September 1, 2014

Man charged in shooting death of central Missouri boy, 6

A former Columbia man has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the death of a six-year-old Fulton boy.

Scottie Willet

Scottie Willet

27-year-old Scottie Willet is being held on $1 million bond in Callaway County. Police say he admitted to shooting the six-year-old boy with a handgun.

In a separate filing Willet is also charged with stealing a firearm.

The boy had been reported missing early this morning from a Callaway County home. His body was later found hidden inside the residence with multiple gunshot wounds.

Willet was found about two hours later in a Sedalia trailer park and was placed under arrest for failing to appear in court for a littering charge.  On court documents he has a Sedalia address.

Role in Ferguson of new Public Safety chief not defined

Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) new nominee for Public Safety Director comes from the part of the state that has seen great turmoil in the past two weeks, but he and Nixon have shied away from discussing what he will bring to Ferguson.

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety.  (Photo credit:  Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety. (Photo credit: Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom is the former Chief of the nearby St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and has been announced as the new Department of Public Safety Director. Nixon touts Isom’s impressive resume as a law enforcement officer, well-educated about criminal justice.

Ferguson has been rocked by periods of rioting and looting in the past two weeks; violence carried out by some but not all of those protesting the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. Perhaps nowhere in the state is public safety a more pressing concern, but neither Nixon nor Isom would talk specifically about what has happened, or will be happening, in Ferguson.

“First as I take on this role I plan to do a lot of listening and a lot of learning,” Isom told reporters as part of a prepared statement on Wednesday.

Nixon reminded reporters that the position’s responsibilities would be statewide.

“We could have a tornado in some town tomorrow and then that side of the equation would get going,” says Nixon. “I think the first relatively short period of time here, the chief’s focus will be on getting a good hold, both intellectually and operationally, of the department that he’s leading.”

Reporters asked Nixon about how Isom’s experience will help in Ferguson or how the new appointee might attack that issue, but the governor declined specifics.

He did give a nod to the urgency of the situation, however.

“I just think it’s a really, obviously, clearly an important time for seasoned leadership here,” says Nixon. “Cops on the beat and the citizens of the state, I think they’re going to be well-served by our new director.”

Isom’s is subject to approval by the state Senate.

Earlier story:  Gov. Nixon names former St. Louis Police Chief new Department of Public Safety Director

Changes to higher education funding formula take effect today (AUDIO)

The way Missouri taxpayers fund higher education is changing today.

A new law requires state colleges and universities to set standards for student retention, graduation rates, and job placement.   Ninety percent of any proposed funding increase for any given school will be based on whether the school has met its own standards.

The schools could set easily-achievable goals but the sponsor of the bill, Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), doesn’t think that’s likely.  “I’m very confident universities will come up with rigorous standards…The department of higher education…will have some input to say, ‘…this really probably isn’t strong enough,’” he says.

The legislature, which appropriates money to the institutions, also can evaluate the standards.  He says Universities that don’t achieve will get smaller funding increases, or no increases, a situation that will send a message to a university’s governing board members that things need to be improved.

The bill is becoming law today but its impact won’t be felt until the next state budget is written.

AUDIO: Pearce interview 17:07

Guard withdraws from Ferguson, command center stands down

The command center where the National Guard, Highway Patrol and local police coordinated efforts in Ferguson for much of the past two weeks has been taken down.

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (center) announces the unified command center at Ferguson has been dismantled.  (photo credit; Jessica Machetta)

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (center) announces the unified command center at Ferguson has been dismantled. (photo credit; Jessica Machetta)

The command center was established while protests, some that became violent, continued night after night after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

After a series of nights without outbreaks of violence, Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson says it was clear a scale back could occur.

He told reporters on Wednesday, “Yesterday and last night there was one arrest, for carrying a concealed weapon. That was not related to the protesters. Friday night there were zero arrests, Saturday night there were six arrests, Sunday it was zero, Monday night it was zero, and as I said, there was only one arrest last night.”

Johnson added, “Again last night officers serving in the unified command deployed no tear gas, no smoke devices, no mace, and again no police officer fired a single bullet.”

Johnson was placed in command of security in Ferguson as Governor Jay Nixon (D), amid criticism, was attempting to ease tensions, and that seems to have happened.

“Early in the response to Ferguson there was tension between law enforcement and some of the protesters,” says Johnson. “I think all of you who have been in Ferguson the last several days have noticed a positive change toward relationship building.”

Johnson believes the tension is easing across the region.

“Change started because we in law enforcement are listening. It is hard to listen when people are shouting. It’s hard for children to learn when schools are closed. It’s hard to keep a business running when they’re being looted. Those are things that are not happening in Ferguson because people are communicating with one another.”

Johnson says a unified command does continue, but the Guard has withdrawn and St. Louis City Police are back on their normal turf.

Two who posed with corpse arrested after photos posted to Facebook

Two southwest Missouri residents have now been arrested for taking pictures with a corpse – pictures that were later posted to Facebook.

Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland says 24-year-old Chelsie Berry of Carl Junction and 28-year-old Jared Prier of Joplin are charged with abandonment of a corpse. Copeland tells KZRG he made the arrests after getting a tip that the pair were seen in the pictures posing with the body of 30-year-old Dennis Meyer of Joplin, which was found on a rural driveway last week.

The Joplin Globe reports Copeland believes the three had been partying together last week and that Meyer had overdosed and died. He says Berry told authorities she knew Meyer was dead when the photos were taken and the body abandoned.

Authorities don’t yet know how Meyer died but a drug overdose has been referenced as a possible cause.