January 30, 2015

Proposal would add human trafficking survivors to Missouri protection law

A group of bi-partisan lawmakers have proposed legislation meant to help protect Missouri human trafficking survivors.  Secretary of State Jason Kander joined those legislators and members of law enforcement to announce the bill that would add those survivors to Missouri’s “Safe at Home” program.

Secretary of State Jason Kander

Secretary of State Jason Kander

The “Safe At Home” program allows survivors of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and stalking, to hide their addresses in an effort to keep their assailants from finding them.  The program provides survivors with a new, substitute mailing address.  Senate Bill 211 and House Bill 368 would extend the program’s protections to human trafficking survivors.

Kander said human trafficking is becoming a growing problem in Missouri and the Department of Justice recently ranked St. Louis one of the top twenty human trafficking jurisdictions in the country.

He hopes the broad legislative support will help pass the law quickly.

“Getting this legislation to Governor Nixon’s desk as soon as possible is important because people’s lives are at stake,” said Kander.  “We know that those who escape from trafficking are often afraid their traffickers will come after them.”

Sex trafficking survivor Katie Rhoades says for her, leaving was the scariest part, and safety after leaving is the biggest concern for many survivors.

“My pimp had my social security number, driver’s license, access to my birth certificate,” said Rhoades.  “So, I had a pretty real fear, that, no matter where I went, he was going to be able to find me.”

Rhoades’s sex trafficking experience began at age 18 but she escaped in 2002.  She says a program like “Safe At Home” would have helped her and other survivors.

“Safe At Home” has helped more than 2500 Missourians.  Kander says the goal is to prevent participants’ assailants from finding out their location through any sort of public document.

Senator Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis County) is one of the sponsors of the proposal.

“We must always remember that when we speak about these issues, we always say she,” said Walsh.  “Women are not the only victims of these devastating crimes.”

North Carolina, Washington, Oregon, and Maryland have already passed legislation that includes human trafficking survivors in their address confidentiality programs.

5pm Update: Springfield officer that was shot, person being questioned, named

Update 5pm:

The Springfield police chief has identified the officer who was shot early this morning and the man being questioned about that shooting.

Police Chief Paul Williams says officer Aaron Pearson is a three-year veteran of the Department who liked working the late shift.

“He enjoyed working the graveyard shift, keeping you all safe while you were sleeping,” said Williams.

Springfield media say the man that was taken into custody near the scene of the shooting is 32-year-old Joshua Hagood. He is not identified as a suspect but he has been questioned.

The investigation is continuing.

Earlier story:

Springfield police officer shot, search for shooter continues

Police in Springfield, Missouri are still looking for the person that shot one of their officers early this morning in the northern part of the city.

Springfield shooting pic

Police in Springfield secure the scene near where one of their officers was shot early Monday morning. (Courtesy; Chase Snider, KTTS)

Springfield Police Captain Greg Higdon said the officer was responding to a call to check on a person. That’s when the suspect took out a gun.

“We know that shots were fired and the suspect left the area on foot, and the officer was taken to a local hospital and is being treated,” said Higdon.

The officer is reported to be in serious condition.

KTTS News has photos of the crime scene and more coverage.

Traffic this morning in Springfield could be interrupted while authorities look for the shooter

Man escapes after being kidnapped and driven across Missouri

A man has escaped his kidnappers after being taken across the state yesterday.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the 67-year-old victim told police two suspects held him at gunpoint while stealing his van and kidnapping him early Thursday morning in Kansas City. He says they assaulted him and made him withdraw money from different accounts in different banks.

He was able to get away hours later in St. Louis County. Police are still looking for the suspects.

Attorney awaits Missouri high court’s next move after death warrant pulled

The Missouri Supreme Court has vacated its execution warrant for a man less than a week before he was scheduled to die.

Marcellus Williams (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Marcellus Williams (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

46-year-old Marcellus Williams had been scheduled to died Wednesday morning by lethal injection for the 1998 murder of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle at her home in University City. The Court is not saying why it has taken the action, nor has it acted on motions Williams’ attorneys have filed with it.

“His application for a writ of Habeas Corpus and his request for DNA testing is still pending,” Kent Gipson, Williams’ attorney, told Missourinet. “I think what’s going on now is the Missouri Supreme Court is trying to figure out how to handle that request.”

Williams is seeking DNA testing of hairs Gipson says were found at the crime scene that were never tested for DNA but under a microscope, did not match his client, the victim, or her husband.

Gipson says the Court, “could rule on it on their own or they could appoint a special master, which is usually a retired or current judge to resolve any disputes or any evidentiary issues, or they could just order more briefing and argument on the case before they ultimately decide that.”

Gipson wants to at least see Williams’ sentence for the murder commuted to life in prison without parole. Though Williams maintains he is innocent of Gayle’s murder, Gipson says Williams is already sentenced to life without parole for another crime.

It’s unclear when the Court might take further action on Williams’ case.

“I don’t anticipate anything will happen until probably the first week in February when we may hear something about how the case is going to proceed,” said Gipson.

Gipson was happy about the unusual move by the Court.

“I don’t know that I can think of any recent case where they have stayed one of their own execution warrants. The two men who got stays during the recent spate of executions in the last 12 to 14 months both got stays from the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Gipson.

Missouri’s next scheduled execution is that of Walter Storey, who was sentenced to death for the 1990 murder of his St. Charles County neighbor Jill Frey.

Earlier stories:

Missouri Supreme Court halts upcoming execution of Marcellus Williams

Missouri inmate scheduled for execution seeks DNA testing

Execution set for Missouri killer of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter

Missouri Supreme Court halts upcoming execution of Marcellus Williams

Marcellus Williams (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Marcellus Williams (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

The Missouri Supreme Court has withdrawn the execution warrant on Marcellus Williams. A Department of Corrections spokesperson would not say what prompted the high court’s decision.

Williams was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the prison in Bonne Terre early the morning of January 28 for the 1998 murder of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle. Williams’ attorney asked for a halt on the execution, claiming a lack of evidence.

“The evidence against him is so weak that even as it exists now it would be unjust to execute him when there’s substantial doubt about his guilt,” attorney Kent Gipson argued. “Plus, we’re seeking access to additional DNA testing that could conclusively prove that he’s innocent.”

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