September 30, 2014

MO House Committee will look at Water Patrol training, not Ellingson drowning

A state House committee review of the merger of the state Water Patrol with the Highway Patrol begins Wednesday.

Representatives Don Phillips (left) and Jeff Roorda (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representatives Don Phillips (left) and Jeff Roorda (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Two members of that committee are former law enforcement officers, who spoke with Missourinet about what the committee will, and won’t, look at in relation to the drowning of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson while in Water Patrol custody in May.

That incident was not referenced in a media release announcing the formation of that committee, but Representatives Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhardt, and Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, both say it was likely a catalyst. That announcement came just eight days after a special prosecutor said there would be no charges against Anthony Piercy, the trooper who took Ellingson into custody.

“It was kind of a preemptive for causing attention to be put on the merger,” says Phillips. “That particular incident, as unfortunate as it was, was a good portion of the reason why this is being looked at, but not for us to investigate it.”

Phillips and Roorda both say it isn’t the committee’s job to look for new evidence in that case. The training of Water Patrol troopers will be something the committee looks at, though, in part because Piercy, a former road trooper, told a coroner’s inquest that he didn’t feel he had received enough training before going out on the water.

Phillips wants to learn how training compares to what he went through en route to becoming a Highway Patrol trooper.

“Having gone through … a 26 week academy when I went through in 1978, I got some of the greatest training a person could ever have,” says Phillips. “I’m not sure, until I hear some of the testimony, what’s going on with that now when you have the option of going to the water from the road and visa-versa.”

Roorda believes when legislative committees go looking for who is to blame for situations such as Ellingson’s drowning, lawmakers often learn they share part of the blame.

“A lot of times the answer is we are [to blame] for not fully funding the mission of our state agencies, and particularly the mission of our public safety agencies,” says Roorda. “If they didn’t get enough training it’s probably because we didn’t give them enough financial support to provide the training.”

Hearings are scheduled for Wednesday in the State Capitol and October 14 at the Osage Beach City Hall. The committee plans to have a report ready by the end of the year.

Media association wants MO Attorney General investigation of Ferguson

A broadcast media association is asking the Attorney General’s Office to investigate “exorbitant fees” being charged by the City of Ferguson for copies of records relating to the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

The Radio, Television, Digital News Association cites reports that some news media have been told fulfilling their requests would cost unspecified “thousands of dollars” for copies of documents. RTDNA accuses the City of Ferguson of “apparent contempt for the media-something so graphically demonstrated on the streets of Ferguson during the nights following the shooting.”

According to the Attorney General’s Office, government agencies can charge, “up to 10 cents per page for standard paper copies, the average hourly rate of pay for clerical staff to duplicate documents, and the actual cost of the research time for fulfilling the request.” State law also requires a governmental body to use, “the lowest salaried employees capable of searching, researching, and copying the records. Fees for accessing records on other media, or non-standard paper copies, shall reflect actual cost involved.”

See the letter from RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender to Attorney General Chris Koster:

RTDNA to AG on Ferguson

Missouri sets new execution date for convicted murderer Leon Taylor

The Missouri Supreme Court has set a new execution date for a man who murdered an Independence service station attendant 20 years ago.

Leon Taylor (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Leon Taylor (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Leon Taylor, 56, is scheduled to die by lethal injection November 19 at the prison in Bonne Terre. The court had scheduled his execution for this month but withdrew that death warrant after his lawyers said they would be unable to work on his case at that time.

Instead, the Court ordered Earl Ringo, Junior, to be executed for the 1998 double murders of a Columbia restaurant manager and a delivery driver. That execution, the eighth by Missouri this year, was carried out September 10.

On April 14, 1994, Robert Newton was working at a service station and his 8-year-old stepdaughter was keeping him company. Taylor and two siblings had purchased gas from the station. Taylor then returned, pulled a gun, and threatened to shoot Newton if he didn’t give Taylor money. Newton gave him about $400 in a bank bag. Taylor then led Newton to a back room and shot him in the head, killing him.

Taylor turned the gun on the little girl and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. He then locked the girl in the back room with her stepfather.

Missouri is next scheduled to execute Mark Christeson on the morning of October 29.

Missouri Unclaimed property auction nets $100K for owners

Nearly $100,000 has been netted in an auction of unclaimed property that was being held by the state.

The State Treasurer’s Office says the auction sold about 1,600 items found in safe deposit boxes, including rare coins and jewelry. The largest winning bid was $5,500 for a 10-karat gold Omega men’s wristwatch and matching 14-karat gold bracelet.

Such property winds up in the control of the Treasurer’s Office after a safe deposit box goes for five years with no activity or contact from the owner.

Proceeds from auctions like this one are held by the Treasurer’s Office until the rightful owners of the unclaimed property or their heirs come forward to claim it.

University of Missouri team finds way to fight cancer with communication

Researchers at the University of Missouri might have found a way to fight cancer by interrupting its communication.

Cancer cells in the right image were treated and in the left image are shown to have been killed.  (courtesy; University of Missouri News Bureau)

Cancer cells in the right image were treated and in the left image are shown to have been killed. (courtesy; University of Missouri News Bureau)

Those researchers were studying a molecule used by bacteria to communicate. That molecule would allow bacteria to tell one another to do things like multiply, to flee from a body’s immune system, or to stop spreading.

Assistant Research Professor Senthil Kumar says the team then made a discovery “by accident.”

“We’ve found that this molecule can be effectively used against cancer cells,” says Kumar, by introducing the same molecule to cancer cells. It can be used to tell cancer cells to stop spreading, or even to die.

“The cancer cells migrate to form metastasis in the distant organs … we are able to stop that migration when we use this compound. We also found that the genes responsible for this migration can be influenced by this compound.”

Much more research must be done before the technique will be tried on humans, but so far it’s shown promising results against one of the most treatment resistant cancers there is; pancreatic

Professor Senthil Kumar

Professor Senthil Kumar

In the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, Kumar and co-author Jeffrey Bryan, an associate professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, treated pancreatic cancer cells and were successful in ceasing their multiplication. The cells failed to migrate and began to die.

“Because this treatment shows promise in such an aggressive cancer like pancreatic cancer, we believe it could be used in other types of cancer cells and our lab is in the process of testing this treatment in other types of cancer,” says Kumar.

The next step, he says, is to find a more efficient way to introduce the molecules to the cancer cells.

“At this time, we are only able to treat cancer cells with this molecule in a laboratory setting.”