Newton County to vote on ambulance district tax levy rate

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – Voters in Newton County, Missouri will head to the polls Tuesday, April 6 to vote on a new tax levy rate for the county’s ambulance district.

The current levy rate is not quite 19 cents per 100 dollars of assessed valuation. If approved, the new rate would be 35 cents. Officials with the ambulance district say the levy raise would help pay for new equipment and provide more competitive wages for the districts workers.

“Because of television and things a lot of people think we are part of the fire department,” said Newton County Ambulance Chief Rusty Tinney. “We’re a completely different entity. You know there are more fire trucks and police cars in this county than there are ambulances. Again we have six ambulances to cover the entire county.”

Southwest Missouri counties provide transparent spending data online

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Jasper and Newton Counties are counted among the 10 counties participating in the state’s Local Government Checkbook Program. Participants provide spending data to available on online in an effort government transparency.

Spending data from ten local governments, Cape Girardeau County, Cass County, Clay County, Cole County, Franklin County, Greene County, Jasper County, Newton County, St. Charles County and the City of St. Louis, can be searched, with 16 additional counties in progress.

Visitors to the Checkbook can examine expenditure data detailing funds, departments, vendors, payment descriptions, and totals for the available government entities.

“Government transparency is essential to a functioning republic,” Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick said. “As Treasurer, I will always strive to improve transparency because I want Missourians to trust that their government is working for them and their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Increased transparency helps facilitate that trust and I am hopeful that more county leaders will volunteer to participate in the local government checkbook.”

In 2020, Treasurer Fitzpatrick announced the expansion of the Show-Me Checkbook to include local governments. He also facilitated aggregating state expenditures related to CARES Act funding in one portal on the Treasurer’s Office website for Missourians to search. The Local Governments section of the Show-Me Checkbook can be found here.

March 14 kicked-off Sunshine Week. The week celebrates open government and access to public information. It runs through March 21.

Details released in Avilla homicides

AVILLA, Mo. – Court documents reveal the man charged in a double homicide at an Avilla, Missouri home says he committed the crime after learning of his girlfriend’s murder.

According to a probable cause statement 24-year-old Kevin Clay Johnson admitted to going to 255 Greenfield Street in Avilla Saturday to see his girlfriend, Brylee Obanion. When he arrived, Johnson says he was told by Mason McClure that McClure and Nichole Hodges killed Obanion. The court documents say when Johnson was asked to go to the garage to help McClure with something, Johnson drew a gun and started shooting. McClure was shot in the back and Hodges fell away bleeding.

Officers found both dead on arrival the next day. Court documents say McClure was lying on his back with a small amount of blood pooled on the floor underneath and beside him on the left side. Hodges was across the room near the doorway to the kitchen on her right side with considerably more blood pooled.

Sunday evening Newton County authorities found Obanion’s body in a ditch in the area of State Line Road and Angus Drive. An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

At 4:30 a.m. Feb. 22, police arrested Johnson for homicide. He stands charged with two counts of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of McClure and Hodges. Johnson admitted to ODET officers he was getting ready to flee the state.

Detectives are still investigating. They are not looking for any other suspects at this time.

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Names released of Avilla homicide victims

Newton County Health Department to receives 975 vaccine doses

NEOSHO, Mo. – Newton County Health Department administrator Larry Bergner says the department is getting 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Bergner says the department will be partnering with Prater’s Pharmacy in Seneca, Missouri, and Mitchell’s Pharmacy in Neosho, Missouri to provide greater access to the vaccine in the county.

“This 975 for our small clinic would be overwhelming,” says Bergner. “But with those partners in place we can bring more resources in, and we can take care of these 975 doses in good shape.”

The health department is having an appointment only clinic on Thursday, February 25 in Neosho. The pharmacies are setting clinics at their locations.

Police say murders in Newton County and Avilla appear connected

AVILLA, Mo. – Police in Jasper and Newton Counties investigate separate murders Sunday night. Authorities now say both homicide cases are connected.

At around 4:10 p.m. Newton County authorities responded to the area of State Line Road and Angus Drive on a call about a possible body in the ditch. Upon arrival deputies found the body of 25-year-old Brylee Obanion. Detectives immediately began a homicide investigation. The investigation led detectives to Jasper County where they were searching for two persons of interest. It was at that point Jasper County Deputies became involved.

Jasper County authorities are investigating a double homicide in Avilla, Missouri. Deputies dispatched to 255 Greenfield St. found the bodies of a male and female. Investigators believe both to be victims of murder. Monday at 4:30 a.m., police arrested a male suspect for the murders. He is currently being held in the Jasper County Jail awaiting formal charges. There are no other suspects being sought at this time.

Authorities say both murder cases are related. Autopsies for the bodies are scheduled today. The investigations are continuing with both Newton and Jasper County Deputies working together.