COLUMBIA - Homicides, football jerseys and an eclipse were all among the top stories covered by KOMU 8 News in 2017.
Cause of Death - Bullying
In January, bullying was ruled the cause of death
in the suicide of Kenneth Suttner.
The jury at a rare coroner's inquest
found that Harley Branham, a manager the Glasgow teen worked with at Dairy Queen in Fayette, played a focal role in his death.
The KOMU 8 News Target 8 team did a special report
and talked to people who testified at the inquest. They said Branham targeted Suttner and forced him to do humiliating chores, such as cleaning the floor while on his stomach and verbally harassing him.
Branham will have a preliminary hearing on involuntary manslaughter charges January 24.
A friend told KOMU 8 News Suttner was also bullied at school, “He’d share with me that he’d be called names… He’d tell me they’d tease him about his ears and things…He had a lisp, but they would tease him.”
The Glasgow's district’s attorney, Tom Mickes, said the loss of any student is a tragedy, but policies and procedures cannot stop all bullying.
"There is nothing that the school district or any of its employees could have done differently that would have avoided this tragedy,"Mickes said.
Michael Porter Jr.
In March, sought-after recruit Michael Porter Jr. committed to playing basketball with Mizzou.
He was the first recruit to commit under new head coach Cuonzo Martin, and his father, Michael Porter Sr., agreed to be an assistant coach for the Tigers.
KOMU 8 Sports director Chris Gervino said the 6'10" freshman was expected to have a great impact on the team.
But Porter spent only two minutes on the court. He was pulled early in the season opener after he told coach Cuonzo Martin his leg didn't feel right. He had ice on his hip during that game.
In the Tigers' second game against Wagner, Porter didn't play and wasn't even on the bench.
After undergoing spinal surgery, Porter said, "I'm thankful for these kind words and messages I've received from fans. Those mean a lot to me. I cannot wait to be completely healthy and play this game I love again."
The Carl DeBrodie Case
Eight months after Carl DeBrodie's
body was found encased in cement in Fulton, there are no named suspects in the case.
DeBrodie was living in a supported living facility when he was reported missing on April 17. His body was found after seven days of searching.
Police believe DeBrodie, who had a mental disability and limited communication skills, was missing from Second Chance Homes some time before it was reported.
Callaway County prosecutor Chris Wilson said there are "quite a few" persons of interest, but no one has been arrested.
Day Care Shuts Down After Target 8 Investigation
In July, the Department of Health and Senior Services placed the center on probation after two babies escaped the facility's fenced playground.
Former employees also said the children weren't getting enough food, with one package of graham crackers feeding 15 children.
Montajia Staten said, "Those poor kids were hungry."
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.
According Child Care Facility Details on the day care, the center consistently violated licensing rules since it opened in 2015. One of the most common violations is staff-to-child ratios.
Several former employees filed lawsuits, saying the day care had not paid them.
Lots of Love closed in October.
Total Solar Eclipse
"It was absolutely amazing, probably one of the most spectacular things I think I've ever seen," said Kris Johnson, who made the eight-hour trip from Minnesota.
Three of the biggest viewing parties took place at Cosmo Park and Gans Creek Recreational Area in Columbia and on the Capitol lawn in Jefferson City. Crowds gasped and cheered as the moon moved over the sun, revealing the solar corona.
This was the first time a total solar eclipse had been over the state of Missouri in 148 years.
In a very rare occurrence, the next total solar eclipse over the United States will also hit Missouri, this time the southeastern corner, through Cape Girardeau. That happens on April 8, 2024 – less than seven years away.
Lynch Kaepernick Jerseys
A Lake Ozark bar came under fire
in September after putting out a doormat made of two football jerseys amid the "take a knee" movement by NFL players.
Owner Jason Burle used the jerseys of NFL players Marshawn Lynch and Colin Kaepernick. When placed side-by-side, the jerseys read “Lynch” “Kaepernick."
When Taylor Sloan saw it, he complained on the bar's Facebook page, saying it seemed racist.
Sloan wrote, "You are also expressing hate, violence and continuing American racism under the faux guise of patriotism."
Burle told KOMU 8 News it wasn't "a race thing." He said the doormat was about standing up for himself and his family, many of whom served in the military.
“A lot of us military folks take that personal to heart," Burle said.
Seeing NFL players kneel during the national anthem didn't sit well with him. While he recognizes NFL players’ right to do so, he disagrees with it.
“I commend them for what they’re doing, as far as the right goes. I fought for that right,” Burle said. “The same thing that gives them that right gives me the right to place these out here.”
Burle later switched the order of the jerseys.
Harrisburg Teacher Killed in Crash
Harrisburg High School teacher Brian Simpson
was killed in a crash in September. The driver who hit him is facing murder charges.
The Target 8 investigative team found Brandon Brill had at least five previous convictions
of driving without a license. Boone County's prosecutor said, because Bill was committee a felony (driving without a license) when he caused a person's death, he was charged with felony second-degree murder.
School superintendent Steve Combs said Simpson was a valuable member of the community, which was deeply saddened by his death.
"It really sent a shock wave through the community," he said.
Simpson was a coach at the high school and the community renovated the baseball diamond and painted the date of his death on field.
Athletic director Doug Fessler said, "He's never going to be forgotten, so we decided to put the numbers out there."
Brill's trial is set to begin February 28.
Distracted Driving Ban
KOMU 8 News' Facebook page was flooded with comments after the Columbia City Council passed a distracted driving ban.
It outlaws any activity that takes a driver's attention away from the road.
The ordinance says: It shall be prima facie evidence that a vehicle operator is not exercising the highest degree of care if the operator of a moving vehicle engages in any conduct that causes such operator’s vision or attention to be obscured, diminished or directed elsewhere than the path of travel or attention of the vehicle.
Fourth Ward Council member Ian Thomas said setting a law like this "would send a strong message that drivers need to pay attention to the control of their vehicle."
“Where do you draw the line when you’re too distracted?” Carolyn Goyda asked. “I think that’s where it gets a bit hazy.”
Joseph Vradenburg said, “It will be impossible to eliminate all traffic-related deaths, so municipal government shouldn’t turn its residents into criminals trying."
Columbia's Vision Zero Plan seeks to eliminate all traffic-related deaths by the year 2030. The distracted driving ban is part of the implementation of that plan.