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Volunteers to help clean over 70 Joplin school busses

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Joplin School District’s transportation department will soon welcome an influx of volunteers from James River Church on Saturday, June 25th, as part of the church’s annual “Project Partnership.”

During this event, crews from the church will clean and sanitize every bus in the Joplin Schools fleet.

With more than 70 district buses needing to be cleaned up in preparation for the coming school
year, the work is expected to take volunteers several hours to complete, starting at 8:00 a.m. at Junge Stadium.

“As a district we are very appreciative for this local partnership with James River Church. This event
has made an impact on the community and Joplin Schools for several years,” said Matt Harding, Joplin Schools incoming Assistant Superintendent of Operations.

Representatives from James River Church noted that Project Partnership was created to make
a difference in the community by assisting local school systems with projects that may not be
included in regular maintenance schedules or budgets.

This is the 24th year for the event in Southwest Missouri.

More than 1,000 volunteers are expected to participate in Joplin, Webb City and Springfield, as well as through virtual events nationwide and internationally.

“We see this as an opportunity to give back to those who have given so much of their time, talent, energy, and resources to the education and betterment of the greater Springfield and Joplin areas,” said Justin Jahanshir, pastor at James River Church’s Joplin campus.

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Jump House ribbon cutting

JOPLIN, Mo. — It’s the latest effort to create affordable housing for people without a lot of money to spare, and today is the grand opening.

“There isn’t housing in this area, there really isn’t. There were like 80 people on a list at one place that I was looking at and the guy said that nobody had moved in the two years that he had worked there,” said Valarie Gray, Daughter of Resident.

But Valarie didn’t give up. Her mom lost her last home to fire and needed a new home where she could heal during cancer treatment.

“It was really difficult to find a place and this was a blessing,” said Gray.

That’s the JUMP House project on East Central in Joplin. The tiny house version of a duplex has about 500 square feet on each side built with insulated concrete walls.

“Not only does it make it strong for tornadoes and storms, but it also lowers the utility bills. Again, something that when you are struggling, you know month to month to meet your needs. The lower you can keep your utilities, you know, that’s the second-highest cost besides rent,” said John Lunardini, Catholic Charities.

Rent is also capped at 30% of the resident’s income.

There are other features included, like a washer and dryer. Plus, they are made from concrete which makes them safe in a storm.

“We like to provide as many amenities as we can because again, going to the laundromat, you got to pay for the laundromat, you may buy the detergents at a more expensive price,” said Lunardini.

Catholic Charities is managing the project. It’s the first of what they hope will be many micro duplexes, an idea born out of the loss of housing in the 2011 Joplin tornado.

“A lot of it needed to be replaced but a lot of it was not replaced with housing that everybody can afford. And so, the need was there. And that’s where groups like the JUMP project came together so that we can meet those needs,” said Lunardini.

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Mostly dry for Thursday; Hot into the weekend

Today will be similar to yesterday–partly sunny & humid with a slight rain chance. Most will stay dry like yesterday, but a few of us could see some showers through the day as we warm into the lower 90s. Rain chances will officially hit zero tonight as we cool into the middle 70s.

We’ll see more sunshine into Friday, but temperatures will soar into the upper 90s, with a heat index above 100° in the afternoon. The same goes for Saturday, which will likely be the hottest day of the year so far. Heat advisories will likely be issued for both days, so make sure to stay safe and take care of yourself!

Late Saturday night, a cold front will approach us and bring slight rain chances early Sunday. There is a little more uncertainty with where this system will bring rain, so update you as this gets closer. What is very certain is that temperatures will cool into the middle 80s for highs Sunday and Monday. Expect less humid air to begin next week, but we’ll warm back into the 90s by Wednesday.

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Oklahoma family learns dad’s remains lost after being donated for medical research

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Jesse Hall said his father had been ill, but when he passed away in September 2018, his death still came as a shock.

“My dad died so young … he was 63,” he said Wednesday in an interview with Nexstar’s KFOR.

Jesse Hall says his father’s final wish was for his body to be donated for medical research and education. Pictured: Elgie Hall Sr., before his death (Courtesy: Jesse Hall)

Hall said he and his sisters began planning for a memorial and wanted to honor their father’s final wish by donating his body for medical research and education.

Working with the United Tissue Network, a nonprofit whole body donation organization, the family agreed to donate the body on the condition that the cremated remains be returned to them after two years.

They consented to a two-year placement as a whole-body cadaver specimen, a program the company uses for anatomy labs and classes at medical schools and universities.

The non-profit utilizes human tissue for a variety of programs, including physician education, surgical training, device and drug research and development, according to its website.

At the conclusion of the two-year agreement, donors are supposed to be cremated locally, and the ashes returned to United Tissue Network, then to the family if they request them.

Hall says he and his sisters hoped to eventually scatter their dad’s ashes in one of his favorite places, but were later appalled to learn that due to an error, their father’s remains had been scattered on an island in the Caribbean instead.

“We [were] on a three-way [call] and my little sister started bawling,” he said. “And I’ve never heard her cry like that, ever. And she told us that they lost dad. And I was like, ‘What do you mean, they lost dad?'”

From left to right: Toni Sullivan, Jesse Hall, and Cheree Bowman. (Courtesy: Jesse Hall)

“It’s a really big mess-up,” he added. “I mean [they] lost a human being.”

The family said they were initially led to believe that their father’s ashes had been scattered in the Caribbean Sea; however, in an emailed statement to KFOR Wednesday, a UTN representative offered a different explanation.

“The donor in this matter was transferred to American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in Sint Maarten (Saint Martin) in November of 2018,” read the statement from the company’s general council, in part.

The statement continued, reading, “Unfortunately, when United Tissue Network inquired with regard to the status of the cremation and the expected return of the cremated remains we discovered that the donor’s cremated remains were in error interred in a local cemetery, rather than returned to United Tissue Network as originally agreed. There was some initial confusion as university personnel initially reported the remains had been scattered at sea. However, UTN’s internal inquiry in which the crematory was contacted directly concerning disposition revealed the cremated remains were in fact interred in a common ceremonial burial in a local cemetery.”

The United Tissue Network’s General Counsel, Hal Ezzell went on to say that the occurrence was unique for the program’s 13-year history, adding that in an internal inquiry, they “determined that the most likely reason for the error was the university’s closure and personnel turnover during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“[We] deeply regret that we were ultimately unable to return to the family the ashes of their loved ones as expected,” Ezzell said in the statement.  

“They apologized [when the incident happened], and [they said] if there’s anything they can do for us, to reach out to them. That’s what they said. And they left it at that,” Hall said. “Maybe they [United Tissue Network] learned something out of it…hopefully they did.”

The family has sued the company, citing a breach of contract, negligence, and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Obviously we’re not going to get the ashes back,” Hall added. “We’re going through trials…I just want resolve.”

The case is set for a civil trial, but a court date has not yet been determined.

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Early voting begins in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA – Early voting began Thursday in Oklahoma.

Registered voters in Delaware, Craig and Ottawa counties have the option of voting Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the respective county election board office.

The primary election is set for June 28, August 23 is the runoff primary election and the general election is set for November 8.

The race for District 13 District Attorney’s Office race is between incumbent Kenny Wright, of Grove and Doug Pewitt, of Monkey Island.

District 13 covers Ottawa and Delaware counties.

CRAIG COUNTY

Vinita residents will vote on whether to make the police chief an appointed position by the mayor with the approval by the city council instead of an elected position.

In the County Commissioner District Three race, Republican voters will decide between Gary D. Speer, Willis Sonny Underwood, and Trenton Langley.

Baring a runoff, the winner of the District Three race is the elected official since no Democratic candidate filed for office.

DELAWARE COUNTY

Delaware County residents will decide whether to extend a half-cent sales tax to help with the upkeep and maintenance of the county’s roads and bridges.

In the State Representative race, incumbent, Josh West, R, of Grove, faces off against challenger Tamara Bryan, R, of Pryor, for the District 5 seat.

In the State Senate race for District 4, the candidates are Keith Barenberg, of Colcord; Hoguen Apperson, of Jay; Tom Woods, of Westville, and Tom Callan, of Jay.  The candidate with 50.1 percent of the votes is declared the winner, otherwise, the top two candidates will face each other in August for a runoff.

In the Delaware County sheriff’s race, Republican voters will decide between acting sheriff James Beck and challenger Ray Thomas.

No Democratic candidate filed for the State Representative District 5, State Senate District 4, or the Delaware County Sheriff’s race.  Unless a runoff is needed, the winner of those races is the elected official.

OTTAWA COUNTY

In the State Representative District 7 seat, incumbent Steve Bashore, R, of Miami, will face Jason Spence, D, of Miami in November.

Also in the November general election, voters will choose between Democratic candidate, Cody Brecheisen and Republican candidate, Larry McElhaney in the County Commissioner race for District Two. In the District Three race, incumbent, Russell Earls, of Fairland withdrew from the race. Scott Hilton, of Afton, will assume the position in January.

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Okla. man to be sentenced in an attack that paralyzed victim

TULSA, Okla. – An Ottawa County man convicted of assaulting a classmate leaving him a paraplegic and bragging about his injuries will be sentenced on Friday.

Jace Christian Williams, 23, of Miami entered the guilty plea in February in U.S. District Court to assault resulting in serious bodily injury in Indian Country.

His sentencing hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell.

Williams’ decision to plea came just as closing arguments were about to begin in his federal trial.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion earlier this month asking the Court to increase Williams’ sentence above the federal sentencing guidelines to account for  Owen Looper’s “significant physical injuries,” according to online documents.

Trial testimony showed in the days leading up to the crime, Williams told a student that he was going to make sure Looper could not “use his arms or legs for five months,” according to a prepared statement released in February by U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson.

Jace Williams – Courtesy: Creek County SO

Multiple witnesses saw Williams suddenly approach Looper from behind and before the victim could turn around, Williams wrapped his arms around Looper’s body, lifted him backward, and slammed him head-first onto the ground. Williams proceeded to punch the victim in the back repeatedly and then spat on him, according to the statement.

Another witness said Williams ripped off his own shirt and bragged that what he had done to the victim was “fun” and that he wanted to do it again, the statement says.

The assault left Looper with a C6-7 fracture and paralyzed.

Williams’ attorney, John Dunn, filed a sentencing memorandum calling his client “an All-American boy” and asked for leniency, including probation and community service where he could educate “teenagers as to the hazards of unforseen (sic) consequences that can occur when people get into fights.”

The court document refers to the assault as a “school yard fight” between Williams and Looper.

Dunn’s motion details the 2017 assault.

More in LOCAL CRIME…

“After staying up all night texting each other and sharing their troubles about Jace’s girlfriend, things change. In the morning of November 2, 2017, Mr. Looper texted Mr. Williams and was met with a hostile response,” the court document states.  

A rumor circulating indicated Williams was going to have a threesome sexual act, the court document states.  

“This caused trouble in their relationship and Mr. Williams was angry at Mr. Looper,” the court document states.

 Throughout the next couple of days, the friends exchanged hostile words and text messages with each other, the court document states.

Williams has a criminal history of a 3-year deferred sentence for knowingly concealing stolen property, according to online documents.

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Branson man faces prison time for Instagram threat to LA deputies

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Branson, Missouri man who promised “there will be blood” in a social media threat to Los Angeles deputies is facing federal prison time for his Instagram inanity.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri said Joshua Bippert, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday to transmitting a threat across state lines to injure another person.

Bippert admitted to sending the threat on Sept. 20, 2020, in response to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s post about the arrest of a felon suspected of ambushing two deputies in their patrol car.

In a private message to the department’s Instagram account, Bippert wrote: “Recently a couple of your officers arrested a man for owning a firearm. If you want more of your officers to end up like the two that got shot while sitting in their patrol car then go ahead and keep the charges. Release the man who did nothing wrong but keep his second amendment rights or there will be blood. This is a threat.” [sic]

The following day, Bippert posted a comment on the sheriff’s department’s post: “for me, the most irritating part is living in the midwest and not on the border to California where I could take a nice short drive to water the tree of liberty.” [sic]

Investigators and prosecutors also saw a separate post from Bippert in which he tagged the department: “Forget the constitution. We need to end gun control by any means necessary. Yes I do mean violence.” [sic]

Bippert faces up to five years in prison without parole.

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Dying woman’s calls for help from Missouri jail revealed

PIKE COUNTY, Mo. – The family of a woman who died in jail while pleading for a nurse say they were told they had no right to their loved one’s last words. That changed when the family sued for the heartbreaking messages.

Hollie Grote pleaded to see a nurse and go to a hospital while locked up in the Pike County Jail on a drug charge. She warned staff she was dying. Then she did.

“(My Mom) was losing her vision. She had headaches. She had these spells where she felt like she was going to pass out and couldn’t talk,” said Shainey Harpole, Grote’s daughter.

Grote died on Oct. 24, 2021, in the Pike County Jail. The medical examiner determined her cause of death was “increased intracranial pressure” from a benign brain tumor.

“She would tell me every day that she would request to see the nurse,” Harpole said.

Grote messaged jail staff repeatedly from an inmate kiosk, sending messages that family members say they sued to obtain.

Repeated requests starting in August 2021 – messages like, “May I please see the nurse ASAP?” and “I believe I need to go to an actual doctor or hospital to be tested.”

In September she wrote, “I could die if I don’t get the proper tests and or health care.”

Then in October, the month she died, she wrote, “I have extremely bad vision, darkness on one side and major double vision. I need for this to be looked into.”

You can feel her frustration in another message the same month – “You guys are trying to kill me.” The answer from jail staff is nearly the same every time – “This will be printed and placed in the nurse’s box.”

The family says she never got to go to the hospital.

“You could tell something was wrong. And she was ignored,” said Ashley Lovelace, Grote’s sister.

Harpole talked about trying to get the messages initially.

“I actually went up there before I hired (attorney Mark Pedroli) and asked for it and they didn’t give me any of her belongings or any of that stuff because they said it was under investigation, which I didn’t understand that,” she said.

Pedroli sued under Missouri’s Sunshine Law to obtain Grote’s final written messages. He said Pike County refused to hand them over until he filed.

“These kinds of cases are unfortunately more common now than ever,” he said. “The only thing left that they have not produced, which is also extremely important, are the communications among the sheriff employees and the sheriff about what happened that night, and I think they’re claiming that because those communications were conducted on private phones. They don’t have to turn them over to us, but because they’re about her and it’s about public business, we say they do.

“I don’t know why they would fight. It seems like maybe they are, in fact, hiding something.”

Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte responded Tuesday, saying he’s not hiding anything and that his office turned over everything it has, including an internal investigation of the jail death to an outside prosecutor from another county for review.

Korte said he’s limited on what he could say because of a possible wrongful-death lawsuit.

That’s something Grote also wrote about in one of her messages. Approximately 24 days before she died, Grote messaged jail staff, “When I do die because of the amount of neglect here … At least my family can sue you.”

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JPD's FREE Citizens Police Academy details

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Police Department has announced their upcoming Citizens Police Academy; available to the public for free!

The fall session of the CPA will last 14 weeks and will be conducted through JPD entirely. Anyone curious about law enforcement, their investigations and equipment, are asked to attend the completely free program taught by “experience police officers.”

Classes are held every Thursday evening from July 28th at 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The program will conclude on October 27th with a ceremony and dinner. Locations of the classes will vary throughout Joplin. Class size is limited to ~25 participants and applicants must be 21 years-of-age or older.

An application can be submitted or printed from JPD’s website, www.joplinpolice.org, under
the Events tab. An application can also be obtained at the front desk of the Joplin Police
Department at 303 E. 3rd Street, in Joplin. Questions can be directed to Officer Lacey Baxter at
lbaxter@joplinmo.org or at (417) 623-3131, ext 1632.

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Gas deployed in Quapaw home standoff after felon barricades self inside

QUAPAW, Okla. — A lengthy pursuit and standoff in Quapaw Wednesday ended only after the use of OC gas by a Cherokee Nation tactical team.

Image provided by QNMS

After first responding to a domestic disturbance call involving gunshots on Whitebird St., Quapaw Nation Marshals found that the subject they were looking for fled into a wooded area as they arrived.

As authorities formed a perimeter to begin searching the suspect was found to now be around an elderly housing area; trying random homes in an attempt to evade QNMS. A Marshal did spot the suspect before he again ran from authorities into another wooded area.

QNMS soon learned that their suspect was attempting to get in touch with a friend to form an escape on Cayuga St. Here, another Marshal witnessed the suspect leave their accomplice’s home. The suspect noticed the Marshal as well, and retreated back inside.

The occupants refused to exit at the request of QNMS and continued to barricade the door and windows of the home.

Ryan Miner

QNMS adds in their release that due to the potential danger posed by the suspect (and felon) backup was called. A Cherokee Nation tactical team joined QNMS at the scene and deployed OC gas into the building.

All occupants of the home were extracted without further incident including their main suspect, Ryan Miner. Miner has multiple warrants for his arrest out of Ottawa County.