Man charged with rape, kidnapping in Ripley County, MO appears in court

GRANDIN, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

A man accused in a violent rape in Ripley County made his first appearance in Ripley County court on Wednesday, March 22.

Heath B. Miller, 35, of Rector, Arkansas faces charges of rape, kidnapping, and armed criminal action.

When asked if he committed the crimes, Miller said “no ma’am,” as he was heading into court.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Miller was arrested near Grandin, MO on Saturday, March 18.

Ripley County Sheriff Mike Barton said Miller was found around 4 p.m. near Bay Nothing River Access.

He described Miller as being tired and dirty but uninjured.

Barton said dogs and a helicopter helped track Miller down. He was taken into custody without incident.

Miller, who was considered armed and dangerous, faces charges in both Ripley and Dunklin Counties.

According to court documents filed in Ripley County, the victim called for help around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 8 as she was driving herself to the hospital in Poplar Bluff from Grandin.

The victim told investigators that she was at her house in Kennett with her 17-month-old daughter when Miller walked into the restroom of her home.

Miller, who is the father of her child, electrocuted the victim with a flashlight stun gun, according to the probable cause statement.

The victim said Miller pulled out a large knife and climbed on top of her. She told investigators that he cut her hand open as she was trying to get away.

Miller reportedly forced the victim to have sex with him.

Afterward, the victim told police that Miller said he was going to tie her to the bed and inject her with liquid morphine so he could get away. But, after pleading with him and telling Miller she needed to care for their baby, Miller told her to get in a vehicle and he drove her from Kennett to Bay Nothing river access in Ripley County, near Grandin.

The baby was with them during the drive, according to court documents.

When they got to the river access, the victim told investigators that Miller said he was going to live in a tent in the woods. He then allegedly forced her out of the vehicle and raped her again.

As Miller was pulling his pants up, the victim was able to get in the vehicle and lock the doors. The victim said that after pacing around the vehicle, Miller walked into the woods.

That’s when the victim was able to drive herself to the hospital.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Miller was also suspected of breaking into a home in Ripley County and stealing a handgun around 7:45 p.m. on March 13, 2017.

He was also spotted on a trail camera in Grandin on Monday, March 13.

Miller faces these charges in Dunklin County:

  • Rape or attempted rape
  • 3 counts of Armed Criminal Action
  • Sodomy or attempted sodomy
  • Assault 1st degree
  • Kidnapping while facilitating a felony, inflicting injury and terrorizing
  • Kidnapping 2nd degree

He is also charged in Ripley County with rape or attempted rape, two counts of armed criminal action, and kidnapping 2nd degree.

A judge in Dunklin County set Miller’s bond at $250,000 cash only. In Ripley County, the judge ordered that Miller be held without bond.

During his court appearance in Ripley County on March 22, a judge read the charges against Miller and went over his past criminal history. The judge also denied a request for bond reduction.

Miller is due back in Ripley County court for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, March 29.

Advertisements

Scott City mayor: Audit underway, 3 people no longer employed by city

SCOTT CITY, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

An audit is underway in Scott City, Missouri amidst the dismissal of one employee and the resignation of two others.

One of the former employees, Ron Eskew, said he was asked to resign following an internal audit. His resignation was effective March 9.

While its unknown at this time what that audit entails, the city’s attorney said in a statement, “The city is not aware of any written correspondence, including emails about spending city funds.”

That statement was sent as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Lieutenant Casey Dodd with the Scott City Police Department resigned from his position on March 14.

Those documents also show that City Clerk Cindy Uhrhan was fired from her position on Feb. 21. The council voted 6-0 for her dismissal. However, two members of the city council abstained from the vote.

On Monday, March 20, Eskew stood in front of the city council and asked for payment from the city.

He requested that the council pay him for 11 days of roll over vacation time from last year, as well as paying a two month severance package if the internal audit shows, as he claims, he has done nothing wrong.

The council approved those payments as long as the audit shows he was not involved in any wrong doing.

Mayor Ron Cummins said he and other city leaders are compiling documents to take to the Scott County Prosecutor’s Office.

He also said he intends to ask the city council to enact significant policy changes in the immediate future, “as the old way of doing business lacked sufficient oversight and fostered an environment that was ripe for individual activity without accountability.”

Mayor Cummins said he could not comment further about the circumstances.

Southeast University sexual assault survivors find their voice through writing project

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

It can be difficult for victims of sexual assault to come forward, but survivors at Southeast Missouri State University are sharing their experiences on March 23.

Not only are they talking about it, but they are writing it down.

It’s called Project Unbreakable.

Survivors are shedding light on what they call the positive and negative words that will stay with them forever.

“It’s something that I’ve never told anyone before, even though, I have been talking about it for years now,” said survivor and Southeast student Jessica Strunk.

Words that normally don’t leave a journal.

Survivors at Southeast Missouri State University share the words of their attackers.

“We’ve had a few people come by that have never told anyone, and writing it down was the very first time they’ve actually had to look at it,” said Lynsea Casey, a graduate assistant for Campus Violence Prevention.

Strunk says her rapist was a friend.

“I’d known him for years. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to tell.”

But it was the words of her mother that meant the most.

“She understood that she didn’t know what I was going through, and she just wanted me to tell her what can she do, and it meant so much. That really helps more than anything,” Strunk said.

“This is a good way for other people to see what survivors go through, and to see the pain and the experience, and recognize the trauma that they’ve endured,” said Casey.

“It’s quite emotional. I literally almost felt like crying when I saw some of the statements. . Doing this kind of project is a way is to communicate to people – first, that it’s wrong, second, that this happens, and we need to work together,” said University President Carlos Vargas said.

Strunk says sharing can be difficult, but writing it out helps to let it go.

“It’s not a secret. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, and being able to help other people using my own experiences has meant everything to me,” Strunk said.

The women say they hope this will help others understand what survivors go through, and how others can help.

“A lot of people don’t know what to say because it’s such a harsh issue, and just asking how you can help makes so much of a difference,” Strunk.

The group got the idea through a blog on Tumblr.

If you’d like to participate click here.

Self-esteem program helps girls at Fredericktown High school

FREDERICKTOWN, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

Being a teenager can be tough, but a group of girls at Fredericktown High School say an after-school program is making it easier.

It’s called Just for Girls 2, and the group focuses on building up their self-esteem.

“Today we’re going to talk about how words are powerful,” mentor Becky Stamp told the group of girls.

Every Wednesday Mrs. Stamp has a new lesson ready.

This lesson was about words that hurt, and the ones that make you feel better.,

“When I say one of the negative things on there I want you to take your heart and I want you to crumple it a little bit each time. Because each time someone says something negative to us it crumples our heart just a little bit more,” Stamp said.

“Doesn’t that make you feel good that someone says you feel beautiful? Un-crumple your heart a little bit,” Stamp said.

Hallie Singer comes every week.

“I hear people talk about me all the time, but I put it aside, and I let it go, because I know that I can come here and talk to everyone else about it on Wednesday,” Singer said.

“I have seen them grow. At first, they did not want to open up and share their feelings. I’ve even seen their attendance get better at school, because they have people that care about them,” Stamp said.

The group focuses on building the girls up, when so often they may feel let down.

“This group helps a lot just seeing Mrs.Stamp during the day, and knowing she’s here for us. She’s like the light in our world I guess you’d say. Cause she’s always here for all of us. She knows what we’re feeling, and how we’re feeling, and she lets us talk to her about it,” Singer said.

“I love these girls just like they are my own. I worry about them when we’re not here at school,” Stamp said.

The girls say Mrs. Stamp’s lessons help them throughout the week, especially when that line of support isn’t right there.

“Nobody knows what’s going on besides you, so every school should at least have some kind of group like this. Some teacher should step up and start a group just to talk to people. Make them feel like they’re wanted in life, and just help them roll everything off their shoulders that gets told bad to them,” Singer said.

The group originated at the Fredericktown Middle School with their Just for Girls group.

MO Attorney General cracks down on human trafficking, forms task force

St Louis, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

Missouri’s new Attorney General is taking aim at Human Trafficking, and local leaders are supporting his effort.

We spoke with a prosecuting attorney and a police chief here in The Heartland, both said Hawley’s plan is innovative.

“We need a new abolitionist movement to confront the networks of violence and oppression that constitutes human trafficking, and I am here today to announce that Missouri is going to help lead the way, Hawley said in a press conference April 3.

He laid out a four point plan of defense.

  1. Impose regulations that go after financial and business practices commonly used by traffickers.
  2. Create a Human Trafficking Enforcement team
  3. Create a Human Trafficking Task Force
  4.  Provide training to law enforcement, first responders, and community members who may encounter victims.

“We know it happens, we know it goes on. You can go on Craigslist right now and see that it goes on, and so to have a task force that would help local law enforcement, prosecute, and really go after and target these things is a good thing,” said Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver

Oliver says he doesn’t see human trafficking often, but he hopes this initiative can bring more cases to light.

Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley stood with Hawley at his press conference – showing his support.

Whiteley said in a statement: “This is outside the box thinking by Attorney General Josh Hawley, and I believe this will make a huge difference in the fight against human trafficking in Missouri.”

“It’s very important that prosecutors, and community members receive the training that things like this task force will be providing, so that it will be realized, it will be prosecuted, and we can get these victims some help,” Oliver said.

According to Hawley’s release – Both The Poplar Bluff Police Department, and Sikeston’s Department of Public Safety will be a part of this task force.

Here is a full list of the task roster:

Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force Roster

Prosecutors

  • Ben Butler, Cass County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Kelly King, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Jason Lamb, Executive Director of the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services
  • Tim Lohmar, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Bob McCulloch, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Dan Patterson, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Catherine Vannier, Domestic Violence Resource Prosecutor, Missouri Office of Prosecution Services
  • Eric Zahnd, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney

Law Enforcement

  • Chief Chris Connally, St. Joseph Police Department
  • Major Sarah Eberhard, Director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Missouri Highway Patrol
  • Chief Brad Halsey, Independence Police Department
  • Chief Sara Holzmeier, Truman State University Department of Public Safety
  • Sheriff Randee Kaiser, Jasper County
  • Sheriff Mark Owen, Platte County
  • Chief Danny Whiteley, Poplar Bluff Police Department
  • Chief Mike Williams, Sikeston Department of Public Safety
  • Chief Paul Williams, Springfield Police Department

Non-Profit/Advocacy Sphere

  • Paul Banda, Anti-Trafficking Advocate
  • Amanda Colegrove, Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation
  • Pam Hamilton, Cornerstones of Care
  • Rochelle Keyhan, Polaris Project
  • Amanda Mohl, Anti-Trafficking Community Coordinator, International Institute of St. Louis;
  •  St. Louis Rescue & Restore Coalition
  • Katie Rhoades, Executive Director, Healing Action
  • Emily Russell, Victims’ Advocate
  • Nanette Ward, Chair, Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition

Bald eagle found in Cape Girardeau Co., MO recovering after surgery

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

Almost a week since it’s discovery in Cape Girardeau County, an American bald eagle is on the mend.

The doctor said it’s going to take months for the eagle to recover, but if it wasn’t found in time, it might not have survived.

“I call ’em Regal Eagle,” said Doctor Sean Byrd at Skyview Animal Clinic.

Dr. Byrd said when a wildlife worker found the eagle, it put up a fight.

“It took him two days to actually catch her, because she was so active. She wasn’t flying, but she was just taking off,” Byrd said.

By the time she got to the clinic the wound was old, so it was hard to tell what caused her injury.

“Wing injuries are the most common. We’ve seen everything from wing injuries to tail feathers were shot off, and most of them are probably gunshot wounds,” said Dr. Byrd.

Doctor Byrd said there’s a number of possibilities of what happened.

“I feel like the two ways is that somebody mistakes her for a different bird that’s not protected and endangered, or somebody just wants to shoot a bald eagle, which is kind of sad. I hope that’s not the case. I hope it was an accident,” said Dr. Byrd.

Another possibility he says is that she was hit by a car.

Either way, Regal Eagle is recovering in style.

“She’s very strong. Very active. Very healthy, but she had a big open nasty wound in basically this part of her leg. It was full of dead tissue. The bones were broken. So, we had to clean up the wound, and then place a pin in that wound,” said Dr. Byrd.

While the doctor said it’s nice having her around, pretty soon Regal Eagle will need to fly free.

“That’s the only goal is to get her out in the wild. These guys are not meant for captivity, so our sole goal is to get her back in the wild. I think she’s going to get there. I do,” Byrd said.

In a few weeks Regal Eagle will be headed to Watkins Wildlife rehab in Segewickville, and once she recovers the bird will be released back where she was found.

Sikeston voters say yes to new elementary school

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) – Original Post

It’s a step forward for Sikeston Schools after last week’s election.

Matthews Elementary will be replaced in 2019.

One teacher says it’s something she’s been hoping for.

“It’s not in the best condition,” 4th grade teacher Carrie Baldwin said.

For over 60 years kids have been going to Matthews Elementary, and now it will only be around for a few more.

“It’s time to move forward. The new construction and building is going to be able to house and meet our needs of that elementary much better,” Sikeston Schools Superintendent Tom Williams said.

Williams said over 75% of Sikeston, Missouri voters wanted a new school, and the move can’t come soon enough.

“In this wing we have two classrooms that can’t be plugged in at the same time. You can’t plug the smart board in at the same time as the laptop cart, and it’ll blow,” Mrs. Baldwin said.

The same goes for central air.

“In the winter we’re all bundled up, and so, when they’re cold they don’t focus as well, and it’s hard for me as a teacher also to focus whenever we are shivering,” Mrs. Baldwin said.

Baldwin says they’ve simply outgrown it with too many kids trying to fit into a classroom.

“Figuring out a desk combination is a challenge,” she said.

The new school will be on a plot of land on Colonel George E. Day Parkway.

Williams said they hope to break ground in a year.

“We got it right this time, and for that we’re extremely appreciative of the community of Sikeston,” Williams said.

“Anytime that we can make it easier for the students to learn, and have an environment for them to be ready to learn is just going to help us in the long run. So, I’m excited that we’re going to have students that will benefit from this school,” Baldwin said.

Superintendent Williams said thanks for the vote.

The district will sell 8 million dollars in bonds, and use 3 more from savings to pay for the school.