Top 10 Stories That Dominated Local Headlines in 2012

| December 31, 2012 | 7:20 am
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From several large building and grass fires to the shootings that roiled numerous northwest Missouri communities, 2012 was a busy year for local news. In addition to local elections and deadly crashes that dominated the news this year, KMZU News published a series of stories on one incident that would divide a community and underscore the effects of high school bullying. Another series focused on the fall out from a troubled woman’s actions. Here we highlight those stories that made regional and state headlines, along with others that did not.

10: Baby Found by Saline Co. Creek

Saline County authorities hoped for the best and feared the worst when 32-year-old Lydia Iliff showed up at the home of relative without her young daughter.  The investigation began on the morning of July 5th when a truck was reported stolen from the area.  A few hours later Iliff and her child were reported missing by family members.  It would later be revealed the Sedalia resident had stolen the vehicle only to abandon it in a field hours later.

In the late evening hours of July 7th, relatives once again contacted law enforcement with the news that Iliff was at their home, but did not have the baby.  Reports indicate she was extremely disoriented and remembered only that she left the child near a creek.

This launched a search of the area by officers and community volunteers. Within hours they had discovered the body of the 18-month-old victim.  Coroner Willie Harlow explained the tragic details surrounding her death.

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Iliff spent more than three weeks in the hospital following the July incident.  She was arrested by Saline County deputies and charged with a probation violation and tampering with a motor vehicle the day she was discharged from the hospital.  Iliff was accused of her daughter’s death October the 24th when she was charged with murder and endangering the welfare of a child.

Today, Iliff remains in custody.  Her next court appearance is scheduled for February in Saline County.

9: Authorities Respond to Shooting in Warrensburg

It was a murder so gruesome it dominated headlines across the KMZU listening area for weeks.  When the body of William “Blaine” Whitworth, 25, a Warrensburg bar owner, was found in his driveway on September 1st it sparked a response from close to three dozen law enforcement officials.  Autopsy results show Whitworth died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.  More than one-hundred leads were investigated by the Missouri Rural Major Case Squad, which was made up of members of the State Highway Patrol, as well as police and sheriff’s deputies from Johnson, Pettis, Henry, Saline, and Ray counties.

Four days after the alleged murder, Ziyad Abid, 23, and Reginald Singletary, 27, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.  It was later revealed that Singletary allegedly shot Whitworth at the request of Abid and in exchange for money.

Singletary is scheduled to appear in court on the 7th of January.  Abid is expected to appear for a case review on January 22nd.

8: Fire Burns More than 500 Acres

Grass fires were a common occurence during summer months when high temperates and extreme dry conditions settled into the area.  It was an afternoon in late August that brought one of the worst blazes of the season to our listening area.  Crews from several nearby communities responded to the scene north of Braymer near Sue Line and Black Oak Roads.  KMZU’s Sarah Scott was on the scene that day as the fire captain described the conditions they were up against.

“There’s a red flag alert, which means that it’s real dry conditions, high winds, and low humidity,” he reported, “Which, with the wind staying up like it is, it’s hard to tell when it will be contained completely.”

That containment did not come until the late night hours and, in the end, an estimated 500 acres had been torched.  The blaze that was initially started by a tractor that caught fire jumped three gravel roads and caused an evacuation of the area.

7. The Vikings Fire in Carrollton.

During the early morning hours of August 11th a fire ripped through a Carrollton bar and restaurant leaving nothing but charred remains.  According to reports, employees had closed down the bar less than 15 minutes before the blaze broke out.  Fire crews from Carrollton, Norborne and Marshall responded to the scene, but according to Fire Chief Curtis Shields the building was fully engulfed upon their arrival. Witnesses stated that the circumstances seemed suspicious. Bar owner Christie Warden spoke to our news department the morning of the fire.

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More than two months later, it would be Warden’s own daughter charged with intentionally starting the fire.  Tiffany Chilton, 24, managed the bar with her mother.  Chilton was taken into custody and charged with arson.  She appeared in a Carroll County courtroom in early December and requested the service of a public defender. Proceedings for Chilton will continue with a hearing scheduled for January second.

 

6. The Odd Case of Shawna Jobe

The original call came into the newsroom as a tip regarding several fires involving a Lexington family.  The caller said the incidents all seemed suspicious in nature and they believed an investigation was underway.  On August 3rd, calls to both the fire and police departments verified the story. Chief Don Rector confirmed there had been five fires at the residence on Lakeview Drive, as well as two vehicle fires.  At that time, appliances and DNA samples from the home had been sent to the lab for testing.

The following day, emergency personnel were once again called to the residence in response to an alleged assault.  Calls to our newsroom indicated 38-year-old Shawna Jobe had doused herself in hairspray and then set herself on fire.  Her husband, Kenny, denied that claim and said Shawna had been the victim of a vicious crime.

Three days later, Jobe was taken into custody and charged with felony stealing and theft of property valued at more than $25,000, as well as making a false police report. Within the same week, three additional charges of arson would be added to that list.
Bond was set at 100-thousand dollars.

An order for a mental examination was filed by the court in mid-October and, according to online records, that was the most recent activity in the case.  No further proceedings for Jobe have been scheduled at this time.

 

5. The Leeper Hotel Fire

A downtown building under demolition in Chillicothe caused quite a stir in early June.  Calls began pouring into the newsroom shortly before 6 that evening with reports that the old Leeper Hotel had caught fire.  As word spread crowds gathered on the streets to watch crews bring the blaze under control.  At one point, Highway 65 was shut down and traffic rerouted due to the heavy smoke pouring from the building.

The state fire marshal was on the scene in the days that followed and determined the blaze started in rubble as demolition crews worked to bring the building down.  No injuries were reported and only minor damage was sustained by surrounding businesses.

The structure has now been completely removed and a green space added to where the historic building once stood.

4.  Marceline Murder

An early-morning crime shocked residents of Marceline in late March.

Emergency Responders were called to the OK Tavern at about 1:00 a.m. on March 24th for reports of a shooting.  Once there, they found 27-year-old Robert Niemeier lying in the nearby Dollar General parking lot, surrounded by people.  He was transported to Pershing Memorial Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

A tip led authorities to another home in the Marceline area later that morning.  They found 27-year-old Justin McDowell dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in the 200 block of East Howell.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol, assisted by the Marceline Police Department and the sheriff’s departments from both Chariton and Linn counties then launched a 14-week investigation into the two men’s deaths.

The incident was ruled a murder-suicide.  No motive was released.

3.  Charges Filed in Alleged Assault

It was a story that many simply didn’t want to believe. The tiny, close-knit community was faced with the fact that some of it’s teenage residents were being accused of sexual assault.  On February 7th, 17-year-old Jeffrey Ellis and 18-year-old Randy Estenbaum were both charged with focible sodomy.  In addition, Estenbaum also faced counts of third-degree assault and sexual misconduct.  Court documents alleged the boys sodomized a classmate in the locker room at Hardin-Central High on two seperate occassions reportedly in October and November of 2011.  At the time, it was believed more students would be charged in the case, but that has not happened.

Since February, the cases against Estenbaum and Ellis have seen changes of judge, cancellations, and multiple delays.  At this time, Estenbaum is expected to face a jury in June and Ellis in July.  Both boys have entered pleas of not guilty and remain free on bond.

 

2. Two Deaths in Richmond Tie for Runner-Up

The first unfolded the morning of May 23rd when 40-year-old Michelle Rheuport was found dead inside her Richmond home.  Authorities from the local police department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted a full investigation and the following day arrested three individuals for the crime.  Lauren Gabbard, 23, of Henrietta, James Gant, 25, of Richmond, and Brandon Simpson, 25, were each charged with second-degree murder, burglary, and theft/stealing.

In testimony during later court proceedings, it would be revealed the trio allegedly planned to burglarize the home.  That action ultimately would lead to the death of Rheuport.  It has been reported that items from the home were later found at the residence of one of the suspects and text messages between the three led to their arrests.

At this time, they remain in custody and have entered not-guilty pleas.  Both Simpson and Gabbard have court appearances scheduled in January.  No further proceedings are currently on the docket for Gant.

Coincidentally, the other story tied for our second place spot also came from the Richmond area.  Emergency crews were called to a home on Southview Drive on August 18 where they found three-month-old Aprhil Matthews unresponsive.  The infant was pronounced dead at the scene.  An autopsy would reveal her death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest with internal bleeding.

The story became even more heartbreaking when a two month investigation concluded with the arrest of her parents.  Rebecca Matthews, 23, and Dennis Matthews, 24, were charged on October 19th with abuse of a child resulting in death.

Both husband and wife continue to be held on $500,000 cash-only bonds and have entered pleas of not-guilty.  They are scheduled to be arraigned on January second.

1.  Three Wrecks at Missouri State Fair

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It was the final night of the 2012 Missouri State Fair and one that a Carrollton family will never forget.  Jordan Creason, 15, was racing in a sprint car event when things went terribly wrong.

“We believe something broke on the car that evening,”said Robyn,” He was leading the race and pretty far away from any other vehicles at the time. He was going into turn two we believe something broke and it actually turned to the right real hard.  He ended up going into the guard rail at a high rate of speed.”

Jordan would spend the next five days unconscious with a brain injury at the University Hospital ICU in Columbia.  Robyn says she and her husband Todd clung to hope during that week.  “Really the first moment where I think we knew that Jordan was still there was actually before he woke up on Friday night,”said Robyn,” Jordan has always been a very loving, caring individual.  Even before he woke up, he would hold mine and Todd’s hands, caress our heads and run his fingers through our hair.  So, that love just came through even before he woke up.  We knew at that point he was still in there.”

Jordan was finally released from the hospital and allowed to return home at the end of September. He doesn’t remember the accident itself or many of the events that took place during the summer of 2012, but he was able to recognize and remember people and events from his past prior to that time.

Jordan says he’s still on the journey of recovery, but making great strides each and every day. “I’ve had a few difficulties with my short-term memory, raising my right foot, and my thumb twitching,”said Jordan.

As for football?  Jordan’s name remained on the Carrollton roster this season and he says he’s looking forward to rejoining his teammates next fall.  “I hope to come back,” said Jordan,” I’m going to do summer camp with them, but I can’t hit because the doctor said no hitting.  I’m going to lift weight with them.”

Robyn gave what might be a suprising answer when asked about Jordan’s return to the race track.  “Well, I think Jordan would certainly hope to get back into racing someday,”said Robyn,” We would support him if that’s a decision he makes down the road.”

The Creasons expressed gratitude to their family, friends, and the community of Carrollton for the support they have shown.  “They just continue to be there for us today,” said Robyn,” We’ve even had people reach out that don’t know Jordan or our family.  I don’t know how many Christmas cards he received this year, but we would get a letter from someone that would say Jordan didn’t know them, but they had been following his story and praying for him every day.”

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