Monday, October 31, 2022

Man termed "person of interest" in Jessica McCormack murder questions asks for dismissal of kidnapping charge

The federal public defender representing Mahamad Tooxoow Mahamed is asking a judge to reverse his decision not to dismiss a kidnapping charge against his client.

In a motion filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Ian Lewis said the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge rejecting his claim that Mahamed could not be charged with kidnapping his own child.

The judge rejected Lewis' motion last month saying whether Mahamed was the children's biological father was an evidentiary question.

In his objection, Lewis wrote, "The R&R (report and recommendation) fails to take into account it is undisputed that Mr. Mahamed is a biological parent of the alleged minor described in the Indictment."

As of March 10, the attorney added, "forensic DNA lab results have been disclosed in this case that directly establishes that Mr. Mahamed is indisputably the biological parent of the 'Jane Doe' referenced in the indictment."

That evidence shows the indictment should be dismissed. Lewis wrote.

Mahamed has been held without bond in the Greene County Jail since July 2021 while awaiting trial on the kidnapping charge. At the time of his arrest, McDonald County authorities termed Mahamed a "person of interest" in connection with the murder of Jessica McCormack, 25, Noel. McCormack was a former Carthage resident.

In his order denying bond, Judge David P. Rush cited Mahamed's lengthy criminal record including crimes involving sex and violence, an escape attempt while he was waiting to be transported back to the U. S. from Guatemala and his lack of ties to the community.

The charge against Mahamed is described in the probable cause affidavit:

On July 29, 2019, the McDonald County, Missouri Sheriff's Office received a report of a deceased body that was located off Missouri Highway 59 between Lanagan, Missouri and Noel, Missouri.

The deceased female was located in a partially unclothed state within a suitcase.

A subsequent investigation conducted by the McDonald County Sheriff's Office led to the identification of the deceased as Jessica McCormack.

Through the course of the investigation, MCSO discovered that McCormack's last known address was 229 Main Street, Noel, Missouri. This was confirmed by MCSO through prior law enforcement contact and calls for service.

A review of calls for service reports obtained from the McDonald County 9-1-1 Dispatch Center conducted by the MCSO showed that on July 16, 2019, law enforcement officers with the Noel, Missouri's Marshal's Office made contact with McCormack and her three children at McCormack's residence, 229 Main Street, Noel, Missouri.

McCormack's three children are identified as Jane Doe 1 (four years old), Jane Doe 2 (two years old) and Jane Doe 3 (six months old).

The report indicated that Mahamud Tooxoow Mahamed, identified as McCormack's paramour, was also at the residence at the time and law enforcement officers checked Mahamed for active warrants while on the scene.

Dispatch also received a call from an individual on July 17, 2019, reporting that he/she had been unable to locate McCormack.

Mahamed is the biological father of the two-year-old female child Jane Doe 2. Jane Doe 1's biological father is Miguel Angel Casillas, who resides in Oklahoma. The biological father of Jane Doe 3 cannot be postively identified at this time.

On August 8, 2019, after making positive identification of McCormack's body, the MCSO issued an Amber Alert for McCormack's three biological children, who could not be located at McCormack's residence.

On August 8, 2019, Jane Does 1, 2 and 3 were subsequently located in Des Moines, Iowa and were taken into state custody.

On August 12, 2019, your affiant spoke with Detective Jake Lancaster with the Des Moines Iowa Police Department. Detective Lancaster informed your affiant that the Jane Does were located at 6011 Creston Avenue, Unit 1, Des Moines, Iowa.

Malyun Koliso, the resident at 6011 Creston Avenue Unit 1, informed Detective Lancaster that on August 5, 2019, Mahamed arrived at her residence with the Jane Does between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Koliso knew Mahamed from having previously worked with him at the Tyson plant in Noel, Missouri. Koliso reported that on August 8, 2019, at approxiately 4 p.m. she awoke to the children crying. When she got out of bed, she discovered that Mahamed was not in the residence. Koliso stated that she found a note from Mahamed informing her that he could not care for the children and had left.

On August 12, 2019, your affiant spoke with Dianne Cooper of the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division in McDonald County, Missouri. Cooper informed your affiant that an investigation conducted by the Children's Division indicated that the father of McCormack's oldest child was Casillas.

On August 8, 2019, MCSO Lieutenant Brandon Barrett interviewed Casillas, who confirmed that Jane Doe 1 is his daughter and that Mahamed did not his consent to take Jane Doe outside the state of Missouri, specifically to Iowa.

Your affiant received information from Lt. Barrett that he also interviewed Ibraham Akfeen on August 12, 2019.Affiant reported that he used to live at 229 Main Street with McCormack and the Jane Does.

Akfeen stated he moved out on July 15, 2019, to move to St. Louis, Missouri.

On July 16, 2019 in the early morning hours while he was in St. Louis, Akfeen received a phone call from McCormack asking him to come pick her and Jane Does up from her residence at 229 Main Street, Noel Missouri.

McCormack also texted Akfeen to come pick her up. Akfeen did not do so because he was in St. Louis. This was the last time Akfeen heard from McCormack.

Based upon the investigation, July 16, 2019, was the last time any individual observed McCormack to be alive. Furthermore, the last time the Jane Does were observed to be in the state of Missouri before they were located in Iowa was on July 16, 2019, at 229 Main Street, Noel, Missouri, by Noel Marshal's officers.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Woman accused of murdering sleeping husband back in McDonald County Jail

An Anderson woman charged with murdering her sleeping husband is back in the McDonald County Jail after being captured by Indiana authorities.

McDonald County deputies returned Dawn Wynn, 49, Thursday, according to a news release. She is being held without bond.

Wynn was free on $100,000 bond, when she skipped town in August. She is charged with second degree murder and armed criminal action after allegedly shooting her husband in the head while he was sleeping November 16, 2021.

A bond forfeiture hearing is scheduled for December 22 in McDonald County Circuit Court.

Neosho man sentenced to 15 years for child molestation

(From the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney)

A Neosho man entered a plea of guilty in Newton County Circuit Court to a count of Child Molestation in the Third Degree and was sentenced to 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. 

David M. Cox, 19, was sentenced by Judge Jake Skouby of the 40th Judicial Circuit on Friday, October 28, 2022, less than a week ahead of a scheduled jury trial in the matter. 

In the Fall of 2021, the juvenile victim gave a disclosure to a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Center in Joplin, Missouri that the victim had been forcibly molested by the defendant multiple times between the summer of of 2017 and the summer of 2020 when the victim was between the ages of 11 and 14. The defendant turned 17 in February of 2020, giving the criminal court jurisdiction over the matter. 

The 15-year sentence is the maximum sentence allowed under law for Child Molestation in the Third Degree. 

“David Cox will spend hard time in the Department of Corrections. In cases like these, we are charged with balancing justice for juvenile sexual assault survivors against the trauma of repeatedly having to re-live their experience through testifying,” said Newton County Prosecuting Attorney William Lynch.

“We remain cognizant of how difficult the criminal justice system can be on survivors while also doing our best to hold criminal defendants accountable.” 

This case was investigated by Officer Matt Hixson previously of the Granby Police Department and prosecuted by William Lynch and J.D. Hatcher of the Newton County Prosecutor’s Office.

House Democratic leader claims state investigating Freeman Health

By Rudi Keller

Missouri House Democratic leader Crystal Quade on Friday demanded to know why a state agency is investigating a southwest Missouri hospital that treated a woman featured in an ad attacking Attorney General Eric Schmitt over state abortion laws.

Investigators from the Department of Health and Senior Services visited Freeman Health System in Joplin this week, Quade wrote in letters to Schmitt, Gov. Mike Parson and the department. 

(Photo- Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, answers questions during a press conference on the final day of the 2022 legislative session.-Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

She wrote that she has been told the inquiry focused on the treatment of Mylissa Farmer, admitted Aug. 2 when her water broke about 18 weeks into her pregnancy.

In a television ad from Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine targetting Schmitt, the Republican nominee, Farmer speaks directly to the camera explaining how she could not obtain needed care at Freeman by a doctor who cited the state’s strict abortion ban.

Schmitt issued the proclamation June 24 putting Missouri’s trigger law into effect and making Missouri the first states to outlaw nearly all abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“My Missouri doctors weren’t allowed to give me the care I needed, all because of the mandate Eric Schmitt put into place,” Farmer says in the ad. “Eric Schmitt doesn’t care about women like me.”

The reaction of Schmitt’s campaign – it had its lawyers send letters to television stations demanding the ad be taken off the air – makes the investigation disturbing, Quade wrote. She demanded, under the Sunshine Law, that she be given records of communications involving Parson’s office, Schmitt’s office and the department about the investigation.

“The timing of this investigation is suspicious and concerning to say the least, and suggests that the substantial taxpayer-funded investigative power of state government is being weaponized against citizens for political retaliation,” Quade wrote.

Parson’s office and the department did not respond Friday to requests for comment on the investigation and Quade’s letter. Chris Nuelle, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an email that “our office is not involved.”

Reached by telephone Friday afternoon, Quade said she has not received any response to her letters. The visit by investigators was reported to her by a whistleblower, she said,

She hasn’t seen any polling, but the ad featuring Farmer speaking directly to the camera about her experience clearly must have Schmitt worried, Quade said.

“I don’t have any data or anything to prove that,” she said. “I do believe that when individuals are telling their stories about what is happening in our state, it will be effective.”

Valentine has been outspending Schmitt this month on television and has far more money to call on in the final days before the Nov. 8 vote.

Valentine, one of the heirs to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune, has spent $10.3 million of her own money, including $4 million contributed since Oct. 1, on her Senate campaign, according to Federal Election Committee reports filed this week

Since Oct. 1, she has outspent Schmitt on television ads by more than $1 million, $2.6 million to $1.4 million for Schmitt’s campaign committee.

As of Oct. 19, Schmitt had $327,000 on hand after raising $308,000 since Oct. 1, the FEC reports show.

Broadcaster reports filed with the Federal Communications Commission show Schmitt is getting help from a familiar source. Save Missouri Values, a political action committee that spent $5.3 million to help Schmitt win the GOP primary, spent $67,000 on television ads in Columbia and Springfield.

The PAC has been dormant since the primary, but received donations this month of $100,000 from Centene and $25,000 from Drury Development.

In letters to television stations, Schmitt’s attorney, Ed Greim of Graves Garrett in Kansas City, warned that the broadcasters faced liability if they continued to run the ads and Schmitt were to prove it is defamatory.

Greim argued in the letter that the ad is wrong when it says women could go to prison for having an abortion and that it is wrong when it says the law doesn’t include exception allowing abortions to protect a woman’s health.

“You should immediately cease and desist from airing the ad unless and until it is changed to correct these false and misleading statements,” Greim wrote in a letter filed with the FCC by KOLR television in Springfield. “Ms. Busch Valentine’s campaign likely did not and could not provide substantiation for its false statements.”

Farmer’s experience was featured in an Oct. 19 article in the Springfield News-Leader. Farmer’s water broke on Aug. 2 but her doctor at Freeman Health System in Joplin told her nothing could be done under Missouri’s strict abortion law because a heartbeat was detectable in the fetus.

She reached out for help through state Sen. Bill White’s office, the article stated. She was referred to a Christian anti-abortion pregnancy center and the office said it would contact Schmitt’s office to clarify the legal issues.

She never heard from Schmitt’s office, Farmer told the newspaper.

After two days of calling for assistance from other states, Farmer obtained an abortion on Aug. 6 in Granite City, Illinois, the article states.

Everything the ad states is factual, said Jacob Long, spokesman for Valentine’s campaign. No station has taken it off the air, he said.

“We have not altered the ad in any way because there is nothing to alter,” Long said.

Schmitt’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation or whether the cease-and-desist letters had any effect.

In the letters, Greim took issue with the ad’s claim that a woman could go to prison for having an abortion by pointing out that the law states women “shall not be prosecuted for a conspiracy to violate” the ban. That, he wrote, means no woman can be prosecuted for an abortion.

The Valentine campaign cites a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article quoting a former counsel to Gov. Mel Carnahan that a woman who obtained her medications to induce an abortion on her own could be prosecuted.


He also said the law protects a woman’s health because an abortion is allowed when “a delay will create a series risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

Valentine’s campaign points to the News-Leader article as proof that women with medical emergencies that don’t meet that high standard can’t obtain emergency abortions.

“There is only the truth,” Long said, “and that is exactly what the ad presents.”

Jacob LaGesse of the University of Missouri School of Journalism worked with The Independent to access data on media ad buys for this year’s election.

Billy Long: Two plus two equals three in COVID math

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

On Monday, the National Assessment of Educational Progress was released, and it’s not good. Known as the nation’s report card, this is considered the authoritative exam on how America’s schools are performing in specific subjects. 

Based on the results of this exam, math and reading scores are down significantly since the pre-COVID days. This is a concerning development for our students and shows that the lessons of COVID policy are still being learned.


Let’s start with math. All but one state saw declines in math scores since 2019. And this isn’t a small decrease either. For eighth graders, only 26% are considered proficient at math, down from 34% in 2019. Fourth graders did slightly better, with 36% being proficient in math compared to 41% in 2019. These numbers are concerning because of America’s current standing in the world. 

How are we supposed to compete against China and remain a world superpower if only 26% of eighth graders and 36% of fourth graders are proficient at math? We can all agree that competing against China will be a major issue in the years to come, and to do so our students must be proficient in math, it’s that simple. 

When it comes to reading scores, the results aren’t much better. More than half of the states saw declines in reading, with only 33% of fourth graders and 31% of eighth graders reading at grade level.

It's not hard to find the cause of these drops. Schools were closed for months, or in some cases more than a year, due to COVID, and we’re clearly seeing the impacts of this decision. 

The pandemic has drastically hurt our students’ performance and that poses a serious problem for the future. President Biden and the Democrats want you to forget who did this to our students. They want you to forget that it was their idea to close schools for so long, and it was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Biden Administration that took direction from teacher’s unions on when to reopen schools. They put the interests of unions above the interests of our students, and now they want you to forget that it ever happened.


Closing schools was obviously a terrible decision, one that will have long lasting impacts far beyond our education system. We need our students to be leading the world in math and science if we are going to compete in the 21st century. 

Failing to compete here would give a serious advantage to China, and that should concern all of us. If we are going to compete against China, we have got to make sure our schools never close again. There is simply too much on the line.

Parson announces $1 million Blue Scholarship Fund to assist law enforcement academy recruits

(From Gov. Mike Parson)

Governor Mike Parson today announced the launch of the $1 million “Missouri Blue Scholarship” fund to help attract more Missourians to law enforcement careers and address officer shortages in law enforcement agencies across Missouri. 

The Missouri Blue Scholarship pays $5,000 toward the cost of a Missouri resident attending a law enforcement academy in the state. Missouri Blue Scholarships are now available and will be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

“Our men and women who choose law enforcement careers are making a commitment to serve and sacrifice in order to make Missouri communities safer, and we witnessed the critical importance of their service during this week's tragic events,” Governor Parson said. 

“We established Missouri Blue Scholarships to help attract recruits who may not have the resources to attend a law enforcement academy. Missourians support our law enforcement who keep us safe and value the contributions officers make every day. 

"These scholarships are an additional way of showing our support and commitment to those who choose to serve, and it comes as many law enforcement agencies are experiencing officer shortages.”

Applications for Missouri Blue Scholarships are now being taken online here.

The scholarships are available until all available funding is utilized for applicants who intend to be commissioned as law enforcement officers upon academy graduation. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and Missouri residents attending or planning to enter a law enforcement academy. Missouri Blue Scholarships are paid directly to the law enforcement academy after completion of eight weeks of training. The scholarships are available to non-sponsored law enforcement training academy recruits (those whose tuition is not being paid by a law enforcement agency).

To apply for a Missouri Blue Scholarship go to the link above or and click on “Missouri Blue Scholarship” under Popular Links. For questions call (573) 526-2765.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

St. Louis leaders call for assault rifle ban after school shooting

By Rebecca Rivas

The first time St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones publicly spoke about the tragic shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, it was just hours after a shooter took the lives of a 15-year-old student and a health teacher.

Jones was so visibly shaken with grief she could barely get out the words.

Now after two days of listening to students and community members, she said she’s gone from “sad to angry.”

(Photo- Rows of flowers and candles have been left in front of Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, following the tragic shooting on October 24, 2022 that left two dead and several others wounded- Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent)

And that anger on Wednesday was focused on state leaders who Jones said have offered their prayers since the tragedy but refuse to enact laws that would make it harder for people to obtain “weapons of war.”


“The time for thoughts and prayers are over,” Jones said during a briefing at the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department . “It’s time for action. But the actions of the Missouri legislature in recent years have made gun violence far more likely to occur in our city and state.”

Jones is a part of a growing chorus of St. Louis community members and leaders demanding tighter gun restrictions in Missouri in response to the tragedy at Central VPA.

On Monday, former Central VPA student Orlando Harris, 19, broke into the locked high school with an AR-15-style rifle and shot and killed dance student Alexzandria “Alex” Bell and teacher Jean Kuczka.

Interim St. Louis Police Chief Michael Sack read a passage from the shooter’s notebook Monday, where he wrote: “I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life. This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter.”

The investigation into how Harris obtained the gun is ongoing, Sack said Wednesday, but officials know a gun was previously taken out of his possession by the police within the past few months at the request of his mother.

It’s unclear whether or not he bought the gun and accessories from an unlicensed dealer. Missouri law does not require background checks on unlicensed gun sales, which aligns with federal law.

Harris came into the building Monday with more than 600 rounds of ammunition, Sack said.

State Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, told The Independent that the state needs to immediately ban assault weapons in Missouri.

“I don’t think we need warzone weapons in our communities,” May said.

She’s also demanding that the state reinstate the requirement to have a permit and safety training to carry a concealed firearm in public. Over the past five years, Republican legislators have pulled back almost all restrictions on carrying a firearm, May said.


“The gun laws are almost none,” she said.

Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday that Missouri doesn’t need more gun laws, but more mental health resources.

“Trying to regulate guns, that doesn’t work. We know that,” Parson told Fox 2 News’s Emily Manley Tuesday. “That’s the political argument and again, if you’re someone that’s mentally unstable, you don’t know what that reaction is going to be. You can pass all the laws you want for that, but if they aren’t abiding by the law, it’s not going to make any difference.”

Missouri's gun laws

Missouri’s gun laws consistently rank among the least restrictive on the Gifford Law Center’s annual scorecards for states.

Missouri had the nation’s six highest gun-related death rate in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That rate has steadily increased since Missouri passed its first conceal-carry law in 2003. The rate includes both intentional and accidental deaths.

In 1999, Missouri residents voted down a National Rifle Association-backed state ballot measure to allow concealed weapons permits to eligible citizens.

But in 2003, Republicans gained the majority in the House and the Senate. And that year, they successfully passed a “right to carry” law that required sheriffs to issue a concealed carry permit if gun owners take a firearms safety course and pass a background check.

Four years later, Missouri repealed the requirement to have a license and pass a background check before purchasing a handgun. Gun homicides in Missouri increased by 25% in the three years following the repeal of the law — from 2008 to 2010, according to a report through the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

In 2016, Republicans were able to override then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto to allow Missourians 19 and older to carry concealed guns without a permit. The legislature also passed a “stand your ground” law that same year.

Then last year, the legislature passed the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which prohibits state and local law enforcement from enforcing certain federal gun laws.

Local officers who attempt to enforce the federal firearms laws could be “permanently ineligible” from serving in Missouri and on the hook for potential court costs and fines.

Both May and Jones said the law has them worried because it makes it harder for local law enforcement and federal agents to work together.

“They shouldn’t go to work worrying about whether they are going to be penalized for doing their job,” May said.

Congresswoman Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, echoed Jones’ sentiments at the Wednesday press briefing about the need for stronger federal regulations of firearms.


“It is a preventable public health crisis,” Bush said. “Republican lawmakers especially, we need you to step up. We need you to join us in taking action on this gun violence crisis in this country. And if it means stepping away from the dollars you receive, you need to do so.”

Bush is hosting an in-person town hall on Thursday in St. Louis to discuss bullying, gun violence and school safety. It will be held at 6 p.m. at St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman, D-New York, who is vice chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, will be participating in the panel, Bush said, along with students, advocates and school officials.

DirecTV asks Mission Broadcasting (KODE) to restore signal for runup to election

DirecTV customers have not been able to see KODE for the past few days due to a dispute over retransmission fees and the company is asking for a temporary restoration of the signal so viewers will be able to see election news.

It is hard to tell who the good guys are (or if there are any good guys) in these disputes. DirecTV's news release makes it appear that it is Mission Broadcasting (KODE's owner) that is at fault and pulled the station and that Mission's strings are being pulled by Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF in Joplin and the company that manages Mission stations.

DirecTV notes that during a similar dispute between DISH Network and Mission and Nexstar during the pandemic, the signals were restored so the public would have information about COVID-19.

From the news release:

“This is a critical time in American political life. We are less than two weeks from one of the most important Congressional midterm elections in American History, and gubernatorial elections in 36 states. The results of this midterm will have a profound impact on some of the most important political, public health and economic issues of our time.”

While that is true, it is also true that not having Mission stations on DirecTV is costing the company a considerable amount of money in political advertising.

Mission Broadcasting has not responded to DirecTV's request.


Note: The duopoly system in which Nexstar Broadcasting owns one station in a market and manages another one, sharing sales teams, news teams, etc. is generally accepted and the Joplin market has two such operations.

It was a bit more controversial when I first wrote about it during the early days of the Turner Report. This May 3, 2005 post, Is KODE owner Mission Broadcasting an Independent Company?, examines how Nexstar Broadcasting operates the two companies and how little Mission's CEO at the time, the late Rev. David Smith, knew about his own company.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

More Missouri legislative races could be competitive this year thanks to new map

By Jason Hancock

Republicans have had super majorities in both chambers of the Missouri legislature for the past decade. And every election cycle, Democrats vow to begin crawling out of the legislative wilderness.

This year is no different. But a new legislative map — drawn by a bipartisan redistricting commission — has created more potentially competitive districts, giving Democrats renewed hope that they can finally begin to turn the tide.


Republicans, who have been particularly skilled at winning tough legislative races in Missouri over the last generation, are also optimistic that they can navigate the new map and maintain — or even expand — their huge majorities.

All 163 House seats are on the ballot this year, along with 17 of the Senate’s 34 seats.

Democrats start off with a huge deficit: There are more than 100 House races where either the Republican is unopposed or is heavily favored to win. Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans are either running unopposed or are heavily favored in 14 races.

Fundraising is one area Democratic candidates are excited about, with the party’s candidates largely pulling in more cash than their GOP rivals. But the state Republican Party apparatus is more than making up the difference.

The House Republican Campaign Committee, for example, recently reported nearly $1.3 million cash on hand compared to only $63,000 for its Democratic counterpart. On the Senate side, the pro-GOP Missouri Senate Campaign Committee reported $513,000 cash on hand, compared to $462,000 for the pro-Democrat Majority Forward.

And while Democrats are hopeful, they face increasingly tough electoral headwinds, with the national party’s woes heading into the midterms compounded by Missouri’s continued drift toward Republicans over the last two decades.

With all that in mind, here are 12 of the most hotly contested legislative races heading into the Nov. 8 election.

Senate District 24

This St. Louis County seat was won by Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp by 24 percentage points in 2018.

But Schupp is barred from running again because of term limits, and the newly drawn seat is more favorable to the GOP.

Republicans recruited Dr. George Hruza of Des Peres to carry the party’s banner into the only Senate race considered competitive this year. So far, he’s donated more than $900,000 to his own campaign. And as of last week, his campaign had dropped $525,000 on radio and television ads.

St. Louis Democrat Tracy McCreery, a four-term state representative, has thus far led in all the public polling and enters the campaign’s homestretch with $350,000 cash on hand in her campaign and another $329,000 in a political action committee supporting her.

As of last week, she had spent $455,000 on radio and television ads.

House District 12

In the district just north of Kansas City in Platte County where 52% of voters supported Joe Biden in 2020, Republican Tom Hutsler is facing off against Democrat Jamie Johnson.

Hutsler, a businessman from Parkville, reported nearly $30,000 cash on hand heading into October, compared to $34,000 cash on hand for Johnson, an urban planner from Kansas City.

House District 14

Democratic Rep. Ashley Aune captured this previously GOP-held seat in the Kansas City northland in 2020 by a little over 1,500 votes.

Now Aune, who owns a marketing agency in Kansas City, is hoping to hold onto the seat in a rematch with her Republican opponent, Eric Holmes, an army veteran from Kansas City.

Aune enjoys a cash advantage over Holmes, reporting $73,000 on hand heading into October compared to $42,000 for the Republican.

House District 17

Democrat Mark Ellebracht has represented a version of this Clay County-based district for six years, with his margin of victory growing in each subsequent election.

But the redrawn district poses a threat to the Democratic incumbent, as evidenced by the fact that Ellebrecht and his GOP opponent — Republican Bill Allen — received nearly identical vote totals during the August primary where they were both running unopposed.

Ellebrecht, an attorney from Liberty, enjoys a massive fundraising advantage, with $58,000 cash on hand heading into October compared to only $33 for Allen, a Navy veteran from Kansas City.


House District 29

Democrat Rory Rowland ran three times without a GOP opponent in this Independence-based district that twice supported Donald Trump for president.

But Rowland gave up his seat this year after he was elected mayor of Independence, giving the GOP a potential pick up in Jackson County.

Republicans have nominated David Martin, a truck driver from Kansas City who reported $5,141 cash on hand. Democrats picked Aaron Crossley, a social worker from Independence who reported $50,000 cash on hand.

House District 34

Republican Rep. Rick Roeber barely won this seat in 2020 after his adult children accused him of physically and sexually abusing them when they were young. And just a few months into Roeber’s first term, the Missouri House voted unanimously to expel him from office because of the abuse allegations.

Now, Republicans are hoping to hold onto the Jackson County-based district that includes Lee’s Summit.

The GOP nominee, J.C. Crossley of Lee’s Summit, reported $13,000 cash on hand for the campaign’s homestretch. The Democrat, Kemp Strickler, reported $77,000 cash on hand. 

House District 47

Republican Rep. Chuck Basye won this Boone County seat four times by wide margins.

But Basye can’t run again because of term limits. And the redrawn district pulled in a swath of west Columbia that made the seat much more competitive and a potential pick up for Democrats.

Republican businessman John Martin of Columbia reported $42,000 cash on hand heading into October, compared to $18,000 for Democrat Adrian Plank, a union carpenter from Columbia.

House District 96

Republican state Rep. David Gregory, who ran unopposed in 2016 and cruised to easy re-election victories in 2018 and 2020 in this St. Louis County district, gave up the seat to run for state auditor.

Running to replace him in a district that supported Joe Biden in 2020 is Republican Brad Christ and Democrat Leslie Derrington, both of St. Louis.

Christ reported $44,000 cash on hand as of October, while Derrington had $17,500.

House District 98

Democrat Deb Lavender of St. Louis is hoping to reclaim a seat in the Missouri House that she gave up to run for the state Senate two years ago, facing off with Republican Ryan Higgins of Valley Park.

The incumbent, Democratic Rep. Trish Gunby of Ballwin, gave up the seat to run for Congress. She won the seat in a special election in 2019 then squeaked out a win in 2020 by 400 votes.

Lavender has a commanding lead in campaign fundraising, reporting $120,000 cash on hand heading into October compared to $24,000 for Higgins.

House District 105

In another rematch from 2020, Republican Rep. Adam Schwadron is once again facing off with Democrat Cindy Berne to represent the St. Charles County district.

Schwadron, a business owner from St. Charles, won the seat two years ago by only 600 votes. He reported $26,000 cash on hand in his October report.

Berne, a horticulturist from St. Charles, reported $53,000 cash on hand.


House District 133

The Republican incumbent, Curtis Trent, gave up the Springfield-based seat to run for state Senate.

Business owner Melanie Stinnett is hoping to hold onto the seat for Republicans. She reported $68,000 cash on hand for the campaign’s homestretch.

Non-profit CEO and Missouri State University professor Amy Blansit is the Democratic nominee. She has $21,000 cash on hand.

House District 135

The Republican incumbent, Curtis Trent, gave up the Springfield-based seat to run for state Senate.

Business owner Melanie Stinnett is hoping to hold onto the seat for Republicans. She reported $68,000 cash on hand for the campaign’s homestretch.

Non-profit CEO and Missouri State University professor Amy Blansit is the Democratic nominee. She has $21,000 cash on hand.

(Photo by Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications)

National report finds Missouri test scores dropped during pandemic

By Jason Hancock

A new report released this week documents the impact of COVID-19 on student performance in Missouri, with test scores for math and reading dropping from pre-pandemic levels.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses students in fourth and eighth grades throughout the nation in math and reading every two years, though its 2021 assessment was delayed until this year because of the pandemic.


Missouri’s scores mirror those of most other states, with decreases in both math and reading for both grade levels from the 2019 assessment.

The percentage of Missouri eighth graders who performed at or above the proficient level in math was only 24%, down from 32% in 2019 and only slightly higher than the 21% from the 2000 assessment.

Reading scores were not much better, with only 28% of students at or above proficient, compared to 33% in 2019.

For fourth graders, 34% tested at or above proficient in math compared to 39% in 2019 and 23% in 2020. In reading, 30% tested at or above proficient, compared to 34% in 2019 and 28% in 1998.

The report also shows a performance gap between white and Black students in Missouri. Black fourth grade students, for example, had an average score in math that was 36 points lower than that for white students.

“The results serve as another indicator that high-quality instruction matters,” Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, said in a statement.


“It’s clear that the pandemic had an impact on student learning and that there is work to do. We must use this information,” Vandeven said, “alongside state and local metrics, to continue accelerating post-pandemic learning with improved systems and processes to meet the needs of each student.”

The NAEP is not the first data showing student performance was impacted by the pandemic.

In August, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released preliminary test scores for the 2021-22 school year showing that, just like last year, fewer than half of Missouri students statewide passed with proficient and advanced scores across subjects.

There were small improvements compared to results from the 2020-21 school year, with 39% of students proficient or advanced in math — an increase in four percentage points, and 38% of students proficient or advanced in science — an increase of one percentage point. However both scores remained below the 42% of students testing proficient or advanced in both subjects in 2019.

Meanwhile, students’ performance slightly declined in English language arts, with a 2 percentage point drop to 43% compared to last year. In social studies, ​​40% of students tested proficient or advanced.

Carthage R-9 to use Missouri School Boards Association to aid superintendent search

(From the Carthage R-9 School District)

The Carthage R-9 Board of Education met in special session on Monday, October 24, 2022, 6:00 pm, at Carthage South Technical Center. Present were Board members Niki Cloud, Bill Lasley, Karen Wilkinson, Nathan Terry, Jeff Jones, Patrick Scott, and Ryan Collier. Niki Cloud led the Pledge of Allegiance. 

The board members discussed options for the search and selection process of a new superintendent for the district. 

The Board approved utilizing Missouri School Boards’ Association services to assist in the search for a new superintendent for the district.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Agenda posted for Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will meet 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Administration Building. A closed session will be held at 5:15 p.m.

The agenda for the open session is printed below. Real estate, litigation and personnel matters are scheduled to be discussed in the closed session, according to the agenda.

A. Call to Order - (Koch)
1. Roll call - (Waldo)

B. Pledge of Allegiance - (Koch)

C. Approval of Agenda - Action (Koch)

D. Reports

1. Board President's Report
a. Celebrations 
b. Board Safety and Security Committee Report 
c. Board Finance Committee Report

2. Superintendent's Data Report
a. Construction Update 
1. 95% Group 
c. Health & Dental Plan Update
d. Financial Statements

E. Public Comments Regarding Posted Agenda Action Items

F. Consent Agenda

1. Minutes

2. Consent Contracts
a. Local Interagency Agreement Between Economic Security Corp of SWMO Head Start and Joplin Schools
b. Agreement Between Party Professional Disc Jockeys and JHS (Disc Jockey for Prom)

3. Old Alignment Machine at Franklin Tech to be Declared Surplus
4. JAMF Licensing Renewal
5. Fortinet Service Renewal

6. Dover Hill Change Orders
a. Dover Hill Change Order 020 Condensation Lines
b. Dover Hill Change Order 021 Adjustable Basketball Goals
7. FTC Adult Education Cooperative Agreement(s) 
8. Cooperating Agreement for the Visually Impaired

G. Regular Agenda
1. Vu Scholarships
2. Accounts Payable
3. Budget Adjustment

H. Plus/Deltas

I. Adjourn

Anderson woman, accused of murdering sleeping husband, captured by Indiana authorities

An Anderson woman, who was awarded bail by a McDonald County judge despite being accused of killing her sleeping husband by shooting him in the head and then skipped town, was captured by Indiana authorities today.

Dawn Renee Wynn, 49, was recognized from television coverage and an alert citizen notified local authorities, according to a McDonald County Sheriff's Office news release.

Wynn will be returned to Missouri to face second degree murder and armed criminal action charges stemming from the November 16, 2021 murder of her husband, Harold Wynn.

When she returns, she won't be leaving jail any time soon since Judge Kevin Selby revoked her bond.

McDonald County Circuit Court Judge John LePage set a $100,000 surety bond for Wynn during an April 22 hearing over the objections of the prosecuting attorney.

One of the conditions of her bond was that she remain under house arrest at her parents' home in Benton County, Arkansas.

The allegations against Wynn were detailed in a November 19, 2021, McDonald County Sheriff's Office news release:

11-16-2021, Deputies responded to an address on Pleasant Grove Road, west of Anderson after a shooting was reported to the 911 Center.

Deputies arrived at the address to find Harold Lee Wynn dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head. First arriving deputies secured the scene and called for additional help from supervisors and detectives.

The scene was processed and after the preliminary investigation, Wynn’s wife, Dawn Renee Wynn, was taken into custody and transported to the McDonald County Jail.

Emanuel Cleaver: Demanding answers and change from the U. S. Postal Service

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

I have been a long-time supporter of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and our postal workers, however, under the leadership of Postmaster General DeJoy, this agency has faced challenge after challenge. 

Despite Congress passing the Postal Service Reform Act earlier this year, which provided much needed financial relief to the USPS and helped them post a $60 billion net profit last quarter, the Postmaster General continues to raise prices and undermine the efficiency of this government agency that Americans depend on.

After hearing complaints from a number of constituents in the Fifth and Sixth Districts of Missouri about increased costs and unreliable mail delivery, I joined my friend, Congressman Sam Graves, in a bipartisan effort to demand answers from the Postmaster General and USPS. 

I know that many Missourians still receive essential medications, paychecks, and other important items through the mail, so any delay in delivery isn't just a nuisance, but can cause serious complication for families. 

To think that some Missourians have to go weeks at a time without receiving mail, as some of my constituents have complained, is simply unconscionable--and I won't rest until the delays in mail services are resolved.

Additionally, last month I joined Reps. Graves and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations that oversees the USPS, to introduce the Ensuring Accurate Postal Rates Act. As the USPS unnecessarily raises rates while it posts enormous profits, we decided to introduce this bill that would direct the Postal Regulatory Commission to reexamine its rate-setting system that was established in 2020 under Postmaster General DeJoy. 

At a time when Missouri families are struggling with high costs, they shouldn't be held hostage by their own government to receive a service as essential as mail delivery--and I'll do everything in my power to prevent it from continuing under the leadership of the current Postmaster General.

As I continue to push for answers and change at the USPS, please reach out to my office if you are having difficulties with the agency. You can find more information on my effort with Rep. Graves here.

Election deniers ramp up records requests in Missouri

By Rebecca Rivas

Like most people, McDonald County Clerk Kimberly Bell had never heard of a “cast vote record” before this summer.

It’s not a report she’s ever generated after an election in the small county in southwestern Missouri, where she has administered elections for eight years.

But like many county clerks and election officials across the country, Bell has been bombarded with public-record requests, phone calls and drop-in visits asking for the record — an action urged by election denier and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

(Photo- A polling location sign sits outside of Schlafly Library in St. Louis on Sept. 13, 2022 during the special municipal election- Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent)

During his late August “The Moment of Truth Summit” in Springfield, Lindell called on every one of his followers nationwide to request this record. He believes cast vote records — which are essentially electronic representations of how voters voted — can show irregularities in how and when people voted, revealing the need to investigate for election fraud.

Though the Missouri Secretary of State and Republican county clerks have tried to dispel the debunked theories that Lindell is peddling, some Missouri residents continue to baselessly believe elections can be manipulated through electronic election machines.

While Bell wants to be transparent and responsive, she only has a staff of four. And right now, they’re not only working long hours preparing for the Nov. 8 election and educating residents about the new voting identification requirements, but they are also responsible for the county’s payroll, human resources and accounting.

“Some of these requests are very extensive,” Bell said, “and it’s near impossible for us to stop what we’re doing for those. By no means am I saying that we don’t want to have the time or don’t try to find the time.”

The big question facing Missouri election officials, along with those across the country, is whether cast vote records are open to the public or if releasing them violates voters’ privacy.

Acknowledging the questions surrounding the requests could ultimately end up being resolved by a lawsuit, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft emailed every local election authority on Aug. 30 asking them to be sure to keep all records related to the 2020 election “until we have clarity on what is public or closed records by the court.”

Two weeks later, Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against a woman who submitted a public-records request for cast vote records.

In his lawsuit, Schoeller cites a provision in the state constitution that forbids election authorities from releasing “processed ballot materials in electronic form” or “computer programs relating to each election.”

“To my knowledge, there’s not been a Missouri case that’s dealt with the issue of whether what it is that they’re requesting falls under the ambit of that provision,” said Schoeller’s attorney, N. Austin Fax. “So we’re asking the court for guidance on that.”

Schoeller’s second question to the court is whether generating a report that election officials don’t already have on hand would be mandated under the state’s public records law, known as the Sunshine Law.

David Roland, an attorney and director of litigation at the libertarian Freedom Center of Missouri who has represented numerous Sunshine lawsuits, is defending Springfield resident Laurie Huddleston, who Schoeller sued.

In an interview with The Independent, Roland said he commends Schoeller for posing these questions to the court, adding that government officials must pay court costs if they sue a resident to get clarity on Sunshine Law issues.

Huddleston will argue these records should be open, Roland said.

“The more transparency we can bring to the election process, the better equipped we will be to address those concerns,” he said. “Where we don’t have answers, that’s where the suspicion and the worries about the outcome of these elections fester.”

Cast vote records

Election equipment vendor Corey Nibert has received calls from Bell and other election officials asking what a cast vote record is and how they can generate it. To better understand the onslaught of requests, Nibert, whose company Elkins-Swyers provides election equipment statewide, listened to the livestream of the entire Lindell summit.

“What they claim they’re trying to find out, I just don’t see it,” he said, “and we’ve been doing election work since the ‘40s.”

Nibert describes a cast vote record as a report where the tabulator is telling election officials: This is what was marked on each ballot, and this is the date and time it was read.

An election authority can produce an Excel sheet that puts this information in a readable format – and not just the scanned images of the ballots themselves.

Here’s the main problem, Schoeller argues in his lawsuit. The report can be filtered and organized to show the order in which ballots were cast at a location, “which may nullify the secrecy of a voter’s ballot,” the lawsuit states.

Kara Clark Summers, Cape Girardeau County Clerk and president of the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, said the potential problem could come when a cast vote record is combined with another open record called a check-in list.

The check-in list shows what time a voter, including the person’s name, checked in on Election Day.

In some smaller counties, where few voters come in at once, Summers said the check-in list would show that the voter checked in at 8 a.m. for example, and then the cast voter record could be organized to show how a person voted at 8:10 a.m.

Combining the two records could potentially show how that person voted.

“People would be livid and irate that how they voted was now public record,” she said.

Roland said Greene County wouldn’t face the problem that Summers explained because it’s a highly populated county.

“I’m not certain how legitimate these concerns are to begin with,” Roland said, “but they’re certainly not presented in this particular case.”

Roland also said that his client is interested in reports generated from touchscreen voting machines in Greene County, not only the tabulators that scan the paper ballots.

Nibert said he believes releasing the records does pose a privacy risk for voters.

“I don’t think that’ll ever be something that Missouri recommends,” he said.

Responding to requests

On any given day, Summers is training election judges and getting out information about the new requirement for voters to present a current state-issued ID at the polls.

She’s also been talking with people like Linda Rantz, who is giving presentations statewide on a report she authored titled, “Missouri Election Fraud: Identifying the Evidence Outside the Machines.

“Our goal is to identify potential weaknesses in Missouri election procedures that can result in our votes being ‘canceled’ by fraud, ‘stolen’ by bad actors, or otherwise diluted by problems or flaws in our complex system,” Rantz report states.

Rantz, an Osage County resident, is mentioned in Schoeller’s lawsuit, as someone who not only spoke at Lindell’s summit but who also operates the website and blog that features Lindell’s videos. She provided a form for requesting the cast vote records, the suit states.

Summers recently explained to Rantz that small counties in particular don’t have enough workers to respond to the numerous requests.

“We’ve been hit with so many of them,” Summers said. “We all want to be transparent, but we also have a job to do. Some people are having trouble juggling this.”

At the end of September, Bell held an election information night, where Nibert, Schoeller, seven other local county clerks and co-director of elections for the Secretary of State’s office Chrissy Peters answered questions posed by McDonald County residents.

Since then, the requests have subsided significantly.

“I don’t know if the word got out through the people that did attend or what,” she said, “but we haven’t had those requests.”

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Though few Missouri schools used COVID-19 tests, state paid vendor $16 million

By Tessa Weinberg

A Boston biotech company was paid over $16 million in Missouri for its work operating a little-used COVID testing program that only 25 school districts opted into.

Ginkgo Bioworks was originally contracted by the state last year to operate a screening COVID testing program backed by nearly $185 million in federal funds. The program had been slow to get off the ground and launched the day many students returned to the classroom for the 2021-22 school year.

That fall, the state later directed school districts to the company when it also announced a new “test to stay” policy that allowed teachers and students exposed to COVID-19 to remain in the classroom if they continued to test negative for the virus and properly wore a mask.

The state’s contract with Ginkgo Bioworks ended June 30, Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Senior Services said. Overall, 25 school districts onboarded and 119 schools participated — roughly 5% of the more than 500 school districts and 2,000 schools across the state.

The company ran 25,384 tests of 73,440 swabs, Cox said. Of those, 14,458 were PCR tests, 3,102 were antigen tests and 7,824 were pooled tests — a feature of the screening program that allowed tests to be processed as a batch rather than individually.

Over fiscal years 2022 and 2023, Ginkgo Bioworks was paid $16.67 million by the state health department, according to the state’s accountability portal.

The lack of use meant the contract fell short of the $77 million in federal funds the state health department had originally estimated the emergency contract from Aug. 21, 2021 through Jan. 31, 2022 would cost.

Ginkgo Bioworks had also been hired to launch school testing programs in other states, which similarly saw a small portion of schools take advantage of the services.

A spokesman for Ginkgo said the program was designed in partnership with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to make f”lexible COVID-19 testing services widely accessible to schools across the state, at no cost to the schools.

“COVID-19 testing is a critical mitigation tool that generates actionable public health data to help school leaders and public health leaders make informed decisions,” the spokesman said in an email. “We are gratified to see the positive impact that testing has had in communities across the country.”

While schools battled numerous COVID outbreaks over the past two years that caused schools to return to virtual learning and in some instances caused districts to shut down their semesters early because of staff shortages caused by COVID-19, generally support for school testing has waned, Cox said.

School districts previously told The Independent that they had already moved forward with their own COVID testing plans by the time the school year had started and the screening program was announced, or that they weren’t interested in pursuing additional testing that would burden staff.

The extent of mitigation measures has been largely optional for schools as Missouri emphasized a local control approach to the virus. While large school districts, primarily in the Kansas City and St. Louis metros, implemented regular testing and mitigation measures like face masks throughout the pandemic, many smaller and rural districts abandoned mandating such measures and made them optional.

The state’s “test to stay” policy later became a point of contention when Donald Kauerauf faced confirmation by the Missouri Senate to be the state health department’s permanent director. Kauerauf was ultimately ousted after the state Capitol was flooded with protesters who demanded lawmakers reject Kauerauf’s nomination.

The remaining federal funds that had been allocated to Missouri to support the screening program can be used for other school testing options, and the bulk of funds has been spent through direct contracts with schools, Cox said.

Contracts with schools also ended June 30, with 147 districts participating and totaling a little over $42 million. In late August, districts had submitted invoices for nearly $22.5 million, Cox said. Contracts weren’t renewed because of the limited scope of funding and changes in how schools are addressing the virus, Cox said.

“For the 22-23 school year, we are encouraging schools to distribute COVID tests to staff and families for home use,” Cox said.

Schools can still receive rapid antigen tests at no cost through the state.