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Northwest men’s hoops set new program, MIAA record for consecutive wins.

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Committee declines letter for declassification of Interstate 229 double-decker bridge sought by MoDOT for new planning prospects.

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Local_news
breaking top story
Jessie Nelson found guilty on all four counts; victim's family reacts

Jessie Nelson was found guilty on all four felony charges against him on Thursday evening by a Buchanan County jury: first degree-murder, first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action.

The trial of Nelson, the man accused of shooting Mack Jenkins and Deon Hernandez last August, came to and end on Thursday night after a jury returned with a guilty verdict after around two hours of deliberation.

Kenisha Jenkins, the sister of Mack Jenkins, said she was relieved that a guilty verdict was returned.

“I just got off the phone with my mom; she’s praising God and we’re all praising,” Jenkins said. “We can all go to sleep a little easier tonight knowing that we got some type of justice today. We feel good.”

Nelson shot Hernandez and Jenkins on Aug. 6, 2018, near the corner of 10th and Henry streets, killing Mack Jenkins and paralyzing Hernandez.

The jury saw evidence and heard testimony for two and a half days, with Prosecutor Ron Holliday laying out the events he believed occurred on the day of the shooting, while Nelson’s defense attorney, Shayla Marshall, argued that her client was falsely accused.

In the end, the jury sided with Holliday and the evidence they had seen and heard. One piece of evidence was an eyewitness to the crime, Matthew Glidewell. Kenisha Jenkins said she was not aware that someone had witnessed her brother’s death until the trial.

“The main thing was that evidence of the guy who had actually seen the shooting, and took the picture of his car right next to Deon Hernandez and Mack Jenkins, when they had crashed into the other vehicles,” Jenkins said. “I thank him. I don’t know his name, but I really thank you.”

Kenisha Jenkins said that though Nelson now will likely be serving time for the death of her brother, the mark he has left on their family will last for the rest of their lives.

“We got justice, but Deon is paralyzed,” Jenkins said. “He doesn’t get to pick up his kids. He doesn’t get to walk around. And my family is paralyzed because we don’t get to see my brother at holidays or for his birthday or just for any reason. We don’t get to physically see him and touch him anymore.”

Kenisha Jenkins and her family, along with Hernandez’s family, gathered outside the courthouse following the verdict, hugging, crying and sharing the news. Though they had lost a brother and seen another injured for life, they said they were still a family.

“We’ve been a family before this tragedy happened, and we’re going to be a family still to the end of time — know this,” Jenkins said. “I love everyone that’s standing around us right now and everyone that didn’t make it here. I have other family members. He may have other family members that didn’t make it, but we’re happy. We’re still a big family.”

Nelson is set to be sentenced on Jan. 27, 2019, at 3 p.m. According to Missouri statute 565.020, a conviction of first-degree murder can only be punished with the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

Holliday did not file any motions to pursue the death penalty prior to the trial, so the only punishment available is life without the possibility of parole.


Local_news
top story
Author digs into history of Missouri's 'forgotten governor'

If you want to know what Missouri looked like in its worst days, think Afghanistan.

Dr. Stephen Huss believes that.

“That’s not an exaggeration,” he said of the state as it appeared in 1865. “Everything from the economy to what little political structure there was, the lawlessness, the tribal mentality, the outlaws, the incredible corruption ... there was no law.”

Missouri had suffered greatly in the Civil War, with thousands of noncombatants killed and a third of the state’s population having fled from the violence. Its economy had been wrecked and much of its infrastructure, notably its railroads, had been ruined.

It needed a leader to bring order to chaos. And Missouri got just that.

A “Radical Republican” named Thomas C. Fletcher assumed the governorship on Jan. 2, 1865. His four years in office would be distinguished by a stunning turnaround for Missouri. But don’t look for monuments to observe his accomplishments.

Author of the 2019 book “Rediscovering Thomas C. Fletcher: The Lost Missouri Governor,” Huss finds this remarkable.

“There are so many Missouri governors that deserve to be forgotten,” the historian said, “and there are a few, like Fletcher, who could serve as a model for what a person in leadership is supposed to be.”

Huss admits that he had only a passing acquaintance with the background of the 19th century governor. And he lives in Fletcher’s native Jefferson County and has served on the Fletcher House Foundation, which preserves the former governor’s home in Hillsboro.

The author had known the bare-bone facts, that Fletcher had been the first native Missourian to be elected governor, as well as the first Republican elected to the office. He succeeded as governor Willard Preble Hall of St. Joseph.

While preparing information for Jefferson County’s bicentennial celebration (the founding preceded statehood), Huss researched the date of Fletcher’s death in 1899. What he found were newspapers in all corners of the country carrying the obituary on their front pages.

“I’m thinking, ‘What? This is crazy!’” Huss told the News-Press NOW in a telephone interview. “That didn’t make sense, because what did he do?”

Finding nuggets of information that led to other nuggets, the historian kept filling in the blanks of Fletcher’s career, as a Civil War officer, a prisoner of war, an elected official and later as a lawyer who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and helped in the planning of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

But his gubernatorial term proved a major challenge. To begin with, the state had become unsafe.

“The roads were patrolled by outlaws, not law enforcement people,” Huss said. If a farmer could produce a crop, he had little way to get it to market. If he got paid for a crop, he might not get the money home. “People don’t realize how devastated Missouri was at the time.”

Fletcher recognized the need for an enhanced state militia, and he convinced officials in Washington that federal money should help fund this. While he was a strict enforcer of laws, the governor found fault with draconian measures meant to punish fellow citizens with pro-Southern views.

“Fletcher was totally opposed to these harsh punishments,” Huss said. “He was much more supportive of trying to restore harmony in the state.”

He ended up taking control of railroads in the state, most of which had borrowed state money for expansion but had been slow in repayment.

“He understood the power and the importance of the railroad system,” he said. “By the time he left office, the railroads ran.”

As governor, Fletcher also revitalized the state’s educational system, which had largely collapsed during the war years, and advocated for the schooling of African-Americans. He would later become the first board president of Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

He promoted agricultural research, and he established a unique outreach to immigrant populations, believing the state needed the labor pool for restored industries and farm production.

Why is Fletcher not more broadly remembered for his achievements during an especially trying time?

“After Missouri starts getting back under the control of the Democratic Party, looking back at a great Republican was probably not of great interest,” Huss said. “The historians often were Democrats, and there was no great incentive to look for that information. I think he just was forgotten.”

Huss’ book is available at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and other booksellers.


Local_news
top story
High-school cameras to see replacements in 2020

The St. Joseph School District is prioritizing security cameras going into 2020.

Back in September, district officials sent out requests for proposals and received various bids for new cameras and camera systems to replace more outdated models.

High schools were the focus for this first round, and the new cameras will utilize Salient Software, which has features that would allow administrators to access camera footage from their phones.

“But when the bids came back the first time, there were a couple of issues,” Susan Anderson, the district’s coordinator of technology and data management, said. “First of all, we had asked for a particular brand of camera or similar. And then some of the bids that came back for cameras were for cameras that we didn’t feel were a very good match for what we were wanting. Plus, the bids did come back a little bit high.”

Responses ranged between $812,000 and $1.87 million. According to comments made by Gabe Edgar, the assistant superintendent of business and operations, in a finance committee meeting back in October, $740,000 had been set aside for those technology upgrades.

Anderson said labor costs seemed to be driving the prices up. As such, the requests for proposal were reworked and sent out, this time with a new timeline.

“And even if you know that sometime in the future, say you may be erecting a new building, closing one down, whatever the facility study ends up landing on, you can’t wait that long to make sure the kids that you have in buildings currently are safe,” she said. “And you want to do all that you can to keep them safe now.

“But yes, we would be able to take the cameras from any one building and move them to another, though I don’t want to say necessarily one-for-one, because part of what the vendors do, they come in and they do a walkthrough of the buildings and they look at every hallway, every corner that might have a blind spot, and they select cameras based on that specific building,” she said. “So there may be a few cameras that wouldn’t necessarily be able to be used in a different building. But by and large, the majority of them would be.”

Anderson added that the hope is to have the new cameras installed by the end of June.

Elementary schools would be the focus following high-school upgrades, and Edgar commented that the overall cost for those should be significantly cheaper.

While the district has not reached out to the winning bidder just yet, the decision should be voted on during a Board of Education meeting later this month.

“Security is a pretty important thing when it comes to schools these days. Unfortunately, we have to think about that even more than they ever did in the past,” Anderson said. “So they’re wanting to make sure that they get on a schedule to get those (cameras) replaced throughout the district.”


Local_news
Breaking ground | Organization’s project to benefit early childhood development
New Head Start Center coming to St. Joseph

A new Head Start Center is coming to St. Joseph.

Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph offers services for low-income families and individuals, including support for children and expecting mothers through Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

CAP has been working on securing a new Head Start location for the last two years. The nonprofit organization eventually found its ideal spot in an existing building at 4803 St. Joseph Ave., the former home of Sojourn Church. Once of the goals for the new facility is offering extended hours.

“Currently our Head Start services are five hours a day,” Early Childhood Program Director Ashley Phillips said. “The goal was to get that to an eight-hour day so families have some care while they’re trying to work or go to school.”

The nearly $2 million project is funded entirely through federal grants. The existing structure will be expanded by 10,000 square feet to add on classrooms and a playground as well as more parking spaces.

“The goal always for us is to look not just for what works in the moment, but also what can we utilize for years to come,” Phillips said. “We love to take these buildings that already exist in the communities where our kids are and figure out how do we make that building really work for children and families.”

On Thursday morning, CAP staff, city officials and current Head Start students gathered for a groundbreaking behind the building. The latter, many of which will attend classes at the new Head Start Center, enjoyed the chance to shovel dirt.

“They loved it,” Phillips said. “And that’s the feel of the entire Head Start experience. It’s bringing everyone together and figuring out how to help them learn in a fun way.”

Councilman Madison Davis, who represents the district where the new center will be located, was in attendance to celebrate the child care addition.

“Any early childhood locations is certainly needed in St. Joseph, especially facilities like this where they have an opportunity to take those children and teach them some different things,” Davis said.

The new Head Start Center is expected to be finished in September 2020.