and again later in a recorded interview at the jail she had been having sex with (the boy) since April of this year and they had had intercourse on 12-18-2019. 

On 12-27-2019, at the Children's Center in a CAC interview (the boy) disclosed that he and Mathis have been in a sexual relationship for most of the year.

Paul Richardson: The event horizon to convergence

A few years past I began attending the Laymen’s League Pre-Christmas Services. These services are held in the very early morning hours during the five weekdays of the week preceding Christmas.

Many of the men in attendance have made this a part of their Christmas tradition for many years. As a matter of note, Richard Matters had repeatedly invited me for many years, but it was after his death that his son KJ ask that I attend with him.

This was in part due to his dad’s absence. Out of respect and honor to Richard I began attending with KJ. Richard was a great friend.

It was this year, however, that I became aware of the convergence of people who at some point had been influential in my own journey.

On the third morning the speaker was introduced as always. There are many things that can trigger memories for me; smells, songs, sounds, and others, but sometimes I can read a name and never make a connection. That particular morning the audible sound of a name brought not only a flood of memories but formed such a force that I was drawn into a realm of memory convergence.

The name that triggered this episode was Robert Allen. Mr. Allen as it turns out, was my fourth-grade teacher at the now long-gone Intermediate School Campus.

As I began to scan around the crowd, I became aware of many others present. Lewis Cole was there. I may be wrong on his title at the time, but Mr. Cole was what I assumed to be the Human Resources Manager at La-Z-Boy in 1976.

Lewis hired me and scolded me in the same conversation. He gave me a job that I was applying for and scolded me for dropping out of college, insisting that college was where I should have been. Lewis, if you are reading this, I did return to college, but pursued study in a different area. Surprising is the fact that skills I acquired at La-Z-Boy have been used during the last twenty years.

Moving around the room I notice Bud Powell. We attend church with Bud and his wife Sharon, but my first introduction to Bud Powell was the same year as my introduction to Robert Allen. Bud was the physical education instructor at Intermediate School the year that Mr. Allen was my teacher.

Sitting in front of me was Mike West. Mike’s family and our crew were all involved in the baseball program during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Three seats to my left sat John Kissel. my next-door neighbor in 1979 and 1980. I was flanked by Mike Eads and my grandson Troy, and so the gambit ran across the entire spectrum of my life. There were more there, but the room was populated with people whose paths had intersected mine. Some had deflected my path, bending the trajectory of my journey.

I had crossed the event horizon and been drawn into the convergence!

(Paul Richardson's column, The Horse I Rode In On is published weekly in the Neosho Daily News, Seneca News-Dispatch, Aurora Advertiser and on the Turner Report.)

State treasurer's office receives "excellent" rating on audit

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released an audit report on the Office of Missouri State Treasurer. The audit contained no findings and gave an overall performance rating of "excellent," the highest rating available.

The report includes a summary of the office's operating financial activity, cash and investment balances, and investment income.

The Missouri Constitution establishes the State Treasurer as custodian of all state funds and funds received from the U.S. government.

A complete copy of the audit of the State Treasurer's Office is available online here.

The things Mike Moon tells his gun

(From Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove)

Around 10:30 am, Sunday, December 29, 2019, in the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, TX, a gunman opened fire (during the service). Two persons were fatally shot by the gunman before the gunman was shot and killed by an armed church member.

Those darn guns! What are we gonna do with them?

A few short years ago, I had my gun with me during session in the Missouri House of Representatives. I told my gun prior to session to shoot the first person to walk by my desk… it disobeyed.

During that day’s session, we were debating a gun bill. I stood from my seat, was recognized, and proceeded to tell the House members what I had previously instructed my gun to do. The funny, but sad, addition to that story is that a fellow representative approached me after my speech and asked, “Did you really tell your gun to shoot somebody?”

Some people apparently really think that guns can “act” on their own. The fact is, though, guns are inanimate objects (they are not alive and therefore cannot think or act as humans do).

Still, some want us to believe that guns are the “bad guys.” If only we would rid ourselves of handguns and long guns, there’d be no more violence or deaths related to them.

Okay, let’s continue that logic for a bit. Since guns kill, how about automobiles. In 2018, more than 36,000 deaths were associated with automobiles. Should we ban automobiles? In 2014, the FBI reported that people would be more apt to die as a result of being beaten than from a firearm. Should we require that everyone wear padding on hands, arms, legs, and feet to avert death by beating? And, it seems that accidents cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. But, how will we stop those deaths?

I won’t attempt to answer the last question, however, I will take a stab at what is the answer to “gun” violence. I cannot leave that statement as is: “gun” violence? Guns are not violent!

People are the problem. The problem is an internal one. It’s a problem of the mind. An old book of Wisdom I read regularly would refer to the problem as one of the heart (which, being interpreted, is the mind). Until people make decisions which will have an impact on how they think and act, violence and troubled people will continue to be with us.

So, since the root of the problem is people, it is extremely important that it remain legal for innocent, law abiding people be afforded the opportunity to protect themselves. We simply cannot rely on law enforcement to be there in our time of need.

Consider the Freeway Church of Christ. Had those in attendance been required to wait on law enforcement to arrive, their lives would likely have been dependent upon the number of rounds the shooter possessed. Fortunately, for those present at the time of the shooting, there were at least a half-dozen prepared individuals who were trained and ready to act at a moments notice. We must never, ever, allow politicians, bureaucrats and/or academics to orchestrate the taking of our ability to protect ourselves and our families from those who wish to do us harm.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Probable cause: Former Lamar Tech Center director embezzled for five years, stole more than $13,000

A February 4 arraignment has been scheduled in Barton County Circuit Court for former Lamar Career and Technical Center Director Warren Scott Nolting who is charged with felony stealing after allegedly embezzling at least $13,537.96 during the past three years.

According to the probable cause statement, Nolting admitted the embezzling has been going on for five years or the entire time since he was promoted to the position. Before that, Nolting was a vocational agriculture instructor in the district for 15 years.

The statute of limitations only allows him to be charged for the amount he stole during the most recent three years.

The Lamar R-1 Board of Education accepted Nolting's resignation one day after Superintendent Zach Harris told the Lamar Police Department Nolting had been buying items on the district's account for his personal use.

The allegation is spelled out in the probable cause statement:

On 10-23-2019, it was reported by the superintendent, Zachary Harris, that Warren Nolting had bought items on the Lamar Vocational Technology School's charge account or his use. 

A record of accounts from O'Reilly Auto Parts, Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts, Isenhower Lumber, Lamar Career and Technical Center and KMI Metals were given to the Lamar Police Department as evidence. The records indicated purchases that were not used in the school district, but for Nolting's personal use.

On 11-25-2019, Scott Nolting came to the Lamar Police Department for an interview. He was read his Miranda rights and told that he could leave at any time. During the meeting, he admitted to having made the purchases and intended to pay them back.

When asked about the debt that had accumulated from 2014 to present, Nolting stated that the amount had "got away" from him.

A follow-up phone interview was conducted with Nolting. He was asked how the purchases were authorized. He was explained he was head of the department and approved his own purchases.

On 12-4-2019, the final loss of assets was calculated, and accounting for the statute of limitations, the total amount stolen was $13,537.96.

Fired Carl Junction postmaster waives indictment, pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $8,000

Former Carl Junction Postmaster Ryan Chandler, 29, waived a federal grand jury indictment today and pleaded guilty to embezzling $7,915.21 from the U. S. Postal Service.

According to the plea agreement, Chandler's thievery was uncovered during an audit by Special Agent Pamela Jackson of the USPS Office of Inspector General.

During the initial phase of the investigation, a Carl Junction Post Office employee asked Chandler on July 2 for the $300 in the cash reserve, so it could be audited.

"The defendant stated to (her) that it was not in the office and that he did not have it."

Even after that money was determined to be missing, Chandler continued to embezzle, according to the plea agreement, which states his crimes started at the beginning of the year and continued through July 8, five days after the encounter over the cash reserve funds.

In addition to the $300, the audit determined that the following money had been stolen:

-Unit Reserve Accountability- $5,035.07

-Floor Stock Accountability- $867.60

-Postmaster's Accountability- $862.54

-Other Shortage in Accountability- $850

The plea agreement says Chandler acknowledged his guilt and has accepted responsibility for his actions.

Judge David P. Rush ordered a pre-sentence investigation and Chandler was released on a personal recognizance bond. A sentencing hearing will be set at a later date.

Audit shows security control weaknesses in state's financial and human resources management system

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Statewide Advantage for Missouri (SAM II) system, which handles billions of dollars in financial transactions each year for the state of Missouri. The report found security control weaknesses that could leave the system vulnerable to unauthorized or inappropriate transactions.

SAM II is managed by the Office of Administration (OA) and has more than 4,500 system user accounts. The audit also covered MissouriBUYS, the state's eProcurement system that uses SAM II for financial processing and has more than 1,300 user accounts.

"In fiscal year 2019, the state used SAM II to process about $40 billion in transactions," Auditor Galloway said. "Appropriate security measures are vital in safeguarding the taxpayer dollars that go through this system. I encourage OA officials to follow through on the recommendations in the audit to ensure those safeguards are in place."

One of the vulnerabilities found in the audit was that user accounts of terminated employees are not always removed timely, meaning former employees could still access the system. The audit found that 30 days or more after their termination, 21 former employees still had access to SAM II and 41 former employees still had access to MissouriBUYS.

Another weakness in the financial system security settings also could allow two users to approve their own transactions without review or additional approval from an independent party. The audit also found that inadequate controls for system security administrators increased the risk of improper activity in SAM II, and that OA management has not fully developed policies and procedures for SAM II administration.

Audit recommendations include performing periodic reviews of user accounts to ensure access is more promptly terminated for former employees and that the access given to security administrators is appropriate.

A complete copy of the audit, which gave a rating of fair, is available here.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Trial date set for former Lamar Middle School student teacher charged with sexual misconduct, child pornography

An April 20 trial date is scheduled in Vernon County Circuit Court for a former Lamar Middle School student teacher charged with three counts of sexual misconduct involving a child and single counts of possession of child pornography and enticement of a child.

The case is being heard in Vernon County on a change of venue from Barton County.

The charges are in connection with incidents occurring at Lamar Middle School in 2017.

The initial arrest of Edson, who was a senior at Missouri Southern State University at the time, came less than two months after she received the top award for middle school education from the School of Arts and Sciences during the annual Academic Achievement Ceremony.

The probable cause statement says a student was interviewed who said his teacher, Edson, "had asked him to have sex with her several times, would speak 'sexually.' to him and had sent him a nude photo.

The 2017 probable cause statement indicated the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force uncovered photos depicting two naked underage boys either having anal intercourse and simulating the act while executing a search warrant on Edson's phone.

The search was in connection with a separate Lamar Police Department investigation that eventually led to the new charges.

Nancy Hughes: The super glue of love

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

When I made the choice to become serious in my writing career, my good friend Sherri gave me a reminder of that decision: a card holder for my desk with the dog Snoopy from Charlie Brown sitting on a patch of green grass in front of a yellow typewriter. Beside him is an envelope with a clip attached to the top of a tiny five-inch metal pole to hold my business card.

Whenever I get discouraged or unable to think of my next topic to write on, all I have to do is to look at Snoopy and be reminded of the prayers that went into my decision to write and I am revived instantly.

A few years ago I was at that exact point: the ideas were not flowing and I could feel frustration building up so I glanced at my little dog and his typewriter. I couldn’t help my “Oh no!” as I instantly saw that Snoopy had no head!

Arms and body, yes. Typewriter still in place, yes also. But no head! Frantically I moved papers and files and found the head on its side. I was afraid that it could not be fixed but ten minutes and half a superglue tube later, the head was reattached. Thankfully the broken damage was repaired.

Do you ever feel like you are broken and damaged in such a way that the Lord cannot fix you – nor would He want to?

There is absolutely nothing that we can do that will cause Jesus to say “This one is permanently broken. There’s no way to fix her so I will toss her out.”

“But wait,” you tell me. “I stole some money” or “I had an abortion” or “I had an affair.” And you think “Surely the Lord can’t forgive me. Surely He sees the damage and cannot fix me. Why would He want anything to do with me?”

Look at our promise in Romans 8:38-39. Nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of our Father. Read this Scripture aloud but in place of “nor anything else in all creation,” speak the sin in your life.

His love is real; His forgiveness is real. We read in I John 1:9 that when we confess our sins to Him, He takes those fragile, fractured pieces of our lives and He heals every break with a “superglue” of love.

Father, I confess sin in my life that I have allowed to keep me from you. Thank you for forgiving me and healing my broken life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Have you ever felt like you have done something in your life so terrible that God could not possibly forgive you?

Did you share your concern with a Christian friend and ask her to pray for you?


Make a list of the things in your life that you have felt Jesus could not or would not extend forgiveness to you.

Read Romans 8:38-39 aloud and speak each entry on your list in that Scripture. Ask the Lord to forgive you, accept His forgiveness and love, and then tear the list into pieces and throw it away.


Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I John 1:9 (NIV) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 8:1 (NIV) “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . .”

(For more of Nancy Hughes' writing, check out her blog, Encouragement from the War Room.)

Kay Hively: The beautiful sound of silence

I was in my doctor’s waiting room one day and heard an unusual sound. I opened my ears and listened and it occurred to me that the sound was of silence.

Looking around, unlike many waiting rooms, there was no television cooking show or news program blaring. Seven people were waiting and no one was talking on their cell phone. No one was playing games on their phones. Three of the seven were reading, the others were silently sitting in their chairs.

The sound was beautiful.

Noise pollution is one of the most offensive elements in nature. All around us today are the sounds of automobiles, busses, sirens, air conditioners going off and on, construction equipment, dogs and many other loud sounds.

Although these things can be annoying, especially when several are sounding at once. I really am grateful for them all. Many of the noises around us are the result of things that have made our lives better. They provide us with more and better food, medicine, transportation and generally make our lives more safe and comfortable.

I realize that many people fight against items that help us. Fossil fuels are considered evil. Despite how we have been given so many things that make our lives more comfortable, many curse fossil fuels. Without gasoline, we would not have cars, trucks, farm equipment, and other things that have brought us from the horse and buggy age to the space age.

Of course, “climate change” seems to go against many things we cherish and find useful. Such things as cutting trees, caring for farm animals, fishing the sea, taking precious minerals from the ground and developing land are subjects under fire.

Who doesn’t understand that climate change affects humankind? Almost everyone knows that it is cold in winter and hot in summer. People know that deserts shrink and grow, and that it’s cold in April one year and warm in another year.

Climate change activists now rail against forest fires that often rage in California, yet they don’t want the underbrush and mast in the forest cleaned up to remove some of the major fuels sources.

I started this column out with the sounds of silence and ended up with thoughts on climate change. Maybe next year, we will figure it all out. Happy New Year.

Just between you and me, a doctor’s waiting room can spark many thoughts, especially if the room is quiet.
(Kay Hively is a historian, author and former editor, reporter and columnist for the Neosho Daily News an Neosho Post.)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Oronogo woman who stabbed friend in the neck with scissors pleads guilty, sentenced to seven years

An Oronogo woman has been sentenced to seven years in prison for stabbing a friend in the neck with scissors during a January 22 dispute at a Carterville Home.

Rocksanne LaDonna Torix, 21, withdrew her not guilty plea and pleaded guilty to an amended felony charge of domestic assault in the second degree during a December 19 hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court. Torix had initially been charged with domestic assault in the first degree.

Torix was placed in a treatment center. Judge Gayle Crane will review her record in 120 days to determine if Torix should be released and placed on probation or remain behind bars.

The probable cause statement said the victim was lying on the couch when Torix jumped on her and began hitting her in the face, neck and chest area.

(The woman) said she attempted to defend herself and get Ms. Torix off of her. The home owner ran in at this time and pulled Ms. Torix off of her. She said didn't initially feel any pain in her neck, but felt a lot of wetness in her shirt, so she went to the bathroom to check and noticed she was bleeding heavily from the throat/side of the neck area and it appeared she had been cut and asked Ms. Toris what she cut her with and Ms. Toris stated she had a pair of scissors in her hand. (The home owner) and Ms. Torix took her to the hospital that night.

Dashboard camera, body camera footage show events leading up to JPD shooting death of David Ingle

During a press conference Friday, Joplin Police Chief Matt Stewart announced that findings of a Highway Patrol investigation and an internal affairs probe cleared officers Grant Meador and Laken Rawlins of wrongdoing in connection with the August 13 shooting death of David Ingle, 31, Joplin.

Stewart showed the accompanying videos from the JPD cruiser's dashboard camera and from the body cameras worn by Meador and Rawlins. (The videos are embedded from LiveLeak.com.)
The incident was described in a JPD news release:

Ingle (pictured below) was reported as a suspicious person yelling, screaming, and possibly on drugs by one caller. 

The Joplin Police Department received a second call about Ingle’s behavior as officers were arriving.

The first officer arrived and observed Ingle running down the roadway then fell to the ground yelling and screaming.

Once the second officer arrived, they attempted to detain Ingle due to his erratic behavior. Ingle at this time resisted officers.

Each officer fired their tasers at Ingle in an attempt to detain him safely. Ingle was able to resist through multiple deployments of the taser and engaged an officer.

During the taser deployments one officer was struck in the hand and she was unable to assist the other officer in detaining Ingle. The other officer at this time attempted to create distance with Ingle as Ingle engaged him. The officer fired his duty weapon striking Ingle, as Ingle was charging the officer. No weapons were located on scene.

Lifesaving efforts were completed by officers on scene until medical personnel arrived and transported Ingle to Mercy Hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

Roy Blunt: 2019 has been a big year for Missouri

(From Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri)

It’s an honor to get to work every day for you in the Senate, and a privilege I take very seriously. I’ve been busy ensuring your voices are heard in Washington and introducing legislation that moves Missouri forward.
2019 has been a big year for our state. Here are just a few of the wins for Missourians to end this decade on a high note:
Strengthening the Economy
Our economy is stronger than ever, creating new opportunities for hardworking Missourians, and people are still benefitting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was enacted two years ago. 

  • Over 7 million jobs created since President Trump was elected
  • Wages continue to rise
  • Average American family has seen a $5,000 increase in take-home pay
  • Unemployment is at a 50-year low
Transforming the Judiciary
Senate Republicans have been hard at work transforming the judiciary. In less than three years, President Trump has appointed, and the Republican-led Senate has confirmed, 50 circuit judges. That’s already the most in any president’s first term since 1980.
Restoring the circuit courts through Republican-appointed majorities increases the likelihood of rulings that protect our constitutional rights.
Moving USMCA Forward
The House recently passed the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal after Speaker Pelosi slow rolled this agreement for more than a year. Moving USMCA forward is great news for the Missouri ag industry, which is vital to our state’s economy.
For the last year, one of the questions I’ve been asked the most across our state is, ‘when will Congress vote on USMCA?’ This agreement with our two biggest trading partners will help our economy, increase jobs, and benefit families. I’ve been proud to support this agreement and hope to see it ratified as quickly as possible.
Supporting the Troops
This week, the Senate passed the FY20 funding bills for defense and military construction. I’m glad to tell you this year’s defense bill includes the biggest pay raise for our troops in a decade. Our #1 priority in Congress is making sure our military has the resources, training, and support it needs to carry out its missions. The legislation provided support for Fort Leonard Wood’s new hospital construction. We also included resources for the construction of the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) West headquarters in North St. Louis. I was proud to be at the ground breaking ceremony last month and look forward to the facility’s completion.
Increasing Resources for Alzheimer’s Research
Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s – a disease that affects not only the person who has it, but their loved ones. Research is vital to finding new treatments and a cure to end Alzheimer’s. As chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds health-related programs, I’ve made it a priority to increase resources toward this lifesaving research. Investments in NIH research pave the way for new medical advances, giving hope to millions of families. NIH-funded research has raised life expectancy and greatly improved the quality of life for so many people. It’s also lowered health care costs. That’s why I supported increasing NIH’s funding for the 5th consecutive time. Because of their work, we are on the verge of many potential breakthroughs, treatments, and cures.
I’m proud of 2019’s record of results and I’ll remain committed to advancing Missourians’ priorities in 2020.

Friday, December 27, 2019

E-Book special offered on The Buck Starts Here, Lost Angels through end of year, free e-books on 4 others until 2 a.m.

The e-book prices for my two most recent books, The Buck Starts Here: Harry S. Truman and the City of Lamar and Lost Angels: The Murders of Rowan and Doug Ringler have been reduced from now until 10 a.m. Tuesday, December 31.

The Buck Starts Here, normally priced at $9.99 is available for only $4.99, while Lost Angels, which also costs $9.99, in on sale for just 99 cents. Links to both books are provided below.

Those reading this Friday evening or the first two hours of Saturday can also get free copies of the e-book versions of four of my other books, Devil's Messenger, Newton County Memories, No Child Left Alive and Let Teachers Teach until 2 a.m. Saturday.

Links to those books are also provided below.

Billy Long: How my office can assist you in navigating federal agencies

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Have you ever been trying to order at a fast-food restaurant at one of their kiosks as your blood pressure rises in frustration? What about trying to check yourself out at the grocery store with little success?

You have two choices if things aren’t going well: you can walk out in frustration or look for an employee that can either ring up your order or assist with a code for bananas. 

As your representative in Congress, my job is not only to be your voice in Washington but to assist you in navigating the red tape that exists within federal agencies. 

If you hit a blood-boiling frustrating roadblock in dealing with a federal agency, I am the store employee you can turn to for assistance. 

Unfortunately, when most people think of their Member of Congress, they think of the person they see at the local airport flying to and from Washington weekly or the person they see on CSPAN voting on the House floor, and they pretty much think that’s their main job. 

However, the most important part of the job is helping constituents with Constituent Services also known as “Casework.” Members of Congress can assist constituents encountering roadblocks within agencies such as Veterans Affairs (VA), Social Security, IRS or the Corps of Engineers and others. 

We are glad to assist you with casework-related issues whenever necessary. I can’t always guarantee a good result but I can guarantee a good effort by our staff to assist you. Below I have outlined examples of some of the issues we can assist you with.

I am fortunate to have an incredible team in both my Springfield and Joplin offices who are dedicated to helping constituents navigate administrative agencies. 

Acting as a liaison between constituents and the federal government, my staff works with a large number of federal agencies on a host of issues ranging from the Department of State on immigration cases, passport-related issues or offering support for U.S. Citizens experiencing issues abroad, and Social Security-related issues such as pending social disability claims or collecting a deceased spouse’s benefits. 

 Many constituents would be surprised to know that we can sometimes assist in expediting the delivery of a passport or help U.S. Citizens get a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in the event that their passport is lost or stolen overseas. My team also works in tandem with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with coverage processing and billing-based issues.

While my office can assist constituents with many federal agencies, the bulk of our casework requests come from veterans who need assistance getting the vital resources they deserve, be it back-pay or seeing a physician in a timely manner.

For many veterans, navigating the complex web of Veterans Affairs programs can be difficult, which is why my office is here to help. 

 While my office does not file claims on someone’s behalf and is limited in the ways we can assist, we are able to follow-up on claims that have been filed and encourage agencies to revisit specific cases. 

We can be a valuable resource for local homeless veteran organizations who need help assisting a veteran in obtaining their discharge papers, a requirement for those seeking stable housing. 

My team is also able to assist family members of veterans who need help obtaining benefits or receiving expedited discharge papers needed for a military burial. 

I have a deep appreciation for the servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much for this nation, which is why I am dedicated to assisting veterans in my district who are struggling to obtain service-related benefits.

The most important message I can share with you is that I am here to help. Many people don’t realize that their representatives offer these services, let alone have a full understanding of what constitutes casework. 

If you believe that you have an issue with a federal agency that my team can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact my Springfield office at (417) 889-1800. While my team may not be able to assist every constituent or achieve the desired outcome, they are an invaluable resource and can offer guidance on what your particular options may be. 

I am honored to serve you in Washington and look forward to assisting you with federal-based issues in any way that I can. Don’t have the code for bananas? Before you storm out in frustration please call us and see if we can’t find it for you.

JPD officers cleared of wrongdoing in shooting death of Joplin man

Joplin Police Department officers Grant Meador and Laken Rawlins have been cleared of wrongdoing in connection with the August 13 shooting death of David Ingle, 31, Joplin, and will return to duty.

Both officers had been on administrative leave while an investigation was conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Chief Matt Stewart said at a press conference the investigation had determined that Meador, who has been a JPD officer five years and Rawlins, who has been with the department two years were absolved of any criminal wrongdoing and had no committed no violations of department policy.

The incident was described in a JPD news release:

Ingle (pictured below) was reported as a suspicious person yelling, screaming, and possibly on drugs by one caller. 

The Joplin Police Department received a second call about Ingle’s behavior as officers were arriving.

The first officer arrived and observed Ingle running down the roadway then fell to the ground yelling and screaming.

Once the second officer arrived, they attempted to detain Ingle due to his erratic behavior. Ingle at this time resisted officers.

Each officer fired their tasers at Ingle in an attempt to detain him safely. Ingle was able to resist through multiple deployments of the taser and engaged an officer.

During the taser deployments one officer was struck in the hand and she was unable to assist the other officer in detaining Ingle. The other officer at this time attempted to create distance with Ingle as Ingle engaged him. The officer fired his duty weapon striking Ingle, as Ingle was charging the officer. No weapons were located on scene.

Lifesaving efforts were completed by officers on scene until medical personnel arrived and transported Ingle to Mercy Hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Paul Richardson: All I want for Christmas is a clue

When I grow up, I want to be …….? I still don’t have the answer to that one!

Several years ago, I was asked to attend a Business and Industry Day event at one of the local area school campuses. 

This campus housed kindergarten through eight grades, so each guest speaker would visit with each grade on a rotational basis. Starting with the kindergarteners, I began by asking each of the students what they wanted to be when they completed their education. 

Each grade level was composed of a small number of students, so it didn’t take long to get an answer and then launch into our presentation. 

All went well until the eighth-grade class. As each student gave an answered and we moved on, I came to one girl that replied nonchalantly, “I want to be an ‘exotic dancer’ when I grow up.” That was not the term that she employed, but you get the idea. Who knows if the response was intended as truth or for shock value? While I was a little taken back, I smoothly and promptly moved on, but I never forgot the encounter.

At least someone knew what they wanted to be as an adult. That has not been my situation. 

When I was growing up, I was told that I could do and be anything that I wanted to be. As a student I was able to learn and complete any assignment. In addition, I was great at taking tests. Because of that I was able to further my education at will and received many scholarships to do so. The downside of this situation is that I never figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Many of things that I have completed over the years were conducive with the skill sets that I had acquired. Some from the University, others OJT, and some from self-study. As I get longer in the tooth, the desire to determine my destiny is becoming significant.

The problem with the curiosity that has surfaced at this time in my life, is diminished by my motivation. It is a lot easier to start something new when you are young and fresh, ready to take on the world. 

In addition, now that I am semi-retired, I have constructed a schedule that seems to resist commitment to a rigid daily regime. The schedule is more fluid and because of that I am less willing to commit to a daily schedule that would require my presence from a set time each morning to a pre-determined time each afternoon. This is not an indictment on any job or position that I have held in my past, but an acknowledgment of my current lack of motivation.

Still my curiosity boils as I long to figure out what I am going to do when I grow up. So, all I want for Christmas is a clue! A clue as to what I was supposed to do!

(Paul Richardson's column The Horse I Rode In On is published weekly in the Neosho Daily News, Seneca News-Dispatch and on the Turner Report.)

Monday, December 23, 2019

Former Leffen Center therapist pleads not guilty to sex charges, judge reduces bond

A former behavioral therapist at the Bill and Virginia Leffen Autism Center pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of sexual contact with a student this afternoon during a video arraignment in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Judge Joseph Hensley lowered the bond for Victoria J. S. West, 28, Joplin, from $50,000 cash only to $50,000, with 10 percent cash.

The bond includes the following conditions:

-West will be placed on house arrest with an ankle monitor and can only leave to meet with her attorney or to come to a court hearing.

-She is to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18

-She is not to possess or consume alcohol.

West told the judge she plans to hire a private attorney.

The charge against West was detailed in the probable cause statement:

On November 20, 2019 and November 29, 2019, Victoria J. S. West had sexual contact with her student at 500 S. Schifferdecker Avenue (Schifferdecker Park), Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.

On the approximate date of November 10, 2019, Victoria West, a teacher the Bill and Virginia Leffen Autism Center provided her personal phone number to a (redacted) student, a student she was behavioral therapist for.

The student and West began communicating via phone call and text on November 12, 2019 and eventually began meeting at Schifferdecker Park starting on the date of November 15, 2019.

On November 20, 2019 and November 29, 2019, West provided the student with oral sex at Schifferdecker Park.

A Joplin Police Department news release said the student in question was 17.

Mokane Republican: I will not support any legislation that infringes upon your Second Amendment rights

(From Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane)

It seems like every time we turn on the news, we hear about another shooting or an act of violence somewhere in our country.

These are terrible and despicable acts, and my heart goes out to every community and individual that has endured one of these tragedies. In order to address these acts of violence, the Missouri Senate formed the Interim Committee on Public Safety. 

This interim committee has been tasked with looking at ways to improve public safety throughout Missouri. 

As the vice-chairwoman of this committee, I believe there are steps our state can take to improve public safety and decrease violent crimes; however, we must be absolutely certain that these steps do not go too far and trample on the constitutional rights of our fellow citizens.

During the committee’s first hearing, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officers and numerous other individuals presented their suggestions on how to address these issues.

Several of these individuals presented practical ways to address violent crime throughout our state.

Unfortunately, I believe others simply wanted to talk about ways to restrict our citizens’ Second Amendment rights. In my opinion, ideas such as “red flag” laws are not the answer to our state’s public safety issues. The idea of allowing someone’s Second Amendment rights to be taken away before a crime is even committed is wrong and unconstitutional.

Instead, our state should be focused on issues such as improving mental health and addressing drug-related violence. We must do everything we can to destigmatize mental health issues and encourage those who are struggling to reach out and seek help.

In addition, I believe our state needs to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to get drugs off of our streets. Whether it’s improving retention rates among law enforcement officers or promoting programs that reduce recidivism rates among offenders, we must give law enforcement the help they need to keep our communities safe.

I would like to thank B.J. Johnson, Craig Heidemann and David Muir for taking time out of their busy schedules and providing their unique insight into the public safety issues facing our state. I am grateful they chose to participate in the legislative process, and I am hopeful that the testimony they provided will play a role in the legislative solutions developed by the committee.

As we move forward, I will continue to support solutions that increase awareness for mental health issues and provide law enforcement with the tools they need to do their jobs. I do not, and will not support any legislation that infringes upon your Second Amendment rights in the name of public safety. I firmly believe the right to keep and bear arms is critical to the self-defense of every Missourian.

Ann Wagner: Impeachment is a charade by Democrats who have fought President Trump from day one

(From Second District Congresswoman Ann Wagner)

This week I chose the Constitution over partisanship and cast my vote against the articles of impeachment. This is a crime-less impeachment and we saw Democrats vote to undermine the results of an election without a single Republican joining them.

My full statement is below:

"Today I chose the Constitution over partisanship and cast my vote against the articles of impeachment. These impeachment articles do not come close to the constitutional standards of treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors.

"Our Republic relies on robust political disagreements, but political disagreements are not cause for impeachment of a duly elected President. Democrats were outraged when President Trump was elected, and many immediately declared their intention to impeach him.

"Well, I am outraged by the behavior I have witnessed during these proceedings. This is a crime-less impeachment and today we saw Democrats vote to undermine the results of an election without a single Republican joining them.

"The impeachment crusade has been a painfully partisan and unjust process. This sets a terrible precedent for future Congresses if the Speaker of the House can ram through an impeachment without overwhelming support from Congress and the people.

"Speaker Pelosi committed earlier this year to a nonpartisan process. It is sad to see she succumbed to the progressive voices of her caucus and set a dangerous precedent for the future of our country. This is a charade orchestrated by Democrat politicians who have fought to defeat President Trump since day one.

"We must stop the divisiveness. Now is the time to focus on what brings us together and get back to work for the American families who depend on us to represent their best interests in Congress."

Creve Couer Democrat sponsors Eliminate Dark Money Act

(From Sen. Jill Schlupp, D-

State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, has renewed her effort to bring transparency to political campaigns with her sponsorship of the “Eliminate Dark Money Act.”

The measure, part of Senate Bill 789, would hold non-profit organizations that spend money to influence campaigns to Missouri Ethics reporting laws. The act also requires these organizations to bring to light the donors financing their activities.

“Our current laws allow special interests groups and their donors to hide their activities in the shadows, shielded by largely secret not-for-profit organizations,” Sen. Schupp said.

“Under Clean Missouri, voters said loudly and clearly that they want more transparency in our elections. My legislation will continue this push toward transparency by shining a light on dark money groups.”

Senate Bill 789 would require so-called 501(c)(4) organizations to report expenditures whenever a covered organization attempts to influence voters, identifies or depicts a particular candidate or ballot issue by name or number, or engages in political communications to impact the outcome of an election.

Politically active organizations would also have to reveal to the Missouri Ethics Commission the names of persons or entities that contribute more than $1,000.

Sen. Schupp has been fighting dark money in politics by filing similar legislation throughout her tenure in the Missouri State Senate.

State of Missouri receives $33.5 million grant for pre-school development

(From Gov. Mike Parson)

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced that the State of Missouri has received a $33.5 million grant aimed at coordinating a more effective, high-quality early learning system that better prepares Missouri children for success.

The “Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5)” provides funding over three years to implement an interagency effort to provide regional access to coordinated early childhood services to better meet a family’s needs, enhance and streamline training opportunities for early learning professionals, and improve systems to better inform decision-making about early learning.

“This is great news for our state that will allow our agencies and programs to come together and focus on the same goals to better serve communities across Missouri,” Governor Parson said. “The most important and impactful time of a child's development is the early years of his or her life. With this funding, we now have the opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure and data systems to strengthen our early childhood offerings, which is crucial to the development of a strong Missouri workforce.”

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will lead this effort for the state and work closely with other state agencies and organizations throughout the three-year process, including the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health, and the Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office.

“Our team worked hard to compete for these much-needed dollars,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. “We look forward to working with our colleagues across the state to reshape the early learning landscape in Missouri and, ultimately, provide better access to early learning opportunities for all Missouri families.”

“Collaboration among these many different agencies is essential to provide the full range of responsive services and support Missouri's young children and families really need,” said Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office Director Stacey Wright.

Missouri first received $6.5 million in PDG B-5 funding in January 2019 for a one-year grant, which aimed to strengthen interagency collaboration and perform a statewide needs assessment. The grant also provided resources to build a strategic plan to develop measurable early childhood indicators that ultimately lead to children who are safe, healthy, and ready to learn.

This renewal grant builds upon the work done in 2019 and provides the funds to address the areas of early learning that need to be improved in Missouri, especially for the state’s most vulnerable children.

“Low-income families have the greatest challenge in finding affordable, quality child care, especially in rural areas,” said Department of Social Services Acting Director Jennifer Tidball. “This grant enables those children to have safe care, an opportunity to learn, and access to essential services so they get the best possible start in life.”

Forty-five other states and territories submitted applications for this funding. Approximately half of those applicants were awarded PDG B-5 funding.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Kay Hively: Some thoughts on Christmas movies

With Christmas just around the corner, I have many thoughts about this most Holy day.

When I was small, it bothered me that my birthday was close to Christmas. I felt I didn’t get enough attention because everyone was focus on Christmas. Now of course that doesn’t seem to matter at all.

Today I find myself more focused on others at this time of year. I worry about those in need, people without a permanent place to stay, children who go to bed hungry, those who have no warm clothes, those without a warm bed, those who are without friends or families.

I have always vowed that if I could I would provide poor children with their own sleeping bag to keep them warm all winter. I would leave a box of food on the porches of the poor and I like to dream of what I would put in the box.

But I do what I can and hope for the best.

On a lighter note, I enjoy the old Christmas-themed movies. Naturally I like the old ones. There are many around but ever year or so I discover a new one.

I used to like the Bing Crosby movies that were mostly in color, but I have come around to the black and white ones as there seems to be more substance to them.

One of my newest favorites is “The Shop Around the Corner,” which stars Jimmy Stewart. The movie is set in Budapest, Hungry, and centers around a small shop and the people who work there.

The movie has a good story and some great characters, many portrayed by bit players who movie fan recognizes but cannot name.

Jimmy Stewart is also the star of one of the most popular Christmas flicks ever made. He has a great performance in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” one of the most powerful Christmas stories ever filmed.

Other Christmas movies I enjoy are most of the “Christmas Carol” movies, “Christmas in Connecticut,” “The Bells of Saint Mary,” and “An Affair to Remember.”

But just between you and me, I like Christmas and I try to keep the Christmas spirit all year long. So, Merry Christmas.

(Kay Hively is a historian, author and former editor, reporter and columnist for the Neosho Daily News and Neosho Post.)

Roy Blunt perpetuates theory that President Trump hasn't actually been impeached

President Donald Trump says he has not been impeached since the articles of impeachment have yet to be transferred from the House to the Senate.

The theory has been spread in recent days by people trying to draw attention to themselves and curry the favor of Trump and his supporters.

Locally, KZRG even linked to an alt-right website that pushed the theory.

Make no doubt about it. The president has been impeached.

In all likelihood. Sen. Roy Blunt knows that, but he went along with the concept this morning on the CBS program Face the Nation, though he used one of the president's normal tactics, saying that other people were saying it.

When the program's host, Margaret Brennan, asked Blunt if she agreed with Trump's statement that he hasn't actually been impeached, Blunt did not dare say anything that might bring a tweet from the president.

Well, I've actually heard some constitutional scholars suggest that you're not impeached until the House sends the articles over. I don't know that it's a distinction worth arguing about. The House will send the articles over.
Blunt used the same approach later when talking with Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president.

Well, I think the people that listened to it that should know and hear a lot of these calls have generally said there was nothing wrong with the call.