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Top 10 local stories of 2018

Top 10 local stories of 2018

The News Tribune's picks for the year

December 30th, 2018 by News Tribune in News

FILE - In this May 14, 2018 file photo, Gov. Eric Greitens leaves the civil courts building in St. Louis, Mo., after speaking with reporters after a felony invasion-of-privacy case against him was dismissed. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

It's no overstatement that 2018 had some of the most important stories in the histories of Jefferson City and Missouri — including in government, local infrastructure and crime.

The political career of the state's leader and a downtown Jefferson City building crumbled. New leaders and buildings have risen — as well as visions for the future of Jefferson City and the state. Community and regional institutions of faith and healing have reached critical decision-making points that will define their histories. Lives were stolen in violence.

The news kept coming, and some of what's not on the News Tribune's list of the top stories of the year — especially in crime — reflects that some of those stories happened after our reporters voted to determine the ranking.

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D'Angelo Bratton-Bland, 23 — Lincoln University's president of its Student Government Association — was killed in a shooting Dec. 11. Two other men were shot, one fatally — Justin Kammerich, 33 — just the next night.

In all, seven people were shot to death in Jefferson City in 2018. The death in March of Ronald Rattler, 41, resulted in a murder investigation that remains open. LU's fall semester was book-ended in August by another student's shooting death — Charon Session, 23. A married couple — Bobby Clines, 52, and Mary Clines, 46 — died in September in an apparent murder-suicide. Nilez Nichols, 19, was murdered in November during a robbery at his home.

Individuals — as young as 15 years old — have been criminally charged in recent weeks in some of those six cases, but other cases have unanswered questions.

The exact outcomes and effects of many of the stories that made the News Tribune's top 10 of 2018 list will not be known with certainty for months and years to come, particularly in relation to hospitals, schools and riverfront access.

All of those stories and many, many more that the News Tribune's reporters have covered are chapters in the lives of individual people and in the histories of communities. However stories developed or ended — whether good, tragically or in more complicated ways — many of the stories on the list are testaments to the good will of people in Jefferson City and surrounding areas to get involved and do what they can to better their communities — vote; raise funds for local projects; search for a missing boy and mourn him after his body was found.

May that spirit continue into 2019, and may communities reflect and take what lessons and insights they can from the stories that defined 2018.

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Gov. Eric Greitens resigned

On June 1, Eric Greitens resigned as Missouri's 56th governor — nine days less than 16 months after being sworn in to his first political office, which he won in 2016 after campaigning as a political outsider and promising to end corruption in state government.

Minutes after the governor finished delivering his State of the State address on Jan. 10, KMOV-TV, St. Louis, reported Greitens had been involved in an extra-marital affair before he ran for the office.

A St. Louis grand jury on Feb. 22 indicted him on a felony invasion of privacy charge for that March 2015 incident, and Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, immediately created a Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, chaired by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, to look into the governor's legal situation.

In April, a St. Louis grand jury added a felony tampering charge to Greitens' legal troubles, accusing him of stealing email and donor lists from The Mission Continues, the veterans service charity he helped found years earlier.

The House committee issued reports that substantiated information used in both of the St. Louis charges, and members of the Legislature — for the first time in history — called themselves into a special session to consider impeaching Greitens.

On May 18, as that special session began, Greitens told reporters he had no plans to leave office and would be exonerated of the charges leveled against him in a political "witch hunt" — but, 11 days later, he announced his resignation, effective at 5 p.m. on June 1.

The invasion of privacy charge was dismissed May 14, as the court was in the process of selecting a jury for the trial — and a special prosecutor later decided — after Greitens' resignation — not to refile it.

After his May 29 announcement that Greitens planned to resign, it was reported that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had agreed to Greitens' lawyers' request to drop the felony stealing charge — if Greitens resigned from the governor's office.

Before leaving office on his last day, Greitens signed into law 77 of the bills lawmakers passed during the 2018 legislative session.

In July, Barnes filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission, on behalf of the special House committee, accusing Greitens and the group "A New Missouri Inc." of violating the state's campaign finance laws.

By law, the commission cannot say whether it received that complaint or is investigating it but, as of Dec. 27, had not announced any proposed actions based on that complaint.

Boy's disappearance, death stuns town

The disappearance and eventual discovery of the body of a 4-year-old boy captured the attention and hearts of many in and around Jefferson City in late October.

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Darnell Gray, was last seen alive Oct. 24. The next day, his caregiver, Quatavia Givens, 26, reported to police that he was missing. Givens told authorities she believed Darnell had been abducted or had run away from the residence.

That set off a nearly weeklong search for the boy whose body was discovered Oct. 30 in a wooded area in the 2100 block of Louis Circle.

Givens eventually admitted to investigators she knew the location of Darnell's body, which was consistent with where he was located.

An autopsy was performed on Darnell's body, and authorities said it showed he had multiple injuries caused by blunt force trauma and sharp force trauma to multiple locations of his body prior to his death. Givens admitted she had injured the boy by stating, "I may have hit him wrong."

Givens is seeking a change of venue in the case; a hearing on the motion is set for Jan. 9.

Sale of St. Mary's Hospital proposed

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The proposed sale of St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City caught Mid-Missourians off-guard.

SSM Health — the St. Louis-based Catholic nonprofit health system that owns the hospital — and University of Missouri Health Care had been in exclusive negotiations to transfer ownership of the hospital and other properties for some time, leaders of the organizations announced in August.

SSM Health leaders said they came to the conclusion early in 2017 that the company could not continue to operate the hospital as it was, so they sent out requests for proposal. St. Mary's hospital has existed in the city for 114 years. It opened the new, multi-million-dollar hospital on Mission Drive about four years ago.

MU Health Care was the only institution that met all the RFP requirements, SSM Health administrators said, which included being a hospital that is committed to ensuring jobs and care stay in the community, serving the poor, providing spiritual care, integrating health care and recruiting local physicians.

Opponents to the sale say the competition in Jefferson City between St. Mary's Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center helps keep costs down. If MU Health Care, which has a relationship with Capital Region, were to buy St. Mary's, it will merge the hospitals into one system.

They warn that consumers may be at risk of price fixing by a regional monopoly.

Construction begins on two high schools

Voters' approval of the bond issue and tax increases that are funding the construction of Capital City High School and the renovation of Jefferson City High School led the News Tribune's 2017 list of top stories, and the community has watched those public school projects take shape over the course of 2018.

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When the new year began, Jefferson City Public Schools' second high school had not yet even received its name; that was announced in February when ground was broken on Capital City High School.

CCHS's colors and mascot — the royal blue and silver Cavaliers — were revealed in March.

Though the school is not expected to open until August and not to be fully completed until December 2019, the addition of a second high school to the school district has already prompted change in school attendance boundary lines and discussion of school start time changes.

CCHS's principal was named in February, and other additions to the administrative staff roster have been named throughout the year.

The design of the building itself has changed somewhat as construction as progressed — with a reduced footprint and change of location for the high school's storm shelter.

Construction has mostly gone without any major safety incidents. Two workers were injured in a fall at the CCHS site in July — which ultimately resulted in a contractor being fined more than $18,000 — and a Jefferson City police officer was injured chasing a burglary suspect at the site; none of those injuries were life-threatening. A dump truck and other equipment was stolen from the site earlier, but a Westphalia man was arrested and charged with theft.

Meanwhile, classroom renovations at Jefferson City High School started in May in the school's east wing, and the work is expected to be fully completed January 2020. According to JCPS' schedule for its two high school projects, work on the band and choir classrooms and the courtyard addition will begin in the spring.

The future of Simonsen 9th Grade Center — which will see its last freshmen students leave at the end of this school year — has not yet been decided.

Images of interior and exterior renderings and construction updates of Capital City High School and Jefferson City High School — and views from time-lapse cameras — are available for JCHS at www.jcschools.us/Page/16794, and for CCHS at www.jcschools.us/Page/16199.

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Diocese ordains bishop, releases list of 'credibly accused clergy'

The Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City welcomed its first new bishop in 20 years with the February ordination of W. Shawn McKnight. His predecessor, Bishop John R. Gaydos, had recently retired.

Including McKnight, the 38-county diocese — which contains about 80,000 Roman Catholics — has had only five bishops.

Speakers during the ordination included Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Most Rev. Christophe Louis Yves Georges Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States (a diplomatic missionary representing Pope Francis). Both men played roles in other developments in 2018.

The new bishop arrived shortly before revelations were made about alleged abuses of power by a former Washington, D.C. archbishop, and before a Pennsylvania grand jury reported coverups of child sexual abuse by clergy. The News Tribune has followed the developing story, as the Diocese of Jefferson City has looked inward for clergy abuse.

McKnight, who views clergy abuse as one of the most important issues facing the church, had begun an internal investigation upon his arrival and in August joined the Archdiocese of St. Louis in requesting that then-Attorney General Josh Hawley investigate potential clergy abuse locally. The diocese has since released and updated a list of "credibly accused" clergy who have served within it.

And when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared to announce a strategy to deal with the growing clergy sexual abuse crisis across the country, Pierre was critical of the plan to use the laity and asked bishops to delay the announcement until after a Vatican-convened global meeting on sex abuse, scheduled for February.

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Primary, general elections draw large turnouts

Thanks to several highly publicized statewide issues, voters came out in large numbers for the August and November elections, according to figures released by Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer.

For the November election, out of 53,240 registered voters, 33,737 ballots were cast. That figures to more than 63 percent of voters turning out. In August, there were 52,483 voters registered in the county and 20,825 votes cast, which totals nearly 40 percent voter turnout.

"Medical marijuana, minimum wage and right to work were among the big reasons I believe we saw these numbers," Korsmeyer said. "There were pushes made by us and election officials across the state, along with those involved with the statewide measures, to get young people out to vote, and it worked."

Special Olympics campus opens

After four years, Special Olympics Missouri athletes finally found a home this fall.

SOMO opened its new $18.5 million Training for Life Campus at 305 Special Olympics Drive— near Christy Drive and Missouri 179 — in September. A sports arena with indoor basketball and volleyball courts, health screening rooms, conference rooms, and a health and fitness center sit inside a 32,000 square-foot-building in an old rock quarry. Outside, a soccer pitch, a four-lane track with 100-meter straightaways and a half-mile trail sit on the property.

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SOMO also moved its central area offices from Columbia and its headquarters from 1001 Diamond Ridge in Jefferson City to the new building. SOMO CEO Mark Musso said the facility is a world-class training facility, but is not designed to host competitions.

"We'll host multi-state training, but I don't envision us hosting any kind of significant kind of competitions because we really didn't design the campus to do that," Musso said.

With the campus open, Musso's attention is now on building a $1.9 million second phase of the project on the campus' northeast end that will build a torch run plaza, tennis courts, shot put area, horseshoe pits, a golf skills area and a softball field. Costs for the first phase of were higher than during the second phase because water, sewer, electrical lines and other infrastructure had to be built, Musso said.

Fundraising for the second phase is about 60 percent complete, he said. Once fundraising finishes, construction can start immediately because the infrastructure was built during the first phase, Musso said.

"It's ready to be built on," he said.

Since the facility opened, 750 Special Olympics athletes have already trained at the facility, he said. Almost 500 athletes have also gotten vision, dental and hearing exams at the Training For Life Campus, Musso said. Hundreds more have used the community rooms inside the conference rooms and arena since it opened in September, he said.

With construction of the first phase complete, but fundraising for the second phase ongoing, Musso said it feels like a rest stop on a long trip.

"What we're trying to do is make sure we do an excellent job of getting the (first phase) up and running," he said. "Our efforts on the (second phase) have now taken a back burner right now while we get the other (half) up and running."

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Fundraising goal met for Adrian's Island development

After decades of discussions, local officials announced this year they finally raised enough money to move forward with riverfront access after raising $3.7 million in private donations, with about $3.24 million of that donated by B.J. DeLong.

The city and Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce proposed the 826-foot Bicentennial Bridge leading down to a riverfront park on Adrian's Island — 30 acres of forest and wetlands between the Missouri River and Union Pacific Railroad tracks that stretch about 1 mile from the Missouri Capitol to the former Missouri State Penitentiary.

The bridge, estimated at $4 million, would contain overlooks for visitors and four walking museums in the shape of railcar replicas. It would also be ADA-accessible and allow emergency vehicles to drive on it.

The city must select a contractor by Aug. 1, 2019, with the estimated completion date in late 2020.

The bridge would begin between the Senate garage and Veterans Memorial after former Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill earlier this summer that donated 0.19 acres to Jefferson City for the construction of the bridge.

Five indicted in death of Carl DeBrodie

As the year ends, the fallout from the case of Carl DeBrodie — a 31-year-old developmentally disabled Fulton man whose remains were found dumped in a Fulton storage unit April 24, 2017,— continues to unfold.

DeBrodie was reported missing from Second Chance Homes in Fulton where he lived on April 17, 2017. A lawsuit filed in May on behalf of DeBrodie's aunt Carol Samson and DeBrodie's mother, Carolyn Summers, alleged employees at the home forced DeBrodie to fight another resident and refused to get help for the disabled man.

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His body allegedly lay dead in a bathtub at the home for two or three days before it was placed in a trash can, encased in concrete and placed in a storage unit, according to the lawsuit.

Five people were arrested June 5 after being indicted by a grand jury in late March. Each defendant was employed by Second Chance Homes.

The indictment alleged Sherry Paulo and Anthony R. Flores failed to provide services reasonable to maintain DeBrodie's mental health and recklessly caused DeBrodie's death by failing to get emergency medical care during a medical emergency while DeBrodie was in their care.

In addition to each of their felony counts of abuse or neglect and first-degree involuntary manslaughter, Sherry Paulo and Anthony R. Flores have also each been charged with abandonment of a corpse — another felony — and two misdemeanor counts of making a false report or statement about a missing person.

Three other defendants have also been charged with making false reports or statements to police.

No upcoming hearings or a trial have been scheduled for Sherry Paulo or Mary Paulo, according to online court records, as of Dec. 27; a trial date has been repeatedly set, canceled and rescheduled in both cases.

A jury trial for Anthony R. Flores is scheduled for March 27.

A plea hearing for Anthony R.K. Flores is scheduled for Jan. 2, and a jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Shaina A. Osborne also has a Feb. 28 jury trial date scheduled.

The lawsuit named Second Chance Homes; Second Chance owner Rachel Rowden; Sherry Paulo; Anthony R. Flores; community registered nurse Melissa DeLap, who surrendered her license in August following a settlement with the Missouri State Board of Nursing; Callaway County Special Services; and the Callaway County Public Administrator's office as defendants.

Five Missouri Department of Mental Health Division of Developmental Disabilities employees were also named as defendants in the suit, but their cases were dismissed before a settlement was finalized in October.

In late December, Callaway County lawyer Ross Bridges said the county's insurer would pay its $2 million share of the civil lawsuit settlement, which was approved earlier in December.

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Collapse of building on High Street

In June, bricks suddenly fell from 200 E. High St. in downtown Jefferson City, leading to a gaping hole in the side of the building and Thursday Night Live being canceled and relocated. The west wall failed due to water infiltration and hidden decay of the mortar in the wall.

Neidert Properties, owner of the building, plans to demolish the structure, which previously housed law firms Berry LLC and Turnbull & Stark LLC. The city is giving Neidert Properties until Dec. 31 to demolish the building. If Neidert Property does not demolish 200 E. High St. by that time, city staff may begin the administrative hearing for the city to demolish the building.

The building at 200 E. High St. shares a common wall with 202 E. High St., creating a snag in the demolition plan. Neidert Properties filed a declaratory judgment action against Cindy and Ruben Wieberg, property owners of 202 E. High St., in October regarding which property owner is responsible for demolition or rebuilding and maintenance of that shared wall.

That common wall is now failing due to mortar washing out over the years. The city is giving the Wiebergs until Jan. 31 to decide whether to repair or demolish 202 E. High St., which previously housed Love2Nourish and MO Juice.

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2018 stories inspired, warmed hearts

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