Poplar Bluff woman finds new life of sobriety through Fellowship of Acceptance

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

A Poplar Bluff drug recovery program is making a difference in the lives of its members.

Especially for one woman who is devoting her life to helping others.

“I never felt I would be anybody or anything, and now I feel like I make a difference in people’s lives. At least, I hope I do.”

Carmella Fenske has a new outlook on life.

Years ago she came to Fellowship of Acceptance broken.

“Carmella had a tough go of it, and you know – this is the thing, when they let God in their life he gives them patience,” said Lois Shearrer who started the program 10 years ago, and watched Carmella recover.

“She just persevered. She kept going, and she kept going, and she’s on our leadership team now,” Shearrer said.

The program runs inside Fellowship General Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff on Thursday nights.

They offer shuttles to the church within city limits, a hot meal, and support through recovery.

“If you don’t have someplace that welcomes you and treats you like you deserve recovery you’re going to end up back out there,” Fenske said.

Shearrer says – meetings like this are needed more and more.

“Heroin is the worst one right now, and it’s just so sad. We could have 20 more meetings and not have too many,” Shearrer said.

Around 75 people attend their meetings.

“When you’re talking with someone and their life is so broken, and you want to see them put it back together. Well, I can’t imagine doing it without God,” Shearrer said.

Something she was able to see in action with Carmella – even through tragedy.

“My daughter committed suicide – she was 25-years-old, and when I made it through that without even having a thought of going out and getting high – I made it through. She told me she was proud of me. The last conversation – she was proud of me,” Fenske said.

Now Fenske is a peer counselor dealing with addiction.

“Just knowing that I help one person to find their way, and to realize they are worth it will make my life worth everything,” Fenske said.

“Come and give us a chance to love you. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter. Let us love you, and let us help you heal the brokenness in your life,” Shearrer said.

Police Chief Danny Whitely says faith based programs like this are vital to combating drug addiction in their community.

If you would like to learn more about Fellowship of Acceptance or join in a meeting visit Fellowship General Baptist Church’s website or call 573-785-6981.

Poplar Bluff Senior High School helping students with Giving Closet

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

Students deal with stress every day and now one Poplar Bluff school wants to make sure the last thing they have to worry about is the basics.

It may not be obvious, but behind librarian Marcia Priest’s desk is a room aimed to help students succeed.

“If they’re having to struggle with, ‘where am I going to get my next meal over the weekend,’ or if they don’t have things to shower at home it’s going to affect them at school,” Priest said.

The program is new this year at Poplar Bluff Senior High School and didn’t have an easy start.

“We weren’t getting a big response, and so Grace, one of our students, came and asked what she could do to help, and I asked her to help me get the word out to our students,” Priest said.

Senior Grace King took the project to heart.

She put up fliers in the school’s bathroom and started a fundraiser for items they needed.

“I bought underwear and socks, and little things like makeup that I enjoy, and I know somebody else would. You feel a need somewhere, and it just kind of drives you, and you just go, and you do it,” King said.

“Just a really great young lady who’s going to be an asset to our community,” Priest said.

Priest said the library provides a unique space where students can come in anonymously and pick out something that they like.

“It’s hard to realize that we have kids in our community that don’t have everything they need, and we can do just something small to provide what they need to make their lives better. It’s eventually going to pay off,” Priest said.

Clothes, toiletries, food and supplies are all available to the teens free of charge.

“I have always been given the things that I’ve needed. I’ve never really had to ask for deodorant or ask for soap or ask for toothbrush or toothpaste. Some kids don’t know where they can get it, or their parents aren’t as involved as they should be, and this is where they can get the things that they need.”

Something that both women say the students never expected, but are thankful for all the same.

If you would like to donate to The Giving Closet, you can contact Poplar Bluff Senior High School.

Priest said most items do not need to be new, but she asks that they are donated in a clean state and that they are appropriate for teenagers.

Toiletries should be new and unopened.

Poplar Bluff PD: elderly woman found naked covered in feces malnourished, daughter arrested

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

A Poplar Bluff woman has been charged with murder 2nd degree and elder abuse 2nd degree in connection to the death of her 87-year-old mother.

Judy Smothers was in court on Friday, January 6 where she pleaded not guilty. Her bond was set at $50,000.

The bond was posted on Monday, Jan. 9 and Smothers is due back in court on Jan. 30.

According to the Poplar Bluff Police Department, a hospice worker found the victim, Theresa Smothers, during her first visit to the home on Dec. 28.

The worker immediately called 911.

Smothers was covered in her own fecal matter and had covers pulled up over her face when the worker found her. She was reportedly naked and covered in bed sores, according to police.

“When I got down there she was incoherent. I made an inspection of her sores, she had quite a few bruises, sores that were weeping, closed sores from the exposure to the fecal matter and the urine,” said Lt. Andrew Cleveland.

“I don’t think that she really wanted to make the effort to take care of her mother,” Cleveland continued. “She just looked at her as a means to get a check. I think she just looked at her mother as a burden.”

First responders took Theresa Smothers to the hospital where she was stabilized. Investigators say she was severely malnourished and dehydrated.

Court documents show she was just 71 pounds when she was taken to the hospital.

Smothers was eventually transferred to a health and rehabilitation center.

According to investigators, her daughter, Judy Smothers, 65, was taken into custody on Dec. 29. The initial charge was suspicion of elder abuse.

When she was being booked into the jail, Judy Smothers reportedly told officers, “I would have taken better care of my mother, but I was just too tired.”

Officers got a search warrant for the home and said they found it in deplorable condition.

“The home itself – we went inside – it was in extreme disarray. There was an overpowering stench of urine and fecal matter,” said Cleveland.

Investigators report there were cats everywhere.

They said the home had a strong odor due to the cats and Theresa Smother’s room. Investigators say the bed in the room was brown from fecal matter. Fecal matter was also found on the walls and the bed frame.

One officer noted in his report that there was a smell of cleaning fluids in the home that indicated that Judy Smothers tried to clean after her mother was removed from the home.

Theresa Smothers died on Dec. 31 just before 5 a.m.

“I would like to see justice for the victim. The victim – she can’t obviously speak for herself. We have to be that voice for her,” said Cleveland. “I don’t think this is any different from a child abuse case. If you saw a child that was a year old or two years old that was put in these conditions it would obviously be child abuse. I don’t think elderly people should be any different.”

An autopsy completed Tuesday morning showed that she died of malnourishment, neglect, and dehydration. It was ruled a homicide.

Investigators say there were no signs of an outside illness, but report that she had dementia.

Court records show that Judy Smothers was named the guardian of her mother in 2009.

We’re told Theresa Smothers was receiving retirement payments from her late husband that Judy was supposed to be managing. It’s still unclear what social security or disability money she may have been receiving.

A preliminary hearing for Smothers will be held on May 15.

Police: Metropolis man accused of shooting, killing wife

METROPOLIS, IL (KFVS) – Original Post

A homicide investigation is underway in Metropolis, Illinois.

Illinois State Police say authorities were dispatched to a home on Old Marion Road on Sunday, Dec. 18 around 5:25 p.m. after getting a call from 61-year-old Allan Stephens.

When deputies with the Massac County Sheriff’s Department arrived on scene, they found the body of 59-year-old Deborah Stephens in the home with a gunshot wound.

Deborah Stephens died at the home, according to the Massac County Coroner.

Authorities say Deborah is Allan’s wife.

Allan Stephens was taken into custody.

He is being held at the Massac County Jail on a charge of first degree murder.

The homicide is under investigation by the Massac County Sheriff’s Department, the Massac County Coroner’s Office, the Metropolis Police Department, ISP Zone 7 Investigations and ISP Crime Scene Investigations.

Photographer offers gift to Perryville tornado victims

PERRYVILLE, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

The Perryville Tornado destroyed dozens of homes taking priceless family photos with it.

Photographer Amber Smith says she wants help create new memories for families who have lost so much.

“That’s kinda what photographers do. They help you make memories with your family, and pictures are supposed to last you forever,” said Smith.

Living in Southeast Missouri her whole life tornadoes aren’t new to Smith.

“When a tornado comes, and it takes your pictures away, then you just don’t have them anymore, and that’s heartbreaking,” Smith said.

That is why she’s offering victims of The Perryville Tornado a unique offer.

A free photo session, and the pictures to go with it.

“They’ll get a disc with – it’s usually twenty-five, but it’s probably going to be a lot more because they’ve lost them all so they need to cover their home with beautiful pictures,” said Smith.

Smith says she wants the experience to be a bright spot in this tough time.

“I want them to have fun with their families. Of course we’re going to do posed pictures, but I love a lot of non-posed stuff. Laughing, looking at your kids, playing with your kids,” said Smith.

She hopes the pictures can give families a step towards starting their new lives.

“I know I can’t give them those pictures back, but I want to try to help them have new memories, and something new to look at and for their kids to have later on down the line,” said Smith.

Smith says she knows each session takes time and effort, but it seems small after what they’ve been through.

“They’re in our prayers, and I know this isn’t a lot to give. I wish I could give more. I wish I had the time to give more, but I just want them to know that we’re all praying for them, and we’re thinking about them, and everyone is here to help,” said Smith.

Smith says the offer will not expire, and that she knows families are focused on putting their lives back together.

If you are a victim of The Perryville Tornado and would like to inquire about a photo session contact Smith on her Facebook page here.

Mother given little notice when daycare broke contract over medical concerns

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

Two hours instead of two weeks.

That’s the notice one Cape Girardeau mother said her son’s day care gave her before they terminated their contract.

However, the school’s director said they didn’t have a choice.

Elayna Dunn found out her son had epilepsy in February.

The boy’s daycare director said they felt equipped to handle his diagnosis, but the situation quickly changed.

“We’re trying, you know, and we thought that they were too,” Dunn said.

Dunn still can’t believe her son’s medical condition means she has to find a new daycare.

“You just gave us a two hour and thirty minute notice that our child – that was his last day,” said Dunn.

Her son had been going to Southeast Missouri State’s University School for Young Children for about a year. When she found out her Carter has epilepsy she told the staff, and said they told her it wouldn’t be a problem.

“Just like it’s a learning experience for them, it’s a learning experience for us too,” Dunn said.

But a change in her son’s medication a few months ago changed his demeanor dramatically.

“He just became limp, and that’s what that medication did, and we explained that to them,” Dunn said.

Director Becky Moore said they are not equipped to handle that kind of situation.

The daycare’s handbook states if a child is not the right fit, they will give parents two weeks notice.

Moore admitted they broke policy in Dunn’s case after having to call 911 for Carter twice in one week.

“You gave us two hours and thirty minutes. If you would have gave us two weeks then we would have had time to figure out what our next move is, but we couldn’t. It was just thrown at us,” Dunn said.

The daycare director also said they offered Dunn other resources and options based on her son’s condition.

MO House bill proposal would de-fund DWI checkpoints

JACKSON, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

If a proposed amendment to a Missouri law passes, DWI checkpoints could be a thing of the past.

House Bill 4 is a topic of discussion in Missouri’s House of Representatives.

If it passes, DWI checkpoints would no longer be funded with federal grant money. And that’s something that concerns some members of law enforcement.

“A dollar per year isn’t enough to do anything,” said Sergeant Jon Jensen with the Jackson Police Department.

That’s how much federal funding would pay for drunk driving checkpoints if HB4 becomes a law.

Right now, that budget is at $20 million.

“Part of the amendment is not really to de-fund, but to drop down to a dollar per year. That money for the DWI Task Force,” said Representative Scott Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick, the lawmaker who introduced the bill, said saturation patrols are more effective because they are designed to put more officers out on the streets as opposed to stopping more cars.

“Saturation patrols are more effective and they get more drunk drivers without the inconvenience to people who are trying to get from a to b, and are getting caught up in the process,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I’d like to think they’ve saved lives. I know they’ve deterred impaired drivers, and anytime we can get an impaired driver off the street makes it safer for everybody. Especially my wife and my kids. Your family,” Sgt. Jensen said.

The US Supreme court ruled in 1990 that DWI checkpoints are constitutional.

However, Fitzpatrick disagrees with the ruling.

“By literally stopping every single person that passes a point, and temporarily detaining them, that to me is contrary to what the constitution says,” Fitzpatrick said.

Sergeant Jensen said he hopes representatives like Fitzpatrick take a second look at the value of checkpoints.

“I’d challenge any of our administrators, representatives to come out to any of our checkpoints and see what we do, and see the positive impact that we have in the community,” Sgt. Jensen said.

The bill is currently under discussion in the house.

Sergeant Jensen urged anyone for or against the amendment to contact your representative and give them your point of view.

Family loses priceless memento in Perryville, MO tornado

PERRYVILLE, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

When a tornado hits – many things are replaceable, but some are priceless.

One teen is missing a gift she may never get back.

Jamie Best, 18, had a yearbook that was blown away by the tornado, but she found it under her neighbor’s car Thursday.

However, the teen says, there’s a family keepsake she needs your help to find.

Best says when she was born her mother started a journal, and wrote to her and her sister in it every day.

When the tornado hit on Tuesday night it destroyed her home, taking most of their mementos with it.

“She was going to give it to us when we were older. So, she’s written in it every day since we were born,” said Best.

When asked how it feels to know the keepsake is out there somewhere:

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to think about. Try to get it to us if you can. It would mean everything to my mom,” said Best.

Beste says they are also missing many family photos,and her sister’s violin.

If you happen across any of those items please reach out to reporter Sherae Honeycutt on her Facebook page.

Marion, IL High School students build homes for class credit

MARION, IL (KFVS) – Original Post

In your high school shop class you may have built a spice rack, or maybe a jewelry box. But Marion High School in Illinois is taking shop projects to a whole new level by building houses.

“I enjoy coming out here every day,” said Marion High School senior Alek Jimenez.

It’s not your traditional classroom. How often can students say they built it themselves?

“It teaches you a lot of common sense, measurement, math… It’s got everything,” said Marion High School Senior Jay Krumrey.

“I can’t believe the school district pays me to do this every day. It’s crazy. I love this job. I love coming and building a house with these kids,” said Marion High School trade instructor, Lester James.

So how exactly does it work?

The City of Marion gives the school empty lots that cost them money to maintain, and Mr. James takes the students through the entire process of planning, and building, a home.

“It’s good to know that we’ve got somebody who knows what they’re doing, and that’s going to teach us how to do it the right way,” said Jimenez.

When the house is done they put it on the market.

The proceeds go back into the school district, and fund their next project.

“It’s not every day that you see high school kids putting together a house that somebody’s going to live in for the rest of their lives. Even my parents – they take a sense of pride in it, that I’m doing that,” said Jimenez.

The 12 students say more than anything they love working together.

“Everybody’s really going to do their part, and we seem to work well as a team, and pull together and get it done,” said Jimenez.

“It’s a good learning experience for everyone that wants to get into building a house and one day maybe do it themselves, and do it for a living,” said Krumrey.

This is something Mr. James is proud to see.

“This year has just been an absolute breeze and a joy to watch those young boys become men in this trade,” said Mr. James.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment, and then every time you drive by here with somebody and you point out ‘hey – I built that’. It’s a good experience, and it’s something I’ll remember for a long time,” said Jimenez.

The students say the house should be finished within the next month, they hope to have it on the market by March.

Remembering Lynn Messer, family reflects on disappearance

STE. GENEVIEVE COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

We’re learning more about the disappearance of Lynn Messer and the last hours anyone saw her alive.

You may remember, the Bloomsdale woman went missing over two years ago.

Hundreds joined in the search in Ste. Genevieve County back in July of 2014.

Time passed with no answers, and no sign on Lynn.

This past November, her remains were found surprisingly close to home on The Messer Farm.

Investigators say she was found in an area that was combed through by search crews in earlier searches.

There are still many questions that investigators hope forensic tests will answer.

We spoke to her family about the woman at the center of it all and the questions this family says is ripping them apart.

Sherae Honeycutt met with her sons, Aaron and Abram, and in a separate interview, with her husband, Kerry.

“Some days I’d like to wake up and for her to be home, and not to know that she’s gone, and every day I remember that she’s gone, and that is so hard,” Aaron Messer said.

Her two sons grieve for a mother they will never see again.

Aaron and Abram Messer say they want people to see beyond the headlines and get to know Lynn.

“She was one of those people who would come into a room with her demeanor and the way she carried herself – she would just bring that light into wherever she was,” Abram Messer said.

A light their father says he saw from the beginning.

“I was a senior in high school and I looked out the bus window and when I saw her face for the first time I fell in love with her right then and there,” Kerry Messer said.

Throughout their lives, she dedicated herself to caring for her boys.

“Whether it meant that she had to make clothes so we had what we needed or whether it meant that she spent hour, after hour, gardening, and preparing food, and planning-out meals to make sure that we didn’t go without. That’s selfless love,” Abram Messer said.

On July 8, 2014, their mother went missing. They never saw her alive again.

“I miss the love of my life. You don’t throw away 38 years, and it’s been a very difficult journey over the last two and a half years. Tons of things I never expected, but more than anything I just miss her,” Kerry Messer said.

“She knows everything that’s happened. She knows what happened to her. She knows that what’s more important than the past is what we do with our lives now in being faithful at the moment. Honoring her, and carrying on,” Aaron Messer said.

Since her disappearance, a rift has grown between the men.

Suspicion and theories on both sides leave them separated by a protection order.

But no matter the distance, the men say they must keep going for Lynn, and hope someday they know the truth.

“There’s a hole in our lives, and it’s never going to be wholly full, but we have to fill it together. We have to be there for each other so that when mom’s not there we are for each other,” Aaron Messer said.

“We cannot forget – who my mother is, and what she taught us. How we can use what she has taught us to help guide us in our lives, and remember the impact that she has had on our lives,” Abram Messer said.

“If you’ve never lost the one you love more than anybody in the world there’s no way I can describe it, you’ll never understand no matter what I say. The sun’s going to come up tomorrow, and so we just have to give it to the Lord and get up and give him the next day and get through it,” Kerry Messer said.

Ste. Genevieve County Coroner Eric Basler says they are still trying to figure out how Lynn died through forensic testing.

Basler says it’s unclear what they may find, and when this testing would be complete.