Abuse claims against Missouri reform school settled

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Four civil lawsuits alleging sexual and physical assault by the owners of a southwest Missouri reform school have been settled.

An attorney for four former Circle of Hope Girls Ranch students told The Kansas City Star that the settlement amounts are confidential. About two dozen girls were removed from the Christian boarding school last year during an investigation into abuse allegations.

Boyd and Stephanie Householder own the school. They now face 100 criminal charges including statutory rape, sodomy, physical abuse and neglect. The plaintiffs in the civil suits allege they were raped, thrown against walls and starved.

Previous stories: After abuse claims, Parson OKs Missouri boarding school law

Alleged victims relieved to see charges filed against Circle of Hope owners

Circle of Hope owners speak out, close doors, amid state level investigation

Search warrant served at Circle of Hope Girl’s Ranch


Charges filed against man shot by police in southwest Missouri

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – Newton and McDonald County prosecutors file charges against a man shot by police following a chase on Tuesday. Benjamin Chase Ivey of Granby, Missouri faces charges of First Degree Felonious Assault, Armed Criminal Action, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Resisting Arrest by Fleeing.

(Previous Story: Police chase leads to gunfire in southwest Missouri)

The chase happened Tuesday, May 11, shorty before 12:00 p.m. Newton county deputies armed with warrants tried to contact a burglary suspect. They say Ivey pointed a weapon at officers and drove off. Officers chased him into McDonald County, where the Highway Patrol used spike strips to flatten his tires.

They say he drove into a field near Highways C and CC, then got out and shot at deputies. That’s when deputies returned fire, injuring Ivey. At last report he was at a Joplin Hospital. There’s no word yet on what kind of injuries he suffered.

A team made up of the Joplin Police Department, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and Newton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the officer involved shooting


Coffeyville man charged with night club shooting; claims self-defense

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A man from Coffeyville, Kansas charged with a shooting outside Zan Night Club in downtown Springfield, Missouri is claiming self-defense.

Jawaun Thompson told an investigator he and two friends were spending a night out on the town. He says they didn’t have any problems when they went into the club Saturday night. Thompson told the investigator  he got a gun from his car after leaving the club because he says he “felt safer.”

Outside Zan’s, Thompson says a man hit him in the face with what he believed was a gun and at least two others tackled him. Thompson fired a couple of shots. A bullet hit one man in the side.

Thompson is charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action.


Ex-Kansas sheriff’s official faces child porn, sex counts

WAKEENY, Kan. (AP) – A former official with a western Kansas sheriff’s office has been arrested on charges of trafficking in child pornography and sex crimes involving children.

Blaine Dryden, 62, of WaKenney, was arrested Wednesday on a warrant charging him with aggravated internet trading of child pornography and several counts of sexual exploitation of a child, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

The alleged crimes occurred between November 2019 and last June, while Dryden was a lieutenant with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, investigators said. Dryden was placed on administrative leave by the Ellis County sheriff when the department learned of the investigation, and his employment with the office ended in July.

Dryden was being held in the Graham County Jail on $750,000 bond.


Kansas Senate majority leader arrested on suspicion of DUI

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A Kansas Senate leader was arrested Tuesday morning in Topeka on suspicion of driving under the influence and attempting to flee from a law enforcement officer, local jail records show.

Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was booked into the Shawnee County jail just before 4 a.m., following his arrest by the Capitol Police. Online booking records show that the Wichita Republican also was arrested on suspicion of speeding and crossing a divided highway.

Suellentrop remained in the jail Tuesday morning. Senate President Ty Masterson’s office confirmed the arrest and said it was gathering information about the incident. It was not immediately clear whether Suellentrop had an attorney.

A report on Suellentrop’s arrest wasn’t immediately available. However, the Capitol Police said it occurred on Interstate 70 near an exit north of downtown and that Suellentrop was traveling in the wrong direction in the westbound lanes of the highway.

Suellentrop is a 68-year-old business owner who served in the House for seven years before being elected to the Senate in 2016. He won re-election last year, and fellow GOP senators chose him as the chamber’s No. 2 leader in December.


5 officers charged with manslaughter in boy’s shooting death

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Five Oklahoma City police officers were charged Wednesday with first-degree manslaughter in last November’s fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy.

Stavian Rodriguez was shot by officers responding to reports of an attempted armed robbery at an Oklahoma City convenience store on Nov. 23. TV news video appears to show Rodriguez outside a gas station, dropping a gun. The boy raises his hands, then lowers them before being shot.

Oklahoma City District Attorney David Prater charged five of the responding officers with first-degree manslaughter. If convicted, they could face up to life in prison.

The officers charged are: Bethany Sears, Jared Barton, Corey Adams, John Skuta and Brad Pemberton. A sixth officer, Sarah Carli, used a “less-lethal” weapon and will not be charged, police said.

After being shot with the “less-lethal” round, while Rodriguez had one hand in his pocket and his other hand near his waistline, all five officers “unnecessarily fire lethal rounds at Stavian Rodriguez, striking him numerous times and inflicting mortal wounds,” Prater’s investigator, Willard Paige, wrote in an affidavit.

An autopsy determined Rodriguez suffered 13 gunshot wounds, Paige wrote.

It was not immediately clear whether any of the officers had attorneys who could speak on their behalf, but John George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, defended their actions.

“Officers must make life and death decisions in a split second, relying on their training. When an armed robbery suspect did not obey police commands, five officers perceived the same threat and simultaneously fired their weapons,” he said. “A loss of life is always a tragedy and we know these officers did not take firing their weapons lightly. The OKC FOP stands by these officers and maintains they acted within the law.”

The officers have been on administrative leave since the shooting.

Police also released the officers’ body camera footage after the boy’s mother sued for it last month.


Ex-Kansas Rep. Watkins enters diversion over voter fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election.

Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents’ home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case.

The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner.

“I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully cooperated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday.

Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported.

Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins’ prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September.