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Griffon volleyball

Rivals take it to 5th set

Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western go the distance during their volleyball match Tuesday at Looney Complex.

Details on Page C1

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Change of judge approved in murder case

Change of judge has been approved for the man accused of killing a Cameron, Missouri, woman.

Kenneth Wykert is alleged to have killed his girlfriend, Leah Dawson. Her body was found on the property where he was staying during the believed time of her death. Wykert is facing charges for second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse in DeKalb County.

On Tuesday morning, after filing for both a change of judge and change of venue on Oct. 15, Wykert was granted a change of judge by Judge Brent Elliot.

According to Missouri Supreme Court Law 32.07, there does not need to be any reason filed for a change of judge.

“The applicant need not allege or prove any reason for such change,” the Supreme Court ruled. “The application need not be verified and may be signed by any party or an attorney for any party.”

Because the case was in Elliot’s court, the presiding judge of the 43rd District, the Missouri Supreme Court will be tasked with assigning a new judge. In larger counties with more than one circuit judge, the presiding judge of that county would determine which judge would receive the case or a lot would be taken to determine the new judge.

Dawson’s mother, Tonya Eldredge, said she plans to continue to spread awareness of her daughter’s case.

“The more he (Wykert) tries, the more I’m gonna push it,” Eldredge said after the hearing on Tuesday.

A change of venue request filed by Wykert’s attorney will have to wait until a new judge is assigned to the case.

According to the Missouri Supreme Court Rule 32.04, defendants have a right to file for a change of venue in two circumstances:

“That the inhabitants of the county are prejudiced against the defendant; or that the state has an undue influence over the inhabitants of the county.”

The prosecutor does have the possibility of filing a denial for a change of venue, but evidence must be presented to the court to show that a change of venue is not necessary.

If the change of venue is approved, the court will change the venue to another county and can chose to bring in an outside jury instead of transferring the proceedings to another county.

“A change of venue shall be ordered to some other county convenient to the parties and where the reason or reasons [for a change of venue] do not exist,” the rule states. “In lieu of transferring the case to another county, the court may secure a jury from another county as provided by law.”

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MWSU's Gold Fridays to change class scheduling

Missouri Western State University plans to adopt a new approach to scheduling beginning in the 2020-2021 school year that will drop most Friday classes.

The move is an effort to give students more opportunities to engage in applied learning outside of the classroom. The initiative, titled Gold Fridays, will revise the academic schedule, with most classes being held Monday through Thursday, leaving Fridays for students to engage in internships, research with a faculty member, service learning or other applied learning opportunities.

“Our primary focus will be to retain quality and ensure student success,” Missouri Western President Matt Wilson said in a press release. “Instructional time and course expectations will remain the same, but students will now have greater flexibility to work, to prepare for the following week of classes and, most importantly, to pursue hands-on applied learning opportunities.”

Gold Fridays may not be appropriate for every program, he added, though most will adopt the new academic schedule.

Courses will be taught for the same amount of classroom time.

The press release states that Gold Fridays are not intended to be a day off, but instead offer flexibility for more engagement and learning opportunities as well as traveling for competitions, rehearsals, practices, extracurricular and club activities could also be focused on Fridays.

Wilson sees Gold Fridays as a recruiting tool.

“No other university in the area is doing anything like this,” Wilson said. “I think prospective students will appreciate this innovative approach to providing learning opportunities outside the classroom.”

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Police chief faces questions on car thefts from neighborhood watch

St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally took questions from a local neighborhood watch group Tuesday night, with almost all questions revolving around car theft.

Several members of the watch said their vehicles were stolen and that they’re frustrated with a lack of convictions in those cases. Connally said he does think there’s an auto theft problem in St. Joseph, and that he’s never said otherwise. However, he said many factors of a conviction are out of his department’s control.

“DNA for example — it usually doesn’t come back for about two years,” Connally said. “So we try to get things like video evidence, which is really popular.”

Still, one attendee said she went out and located her vehicle on her own and that the detective on the case never followed up.

Another said a local U.S. Bank told him the department didn’t need a subpoena to get ATM footage after their debit card was stolen, while Connally said U.S. Bank does require a court order.

Connally added that some stores, like Speedy’s, opt to link into a “portal” that shares potential evidence with the police in real time. In addition to the time it can take to get forensic evidence processed, Connally said many of the thefts are committed by juveniles. Another officer in attendance, Sergeant Roy Hoskins, said juvenile court is much different than circuit court.

Hoskins said in juvenile court, most offenders are released if they don’t reach a certain threshold of “points” from previous incidents.

Both Connally and Hoskins recommended people use common sense, including locking their cars and parking in well lit areas. Hoskins also showed those in attendance various locking devices that can be purchased online to help prevent theft.

Connally said thieves rarely use “scrambler” type devices, but often steal the key or the key fob. One attendee asked why the police couldn’t arrest a suspect if they had the key or key fob.

“A lot of the times they’re leaving the keys somewhere in the car,” he said. “Especially if it’s a car that just has the fob.”

Connally spoke about a theft in his neighborhood where someone did just that.

“They left the car so they could just come back and grab it at anytime,” he said.

Another issue, Connally said, is state policy.

“They (state government) want more and more property crimes to be solved by the community,” he said. “And they want to keep the jails for what they see as violent offenders.”

In an interview with News-Press NOW in August, a Buchanan County sheriff’s deputy estimated that his department finds at least one burned-out vehicle a month in the county’s rural areas. Connally said that only a few incidents with burned-out vehicles have occurred inside city limits, and agreed that few of the thefts are for profit.

Connally also told the group that the statistic’s around car thefts can be difficult to discern. In a previous interview, he told News-Press NOW that the difference between “St. Joseph” and the “St. Joseph Metropolitan Area” can lead to wildly different numbers.

And yet, many in the group said they wouldn’t be at the meeting inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church if it wasn’t for the issue of car thefts. For now, they said they’ll rely on their community’s group text to stay on top of things.

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Bigger and better | Organization celebrates new facility
Open Door Food Kitchen serves cake at new facility

The new Open Door Food Kitchen located on 8th Street may have a higher capacity to serve meals than the previous facility on Edmond.

Vice President of the Board of Directors at the kitchen, Lanny Ellis said they already have served 275 meals in a single day at the new location.

“We’re open 365 days a year — this includes Christmas, and all of the holidays,” Ellis said. “We’re blessed with Christmas — the Jewish community steps in (to volunteer service).”

The construction on the 4,700 square foot building began a couple years ago, although the food kitchen has been growing since its origin in the 1980s.

Fr. Jerry Waris helped with the kitchen’s humble beginnings, which he said included serving meals inside the Salvation Army’s basement.

“We don’t feed the poor,” Waris said. “We feed our friends.”

Approximately 17 years ago the food kitchen moved from six days a week to seven days a week.

Mayor Bill McMurray made a proclamation during the ribbon-cutting ceremony to honor October 22 as Open Door Food Kitchen Day. McMurray said there are between 150 and 275 meals served everyday, as well as 2,000 volunteers hours contributed every month.

Many of the speakers paid tribute to Mary Cargill, who helped with the founding of the food kitchen back in 1984.

“If it hadn’t been for her we might not be here talking about this today,” Ellis said. “Somebody like Mary would take the bull by the horns and say, ‘let’s make it happen, let’s do stuff.’ Obviously there were other people who were involved, but she was the spark plug.”