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Joplin school honors longtime, beloved volunteer on her retirement

JOPLIN, Mo. — A very special volunteer was honored by everyone from administrators to students this morning at Dover Hill Elementary in Joplin.

“Let’s put it this way, I did anything I could do to help the teachers save some time,” said Joanne Wills, Retired Volunteer, Joplin Schools.

Joanne Wills has logged more than 15,000 volunteer hours over the past 22 years throughout the Joplin School District. Now she says it’s time to retire.

Wills has helped out in many ways – from teaching kids how to tie their shoes, to spreading kindness with her contagious smile. But, the reason she began volunteering, may surprise you.

“I didn’t have very many friends at home because there was nobody around me. Here, everybody is so friendly and everything, and then the kids, I love being around the kids. They’re quite a thing,” she said.

Wills says she hasn’t decided how she wants to spend her retirement, but she plans to keep busy because she doesn’t like to sit down.

SE Kansas Mansion available for rent on Airbnb and VRBO

PITTSBURG, Kans. — One of the oldest houses in southeast Kansas is now back open for business. The Miller Mansion in Pittsburg dates back to 1909 and was the first home in Pittsburg to have electricity as well as phone service.

Katie Gilkey with TK Rentals says the structure was in disrepair when the company purchased it a few years ago. But after four years of restoration work, she says people can now stay there.

“We had to do the windows and we had to re-rope the windows and had to put the weights on so we literally took it apart to establish what it used to look like a long time ago the because it had been so many years that the Millers had lived here and it has gone through so many different hands and families,” said Katie Gilkey, Operations Manager, TK Rentals.

Gilkey says there is still some more work to be done on the inside as well as outside of the structure which is located at 401 West Jefferson in Pittsburg.

The home is available to rent through Airbnb and VRBO.

KBI identifies 188 Catholic clergy members in Kansas suspected of committing child sex abuse

TOPEKA (KSNT) – A new report has been released from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation focusing on allegations of sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy in Kansas.

The report, ordered on Nov. 15, 2018 by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, comes from the KBI and also focuses on investigating criminal allegations of sexual abuse from clergy members associated with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a non-traditional branch of the Catholic Church.

The investigation took into account cases from 1950-2022, resulting in more than 40,000 pages of records. The KBI received 224 tips, interviewed 137 victims of abuse, initiated 125 criminal cases and distributed 30 charging affidavits to the appropriate prosecutors for charging consideration.

No charges have been filed yet due to statute of limitations concerns, according to the KBI. The investigation identified 188 clergy members suspected of committing various criminal acts, to include: aggravated criminal sodomy, rape, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated sexual battery.

It should not go without saying that the abuses revealed during the investigation had a profound effect on the victims, the families of victims and our task force members. Our task force members found countless examples of inspiration while working with the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Those victims, whose lives have been traumatically affected by what happened to them as a child, have shown hope, strength and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity. It is our deepest and most sincere hope these victims find a way to continue to survive and heal. And for those victims who are still traumatized who did not report, it is our hope they find the strength to seek help. Please find attached the KBI Catholic Clergy Task Force Executive Summary for your review.

Kirk Thompseon, KBI director

The investigation documents state that the investigation into Catholic clergy members in Kansas began after Schmidt received a request from Kansas City Archdiocese Archbishop Joseph Naumann to investigate each diocese. On Jan. 28, 2019 the KBI launched their Catholic Clergy Task Force (CCTF) which was composed of eight agents with the following objectives:

  • Conduct a thorough review of the available records, and conduct interviews when relevant;
  • Evaluate the church s response and actions to allegations of sexual misconduct
    when made known to them; and
  • Identify crimes that have been committed and, if sufficient evidence exists,
    present the case to the appropriate county/district attorney for consideration of
    criminal charges

All three bishops in Kansas complied with the KBI investigation which was “massive in scale.” The CCTF started 125 criminal investigations, reviewed more than 200 crime tips from survivors, reviewed more than 40,000 pages of documents and interviewed dozens of victims, witnesses and suspects in 15 different states.

The KBI report states that the Church’s handling of abuse allegations were generally similar to issues reported by a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury investigation. Practices used by the Church, intentionally or not, served to obscure the truth about both the allegations of child abuse and sexual assault and their handling of such allegations, according to the KBI.

The KBI report goes on to say that the practices used by members of the Church, in some instances collectively and in others by individuals, resulted in significant obstacles for the investigation. These challenges included:

  • Some victims were reluctant to provide information because they had reviously signed a non-disclosure agreement with the church associated with a civil suit.
  • In many cases the victims, or the priests, were deceased.
  • Church officials frequently used language or terms that minimized the
    seriousness or severity of actions and abuse by Church clergy.
  • Church officials occasionally failed to report incidents to law enforcement or child
    protection services.
  • Church officials frequently failed to provide transparent communication to
  • Inadequacies within the Catholic dioceses recordkeeping policies and systems
    resulted in the intentional or accidental deletion of records documenting or
    relating to allegations of sexual abuse. Diocesan records documenting or
    relating to the allegations of sexual abuse were disorganized and scattered.
  • Most of the investigations conducted by the dioceses into past allegations of
    sexual abuse were inconsistent and inadequate.
  • Each of the dioceses frequently failed to follow its own policies and procedures
    relating to allegations of sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy.
  • Church officials frequently attempted to avoid scandal and failed to hold
    offenders accountable; including transferring offending priests to new parishes,
    continuing to financially support offending priests, failing to remove offending priests from their status as priests, and failing to monitor priests of concern.

The CCTF was charged with identifying criminal acts, gathering evidence related to those acts and presenting any criminal charges to a prosecutor with jurisdiction. The investigation revealed many allegations of abuse that lacked sufficient evidence to present the case to a prosecutor for charges.

However, the KBI said that 30 affidavites were submitted by the CCTF to prosecutors with probable cause to charge offending Catholic clergy members. No prosecutor has been filed for any of the 30 cases yet. In nearly all cases involving offending priests, the statute of limitations had expired or the priest was deceased. Both situations prevented prosecution of the offending priests.

The CCTF also received allegations against religious leaders from religions and faiths other than the Catholic Church. These allegations were also reviewed by the task force.

The KBI said that the CCTF heard from many victims who attributed their alcohol or drug abuse or “wrecked lives,” to the sexual abuse they experienced. Some of those victims interviewed alleged that their being in prison was due to sexual abuse suffered when they were children. Some family members of victims believed there was a direct correlation between the sexual abuse that was endured and a loved one’s suicide, according to the KBI.

Our agents witnessed men, now in their 60’s and 70’s, break down in tears as they
reported their sexual abuse to our team. In many cases they have never previously
disclosed the sexual abuse to anyone. Many times the victims thought they were the
only victim of the offending priest. Following appropriate investigative interviews and
actions, some victims learned for the first time they were not the only one the priest had

Summary Report to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt from the KBI CCTF on Catholic Clergy Abuse of Children excerpt

The full report can be found below:

20230106 Kbi Clergy Report by Matthew Self on Scribd

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Video shows strangers follow 10-year-old boy, steal packages from Independence home

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — An Independence, Missouri, woman tried to stop thieves from taking her neighbor’s package Thursday evening.

But Tammy Baggett didn’t see them chasing her 10-year-old neighbor moments before stealing the items.

“Oh my God, I didn’t know he was home,” Baggett said. “He’s a little upset.”

The boy’s family didn’t want to talk on camera. His father said the 10-year-old boy is still shaken up.

The man said his son was walking home when a car started following him. A passenger got out of the car, started running toward his son, but the driver of the car said, “Not now.”

When the 10-year-old was secure in the home, the same guy walked up to the front porch and stole the family’s packages.

“You know, I was taught if it doesn’t belong to you, don’t touch it,” Baggett said.

She yelled at the thieves while they stole the items.

“When I saw the UPS man come up the street, I saw that car go by and they stopped and waited for the UPS man to walk across the street and drop the packages, and then I didn’t see them again,” Baggett said.

“I didn’t think any more about it until I saw that person and that car sitting there, and I knew it was the same person.”

The 10-year-old’s dad said he thinks they wanted to take his son’s keys and break in the home.

The family filed a police report, but Independence police said it’s hard to identify the suspects. The report said hamster items and makeup were in the packages the crooks stole.

“I’m gonna watch out for him, and we’re going to walk home from the bus stop together,” Bagget said.

KS Gov. appoints Tod Michael Davis of Iola to 31st Judicial District Judgeship

TOPEKA — Governor Laura Kelly today appointed Tod Michael Davis of Iola, Kansas, to a judgeship position in the 31st Judicial District. Davis currently serves as a Magistrate Judge for the 31st District.  

Davis is a member of the Kansas Bar Association, Allen County Bar Association, and the Neosho County Bar Association.

“I am honored and thankful that Governor Kelly selected me for this tremendous opportunity,” Davis said“I am committed to serving the citizens of the 31st Judicial District with integrity, fairness and respect, and to continue the high standards that our past and current Judges exemplify.” 

District Court Judges in the 31st Judicial District are appointed by the governor and selected from nominees chosen by a district nominating commission. Judges in nominating commission districts are subject to retention elections every four years.

The other nominees selected by the district nominating commission were Thomas P. Mikulka and Dennis Depew.

Convicted kidnapper killed in his prison cell

LANSING, Kans. — A man convicted of aggravated kidnapping in Neosho County in 2005 is dead after investigators say he was attacked and strangled in his prison cell.

Gary Raburn, KDOC

Guards found Gary Raburn, 62, unresponsive in his cell at Lansing Correctional Facility, Friday night after his 25-year-old cellmate summoned them. Officials say they attempted life-saving measures, but Raburn died. Prison officials said it appeared Raburn was attacked and strangled.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) is charged with investigating suspicious deaths within the Kansas prison system. Investigators with the KBI say they have a suspect but are awaiting autopsy results before filing charges.

Raburn was released from prison in 2013 after serving eight years for an aggravated kidnapping charge. Prosecutors originally charged Raburn in June 2004 with rape, aggravated kidnapping, and assault on a law enforcement officer. He was convicted and sentenced in October 2005.

Raburn was sent back to prison several times and absconded from authorities in 2019. You can read his criminal history by searching the Kansas Department of Corrections website, here.

Kansas legislators touch base on what they want to see in 2023

PITTSBURG, Kans. — Lawmakers in the Sunflower State head back to Topeka on Monday for the start of the 2023 legislative season. A couple of them spoke to business leaders and educators Friday in Pittsburg.

For more than two decades the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce has hosted a legislative send off event giving business leaders the chance to find out what their lawmakers are pushing for. They also have the chance to tell them what they’d like to see come from the session.

Chamber President, Blake Benson, says there’s one issue he’d like to see lawmakers take care of once and for all — Medicare expansion. He says failure to do so to this point, is costing the region millions of dollars and can be a deterrent to economic development.

“Healthcare is a big growth sector for for our economy here in Pittsburg. I know that our healthcare providers, Via Christi Hospital, Community Health Center would benefit tremendously from expanded Medicaid Program, so we’d like the legislature to continue to see if there’s a solution we can find that would accomplish that,” he said.

Kansas remains the only Four State not to have expanded Medicare, and is the only one that hasn’t approved medical marijuana, which Ken Collins would like to see change.

“Medical Marijuana which when previously when it passed in the House, I did vote for it and depending upon what might come up later I would likely vote for it again because I think it’s something that can be beneficial to some people with certain medical issues,” said Collins, KS. House 2nd District (R).

Chuck Smith also has his priorities too.

“I think you’re gonna see a parent’s Bill of Rights as far as kids going to school, you know, I’d like to see a KPERS 3 looked at a little bit to see if we could improve that a little bit for beginning teachers, not teachers that are older but beginning teachers,” said Smith, KS. House 3rd District (R).

But this won’t be the only time this year business leaders and educators get face to face with their elected officials, there will be legislative briefings taking place each month until the end of session in may.

Creating a "Glass Cactus"

JOPLIN, Mo. — Some also gathered in Joplin, today, to learn a form of art using a unique material.

That gathering happened at ‘Spiva Center for the Arts’ inside the new ‘Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex’.

Attendees created a model glass cactus. Jane McCaulley of ‘Spiva Center for the Arts’ guided participants on how to work with the glass, utilizing certain tools.

She says the longevity of the glass sets this form of art apart from other methods.

“People don’t usually handle glass, only time you handle glass is when you drop it on the floor and have to clean it up probably. But this way, we teach you how to actually use the glass and create something out of it. It’s something that will last, not like making something out of paper, this will last a long time,” Jane McCaulley, Teacher.

In the coming months, McCaulley will teach more classes, including a lesson on weaving glass.

Also this summer, Spiva will host a three day glass camp, for kids ages 8 through 14.

Grove voters to determine utility company's future in area

GROVE, Okla. — Keeping the lights on is the focus of a ballot question in northeast Oklahoma next week.

Voters in Grove will decide whether to extend the electric franchise for the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. PSC is currently in charge of the utility in Grove — and would get another 25 years of operations if voters support the question.

The company serves a wide swathe of the state, mostly in eastern and southwest Oklahoma.
Voters will decide on Tuesday, January 10th.

79 nurses honored in Freeman Health System ceremony

JOPLIN, Mo. — Friday marked a very special milestone for several nurses at Freeman Health System.

Seventy-nine nurses were honored for their genuine compassion and professionalism. Every month, nominations from patients and their loved ones are sent in – to truly thank a nurse who went above and beyond.

Freeman Health System has been recognizing nurses this way since 2016. The hospital held a ceremony to showcase every nurse who was nominated and awarded during 2022.

“Of all the nominations that we had, it was more than all of the other years combined of nominations that we had. So, we put a lot of effort into marketing to let our patients know that Daisy was an option for them, and the nominations started rolling in,” said Jeanee Kennedy, Chief Nursing Officer.

“I’ve had the opportunity to probably interact with over five or 6,000 patients and family members going through one of the most difficult times of their lives. I never want to take that for granted and recognize that each interaction is very meaningful,” said Megan Spiering, nurse practitioner.

Each nurses’ hand-written nominations were read out loud.