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First-degree murder trial set to begin Tuesday

A first-degree murder trial against a man who allegedly shot two people near 10th and Henry streets last August will begin on Tuesday.

Jessie Nelson faces charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and first-degree assault. The man allegedly fired at two men in a drive-by shooting, killing Mack Jenkins and severely injuring another man who is now a quadriplegic.

Court documents allege eyewitnesses saw Nelson walk out of a vehicle, fire shots into another vehicle at Jenkins and the other man and drive away.

Nelson originally wanted to represent himself in the case, but Associate Circuit Judge Keith Marquart ordered a public defender be appointed to represent the man. Nelson filed several motions from the Buchanan County Jail, including ones to have the case dismissed, asking for an acquittal and asking to speak privately with the judge.

Nelson underwent competency training at a state medical health facility in early 2019 after an ealrier psychiatric exam showed he may not be able to stand trial. In March, it was ruled he was competent enough to proceed with the case.

On Friday morning, guidelines for the upcoming three-day trial were laid out. Nelson’s attorney requested that prior convictions, mental illnesses, instances of domestic abuse and any rhetoric painting Nelson as a drug dealer be omitted from the trial.

The trial is set to feature testimony from two opposing ballistic experts along with eyewitnesses, experts in eyewitness testimony and investigators.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday with jury selection and opening statements from the state and defense. It is scheduled to end on Thursday, but proceedings may go longer depending on jury deliberation.

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City bridges in need of replacement

As the state continues to look into bridge health in Missouri, the city of St. Joseph reports that close to half of St. Joseph’s bridges are in need of repairs or replacements.

At the 2019 Northwest Missouri Freight Summit held Thursday, MoDOT reported that, out of the 1,380 state-owned bridges and culverts in Northwest Missouri, 220 bridges were rated poor.

According to Public Works, there are 25 city-owned bridges in St. Joseph, 12 of which are considered to be in poor condition with two being rated in “serious condition.”

A study completed by engineering firm Snyder & Associates earlier this year made recommendations and estimated the life left in each of the bridges.

Assistant Director of Public Works and Transportation Brady McKinley said two of the city’s older bridges may be only a few years away from having to be closed.

“We’ve got a couple that we’re watching really close, we’re still probably three or four years out from closing those two bridges,” McKinley said. “That’s why we’re really looking hard at some funding options that could be a possibility to do some of these projects.”

The 104-year-old 13th Street bridge over Parkway Drive was recommended to be the priority for replacement.

According to the report from Snyder, the bridge should be replaced as soon as possible.

“Concrete is falling from saturated areas on the bottom side of the deck and onto the Parkway below, endangering passing vehicles,” the report reads. “This bridge is also near the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced as soon as possible due to safety concerns from falling concrete.”

The report listed similar concerns about the 96-year-old 11th Street bridge over Parkway Drive, which it recommended be the second bridge replaced.

A third bridge, Huntoon Road Road over Roy’s Branch, is about 89 years old and was recommended as the third priority for replacement.

The King Hill Drive bridge over South Second Street and the Fifth Avenue Bridge over the railroad tracks were recommended as the fourth and fifth replacement projects.

Other bridges considered in poor condition may only need repairs or maintenance.

McKinley said the age of the bridges plays a role in their condition, but any bridge can get problems.

“The decks are saturated, the concrete’s so old, it’s cracked so much, that water gets down in there and starts saturating and rusting the rebar,” McKinley said. “So, there needs to be some rehabilitation for those (older bridges).”

One small bridge, which is actually a stone culvert over a stream on North Woodbine Road, is in need of repairs but is half-owned by Buchanan County and could see funding or work from both entities.

The majority of the 12 bridges were suggested for the most recent CIP cycle to be funded through that tax, but they were not accepted by the CIP Committee.

In May of this year, the bridges were presented to the City Council and, at that time, it was suggested that some bridges could end up being load rated or even closed.

The council suggested looking into using general obligation bonds to fund the replacements and repairs and McKinley said that option is still being looked at.

Matt Hoffman | News-Press NOW  

The annual ‘Walk for the Homeless’ was hosted Friday by the Organization of Social Workers at Missouri Western in Downtown in St. Joseph. The event was part tour of the area’s resources and part fundraising effort. The walk started near Sixth and Messanie streets to raise donations that go directly to the homeless to pay for ID cards, birth certificates, transportation and other necessities. Details on Page B1.

Safety a priority for deer firearm season

Deer season is underway with the firearm portion quickly approaching on Saturday, Nov. 16, creating an abundance of hunters out and making safety a high priority.

Parker Rice, a Missouri Department of Conservation agent, said deer season is the most popular hunting time for Missouri. It ends on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Rice urged all hunters to follow universal firearm safety rules and addressed the five most important aspects.

“Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded, never muzzle anything you’re not willing to destroy, keep your finger off the trigger until you’ve identified your target, know your target backstop and what’s beyond,” Rice said. “If your rifle, shotgun or pistol has a safety on it and you’re not getting ready to shoot, your safety should be on at all times.”

Missouri requires hunters to wear an orange vest and hat while out. Rice said anyone elevating himself in a stand also should wear a harness to prevent an accident.

If someone is hunting alone in a rural area with poor phone reception, Rice advised informing another person of the location and a time they’ll be back.

“You shouldn’t just bank on being able to call 911 if you get in trouble because sometimes you may not be able to,” Rice said.

Another thing to be aware of is making sure the deer is no longer alive before approaching and trying to handle it.

“I will circle around to their head and use a long stick to poke it in the eye and if it doesn’t blink, it’s dead,” Rice said.

Rice said drivers should be extra aware this time of year because the rut has started and bucks are starting to chase does.

“The rut makes hunters excited because typically bucks lay low during the daytime, but in the heart of the rut that’s when they get stupid and they become more visible,” Rice said.

Hunters also should be aware of their surroundings at all times and make sure other members in a group are out of the direction of a target.

Those with questions or safety concerns can contact the Missouri Department of Conservation.