May 26, 2015

Brother ‘elated’ Missouri man serving life for pot offenses will get parole hearing

After 21 years, the family of the only man serving life without parole in a Missouri prison under an outdated sentencing law has learned he will get a parole hearing.

Jeff Mizanskey (courtesy; Facebook)

Jeff Mizanskey (courtesy; Facebook)

“I’m elated. I am so happy right now,” Michael Mizanskey told Missourinet, after learning that his brother Jeff Mizanskey would get a parole hearing.

Jeff Mizanskey, of Sedalia, was sentenced for marijuana possession and distribution under a persistent offender sentencing law from the 1990s that has since been changed. His family, lawyers, members of the public, and state lawmakers have all joined an effort to see him released.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has commuted Mizanskey’s sentence so that he will get a parole hearing. Michael says his family will be there to speak.

“We’ll say that we miss our Jeff. We miss Jeff dearly. He’s missed so much. He’s been a model prisoner all his time in there,” Michael Mizanskey told Missourinet. “He’s never said, ‘Why me?’ and blamed anybody except himself, and he’s done his time.”

Michael Mizanskey testified in favor of a bill aimed at getting his brother, Jeff Mizanskey, released from prison.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Michael Mizanskey testified in favor of a bill aimed at getting his brother, Jeff Mizanskey, released from prison. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

In his time in prison, Mizanskey has been written up twice: once for having a dirty cell, and one for putting a piece of mail in the wrong box. Michael thinks he has an excellent chance at being paroled.

“I hope to God it is,” he said. “With that kind of record in over 21 years, who else would be better for parole?”

Michael Mizanskey says his brother has a strong support group waiting for him if he is able to get out of prison.

“He’s got a place with me whenever he wants it. I have a place for him. He has a lot of support,” said Michael Mizanskey. “He is very well-loved. He was a great guy. He always was a great guy, did anything for you, and he has a lot of friends out there.”

“I just want to thank Governor Nixon for doing the right thing,” he added, “and commuting his sentence so he can have a chance at parole.”

A Corrections Department spokesman says Jeff Mizanskey’s hearing will be set sometime this summer.

Missouri governor commutes sentence of man serving life for pot offenses, issues 5 pardons

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has pardoned five non-violent offenders and has commuted the sentence of the only man serving life in a Missouri prison for marijuana-related offenses.

Jeff Mizanskey

Jeff Mizanskey

Nixon’s action makes Jeff Mizanskey eligible for parole. Mizanskey was sentenced to life without parole in 1996 as a persistent drug offender, under sentencing laws that have since been rewritten by the legislature.

Mizanskey has been the subject of multiple efforts seeking his release, including petition campaigns and the filing of legislation in the session that ended last week.

The pardons Nixon granted were to five people who have completed their sentences for crimes committed as far back as 1958.

Those individuals are:

  • Michael Derrington has been a substance abuse counselor for almost 30 years and received the Helen B. Madden Memorial Award from the National Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in 2008 for his work in the field. In 1979, he was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in St. Louis County and paid a $100 fine.
  • Nicole Lowe lives in Tennessee and has been employed as a loan officer with various banking and mortgage companies. In 2000, she was given a suspended execution of sentence in St. Francois County after being convicted of misdemeanor stealing for taking two deposits from her employer. Lowe returned the amount she stole and successfully completed a two-year term of probation.
  • Bill Holt worked as a school bus driver for nearly three decades. In 1958, he was convicted of misdemeanor non-support in Douglas County and spent less than two weeks in the county jail before being placed on probation. Holt successfully completed his probation.
  • Doris Atchison has completed a vocational heating and air condition program. In 1970, she was convicted in Cape Girardeau County of misdemeanor stealing of items valued at $1.46 from a local store. For the crime, she paid a $45 fine.
  • Earl Wolf has worked as a carpenter and as a truck driver. In 1961, he and two others broke into a grocery store in Mercer County and stole several items. He was convicted on misdemeanor burglary and larceny charges and received a three-year term of probation, which he successfully completed.

Earlier stories:

Decision on release of Missouri man serving life for pot could come by ‘relatively’ early summer

Legislature asked to free Missouri man sentenced to life for pot

Petition:  release Missouri man in prison 21 years for pot crimes (VIDEO)

Sedalia woman held in a box, son found murdered

A man accused of holding a Sedalia, Missouri woman in a wooden box for months is now accused of murdering her and her son.

James Barton Horn

James Barton Horn

Police in Clinton found the bodies of 46-year-old Sandra Kay Sutton and her 17-year-old son, Zachary, early this morning. They had been staying with her family, who found their bodies.  Both appeared to have been fatally shot.

The suspected killer is James Barton Horn, Junior, Sandra’s ex-boyfriend who has been on the run for keeping her in a wooden box for four months. He is described as 47-years-old, five feet 11 inches tall, weighing about 175 pounds. He has brown hair and eyes. Horn is known to frequent the Sedalia and Pettis County areas and authorities say he should be considered armed and dangerous.

Clinton police have asked for activation of the Missouri Rural Major Case Squad to help local authorities with the investigation.

Sutton escaped from a home in Sedalia early this month and called police, who later found a box at the home that matched the description she gave as being what he routinely locked her in.

Brad Tregnago, KSSZ, contributed to this story


Missouri joins nationwide lawsuit against four sham cancer charities

A lawsuit has been filed against four so-called cancer charities in what officials call one of the largest charity fraud cases ever.

Attorney General Chris Koster

Attorney General Chris Koster’s office has filed a lawsuit against four fake cancer charities.

Missouri is one of the states that filled a lawsuit against four sham cancer charities and their operators for scamming more than $187-million in donations from people throughout the country.  The defendants spent donated money on personal items, including cars, college tuition, cruises to the Caribbean, jet-ski outings, concert tickets, and subscriptions to dating websites.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division Spokesman Joe Bindeutel said those charities have been shut down.

“Missourians were impacted and that’s why we took a leadership role in this effort and put the kind of time and effort it took to get the case to this point,” said Bindeutel.  “We have confirmed that approximately $3-million came from folks in Missouri, who thought they were giving to a legitimate charity, and obviously were not.”

Bindeutel said the chief perpetrator had his wife and son involved with the affiliated charities.

“It was nepotism at its worst,” said Bindeutel.  “They set themselves up with different companies, they ran a very similar scam, they used names that were attractive and similar to very legitimate companies, they very aggressively tele-marketed these charities, and approximately 97-percent of the money went to their lifestyle rather than any charitable purpose.”

Three of the individual defendants have reached settlement agreements, but no one has received jail time.  The scammers will be required to pay back a portion of what they took because of limited ability to pay.  Litigation will proceed against the chief perpetrator, James Reynolds, Sr, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

“We’re going to do the very best we can to collect as much money as we can,” said Bindeutel.  “We will be aggressively trying to find any and all assets of these principal entities that were over paid for such an extended period of time and convert that into resources that can go to the true charitable purpose that the funds were intended for.”

Missouri sets date to execute man who raped, killed Strafford girl in 2001

The state Supreme Court has set an execution date for a man who kidnapped, raped, and murdered a 19-year-old Strafford woman in 2001.

David Zink (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

David Zink (photo courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

David Zink is scheduled to die by lethal injection between 6 p.m. July 14 and 5:59 p.m. July 15 at the state prison in Bonne Terre. If that date holds, his death would come 14 years and two days after he killed Amanda Morton.

Zink rear-ended Morton’s vehicle at an exit ramp on Highway 44 while she was driving home. She called authorities, who found her car with its engine running and her personal belongings still inside.

A hotel manager later recognized Morton’s photo on a television broadcast and called police. That eventually led them to Zink, who had signed the hotel register when he took her there. He admitted to killing Morton and burying her in a church cemetery near Osceola. DNA from her body, hair samples found in Zink’s truck, and paint from her car on his truck, also connected him to the crime.

The murder happened five months after Zink was released from a Texas prison where he had served 20 years for abduction and rape.

Missouri is next scheduled to carry out the execution of Richard Strong for the murder of his girlfriend and her 2-year-old child in 2000. His execution is scheduled for June 9.