KOMU.com http://www.komu.com/ KOMU.com Target 8 Target 8 en-us Copyright 2017, KOMU.com. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Thu, 19 Oct 2017 HH:10:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 KOMU.com http://www.komu.com/ 144 25 TARGET 8: 10-year anniversary of girls' deaths highlights lack of guard rails http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-10-year-anniversary-of-girls-deaths-highlights-lack-of-guard-rails/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-10-year-anniversary-of-girls-deaths-highlights-lack-of-guard-rails/ Target 8 Thu, 12 Oct 2017 9:34:01 AM Jasmyn Willis, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: 10-year anniversary of girls' deaths highlights lack of guard rails

STURGEON – Families and friends are coming together to celebrate the lives of two girls who lost their lives in a fatal cross-over accident. The accident happened ten years ago on October 13.

There are two crosses on US 63 where the accident happened. Lorie Pirtle said the morning started out as a normal school day for her niece Whitney Bentlage and Whitley’s friend Elizabeth Shea.

“The girls were on their way to Merrill University in Moberly,” Pirtle said. “They started out as a regular morning. They were heading to Moberly. They...crossed over into oncoming traffic and hit a semi-truck which ejected both of the girls and they were dead on impact.”

Bentlage was 18; Shea was 20 and had a one-year-old son.

Pirtle said friends and family come out to the crosses in the median of Highway 63 to maintain them, but coming back to where it happened is difficult for them.

“It’s very hard to come out here to see it,” Pirtle said. “But we do it, it needs to be done.”

Every year, the family gets together to remember the girls and have a balloon release at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia.

“We write on the balloons messages or whatever and we send them up," Pirtle said. "We get together to remember the girls so their memory stays alive so we don’t forget them. That’s most important to me that we don’t forget them or anybody else whose lost their lives on this road.”

On Highway 63 in the Moberly area there are not any barriers that separate one side of the highway from the other side to prevent cross over accidents.

Pirtle started looking into statistics of accidents before and after guard cables were installed along a highway. She said she contacted MODOT after she noticed there were fewer fatal accidents along highways with guard cables.  

“I proceeded to contact MODOT,” Pirtle said. “How do we get the cables guards? Do we need to sign a petition, is it a tax thing, do I need to do a GoFundMe account? What is it that we need to do to get these guard cables up? I didn’t get a response back.”

Pirtle said that she doesn’t want another family to go through what her family has had to.

“They do save lives," Pirtle said. "That’s apparent. We can’t save our girls but at the same time maybe if we push hard enough we can get them and it will save someone else's.”

According to MODOT’s website, guard cables are designed to prevent cars from traveling across the median and hitting on coming traffic. MODOT said head-on collisions are some of the most severe and deadly crashes on our roadways.

MODOT found that on I-70 in 2002, there were 24 fatalities involving cars that crossed over the median. In 2007, a year after guard cable were installed on I-70, there was one fatality involving a cross-median crash.

Elizabeth’s dad Mark Shea said he believes the cable guard would have saved Whitney and Elizabeth's lives.

“If those barriers, had they been there, they would have survived because they stop semi-trucks and I'm sure it would have stopped that car that Whitney was driving and I'm sure they would still be here,” Mark said. “I'm not saying they wouldn't have gotten hurt.”

Ten years after the accident, Mark said he doesn't understand why cable guards haven't been installed in Moberly.

“I don't know why they can't put them on there, there on every other stretch of road,” Shea said. “It’s a 70 mile per hour road and the median isn’t that big.”

Elizabeth's son Aiden is being raised by his grandmother.

“Like I said earlier she left a 12-month-old baby,” Mark said. “So she's missed out on all of that. So there’s been an impact. Not a day goes by that doesn't remind you of them. And the family always posts pictures so it's never ending. She's always in the forefront.”

Mark said he doesn’t know what it will take to get cable guards installed.

“Those cables do prevent accidents,” Mark said. “They do save lives. So I wish someone would realize that. I just don't know what it takes to get that going. Lorie's been working diligently to get that someone to listen to her about that cable situation. So sooner or later.”

Pirtle said she also doesn’t know what it will take after she didn’t get a response from MODOT.

KOMU 8 reached out to MODOT to find out what factors it considers when determining if cable guard needs to be installed. Traffic liaison engineer John Miller says MODOT looks at cross median crashes, traffic volume, and median width.

"We're always analyzing," Miller said. "As far as trying to keep up on that concept, because we don't always know when a road may spike or traffic volumes increase to the point where the currents does increase. So every year we are always monitoring as best we can is the cross median crass occurrence starting on a road."

Miller says there has been a couple of cross median accidents in the last two years. But ultimately, Miller says and it comes down to money. Guard cable cost about $120 thousand per mile and $10 thousand dollars per mile to maintain each year. Installing guard cable along highway 63 from Columbia to Moberly would cost about 4 million dollars.

"We have a lot of other interests and needs across our state but a high concern also," Miller said.

Miller says guard cable must go through their prioritization process along with other work that needs to be done on Missouri roadways.

Miller said MODOT is still waiting for the crash data from 2016 to be complete to analyze it.

Pirtle said she doesn't want Bentlage and Shea to be forgot or other families to go through the same thing.

“I don’t know, I still don’t know,” Pitle said. “My next step is I want to see cable guards going up. If it takes me ten more years, I’ll keep doing it, I’ll keep pursuing it until I see cable guards up.”





Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Man charged in Harrisburg teacher's death had a pattern of illegal driving http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-man-charged-in-harrisburg-teacher-s-death-had-a-pattern-of-illegal-driving/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-man-charged-in-harrisburg-teacher-s-death-had-a-pattern-of-illegal-driving/ Target 8 Tue, 3 Oct 2017 7:28:17 PM James Packard, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Man charged in Harrisburg teacher's death had a pattern of illegal driving

COLUMBIA - The man charged in a fatal crash near Harrisburg last week had at least five previous convictions for driving without a valid license, according to court documents, part of a dizzying timeline of crimes that resulted in at least two probation sentences and two incarcerations. His record raises questions about how he could have still been able to drive.

Brandon Brill was charged with felony second degree murder Monday afternoon. Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight said the hefty charge stemmed from Brill's criminal record. Knight said Brill was in the process of committing a felony when he caused the death of another person, which fits into Missouri's definition of second degree murder. 

"Under the laws of the state of Missouri, it is a class E felony to drive without a valid operator's license on the third time," Knight said.

According to the probable cause statement from the crash last Thursday, "Brill did not have a valid operator's license at the time of the crash."

It's not clear if he had an invalid license with him, or no license at all. 

But available records showing Brill drove without a valid license go back to 2010. In 2012, after at least his third offense, records show he was sentenced to 5 years probation, but it ended early, and he was sentenced to 2 years in prison in 2014. It's not clear how much of that sentence he served, if any.

Court documents suggest that he was on probation in 2013 (from the 2012 offense), when he was again sentenced to incarceration: 3 months in the Boone County Jail, according to records. But the start date listed for that sentence was August 8, 2014, two weeks after his two-year prison sentence was supposed to start. In that case, a request for the case to move forward without Brill present was filed.

In May 2014, he was again charged with operating a vehicle without a valid license, according to court documents.

In August 2016, just weeks after his two-year prison sentence would have ended, records show he was hit with drug charges and put on two years supervised probation to start that November. It's not clear if Brill was on probation at the time of Thursday's crash.

Brill's record is so extensive and confusing that it's not immediately clear when, or if, he was ever in jail or on probation. Timelines overlap, and in some cases, there is no completion date listed on probations or incarcerations.

But his record raises red flags about why Brill was on the road last Thursday afternoon when the truck he was driving crossed the median and hit a school bus with five Harrisburg cross country team members and a teacher on board. The teacher, Brian Simpson, died. His funeral was Tuesday in Columbia.

Firefighters extricated Brill from the truck he was driving, and emergency responders took him to University Hospital. When KOMU 8 News called the hospital Tuesday, a staffer said there was no patient there with the name Brandon Brill.

After prosecutors charged Brill Monday, KOMU 8 News viewers on Facebook asked questions about how the crash could have been prevented. 

"Should never have been on road!!!" wrote Charlie Harrison.

"This accident should never have happened and yet it did. May God help everyone, including the driver charged with this accident. He should never have been driving," wrote Jean Feddema Sundet.

"As far as speculating on what exactly would have kept him off the road, I can't go into that at this point," Knight said, emphasizing that he was only able to talk about what was in the public record, like the probable cause statement.

According to Knight, Brill could face between 10 to 30 years or life in prison if he's convicted of felony second degree murder.

"I'm not gonna speculate at all on what sentence might eventually be imposed," Knight said. "Individuals who are charged with this crime, they can be placed on probation."

According to Knight and Boone County Detective Tom O'Sullivan, people driving without a valid license is nothing out of the ordinary.

"We have a large number of cases of individuals driving without a valid operator's license," Knight said.

While Knight and O'Sullivan didn't have exact numbers, they both said it happens frequently.

"The deterrent, hopefully is there, it's against the law," Knight said. "People should recognize you can't drive, you know, vehicles without a valid operator's license and there should be ramifications for that."

It wasn't clear Tuesday if Brill was in law enforcement custody. Knight said his office would contact the family of Brian Simpson soon.

Below is a timeline of Brill's criminal past.

Editor's note: The Boone County Jail provided KOMU 8 News with a mug shot of Brill from October 2013. 

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Fire investigation raises concerns over previous violations http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fire-investigation-raises-concerns-over-previous-violations/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fire-investigation-raises-concerns-over-previous-violations/ Target 8 Wed, 27 Sep 2017 10:30:06 PM Kevin Ko, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Fire investigation raises concerns over previous violations

OSAGE BEACH - A fire at 962 Chateau Lane destroyed a lakeside condominium, leaving tenants homeless and causing officials to label it as uninhabitable. But about a week before the tragedy, a city inspector already deemed the building too dangerous to live in and was ready to post "no occupancy" just days after the flames erupted.

"I lost everything."

Rachel Marie Tapp is one of the residents in a condo building that was scorched in a fire last Wednesday. She says the flames destroyed all of the personal items that meant the most to her.

"I lost my great-great grandparents dresser that has been handed down to me," Tapp said. "I lost a box with every photo that my mother ever took of us growing up and my dad, who passed away, all my pictures of him. My mothers day cards my kids made me, all my furniture, all my clothes, all my kid's belongings - it's all gone. Everything."

But while the building was condemned after the fire, Tapp said the property was already on the verge of being shut down after an Osage Beach official inspected her home on Sept. 12.

"She (city inspector) couldn't tell me officially, but she said the building is not livable," Tapp said.

While the inspector's words weren't "official" on Sept. 12, they were after she issued a notice to the property owner's the following day, stating, "This property will be posted no occupancy as of Sept. 25, 2017."

Five days before the city planned to shut it down, the condominium burned down.

"The entire property is dangerous and unsafe..."

Read the full reports from the Osage Beach building inspector below, which includes the "Notice of Violation" (Sept. 12) and "Supplemental Inspection Report" (Sept. 13).

The inspection uncovered more than one problem - it found fifteen violations, including "unsafe structures" and "structure unfit for human occupancy."

Tapp said beyond the structural dangers, she realized how severe her home's health hazards were during the inspection.

"I peeled up the wallpaper in my laundry room the day I called the inspector so she could see, and the entire wall was completely black," Tapp said. "She told me that if I had a place to go right then, I needed to go right away because of how bad the black mold was."

The same day she says the city inspector looked through her home (Sept. 12), the city of Osage Beach ordered the property owner to correct the violations. If nobody responded within ten days, the city would "file suit against you in the Municipal Court of the City of Osage Beach asking the court to order you to correct these violations and also asking the Court to assess a fine against you for violation of the Code."

An anonymous city official from Osage Beach confirmed there was never any contact made from the property's owner within the ten-day deadline.

"It's a police investigation now."

The case was handed to the state fire marshal's office last Thursday, according to Eddie Nicholson, the Osage Beach Division Chief of Fire Prevention Bureau.

He said officials already were able to piece together a general narrative, but other complications related to the investigation caused statewide agencies to get involved.

"The landlord was repairing a water line, and the fire started in the unit he was working in," Nicholson said last Thursday.

"We know what happened, there's just some questions on the storyline," he said. "We did call in the state fire marshal's office to help with that, so they are now leading the investigation. They have more policing powers than we have to subpoena records and ask for different documents that we can't do because we're not police officers."

"Everyone that lives here has needed repairs done and he avoids coming here because he's not willing to do the repairs," Tapp said.

"My entire bathroom floor, there was two holes about this big that had caved in and were continuously dripping water."

The fire is still under investigation.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Tenants say apartment complex construction means danger http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-tenants-say-apartment-complex-construction-means-danger/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-tenants-say-apartment-complex-construction-means-danger/ Target 8 Sun, 27 Aug 2017 9:40:32 PM Abby Breidenbach, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Tenants say apartment complex construction means danger

SHELBINA - Betty White walks with a cane and has a limp in her step; she says it's because of a serious knee injury she got outside of her home. She said she was hurt when she fell to the ground steps away from her front door at her apartment complex.

White said she called the Target 8 Investigative team to get to the bottom of why her landlord neither repaired her apartment complex nor paid her hospital bills.

According to multiple tenants at the Shelbina Apartments, construction began sometime in early May and was not near complete three months later. 

"I can't park out in front because the parking lot's all torn up. There are open trenches. All the sidwalks are ripped out. It's a mess," White said.

White said she and her neighbors live in an open construction zone against their will, and they pay the price.

"It's very dangerous. People have fell. I know four for a fact that have fallen, me included," said White, who ended up with a pricey emergency room bill after her incident. 

Tenants said despite multiple calls, their landlord never offered recompense or acknowledged their strife.

White recounted her own experience looking for answers from her landlord. "I alerted her. I called her on her personal phone. I couldn't get an answer. Her voicemail was full. I called the office phone and left a message even though it was the weekend. My daughter also texted her on her personal phone. I called the main office. No one's ever called me back, and I fell July 6." 

Target 8 tried to reach the landlord by making multiple calls and leaving voicemails. When these went unanswered, Target 8 contacted a lawyer for perspective.

Attorney Hal Gibbs said he often deals with landlord/tenant legal issues. 

"If you are leasing a space it is deemed to be habitable, which is a term under the law, and so as a matter of being habitable it should be safe and clean without any hazard or danger," said Gibbs. He called the law as it relates to this specific situation, "pretty common sense."

"Just because you are renting doesn't mean you don't have any rights," said Gibbs. He said the landlord is typically responsible for keeping common areas, such as walkways, sidewalks and parking lots "habitable."

"If you can't get it worked out with the landlord, then really your only recourse is to file a lawsuit against the landlord for breach of the lease," Gibbs said.

White and a few neighbors explained they were worried if they were to go over the landlord's head, they would be left with no place to go. Most are low income, relying on government assistance, and many are disabled.

"A lot of us are afraid to complain too much because a lot of these people don't have a lot of family that can back them up if they're asked to move," said White.

Target 8 called the city of Shelbina in hopes an inspector might have some answers. An official said the city does not have specific codes for apartment complexes and maintenance. In other cities, like Columbia, for example, there are typically easy to find landlord and tenant resources, including specfied codes and inspector information.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Phone scam spoofing numbers, tricking callers http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-phone-scam-spoofing-numbers-tricking-callers/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-phone-scam-spoofing-numbers-tricking-callers/ Target 8 Wed, 2 Aug 2017 4:21:18 PM Stephanie Sandoval, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Phone scam spoofing numbers, tricking callers

JEFFERSON CITY - A different kind of phone scam is emerging — leaving businesses and others vulnerable. 

Now, there are even phone apps to help scammers steal your information. It’s called spoofing — using a different number other than your own to trick the person you’re calling. It’s not new, but it can be considered a crime in some capacities. 

KOMU 8 News began looking into this type of scam after a viewer emailed us: 

"The other day I got a call like that but it had a local number on my caller ID. I Googled the number and discovered it was the Columbia Police training division. I called them and advised that someone was spoofing their number to make sales calls. Twice in the past two weeks I have received calls from people who said they had gotten sales type calls and my cell showed up on their caller ID. I told them I did not call them. Somehow these people are able to put someone else's phone number on call waiting but calling from a different number."  

Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, it’s unlawful for any person within the United States to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. 

Private Investigator Melinda Kidder said if you’re in doubt about the identity or the validity of someone who's calling, hang up and tell them you’ll call them back. Then call the actual person directly or law enforcement. She said this type of scam is different because it looks real. 

“The caller ID gives it legitimacy to a lot of people,” Kidder said. “It makes it look like they really are who they say they are so when you see the caller ID as coming from law enforcement or a company with whom you’ve dealt, it looks accurate. It looks like it’s believable and that you should actually listen to them and pay attention to what they have to say.” 

The Missouri State Treasurer’s Office recently had an encounter with a scammer using its caller ID and pretending to be intelligence officers or special agents. State Treasurer Eric Schmitt said his office has zero tolerance for this kind of fraudulent activity. 

“We issued a release right away, making people aware of these fraudsters claiming to be from the state treasurer’s office,” Schmitt said. "And I think what the most important thing is for people to be aware is that we will never call anyone related to these tax issues nor do we actually handle tax payment.”

Schmitt said they are working with law enforcement and the state attorney general’s office. 

“We’re going to try to track down who these people are and prosecute them for fraud or whatever we can do under the law because they you can’t call and act as you’re some government agent asking for people’s money,” Schmitt said. 

Schmitt said victims of this type of call should report it to the attorney general’s office, but Kidder said this type of scam is hard to track down by law enforcement. 

“It’s harder for them to track down the original caller,” Kidder said. “They would have to subpoena actual spoof companies so but I don’t think it’s necessarily harder to report. People can go ahead and report it directly to the company that the person is spoofing or law enforcement.”

According to the attorney general's office, 4,068 phone scams were reported in the last five years. 

Spoofing can occur in many different ways. 

“You have so many ways that people try and steal your information whether it’s in person, by phone, by email, by text,” Kidder said. 

Kidder said it’s never a good idea to give out your personal information. 

“If you wouldn’t give it to your grandma, why give it to a stranger,” Kidder said. “Why give it to someone you don’t know so value that information and remember that this is your livelihood potentially that’s at risk.”

And if the IRS is calling, Kidder said you have nothing to worry about. 

“For them to call you would be extremely rare,” Kidder said. “You would already have some kind of case ongoing with them for them to call you. So, for the IRS to call would be unlikely. They would most likely send a letter and that in itself you would want to verify as well."


Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Employees say Columbia day care should be shut down http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-employees-say-columbia-day-care-should-be-shut-down/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-employees-say-columbia-day-care-should-be-shut-down/ Target 8 Tue, 18 Jul 2017 5:56:59 PM Karla Valcourt, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Employees say Columbia day care should be shut down

COLUMBIA - When finding a day care facility, parents expect their child to be taken care of, but former employees at a Columbia day care say the children there are not safe.

The employees at Lots of Love day care said they were not getting paid regularly or properly, and the money issues trickled into other areas of the day care. 

"Those poor kids were hungry," former employee Montajia Staten said.

Kay Otterbourg said one package of graham crackers would feed 15 kids. 

"They're getting one-half of graham cracker is all they're getting. With no drink, no nothing else. That's it," Otterbourg said.

Shauna Kunze said, "I think if a parent were to walk in at lunch time and see what I served their child, I don't think they would be happy."

The employees do not understand why the facility is short on food since it receives assistance from the Missouri Department of Heath and Senior Services Child and Adult Care Food Program.

On June 14, the Department of Health and Senior Services investigated the day care after an employee anonymously described the food situation. The complaint investigation stated the facility cook told investigators she does not measure the snacks for the children.

The report noted, "Child Care Facility Specialist Cynthia Maddox and Child Care Supervisor Christina Bruce observed a limited amount of food in the kitchen that would be insufficient for 40 children.”

According Child Care Facility Details on the day care, the center has consistently violated licensing rules since it opened in 2015. One of the most common violations is staff-to-child ratios.

The department outlines ratios to maintain a secure environment for children, but Staten said the facility was always over ratio. 

Staten worked in the 2-year-old room where the ratio should be one caregiver to eight children. She said she was consistently in the classroom with 13 to 14 children at a time. 

"That's when accidents happen," Staten said. "That's when kids get hurt. That's when fights happen, and nobody knows."

According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, two babies escaped the day care from the playground area on June 20.

A licensing worker went to the day care the day of the incident to investigate a complaint and found the children in the parking lot area. The employee who was supposed to be supervising the infants said she had one more child than the state regulation allows.

Employees said the department visits the daycare frequently, yet has not done enough to ensure the safety of the children.

They said the paycheck issue and the difficult environment contributed to leaving the facility. Kunze said she noticed the high turnover rate in the four months she was there.

"The turnover rate is just extreme," Kunze said. "While I was there, I saw four teachers leave."

A former parent said her daughter had five different teachers in the 10 months she was at the daycare. She asked to remain anonymous. 

"You get comfortable with a certain teacher, and then it could be 3 months then you have a new teacher. And then it could be two weeks, and then you have a new teacher again," she said.

The parent said the high turnover rate took a toll on her daughter. 

"It's hard to wake her up in the morning, and she doesn't want to be there," she said.

The parent said she eventually removed her daughter from the daycare because her 4-year-old daughter was not learning.

"I feel like when you go to day care or preschool they should be learning; tracing their name, tracing 1,2,3, doing A,B,Cs every single morning," the source said. 

The mother said Columbia Public Schools tested her daughter and said she was behind on motor and language skills.

“She was asked to spell her name, and she could only spell three letters of her name and she has seven letters to her name,” she said. 

The parent said the result was not what she expected from a school advertised as a preschool. 

"I was upset that I spent all of that money and nothing to show for it," the parent said. 

However, employees said it was difficult to teach the children without adequate supplies. They said when they asked the employer for supplies, she advised them to purchase it on their own without reimbursement.

Kunze and Otterbourg said they paid for supplies on their own. 

"We didn't have paper, we didn't have pencils, I brought in markers from home," Kunze said.

Staten said, "It wasn't like we were asking for expensive stuff - like literally paper, markers, just simple stuff."

They said the money problems trickled into the curriculum.

“These kids that are going into kindergarten this year, they don't even know their months of the year," Otterbourg said. "You ask them a letter on the alphabet chart, they couldn't tell you.

The employees have one message for parents.

"I don't want anyone else's children to not be provided for, and I want the parents there to understand what's going on," Kunze said.

The employees question why the facility is still running after constant 'slaps on the wrists.'

“It's going to take something bad to happen there for state to actually open their eyes and say, 'oh my gosh' there's something wrong with this center.”

KOMU 8 News reached out to the owner of Lots of Love, but the owner refused to comment. She instead wrote a Bible verse on a post-it note: "No weapon formed against me shall prosper."

KOMU 8 News also reached out to the Department of Health and Senior Services about the investigation. It did not comment.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Day care employees say they're going unpaid and 'struggling' http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-day-care-employees-say-they-re-going-unpaid-and-struggling-/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-day-care-employees-say-they-re-going-unpaid-and-struggling-/ Target 8 Mon, 24 Jul 2017 7:56:22 PM Karla Valcourt, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Day care employees say they're going unpaid and 'struggling'

COLUMBIA - Several employees at a Columbia day care say their boss has not paid them in weeks. 

Former employee Shauna Kunze contacted KOMU 8 News after she quit Lots of Love Preschool and Childcare Center. Kunze said she left after being paid irregularly.

She said the owner, Kim Jones, owed her pay for more than 80 hours for the past two months. On June 13, Kunze did not show up to work.

"If someone owes you almost a grand, at some point you just realize I'm probably not going to see this money or at least no time soon," Kunze said. 

Former employee Montajia Staten said Jones split up paychecks on multiple occasions without adequate warning. 

"She told us two days before payday that she wasn't paying us for the full month," Staten said.

She said she left the daycare on April 28 and received her final paycheck June 2. The Missouri Department of Labor notes employees must be paid at the time of termination.

They said Jones first paid them using standard pay stubs, but the day care switched to using different pay stubs. The bottom of the document read, "Calculations based on user provided data," leaving many questioning the validity of the information.

“She had from her computer a printed off pay stub that didn't even show my amount of hours, how much I make," Kunze said. "It didn't have my last four of my social.”

The employees said the late paychecks put their families in a financially difficult position. 

Staten said, "It shouldn't get so tight that you're literally scrambling and wondering, 'Do I pay this bill or do I go put gas in my car?'"

Another former employee, Devyn Pulliam, said she had to move since she couldn't afford rent. 

"I had to move back in with my mother-in-law to be able to afford to pay my car payment and my car insurance," Pulliam said. "My electricity had been shut off at least once. My car had almost been repoed."

Former worker Kay Otterbourg said it didn't seem like Jones and her family were experiencing financial hardships like the employees.

"She's always provided for," Otterbourg said. "I'm pretty sure she gets a paycheck. I'm pretty sure her family and her kids have food on their tables. She's got gas."

On June 30, Kunze and Otterbourg visited the facility on payday to pick up their late checks. Jones told both of the employees they could not be on the property. 

Jones called the Columbia Police Department, which issued trespass warnings for both employees. The employer told an officer she sent the checks through certified mail. 

However, Otterbourg, Kunze and Pulliam said they had not received anything in the mail as of late July.

They said the paycheck issues have created a high turnover rate at the day care. A former parent at the facility asked to remain anonymous but said the kids are left suffering. 

"They love these teachers and then for whatever reason, they're not there the next morning and they don't get an answer."

Otterbourg, Kunze and Pulliam plan to file claims at a small claims court to receive payment. 

KOMU 8 News reached out to the owner of Lots of Love, but the owner refused to comment. She instead wrote a Bible verse on a post-it note: "No weapon formed against me shall prosper."

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8 investigates abrupt closing of Columbia spa http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-investigates-abrupt-closing-of-columbia-spa/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-investigates-abrupt-closing-of-columbia-spa/ Target 8 Wed, 12 Jul 2017 4:30:42 PM Max Cotton, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 investigates abrupt closing of Columbia spa

COLUMBIA – Customers are looking for refunds following the unannounced closing of a Columbia spa.

Studio Fit Day Spa closed in early June without any warning to its customers who had prepaid for spa-treatment packages.

Moses Cortes bought two as a Mother's Day gift for his wife, Emily Harrison-Cortes, and her mother, Cathy Harrison. They cost a total of $286.

Harrison-Cortes, a nurse at MU Women's and Children's Hospital, was looking forward to a relaxing day, but when the two women showed up for their June 3 appointment, things did not go as planned.

She said the spa told her it could only provide half of the services they were promised due to a staff shortage that day. 

The women decided to reschedule the full appointment for June 17. The night before that appointment, Harrison-Cortes received a confirmation text message from the spa.

"We showed up, and we found that there was a sign on the door that said permanently closed," she said.

She said she and her mother then called the studio, only to find the phone number listed on its website was no longer in service.

After unsuccessfully trying to contact the spa's owners, Myrna and Melvin Roberts, Harrison-Cortes contacted the Columbia Better Business Bureau and KOMU 8 News.

She was not alone. 

According to the Columbia Better Business Bureau Regional Director Sean Spence, the agency received numerous complaints. 

"There may be as many as 100 or more people out there who are out their money," he said.

KOMU 8 News talked to Melvin Roberts who said the spa closed due to a staff shortage. He said the spa is not able to refund the gift certificates because it did not have the customers' contact information.

The case is now in the hands of the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

In a statement, deputy press secretary Elizabeth Johnson said Roberts has provided refunds to customers who contacted the attorney general's office and customers with outstanding complaints should contact the office as well.

Melvin Robers told KOMU 8 News customers can reach him directly by calling (573)-881-6768 or sending an email to melroberts48@gmail.com. You can also contact the Attorney General's Office's consumer protection hotline at (800)392-8222.

Spence said the Roberts' previous business record includes a 2013 judgment forcing them to pay a Kansas printing company about $400,000 in damages and attorneys fees. 

He said, "When you're dealing with a business like this, you want to make sure you do your research, make sure you know what their track-record is as a business before you start spending your money and to be super careful when you're giving money for services you're not going to receive immediately."


Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8 looks at the state's worst bridges, larger problem statewide http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-looks-at-the-state-s-worst-bridges-larger-problem-statewide/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-looks-at-the-state-s-worst-bridges-larger-problem-statewide/ Target 8 Tue, 11 Jul 2017 9:11:27 AM Rose Schmidt, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 looks at the state's worst bridges, larger problem statewide

COOPER COUNTY - You may have heard Missouri has one of the highest numbers of structurally deficient bridges in the entire country.

KOMU 8’s Target 8 investigative team wanted to know what exactly this means for people who drive on those bridges everyday and just what puts Missouri on this list.

One of the lowest-rated bridges in the state

Just a few miles north of I-70 near Blackwater in Cooper County lies a green and yellow bridge. Area residents know it well. One woman told KOMU 8 News that she feared for her life after driving on it in a snowstorm.

Walk about 500 feet away from the Lamine River Bridge and you’ll reach a contracting company filled with people who have to drive on that bridge everyday.

Data from 2016 from the Federal Highway Administration showed an average of 442 vehicles drive across the bridge everyday.

"It definitely needs to be replaced,” said project manager and local resident Bradley Vollmer. “It definitely has some rebar showing, and it's kind of scary driving across it."

The Federal Highway Administration assigns each bridge a sufficiency rating, which is a number on a scale of 1 to 100—100 being the best—that shows the overall fitness of the bridge.

Data from 2016 shows Missouri has four bridges with the worst possible 0 rating. Two are in mid-Missouri. Both are on the Lamine River in Cooper County, and were built in 1900 and 1913.

With a sufficiency rating of 80 or below, a bridge is typically eligible for repairs. And at 50 or below, the bridge would typically be eligible for repairs or to be replaced.

The FHWA rated the Lamine River Bridge as a 2 out of 100. The Missouri Department of Transportation uses a different rating system and rated the same bridge as a 3 out of 9, but department officials couldn’t account for the drastic differences in the national and state ratings.

However, several MoDOT officials, including the area engineer for Cooper County and a senior historic preservation specialist assured KOMU 8 News that the Lamine River Bridge is still safe to carry traffic.

“I'm very proud of the fact that in Missouri, politics don't enter into it,” said Dennis Heckman, MoDOT state bridge engineer. “If a bridge needs to be closed, we close it. If I won't let my family drive on it, it's closed.”

Vollmer lives in Pilot Grove, which means he has to take the bridge everyday to get to work. He said he’s seen MoDOT employees patch up the bridge in the past.

"When there's heavy rain, some of the potholes kind of get reopened,” Vollmer said.

For the residents of Blackwater and the surrounding area, bridges are quite a point of contention. Farmer Matt Ivy said it’s a large agricultural community, and every mode of transportation is important.

Several locals complained to MoDOT and Cooper County after multiple county bridges in the area were shut down.

MoDOT has allocated funding for the Lamine River Bridge with plans to let it out for bid in the fall of 2018. Construction on a replacement bridge will start the following year.

The residents just have one request for construction: Make it fast.

"I think they're pretty notorious for 'OK, let's shut it down, and then let's not start on it for five more months or a year,'" Ivy said.

Vollmer said for him, what’s currently a 10-minute commute using the bridge will turn into at least a 25-minute commute without it.

Construction to rebuild the bridge is an estimated $4.8 million, including design, utility and the roadway, according to MoDOT.

A larger problem statewide

Missouri has more than 24,468 bridges, which is the sixth most in the country, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The Missouri and Mississippi rivers largely contribute to the high number of state bridges.

There are a total of 3,195 structurally deficient bridges in Missouri, ranking it as the state with the fourth highest number of bridges in this category.


The status “structurally deficient” means the bridge has at least one structural defect, according to the National Bridge Inventory Database. Keep in mind: This doesn’t necessarily mean the bridge is unsafe, but it could be on the way there.

“Most of (the bridges) were designed to last 50 years, with the harsh winters and the hot summers that many years, they just get worn out and beat up,” Heckman said, adding that MoDOT operates more than 10,000 of the state’s bridges.

Many of the structurally deficient bridges that see the most daily traffic are in St. Louis. Some of the well-traveled local bridges in this category include one on Highway 63 over Bonne Femme Creek in Boone County (14,985 daily vehicles on average) and one over Wears Creek on Dunklin Street in Jefferson City (10,215 daily vehicles on average).

Heckman said MoDOT tries to work on 100 bridges a year, but about 100 become structurally deficient each year, so the numbers balance out.

MoDOT workers also do preventative maintenance on bridges so they can keep good bridges in good condition.

Bridges can also be assigned “functionally obsolete” status -- a completely separate category -- meaning they don’t meet today’s bridge standards, such as not enough lanes to accommodate traffic or not a high enough clearance to allow oversized vehicles.

These ratings are based on three components: the deck, superstructure and substructure, according to the National Bridge Inventory Database.

The deck is the bridge’s supporting surface, the superstructure includes the elements that support the deck (steel beams, concrete frame, steel cables, steel truss, etc.), and the substructure is the bridges foundation, which includes abutments and piers.

Money problems

MoDOT’s main funding source is a 17-cent-per-gallon gas tax, and the department also gets part of the sales when people buy cars and trucks. Neither state nor federal funding has been cut for MoDOT, Heckman said.

"The problem is: We get 17 cents per gallon, and people get a lot better mileage with their cars than they used to, so we get a lot less money.

“Added on top of that, inflation. The gas tax hasn't gone up in 20 years. Well, everything costs more than it did 20 years ago, but we're still getting the same 1996 dollars," Heckman said.

Missouri has the seventh largest highway system in the country, but it is the 47th state in revenue per mile: a combination that Tom Crawford, the president and CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association, called a “recipe for disaster.”

"You've got some dynamics with highway funding in Missouri that just don't add up for success, and the first is the number of roads and bridges that MODOT is responsible for,” Crawford said.

FHWA data shows that it would cost between $1 billion and $2 billion to fix all of the state bridges currently eligible for repairs.

Heckman couldn’t tell KOMU 8 News exactly how much money MoDOT spends on bridges specifically, but he said the department spends about 800 million a year into bid lettings, which includes all infrastructure -- from roads to bridges to traffic lights.

Deciding which ones to replace

Mike Schupp, who serves as MoDOT area engineer for Cooper and four other counties, said he often hears complaints about the Lamine River Bridge and others in the area. He said residents from all over will call the department and ask, “Why don’t you fix my bridge?”

“It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s that we need to prioritize,” Schupp said.

A number of factors go into deciding which bridges for MoDOT to repair or replace. One of the top ones is length of detour.

“If a bridge is closed and it's a 5-minute detour, that's not as bad as an hour detour,” Heckman said. “We look at school bus routes, ambulance and fire truck response.”

People who live near bridges could be asked to fill out online surveys so MoDOT has an idea of how closing a bridge would impact their daily commutes.

"We have a lot of bridges that were built in the 50s and 60s that are wearing out right now, but we're just doing the best we can,” Heckman said.

What happens to the old bridges?

When MoDOT needs to completely replace an old bridge, the department tries to find a new use for it.

“If we can't use them for vehicular traffic, we make them available for public use,” Heckman said. “So sometimes farmers will take them and use them on their farm. Other times they're used as pedestrian bridges in parks, that type of thing."

The Lamine River Bridge, along with the Little Niangua River in Camden County, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so MoDOT is currently seeking proposals to repurpose the bridge. The department will give it to an interested group for free.

Built in 1924, the bridge is 93 years old, and Karen Daniels, a senior historic preservation specialist for MoDOT, is focused on trying to save it.

"The reuses of these bridges are basically unlimited,” Daniels said. "We are required to advertise to local governments and to historical societies. Because I do actually want to save these bridges, I advertise as widely as possible.”

The uses are unlimited, but past bridges have been reused for agriculture, pedestrians, bicycles, all-terrain vehicles and even equestrianism. Sometimes the bridges can even be repurposed for cars and trucks on roads that aren’t as busy, Daniels said.

"It can't handle the traffic on a state highway, but it could handle traffic on a private road maybe,” Daniels said. “So it's entirely possible that it could be used for vehicular traffic on a private road, possibly even a city road."

MoDOT’s advertisement of the Lamine River Bridge ends May 2018. That means in a year, Daniels will know whether there’s a group interested in reusing the bridge.

If there isn’t any interest, the bridge will likely be demolished.

Permalink| Comments

Target 8: No arrest in Army vet's death despite accused shooter's record http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-no-arrest-in-army-vet-s-death-despite-accused-shooter-s-record/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-no-arrest-in-army-vet-s-death-despite-accused-shooter-s-record/ Target 8 Fri, 16 Jun 2017 2:25:35 PM James Packard, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8: No arrest in Army vet's death despite accused shooter's record

COLUMBIA - The man accused of shooting and killing an Army vet during a fight in a north Columbia home last month hasn't been arrested. Friends of the man left dead in the fight say the man who they say fired the gun should be held accountable for their friend's death. According to them, his criminal history shows he poses a threat to the public.

The shooting

28-year-old Cameron Caruthers died May 22 when he and Ricky Gurley got into some kind of confrontation at a home on Dawn Ridge Drive. 

Caruthers lived at the house on and off with his girlfriend, according to friends. Gurley also lived there. 

Mike Francis, a friend of Caruthers', said Caruthers was not living at the home on May 22, but he went to the house to get several sentimental items, while in the middle of a fight with his girlfriend.

Francis said Caruthers did not force his way into the house, despite police being initially dispatched to respond to a home invasion. Francis said Caruthers' girlfriend let him in. 

When he showed up, Francis said, Caruthers and Gurley started fighting.

"Rick had pulled a shotgun out," Francis said. "You know [Caruthers] had his hands in the air, he said, 'What are you gonna do? Are you gonna shoot me, Rick?'"

According to friends, that's exactly what Ricky Gurley did.

Gurley's lawyer, Stephen Wyse, corroborated that in a call with KOMU 8 News a few says after the shooting. He said the shooting was not a criminal act.

"I believe the use of force was, was justified," Wyse said. "There was a recording of the event as it was occurring that was provided to the police. After, you know, listening to that recording, the police made the determination that an arrest was not appropriate."

Wyse added that Caruthers' was told several times to leave and that he was regarded as a threat.

Gurley was questioned and released, but according to friends, his criminal record should be enough to get him behind bars.

The record

Ricky Gurley spent four months behind bars in North Carolina for felonious restraint, larceny, and other charges.

While his record as a felon makes it illegal for him to carry a firearm, at least three sworn affidavits provided to KOMU 8 News say Gurley has at least one gun. One person said Gurley stated he had the, "right to protect his home regardless of his felon status." 

That same person, as well as two others, said they saw a gun in Gurley's home.

Gurley has also earned a reputation as an abusive stalker.

According to a 2013 protection order, Gurley stalked and harassed a woman who used to work for him. She said, at one point, he called her 13-year-old son's cell phone and said, "You're gonna die broke, b****."

Gurley is accused, on numerous occasions, of threatening to hurt people or ruin people's lives. Court documents included archived emails which were strewn with offensive words and vague threats.

Police records provided to KOMU 8 News show officers were dispatched to Gurley's home between one and four times every year between 2010 & 2016. In 2017, that number jumped to 20, seven before the May 22 shooting.

When KOMU 8 News asked Gurley's lawyer about the frequent visits from police, Wyse said, "I'm not gonna comment on that."

But for Caruthers' friends, Gurley's extensive record speaks volumes about his behavior. 

Michelle Walcott, a friend of Caruthers', said, "I feel like this could have been prevented if [Gurley] had already been in jail."

The follow-up

Francis and others want the Columbia Police Department to arrest Gurley, if for nothing else, on a weapons charge. 

"Felon with a firearm, felon with a firearm," Francis said. "How is he not in jail?"

KOMU 8 News reached out to the Columbia Police Department Thursday. Spokesperson Bryana Larimer said, "You know investigations take time."

"This guy is, this guy is a nuisance to the public!" Francis said. "He's disgusting!"

Francis said he worries the Columbia Police Department is working to make a bigger case against Gurley than a simple gun charge before they arrest him. But, he worries that there could be a dangerous man on the streets in the meantime. 

"If anybody else would have done this, you know, yeah, cool, build a case on it," Francis said. "But this guy? Stick him in a cell!"

When asked if that was the case, Larimer said she wasn't at liberty to speculate about what the investigators might be working on.

The Columbia Police Department also would not say if anyone else was under investigation.

Walcott said, "Rick Gurley's really the only one that I think was at fault in this."

"This will not go away," Francis said. "This will not be swept under the rug. And we will get to the bottom of this."



Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8 investigates impact of Uber, Lyft on drunk driving http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-investigates-impact-of-uber-lyft-on-drunk-driving/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-investigates-impact-of-uber-lyft-on-drunk-driving/ Target 8 Fri, 12 May 2017 10:27:35 AM Emma Rechenberg, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 investigates impact of Uber, Lyft on drunk driving

COLUMBIA - Columbia visitor Zach Walther describes Uber as "convenient."

The 23-year-old frequently uses the ride-sharing app, which arrived in Columbia three years ago in October 2014.

"It's all on my phone, I don't have to worry about finding rides, or dealing with finding taxis, or getting any sort of public transit," Walther said."It's just quick and convenient to do."

When Walther plans to grab drinks with friends, he uses the app to get home safely.

"If you've been drinking it's just an easy way to make sure that you have an option," he said. "You don't have to worry about what you're going to do. You can just go out and have a good time, and know that you've got a safe way to get home." 

Walther's decision to use the app for a safe ride home is similar to what Uber advertises on its website.

"There’s a strong correlation between Uber’s presence in cities and a reduction in drunk driving. And we’ve partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the U.S. to raise awareness about safer ways to get home. Because having more options leads to better outcomes."

A recent news release by Lyft included statistics that echo Uber's statement:

"Studies have shown that ride-sharing can have a positive impact on public safety, reducing alcohol-related driving arrests by up to 51 percent and DWI deaths by more than 10 percent."

Although Gov. Eric Greitens recently signed a law that would allow ride-hailing services to operate statewide, four Missouri cities welcomed Uber years ago. Those cities included Springfield, St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia. KOMU 8 News spoke with Rep. Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific, who was the ride-sharing bill's initial sponsor, before Greitens signed the law on April 24. When asked why the law was needed, Mathews cited public safety with alcohol-related incidents as "first and foremost."

"In other states where these regulations have been enacted, drunk driving arrests have fallen," Mathews said. "We want to make it easy for someone who maybe had a little bit too much to drink to just open their app and get a ride home, rather than try to get behind the wheel of their car."

Target 8 Investigators wanted to see whether Uber's presence in Columbia has influenced the number of alcohol-impaired driving crashes since the service arrived in 2014.

Scott Jones, who works as the Missouri Highway Safety Program Administrator, said there has been no evident difference in crash prevention since Uber appeared.

"Trend-wise, with Columbia in general, it's stayed roughly the same as far as fatalities and serious or disabling injury crashes," Jones said. "Statewide it's been quite a bit of a reduction, but in Columbia itself, it looks like it's stayed relatively the same."

Data of crashes with alcohol impaired drivers annually in Columbia, Missouri —

The above data is provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation.  

At this time, Jones said Uber's influence is "probably too early to tell."

"When we look at the hard numbers it looks like it's roughly the same, but that's really only about a two year time frame that we're looking at, since our data from 2016 is preliminary and obviously 2017 we're in the middle of right now," he said.

Despite the lack of evidence, Jones does not discourage people from using these services.

"I think we need to give it some time, but just on face value it's kind of common sense, it gives people that option to get themselves home and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

Statewide, the number of fatalities has continued to increase; however, alcohol and drug impaired crashes have decreased.

"We are for 2016 at 947 fatalities, and even though that's been going up, our number of impaired driving related crashes have been going down," Jones said.


 Data of crashes involving at least one substance impaired driver in Missouri annually —

The above data is provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

When asked why the substance impaired crashes are decreasing, Jones said, "people have kind of been getting the message."

Jones also referenced statewide programs and resources aimed to increase awareness. 

"We have put quite a bit of resources into both educating drivers and the motoring public on the dangers of alcohol or drug impaired driving," Jones said. "Also, we do a lot of programs with law enforcement to try to boost enforcement especially on certain campaigns throughout the year."

Jones said these campaigns are not intended to deter people from enjoying themselves.

"We're not at all saying 'don't have a good time.' By all means go out and enjoy yourself, but just make sure that you have a safe way home," he said. "Whether it be a friend to drive you, city transportation, a taxi or the ride-sharing services that are now coming out."

Target 8 Investigators also looked into the number of DUI arrests in Columbia reported before and after Uber's arrival.

Data of DUI arrests annually in Columbia, Missouri —

The above data can be found in the statewide Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Statistical Query.

Bryana Larimer, a public information officer for CPD, told KOMU 8 News in an email, "I would not be able to speculate on whether or not the decrease is because of Uber." 

Larimer also included CPD's statement on ride-hailing services in Columbia.

"As a department, we encourage the use of designated drivers, ride-sharing programs, and available public transportation as alternatives to impaired driving," Larimer said.

Uber customer Walther said he plans to continue using the service, with no intention of hailing local taxis. 

"Uber is usually cheaper and easier to find," Walther said.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8 examines a decade of Missouri refugee data http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-examines-a-decade-of-missouri-refugee-data/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-examines-a-decade-of-missouri-refugee-data/ Target 8 Tue, 23 May 2017 3:24:45 PM Felesha Lee, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 examines a decade of Missouri refugee data

COLUMBIA - After President Trump's executive order that put a temporary hold on people from certain countries entering the United States, there was a lot of talk of who is coming to the United States. One of the ways people are allowed to enter the United States without citizenship is by obtaining refugee status.

KOMU 8 News obtained data from the Refugee Processing Center about refugees coming to the United States, and specifically Missouri. The data reflects refugees who entered the United States between January 1, 2007 and April 27, 2017.


The government makes refugee data available for download. After downloading the data in April 2017, KOMU 8 News sifted through the data line by line to ensure there were no inconsistencies. After the data was cleaned, KOMU 8 News used SQLite data manager to analyze the data.

KOMU 8 News then wrote queries into SQLite that would help sift through and organize the data in a digestible way. We wrote queries to pull out specific information in the data and took note of trends.

What we found

In the last ten years, 13,466 people have found refuge in Missouri. The refugees came from 40 different countries around the world and settled in more than 50 different cities in Missouri.

The nationality that most commonly resettled in Missouri in the last ten years is Burmese. 2,548 Burmese refugees came to Missouri in that time, 405 of which resettled to Columbia. So far this year, no refugees have come from Burma.


While the number of refugees from Burma has been decreasing in recent years, the number of refugees from The Democratic Republic of Congo is picking up.

1,379 refugees have come to Missouri from The Democratic Republic of Congo over the last ten years. 1,221 of those have come since 2014. They have found refuge in nine cities in Missouri, including Columbia but not Jefferson City. 200 Congolese refugees have come to Columbia.

KOMU 8 News also analyzed data about refugees coming from the seven countries on President Trump's proposed travel ban. 2,669 people came from Somalia, 2,068 people came from Iraq, 533 from Syria, 332 from Sudan, 95 from Iran, 2 from Yemen to Missouri in the last 10 years. There were no people from Libya to Missouri in the last 10 years.



A total of 700,552 refugees have come to the United States since January 1, 2007.

Rebuilding a life

In order to be given refugee status, a person must be fleeing persecution or conflict in his or her country. This is the reason people are fleeing Burma, or Myanmar. The country is involved in one of the world's longest running civil wars. The United Nations has cited several human rights violations over the years, including issues of mistreating ethnic minorities and religious clashes.

KOMU 8 News spoke with a refugee from Burma who has resettled in Columbia. Ching Ching Hlamyo has been living in Columbia for 7 years and has established her own business in town. Though she loves her home country, he said life is much better in the United States.

"Everybody likes America because it's the best country in the world," she said. "Also in Columbia, I like the community."

Hlamyo has 3 children and a husband. Her oldest child, a 9-year-old girl, was born in Malasia. The family lived there for 4 years in the time between leaving Burma and coming to the United States.

She and her husband decided open the Shwe Oriental Market in Columbia after realizing the problems they faced in the work force.

"At work, sometimes it's hard to communicate with each other, and you don't speak very much," she said. "We don't have any education in America, so it's very hard to get to a better place."

She said having her own business allows her to spend more time with her children because they can come to the store with her. She also says having the business has made her feel more connected to the Burmese community within Columbia.

"I think it's a small town, and the community is welcoming. I think Columbia is a nice place to live with a famiily."

The language barrier is just one of the many problems refugees face, so they need assistance when they are placed in a destination city. Refugees do not get to choose the city where they are placed. Destination cities are determined by the amount of resources a city has to help the refugees once they have arrived. In Columbia, City of Refuge does just that.

Barry Stoll, the Executive Director of City of Refuge, said he realizes how hard the refugee process is and it motivates him to help.

"Refugees are a beautiful addition to our community," he said. "They are adding to our workforce, to our culture, to our diversity of our town and it's wonderful. We benefit from them being here as well in all different areas of our culture."

Stoll said he believes having refugees in America only adds to the greatness of our country, and he has a message for them.

"I'm glad you're here. Welcome. I hope that we can be friends."

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8 background checks Columbia Uber drivers http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-background-checks-columbia-uber-drivers/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-background-checks-columbia-uber-drivers/ Target 8 Tue, 23 May 2017 2:00:32 PM Madeline Odle, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 background checks Columbia Uber drivers

COLUMBIA - A Target 8 investigation background checked Columbia Uber drivers and took a closer look at the ride-share company’s safety regulations.

In the past year, several states have implemented stricter background check regulations. In Massachusetts, harsher regulations denied or weeded out more than 8,000 drivers statewide. According to CNN, More than 1,500 drivers were rejected for a violent crime charge. Other reasons for denial included various driving offenses, felony convictions, and sex, abuse and exploitation. The state also identified 51 sex offenders.

In light of this, the Target 8 team took a look at how thoroughly vetted Uber drivers are in Columbia.


KOMU 8 News filed an open records request with the city, asking for the first and last names, and birth dates of currently licensed Uber drivers.

The city released that information for 331 Uber drivers.

The Target 8 team used Missouri CaseNet to background check the drivers, looking for records that matched the names and birth dates of the drivers on the list.

We looked back 10 years for the purpose of this investigation and focused only on criminal and driving histories.  

We had to redact 50 names from our data because we were not able to find records confirming the full birth date for charges matching the full name and birth year. Since we couldn’t confirm or deny the charges we found were in fact for the driver on our list, we decided to redact these names from our final analysis.

We ended up with 281 names of drivers in our final data set.


Out of 281 registered Uber drivers, 165 had a clean criminal and driving history.

The Uber drivers with violations on their criminal and driving histories in the past decade break down to the following:

There were no drivers we found with DUI charges, felonies or violent crime convictions.

Uber Background Check Regulations

The company requires every driver pass a background check before becoming a driver. According to Uber’s website, here are things that would cause a person to fail the background check:

Criminal history:

  • Any of the following in the last 7 years:
    • A felony
    • Any driving-related offenses
    • Violent crimes
    • Sexual offenses
    • Child abuse or endangerment

Driving history:

  • Any of the following in the last 7 years:
    • DUI or drug-related driving offenses
    • Speeding 100+ MPH
    • Reckless driving, street racing or speed contest
  • Any of the following in the last 3 years:
    • Driving on a suspended, revoked lisence or insurance
  • Any more than 3 of the following in the last 3 years:
    • Non-fatal accidents
    • Moving violations
    • Speeding tickets
    • Traffic light violations

All 281 drivers currently licensed to drive with Uber in Columbia passed by the above standards.

According to Uber’s website, the company will rerun background checks on its drivers anywhere between 6 and 12 months apart. The company will deactivate a driver if that person does not pass in a subsequent background check.

City Response

KOMU 8 News spoke with Janice Finley, Business Services Manager for the City of Columbia, about the background checks the city runs independently of those done by Uber.

“If there’s been a felony conviction within the last 10 years, a misdemeanor for stealing, something that’s relevant. If they’ve had their driver's license revoked due to driving while intoxicated, drugs or excessive speed violations,” Finley said. “That’s when we deny the applicant a license.”

Finley said for the most part applicants have passed the city’s background checks. A few people have been denied, and nobody has had a license revoked.

“Well they have to renew annually, so every year we do a background check on the TNO applicant,” Finley said. “We have not revoked any licenses since they’ve been issued.”

New Missouri Law

According to Finley, starting August, Uber licensing will be handled by the state, not by individual cities as it is now.

HB 130 will allow ride-share companies, like Uber and Lyft, to spread across all of Missouri by creating statewide regulations and licensing.

Rather than individual cities running background checks and providing licensing, the state will be responsible for this, allowing the drivers to operate in any part of the state without needing to be individually licensed in those areas.

Under the new law, rideshare companies will be required to register with the Missouri Department of Revenue in order to operate in the state.

The scope of background check regulations under HB 130 mirrors Uber's in terms of how far back the checks go, and what convictions the company looks for.


Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Hallsville suicide raises questions about Missouri schools' bullying policies http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-hallsville-suicide-raises-questions-about-missouri-schools-bullying-policies/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-hallsville-suicide-raises-questions-about-missouri-schools-bullying-policies/ Target 8 Thu, 11 May 2017 6:11:13 PM Lauren Barnas, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Hallsville suicide raises questions about Missouri schools' bullying policies

HALLSVILLE - Some Hallsville parents are questioning their children's safety in the school district after the suicide death of middle schooler Rylie Wagner and at least two other students at other mid-Missouri schools within six months.

Parents of the students who took their lives suspected bullying was a main cause in each of the deaths.

Renee Overstreet, Rylie's mother, asked the Target 8 Investigative Team to look into the Hallsville school system in late March. The team started talking to Overstreet shortly after. 

Rylie commits suicide on April 4, 2017

KOMU 8 News reported on her death the following day. Three families reached out to KOMU 8 News the same day that story aired. At least a dozen sent tips to our team since then - all with the same message: They don't feel their students are safe at school. The majority of those parents wanted to remain anonymous for fear the school district would retaliate against their children.

Overstreet showed the Target 8 Investigative Team some of Rylie's artwork and poetry written in the days before her death.

"It says 'high top sneakers, walking throughout the halls fingers point and taunt. Not worthy, not there. Every voice, every snicker. Giving up is all I can give anymore,'" Overstreet said. "She wrote this just a couple days before she passed."

Overstreet said her daughter received counseling outside of school, but she said there was only so much Rylie could take.

"I know there were girls telling her to go kill herself just about every single day," she said.

Another poem read: "We cut and kill flowers because we think they're pretty. We cut and kill ourselves because we think we're not."

Overstreet said students of teachers and administrators are treated more leniently than students who don't grow up in Hallsville and instead transfer into the district.

"It's not 'how can we get students to just work on accepting others.' It's 'you won't be accepted, you're not from here.' Period," Overstreet said.

Missouri bullying law

The Target 8 Investigative Team took a statewide look at the problem by investigating state bullying laws and how effective they are.

Because of a state law that was most recently updated in 2016, each Missouri public school is required to provide a written bullying policy with specific requirements. Although a policy is required, no entity oversees whether or not the policies are being followed or measures their effectiveness.

Rylie's mother wanted to share her daughter's story in hopes of changing this. 

Mom: bullies not punished for causing Rylie's torn meniscus

Overstreet said a teacher's daughter tripped Rylie in P.E. class. Rylie was still recovering from a $36,000 knee surgery to repair her torn meniscus when she died.

"I called the superintendent and emailed the superintendent, who acted like he wanted to work with me on it," Overstreet said. "He said 'we don't have that video anymore, we don't keep them for very long.'"

A spokesperson for Hallsville told the Target 8 Investigative Team that the middle school principal looked at the footage with Rylie, but no footage of the exact incident was found.

Another former Hallsville mom speaks out

A different mother of a former Hallsville student said her daughter was bullied because she was viewed as an outsider too.

"Even when we had a teacher's meeting, the woman did not deny throwing a book at my daughter," Cynthia Sapp said.

Sapp said the problem was so bad she removed her daughter from Hallsville completely.

"The bullies were doing it day in and day out, and so finally I had to give up a place that I absolutely loved that was almost paid off," Sapp said.

Sapp said the price of a new mortgage was well worth her daughter's life - a choice no parent should ever have to make, but one Renee said she easily would've made for Rylie.

“We were looking on getting [Rylie's brother] and Rylie in to Columbia Public Schools even though we're not districted for them,” Overstreet said.

Rylie's family couldn't get out of the district soon enough.

Overstreet pointed to a bookshelf: "We plan on putting her ashes, her urn up here."

Rylie's Rainbow Foundation created in Rylie's memory

Now Overstreet and her husband Keith are sending their own message to the school and the public, that society must work harder to protects its children. Rylie's Rainbow Foundation was created in hopes of "educating students on the detrimental effects of bullying." Rylie's parents argue improvements have to start with schools.

Marci Minor, the communications director for Hallsville Public Schools, told the Target 8 Team the district would not do an on-camera interview.

Instead, she sent the the Target 8 Team a link to the school's bullying policy online, making sure the team knew the school was compliant with Missouri law.

The statement said: "Hallsville's bullying policy, Board of Education Policy 2655, was revised in October, 2016, to reflect the most recent legal requirements regarding bullying in public schools."

Bullying-related suicides in mid-Missouri

There are two other known cases of bullying-related suicides in mid-Missouri schools in the last six months.

In Glasgow, a coroner's inquest formally changed 17-year-old Kenneth Sutner's cause of death after bullying was found to be the primary cause. Parents and students in Sedalia demanded changed at the school following 16-year-old Riley Garrigus' suicide.



Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Man suing police after Taser incident in downtown Columbia bar http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-man-suing-police-after-taser-incident-in-downtown-columbia-bar/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-man-suing-police-after-taser-incident-in-downtown-columbia-bar/ Target 8 Thu, 18 May 2017 10:29:46 PM Jamie Grey, KOMU 8 Chief Investigator TARGET 8: Man suing police after Taser incident in downtown Columbia bar

COLUMBIA – A Jacksonville, Florida man is suing Columbia police officers, a supervisor and the chief, claiming he was unjustifiably Tasered and officers filed false reports in an attempt to cover up what his attorney said was improper use of force.

‘It was extreme. It was zero to 100.’

On October 23, 2013, Nick Daniels said he went to the Fieldhouse bar in downtown Columbia to celebrate his birthday with friends from Lincoln University. According body camera video given to KOMU 8 News by Daniels’ attorney and court documents, four Columbia police officers entered the bar for a standard “open business check." 

Once they entered the bar, body camera video showed the officers walking around, talking to various people, including employees. Daniels and his attorney, Brent Haden, provided KOMU 8 News with the two body camera videos they obtained for his legal cases. In one video, from Officer Patrick Corcoran’s camera, Daniels’ lawsuit stated Corcoran can be heard saying, “There are a lot of players in here. There are probably at least two guns in here.”

A few minutes later on the tape, Corcoran and another officer, Officer Ryan Terranova, spot Daniels and a Fieldhouse bouncer in a struggle. The officers rush over.

Watch the video from Corcoran's perspective below. KOMU 8 News has edited the beginning of the tape to begin when Corcoran appears to talk to the bouncer. The tape is unedited after that point and stops when it appears Corcoran's body camera is flipped off his uniform.

Daniels said he had been walking toward the door to get some air when the bouncer went by him.

“He nudged me really hard, and I didn’t like it. And he said if I don’t like the way I’m being touched, I can leave. I let him know that’s what I was trying to do, and he told me that I was done. Whatever that means. And then he grabbed me," Daniels said.

From this point, police were involved, first with two officers. Shortly later, Officer Clint Sinclair and another officer saw the struggle. Sinclair’s body camera showed the other officers joining the fray. Quickly after becoming involved, according to video and court documents, Sinclair was punched in the face. Seconds later, officers are heard yelling, and Sinclair deployed his Taser on Daniels.

Daniels recounted the moments the police became involved this way: “Next thing I know I hear ‘freeze,’ and cops are punching me, kneeing me. I’m being hit, struck from all over the place. I felt like an animal how I was being handled. Ultimately I got Tased from behind. With my hands up and everything. Fell to the ground, was threatened to be maced.”

Watch the video from Sinclair's perspective below. KOMU 8 News has edited the beginning of the tape down to just before Sinclair sees the altercation and edited the end of the tape when Sinclair goes back into the bar after Daniels is brought outside. The tape is unaltered between those cuts.

Charges dropped, lawsuit filed against police

Police arrested Daniels, and he was initially charged with resisting arrest, assault of a law enforcement officer, and trespassing. The prosecutor later dismissed all of those charges, according to Haden, approximately five months later.

“The charges against him have been dismissed, but the damage to his life because of his arrest record now trying to get a job, beyond the emotional trauma of being beat up, beyond the physical pain of being Tased by these officers unjustifiably, is that he’s had trouble finding jobs and getting work because his arrest record remains.”

Daniels is now suing three of the officers involved that night, the shift supervisor, and the police chief. He initially sued in federal court; however, his attorney explained the case was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons. In state court, he is accusing the police of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, battery, and negligent supervision.

“Man, these guys really screwed my life up. I don’t like blaming people for my own, for situations I created myself. But I didn’t do this,” Daniels said.

Who threw the punch?

Haden said the main accusations are that officers unjustifiably used force against Daniels, that they wrote incorrect police reports, and that those reports were written in an attempt to cover up why an officer used a Taser.

“One of the officers alleged later that my client, Nick Daniels, punched Officer Sinclair. That was recorded in the police reports, but upon viewing the body camera, it became obvious Officer Sinclair was actually punched by a fellow officer, Officer Terranova,” Haden said. “After Officer Sinclair was punched by Officer Terranova, he Tased Nick Daniels. Then after the fact they wrote police reports in which they allege that Nick Daniels had punched Officer Sinclair, and thereby tried to cover up where their improper use of force for something Nick Daniels didn’t do.”  

Terranova is the officer who wrote the initial report. In it, he wrote, that Daniels resisted arrest by breaking away from him.

“I observed Daniels turn around and grab the lapel of Sinclair’s jacked. Daniels then struck Officer Sinclair with a closed fist across the left side of his face, assaulting him.”

In the next paragraph, Terranova described attempts to bring Daniels to the ground and Sinclair’s use of a Taser. “Daniels fell forward and continued to resist arrest by locking his hands beneath him.”

Sinclair wrote an offense report two and a half months after the incident. In his report, he wrote about seeing the altercation between the bouncer and Daniels. He also stated it was Daniels who punched him in the face seconds before he deployed his Taser.

Officer: 'I believe there's a possibility that it was not Mr. Daniels that struck me'

In depositions in summer 2016, Sinclair said after reviewing the tape, he believed it could have been Terranova who punched him that night.

“After further reviewing of the video, I believe there’s a possibility that another individual involved in the fight with myself and Officer (sic) Daniels, specifically another officer, could have been responsible for me being struck in the face.”

Terranova pointed out in the tape where Sinclair was punched, noted it was in fact his arm cocked in the video before the hit, but he said it was not him throwing a punch.

“And the reason why is because I know I didn't throw a punch there just because I -- I wouldn't punch someone standing up like that,” Terranova said.

Despite the change, Sinclair said he still believed Daniels was not complying and that the altercation would have continued.

“The video would not have changed my perceptions and what I believed happened that night. I -- I -- I?-- regardless of the video, I believe that Mr. Daniels assaulted me, regardless of whether or not it was him or Officer Terranova that punched me in the face,” Sinclair said.

Police response: ‘They reasonably believed that [Daniels] posed a significant threat’

The Columbia Police Department does not respond to pending litigation; however, their responses in court show full denial of the claims made by Daniels and his attorney.

The response stated the force used was reasonable: “Justified to do so because they reasonably believed that such a use of force was necessary because they reasonably believed that Plaintiff posed a significant threat to these Defendants or others.”

The response also stated the police believed force was necessary because Daniels was resisting arrest: “Violently or aggressively resisted arrest, failed to appropriately respond to and/or obey verbal directives of law enforcement officers; and assumed the risk of injury.”

While the department would not directly respond to the accusations in an interview, Sgt. Brian Tate agreed to discuss use of force procedures over the phone.

He said a person’s back is a preferred location when using a Taser: “It’s just a better, easier hit target. It limits the possibility you might strike someone in the groin or facial area… There’s more mass there. It’s just a better targeting area. If it’s available to you. It’s going to provide the best, most effective result of the Taser. There might be a situation where you have two officers at the scene standing behind the individual and for whatever reason the Taser is selected… that would be the perfect time for the second officer to deploy the Taser to the back of the individual.”

He said he was unfamiliar with the case, had not seen the tape and was not there that evening, so he could not provide more specific information: “I would not feel comfortable, not knowing the specifics of this case, Monday morning quarterbacking the officer’s decision.”

Court documents and police reports

Use the document viewer below to review the federal and state lawsuits, as well as Terranova and Sinclair's reports of the incident.


Editor's note: Daniels now lives in Jacksonville, Florida, where he is an Uber driver. KOMU 8 News found out about this story when he happened to drive Chief Investigator Jamie Grey while she attended a conference in Jacksonville.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Missouri Gymnastics posts abnormally high departure numbers http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-missouri-gymnastics-posts-abnormally-high-departure-numbers/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-missouri-gymnastics-posts-abnormally-high-departure-numbers/ Target 8 Mon, 8 May 2017 1:59:18 PM Mark Kim and Mitchel Summers, KOMU 8 Sports Reporters TARGET 8: Missouri Gymnastics posts abnormally high departure numbers

COLUMBIA - Since the end of the 2013-2014 season, eight Missouri gymnasts have left the team for non-injury concerns, which is one of the highest rates in the SEC during that time frame, according to public information.

Missouri led the SEC in non-injury related departures in both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons.

The gymnastics team is also second in non-injury related departures among non-revenue women's sports at Missouri, according to data collected by KOMU 8 News.  


KOMU 8 News has been comparing Missouri gymnastics rosters since the 2013-2014 season. That was the first season of head coach Shannon Welker. We've noticed that a high number of gymnasts with eligibility remaining would disappear from the roster for unclear reasons. We labeled these "non-injury related departures." To be considered for this statistic, an athlete had to have either transferred schools or left for unclear reasons. If an athlete left the team for reasons like career-ending injuries, academic issues or left the team but stayed as a manager, they were not included in this statistic. 

In the past three seasons, Missouri has lost Anna Bowers, Rachel Henderson, Lark Pokladnik, Rachel Updike, Sasha Sander, Jordyn Doherty, Kelli Martin and Storee Yzaguirre.

Welker used phrases such as “pursuit of other interests” and “personal reasons” as reasons for those gymnasts leaving.  

KOMU 8 News spoke to some of these former gymnasts, and they said Welker’s depictions of their departures aren’t necessarily true.

Yzaguirre can’t help but look back at the memories of her Missouri gymnastics career.

“When I visited Mizzou, there was something different about it. Everything just seemed right. It seemed like it was a place that was for me,” Yzaguirre said.

She performed in exhibition twice and once scored a 9.775 on beam. She said her coaches, especially Welker, took notice.  

“He told me at one point last year that I had the potential to have one of the best beam routines in the NCAA.”

But Yzaguirre’s future in gymnastics changed in the summer of 2016 when she noticed an incorrect charge in her bank account in June.

Storee Yzaguire’s bank account is pictured above. Yzaguirre said she closed the account soon after seeing the charge of $777.95 to Log Hill Properties.


According to court documents, the financial charge came from Morgan Porter, Yzaguirre's teammate on the gymnastics team. At first, Yzaguirre said, she couldn't believe Porter was connected with the charge.   

“Like, there’s some kind of mistake. This couldn’t have happened. There was no part of me that actually thought it was her,” Yzaguirre said.

According to court documents, Yzaguirre and Porter were roommates the year prior. Yzaguirre said she believes that’s when Porter took her account information.

She said Porter was initially dismissive of the claims. From there, she said, she approached Welker.

“He told me that he wanted to have us handle this internally,” Yzaguirre said of the meeting.

Yzaguirre’s mother also emailed Mizzou Compliance asking about the situation. Representatives from Missouri's athletic department and student conduct departments were in touch with Yzaguirre. Sarah Reesman, Missouri's athletic director at the time, was also involved in these conversations.

As the summer passed by with little change on the situation, Yzaguirre switched her focus back to gymnastics. She was preparing to compete in the upcoming 2016-2017 season on the beam, where she said Welker had previously told her she would be featured.

However, Yzaguirre said her next meeting with Welker took an unexpected turn.

“We had another conversation and immediately, basically just told me that I was never going to compete, and he wasn't going to let me and if I wanted to do college gymnastics that I couldn't do it here at Mizzou. I was released from the team about two and a half weeks before school started, kind of leaving me without time to transfer,” Yzaguirre said.

Yzaguirre said she saw no other option but to file a police report.

Prosecutors then filed charges accusing Porter of misdemeanor Fraudulent Use of Credit/Debit Device over $500.00. Months later, Porter pleaded guilty to misdemeanor passing of a bad check.

Porter received probation and community service from the courts. She was given a small suspension by Missouri gymnastics and allowed back on the team, while Yzaguirre was removed.

“I feel like Shannon is working pretty hardly against me in this case. Morgan is probably the best one on the team, so I think he's fighting really hard for her,” Yzaguire said.

While athletes being removed from a team isn’t abnormal, especially when there are changes in coaches, former gymnasts say this situation is different.

Several former athletes told KOMU 8 News they had problems with Welker's coaching and saw issues no matter whether the woman was a walk on or a star athlete.

“I could see the way he treated other girls. I knew it wasn't right.” said Rachel Updike, an All-American gymnast who starred at Missouri from 2011-2014.

When Lark Pokladnik was on the team from 2013-2014, she said, she felt Welker created an uncomfortable environment for his team.

“There was not a day that I walked into the gym excited to be there. Every day I went in I was like, ‘What torture am I going to experience today?’” Pokladnik said.

Pokladnik said she immediately ran into problems with Welker’s coaching style.

For their first away meet at Alabama in 2013, she was told there wasn’t space on the flight; however, she said, she remembered an injured athlete and a team media person being taken instead of her.

“He was definitely intentionally trying to keep me out. Like, just to get me off the team. Just to say that there wasn't proof that I was contributing,” Pokladnik said.

Several athletes said once they were injured, Welker would either force them to compete or cast them aside. For former Missouri gymnast Jordyn Doherty she dealt with both situations as a Missouri gymnast from 2014-2015.

Doherty landed awkwardly at a scrimmage and tore ligaments in her foot. She said, even though her foot was black and blue and in a boot for a month, Welker didn’t relent. 

Jordyn Doherty (right) is wearing a boot in this photo. She says coach Shannon Welker pushed her even while she nursed this injury.

“I was trying to get across to Shannon that ‘I can barely walk. Like I really need you to work with me here,’” Doherty said.

Athletes inside the gym said extreme pressure made them adopt harmful dieting habits. Doherty said the pressure pushed her to extreme lengths.

“I was going to the extent of taking laxatives and not eating. And when I was eating, I was eating celery, and I don’t like celery at all. But I was holding my nose just to get celery down just to get something in my body,” Doherty said.  

A head coach can add or remove players at their discretion, but Welker’s approach left many athletes feeling without clear reasoning. Privacy laws and other collegiate athletics policies make it even more difficult for the media and general public to know what is happening inside programs.

Doherty didn’t compete in the 2014-2015 season because of her foot injury. She had made it to the end of year banquet, and she said the coaching staff spoke highly of her return. 

“At the banquet in front of my friends, my family, my teammates, staff, [Coach Welker] said, ‘We’re so excited to have you, Jordyn, back. She’s gonna be a great aspect to the team when her foot is healed,’” Doherty said.

A few days later, Doherty said, she was called into Welker’s office where he told her she was removed from the team.

“There was no reason behind it. He said ‘I don’t have words. I don’t know what you want me to say,’” Doherty said.

In a phone call recorded by Doherty’s family, Doherty asked Welker why she was removed. Between long pauses, he mentioned that they didn’t see eye-to-eye on objectives and there was an issue with her attitude. His response ended with “You know, I don’t know what you want specifically on there.”

Listen below:


After competing in some anchor positions for MU, Pokladnik said, she was called into Welker’s office for end of year meetings where she learned she would no longer be on the team.

“He told me that I wasn't good enough, that I didn't try hard enough and that I wasn't a good fit for the team. You know how hard I work, you know what I came in here to do and everything you just said was not true. He had nothing to say. He basically sat there and almost nodded his head at me in agreement,” Pokladnik said.

Pokladnik said Welker told her she had a spot as a walk on, but Pokladnik declined the offer and transferred to Iowa State the following season.

Doherty and Pokladnik left the team following a decision from Welker, but Updike chose on her own to leave the team.

Updike - an All-American and one of MU’s most decorated gymnasts - walked away from the gymnastics team before her final senior season. She attempted to transfer schools after leaving the team, but Mizzou Athletics barred her request.

After she left, Welker said in interviews that Updike had “personal reasons” to leave.

“He knew why I wasn't on the team anymore. It was because I wouldn't sign that contract. That's the only reason why I wasn't there,” Updike said.

Updike said Welker attempted to have her sign a contract detailing the amount of events she would perform in during the gymnastics season. Updike could not provide KOMU 8 News with a copy of the contract.

When reflecting on their time at MU, all of the gymnast shared the same thought.

“There just has to be a change with the family aspect of it, and I don't know if he can do that,” Updike said.

Pokladnik said, “I remember a girl from my club team who was visiting Missouri for like an opportunity to go there and I remember like texting her and being like ‘Do not go there.'”

Doherty said, “To the recruits that are coming in, don’t. Don’t even try. Go somewhere you’re gonna have an amazing experience. Go somewhere where you’re gonna get that because you’re not gonna get that here, not with Shannon.”

Yzaguirre said, “I would want to find a gymnastics program with a coach that I knew truly cared about me as a person and I don't think that that is found here with Coach Welker"

KOMU 8 News reached out to Welker, Morgan Porter, Athletic Director Jim Sterk and former Athletic Director Mike Alden multiple times. They all either declined to comment or did not respond to requests.

Nick Joos, Missouri's Senior Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications, said in an email to KOMU 8 News: “Our goal is to provide the best possible student-athlete experience, and we utilize a variety of scheduled and informal opportunities to gather feedback from our student-athletes.”

KOMU 8 News reached out again for comment on specific on-the-record claims by athletes, but Joos said Mizzou Athletics wouldn't comment on anonymous allegations.

Despite being told the sources are named and on the record, Joos responded, "They are anonymous in the fact that they have not brought their concerns to the appropriate staff within the athletic department."

(Editors Note: This story was previously published with a reference to a contract involving Rachel Updike. KOMU 8 News added more information to explain the statement.)

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Residents complain of unequal policing; data shows disparity http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-residents-complain-of-unequal-policing-data-shows-disparity/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-residents-complain-of-unequal-policing-data-shows-disparity/ Target 8 Wed, 3 May 2017 2:22:56 PM Lauren Barnas, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Residents complain of unequal policing; data shows disparity

COLUMBIA - Some residents in north Columbia claim the Columbia Police Department responds too heavily to shots heard calls, giving the north side of town a worse reputation than it deserves.

The Target 8 Investigative Team requested a year’s worth of data from Joint Communications for the period of October 2015 to October 2016 to see how many units were sent to shots heard calls in different parts of Columbia.

The data

The team requested shots heard data instead of shots fired data because shots heard calls never resulted in any proof of gunfire. CPD said if evidence of gunfire was found, the dispatcher would have changed the type of call to shots fired. Therefore, the shots heard data set refers specifically to instances when CPD was not able to verify evidence of shots after arriving to a scene.

CPD said many factors contribute to the number of units sent to a particular call, like the area's crime history, how many people have called in to report the shots heard and concern for officer safety.

"We may respond with a higher presence than we would, you know, to an area where there isn't a concern that there may be some hostility toward our officers there," Bryana Larimer, the department's public information officer, said.

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, an advocate for community policing, is critical of the department's decisions.

"In their mind, they associate black people with being dangerous, and that's why they're sending the five cars," she said. "They're not saying that, but that's what they're doing." 

The department divides the city into eight sections, or police beats. Beats 10, 20, 30 and 40 are typically considered north Columbia. These are areas north of I-70 and near Business Loop 70. The remaining beats – beat 50, 60, 70, and 80 – are typically considered south Columbia.

Police sent an average of three and a half units to a shots heard calls in that year, regardless of where the call came from. Some calls received many more units than that, sometimes double and triple the average.

"On these calls, you typically will see our officers, at least two of them, respond to a call for service, like this," Larimer said. "But it's also gonna be up to the supervisor's discretion."

Out of the 341 shots heard calls in the year, 42 received at least seven units, which is double the average number. 37 of those calls were in north Columbia. That's 88 percent.

CPD sent triple the average number of units, at least 11 units, to shots heard calls on 12 different occasions during the year. All 12 of those were in north Columbia.

Wilson-Kleekamp said, "We don't need you to send the military in. You don't send them over to the south side for that."

The department said it's better to be over-prepared for shots heard calls than it is to be under-prepared.

"We will allocate as many resources as we need in order to keep everyone safe," Larimer said.

Role of socioeconomic status and demographics 

Residents at a Race Matters, Friends meeting said it's important to consider CPD policing techniques in context with the city's history of racial and economic segregation. Attendees said Missouri's history of slavery still affects the community today.

The Target 8 Investigative Team talked to many residents who agreed, saying a heavier police presence harms the north side - which is already racially and economically disadvantaged.

The city of Columbia compiles data to show income levels relative to each part of town, by ward. Although the city divides wards differently than the city divides police beats, there are similar boundaries that divide north and south Columbia.

The city's data show residents in south wards make significantly more money on average than residents on the north side.

"Obviously there's more money on the north side than on the south side," Wilson-Kleekamp said.

In addition to the socioeconomic implications of living in north Columbia, there are racial implications as well. The city reports significantly more black people living in north Columbia than south Columbia since 2001.

This information is consistent with data the Target 8 Investigative Team compiled to create this map based on census data:

Push toward community policing

Although the department insists it doesn't respond differently to neighborhoods, the department's website said it created the police beat map in 2009, to start geographic policing. 

"Officers worked to get to know the neighbors of their beats and understand what problems or concerns the residents had," the website said. "Shortly after this model was introduced, CPD expanded the approach and assigned two officers to Douglass Park, a known “hotspot” for calls for service and/or criminal activity in the City of Columbia. These two officers worked diligently to build relationships with residents in the area which proved valuable as calls for service to the area soon decreased."

Wilson-Kleekamp said the move toward community policing shouldn't stop there. She believes a city-wide community policing program would benefit everyone in the community.

The website said, "By October 2015, City Council selected three neighborhoods to focus resources on as part of the 2015 Strategic Plan."

Wilson-Kleekamp challenged the department to not only expand its geographic policing program, but also to change its philosophy: "What are you going to do to change the mindset of your department so it's a guardian mindset? So that when poor people in this community have an issue they're respected as much as people who have money? So that you're not seeing brown people and black people as criminals because they're poor?"

Some other families in the northern part of Columbia told the Target 8 Investigative Team they are happy with current policing in Columbia. They said they appreciate any number of units sent to a scene to potentially protect their children.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Memory pills on shelves in Columbia labeled "hoax" http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-memory-pills-on-shelves-in-columbia-labeled-hoax-/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-memory-pills-on-shelves-in-columbia-labeled-hoax-/ Target 8 Tue, 25 Apr 2017 3:08:10 PM Hanna Knutson, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Memory pills on shelves in Columbia labeled

COLUMBIA - The FTC and New York's attorney general charged Quincy Bioscience, the maker of Prevagen, with fraud. The charge accuses Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims. Prevagen is an over-the-counter supplement promoted as helping with memory loss and strengthen brain function.

The company says Prevagen is made up of jellyfish proteins and sells for between 40 to 90 dollars for a 90 day supply.

Dr. Joel Shenker, who specializes in neurology at the University of Missouri, says almost all of the patients he sees either have dementia or are worried they might. He said the jellyfish protein doesn't do what Quincy Bioscience says it does.

"The manner of which you’re getting it in this Prevagen product can’t work. What they’re claiming can’t be true," Shenker said.

Shenker said when you eat a protein your body is getting the amino acids not the protein itself just like when you arrange letters it creates a word. 

So, when Prevagen's maker claims that your body is absorbing the jellyfish protein, Shenker says, that's false - it's absorbing the amino acids.

The FTC says Prevagen has made more than $165 million on the pills so far. 

Amelia Cottle is a caretaker for her husband Brian Cottle, who has Alzehiemer's disease.

Cottle said her husband has never tried Prevagen, but says the company knows exactly who to target.

“People will always continue to hope. We want there to be a cure. We want our loved to get better. We want ourselves to get better,” Cottle said.

Cottle said, once she found out about her husband's diagnosis, she tried many different things.

"From a personal stand point, doing what we could do and doing things that could try to help him. We tried dark juices and drank gallons and gallons of that," she said.

With an incurable disease like Alzheimer's, some people will turn to anything and the amount of Alzheimer cases continues to rise.

According to the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Missouri, more than 5 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer's by 2050, and the number could rise as high as 16 million. 

Jessie Kwatamadia, an executive director for the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Missouri, said the disease is a health care crisis. 

"The fact of the matter is, as long as you have a brain you are in danger of having Alzheimer’s disease," Kwatamadia said.

And mid-Missouri is no exception.

"The number is escalating. Right now, by 2017 we have over 110,000 people that we know that have Alzheimer’s disease in the state of Missouri. By 2025, we are looking at 130,000," Kwatamadia said. 

Shenker estimates about half the people with Alzheimer's disease are not being diagnosed.

"There are people who are walking around with symptomatic Alzheimer's disease. Some of these people are serving in political office, some are flying airplanes, some are practicing physicians, some are just regular ordinary folks going about their day appearing to do just fine cause they have routines and people have adapted to their routines" Shenker said.

KOMU 8 News went to grocery stores and pharmacies in Columbia and most stores didn't carry Prevagen.

However, a few did, and one store was even sold out of the pill at the time.

KOMU 8 News also reached out to Quincy Bioscience , which declined an interview due to a pending litigation. It did, however, send back a media fact sheet.

The sheet mentions the lawsuit against the FTC by stating:

"There is no alleged consumer harm that would require immediate action. Therefore, there is no reason for a short-staffed and lame-duck FTC to have brought this case now."

The sheet also points to Democrats, saying the case was authorized by two commissioners - both led by Democrats.

Since Prevagen is labeled as a supplement and not a drug, it is exempt from the FDA drug approval process and has looser restrictions.

The FTC lawsuit is asking for Prevagen customers to get their money back.

Though a pill won't cure memory problems that come with age, Shenker says there are some things to help your memory. But, he cautions that dementia and Alzheimer's disease are incurable and anyone can be affected.

Shenker says there are a couple of things known to be helpful in improving or maintaining brain function:

  • Physical activity
  • Complex thinking- puzzles or things to keep the mind engaged
  • Not smoking
  • Having good control over blood pressure
  • Following a Mediterranean diet

"People who do these things, as they go forward in time, their future memory loss becomes less as compared to people who don’t do these things," Shenker said.




Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Tracking office renovations at the state Capitol http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-tracking-office-renovations-at-the-state-capitol/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-tracking-office-renovations-at-the-state-capitol/ Target 8 Mon, 1 May 2017 7:31:01 AM Landon Burke, KOMU 8 Anchor TARGET 8: Tracking office renovations at the state Capitol

JEFFERSON CITY - Office renovations within the Capitol became a hot topic of conversation during the 2016 gubernatorial race. Gov. Eric Greitens criticized his opponent Chris Koster for renovating his staff's office during his time as Missouri's attorney general. Months later, new Lt. Gov. Mike Parson announced plans for some office renovations of his own, totaling $54,000.

KOMU 8 News reached out to Parson's office to talk about this most recent renovation project in the Capitol. A spokesperson for the lieutenant governor told KOMU 8 News Parson had "made all the comments he would like to make on the office renovations" and denied a request for an interview or a statement.

In this Target 8 Investigation, KOMU 8 News reached out to the Office of Administration, the department responsible for overseeing maintenance and renovation projects in the Capitol.

KOMU 8 News learned where the money for these renovations comes from, how projects are requested and how much money was set aside for such renovations in the last five years.

Where does the money come from?

Office of Administration spokesperson Ryan Burns said most, but not all, expenses related to Capitol office renovations are paid for using funds budgeted specifically for building maintenance. State lawmakers in the general assembly decide the amount of money available for such projects.

The Office of Administration keeps a running database of all requested projects, including matters of both routine maintenance and special projects such as office renovations.

Burns said all of these requests are put into a capital improvement bill. From there, state lawmakers must then decide how much money to appropriate for the fiscal year.

Burns said, for office renovations, the majority of that money usually comes from the Facilities Maintenance Reserve Fund. However, state officials are allowed to take additional funding from their own office's budget to pay for decorations and furniture. The specific use of that money is not approved by the general assembly, and it is not budgeted in a capital improvement bill.

Elected officials are given a specific budget to cover "expense and equipment" needs within their office. Money from that fund could be used to purchase the decorations and furniture.

The official budget of each statewide elected official can be viewed on the Office of Administration's website.

How are renovations requested?

Burns said, in most cases, the officeholders themselves are responsible for requesting improvements to their office. Elected officials can reach out to the Office of Administration's commissioner and request the renovations.

Burns said, before construction begins, the request must be reviewed by the Division of Facilities Management, Design and Construction (FMDC), which decides if the project can be completed with available funds.

Burns said filing a request does not guarantee the project will get approved; however, she also said she was unaware of any office renovation requests being denied in the last five years.

How much taxpayer money has been spent?

KOMU 8 News requested the office renovation expenditures for the past 20 years. The Office of Administration responded with expense data from the last five years.

In that time, Missouri lawmakers have approved more than $271,813 to renovate the offices of state-elected officials.


According to the Office of Administration, the most recent statewide elected official office renovations have benefited the treasurer ($14,825), the auditor ($8,398), the governor ($199,965) and, most recently, the lieutenant governor ($8,398).

Burns said the Office of Administration only keeps track of the money budgeted by the general assembly. Because politicians are allowed to reach into their own budget to pay for furniture and decorations, the total amount of money spent is greater than reflected in the above graph. Those kind of purchases are left to the discretion of elected officials, and are not funded, nor recorded, by the Office of Administration.

Permalink| Comments

TARGET 8: Do 'Tobacco 21' ordinances work? http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-do-tobacco-21-ordinances-work-/ http://www.komu.com/news/target-8-do-tobacco-21-ordinances-work-/ Target 8 Wed, 19 Apr 2017 5:14:00 PM Melissa Zygowicz, KOMU 8 Reporter & Jamie Grey, KOMU 8 Chief Investigator TARGET 8: Do 'Tobacco 21' ordinances work?

COLUMBIA - People under 21 in Jefferson City can no longer buy tobacco products. But Jefferson City is the 11th city or county in Missouri to pass this ordinance, leaving many to wonder if these policies are really preventing teens from getting their hands on a pack of cigarettes.

Columbia was the first city in Missouri to pass the Tobacco 21 ordinance in December 2014, according to tobacco21.org.

Alec Stanley is the store manager at We B Smokin in Columbia. He said he knows this ordinance does nothing to keep teenagers from getting tobacco.

"If you have one 18 year old in the car, you can go out of town and buy it and then come back in town and disseminate it amongst all the kids you know. They'll do that, and I know they will because I did the same thing when I was 16," Stanley said.

The Target 8 team looked into data to see if tobacco usage amongst people under 21 has gone down since the ordinance was put in place.

Columbia Public Schools conducts a survey every two years on how many of its students use tobacco. The district takes each survey at the beginning of the year, between January and March. The district took the 2015 survey shortly after the ordinance went into effect in Columbia in December 2014. 

In 2013, 10.1 percent of CPS students grades 6-12 said they used tobacco in the last 30 days. In 2015, 3.3 percent of CPS students reported using tobacco.

According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, the total state wide cigarette sales tax revenue has remained almost constant between the 2012 and 2016 fiscal years. Tobacco product tax revenue has also remained nearly constant.

Because the 11 cities and counties have relatively new Tobacco 21 provisions, it is difficult to know the impact statewide. 

However, Kansas City, in Jackson County, passed its ordinance in November 2015. The county's total cigarette sales tax collection has slightly decreased since 2012.



Stanley said his business took a hard hit when the Columbia ordinance went into place.

"There were people who were 20 years old who had been buying cigarettes from us for years at that point, and we had to turn them away," he said. "They just go right up the road, and they buy there."

According to the Columbia Municipal Court, there were no citations given out in 2015 or 2016.

The Columbia Police Department also conducted compliance checks in 2016 and found only one Columbia store sold tobacco to the underage buyer.

According to CPD, the following locations were checked and did not sell tobacco to the underage buyer:

  • Hy-Vee, 3100 W. Broadway
  • Wal-Mart, 3001 W. Broadway
  • Petro Mart 41, 5612 St. Charles Road
  • Casey's General Store, 3905 Clark Lane
  • Tiger Stop, 3500 Clark Lane

The following location did sell tobacco to the underage buyer:

  • Dollar General Store, 3020 Paris Road

CPD Public Information Officer Bryana Larimer said the ordinance is complaint-based, so officers only check a store if multiple reports were filed.

For our Town Square segment, we asked Facebook users what they think about Tobacco 21 ordinances. You can view the video here and comment. 

We also polled followers on Twitter, and most have said the ordinances are ineffective. 



Permalink| Comments