Mother, 2 children found dead in murder-suicide in Ripley Co.

RIPLEY COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

The Ripley County Sheriff’s Office reports finding a mother and her two children dead in a murder-suicide.

Around 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, the bodies of Laura Coleman, 32, and her two young children, Gunner and Maycie, were discovered in Coleman’s rural Ripley County home near the Fairdealing area.

Laura Coleman’s mother is grieving after losing three of her family members in a matter of moments.

She said the loss is unfathomable.

“I don’t know how to speak to what has happened, because no one understands,” Ellen Martinez said.

She said she spoke to her daughter two hours before the tragedy struck. Coleman was getting ready to head to Arkansas with her two children.

“We were getting ready to celebrate Maycie’s fifth birthday this weekend,” Martinez said.

No one understands why Coleman took her life and the lives of her children.

“She lived her life to protect her kids,” Martinez said. “She’s had a rough last few years. We got her to a safe place. They’ve actually done really well.”

Martinez said her daughter loved her children deeply.

“Maycie was just the light of her life,” she said. “Laura loved her children and her life above anything else.”

She said the Ripley County community has opened their arms to her.

“Thank you for the support and the lack of judgment,” she said. “This could have been anyone’s child.”

Ripley County Sheriff Mike Barton was visibly shaken from the incident. He said it’s hard to talk about.

“We all have children and grandchildren,” he said, “so it’s hard.”

“You never know when that one little moment is going to be the last time you get to say, ‘I love you,’ or touch their hand or look into their eyes and see their future,” Ellen Martinez said. “Just take a moment today, because nothing else matters but them.”

He said a school worker found the scene after going to the home because the children, a four-year-old girl in kindergarten and a two-year-old boy, didn’t show up for school. The school worker then went to the police department.

The Current River Major Case Squad was activated to investigate leads in the case, and officers from the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office, Doniphan City Police, and Missouri State Highway Patrol responded.

Autopsies on Coleman and her two children were scheduled for Friday morning.

Sheriff Barton said the autopsies showed the children were shot and killed and then Coleman turned the gun on herself.

The People’s Community Bank in Doniphan is accepting donations from anyone would like to donate to the families of the victims.

Risco referee revived with portable defibrillator at basketball game

RISCO, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

When a referee at a basketball game in Risco, Missouri collapsed on Tuesday, Jan. 31, a fifth grader rushed to save his life.

The principal said without a defibrillator nearby, referee Donnie Jenkins could have died.

Jenkins is recovering and is thankful for a team of people who came together to get him the help he needed.

“Anytime you’re in a crisis like that seconds matter, ” Principal and Coach Brandon Blankenship with Risco Schools said.

When the emergency happened, Blankenship said his son CJ didn’t hesitate.

In between the basketball games, Jenkins collapsed.

“Donnie’s talking to CJ and then he collapses there onto the desk and then he rolled – kind of slid off of that into the floor,” Blankenship said.

“I crawled underneath the desk, and then I went and got my grandpa,” fifth grader CJ Blankenship said.

That triggered a group who rushed to Jenkins’ aid.

“They got the AED out that we have here in the gym,” Blankenship said. “They had to shock him twice, and finally got a pulse. He went several minutes without a pulse.”

The school got the automated external defibrillator with grant money which now makes the cost seem small.

“If we would have not have had the AED here at the gym and had it so readily available – I don’t know that he would have made it,” Blankenship said.

Meanwhile, CJ’s dad said he’s a hero.

“He’s really proud of me for doing that,” CJ said.

And the machine played a big part.

“I really think the AED saved his life,” Blankenship said.

It was the Risco community who saved Jenkins life.

“I had to make a list to get them all,” Blankenship said.

Three nurses, paramedics, and one boy – who sprang into action.

“I’m so proud of our community,” Blankenship said. “Nobody hesitated to jump in there and help out.”

Blankenship said that’s the Risco spirit and looks forward to having Jenkins back on the court.

“We’re praying for him, and we hope he’s on the road to recovery,” Blankenship said.

“I hope that you are getting better, and I hope that you are feeling better,” CJ said.

Coach Blankenship said he spoke with Jenkins this morning and told him he was proud to talk to him.

Jenkins told him that he’s proud to be here.

‘Right-to-Work’ gaining momentum in Missouri

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

Some state lawmakers wasted no time in working to make Missouri the next right-to-work state.

On Tuesday, January 10, house members heard testimony about changes to the way workers pay union dues and what those dues can go toward.

Those arguing for the bills say right-to-work attracts business and grows jobs.

Opponents say the idea is a race to the bottom and weakens labor unions.

The possibility of right to work passing has many business owners excited, and union workers frightened.

We asked a union leader in Cape Girardeau, and the chamber of commerce to take a closer look at this legislation.

“We’re just trying to make a living here, and I think we’re a benefit to the community, and why we would make this such an agenda baffles me.”

Rick McGuire with Labors Local 104 in Cape Girardeau said right to work allows business owners to bypass union agreements.

“For people that don’t like unions to try to get involved in their unions and their negotiations between them and their contractors which is what we do,” McGuire said.

However, John Mehner, the president and CEO of Cape Girardeau’s Chamber of Commerce, said that’s not it at all.

“Missouri would I believe the 28th state that does not require employees of a business that has a union to join that union. They can choose not to pay the union dues, and not be a part of the union,” Mehner said.

Mehner said right to work allows them to be competitive for big business.

“It is, in fact, a selection criteria for a substantial number of manufacturing and logistics businesses that consider relocation,” Mehner said.

Right to work was vetoed in June of 2015 by former governor Jay Nixon.

He said it would be “a significant step backwards for Missouri” by reducing wages and limiting training.

While newly appointed Governor Eric Greitens openly endorsed it.

It’s something, McGuire said, that has some of his members worried.

“They’re scared. They’re scared about what might happen, and I think we’re going to be okay, but they’re asking me why would anybody want to mess with our way of life,” McGuire.

Mehner said unions can still thrive, but now workers can make their own decision.

“It doesn’t keep someone from joining the union at all. It just gives them the choice,” Mehner said.

McGuire said union dues go to things like health insurance, a pension fund, and training.

Mehner said right to work would give individuals the option to opt-out if their employers already offer these benefits.

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.