KOMU.com http://www.komu.com/ KOMU.com Target 8 Target 8 en-us Copyright 2018, KOMU.com. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Tue, 19 Jun 2018 HH:06:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 KOMU.com http://www.komu.com/ 144 25 Target 8 compares Missouri senate fundraising numbers http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-compares-missouri-senate-fundraising-numbers/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-compares-missouri-senate-fundraising-numbers/ Target 8 Tue, 1 May 2018 10:22:49 PM Carolina Brigagao, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8 compares Missouri senate fundraising numbers

COLUMBIA - With mid-term elections on the horizon, KOMU 8's Target 8 Team is taking a look at campaign finance data for Senator Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat and her Republican opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley.

First quarter data shows McCaskill has more money but Hawley has more money coming in from Missouri.

Hawley's campaign manager, Kyle Plotkin, recognizes the challenges Hawley will be facing against McCaskill, whose been in politics for decades.

"And just being a politician for thirty-six years, you build up a lot of favors and you get a lot of money," Plotkin said. "So, Josh is introducing himself to Missourians, and his vision for what he wants to do in the Senate. It’s being welcomed with a lot of support both form the grass-root but also in terms of donations."

In early April, McCaskill's campaign sent out a press release detailing the highlight of her first quarter campaign report.

“Hard-working Missourians have made clear that they value Claire’s ability to break through the partisan gridlock in Washington and get things done for them,” said McCaskill for Missouri spokesperson Meira Bernstein. “The incredible grassroots momentum behind Claire’s campaign is proof that Missourians know Claire is a Senator who will always put them first.”

Candidates running for office are required to release their campaign fundraising data, which is separated into quarters. The first quarter ended on April 15. 

  • On Hawley's report, shows he has received more than $1.5 million during the first quarter. Senator McCaskill's report shows she received $3.9 million during the same period. 
  • Hawley has received money from more than 4,600 individual donors, while Senator McCaskill has received money from 128,000 individual donors. 
  • At the end of the first quarter, Hawley's campaign had more than $2.1 million cash-on-hand and McCaskill had more than $11.5 million cash-on-hand

Data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) only shows donations of $200 or more. After going through the reports, KOMU 8 found the following campaign fundraising patters: 

  • From the 997 donations Hawley's campaign received, 94 percent identified themselves as individuals out of more than  61,000 donations 
  • McCaskill's campaign received 59 percent of donor identified themselves as individuals.

Josh Hawley's campaign manager, Kyle Plotkin, said most of Hawley's contributions come from within the state.

"Most of it comes from unique individuals donors. More than half of our donors are from the state of Missouri. Which is in contrast to Senator McCaskill’s donations," Plotkin said. 

MU Political Science Professor Peverill Squire said receiving donations from out of state is normal, and at the end of the election, it doesn't really matter where the money came from.

“Well, out of state contributions are always part of a campaign," Squire said. "It probably doesn't matter a great deal. It comes up in every campaign. Something that the candidate who raises less money from outside the state will make an issue out of it. But, both candidates are going to get a lot of money from a lot of people, a lot of organizations, and a lot of that money will come from out of state."

Based on the same data from the FEC, showing only donations of $200 or more, most of Hawley's contributions come from Missouri, with Florida and California donors also sending money his way. For McCaskill, the state most often mentioned on the FEC website is Massachusetts, because most donations were filtered by a Democratic fundraising non-profit based out of that state. The FEC website shows from were each of the donations filtered by ACTBLUE come from.

But when you compare overall donations, including those who donated less than $200, most of the contributors for both candidates come from Missouri.  

The Club for Growth PAC is Hawley's top contributor, while most of McCaskill's donations have come through ACTBLUE.

Squire said, in general, "things are lining up favorably for the Democrats."

"But we still have a long time between now and election day in November. So, lots can change," he said.

The next quarter will end July 15.

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Target 8: Some teachers opt for intensive training to carry guns in schools http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-some-teachers-opt-for-intensive-training-to-carry-guns-in-schools/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-some-teachers-opt-for-intensive-training-to-carry-guns-in-schools/ Target 8 Fri, 23 Mar 2018 11:36:03 AM Lydia Nusbaum, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8: Some teachers opt for intensive training to carry guns in schools

WEST PLAINS - After 20 children and six adults were shot to death at an elementary school in 2012, one Missouri school took steps to protect its building, by allowing school faculty to bring guns into their classrooms.

Fairview R-XI School District in West Plains let teachers go through a program in 2013 teaching them how to carry guns in schools. The reason: Sandy Hook.

“That was one of the driving forces,” said Aaron Sydow, the Fairview R-XI superintendent. 

Back in 2014, Missouri lawmakers passed a bill allowing teachers to be School Protection Officers. KOMU 8 News has followed up to see how many school teachers are SPO’s. We found there are not any.

However, through a different law, schools are allowed to have teachers armed in schools. Fairview contracted with a company called Shield Solutions that has a intensive program training teachers how to respond in case of a threat.

Greg Martin, who owns Shield Solutions, reflects on the death of a coach who threw himself into harm's way during this year's school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“He shielded those students with this body. What if he had been trained? What if he’d had the tools? Maybe he could have took care of the problem,” Martin said.

His program includes shooting drills, emergency medical training and mental assessments.

“It’s not just ‘pay your fee, get your certificate, here’s your gun.’ It’s not like that at all,” he said.

During some of the toughest drills, faculty members shoot a variety of targets while a speaker plays sounds of people screaming in the background. On top of this, they are sprayed with a red substance representing blood to mimic being shot. The trainees then use a tourniquet to practice stopping blood flow.

“We don’t want them to freeze up,” Martin said. “We’re having to reprogram these folks that ‘you are the first line of defense.’ If something happens, you have to run towards it.”

This is not just a one time training session. Faculty members are required to go back three times a year to make sure they do not lose their skills and become complacent. They also need to score a 90 percent on the qualification tests, or they are pulled from the program.

“That’s the last place that we want them to be complacent, is in the school,” Martin said.

Sydow said the goal of the program is for teachers to be trained to the point where intruders will not want to face them. Fairview recently put up a sign with bold letters, telling people the school is armed. The superintendent believes this is another way to deter intruders from attacking.

The Fairview school is in a rural part of West Plains near the Missouri-Arkansas border. It’s also around eight minutes from the sheriff’s department, and that’s a best case scenario, according to Sydow.

Many rural schools can be far away from law enforcement officers, and Martin said this is another reason they should consider having armed teachers. 

The Department of Secondary and Elementary said it does not have a list of all of the schools with armed faculty members, and doesn't know where a potential list is located. The department said if people want to know if their schools are armed, the best way is to ask the schools individually. Shield Solutions said there are about 12 to 15 schools in the program.

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TARGET 8: Patients need patience for mental health services in mid-Missouri http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-patients-need-patience-for-mental-health-services-in-mid-missouri/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-patients-need-patience-for-mental-health-services-in-mid-missouri/ Target 8 Tue, 24 Apr 2018 10:01:30 PM Sydney Olsen, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Patients need patience for mental health services in mid-Missouri

COLUMBIA - Many people in mid-Missouri have to wait weeks to see a physician for mental health. Some clinics have waits as long as several months. (See interactive map below for wait times by clinic.)

People who live in Columbia can either get care in the same day or have to wait as long as three months, depending on where they see their doctor. 

Tim Harlan, president of the National Alliance on Mental Health of Columbia, said long wait times can discourage people from seeking help. 

"I remember getting a phone call one time at 7 o'clock in the morning from somebody who said, 'My family member is willing to go to treatment, desperately need it, today.' Well, there's a month wait," Harlan said. "In a month they may easily have more problems or decide not to do it." 

He said people should not assume everyone will get help for their mental health needs.

"I think the big issue is people assume there's a safety net and everybody's going to get treatment if they really need it. And that's just not true," Harlan said. "They might get treatment, but it's not going to be appropriate because somebody has to pay for it." 

Some counties have very limited resources for mental health. A lack of psychologists and psychiatrists in rural areas creates longer wait times for patients. 

Megan Steen, senior vice president of the Central Region for Burrell Behavioral Health, said, "I think one of the biggest needs that we see throughout all of our communities is the access to care and the ability to quickly access care."

Burrell Behavioral Health of Sedalia had one of the shortest wait times for new patients to be seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Burrell is contracted with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, qualifying it to be a federally Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. 

Such clinics receive funding to expand treatment through the Excellence in Mental Health Act.  Steen said the act has helped Burrell see more patients and hire more providers. 

"The CCBHC initiative is really what helped us in establishing open access to care in more of our satelite clinics and locations. It also has decreased our wait times," Steen said. 

Harlan said legislators need to get serious about providing funding for mental health resources if they want other clinics to shorten their wait for patients. 

"There isn't anything that can be done that doesn't involve money," he said.

Harlan said it's a public health issue.

"It involves all of us," he said. "It involves safety for all of us, and we need to communicate with the legislature that this is an important issue and they are the ones that can change this."

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Only 4% of jail inmates held on marijuana charges http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-only-4-of-jail-inmates-held-on-marijuana-charges/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-only-4-of-jail-inmates-held-on-marijuana-charges/ Target 8 Sat, 14 Apr 2018 12:50:58 PM Chris Joseph, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Only 4% of jail inmates held on marijuana charges

COLUMBIA - A TARGET 8 fact check finds mid-Missouri county jails do not hold inmates charged with marijuana-related offenses in large numbers, despite some public opinion. 

Inmate rosters from the surrounding area showed very few inmates were being held on marijuana charges exclusively. Most charged with a marijuana-related offense had other aggravating charges. 

Public misconception of the situation

TARGET 8 decided to investigate after some expert and public opinion conflicted on the nature of the situation. 

In February, TARGET 8 published an investigation into Missouri's debt to its county jails. The story broke down why and how growing inmate populations are costing the state more money. 

As a result of the story, Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism and some KOMU 8 viewers shared different views on the idea of marijuana users filling jails.   

In a February interview related to the jail debt story, Chism told TARGET 8, "There is a misperception that our jail and many county jails are full of misdemeanor offenders, that is the furthest from the truth as it can be."

When KOMU published the story on its Facebook page later that month, there was a debate in the comment section on that issue. 

William Mountain commented, "Legalize marijuana and do away with a lot of those inmates while creating a larger tax base..seems like a no brainer to me.."

James Stodgell agreed with Mountain and commented in part, "Here's an idea: stop putting people in jail for victimless crimes..."

Tom Kridel cited a PolitiFact article and commented, "So legalize it. Just don't expect it to result in smaller prison populations..."

Here are the numbers

TARGET 8 collected the inmate rosters of the surrounding county jails over a period of two weeks. We used snapshot data, meaning random days were analyzed. In our analysis, the definition of a marijuana charge includes possession, delivery, distribution, misdemeanor and felony charges. 

As of the days the rosters were accessed, there were 700 inmates in 10 local county jails. 30 inmates faced marijuana charges.

Only eight of those inmates were held for a marijuana charge exclusively. 

All the inmates charged with a marijuana offense were held for a total of 1,165 days, or an average of 39 days per inmate. However, most of those inmates were held for under two weeks.

Inmates facing only a marijuana charge had been held in jail for a total of 85 days, or an average of 11 days per inmate.    

On April 4 (the day TARGET 8 accessed records for a sampling), we examined court documents of people arrested on drug charges and found the Boone County Jail had seven inmates who were arrested in possession of marijuana. 

But none of them were charged for possession of marijuana. Their charges included domestic assault, possession of meth and possession of heroin, among others. 

Howard, Cooper and Monroe county jails had zero inmates held for marijuana-related charges on the days TARGET 8 accessed their inmate rosters. 

Osage County held the most marijuana-related inmates per capita, with four out of the 19 inmates held on the day we accessed data in that county (March 21).

All four of those inmates were also charged with delivery of a controlled substance.

You can find the full breakdown of the inmate rosters here, complete with names, charges and dates of incarceration. 

Missouri law usually punishes casual smokers with fines

Casual smokers likely face misdemeanors if arrested. Here's a break down of maximum fines and sentences for misdemeanors in Missouri:

  • Possession up to 10 grams (1st offense): No incarceration, max $500 fine
  • Possession up to 10 grams (2nd offense): Max incarceration one year, max $2,000 fine
  • Possession 10-35 grams: Max incarceration one year, max $2,000 fine

Local prosecuting attorneys said they usually opt for fines, probation and/or supervision for misdemeanors.

Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Rodewald said most marijuana misdemeanor offenders in the county are released with a ticket and a court date.

"I don't think I've ever recommended jail time on a straight-up simple possession of misdemeanor marijuana," she said. 

Rodewald said even if it's a repeat offender, her office would likely only increase the fine. 

Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Fusselman said his office has a similar approach. 

"We realize a lot of these kids may want to go to college some day or want some form of employment where this type of conviction could impact them," he said. 

Fusselman said his Randolph county often uses an 'SIS', which stands for 'suspended imposition of sentence.' Misdemeanor offenders can have their record cleared if they go a court-appointed amount of time without an arrest. 

In Missouri, distribution of marijuana carries a felony charge. Felony offenders could face three years to life in prison depending on the amount, location and nature of the distribution.

Both prosecuting attorneys said marijuana felonies would likely carry jail or prison time if charged. 

"Special interests" and legalization going forward

Chism told TARGET 8 in February, and then again in April, "special interests" were spreading misinformation about marijuana in the area.

He was unable to give the name of a specific group. 

There are two marijuana advocacy groups actively working in mid-Missouri to put medicinal marijuana on the ballot this November.

Mid-Missouri NORML, its allies, and the Bradshaw Amendment are working to get two different versions of the medicinal marijuana question in front of voters.

Mid-Missouri NORML communications director and civil rights lawyer Dan Viets said jail time is a topic of discussion in his group's advocacy.

"Many, many times people who are clearly in legitimate need of marijuana as medicine are prosecuted as people who have no medical need," he said. 

When TARGET 8 presented Viets with its inmate roster findings, he said he was glad the number was low, but added the majority of the convicted marijuana users are in a Department of Corrections prison. 

"Most people charged with felonies have bonded out of jail, people who are in jail are poor people, for the most part," Viets said.  "They are people who can't afford to post bond."

He said when offenders fail a drug test on probation, they are often sent to state prison. They don't end up in jail. 

New Approach Missouri is an ally of NORML and is working on the same ballot measure. Spokesman Jack Cardetti said marijuana justice system issues are not something the group normally talks about.

"Ours is a medical issue, what we believe is you as a patient ought to be able to walk into the doctor's office and have a real open and honest conversation," he said.

Both Viets and Cardetti said their groups would get the signatures needed to put medicinal marijuana on the ballot.  

The Bradshaw Amendment did not return a request for comment. 

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Target 8 follow-up: Child abuse and neglect reports fall in Missouri http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-follow-up-child-abuse-and-neglect-reports-fall-in-missouri/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-follow-up-child-abuse-and-neglect-reports-fall-in-missouri/ Target 8 Tue, 10 Apr 2018 5:38:33 PM Emily McCarter, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8 follow-up: Child abuse and neglect reports fall in Missouri

COLUMBIA – For the first time in four years, the number of child abuse and neglect reports in Missouri has fallen. When the Target 8 team investigated child abuse and neglect reports years ago, the number had skyrocketed in Missouri.

According to the Children's Division, 68,014 reports were filed last year, a drop of six percent from 2016.

One children's advocate, however, said numbers for child abuse can be misleading.

"I don't pay much attention to the statistics until I see a trend," said Joy Oesterly, the executive director of Missouri KidsFirst. "So it could be that it's just an anomaly and that for a number of reasons the number went down."

The numbers themselves aren't the only issue, she said.

"It's important to understand that child abuse is a really significant and costly public health issue," Oesterly said.

Rainbow House Executive Director Janie Bakutes said her organization sees abused children as young as three years old.

"Everything from physical abuse to sexual abuse," she said. "We have children who we have come in and we do interviews if they've witnessed a crime."

And sexual abuse is the most common for Rainbow House.

"The seriousness of sexual abuse is just something that I still don't want to believe that happens," Bakutes said.

She said the sad truth about child abuse is perpetrators are closer to the children than anyone might think.

"That's what we often see," Bakutes said. "It's a family member or a close friend."

Oesterly said it's complicated when it comes to recognizing child abuse, but some possible signs include the child becoming withdrawn or a drastic change in behavior.

"In the case of child sexual abuse, sometimes kids who are being sexually abused may actually start exhibiting some inappropriate sexual behaviors," she said. "Or they may have knowledge of sex that is inappropriate for their age."

Bakutes said some behaviors can be obvious.

"If the caregiver doesn't react to the child in a very loving way or the child seems to be distressed, those are all signs," she said.

She said people shouldn't be afraid of getting it wrong when it comes to making a call to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-392-3738.

"We tell people it's always best to assume the worst," Bakutes said. "It's ok to do that."

There are other ways besides reporting the abuse to help prevent child neglect.

"There are so many ways that people go about preventing child abuse in their everyday lives," Oesterly said. "Helping a parent out if they're overwhelmed. Many parents say parenting is the hardest job they'll ever have. Also, learn more about suspicious behaviors or the signs."

Bakutes said, even though the declining numbers for child abuse could be a good sign, the fight is far from over.

"The fact is that one case of child abuse is too many," she said.

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TARGET 8: Airport board members say they weren't looped in on $30 million terminal decision http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-airport-board-members-say-they-weren-t-looped-in-on-30-million-terminal-decision/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-airport-board-members-say-they-weren-t-looped-in-on-30-million-terminal-decision/ Target 8 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 5:54:30 PM Sarah Trott, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Airport board members say they weren't looped in on $30 million terminal decision

COLUMBIA - For those who have traveled through Columbia Regional Airport, it’s no doubt the small airport built in the 1960’s is in need of a new terminal.

However, the process on where to build the new terminal has taken three years, an enormous amount of taxpayer money and mixed reviews from some interested parties.

“It’s time we stop playing Mickey Mouse games and we be open with the public,” said frequent traveler and Airport Advisory Board member Mark Winter. Last year, Winter traveled nearly 200 times through COU on business trips and is now frustrated with the lack of “openness” throughout the process. 

Taxpayers fund pricey consultant findings 

In 2015, Columbia city council paid engineering company Parsons Brinckerhoff $866,435 to develop a terminal area master plan and provide six possible location sites for a new terminal. MoDOT reimbursed the city for 90 percent of the cost.

After months of surveying the land, the consultants recommended the new terminal to be built on a site northwest of the current terminal, called Alternative Site #2.

Although it was the most costly option at $38 million, it wouldn’t disrupt parking, would have the least environmental impact and offer the most flexibility for future needs, according to the report.

City leaders toss out expert report without consulting board members

Last December, city leaders put aside the expert findings from Parsons Brinckerhoff and came up with a new, "seventh site," one not even considered by the consultants, in order to expedite the building process.

“We want to use existing infrastructure out here to save on cost,” said airport manager Mike Parks. “We’re looking at timing and cost as one of the biggest decisions.”

Unlike the north site, the new, south site is estimated to cost around $30 million but would require a hangar to be dismantled, eliminate hundreds of free parking spots during construction and relocate tenants and a surrounding federal support building.

Parks said the decision-making process to move from the Alternative Site #2 to the south side was a “collaborative effort,” but that’s not what board member Mark Winter said.

“We weren’t really told about it, as a member of the airport board, it’s never really been told to us," Winter said. 

According to council notes, the current chair of the airport advisory board, Brian Whorley, was consulted before the announcement last fall.

But members Joe Henderson, BJ Hunter and Greg Cecil also confirmed with KOMU 8 News the airport board was not consulted. The board is an advising body and doesn’t vote on decisions; however, its purpose is to represent community interests and provide input.

At that December announcement, the city did not have a master plan in place and more recently was unable to provide specific estimates on enplanements, parking, number of gates or terminal design for the proposed site until the “due diligence” and environmental survey is completed, according to Parks.

Columbia community relations person Steven Sapp said, “Keep in mind this report is just a professional report that provided us with alternatives.” 

Parsons Brinckerhoff estimated growth at the airport would need to accommodate at least 120,000 departures a year and more than 1,200 parking spaces. According to Sapp, passenger usage is already surpassing those 2016 estimates. However, the proposed site doesn't provide specifics about whether it would be able to accommodate the expected growth. 

More construction beyond the new terminal is a possibility with no clear timeline

“When we design the terminal, it will be designed for future expansion. We have to look at future expansion. Nobody expected us to, but we’ve already exceeded our enplanement numbers,” Sapp said. He also said more construction in addition to the new terminal is a possibility down the line. 

The timeline still remains unclear on when construction will break ground or when the Federal Aviation Administration will approve the new site. Another $2.5 million in state money is expected to go toward the terminal project.

In the meantime, Winter said more parties should be involved and suggested the idea of creating an “airport authority.”

“Maybe it’s time we take it out of the control of the city of Columbia and put it into the control of an airport authority, regionalizing it between Columbia, Jefferson City, maybe even taking Callaway County in, so you have three counties that contain the airport authority that handles all the airports,” Winter said.

The board is expected to meet Thursday to discuss ongoing plans.

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TARGET 8: Home school student says Missouri needs more regulations http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-home-school-student-says-missouri-needs-more-regulations/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-home-school-student-says-missouri-needs-more-regulations/ Target 8 Wed, 7 Mar 2018 1:03:19 PM Jasmine Ramirez, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Home school student says Missouri needs more regulations

COLUMBIA – Some former home-schooled students and educators are raising questions about the practice in Missouri.

Parents do not have to notify the state about their decision to home school their child. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “does not regulate or monitor home schooling.” 

Susanna Selman was home schooled kindergarten through senior year along with ten other siblings.

"When you have eleven kids, it’s really easy to let some not get the same attention, same care and same support as the other," Selman said.

She said she wishes Missouri had more regulations to ensure students receive a well-rounded education.

"I just sorta feel like I fell through the cracks," Selman said.

Missouri home school students do not take any assessment to track their educational progress.

“They don’t have a baseline, a standard. You can teach your kids anything and call it science,” Selman said.

She said it's not fair to students.

"They can be so isolated from everybody else’s perspective. They won't have a clue that they have been taught all wrong."

A University of Missouri professor who specializes in human development and family science said home school students should have a more standardized education.

Jean Ispa said “We want an educated citizenry, right? I think there should be standard recommended activities, readings. This is what a child by the end of fourth grade should know.”

Missouri does not provide home school parents any curriculum. It’s a home school parent's responsibility to put together coursework and lessons for their child.

The state does ask parents to teach state-mandated subjects such as reading, math, social studies, language arts and science. But Missouri does not make sure parents are actually teaching the subjects.

Home school parents must keep a daily log and are asked to have 1000 hours of instruction per year. Although the state tells parents to keep a log, Missouri only requires the log to be submitted in very rare circumstances, such as when a family is accused of educational neglect.

Selman said she wishes there was a requirement for parents to turn in the learning log. 

“The biggest way that Missouri is failing their home school kids is they don't have any state-kept records,” Selman said.

She said she requested her home school logs from her mother but her mother refused to give them to her.

“When I graduated, I was having some friction with my mom,” Selman said. “Because I was home schooled, my mom was able to deny me access to any of my educational records.”

Without a record of her home school hours, Selman had no proof of her education. When she decided to pursue a college degree, she said, she was forced to get her GED. 

Jennifer Markway, who is home schooling three children, said she believes home schooling was the best decision for her family.

“The purpose of educating your kids at home is to give them the best education for them,” she said.

Markway said home schooling requires dedication. She said she often devotes her weekends to creating lesson plans.

She said she stays organized with lists, planners, schedules and calendars. She said YouTube is a great resource for education.

"It doesn't matter what your reason for home schooling is. To be able to see the kids get excited in learning is worth every moment of preparation,” she said.

With no curriculum provided by the state, Markway said she can tailor her children's lesson plans to topics her children enjoy.

“The idea to spark the interest in learning is what we get passionate about," she  said. 

In Missouri, there is no minimum education a parent must have before teaching their child at home. Missouri home school regulations greatly differ from the Midwestern state of North Dakota. According to ProPublica, North Dakota monitors parents who do not have a minimum education of a high school diploma or GED.

Home school parents must notify North Dakota annually about their decision to educate their child at home. The state also requires parents to submit proof of immunization for their child according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Missouri does not have a vaccination requirement.

North Dakota tests home school children using periodic assessments, while in Missouri there is no educational assessment.

In this map, here are some of the regulations for other states near Missouri.

Missouri's home school regulation statute was passed after a federal court decision in 1985. It said the previous statute left too many decisions about home schooling in the hands of officials rather than parents.

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TARGET 8: Cash or copay - Are you overpaying on prescriptions? http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-cash-or-copay-are-you-overpaying-on-prescriptions-/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-cash-or-copay-are-you-overpaying-on-prescriptions-/ Target 8 Mon, 12 Mar 2018 12:24:12 AM Caroline Peterson, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Cash or copay - Are you overpaying on prescriptions?

COLUMBIA – Patients may be spending more on copays for their prescriptions than the actual cash price those drugs would cost. Pharmacists call it a clawback, and it could be costing you extra money that your insurance company is profiting from.

KOMU 8 News received documents from Missouri pharmacists showing some insurance companies have set copays dramatically higher than what people could pay if they paid the cash price.

“A patient is charged a specific fee based on their insurance company, and they pay that copay and the pharmacist provides a service. The problem is some of the copays are exceeding what the actual cash price of the drug is,” said Ron Fitzwater, the CEO of Missouri Pharmacy Association.

Pharmacists often can't offer up your options

Patients might think when they are buying medication at a pharmacy, there are three parties involved: Them, the pharmacy and your insurance provider.

But sometimes there's a fourth party, whose role could be difficult to understand, and pharmacists are not allowed to tell patients about it. 

When people go to the pharmacy to buy their medication, their copay is a type of insurance payment where the insured pays a specified amount, and the insurer pays the remaining costs.

Fitzwater said pharmacists can often tell when a drug is offered at a lower price. The problem is pharmacists are not allowed to tell patients about their options under a “gag order.”

It's part of their contract with Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs, according to the pharmacists KOMU 8 News talked to. 

A PBM acts as a middle man between insurance companies and pharmacies. It handles the prescription drug part of health insurance plans on behalf of the insurer.

Pharmacists submit claims to the PBM, which then tells the pharmacy how much to charge each patient.

Examples: Insurance companies pocketing $21-48 per prescription

The examples some Missouri pharmacists provided KOMU 8 News show Cigna is known to clawback, as is Catalyst Rx.   

Here is one example from Cigna: A patient paid a copay of about $68 for their generic ADHD medicine, Dexmethylphenidate. 

However, the cash price for the drug is only about $50. Cigna pocketed $21.80 from the pharmacy and customer. At the end of the transaction, the pharmacy only got about $46 back. The math is tough to figure out - it doesn't all just simply add up - because there are a lot of factors at play. But the receipts pharmacists from around the state provided clearly showed what was happening.

“It appears that a good part of the clawback that is going back to the PBM is the burden of the patient. It costs the patient more,” pharmacist Ann Bromstedt said.  

And chances are, the patient doesn't know its happening.

“You will pay maybe a higher price than what you were prepared to pay in the form of a copay. So, it is not recognizable to you as the consumer or as the patient,” she said.   

Fitzwater said pharmacists are required to collect the copay set by the insurance company. After a patient pays, the PBM comes in and takes the difference between what the patient actually paid (in the form of copay) and what is reimbursed to the pharmacist.

He said this is done “under the guise that it’s saving dollars.”

Here is an example from Catalyst Rx: A doctor prescribed a patient Amox/K Clav to treat a bacterial infection. The copay was about $67, but, according to the pharmacist, the cash price is only $19.

The consumer could have paid about four times less money than they did. In this case, the PBM pocketed about $48. 

Generic Tamiflu has a cash price of about $85. In this example, the patient would have saved about $30 dollars if they chose not to pay the $115 copay. The PBM clawed back about $49. 

Pharmacies are also losing money

Clawbacks are often seen with generic drugs and should be a flag for a patient to price check, according to Bromstedt.

“If it is a generic drug, and it’s a co-pay that seems out of bounds or seems higher than what you are used to paying, say the year before, then you should ask the question: ‘is this higher than cash price? Or what is my cash price?’,” Bromsedt said.

And it’s not always just costing the patient more. The pharmacy takes hits as well.

Bupropion Hcl is used to treat depression. In this example, the patient was charged a $35.55 copay, but the PBM clawed back $22.38. This resulted in a $0.39 loss for the pharmacy. 

This is not just an issue in Missouri. A previous investigation done by FOX 8 in New Orleans revealed customers of United Health Care, Cigna and more are seeing clawbacks. 

Following this initial investigation, there have been countless lawsuits against insurance companies for the practice.

KOMU 8 News wanted to see what the problem looked like here in mid-Missouri.

Currently, 12 states have laws against the practice of clawing back money or allow pharmacists to be transparent with patients when it comes to payment options.

Missouri House Bill 1542 addresses clawbacks and pharmacists’ ability to be transparent with patients.

“It does talk about the gag orders and most specifically the clawbacks provision and would allow pharmacists to share information. Then, the patient can make a decision if they want to run it through their insurance or pay a cheaper amount,” Fitzwater said.

Fitzwater said the pharmacy association believes the patient at least ought to have the information, but pharmacists cannot share it.

“You know they have to do it based on what the insurance company dictates and, often times, they are not allowed to talk to patients about the difference in the cost,” he said.

Bromstedt said the pharmacist is often the last person a patient sees in the health care process.

“They get discharged from the hospital, they come to the pharmacy with a bunch of prescriptions and we fill them. They have questions, and we answer their questions. So, that is a resource for them,” she said. “And for us to be as open and honest as possible is really a good thing and to their benefit.”

Fitzwater said PBMs are a necessary part of the process, but they have strayed away from their original intent.

“Somebody has to keep record of that so, when the pharmacist puts the patients’ data into the system, they know if they have coverage, what the co-pay is, what physicians they’ve been to,” Fitzwater said. 

Customers can ask for lower prices - and pharmacists can give cash cost

He said PBMs were essentially started as a way to help with the transaction process. 

“They got to the point where the transaction fees weren’t enough to sustain the business model the way they wanted to so they began looking at other ways where they could make revenue off of that data stream," Fitzwater said. 

So now, Fitzwater said, some PBMs sustain their business models by over-charging patients, which is "far outside the original intent" of the system. 

He said if the patient asks about a cheaper price, pharmacists have the power to share the information. The pharmacists have the power to re-run a purchase as cash. 

“The PBMs are sophisticated enough they watch those metrics. If a pharmacist is backing enough claims out of their system then they assume that the pharmacist is sharing information outside of their contract,” he said.

One insurance company responds: Committed to 'affordable solutions'

KOMU 8 News reached out to Cigna and the PBM associated with Catalyst Rx (Optum Rx) for comment. 

Cigna sent the following statement: 

"Cigna is committed to offering customers and clients affordable solutions to support improved health while containing both drug and total medical costs. A pharmacy should charge Cigna customers the lowest price available under their plans. We encourage pharmacists to share all options with customers as they struggle to manage the rising costs of prescription drugs."

Optum Rx has not yet responded.  

Rep. Lynn Morris, R-Nixa, the sponsor for House Bill 1542, said he expects it to make it to the Senate in mid-April and said he is hopeful it will pass. 

KOMU 8 wants to know if this has happened to you. Please send us your examples. 

Look up your medication using this search tool

Below, you can use our search tool to look up commonly-prescribed medications that have had insurance clawbacks listed in recent lawsuits.

  • Accu-Chek


  • Acyclovir

    Chicken pox, herpes, shingles

  • Aktob

    Eye infections

  • Albuterol

    Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, other lung diseases

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    Irregular heartbeat problems

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    Narcolepsy, ADHD

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    Cold, flu cough

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    Seizures, panic disorder

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    Synthetic vitamin

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    Muscle relaxer

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    Hypogonadism, breast cancer

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    Intestinal hypermobility, irritable bowel syndrome

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    Chest pain, high blood pressure

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    High blood pressure, noncancerous prostate enlargement

  • Doxycycline

    Antibiotic, acne

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    Depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic pain

  • Enalapril

    High blood pressure

  • Escitalopram

    Depression, anxiety

  • Estradiol


  • Eszopiclone


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    Iron supplement

  • Ferrous

    Iron supplement

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  • Fluconazole

    Fungal, yeast infections

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    Skin conditions

  • Fluoxetine

    Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, panic disorder

  • Fluticasone


  • Folbee

    Vitamin deficiency

  • Folic acid


  • Furosemide

    Congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease

  • Gabapentin


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    High cholesterol and triglycerides

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    Birth control

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    Seizures, panic disorder

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    High blood sugar

  • Guaifenesin


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  • Hydrocodone/APAP

    Pain relief

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    Anxiety, allergies

  • Ibuprofen

    Fever, pain relief

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    Pain relief, arthritis, gout

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    High blood pressure

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    Chest pain

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    Epilepsy, bipolar disorder

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  • Levocetirizi


  • Levofloxacin


  • Levothyroxine

    Hypothyroidism, goiters, thyroid cancer

  • Lexapro

    Depression, anxiety

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    High blood pressure

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    High blood pressure

  • Lithium

    Bipolar disorder

  • Loratadine


  • Lorazepam


  • Losartan

    High blood pressure

  • Losartan and Hydrochlorothiazide

    High blood pressure

  • Lovastatin

    High cholesterol and triglycerides

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    High blood sugar

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    Muscle relaxer

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    ADHD, narcolepsy

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    Congestive heart failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure

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    High blood pressure, chest pain

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  • Minivelle


  • Mirtazapine


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    Eczema, psoriasis

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    Asthma, allergies

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    Urinary tract infections

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    Fungal infections

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    Excess stomach acid

  • Ondansetron

    Nausea, vomiting

  • Oxcarbazepin


  • Oxybutynin

    Overactive bladder

  • Oxycodone/APAP

    Pain relief

  • Pantoprazole

    Excess stomach acid

  • Paroxetine

    Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Penicillin


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    Pain relief

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    Parkinson's, restless leg syndromer

  • Pravastatin

    High cholesterol and triglycerides

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  • Prednisolone


  • Promethazine/Codeine

    Allergies, cold relief

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    High blood pressure, heart attack prevention

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    Excess stomach acid

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    Dry eyes

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    Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder

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    High cholesterol and triglycerides

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    Allergies, asthma



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    High blood pressure, fluid retention, diuretic

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    Birth control

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    Migraines, cluster headaches

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    Colonoscopy preparation

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    Hypothyroidism, goiters, thyroid cancer

  • Tamiflu


  • Tamsulosin

    Noncancerous prostate enlargement

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  • Terazosin

    High blood pressure, noncancerous prostate enlargement

  • Terbinafine

    Fungal infections

  • Tizanidine

    Muscle spasms, multiple sclerosis

  • Tobramycin/Sus Dexameth

    Eye infections

  • Topiramate

    Epilepsy, migraines

  • Tramadol

    Pain relief

  • Tranex

    Excessive blood loss

  • Trazodone


  • Tretinoin


  • Triamcinolone

    Skin conditions

  • Triamterene and Hydrochlorothiazide

    High blood pressure, fluid retention, diuretic

  • Vagifem


  • Valacyclovir

    High blood pressure

  • Valsartan

    High blood pressure

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    Facial hair growth

  • Venlafaxine

    Depression, anxiety, panic disorder

  • Ventolin

    Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, other lung diseases

  • Viagra

    Erectile dysfunction

  • Vigamox

    Eye infections

  • Vitamin D

  • Vyvanse

    ADHD, binge-eating disorder

  • Warfarin

    Blood clots

  • Xopenex

    Asthma, lung diseases

  • Zaleplon


  • Zolpidem


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TARGET 8 Follow-Up: Bill would fund training for coroners http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-follow-up-bill-would-fund-training-for-coroners/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-follow-up-bill-would-fund-training-for-coroners/ Target 8 Thu, 15 Mar 2018 10:32:47 PM Jamie Grey, KOMU 8 Chief Investigator TARGET 8 Follow-Up: Bill would fund training for coroners

JEFFERSON CITY – A bill moving through the state legislature would help fund training for Missouri’s coroners. In February, KOMU 8 News investigated the state’s coroner system, finding there are some coroners not attending training and a lack of laws regulating how the elected officials do their jobs.

"I believe it's a step to make the coroner's office a stronger office. Better coroners, better identification of how somebody passed away, and I think it's definitely something that's needed,” bill sponsor Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, said.

Currently, Missouri law states coroners must get 20 hours of training, and they can be fined $1,000 for not attending. But the executive director of the Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association, Kathleen Little, said not everyone is attending, and not every county is levying the fine.

“There’s no real requirement for them to even come to training,” Little said. “There’s no punishment involved and it’s up to the county commission to decide whether they’re going to punish the coroner for not attending training. There’s no standard training for coroners across the board.”

Houx’s bill would establish a coroners training fund by collecting a one dollar fee on each death certificate. The association would get the money and use it for training, ideally from a national organization. The bill would also take away a coroner’s power to sign death certificates if he or she does not attend.

“It’s a problem because they are not being trained. There are some people that have been a coroner for a long time and possibly just don’t feel they need to have training,” Houx said.

Houx said coroners should be forced to have continuing education no matter how long they’ve been in office.

“Just like myself, I’m a real estate agent, licensed realtor, and we have to have continuing education. Same with an attorney. This is a situation that needs to have continuing education. Especially a new, first-time coroner needs to have training up front and continue on,” Houx said. “This bill allows it to have teeth to have some activities to take care of them when they don’t go to training.”

One family’s story

One father who lost his son sparked the original Target 8 story. Jayke Minor’s death was initially ruled an accidental drug overdose, but two years after his death, toxicology reports showed he only had THC, the metabolite of marijuana, in his system. Drug experts do not believe people can die from marijuana.

Unfortunately for Jayke Minor’s father, Jay Minor, there was no autopsy and most evidence from his death is gone.

"Nothing proves anything of what happened or might have happened. It was just completely overlooked and not investigated,” Jay Minor said. "I don't know what happened to Jayke. I was led to believe he died from drugs. So that's what I believed for two years. Then I began to question it.”

Some other county coroners said those questions could and should have been answered, if the initial coroner had done more investigating. Saline County Coroner Willie Harlow has been working with Jay Minor since last summer when he found out about his story. He has testified in favor of the bill in committee.

"If there's standardized training, then there is a standard operating procedure that we follow, and in this case you do this, in this case you do that. Instead of where we are now, where you just do whatever you want and there is no recourse or discipline whether it's right or wrong,” Harlow said.

Bill now in Senate committee

Houx first became interested in the issue of coroner training when there was an election in his own county; a man who was in the funeral home business and the son of a coroner was running for the office but so were other people, with no background in death – including a taxi driver.

“We had a couple other people run that never had any training or had anything to do really with the death of a person So it was interesting to see you had somebody that wanted to run that had no training,” Houx said. "I feel for the Minors and what happened there. Somebody who needed a little more training. A very sloppy case there.”

Houx said this is the first step in reforming the system, and he is interested in other ideas for change. One idea that seems unlikely, however, is taking the office away from a citizen coroner system on the county level, which is how most Missouri counties operate.

“In the rural areas, we’re having issues just having doctors, so to have one country doctor in an area and ask them to do the coroner and take away time… They maybe have to get up the next morning and perform a surgery, and for little pay of what the coroners do get paid,” Houx said.

House Bill 2079 is currently in a Senate committee. Houx is confident it will get to the floor after legislative spring break and that the bill will have strong support. It passed the House 144-10. An identical Senate bill is also in the same committee.

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TARGET 8: Inspections of nail shops in Missouri are not public information http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-inspections-of-nail-shops-in-missouri-are-not-public-information/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-inspections-of-nail-shops-in-missouri-are-not-public-information/ Target 8 Sun, 11 Mar 2018 7:04:43 PM Kyreon Lee, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Inspections of nail shops in Missouri are not public information

COLUMBIA - Manicures and pedicures usually leave customers satisfied, but some customers worry about how clean a nail shop is.

In Missouri, nail shops are inspected annually, while in Kansas inspections take place twice a year.

Target 8 investigated inspection requirements for Missouri and the 8 surrounding states. Target 8 filed a records request under the Missouri Sunshine Law for inspections information and complaints against nail shops in Missouri. The Missouri Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners refused. 

The board's executive director, Brittany Tomblinson, issued this response:

"The records containing complaints filed with the Board and inspections in which you are requesting are protected from disclosure by law and are closed records, otherwise protected by law."

A key statute says "All educational transcripts, test scores, complaints, investigatory reports, and information pertaining to any person who is an applicant or licensee" may not be disclosed to the public without written permission.

The board declined an on camera interview and asked to answer all other questions via email.

The investigation revealed that Missouri is the only state in the Midwest that does not disclose inspection information to any member of the public.

The map below lists the law for inspections in surrounding states:

In surrounding states, laws state the most recent inspection must be posted in a conspicuous area or public view, or made available to the general public. 

There are more than 30 cosmetology schools listed for Missouri. Target 8 spoke to the owner of one of them. 

Sam Brown, of Sam Brown's Cosmetology Institute in Columbia, has been in the business for 33 years, and his school has been open for 12.

He said salons and technicians should take pride in their work.

"They should want to see that that customer sees that they are changing these items, that they are making sure that everything is sanitary and ready for their next client," he said. 

Brown said cleanliness should be the top priority for nail shops and nail technicians.

"No client should come in and sit down at a manicuring table for a set of nails or sitting at a pedicure booth and knowing that it has not been thoroughly and cleanly sanitized prior to that service," Brown said.

He said clients should look for the following:

Make sure the table is clean and dust free:

"You should not look down and see dust everywhere because that dust came off of someone else's hands or their nails, when they're filing," Brown said

All nail filers and buffers should be clean:

"We teach our students that everything must be maintained in a closed container," he said.

Be sure that the nail technician and you have sanitized hands prior to beginning the services

Make sure a fresh towel or paper towel is used

"Those are just secret things that you can see, that if they're being done, then there's a very good chance that the person doing the services are not in a routine of making sure things are very clean," Brown said. 

According to a report, nail shops across the U.S. generated approximately $8.53 billion in 2017.

While getting clients in and out of the chair quickly is effective for business, there are risks to not preparing a clean area for each customer.

"Most of the time people end up with bacteria is because instruments or things are not sanitized properly and therefore they have problems," Brown said.

Salon customer Kennedy Moore said she is concerned that inspections are not public information.

"I think any time somebody is hiding something and not giving access to the public for something that is done for the public, it's suspicious. It makes you wonder, what are you guys trying to hide?" she said.

Brown said people should be more conscious when choosing a nail salon.

"If more people stepped away from that service because they felt it wasn't going to be safe for them and they felt that it should be cleaner, then maybe people that aren't so conscious of making sure they are clean, would become more because they would lose some business and the ones that are clean would benefit business," he said. 

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Senate Majority PAC attacks Josh Hawley in TV ad http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-senate-majority-pac-attacks-josh-hawley-in-tv-ad/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-senate-majority-pac-attacks-josh-hawley-in-tv-ad/ Target 8 Thu, 8 Mar 2018 5:39:10 PM Mackenzie Huck, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Senate Majority PAC attacks Josh Hawley in TV ad

COLUMBIA - Missouri's Senate race between Attorney General Josh Hawley and Sen. Claire McCaskill is shaping up to what some are calling one of the most competitive and most dramatic elections this midterm election season.

Attack ads have already hit the airwaves, and Columbia College political science professor Terry Smith said the number of ads are only going to increase in the next few months. 

“In 2016, at just the federal level alone, there were $8 billion spent on elections," Smith said. "There’s lots of money out there. In Missouri, the laws are pretty flexible and permissive. Just wait until this season progresses because there are going to be tens of millions of dollars spent in Missouri on this Senate race.”

Senate Majority PAC's latest ad takes aim at Attorney General Josh Hawley's alleged link to mega donors and his self-proclaimed record of fighting corruption in Jefferson City. Here is the Target 8 team's analysis of the ad against Hawley.

Claim: Josh Hawley took nearly $3 million from a single donor who was accused of an illegal "pay to play" scheme with lawmakers.

We found this claim to be true. According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, the donor referred to in the ad, Joplin businessman David Humphreys, donated $2.75 million to Hawley's Attorney General campaign in 2016.

Humphreys was then accused of a "pay to play" scandal involving Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-District 32). Both men have denied any wrongdoing. 

Smith said SMP is going to capitalize on the idea of "pay to play," the relationship to Humphreys and Hawley's campaign promise to combat corruption.

Smith said "pay to play" is shorthand for "somebody making a donation to a campaign and then having some expectation of a payback in the sense of maybe supporting a policy or proposing legislation or maybe opposing legislation that benefits the donor."

Smith added, "that’s why people are so skeptical of campaign finance because that looks like corruption to lots of people. It’s really normal business."

When asked about the situation in April, Hawley told KCUR that his office didn't have criminal jurisdiction over "pay-to-play" allegations in the Capitol. He said that would have to be handled by the local county prosecutor.

Claim: Hawley has taken no action. He said he saw nothing wrong, and admits he hadn't looked at evidence in the case. This in reference to the "pay to play" scandal.

We found this claim to be incomplete. When Hawley spoke about the case to the Kansas City Star, he said he doesn’t see any evidence of corruption involving Humphreys and Senate Pro Tem Richard’s relationship because there is no evidence.

“You have a contributor who gives to someone, and that’s not against the law,” Hawley told the KC Star. “We’ve received no evidence in that case that would suggest any wrongdoing. In fact, we’ve received no evidence at all in that case.” 

SMP communications director Chris Hayden said Hawley is not looking hard enough for evidence.

“An attorney general, if they’re really concerned about it, they can look for evidence and make it a priority for them. Josh Hawley does not believe this is a priority for his office," Hayden said.

Ad takes shots at Hawley's Public Corruption Unit

When Hawley ran for attorney general he promised his office would “take a more aggressive role in aiding local and federal prosecutors investigating allegations of corruption.”  Since he was elected, Hawley has created a "public corruption unit." 

In an email, Hawley for Senate spokeswoman Kelli Ford said he has stuck to his campaign promises. She said there are people working specifically for this unit and they've prosecuted four different people. 

“The bottom line is Hawley has prioritized prosecuting public corruption and created a team to make it happen," Ford said. "Regardless of whether the group is a team or unit, Hawley’s office still has a working group of lawyers who have already prosecuted four officials for public corruption.” 

Hayden is standing by the ad's claims.

“It’s that kind of disfunction that you’re seeing with Gov. Greitens that Josh Hawley said he would clean up, but he’s not," Hayden said. "He’s trying to run from that job. He has shown no ability to clean up Jefferson City. Missouri voters should not trust that he has any ability to clean up Washington, D.C.”

In addition to the creation of a corruption unit, Hawley has also enacted an ethics policy for his employees that prohibits them from accepting gifts from lobbyists.

Ford said claims made about Hawley's record have been false in the past, and this is another attempt to discredit his campaign.

"Claire McCaskill is pushing false information about Josh’s record as attorney general in hopes of pulling the wool over voters' eyes – and all of her liberal friends are in on it,” Ford said. “Their claims about his efforts on public corruption were rated ‘mostly false’ months ago. Unfortunately, this shows what kind of campaign she’s running. She is in the worst position of her 36-year political career, and she will do anything – even lie – to tear Josh down.”  

Voters will head to the polls for the midterm elections set for Nov. 6. For more TARGET 8 Fact Checks, click here.

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TARGET 8: Complaints about meat labels trigger investigation http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-complaints-about-meat-labels-trigger-investigation/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-complaints-about-meat-labels-trigger-investigation/ Target 8 Wed, 7 Mar 2018 8:01:43 PM Carolina Brigagao, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Complaints about meat labels trigger investigation

COLUMBIA - "Stinking rotten discolored meat" prompted a customer of Prenger Foods to contact KOMU 8 News and ask for an investigation.

The email said meat at several locations of the grocery chain had "outdated stickers" on the packages "as many as 3 stickers" piled on top of each other.

KOMU 8 News looked into seven out of the nine Prenger Foods stores throughout north mid-Missouri. The Target 8 team found the problems centered on how the meat was handled and labeled.

The investigation started at the Prenger Food store in Hallsville. On Feb. 1, KOMU 8 News went to the store and bought a package of chicken drumsticks that had three price date labels stacked on top of each other, each layer concealed by the next. The uppermost sticker had a sell by date of February 8, 2018. The two labels under that showed sell by date Aug. 1, 2017. 

A store manager said he did not know how that happened. 

"It is weird. See, this comes in from our warehouse. We just got these in this week,” he said. "If you want, I can just refund your money, and I will send this back to the warehouse. I am not sure why that is like that. Cause, like I said, we just got those in on Tuesday.”

KOMU 8 News contacted the chain and talked to Amanda Prenger, daughter of one of the owners. She scheduled a meeting with Prenger's meat manager Eric Richardson. 

He said the labels on raw chicken drumsticks are placed by the stores and not by distributors. 

Package Labels

According to USDA regulations, a raw meat or poultry package label should include the name of the product, what the product is composed of, the retailer or company name, weight, price and safe handling instructions. 

The same USDA regulations also specify how the label should be placed on a meat package:

"Any word, statement, or other information required by this part to appear on the label must be prominently placed thereon with such conspicuousness and in such terms as to render it likely to be read and understood by the ordinary individual under customary conditions or purchase and use.

The stacking of the labels on the Prenger's chicken drumsticks didn't make the original sell by date clear. 

The same practice of stacking labels was found at Prenger's Sturgeon location.

At the Huntsville store, more than one label was applied to meat products, but the labels were positioned in such a manner that allowed the customer to view both sell by dates, weights and prices, making it clear the label on that product was changed. USDA code requires that any date changes be made obvious; "that the change in the date is identified on the label, e.g., 'original sell-by date' and 'new sell-by date'."

The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) code states that the "principal display panel," which is the label that contains the product's weight and price, "shall be the part of a label that is most likely to be displayed, presented, shown or examined under customary conditions of display for sale."

In the case of red meats, other labels such as "reduced price," "reduced for fast consumption," "keep frozen" and "previously frozen" can be used in raw meat packages for clarity purposes. But, the FSIS has specific regulations for poultry.

Jeffery Canavan, USDA deputy director of labeling and program delivery staff, said,  "If a product is labeled as fresh, and it was subsequently frozen, the reference to fresh would need to be removed from that label."

Otherwise it's misleading, he said.

"I believe in that type of situation, FSIS should recommend that there be a statement on there to let consumers know: previously frozen, keep refrigerated or refreeze for your protection,” Canavan said.

Meat and Poultry shelf-life 

Under USDA and FSIS regulations, retailers are allowed to extend the sell by date of raw meat if it is still deemed safe for consumption.

Sell by dates on raw meat and poultry packages are used for quality control. 

Even though there are not specific regulations explaining how much retailers can extend food sell by dates, Canavan said the retailer should have a clear reason.

"We don't support randomly changing the dates unless there is a reason behind it," Canavan said.

Sell by dates on raw meat packages are not required by federal law, and according to a University of Missouri Meat Science Professor, Bryon Wiegand, placing a sell by date is a courtesy done by the retailer. 

"On packages you see a sell by date, those are largely for inventory control for the retailer. So, that is not necessarily an expiration date," Wiegand said. "In fact, it's not a expiration date." 

Wiegand offered an example.

"If we are on day four of a product, and we reduce it for sale at the end of day four, somebody may say, at the end of day five, 'If we don't sell that we might freeze it and sell it as a frozen product, or we may just throw that product away.' And that is restrictively the retailer’s prerogative,” he said. 

But again, if there is a date listed and then changed, code states that change should be clear to the consumer. 

In 2016, the USDA revised its guidance on raw meat and poultry date labeling in order to reduce food waste.

“From a FSIS position, you know, if a date is applied and than a second date is later applied, extending it, we would expect that they do something to it; further process it, or maybe is refrigerated," Canavan said. "That would be a situation that you could change the date.”

According to the USDA, each meat or poultry cut has a different storage time limit in order to keep refrigerated food safe for consumption. 

Freezing and Thawing 

How did Target 8 buy a 6-month-old chicken? 

Canavan and Wiegand said it's likely the chicken was previously frozen.

"That sounds consistent with a product that has been frozen and thawed," Canavan said. "The freezing process and the subsequent thawing will, you know, there is not a safety concern there, but it will affect the quality over time because the ice crystals will penetrate the cells."

Wiegand said the situation seems odd.

"I don’t necessarily know why a retailer would do that and not sell it as a frozen product,” he said.

The chicken drumsticks bought at the Prenger Food in Hallsvillle didn't have any label that said it had previously been frozen. 

Wiegand said, "That would be a little curious. That’s how it went through the store. So, I don't know what their particular protocol would be, but typically, if it was put in the freezer, on the original sell by date, would stay in the freezer and be sold as a frozen product."

Target 8 made several attempts to talk to the owners of Prenger Foods, but got no response.

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TARGET 8: Insurance policy leaves some ER patients uncovered http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-insurance-policy-leaves-some-er-patients-uncovered/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-insurance-policy-leaves-some-er-patients-uncovered/ Target 8 Sun, 4 Mar 2018 10:40:23 AM Nora Faris, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Insurance policy leaves some ER patients uncovered

JEFFERSON CITY - Simple symptoms can sometimes have deadly diagnoses. A splitting headache could be a migraine, or it could be an aneurysm. Arm pain could just be muscle soreness, or it could be the onset of a potentially fatal heart attack. 

Making that judgement call is usually the domain of doctors and medical professionals. But now, health insurance company Anthem is making some Missouri patients decide whether they are experiencing a true emergency before visiting the ER - or risk turning a health scare into a financial nightmare.

Under the policy, Anthem determines coverage for patients based upon their diagnoses, not their symptoms. For example, if a patient arrived at the ER experiencing chest pain - often a warning sign of a heart attack - and was actually suffering from acid reflux, their claim could be denied under the Anthem policy.

Even though the symptoms might have been serious, the diagnosis was not. Anthem could deny the claim, saying the patient's use of the ER was a "non-emergency."

Medical professionals and health care organizations in Missouri are pushing back against the policy, saying it puts patients at risk and discourages them from seeking prompt emergency care.

An Unfolding Emergency: A Timeline of the Anthem ER Policy

Anthem initiated its ER policy in Missouri beginning on June 1, 2017. So far, Anthem has rolled out the policy in a handful of other states, including Ohio, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia.

A Doctor's Dilemma

Dr. Jonathan Heidt, an emergency physician at University Hospital in Columbia and president of the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, has the knowledge and training to identify true medical emergencies and save patients' lives—but only if they come to the ER first, he said. 

One of the problems with the Anthem policy, Heidt said, is that it requires patients to make a judgment best left to an emergency physician. 

"I went to medical school for four years, trained in emergency medicine for four years after that, and have been practicing for six years," he said. "Just based on symptoms alone, even I can't always know what's an emergency and what's not. I need to see the patient, examine them, and even run some tests."

Heidt serves as the president of the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, an advocacy group that has been fighting Anthem's ER policy. 

The Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri State Medical Association and Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons have joined MoCEP in opposing the Anthem policy.

Cutting Back on Avoidable ER Visits

When Anthem rolled out its ER policy in 2017, the company said it was trying to reduce the inappropriate use of hospital emergency departments. 

In a statement to KOMU, Anthem said its goal "is to ensure access to high quality, affordable health care, and one of the ways to help achieve that goal is to encourage consumers to receive care in the most appropriate setting. For non-emergency health care needs, ERs are often a time-consuming place to receive care and in many instances, 10 times higher in cost than urgent care."

But Heidt said the overuse of the ER that insurers and politicians tend to decry is a misdiagnosis.

According to the "International Journal for Quality in Health Care", less than 5 percent of emergency department visits are avoidable. 

"This policy won't just affect the health care decisions of that small percent of people misusing the ER," Heidt said. "It'll change the decision making process for anyone who's thinking about going to the ER."

He said it could have deadly consequences.

"It'll affect the people who may be having a heart attack, who may be having a stroke, but who will delay their care, because either themselves, or a family member or a friend will have had their visit denied," Heidt said.

In May 2017, Anthem sent a letter to Missouri policyholders, warning them: "Save the ER for emergencies -Or you'll be responsible for the cost."

The letter offered other care alternatives to the ER, including urgent care and retail health clinics (i.e. clinics in supermarkets, pharmacies or stores).

Anthem also reminded policyholders of their access to LiveHealth Online and the 24/7 NurseLine, which they could use to obtain remote medical advice from on-call medical professionals.

Heidt said Anthem's policy is a step too far. He said co-pays are already a disincentive for insured patients to use the ER when another care option is appropriate and available.

The insurance co-pays are higher for emergency room care than for urgent care or primary care clinics, meaning most patients are already weighing a significant personal financial cost in their decision to seek care at the ER.

Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the Anthem policy undermines the purpose of health insurance.

"If I were an Anthem policyholder, I would be particularly concerned about this, because this policy would expose me to the exact problem that individuals without health insurance have," he said.

In a 2017 study by Morning Consult, 4 in 10 adults reported they delayed or avoided seeking emergency care in the past two years, "fearing the cost of co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles." According to the study, nearly half of those who waited to seek care had their medical conditions worsen.

Dillon said the Anthem policy could have an even more pronounced influence on patients' decisions to self-diagnose and delay needed care.

The Heart of the Matter

One night in 2011, Christie Fain could tell something just wasn't right. 

"It felt like a rubber band was snapping in my chest," she said.

Fain had none of the risk factors for a heart attack. She lived a healthy lifestyle, didn't smoke, and had no family history of heart disease.

But instead of shrugging off her symptoms, Fain decided to dial 911.

"On the ambulance ride to the hospital, the EMT was leaning over me and told me, 'You're not our typical heart attack patient,'" Fain said. "We were all surprised that I had a heart attack."

Fain was found to have had a 100 percent blockage of her circumflex artery. An emergency surgery helped save her life.

She said, in a situation like hers, it would be difficult for a patient to discern what's wrong without visiting the ER.

"Call 911, and let the doctor determine whether it's indigestion, or a heart attack or a dizzy spell," Fain said. "Don't leave it to your hands to make that determination." 

But Anthem's policy doesn't give patients that choice—and that's the heart of the matter.

Because if it's not a heart attack (or another condition that Anthem considers "emergent"), the patient will be left to pay for the full cost of the visit. 

Legally, insurance companies must operate using a "prudent layperson" standard. 

That means, if a patient with an average level of medical knowledge, like Fain -thinks her symptoms and condition warrant an emergency visit, that visit should be covered. 

Heidt said, under the standard, a company should consider a patient's symptoms, rather than his or her diagnosis, when making a decision about that patient's claim.

Anthem says its medical directors "review the claim information submitted by providers, using the prudent layperson standard."

But Heidt said Anthem's policy inherently violates the idea of the standard, since the policy retroactively judges the claim by the diagnosis, not the symptoms.

Heidt said he reviews denied emergency claims for University Hospital. He cited a case where a patient was hit by a car, came in to the ER on a backboard with a neck collar, and received CAT scans and a full evaluation.

But, because the patient was not actually seriously hurt, their claim was initially denied by Anthem. 

"Getting hit by a car, that seems like a pretty obvious reason someone would have gone to the emergency department," Heidt said.

A Change of Heart?

Earlier in 2018, Anthem debuted some revisions to its ER policy. 

These exemptions will now be covered by Anthem:

  • ER services for children under 15, regardless of the diagnosis
  • ER services for patients who do not have an Urgent Care facility within 15 miles
  • ER services for a patient directed to the ER by another physician
  • ER visits that occur between 8 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. Monday or on major holidays
  • Emergency care for a patient traveling out of state
  • Emergency care if a patient receives any kind of surgery
  • ER visits associated with an outpatient or inpatient admission

Anthem has also said it will review ER claims it previously denied.

Political and health care leaders still aren't satisfied.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Anthem's policy still compromises patient wellbeing, and in a December letter, she demanded Anthem provide more information about the policy.

This week, McCaskill and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) sent a letter to Alex Azar, Department of Health and Human Services secretary, opposing Anthem's policy and demanding action by HHS.

Their letter asks HHS to look into whether Anthem's ER policy hurts consumers and violates federal law and the prudent layperson standard.

An Emergency Fix

Several bills intended to alter Anthem's policy are currently under consideration in the state legislature.

Senate Bill 928 and House Bill 2225, would reinforce the prudent layperson standard and require all ER claims to be reviewed by an emergency physician licensed to practice in the state of Missouri.

In the meantime, Heidt said if you're a patient who has been affected by the Anthem policy, you can lodge a complaint with the Missouri Department of Insurance.

What's Your Emergency?

Many serious emergency conditions, like heart attacks and strokes, have subtle symptoms. 

A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that there can be as much as a 90 percent overlap in symptoms between medical emergencies and non-emergencies.

This infographic highlights some simple symptoms that could be signs that something is seriously wrong.

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Target 8: Films and TV shows set in Missouri, rarely filmed in Missouri http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-films-and-tv-shows-set-in-missouri-rarely-filmed-in-missouri/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-films-and-tv-shows-set-in-missouri-rarely-filmed-in-missouri/ Target 8 Fri, 2 Mar 2018 1:32:57 PM Dallas Parker, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8: Films and TV shows set in Missouri, rarely filmed in Missouri

LAKE OZARK-  'Ozark,' a Netflix series, named after a real town in Missouri appears to be filmed at the Lake of the Ozarks.

But some residents of the lake say the show did not portray the people there very well.

“It could have depicted the people here a little better. It kind of showed us as back hood, Kentucky moonshiners. Which is, if you know the lake area, it’s not true. Most people took it very seriously, but you've got to think it’s just a story. You know it’s not a true story, just a story,” said Lake Ozark resident, Pat Collins

Others wanted more accurate landmarks.

“The school, that wasn't our school, we did have a Piggly Wiggly here years ago, but their grocery store was Piggly Wiggly, that’s not accurate,” said Suzanne Brownell, an extra in 'Ozark' who was born and raised at the lake.

Since the show was released, one business owner at the lake actually opened a bar and grill called 'Marty Byrde's' after the series' main character.

But the fact remains that the majority of the series was actually shot at a lake just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. There were only a few establishing shots actually filmed at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, also appears to be shot in Missouri, but Ebbing, Missouri is a fictional town. The entire film was shot in North Carolina.

It picked up two Oscars Sunday night, for best actress and best supporting actor.

Over the year, many films and television shows have been set in Missouri, and in the beginning most of them were actually shot in Missouri as well.

But that’s no longer the case.

In looking into why this is no longer reality, we found that money is the root of reasoning.

Many states offer tax credit incentives when filmmakers scout locations for shooting.

Missouri no longer does.

The program incentivized large productions by offering up to 35 percent of production costs back to filmmakers as tax credit.

Missouri filmmaker, Brian Maurer, said the state of Missouri is missing out on economic boosts by not offering credit to productions, and sometimes in show business it's cheaper to just film establishing shots.

“It a process where they come in and evaluate the cost, and unfortunately in recent cases, they've come here," said Maurer. "They've evaluated the cost of three or four days of filming exterior shots of the beautiful landscape, and then its just cheaper, to just do that and go somewhere else to film the rest of the project."

According to Maurer, the last production to benefit from the tax credit program in Missouri, released in 2014.

"The last film to kind of squeak through was Gone Girl and it was produced in 2014, it had filed for the tax incentive...got it,  and they filmed it along the Mississippi river hills area, which was great," said Brian Maurer. "It was a great benefit to the state and it was great exposure to the industry and what we are able to provide. But that was the last one."

The state's film tax credit program ended in November 2013. Some lawmakers pushed to have the program restored in 2017. As of now, it still remains expired.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Americans for Prosperity ad attacks Claire McCaskill http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-americans-for-prosperity-ad-attacks-claire-mccaskill/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-americans-for-prosperity-ad-attacks-claire-mccaskill/ Target 8 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 11:00:36 AM Daytona Everett, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Americans for Prosperity ad attacks Claire McCaskill

COLUMBIA – Missouri is a battleground state for this year’s Senate race between Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Being two well-known candidates in the political world, it’s no surprise their campaigns are already in full force.

"This is going to be the premier senate race in the country,” University of Missouri political science professor Marvin Overby said.

Two outside organizations released their first wave of political ads, which consisted of claims to downplay the other candidate.

The PAC, Americans For Prosperity, released the first ad as an attack on McCaskill’s stance on tax reform and the middle class.

"They rarely lie to you; they're more misleading than they are outright fabrications," Overby said.

Here is the Target 8 team's analysis of the ad supporting Hawley. We also fact-checked the ad supporting McCaskill.

Claim: McCaskill said she'd support tax cuts for hard-working Americans, when she had the chance, she said no.

In response to this claim, Mccaskill’s office said her motives are clear when it comes to the middle class.

"She has worked hard to reach across the aisle for a bipartisan compromise on tax reform that would help small businesses create jobs and provide real tax relief for the middle class," McCaskill's website said.

When it comes down to it, Overby said she did vote against the GOP tax bill.

"They cite her vote on House bill one which is the big sort of Trump administration tax cut," Overby said.

State Director for Americans for Prosperity Jeremy Cady said he's sure the tax reform will have positive results for the middle class.

"Those on the other side, they might want to re-write history, but it is absolutely crystal clear, Missourians are feeling the positive effects of tax reform," Cady said.

McCaskill’s office said it's concerned the bill will only benefit the rich and leave the rest of the country, including the middle class, with the “scraps.”

"Instead of forging a bipartisan compromise that would provide meaningful and lasting tax relief for the middle class and help small businesses create jobs, the Republican Congress passed a partisan law that was a giveaway."

A press release stated McCaskill supported the Working Families Tax Relief Act which is confirmed by Congress’ website.

McCaskill worked with Republican representatives to introduce a bill that would “extend tax cuts for small businesses and American workers.”

Result: We found this claim to be incomplete.

The one vote cited does not indicate her entire voting record on the issue.

Claim: "... Voting against tax cuts with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi."

After analyzing the vote for the GOP tax bill, we saw McCaskill did vote "no" to the tax cuts alongside Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Pelosi.

Result: We found this claim to be true.

In response to the ad as a whole, communication director Meira Bernstein said in a statement exclusive to KOMU 8 News:

"Claire has made it abundantly clear that she doesn't care if an ad is for her or against her, Missourians should pay no mind if they don't know exactly who is paying for the ad."

It turns out, politicians have very little say on the ads put out by political action committees.

"They have much less and legally really no input into what the outside groups run on their behalf," Overby said.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Claire McCaskill ad attacks Josh Hawley http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-claire-mccaskill-ad-attacks-josh-hawley/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-claire-mccaskill-ad-attacks-josh-hawley/ Target 8 Fri, 23 Feb 2018 1:06:25 PM Emily McCarter, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Claire McCaskill ad attacks Josh Hawley

COLUMBIA – It’s a senate race some are calling one of the most important in the country.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley are the two big candidates for the 2018 Missouri senate election.

“If you’re putting money on it today, you would say this is gonna be the premiere senate race in the country,” University of Missouri political science professor Marvin Overby said.

Both sides released their first round of political ads, hurling allegations at the other candidate.

Senate Majority PAC released an ad supporting McCaskill in response to an ad for Hawley by the PAC Americans For Prosperity. Below both ads here is the Target 8 team's analysis of the ad for McCaskill. We also fact-checked the ad for Hawley.

Claim: McCaskill supported a middle-class tax cut

We found this to be true.

McCaskill’s team sent KOMU 8 News several instances where she did favor middle-class tax cuts.

McCaskill offered GOP tax plan amendments to protect deductions for Missouri's working families.

A press release states McCaskill supported the Working Families Tax Relief Act. Congress’ website confirms she cosponsored the act.

McCaskill introduced a bill alongside Republican Senator Susan Collins that would “extend tax cuts for small businesses and American workers.”

SMP Communications Director Chris Hayden said this is evidence McCaskill fights for middle-income earners.

“She has a long history of supporting bills that are really focused on the middle class,” he said.

Kelli Ford, spokesperson for the Hawley for Senate campaign, said McCaskill does not favor middle-class tax cuts, because, in another vote, she did not support the Republican tax bill.

Claim: Hawley supported the tax plan giving 83 percent of tax benefits to the richest 1 percent of Americans

We found this to be incomplete.

A Tax Policy Center analysis shows about 25 percent of tax cuts will go to the top 1 percent in 2025.

The amount of tax cuts going to the richest Americans does jump to 83 percent in 2027, but only because most individual income tax changes expire then.

Hawley’s team called the attack false in a press release saying, “It’s a classic case of politicians using a technically accurate statistic but without the context or explanation it requires.”

Claim: This tax plan adds $1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt

We found this to be incomplete.

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation released a report that found, after taking into account economic growth, the tax plan would add $1 trillion dollars to the debt.

However, there’s no consensus among economists on how much, if any, the tax cut would pay for itself.

Hayden said Senate Majority PAC stands by these claims.

“It’s clear that Claire is someone who really understands Missouri and represents all of its people and is willing to fight for everyone and not just to fight for wealthy billionaires,” he said.

The purpose of campaign ads

Overby said campaign ads serve multiple purposes.

“One of the first things these campaign ads are to do is to introduce the candidate to the public,” he said.

Ads also deluge the public with the candidate’s name.

“People tend to vote for the candidate whose name they know," Overby said.

In this case, both political ads were funded by outside groups. Overby said this practice is common, since senate campaigns are so expensive.

“We can count on both candidates in this campaign spending at or above 20 million dollars,” he said. “There’s an old saying in politics that half of everything a campaign spends is wasted money, but they just don’t know which half.”

Overby described political commercials as often deceptive and misleading.

“They rarely lie to you,” he said. “They tend to be more misleading than they are outright fabrications.”

Overby said it’s often what these ads don’t say, especially when it comes to tax cuts.

“Most economists think it’s probably bad public policy to be cutting taxes in a period like this of economic expansion,” he said.

A race to the finish

There’s no strong data showing how much of an affect political ads have on an election.

“On a lot of these campaigns, they’re hoping this is gonna be one of those ads that really sticks,” Overby said. “It’s really hard to predict.”

Both parties said they’re confident their candidate will win the election.

“Claire is not a typical politician,” Hayden said. “Claire is someone who doesn’t sidestep any question and she tells it to you straight.”

Ford said Hawley is fully committed to Missourians.

“Missouri voters deserve better than discredited Democrat talking points,” she said.

Overby expects the Missouri senate race to be a tight one.

“You’ve got two very attractive candidates,” he said. “It’s gonna be interesting to see.”

The Missouri senate primary is Aug. 7, with the general election to follow Nov. 6.

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TARGET 8: Missouri approx. $19 million behind on jail payments http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-missouri-approx-19-million-behind-on-jail-payments/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-missouri-approx-19-million-behind-on-jail-payments/ Target 8 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 6:04:50 PM Chris Joseph, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Missouri approx. $19 million behind on jail payments

JEFFERSON CITY - Not all convicted Missouri inmates run from the law, but most run up large costs for the state. Missouri is falling behind on those bills. 

Every day across Missouri, county jails hold inmates destined for Missouri Department of Corrections prisons. 

State law requires the DOC to reimburse the counties for housing, feeding and transporting those inmates if and when there is a conviction.

State is falling behind on payments

Karen Pojmann, DOC director of communications, stated in an email the department is approximately $19 million behind on those payments.

The state reimburses county jails $22.58 per inmate per day, for as long as they are held in the county jail.

Missouri only pays out reimbursements for inmates who are convicted of violating state law and transported to a DOC prison.

It does not give reimbursements for inmates who are acquitted or whose charges are dropped. 

The state gives the Department of Corrections roughly $10 million every quarter ($40 million per year) to pay reimbursements. Once the $10 million is spent, the department has no money to pay reimbursements until the next quarter. 

The bills are adding up.

Pojmann gave KOMU 8 News a snapshot of what the department owed every county as of January 5. The total unpaid reimbursements added up to over $14 million.

She said the snapshot did not account for reimbursements yet to be approved or filed. 

As of that date, the state owed Boone County Jail more than $543,000. It owed Cole County more than $100,000 and Callaway County more than $236,000.

Pojmann did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. 

Short budget, short staffed

The state reimbursements are used to fund facilities, resources or personnel for county jails.

Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said his jail is understaffed. Three or four corrections officers run a jail of approximately 85 inmates every day.

"In the hypothetical perfect world, which I wish would occur, I would have six corrections officers at any given time," he said.

Chism said the jail also needs more transport staff. Currently, one deputy handles all the inmate extraditions from Callaway County to jails across the state.

The deputy is responsible for transporting prisoners to court and doctor's appointments. 

Chism said the Callaway jail population is rising while his staffing has remained stagnant. 

The Council of State Governments Justice Center presented a 2017 report to the Missouri Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which was appointed by Gov. Eric Greitens in June of last year.

That report said the Missouri jail population increased approximately 50 percent from 2000 to 2015, to more than 10,000 inmates. 

"This is not just Callaway County, this is a predicament nearly every sheriff across the state of Missouri is facing," Chism said.

Backlog in the courts 

The council report cites backlogged courts for extended inmate stays in jail, which swell the population.

"We have inmates who are here for considerable lengths of time waiting for their court cases to make it through the judicial process," Chism said.

According to the report, the average time it takes for Missourians to be convicted and sentenced is 191 days. That is 10 percent higher than in fiscal year 2010. 

The report blames an under-funded public defender system. Over-worked public defenders with a larger caseload ask for delays to build a case.

According to the American Bar Association, public defenders need 47 hours per case. In Missouri, they get nine. The association said the state needs 300 more public defenders to reach acceptable levels. 

Missouri currently ranks 49th in public defender pay. The Missouri Public Defender Office went before the house budget committee in February to request a $30 million increase in funding.

Sounding the alarm and finding solutions

Callaway Commissioner Gary Jungermann spoke to the House Appropriations subcommittee on corrections in late January about the reimbursement issue.

He said the lawmakers were understanding, but his county needs a solution.

"We just don't have the money to keep throwing at the jails, because we've got other things we need to do for the citizens of the county," he said.

Callaway County officials estimate the daily cost of housing an inmate is more than $40, and the state reimbursement only covers about half of that at $22.58.

Jungermann said he wants there to be a conversation between commissioners and the state about repaying the debt and improving the system going forward.

Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, is the ranking minority member of the appropriations subcommittee on corrections. She said she supports increasing the funding for the Public Defender's Office and said the subcommittee has had positive conversations on the issue.

"Even with the budget chair, in these conversations, they've been favorable that we need to increase funding in the public defender's office," she said.

In December, The Council of State Governments Justice Center presented a set of recommendations to the task force on the corrections system.

Those recommendations included encouraging counties to streamline the reimbursement request process, growing release/diversion programs for jail inmates and improving state data collection on jails.  

Note on chart: The values displayed are the unpaid county reimbursement invoices as of January 5, 2018. The Department of Corrections may have paid and/or received more invoices since that date. The department pays its invoices in the order they are received. 

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TARGET 8: "Answer Bots" wasting spammers' time through innovative app http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-answer-bots-wasting-spammers-time-through-innovative-app/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-answer-bots-wasting-spammers-time-through-innovative-app/ Target 8 Mon, 12 Feb 2018 1:44:55 PM Stephanie Sandoval, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8:

COLUMBIA - Telemarketers and spammers are targeting people nationwide, especially during tax season, but there are some innovative apps fighting back against the scammers.

RoboKiller, an iPhone app created and developed by TelTech, automatically blocks robocalls and telemarketers, even if the callers spoof a local number that’s not theirs to begin with. 

The vice president of Product for TelTech Systems, Ethan Garr, contacted KOMU 8 News after our Target 8 team ran a story on spoofing. 

Garr said the app wasted an estimated over 15,000 hours of spammers' time in January compared to December, which wasted around 12,000 hours. 

“Our attitude is 'time is money for these people' and the calls are very cheap to make and that’s why this whole industry exists, so if we could figure out a way to steal time from them, we steal money from them and we essentially put them out of business and that’s our goal,” Garr said.

The app uses audio fingerprinting and a machine-learning algorithm. The app also fights back by answering spammers with RoboKiller “Answer Bots” that talk back to the spammer to waste their time.

“They’re really funny and they’re hilarious and they drive the spammers crazy because they think they’re talking to a real human,” Garr said. 

According to data collected by the RoboKiller Task Force, there are 2,726 spam and robocalls made every second in the United States. 

TelTech is also the maker of SpoofCard, an app that can easily disguise your caller ID and make it so you’re calling from a different number. Garr said SpoofCard “was never intend for a nefarious reason.” He said many professionals use SpoofCard as a way to keep their personal phone numbers private from clients, customers or patients. 

“We’re always trying to solve problems for people on their mobile phones and while spoof card gets a bad rap, the vast majority are using it for very legitimate purposes,” Garr said. “If you’re a doctor, and you need to call a patient from home at night, being able to protect your mobile phone number so you don’t get calls every night from a patient is a very common use.” 

There are many other apps similar to RoboKiller, too, such as Nomorobo, TrapCall  and Avast Call Blocker. 

Each app claims to stop robocalls, though each app is unique.

According to Nomorobo’s website, it has services for bot cellular and landline phones. As stated on its website, Nomorobo for landlines uses a feature known as "Simultaneous Ring.” If the call is an illegal robocaller, the app intercepts the call and hangs up. 

Another landline option is a call-blocking box, which costs anywhere from $20-$150.

TrapCall claims it puts names and faces to callers with Live Caller ID and unmasks unknown callers. According to its website, it will show you “who they are, where they live and how they look even before you answer the call.” It also records incoming calls. 

Avast Call Blocker claims it won’t access your contacts list in your phone for those who have privacy concerns. The app also claims it allows people to block any number they want — not just spammers. 

Melinda Kidder, private investigator and owner of Columbia Investigations, said apps like these are excellent, but are not 100 percent effective.  

“If you’re only having one or two calls here or there every now and then, and it’s only mildly annoying then I wouldn’t recommend it,” Kidder said. “But if it’s something that is someone is obsessively calling you or you're excessively experiencing robo dial calls then I absolutely recommend that kind of service.”

Kidder said to always check into a company because “different models may have different issues.” She recommends reading the reviews, checking prices and privacy policy before deciding on which app to use. 

“If someone has the same type of phone, same type of phone service provider that you use, same type of voicemail that you use and if they use another call forwarding service that you use,” Kidder said, “then I would check into any issues that they may have had with the service prior to using that app.” 

However, she said apps like this may not be the right app for people who live rurally and utilize call forwarding. Kidder lives in a rural area and uses Google Voice, which allows a call to be forwarded to another phone, so if a call drops she can pick up the other phone. 

“But if I were to engage in a service like RoboKiller or Truecaller or Avast Call Blocker, then that would interrupt the call forwarding,” she said. 

Another concern is privacy. Most of the apps available blocking robocalls save calls or recordings on its servers instead of saving it on the person’s phone. Kidder said technically developers could go in and look through voicemails. 

“Chances of them going in and doing that are slim,” Kidder said. “But let’s say you’re a doctor or a psychotherapist or something and you receive confidential calls. That may not be a service for you.” 

Garr said an Android app version of RoboKiller is in underway. He expects the app to launch in early March. 

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TARGET 8: 'Flawed' death investigation highlights problematic coroner system http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-flawed-death-investigation-highlights-problematic-coroner-system/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-flawed-death-investigation-highlights-problematic-coroner-system/ Target 8 Tue, 6 Feb 2018 1:21:05 PM Jamie Grey, KOMU 8 Chief Investigator TARGET 8: 'Flawed' death investigation highlights problematic coroner system

FAYETTE – Multiple coroners around the state of Missouri say their system is flawed, that elected citizen coroners are acting with little or no training, making sometimes irreversible decisions that could pose hazards to the community and pain for families. They say some cases are being mishandled, and there are likely too few autopsies being ordered.

Now, those coroners and their professional association are asking for a change. They want better and more training and standards set in place to update laws that, in many cases, haven’t seen a governor’s signature since the 1940s.
‘I never questioned anything until three years later’
Jay Minor was asleep in the bunk of his semitruck when his phone rang. It was July 21, 2011, and he was driving his rig across the country, taking his evening stop in Columbus, Ohio. On the other end of the phone was the girlfriend of his son, 27-year-old Jayke Minor. She broke the news. His son was dead.
“A police officer got on the telephone, and he said that my son had passed away. And honestly from that point, I can’t tell you any more of the conversation because I was frantic,” Minor said.
Jayke’s girlfriend told Fayette police he’d been sick for three days, acting confused the day he died. She said she’d left the mobile home around 4:30 in the afternoon on July 21. When she returned about an hour later, Jayke was in his bed, not breathing. Police said he was dead when they arrived; his skin was already cold. Officers decided CPR wouldn’t make a difference. Jayke had been dead too long.
Minor said Jayke had a history of drug problems, a history local police in Fayette knew about all too well. That history drove a critical decision by Howard County Coroner Frank Flaspohler: He ruled Jayke died from accidental drug overdose.
Jay Minor was disappointed, but he also accepted the news. It seemed possible, probable even.
“I didn’t question anything because I just figured he did his job, and that’s what happened,” Minor said.
But then came questions about a string of nonexistent records, a lack of drug test results and odd interactions with the county. Minor started to doubt the ruling.
“The more things that started to come about, the less I believed that. And, of course, when we got the toxicology report back, it started falling apart,” Minor said.
It was in 2013 that things really began to spin for Minor; the idea Jayke died from an accidental overdose of drugs was slipping.
‘For the job that the coroner did to make me believe for two years that my son did die of a drug overdose, and then to find out that he didn’t’
Minor said Flaspohler initially told him there was a delay at the state lab, then that the samples of his son’s blood were lost by the lab. Then Flaspohler said he hand-carried another blood sample to the lab.
In 2013, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Lab finally returned a report. Jayke did have drugs in his system – but not drugs coroners commonly believe could cause death. The only positive result: THC – the metabolite of marijuana. 
“You don’t die from marijuana,” Minor said. “So for two years, we thought he died of an accidental overdose. Now it comes back and says there’s no drugs involved.”
More than a year after that toxicology report, Flaspohler filed to correct the death record in 2014. Jayke, he determined, died of natural causes and cardiac dysrhythmia.
“The death certificate was changed, with no evidence to go by, to cardiac dysrhythmia, which basically means his heart stopped. But I don’t know why it stopped,” Minor said.
There was no autopsy. Jayke was cremated. The blood that went to the lab was destroyed as part of the usual protocol. The evidence was gone, but the questions kept growing.
‘Nothing proves anything of what happened or what might have happened’
While the toxicology results took a long time, it was even longer before Minor got a copy of a coroner’s report. It took intervention by another coroner, Pettis County Coroner Skip Smith. A chance meeting at a hospital brought Minor to Smith, and Smith said he’d help get some records.
In March 2016, Smith began his search, asking Flaspohler for the records. He ultimately sent two formal letters asking Flaspohler for the papers. He said Flaspohler finally agreed to meet months later at the gates of the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia.

Smith got the report, and it took only seconds to see the first problem: There was another deceased man’s name on the top of the report. That man’s name was scratched out, replaced with a hand-written “Jaykeb Minor.” Smith took that report to Minor, who was horrified and hurt.
“It’s way beyond a cut-and-paste error. I mean, it’s so unprofessional that he could have overlooked that,” Minor said. “It was so short and unexplanatory. There’s not much to it, really, when you start off with the wrong name on it. Then I notice there’s no date anywhere on the report.”
The coroner’s report: Discrepancies and errors
Minor turned over all of his records to KOMU 8 News for investigation. Immediately, it was clear there were obvious issues with the coroner’s report. The name was wrong. There was no date of death clearly indicated. While the police report stated Jayke Minor was in a bedroom when he died, Flaspohler stated his body was in the living room. While the police report stated Jayke Minor was cold when officers arrived, Flaspohler stated he found the body warm, even though he arrived after emergency responders.
“It just leaves you not knowing what happened. I mean there’s no way to tell what really happened,” Minor said.
Saline County Coroner Willie Harlow agrees there are no answers for Jay Minor about his son. Harlow and Minor first met in June 2017 when Minor took his frustrations to the Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association Board, on which Harlow holds a seat.
“From the very get go, this case was flawed,” Harlow said. “You had EMS personnel, police personnel, and a coroner who all had three different reports as to where the body was and how the body was positioned; whether or not the body was cool or warm.”
Harlow does not mince words on this case; he directly blames Flaspohler.
“He killed the voice of Jayke Minor because he did not investigate, he did not do his job. And this family will never have closure,” Harlow said. “He made a quick decision that he was a drug user, so he died of a drug overdose. And at that moment in time, Frank Flaspohler was done with that case.”
Harlow: ‘We will never know the truth as to why Jayke Minor died’
Harlow said he believes Flaspohler absolutely should have ordered an autopsy on Jayke. His age alone was enough in Harlow’s book.
“Twenty-seven-year-olds do not just die for no reason. I mean, there has to be a reason they die. And the only way to determine that, unless there is a visible sign of a cause of death or manner of death, you have to do an autopsy,” Harlow said. “An autopsy reveals so much about what is actually going on inside of a person that you can’t see with the naked eye. But that was not done in this case.”
As for Jayke’s history of drug use, Harlow said that’s not enough to make a decision on a cause and manner of death, especially since the police report stated officers “were unable to find any evidence of drug use.” Again, Harlow said this was a case where an autopsy should have been ordered and referenced for a determination.
“He didn’t have toxicology. He didn’t have a needle sticking out of Jayke’s arm. He didn’t have drugs in the house. But yet he says he died of a drug overdose. That, in and of itself, is enough to tell someone there that this is someone who did not do their job,” Harlow said.
‘Whose blood was that?’
Once the toxicology results of the blood sample came back from MSHP’s lab, Minor said he was immediately suspicious. Harlow had the same feeling.
“So, he sent in blood that was at least two years old, unpreserved. And there’s very little evidentiary value to blood that is that old. And then the question comes into play: Was it really Jayke’s blood?” Harlow said.
Since the blood was destroyed, Harlow said, there is no way to know for certain if it was Jayke’s blood hand-carried to the lab. Workers there didn’t type the blood, so there’s no way to even find out if it’s possibly Jayke’s or someone else’s.
“You know, Jayke, as his parents have said, had used drugs but was never known to use marijuana, and then all of the sudden, you have this toxicology report come back that there is THC in the blood. It leaves the mind to wonder, whose blood was that?” Harlow said
‘I think it’s an accurate tox report’
Flaspohler met with KOMU 8 News outside the courthouse last week to discuss the blood sample, the coroner’s report and the lack of autopsy in Jayke’s death. He said the case took too long, but he is confident in his investigation and his findings.
While he doesn’t normally save blood samples for years, Flaspohler said, he did in this case:

“I really don’t know why I had some left over,” he said. “I don’t remember other than if there was too much in the syringe, and so I put a little more in the other one.”
Flaspohler said he is “100 percent sure” the blood he brought to MSHP was Jayke’s blood – and he said it was preserved. When asked if the blood could have degraded or lost some other toxins, he said no. He is confident THC was the only drug product in Jayke’s system, but he now says he believes that’s what killed him. That raised another question.
KOMU 8 News: “Why does it say natural rather than drug overdose if you believe THC was the cause?”
“Basically because cardiac arrhythmia is a natural cause. And I actually talked to the highway patrol lab about the THC, and I said there’s no quantity here. He said we don’t quantify it. I asked him why, and he said because you can’t overdose on THC. Which was the theory or the idea six years ago,” Flaspohler said. “This year, there’s been some death certificates signed out by physicians or forensic pathologists that list THC as an overdose now, instead of natural causes.”
Other coroners KOMU 8 News spoke with, including Harlow, were incredulous at the idea THC killed Jayke.
“I have never seen a case where someone died from an overdose of marijuana. It’s not to say that it hasn’t happened. But I have never seen that in my years of being coroner,” Harlow said.

The DEA stated it has zero reports of overdose from marijuana.
Why was the report so inaccurate?  
When KOMU 8 News initially spoke with Flaspohler over the phone and asked about the discrepancies in the initial coroner’s report, he admitted the report had errors beyond the name: that many of the inconsistencies, like the location of Jayke’s body, happened because he had deleted pieces of the old report from another death and entered new information but forgot some elements.
“He was in the bedroom and that one said he was in the living room,” Flaspohler said over the phone. “That’s because I start with one of those reports and go down there and change and make it fit the situation. My pictures even show where he was at.”
Flaspohler said the inaccuracies in the report can be attributed to using old reports as a guide when he starts a new case.
“When I’m at the scene, first thing I do, I write out all my stuff. So, I have it handwritten. Then when everything is done, and this is after all the autopsies, if they’re done, or blood work is done, then eventually I will sit down and put it into the computer,” Flaspohler said. “I don’t have a computer program. It’s one we fixed up in Word that simply has a coroner’s thing and a form to put it in. And what I do is I made one, it worked, so the next time when I did a report, I just go in there and type over everything. And it also helps keep me, as far as the consistency. I don’t know why I didn’t finish it, but went back, and the report wasn’t correct.”
He also told KOMU 8 News in that phone conversation he had a corrected report, a report no one else in this story had ever seen.
A new report and the other man: Inconsistencies remain
With that new information, KOMU 8 News requested a copy of the new corrected report – as well as the report for the other man whose name appeared on the top of Jayke’s report. It could point to when Jayke’s report was really written and whether there were similarities that could prove the report had swapped language.
Flaspohler gave the new report to KOMU 8 News at the in-person interview, one week after he mentioned the corrected report on the phone. What we found – the other man died in November 2014, five months after the date of Flaspohler’s addendum to Jayke’s record. That meant Jayke’s report was not actually typed up as dated on the form.
The new report is signifantly longer and more detailed than the initial report. But it still contains inconsistencies when compared with the initial police report, including the temperature of Jayke’s body. It still states “victim is warm,” when the police noted he was “cool to the touch.” The report for the man whose name was initially on Jayke’s report does not have details that would be similar to Minor’s and explain leftover information from an old report; for example, the man died at work, not in a living room.
KOMU 8 News asked Flaspohler how he could be confident in the accuracy of his reports if he did not type them out for years after being at the scene and only relied on his handwritten notes.
“Because my official report says almost exactly what my handwritten notes say,” Flaspohler said. “There wasn’t anything additional in there, other than the lab work.”

Since no one had seen the new report obtained only recently by the station, KOMU 8 News asked if he had produced the new copy since the phone call. He said he made the new report shortly after he met with Smith at the State Fair gates in 2016.

Why wasn’t there an autopsy?
Flaspohler said, in his more than 20 years as coroner and estimated 1,000 coroner calls, Jayke case was the first he’d marked as “pending investigation” on his initial ruling (a detail only added to the most recent report). Even though he was waiting for results and there were no physical marks on Jayke’s body, Flaspohler decided not to do an autopsy. Jayke’s history of drug use heavily affected that decision.
“Talked to the two policemen on scene. They said nope, there’s nothing suspicious. There was some history there,” Flaspohler said.
But again, the police report also stated officers were “unable to find any evidence of drug use or of a struggle.”
Minor said, “All of these things point to the fact that he should have done an autopsy. If he was sick for three days, we need to know why. Did he get sick from something in the community? Maybe everybody’s at risk. But we’ll never know that.”
Flaspohler still said he made his decision not to autopsy because he did not see anything that indicated anything criminal.
“It’s a balance between spending the taxpayer’s money as frugally as you can, but still covering the things you need. So, six years ago, it was pretty… well, there were a couple of exceptions. It had to be criminal in order for me to authorize the autopsy and have the county pay for it,” Flaspohler said.
He said if he autopsied everyone who died in the county, paying the approximately $1,700 bill on each, he’d run the county up close to $200,000 a year. According to records obtained by Jay Minor’s girlfriend, Debby Ferguson, Flaspohler has returned money from his autopsy and inquest budget to the county nearly every year.

“Frank seems to think that he should not be spending money on autopsies,” Harlow said. “And if that is a coroner’s mindset, that they should not be spending money on autopsies, then they’re probably not doing a very good job of being coroner, because that’s what we do.”
Flaspohler said the county’s commissioners are receptive to him and would help him pay for more autopsies if needed; however, he said, he’s still trying to strike a balance in being responsible. His budget has increased from $2,000 in 2007 to more than $5,000 in 2017.
‘We have zero authority over the coroner’
Minor and Ferguson have been on a mission to tell people in power what happened in Jayke’s case, going to everyone from lawmakers to those in the field of death investigation. Their stop at the coroners’ association meeting in summer 2017 was one of those steps, but they found they couldn’t get much help there.
“Unfortunately, there are more cases like this out there,” said Kathleen Little, of the Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association. “As executive director, it’s very frustrating to look at a family member or tell them over the phone, I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do. We can look into it. But we have zero authority over the coroner.”
Little, who served as coroner for ten years in Clinton County just north of Kansas City, said she is “very frustrated” with the coroner system and laws about death investigations in the state.
“Missouri’s laws are very behind,” she said. “Truly, there are no regulations for when a coroner is doing their job or not doing their job.”
In Missouri, anyone can run for coroner who is over 21-years-old, a one-year resident of Missouri and a six-month resident of his or her county. No prior medical knowledge or death investigation training is needed.
Once elected, the coroner is supposed to attend 20 hours of training per year, but Little said not everyone is attending. While a county is supposed to fine a coroner $1,000 if he or she doesn’t attend, Little said that doesn’t always happen.
“There’s no real requirement for them to even come to training. There’s no punishment involved, and it’s up to the county commission to decide whether they’re going to punish the coroner for not attending training,” she said.
‘It took way too long’
When it comes to the Minor investigation, Flaspohler said it has made him think about changes.
“I will tell you it took way too long. I totally agree with that,” Flaspohler said. “I’ve had 1,000 calls, never had one that took this long.”
He said he is now tracking his cases using a new computer system and is making sure records are done faster. He said does attend training, including additional, optional training, and he is in favor of upping the training requirements for coroners across the state.
He also said a recent coroner’s inquest related to a teen’s suicide death related to bullying has made him look at things differently.
“I’ve actually spent the last year dealing with this inquest and saying we need to look at the schools and say we can do better. So, I can look at me and say, I can do better. We can find a better way. We can get more training. We can get a better computer program,” Flaspohler said.
‘It’s not about him anymore. It’s about getting change.’
While this case has frustrated Minor for the last six and a half years, he and Ferguson are using it to try to push the state of Missouri to make changes. They have called the governor’s and attorney general’s offices, gone to the county commission, the coroner’s board and now lawmakers.

In Missouri, the decision on whether to autopsy and to determine the cause and manner of death are completely in the hands of coroners. The only exception currently is that children under a year old must be autopsied when they die. Coroners say that’s because they are looking for evidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Other than that, a coroner, who may or may not have training, is making decisions that can impact criminal cases, disease statistics, life insurance payouts, or, at the very least, a family’s sense of closure. 
“Some of the rules the coroners are supposed to follow are so broad that they can do these things, but if they don’t, nobody can hold them accountable. As long as that’s the way it is, this will continue,” Minor said.

Ferguson recently started a letter-writing campaign, sending a letter with all of the documents they have to every coroner, medical examiner and lawmaker in the state.
“It’s not about him anymore. It’s about getting change, Ferguson said, “It’s not really going to be up to us what happens to Frank. It’s up to the voters and just making sure it doesn’t happen to everybody else. The only way we can do that is to get a law passed. We want a bill that says not what a coroner should do, is what they must do.”
Legislature considers bill that would fund expanded training
Little, as executive director, is pushing for changes to be made, including the addition of guidelines for when certain tests should be done.
“There really needs to be a standard guideline for coroners to follow to tell them this is when you should be doing autopsies and this is when you should be ordering toxicology. And you know, they should be doing their job, which is figuring out the cause and manner of death,” she said.
Since meeting Minor and Ferguson, Harlow has been fighting to use their story to create change. He is set to testify in a scheduled hearing Tuesday evening for a bill that would attach a fee to death certificates that would fund training for coroners in the state. It would also make it illegal for coroners who do not attend training to sign death certificates.
“For me it has nothing to do with Frank. It has to do with the office of coroner. And it happens to be that, in this particular case, Frank is the coroner, and he holds that office. But the job was not done. And we have to have standard operating procedure for all coroners so that this doesn’t happen, and continue to happen, in the state,” Harlow said.
The training is the first step. Harlow, Little, Minor and Ferguson want to see more standards in the laws to ensure no other family has to go without knowing exactly how their loved one died.
“We have hit one brick wall after the other, but bricks can come down,” Ferguson said.” You just have to be willing to do the work. Hopefully people will step up and help us now.”
Other states: Where does Missouri stack up?

There are other states with similar issues; families in Colorado are raising concerns over similar situations. In some states, the coroner is a de facto position that’s bundled with another office; for example, in small towns in Georgia, the mayor is the coroner.

According to a 2015 report by the CDC, Missouri is one of around 25 states that operate with some version of a county coroner system, though the requirements are lower in this state than some others. For example, in Kansas, coroners must be licensed medical doctors and are appointed, rather than elected.

Some states with citizen county-based coroner systems require coroners to get some type of specialized training once in office; in Minnesota, for example, coroners must become death investigator certified within a few years of taking office. Little said that is one option Missouri might consider examining to help increase training while maintaining the benefits of local control.

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TARGET 8 UPDATE: Children in home for up to nine months during abuse investigation http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-update-children-in-home-for-up-to-nine-months-during-abuse-investigation/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-update-children-in-home-for-up-to-nine-months-during-abuse-investigation/ Target 8 Tue, 30 Jan 2018 12:52:21 PM Chris Joseph, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 UPDATE: Children in home for up to nine months during abuse investigation

RANDOLPH COUNTY - The wife of Carl Sheets, the Moberly man facing charges involving the rape and incest of minors, has been charged. 

27-year-old Angie Sheets faces eight counts involving her "acting in concert with Carl Sheets, aided or encouraged Carl Sheets."

The charges include:

  • Sodomy in the first degree
  • Two counts of child molestation in the first degree
  • Two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree
  • Two counts of incest
  • Felony of rape in the first degree

Court documents stated Angie Sheets was in the bed when Carl Sheets would allegedly sexually assault an underage victim.

The documents describe one scenario where Angie Sheets performed oral sex on Carl Sheets as he assaulted the victim.

Moberly police received a Children's Division Hotline call about Angie Sheets in reference to possible sexual abuse in November 2017.

Angie Sheets was arrested in late December 2017.

Children removed from home

Moberly police received hotline calls about Carl Sheets in September 2015 and then again in 2016.

Angie Sheets' new court documents stated the underage victim in her case was put into foster care after the first hotline investigation into Carl Sheets, which is information not previously available. The documents also clarified all children were removed from the Sheets' home by June 2016, nine months after the first call.

Carl Sheets was not arrested until August 1, 2016, which was after the second hotline call.

37-year-old Carl Sheets faces thirteen charges.

They include:

  • Sodomy in the second degree
  • Statutory sodomy in the second degree
  • Three counts of incest
  • Statutory rape in the second degree 
  • Four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree
  • Rape of the first degree
  • Abuse of a child
  • Three counts of domestic assault in the second degree
  • Unlawful use of a weapon

Court documents stated Carl Sheets would use sex for punishment and there were times when he would sexually assault the victims while Angie Sheets was in the room.

There are six victims in the Carl Sheets case. 

Carl Sheets is in the process of securing a public defender. His preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for March 2.

A bond reduction hearing for Angie Sheets is scheduled for February 5. 

Data: Most child abuse happens at the hands of parents

Statistics from the Missouri Department of Social Services show there were 5,059 natural parents who committed some form of child abuse in the 2016 fiscal year.

838 parents or parents' paramours and 406 step-parents were also substantiated child abusers.

Natural parents made up the majority of child abuse perpetrators. 

In fiscal year 2016, there were 1,250 substantiated cases of child sex abuse in Missouri.

The 24/7 Missouri Department of Social Services hotline for child abuse is 1-800-392-3738.

Note on graph: All statistics from Missouri Department of Social Services, fiscal year 2016. Substantiated perpetrators may have more than one relationship to the victim or be present in more than one case. As a result, they would be represented more than once on the chart.

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