JONESBURG - A tattered and torn American flag hangs from the front yard of Mike Hutcherson. The flag is not a welcoming sign for both residents of Jonesburg and people passing through the town of less than 800 people. Hutcherson's house sits on the outskirts of Jonesburg and is technically not part of the town, but Hutcherson makes his presence felt in many ways according to those who live there. If you choose to dine, get gas or stop at the local grocery store in Jonesburg, it seems everyone has a story about Mike Hutcherson.
KOMU 8 first received complaints about Hutcherson's actions when Randa Harlan, a resident of Jonesburg, posted on our Facebook page earlier this month. She wrote this:
"I am a resident in the small town of Jonesburg, MO. In this small town we have a HUGE problem. There is a 60+ year old man that is ALLOWED to take pictures of the kids in town. Kids playing in their own yards. Kids that he doesn't even know. Several times the police have been involved, both Jonesburg Police & Montgomery County Sheriff's Dept, and nothing has been done. We've all been told to leave the man alone, nothing he is doing or has done is illegal. It's sickening that instead of our kids being protected, he's being protected. What's even more sickening is that there have been witnesses stating he has a wall of pictures of all the kids. How are our kids safe in this town if this is what is ALLOWED to go on?! We as parents have to sign permission slips for our children to have their pictures taken at school yet a complete stranger is allowed to photograph our kids without our say so. I hate to think that its going to come down to something happening to one of the kids in town before they do anything. We need attention brought to this issue BEFORE something happens NOT AFTER!!"
The post from Harlan drew 44 likes and more than 20 comments on the KOMU 8 Facebook page and had us asking questions.
In an on-camera interview with KOMU 8, Harlan reiterated her sentiments about Hutcherson and how he affects her kids safety. She also told KOMU 8 about her boyfriend almost having an altercation with Hutcherson a few months back when Hutcherson was taking pictures of kids on their property from across the street. According to Harlan and other residents of Jonesburg, Hutcherson fled to the town's post office to avoid the confrontation.
But it's not only Harlan, many other residents said they've have had issues with Hutcherson. Lysa Stiern owns Goin' Postal a shipping/packaging store in Warrenton just a few miles down the road from Hutcherson's house. Hutcherson came into the store to get photos developed and Stiern started noticing a trend during his visits to the store.
"He would harass my customers as they left, on the sidewalk" said Stiern.
Stiern asked Hutcherson that he stop bothering her customers. A few weeks later Hutcherson came into the store and got more photos developed by Stiern. Upon opening the files on her computer, Stiern noticed the pictures Hutcherson had taken were of her and her truck at the Jonesburg post office. Stiern was not only worried because the photos were of her, but also that she had her son with her at the time. This experience led Stiern to get a restraining order against Hutcherson. The order prohibits Hutcherson from getting near her house and her business.
Then the case got even more bizarre. After the subsequent court case regarding Stiern's protection order, she said her name and business ended up in an unusual place: outside Hutcherson's house on a plywood sign. The sign titled "COVERUP" is leaned up against a tree in Hutcherson's front yard. (See photos on the left) According to local residents, Hutcherson puts the names up of people in the area who have either crossed him or gotten on his bad side.
Angela Staab lives less than a mile down the road from Hutcherson, right across the street from Jonesburg Elementary School. She said she's had multiple run-ins with the man. First, Staab was allegedly photographed by Hutcherson as he stood across the street at the local baseball field. He is now banned from the baseball field, according to Staab. Then she said Hutcherson, while riding on his bike down the street, photographed her boyfriend's daughter. The daughter knocked Hutcherson off his bike and Hutcherson tried to file assault charges against the then 13-year-old girl.
Later in the year, Staab's sister and daughter were walking from their nearby swimming pool back to the house when Staab said, "[Hutcherson] would stop them and ask them, 'Where do you guys go swimming at? Don't you live around here?' My daughter said 'We're not supposed to talk to you.'" She added there's no reason for a man to be doing that.
The controversy surrounding Hutcherson's actions sent many Jonesburg neighbors to the local police department, but officers there said there's really not much they can do. In an exclusive interview with KOMU 8, Jonesburg Police Chief J.D. Sinclair said what Hutcherson's allegedly doing is perfectly legal because he takes pictures of people while standing on public property.
"I equate it to the paparazzi taking pictures of celebrities for magazines. The paparazzi is always in public right of way. The only difference is he's not the paparazzi and they're not the stars. But he's on public right of way and they're in public view," Chief Sinclair said.
Sinclair gave this advice for concerned Jonesburg citizens.
"Just take photos of him right back. I've heard of at least two instances where people have snapped photos of him and then he leaves them alone" said Sinclair.
Sinclair wants citizens to know the police department will take action as soon as a crime is committed. For now, he has faith in the residents of the small town that they will continue to work together and be calm about the situation.
"Violence is not the way to go. That's not the answer" said Sinclair.