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The voice of St. Joseph: Bob Heater

Readers can find tribute videos, all of our memorial content (columns, editorials) and a list of Bob’s most recent stories he wrote for News-Press NOW at newspressnow.com/bobheater.


Amanda Sullivan | News-Press NOW  

Chiefs fans watch players from the stands behind one of the end zones during last week’s opening day at training camp on the campus of Missouri Western. Fans are allowed to attend and watch the players at training camp as long as it is held outdoors. Today’s the Chiefs return of camp practice at 8:15 a.m., weather permitting.


Local_news
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Garland Joseph Nelson's past court documents reveal multiple convictions, order of protection

Who is Garland Joseph Nelson, the suspect in the disappearance of two Wisconsin men?

While court documents will never tell the whole story, Nelson has a collection of criminal convictions, civil protection orders and lawsuits in his past. He’s currently being held in the Caldwell County Jail after a court hearing Thursday continued his case for a week.

In January 2015, Caldwell County Judge Jason Kanoy issued an ex-parte order of protection against Nelson, barring him from having contact with a woman he was residing with at the time. Kanoy is the same judge who sat on the bench for Nelson’s first two court hearings in the missing brothers’ case.

News-Press NOW is not naming the woman listed in the order. According to the document, Nelson was not to come within 360 feet of the alleged victim. On March 4, 2015, a final order was issued that meant Nelson could no longer reside at an address in Hamilton, Missouri.

Nelson was convicted in federal court for fraud after illegally selling cows in 2013 and 2014. According to the federal indictment, Nelson tried to sell cows that were under his care to graze but that he did not own. The indictment also said he sold cows that were mortgaged by the Farm Service Agency.

“Defendant Nelson further made false statements to Farm Bureau Insurance for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds on cattle he had insured,” the indictment said.

In an August visit to the Nelson farm, a government official, “observed one cow and several items of equipment whose ownership interest appeared to be in question,” the indictment said.

According to the document, Nelson sometimes did business as “Joey Nelson.” Police have been searching his farm on Catawba Road for more than a week. On Tuesday, police discovered unidentified human remains.

One company, listed as a victim in the indictment, sent farmhands to check on some cows on Nelson’s property. According to the document, those farmhands found the cows to be in poor shape.

“They found emaciated cows, not properly fed, roaming around together,” the indictment said. “They also found cows that had died with the identification tags cut out, which concealed who the dead cows belonged to.”

Ultimately, Nelson was sentenced to two years in prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

In June of 2015, Nelson was charged with six counts of passing bad checks on an account with Pony Express Bank. One person who the complaint said received a bounced check is the same person that filed the protection order against Nelson. Other alleged victims were a veterinary clinic and a restaurant.

Nelson was ultimately convicted on two of the six counts.

Court documents also show that Nelson has been in debt. One lawsuit, filed in October 2017, alleged that the Howard County Ambulance District did not receive more than $700 it was owed. As of August 2017, that debt had ballooned to almost $1,400.

At his Thursday court hearing, Nelson said he is being represented by Cameron based attorney Drew Davis. A receptionist at Davis’ law firm said he was handling other cases until next week and was unable to comment.


Local_news
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New playground open at Hochman Park

A new play structure on St. Joseph’s east side starts a wider project to improve small parks around the city.

A playground at Hochman Park on Pickett Road was completed this week for about $69,000. It was built by the St. Joseph Parks Department and is one of six new parks seeing construction around the city.

Other parks that will get new play structures are Seitz Park, Rest Square Park, Mary Park, College Hill Park and Patee Park. The total cost for improvements at all the parks is expected to be more than $420,000.

Director of Parks, Recreation and Civic Facilities Chuck Kempf said all of those parks at one time had play structures, but many of them became dilapidated and were removed.

“We just decided in this CIP round we wanted to replace several playgrounds, wanted to restore that opportunity in those neighborhoods for the children that live in those neighborhoods to give them something productive to do,” Kempf said.

He said the new playground at Hochman, which currently has wood chips as flooring, eventually will be getting rubber safety surfaces similar to what was installed at Bartlett Park.

Cortney Burns, who lives outside of St. Joseph and was visiting Hochman on Thursday just to take her three young children to the park, said the playground is great for kids around the same ages as hers.

“This is our first time here, we love it,” Burns said “We like that it’s geared toward a little bit smaller of an age group versus a couple of other parks. Seems like they’re geared a little bit toward older kids.”

Cindy Neely was at Hochman Park on Thursday with her three grandsons and said it is a unique playground with a lot to offer.

“I think it looks wonderful, they’ve done a nice job,” Neely said. “It’s got lots of different things and some things that aren’t at other parks that I think the boys will enjoy playing (on).”

Kempf said the next play structure to be installed will be at Rest Square Park on Vories Street. He said it could be completed by the end of next week, weather permitting.


Missouri
Missouri panel recommends armed officers in every school

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri task force has recommended that schools in the state employ armed officers if they can afford it and if their local governments support the idea.

The task force, headed by Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, spent four months working on a school safety plan and released its findings Wednesday.

“Where economically feasible and embraced by local governance, schools should have the benefit of an armed school resource officer or an armed school protection officer in every school to provide an immediate response in the event of an active shooter situation,” the report said.

The panel, which comprised school and law enforcement officials and mental health professionals, recommended the move as one piece of an overall plan designed to keep students safe and to help them cope with the emotional strain in the event school safety is compromised.

The group used the federal government’s school safety report as a template. That report was commissioned in 2018 after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Since the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida lawmakers funneled $400 million toward school safety initiatives.

Missouri has set aside $300,000 for school safety efforts, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The report points out specific details that should be dictated at the local level in response to local needs.

“Missouri schools are each unique. What works very well in an urban or affluent school to promote school safety may not be possible in a rural or economically challenged school,” the report noted.

Missouri’s current guidelines say schools should have a safety coordinator. But the task force found that role lacks a clear job description and that there is no comprehensive school safety training. The group didn’t mention arming teachers or placing metal detectors inside entrances.

The panel also recommended the state offer a set of standards for conducting drills and exercises.

“Often drills are conducted without a clear understanding by all parties involved of what is being tested or evaluated, and little to no documentation of the results to help correct deficiencies,” the report said.


Local_news
top story
Stores set for back-to-school sales tax holiday

The beginning of August traditionally rings in the homestretch of summer break for students.

Retailers likely will see record-breaking back-to-school spending in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation’s Back-To-School and Back-To-College reports. Families with children are expected to spend $696.70 this year, while families with college students will spend $976.78 on average.

To offset some of the school supply cost, shoppers can take advantage of Missouri’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday. Starting at 12:01 a.m. today, until midnight on Sunday, Aug. 4, items including clothing, school supplies like notebooks and textbooks, computers and more will be exempt from state sales tax. Many cities, including St. Joseph, also are waiving their local sales taxes.

Gordmans has been preparing for the upcoming shopping holiday for weeks with increased shipments to stock up on inventory, according to store manager Hoa Nguyen.

“In a lot of categories, we sell more on tax-free weekend than we do during Thanksgiving weekend,” Nguyen said.

The retailer sells apparel, footwear, accessories, backpacks and other school supplies. But it’s not just families with children who take advantage of the holiday.

“I think everybody takes advantage of it,” Nguyen said. “The traffic is tremendous. We have extra staff and extended hours to accommodate that.”

Clothing and accessories make up the biggest share of spending at 54 percent, followed by school supplies at 22 percent, electronic gadgets at 13 percent and computers and hardware at 11 percent, according to Deloitte’s 2019 forecast.

“The ’80s and ’90s are back — you see it in all the apparel,” Nguyen said of this year’s clothing trends. “Tie dye and whitewashes are coming back, and jean jackets are back, we got tons of jean jackets already.”

For a full list of qualifying tax-free items, visit dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school.


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Property taxes

Past-due

property taxes

Check out the annual listing

of delinquent property taxes from Buchanan County.

Details on Page D1