Southwest Missouri man accused of using children in shoplifting scam

JAY, Okla. – Oklahoma authorities issue an arrest warrant for a Noel, Missouri man for allegedly making his children shoplift beer and steaks from a Grove Walmart.

Gary Cook, 52, is charged in Delaware County District Court with two counts of child neglect and petty larceny.

Cook is accused of trying to steal food and clothes totaling $707.39 on Sept. 10 in two separate incidents, according to a Grove police report.

In the first incident, police say Cook was in the parking lot with a shopping cart full of items when confronted by the store’s loss prevention officer. Cook allegedly left his shopping cart and ran toward a 1990s F150 with a white camper.

Police say some of the items recovered include two bags of charcoal, several packages of ribeye steaks, two men’s hoodies and four loaves of bread.

In the second incident, police say Cook made his children, ages 15 and 7, steal items totaling approximately $442.25 of merchandise.

Some of the items included beer, ribeye steaks and other food items, men’s underclothes, men’s jogger outfits and Halloween candy.

When the juveniles were stopped by police, the children reportedly told police, “The plan was to get the items and meet their father at the truck.” But police said when the boys went to the parking lot, they could not find their father’s truck.   

Officers say the 7-year-old was “emotionally distraught” and “the 15-year-old was calm and comforting the 7-year-old.”

A surveillance video reportedly shows Cook and the two juveniles walking into the store together, but grabbing separate carts and going separate ways once inside the store.  The report says the surveillance video also shows the group meeting up periodically inside the store as they fill the carts full of items. 

Officers say Cook is seen exiting the store alone and the juveniles exiting the store with a cart full of items, passing all the cashiers and self-checkout lanes.

The police report indicates the boys weren’t aware what they were doing was wrong. Officers say Cook simply left the boys at the store.

Civil War era was not kind to Missouri's courthouses

McDonald County, Missouri Courthouse

JOPLIN, Mo. — As we turn our calendars to a new year, you’ll find that many historical anniversaries are set to take place in 2023. In Missouri, several of those anniversaries are associated with county courthouses. However, not every anniversary is a celebratory one. For example, 2023 marks the 160th anniversary of the arson fire that destroyed the Vernon County Courthouse (including the entire town of Nevada).

The damage to Missouri courthouses has a tremendous bearing on families in each and every way. Not only are these historic buildings ripped from each of our lifetimes, but also the archives they kept: Marriage, wills, probate, land records, as well as others. Once destroyed, these paper artifacts are permanently lost.

When you look at the dates, most Missouri courthouses that were lost to fire, took place from 1881 to 1885, and it’s not just a coincidence. This was the time of the US Civil War, and when you have a slave state (Missouri) next to a free state (Kansas), small skirmishes and battles were quick to break out in nearly every county in the “Show-Me State.”

Thanks to the historical records website, “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness” (RAOGK), the dates and information surrounding these courthouse fires have been archived for future generations to access and learn about. The following list from RAOGK reveals which Missouri courthouses went up in flames during the Civil War period of April 1861 to April 1865:

List of Missouri Counties with Burned Courthouses (1861-1865)

  • Barry County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1861, some records destroyed.
  • Bates County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1861, some records destroyed.
  • Barton County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in November 1862.
  • Chariton County Courthouse – A fire in the clerk’s office, apart from the courthouse, destroyed all county court records on November 11th, 1861, and fires set by Confederates on September 20th, 1864 destroyed the courthouse.
  • Christian County Courthouse – Arsonists destroyed the building and all court records in 1865.
  • Dade County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed during the Civil War on October 6th, 1863. Some records were destroyed.
  • Dallas County Courthouse – Confederate troops burned the building on October 18th, 1863.
  • Dent County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1864. The next courthouse, built in 1864, also fell victim to fire in May 1866. The fire destroyed county records.
  • Greene County Courthouse – A fire destroyed the courthouse on October 28th, 1861.
  • Holt County Courthouse – Courthouse fire in February 1965. Records saved.
  • Howell County Courthouse – In the fall of 1863, guerrillas burned West Plains and the Courthouse. Most records were destroyed. The county reorganized in 1866.
  • Jasper County Courthouse – Courthouse was destroyed by fire in October 1863. County records were saved by moving them to Neosho, Missouri.
  • McDonald County Courthouse – In 1856 a log courthouse, reportedly built in Rutledge, was demolished by Rioters. Bushwackers burned the courthouse in 1863, destroying most records. Deeds before 1863 were recreated.
  • Newton County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1862, destroying many county records.

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  • Oregon County Courthouse – In October 1863 this courthouse was burned in a Civil War incident, destroying many county records.
  • Ozark County Courthouse – Courthouse destroyed by fire in 1858 or 1859, all early records were destroyed. Second courthouse destroyed by fire sometime before February 1864. Some records were lost. Third courthouse destroyed by fire November 28th, 1934.
  • Reynolds County Courthouse – The courthouse has burned twice. The first time was in December, 1863, when the Confederate army burned it. A new courthouse was built in the fall of 1867 on the same foundation as the prior one. This courthouse was burned in late November, 1871. Both times all records were destroyed. Temporary quarters again burned May 27th, 1872, while a new “fireproof” courthouse was being built.
  • Saline County Courthouse – In August 1864 the courthouse burned as a result of Civil War activity.
  • Stoddard County Courthouse – During Price’s raid in September 1864, the courthouse was burned by some stragglers, but fortunately the records had been removed.
  • Shannon County Courthouse – Courthouse was burned by soldiers in 1863 destroying this early courthouse along with all county records.
  • St. Clair County Courthouse – The courthouse apparently was burned in September 1861 by Gen. James Lane. One account claims that Lane’s raid only partially destroyed the courthouse; by some accounts it was rebuilt and used until November 1864, when it was again burned in Civil War activity. Probate Court records were destroyed.
  • Taney County Courthouse – The courthouse was burned in 1863 by Union troops trying to keep the fortress out of the hands of Confederates.
  • Vernon County Courthouse – Both the courthouse and clerk’s office were destroyed when the town was burned in 1863. County Court records are missing from 1861-1865.
  • Webster County Courthouse – Courthouse was accidentally burned by troops in 1863.
  • Wright County Courthouse – Courthouse was partially destroyed in 1862 and then reportedly burned on January 11th, 1863.

Wildcat Glades join MO State Parks First Day Hike 2023

JOPLIN, Mo. — The new year is now hours away and some fans of the great outdoors want you to consider spending that day with mother nature. It’s a program called, “First Day Hike” which is exactly what it sounds like — a walk outside on the first day of the year.

Missouri State Parks is hosting hikes at Prairie State Park in Mindenmines, Roaring River State Park in Cassville, and Big Sugar Creek State Park in Pineville. But folks aren’t limited to an official hike.

“But you know the organized hikes are good because they kind of show you what to be looking for. But if you just want to go out on your farm, if you want to go out around the neighborhood in the city, that’s fine too. The important thing is that you’re getting out,” said Francis Skalicky, MDC Media Spec.

There’s also a “First Day Hike” in Joplin — beginning and ending at the Wildcat Glades education cottage.

You can pre-register here.

Four States 2022 Year in Review

KSNF/KODE—2022 will run out tomorrow. It’s been a busy year for the Four States – everything from legalized betting and marijuana to deaths that rocked the region.

The legal landscape saw some big changes in the Four States in 2022… starting with marijuana. In Missouri, voters approved the move from medical marijuana only to recreational use starting at age 21.

“Right now the state is doing about 35 million a month through all the 190 dispensaries that are open right now but they expect that to two and a half times that. So they believe that will generate 84 million a month,” said Tom Bommarito, Greenlight Dispensary.

Missouri was also one of the first states to take action after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade. It triggered a statewide ban against abortions unless there is a medical emergency.

Sports betting was a big change across state lines in Kansas. The legislature passed the measure in the spring and it took effect in September.

“The next time we go to the Super Bowl or hopefully the World Series we can be in a position that people will be able to bet on things going on here in Kansas,” said Sen. Rob Olson, (R) Olathe.


Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, jail reform took center stage. House Bill 4369 changes the rules for parole for certain inmates, factoring in the type of crime and time served. It’s estimated 3,600 inmates will be eligible for release under the changes.

And a former member of the legal community found himself on the other side of the law. Former Ottawa County prosecutor Daniel Thomas Giraldi was charged with bribery of a public official, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and use of a communication facility in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Then on Halloween, a Joplin double murder led to a standoff in Newton County.

“Had a handgun, kept us at bay for a couple hours. While negotiations went on, the Joplin Police Department was talking to him over the telephone about the case. Went as long as individual thought he could go and at that point, the individual shot himself,” said Newton Co. Sheriff Chris Jennings.

34-year-old David Rush of Wyandotte had two days earlier killed Stacy Rush of Joplin and Eric Stampfli of Grove at a home on the 2200 block of South Annie Baxter.

Another high-profile crime involves the deadly kidnapping of a pregnant Arkansas woman. Amber and Jamie Waterman, both of Pineville, are charged in the case that left both Ashley Bush and her baby dead.

“Suspect fled the area, a pursuit ensued,” said JPD Assistant Chief Brian Lewis.

And finally, 2022 is a year the Joplin Police Department will never forget, leaving not just one but two officers deceased in a deadly shooting. Corporal Ben Cooper and Officer Jake Reed passed away after a disturbance call near 4th and Range Line. Officer Rick Hirshey was injured but survived.

Capt. Will Davis fired the shots that ended the pursuit near 9th and Connecticut.

Driving to Noel, Missouri? Expect delays on Route 59

NOEL, Mo. — Drivers in McDonald County on Missouri Route 59 can expect traffic delays and more as a road project begins in the coming days.

Crews with West Plains Bridge & Grading LLC, will work to stabilize the streambank and make sidewalk improvements along Elk River beginning the week of January 3rd, MoDOT said.

The work done along Route 59 (Cliffside Drive) will improve pedestrian areas. The $2 million project is set to be complete by November 1st, 2024.

Drivers should know that Route 59 will be subject to lane reductions and will be controlled by temporary traffic lights at certain points. One lane will remain open at all times.

All lanes will open if construction pauses for longer than two weeks. Weather and/or scheduling conflicts could change the work schedule, MoDOT said.

Additional warming stations open up

KSN/KODE— Many area churches and organizations in Southwest Missouri are opening up to serve those needing to warm up or seek shelter from the onslaught of ice, snow, and painful arctic temperatures.


  • Joplin First Church of the Nazarene – 2124 Utica St. (417)623-3455, Thursday-Friday Open at 7 a.m. and working with Soul’s Harbor to transport folks who need shelter overnight

Click here for a full list of warming shelters in southwest Missouri


  • Neosho Freeman Family YMCA – 4701 Chouteau St., (417)455-9999, No membership is needed to warm up during normal business hours. Friday 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. (Hours are subject to change.)
  • Restoration Life Center – 415 N. High St., (417)455-9393, Warming center is open until Friday morning, at least. Still seeking volunteers to continue providing that space past Friday morning.

Area Senior Centers and services close due to inclement weather


  • Carthage Crisis Center – 100 South Main St., (417)358-3533, Lobby is open overnight Thursday and Friday. Each person must submit to a warrant check.


  • Splitlog Baptist Church – 3670 Splitlog Road, (417)364-7458, Warming shelter is open overnight until 12:00 p.m. Saturday.

"Cookies for Heroes" brings cheer to McDonald Co. community

McDONALD COUNTY, Mo. — A local construction company once again paired up with a McDonald County church to bring Christmas cheer in the form of cookies.

Daniel Cowin Construction partnered up with Tri-City Full Gospel Church to bake some cookies for the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office and the Pineville Marshall Office.

They said the homemade goods were to honor those that serve the community day-in and day-out.

Area Senior Centers close due to incoming winter weather

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Area Agency on Aging Region X announced on Facebook that some area senior centers will close out of caution for the projected inclement weather, and all services provided by the Agency, such as lunch, will not be available.

The Area Agency on Aging central office and Senior Center services in Barton County, Carthage, Neosho, Joplin, and McDonald County will close on Thursday, December 22.

Officials said they don’t want the older adult population to be getting out in the case of severe weather. They also do not have the capacity or funding to staff the senior centers after hours.

The Center in Carl Junction and the Webb City Senior Center will be open by the city as warming shelters for those in need. You can find more information about that and other warming shelters in the area here.

This information is subject to change depending on city-specific judgments in the case of severe weather.

Missouri small town known globally for Christmas tradition

NOEL, Mo. — Once a year, a city in McDonald County changes its name for a very special postage stamp. It’s the city of Noel—which becomes “Noel” (no-ell) this time of year for the annual Christmas postmark.

The 90-year tradition lives on, as volunteers work in the Post Office lobby from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve to affix a special stamp on the incoming letters. This year, they expect to stamp more than 40,000. Over the years, cards have come in from states across the nation and countries around the world.

“We love doing it. It is a great tradition. I’m happy to be a part of it and I bet everybody’s family loves getting Christmas cards in the mail. And to have the fact that you went above and beyond and stepped into getting just a stamp put on that for them, they’re going to be excited,” said Patty Loggin, Post office Clerk.

“I think it’s very important for a small town as we are to have something to last that long. There’s, you just don’t see anything you know lasting that long nowadays, you know. We’re kind of a little tiny town and nobody knows anything about us except for our Christmas and I enjoy bringing that smile to their faces when they get these cards with the stamps on them,” said Dot Harner, volunteer.

The United States Postal Service is also proud of the impact of this simple gesture.

“We’re woven into the fabric of the community and we’re super proud to be a part of this and to deliver for Americans. See folks like this just such an awesome thing for us,” said Mark Inglett, USPS Strategic Communication Specialist.

If you would like to get a card stamped at no cost, mail it to the Postmaster in Noel.

SW Missouri gem, 150-year-old Christmas tree farm ready for holidays

SOUTHWEST CITY, Mo. — All you Thanksgiving folks, time is up, and it’s now officially Christmas season, which includes picking out that perfect Christmas tree.

The farmers at Ozark Valley Christmas Tree Farm in Southwest City are in their busy season. Last year, the farm was only open for half the season because they sold out of trees so quickly.

Charity Keith and her husband are first-generation Christmas tree farmers, despite their “Manning Family Farm” being an established 150-year-old, 7-generation farm. Their first Christmas tree crop was planted around 17 years ago. The first trees were ready 7 years later so, they’ve now been selling live trees for 10 years.

More than anything, they say picking out that perfect tree is all about the experience.

“Yeah, you don’t just come buy a tree. It is definitely an experience. You do get to ride a hay ride from the gift shop area over to the farm and back. And that’s a lot of the excitement right there is getting to ride in the hay ride. We’ve got our barn that’s 150 years old and it’s decorated. People like exploring and looking at that as well,” said Charity Keith, Farmer.

The farm expects to sell between 500 and 600 trees this year.