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2020 In Review: A look back at the top local stories in Springfield and the Ozarks region

As the year comes to a close, KY3 takes a look back at several stories around Springfield and...
As the year comes to a close, KY3 takes a look back at several stories around Springfield and the Ozarks region that had a major impact in 2020.(KY3)
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 7:04 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - As the year comes to a close, KY3 takes a look back at several stories around Springfield and the Ozarks region that had a major impact in 2020.

In year driven by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and political activism, we break down some of the top local stories from each month.

JANUARY

FEATURED STORY: Son of Greene County judges found dead in California after weeks-long search

(KY3)

Alex Holden, a Springfield native and the son of two Greene County judges, was found dead in late January after a weeks-long search in California.

Holden is the son of Greene County Judges Calvin Holden and Margaret Palmietto.

Police say Holden disappeared on the morning of Dec. 31, 2019. Investigators found his body along the American River in the Sacramento, California area. Authorities say foul play was not suspected in his death.

“He just did whatever he did at the moment. He lived life to the fullest. He was the most caring, compassionate and caring children you could ever have,” his father Calvin Holden recalled in January.

Family and friends gathered for a memorial in early February to pay respects to Alex Holden.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Severe storms damage homes in Fair Play, Mo. ; Two charged in Seymour, Mo. child abuse investigation ; Steckel out, Petrino in as MSU football coach

FEBRUARY

FEATURED STORY: Ozarks region celebrates Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory

(KY3)

Springfield and other communities in the Ozarks region cheered on the Kansas City Chiefs during the team’s first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.

Before the age of social distancing, fans packed local sports bars, including Harbell’s and Coyotes Sports Café, to cheer on the Chiefs during the Super Bowl. Springfield’s Academy Sports and Outdoors location stayed open several hours after the Super Bowl win to sell Super Bowl Champions merchandise and even had a line looped around the building on the night.

A 50-year wait for another Super Bowl run was particularly special for Michael Meyer, a Chiefs fan in Springfield, who said he became a part of Chiefs Kingdom half of a century ago at Super Bowl IV.

“I had no idea I’d be loyal this long. I have. They’re just my team no matter what they do,” Meyer said.

For Deborah Payne, a former Stone County resident, the Super Bowl victory meant more than just making history. It meant fulfilling a promise, holding a Super Bowl celebration for her son Travis, an avid Chiefs fan who died in a car crash 17 years ago. The family visited a gravesite in late February to remember her son and celebrate the Super Bowl victory with loved ones.

“He told me one time that they’re going to win it and when they do, everybody’s going to want to be a Chiefs fan,” said Travis’s cousin John Keithley. “I can just imagine him now saying, ‘Welcome to the Kingdom, everybody.”

OTHER TOP STORIES: Tow trucks lead procession in memory of fallen Springfield tow truck driver ; Waynesville community gives prisoner of war a second funeral ; Springfield Housing Authority proposes complex for homeless veterans

MARCH

FEATURED STORY: Springfield officer Christopher Walsh shot, killed in the line of duty

Courtesy: Springfield Police Department
Courtesy: Springfield Police Department(KY3)

A gunman fired several shots at a Kum & Go gas station in mid-March, killing Springfield officer Christopher Walsh and three others.

Walsh, a three-and-a-half year veteran with the Springfield Police Department, was killed in the line of duty in the late evening hours of March 15, when he attempted to rescue a shooting victim at the gas station at 2885 E. Chestnut Expressway. He died at the age of 32.

It marked the first time the Springfield Police Department experienced such a tragedy in decades. Walsh was the first Springfield police officer killed in the line of duty since 1932.

“Chris died a hero, rushing in without regard to his own safety to protect members of his community. His courageous actions serve as an example to us all,” said Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams one day after his death.

Three other civilians were killed. They include Troy Rapp, 57, who worked at the Kum and Go; Shannon Perkins, 46, who worked for WCA Waste Corporation; and Matthew Hicks-Morris, 22, who was a customer in the store.

The shooter, Joaquin S. Roman, 31, killed himself after firing shots at several people and officers inside of the gas station’s convenience store. He also opened fire at officer Josiah Overton, who survived and returned to work in July after his recovery.

A string of reported shootings across southeast Springfield led up to Walsh’s death. Witnesses told police the gunman crashed his car into the convenience store, then entered the store and shot multiple customers and an employee. Walsh and Overton arrived in response, then were shot. The shooter’s motive remains unclear.

“You get into this job primarily to help others who can’t help themselves,” said Brandon Keene, the Treasurer for the Springfield Police Officers’ Association, in March. “Officer Walsh is no different. He’s a selfless person. He dedicated his life to helping his community and his country.”

Officers led a procession in memory of Walsh on March 21. Hundreds in the Springfield community gathered along Battlefield Road to pay respects. Police cruisers from across the state, even from other parts of the country, joined the procession to escort Officer Walsh to his final resting place.

Tributes for Officer Walsh stretched deep into the new year. Tunnels 2 Towers, an organization that helps families of fallen first responders nationwide, paid off the mortgage to the home owned by Walsh’s widow in November. The city of Willard paid respects by adding an inscribed brick with Walsh’s name and his military rank to the Veterans Memorial at Willard City Park.

Before joining the Springfield Police Department, Walsh served with the United States Army for 10 years, and was deployed twice to active combat zones. He is survived by his wife Sheri and daughter Morgan.

NOTE: Walsh’s death, along with three others from the March shooting, were classified as homicides before the Springfield Police Department revised its crime reporting system. SPD says, as of Dec. 22, the city has investigated 27 violent deaths in Springfield this year. Eighteen of those have been determined to be murder. The city’s record for deaths classified as homicide was 16, set three times in the last decade.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Greene County health leaders report first COVID-19 cases and deaths ; Springfield woman shares COVID-19 recovery story ; Woman gives birth in a Springfield Walmart

APRIL

FEATURED STORY: Pandemic leads stay-at-home orders, shuts down schools

(KY3)

The COVID-19 pandemic led some southwest Missouri communities, including Springfield, to adopt stay-at-home orders as early as March, one of the first significant decisions to combat the spread of the virus.

“We would not be doing this if we were not 100 percent convinced that we are doing everything we can to protect life on a mass scale,” said Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon during a community Q-and-A session on the stay-at-home order in late March.

In early April, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced a statewide stay-at-home order, prompting some employers in the Ozarks region to shut down and limiting people to engage in only leave home for activities deemed essential.

The stay-at-home orders presented various challenges for businesses. Restaurants were limited to delivery, drive-thru and curbside options. Private businesses that didn’t sell food or essential goods were ordered to close, particularly causing a hit to the entertainment industry.

“We thought we had everything figured out, but when they just tell you you’re going to close your doors, I don’t think anyone anticipates that,” said Randolph Medler, co-owner of Glenstone Cottage Antiques, in April.

Stay-at-home orders lasted through early May for the state and several communities in the Ozarks region, but they left some local business scrambling to reopen, including bars and breweries.

“They’re following the science, they are thinking it through, and I understand it, but for a small business... we are the newest brewery in town it hurts, it hurts really bad,” said Carol McLeod, co-owner of Hold Fast Brewing, days before Springfield lifted its stay-at-home order.

The city of Springfield started loosening restrictions in late-April, phasing into several stages in an effort to fully reopen the economy. Springfield is currently in Phase 3C of its “Road To Recovery” plan and remains under a civil emergency order entering the new year due to the pandemic.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Missouri schools ordered to close for remainder of year ; Springfield nurse assists with hospital in NYC amid pandemic ; Citations issued to motorcyclists in Springfield over stay-at-home order ; Gas falls below $1 in Springfield

MAY

FEATURED STORY: Thousands protest in Springfield over racial injustice

(KY3)

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests over racial injustice nationwide, including several weeks of political demonstrations in the Springfield area.

Floyd died on May 25. A bystander’s video showed Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even after Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and slowly stopped talking and moving. Chauvin and three other officers face criminal charges in Floyd’s death, and all four have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Hundreds gathered for two protests in south Springfield on back-to-back days during the final weekend of May. Groups met near Glenstone Avenue and Battlefield Road, one of the city’s busiest intersections, then marched down Battlefield Road holding signs and voicing against racial injustice.

On May 30, protesters briefly gathered alongside cars traveling on Battlefield Road. A few demonstrators stood in front of cars traveling in an area that had been blocked by police. The following day, a group assembled on Battlefield Road near the intersection, lying on the concrete for several minutes screaming “I can’t breathe!”

Several protesters said their message was about peace and support for one another, saying they felt supported by local law enforcement during the demonstrations.

“For them to support us, and we’ve seen on social media where police have also had signs saying they are ready for justice, that’s just an amazing thing,” said Wyatt Shaw during a May 31 protest. “The people can protest, but the people who actually work with those people have to also step up, and they have.”

Other protesters said the gatherings were just the beginning of efforts to have their voices to be heard.

“You have to get angry enough to want to create that positive change because, as long as you sit idle, you’re not getting mad enough,” said protester Larry Flenoid II. “It’s just words on Facebook, a lot of talk, with no actions behind it.”

Springfield’s largest protest of the year came the following weekend on June 6, when police a crowd of 2,500 people turned out for a protest throughout downtown. The demonstration began at Park Central Square, then progressed with a march throughout several sites, including City Hall, the Springfield Police Department station and the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge.

Multiple organizations passed out water, sunscreen and face masks for protesters throughout the afternoon. The protest also featured a voter registration booth that allowed residents to register to vote in future elections.

“Demanding accountability of your elected officials is extremely important,” said State Sen. Brian Williams (R-Ferguson) during the protest. “If you don’t have folks in office that are going to go to their respective bodies and advocate for the interest of the people, then you’re going to run into these challenges all the time.”

Protests over racial injustice stretched into early July for the Springfield area, while surrounding communities like Bolivar, Branson and Camdenton held protests for similar reasons throughout the spring and summer.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Lebanon community hit hard by storms ; Crowds pack Lake of the Ozarks amid pandemic ; Health leaders warn of COVID-19 exposure at Springfield Great Clips ; On Your Side Investigation: Neighbors paid Springfield tree service, jobs aren’t done

JUNE

FEATURED STORY: Springfield officer Mark Priebe struck outside SPD headquarters, faces lengthy recovery

(KY3)

A driver struck Mark Priebe, a 21-year veteran with the Springfield Police Department, outside of the department’s headquarters on June 9. Officer Priebe suffered serious injuries, including multiple rib fractures and a spinal cord injury.

According to Police Chief Paul Williams, the driver, later identified as Jon Routh, crushed Priebe against a barrier after causing a disturbance inside the building.

Williams said staff asked Routh to leave the parking lot. According to court records, Routh urinated on the station’s door handles as he left the building. Investigators say, as officers tried to flag down Routh, he hit the accelerator on an SUV and struck Priebe.

According to court documents, Routh believed the FBI or a police department were sending people to mentally harass him. Authorities found a text on his phone from just two hours before the incident that included the words “I’m going to run over a cop I think.”

Routh faces charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Per court records, a judge issued an order committing Routh to the department of mental health in October because of “incompetency to proceed.” His next court appearance is set for April 8, 2021.

On June 16, Mark Priebe and his wife filed a lawsuit in Greene County Court against Routh. Supporting documents called for “punitive damages in such amounts… to prevent a repetition of such conduct in the future,” plus court-related costs and relief that a judge feels is “just and proper.”

The lawsuit claims Routh should be held accountable for intentional assault, negligence, and “loss of consortium, companionship, and all other services provided.” It adds that Priebe may not be able to work again and will be a parapelegic for life, while future medical expenses could cost millions of dollars.

Officer Priebe spent several months in Colorado for physical therapy and medical treatment, returning to Springfield in September. During therapy, Priebe walked for the first time since the incident with help from a robotic device called an Esko. It allowed Priebe to move his hips in a lateral direction, stimulating movement with help from leg braces.

Priebe returned from rehab on Sept. 10. Community members, friends and loved ones welcomed Priebe back from rehab on Sept. 10, lined up along an intersection in Republic to send him well wishes.

“I think that’s what gets us more emotional, with everything that’s happened since June, is just the outpouring of support,” Priebe said in October.

The Springfield police union organized a fundraising account for Priebe and his family, while several local organizations have held fundraisers to help his family. In October, hundreds gathered for the Priebe Strong 1062 Race in Republic, an event that raised an estimated $30,000 for Priebe’s family.

“We’ve still got a road ahead and a lot of things I need to work on and figure out,” Priebe said in an August update. ”We appreciate all the continued prayers and thoughts and support. I couldn’t ask for any more. It’s been amazing as it has been from the beginning.”

OTHER TOP STORIES: Protesters, counter-protesters gather in Branson over Confederate flag ; Back The Blue rally draws crowds in downtown Springfield ; Escaped pet monkey gains spotlight in Oregon County ; On Your Side Investigation: Free rent promotion in Springfield makes false promises

JULY

FEATURED STORY: Springfield responds to COVID-19 pandemic with mask mandate

(KY3)

To mask or not to mask? That became a key debate for Springfield and other southwest communities moving forward from the halfway point of 2020.

On July 13, the Springfield City Council approved a citywide mask mandate in response to the pandemic. City leaders heard more than 100 public comments on the issue over four-plus hours prior to making a decision.

“The Springfield-Greene County Health Department takes an evidence-based approach to protect and promote the health of our community,” said Clay Goddard, the health department’s director, following the decision to implement a mask mandate. “Evidence continues to underline the effectiveness of wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and as such, is the recommendation of this department.”

Scientific research factored into the city’s mask mandate. A CDC study examined the effects of masking from when a Great Clips employee in Springfield tested positive for COVID-19 in May. The research determined that masking, a requirement for customers and employees at the salon, limited the spread of COVID-19 with nearly 140 people exposed to someone who contracted the virus.

Healthcare officials at Mercy Springfield and CoxHealth also urged city leaders to approve a mask mandate. In the first week of July, CoxHealth reported a 43% increase in positive test results compared to the final week of June. CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards said COVID-19 testing increased in July, but so did infections and hospitalizations from the virus, contributing to the call for a mask mandate.

“There’s no science that says when it’s too early because there’s really no harm done with wearing a mask, but there is science that may say it’s too late,” Edwards explained to KY3 in July.

Some local residents found it difficult to support such a mandate. More than 100 people protested against a mask mandate ahead of the July 13 city council session, many arguing that wearing a mask was unconstitutional and an infringement on their rights.

The city of Springfield’s tipline took more than 300 calls regarding the mandate on July 16, the first day it officially took effect. The Springfield Police Department handed out its first mask mandate violation ticket in December and now encourages locals to call 911 to report a mask violation.

“I think we have taken a little longer time to educate and make sure people really understood because there was some difference of opinion, but the officers are ready and willing to do that,” said Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams in August when addressing enforcement of the mask mandate.

City leaders have extended the mask mandate twice ahead of a planned expiration date. Springfield’s mask mandate will remain in effect through April 2021. Branson, West Plains, Nixa and Ozark have all issued similar mask mandates since Springfield’s order took effect in mid-July.

OTHER TOP STORIES: COVID-19 outbreak at Kamp Kanakuk in Stone County ; David Leong, inventor of Springfield’s cashew chicken, passes away ; CoxHealth opens new COVID-19 unit

AUGUST

FEATURED STORY: Nine charged in Lawrence County homicide investigation

(Lawrence County Sheriff)

Nine people are behind bars, facing murder charges in the death Sarah Pasco, an Aurora, Missouri woman who investigators say was kidnapped and fatally shot on August 16.

Investigators say Pasco and another woman were kidnapped, then thrown into the trunk of a car and taken to a remote location near the town of Miller, Missouri. Suspects forced the pair down an abandoned well and shot both women, per investigators.

Pasco died instantly. The other woman survived and played dead until the kidnappers left, then alerted authorities to Pasco’s body in the well.

Authorities arrested nine suspects, including the suspected shooter Gary Hunter Jr., over a four-day span in mid-August.

“In my 28 years here, I don’t know that we’ve ever had nine first-degree murder suspects at one time. That’s just unprecedented,” said Lawrence County Sheriff Brad Delay in August.

Among those arrested include:

  • Gary Hunter Jr., 23, of Mt. Vernon
  • Andrew J. Cypret, 27, of Billings
  • Lyle B. Delong, 23, of Stotts City
  • Diona B. Parks, 26, of Stotts City
  • Sierra Dunham, 18, of Mt. Vernon
  • Steven C. Calverley, 30, of Republic
  • Christina N. Knapp, 38, of Stotts City
  • Kimberly K. Henderson, 47, of Stotts City
  • Frank J. Sheridan, Jr., 27, of Aurora

All nine suspects face charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, kidnapping and first-degree assault in the case, though additional charges vary for each suspect.

Sheriff Delay says the community played a vital role in helping law enforcement track down the accused. The sheriff’s office received hundreds of tips from community members, in addition to some out-of-state leads, while investigating the death. This led investigators to a likely motive.

“It basically comes down to drugs. Drugs is what’s ruling this entire thing at this point,” said Delay. “People are ripping each other off over drugs. They get mad. Then they do things like commit acts of murder. It just unfortunately blew up in our faces all at once.”

Pasco leaves behind two children. Court proceedings stretch into the new year for all nine suspects. The next hearing for Gary Hunter Jr. is set for February 5, 2021, per court records.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Attorney Kristi Fulnecky files lawsuits over masking in Springfield and Branson ; Johnny Morris announces purchase of old Dogpatch USA ; Schools around Ozarks debate in-person vs. virtual learning ; Petition calls to remove controversial billboard in Harrison, Arkansas ; On Your Side Investigation: Customers say deal not done with Springfield fence company

SEPTEMBER

FEATURED STORY: Coordinated stings targeting child predators lead to multiple arrests in Shannon County

(KY3)

The Shannon County Sheriff’s Office reported at least three arrests in September as part of a coordinated sting targeting child predators.

Deputies worked with Truckers Against Predators, a group that advocates for child safety, to crack down on offenders accused of targeting children for sex.

Truckers Against Predators exposed two men on Facebook Live video that reached more than 100,000 followers. Authorities say the two men were busted after a group of truckers pretended to be young girls online, making an arrangement to meet. A Shannon County deputy followed the conversations undercover.

Shannon County Sheriff Darrin Brawley credits Truckers Against Predators for their role in the arrests. Brawley says his smaller department doesn’t usually have the manpower or resources to coordinate such efforts.

“We took full advantage of what they presented us, with the technology and resources they do possess,” said Brawley in September. “Seems like predators are getting more bold in their actions.”

Anthony Greene, one of the leaders behind Truckers Against Predators, says this was the first time his exposures have brought charges in Missouri.

According to Greene, a team of decoys create accounts on everyday apps, portraying themselves as 12- or 13-year-old girls. They get hundreds of interested messages and give people who message them the chance to stop the conversations. Some of the offenders agreed to meet at a destination before being confronted by a camera crew and authorities.

“Every person that I put on camera is trying to ruin a kid’s life,” said Greene in a September interview with KY3. “The vulgar things these people say often cause myself, my partner and my decoys to cry together.”

Authorities confirmed the arrests of Jefferson Rippe, a Springfield man; Richard Holford, a Birch Tree man; and Martin Kester, a West Plains man, in the undercover stings. Rippe’s case will be reviewed in court on January 19, per Missouri court records.

Truckers Against Predators hopes to work with more local agencies in the future to expose more pedophiles, bring forth more convictions and make Missouri a safer state.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Judge recommends dismissal of criminal charges in 2018 Duck Boat case ; Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Ark. rescues eight big cats ; Universities in Springfield call for mask mandate extension ; Trump supporters campaign with Table Rock Lake boat parade

OCTOBER

FEATURED STORY: Two brothers in Webster County child molestation case violate probation, sent to prison

(KY3)

Two Webster County men initially avoided prison time after pleading guilty in a child molestation case that gained national attention. In October, both were sent to prison for violating terms of their probation.

A judge had previously sentenced Amish brothers Petie and Aaron Schwartz to five years of probation in the case.

Investigators say a pregnant 13-year old Amish girl from Seymour sought medical treatment in June. The investigation later led to criminal charges for Petie and Aaron Schwartz. Both were later charged with six counts of statutory rape in connection to the case.

As part of a plea deal in September, Petie and Aaron avoided jail time, but had to pay a fine, serve 100 hours of community service and write an apology letter to the Amish community. They were also required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

The prosecutor says the men had contact with the victim following the plea agreement in late-September, violating the conditions of their probation. A judge officially revoked probation in October, and the brothers will spend the next 15 years prison for their convictions.

The initial verdict sparked outrage throughout the Webster County community, leading to some protests that called for the county prosecutor and a judge to resign. Webster County prosecutor Ben Berkstresser says a plea deal was offered for lesser charges due to lack of evidence.

“I feel that frustration. I’m trying to work against it,” Berkstresser said following the verdict in September. “I’m trying to make it a fair and equal application of the law regardless of who you are. I didn’t like it. It angered me, but I took the evidence as far as I could take it,” he said.

Others, including Lizzie Hershberger, sent a letter to the prosecutor offering support for local officials, but asking the court not be lenient towards the brothers.

“Everybody wants justice fast, especially in this world now,” said Hershberger, an advocate for survivors of child abuse, in September. It’s much easier to go on social media and plaster your response out there. I choose not to do that. I choose to be proactive.”

OTHER TOP STORIES: Dent County couple charged in emaciated child’s death ; Springfield area rallies show support for Trump, Biden ahead of election ; Priebe Strong 1062 Race benefits injured officer ; On Your Side Investigation: Branson customer sues Suddenlink

NOVEMBER

FEATURED STORY: Greene County sees record turnout, recounts in general election

(KY3)

The pandemic didn’t stop voters from casting their ballots in the 2020 general election on Nov. 3. More than 156 million people cast votes in the presidential race, the most votes for a presidential election in U.S. history.

November’s election also featured record turnout for many counties in the Ozarks region. Nearly 85% of registered voters in Greene County voted in the election, according to county election results.

This marked the county’s highest turnout for a presidential election in the 21st century, shattering a 69% clip from the 2016 presidential election.

“We’re seeing historic numbers in terms of turnout,” said Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller on Election Day. “We saw voters turn out early. There were some long lines, part of that is because we had more curbside voters.”

Several counties around the Ozarks region saw significant turnout for the Nov. 3 election. More than 75% of registered voters in Christian County and Laclede County cast ballots, while Taney County’s turnout was just below 70%, per election results.

Voters had multiple options to cast their November ballots in Greene County , even before Election Day.

Greene County processed around 36,000 ballots that were returned either as mail-in or absentee ballots for the election, a significant increase from approximately 10,000 pre-election ballots in 2016. Missouri approved mail-in legislation for the November election in response to the pandemic, an alternative option voters worried about virus risks while casting ballots in-person.

An undisclosed polling site in Greene County also helped voters on Election Day who were either diagnosed with COVID-19 or under quarantine, but had yet to cast a ballot. Cars lined up at the location, snaking through the parking lot for a drive-thru and following a very specific set of protocols to officially cast their ballot.

“It seems to be going okay, it’s just a lot longer than it’s ever taken me to vote before,” said a voter at the site on Nov. 3 who identified as Blake.

In addition to the presidential election, many highly-contested state and local races appeared on the ballot. One of the more significant races in Greene County resulted in a recount due to its tight finish.

Schoeller announced a recount for Missouri’s 135th House District, which represents east Springfield, in the late evening hours of Nov. 3.

He says the race was “too close to call” at the time, as Democratic candidate Betsy Fogle held a 34-vote lead over Republican incumbent Steve Helms among ballots counted on Election Night. The clerk’s office issued a recount to make sure provisional ballots, overseas ballots and ballots cast by members of the military had been counted.

Nine days after the election, the Greene County Clerk’s Office began the manual recount for the seat. The recount determined that Fogle won the race by 76 votes, flipping a seat in the Missouri state legislature.

“I am so thankful for Shane Schoeller and for the Greene County Clerks Office for their transparency and commitment to accuracy,” said Fogle following the recount. “Of course it felt like a week was forever as a candidate, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”

“I believe Shane Schoeller and his staff did a great job down there and I don’t have any issues or complaints for what appears to be the outcome,” said the incumbent Helms following the recount.

Among results from other key state and local races include:

  • Missouri Governor: Mike Parson (R) wins election over Nicole Galloway (D)
  • Missouri Attorney General: Eric Schmitt (R) wins re-election
  • Missouri Lieutenant Governor: Mike Kehoe (R) wins re-election
  • Missouri Treasurer: Scott Fitzpatrick (R) wins re-election
  • Missouri Secretary of State: Jay Ashcroft (R) wins re-election
  • Missouri 7th Congressional District: Billy Long (R) wins re-election
  • Missouri Amendment 1 (Term Limits): Fails
  • Missouri Amendment 3 (Redistricting): Passes
  • Greene County Commissioner (District 1): Rusty Maclachlan (R) wins election
  • Greene County Commissioner (District 2): John Russell (R) wins re-election
  • Arkansas U.S. Senate: Tom Cotton (R) wins re-election

Voters in Missouri and Arkansas sided with Republican president Donald Trump in the presidential election, per election results certified by both states. The Electoral College certified Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential race on Dec. 14.

OTHER TOP STORIES: Osage Beach community hit hard by severe storms ; Springfield’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens ; Two killed in Willard homicide ; Branson opens new aquarium ; Lebanon native Michael Hopkins begins special mission with NASA ; On Your Side Investigation: Founder of closed school opens new business in Branson

DECEMBER

FEATURED STORY: Greene County deputy Steve Westbrook recovers after being struck during pursuit

(KY3)

A runaway suspect struck Greene County Lt. Steve Westbrook on Dec. 12 during a pursuit on State Highway 13 near Brighton, Missouri.

Westbrook, a 24-year veteran of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, tried to deploy a tire deflation device to stop a car involved in a pursuit when he was struck along the highway. Investigators say the suspect driver was being chased by Greene County deputies, then hit a patrol car, which then struck Westbrook.

Prior to the pursuit, deputies responded to a home near Springfield over a domestic disturbance. The suspect, later identified as 36-year-old Seth Hay, escaped from the home, then took off in a car, heading northbound on State Highway 13 into Polk County.

The pursuit continued north to just outside Bolivar city limits. The suspect then turned around and proceeded southbound on South Highway 13. Westbrook attempted to deploy stop sticks in the process, then was struck.

Westbrook received immediate aide on the scene before being rushed to a Springfield hospital for treatment. He suffered fractures to his pelvis area, a femur and both of his wrists, which prompted his first round of surgeries the night after the incident.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Lt. Westbrook said in a video update one day after his surgeries. “Be safe, and always expect the unexpected.”

Jason Winston, a spokesperson from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, said Lt. Westbrook was struck “in what appears to be a deliberate act.”

A Polk County prosecutor filed charges of felony assault, kidnapping and resisting arrest against Seth Hay. According to court records, Hay was wanted for a probation violation and admitted he did not want to go back to prison. In response, he led authorities on the pursuit that later injured Westbrook.

Hay was recently released from prison, but has an arraignment hearing scheduled for Jan. 22, per court records.

Westbrook was released from the hospital on Dec. 22 and welcomed back to heavy community support.

“He’s got a long road to recovery ahead of him,” said Westbrook’s daughter Shanna Sullivan. “People all over the country have reached out to us. It’s little things like that, especially with the way the world is today, that gives you the glimpse of hope that there is goodness in the world.”

OTHER TOP STORIES: Springfield health leaders share COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans ; Benton County authorities investigate child’s beating death ; Nixa mourns loss of two students

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