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(Alton) – An Alton police officer who was also the city fire chief died late Monday morning after a one-vehicle accident near Alton.

Alton Police Officer Eddie Joe Johnson Jr. was responding to a residential structure fire 6 miles west of Alton on Highway 160 just before noon Monday when his patrol vehicle ran off the left side of the road, struck a driveway approach and overturned several times, ejecting him from the vehicle. Officer Johnson was rushed to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains, where he was pronounced dead at 1:05 PM.

Officer Johnson was a 9-year veteran of the Alton Police Department and was also the Alton Fire Chief. he was also a reserve deputy for the Oregon County Sheriff’s Office.

Highway Patrol officials say the crash is being investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Major Crash Investigation Unit.

Officer Johnson is survived by his wife and three children.

 

(Willow Springs) – A Willow Springs man is facing charges of 1st degree murder, child abuse and child endangerment.

32-year-old Jamie Curnutt is being held in the Howell County Jail on $1 million bond.

A probable cause statement in the case states that on Friday, October 17, a call to the Willow Springs Police Department reported an unresponsive 2-year-old male. The child, who was not identified in court documents, was taken to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains before being flow via helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where he was later pronounced dead. Curnutt was interviewed by police that morning and reportedly said he found the child unresponsive on the floor. Court documents state that another child in the home told investigators that Curnutt had spanked the deceased child 5-10 times that morning because he was wetting himself.

Police seized a belt, which was allegedly used in several of the spankings, as evidence.

Information obtained from Ozarks Medical Center revealed that the child had a lacerated liver, head and forehead abrasions, swelling on the brain, and bruising around the neck.

Curnutt is scheduled to appear in court at 9 AM Monday, October 27.

(West Plains) – Dr. Dennis Lancaster has been named the permanent dean of academic affairs at Missouri State University-West Plains.

At their regular meeting Friday, October 17, in Springfield, members of the Missouri State University Board of Governors approved a recommendation from Missouri State-West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett and Missouri State University System President Clif Smart to remove “interim” from Lancaster’s title. Lancaster had been serving as interim dean since May 20, 2013, following the resignation of Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Christopher Dyer.

Although the normal procedure for filling this position is through a national search, Bennett said university officials decided to forego the time and expense of such a search and recommend Lancaster for the position.

“I am honored to have been selected for the dean’s position,” Lancaster said. “In serving as the interim dean for the past year-and-a-half, I have learned this is a most complex position but a critical one in the teaching and learning processes of a college campus. While I will certainly miss the classroom and the day-to-day interaction with the honors students in particular, I hope I can use what I’ve learned and observed over the past 22 years here at Missouri State-West Plains to sustain and better the learning environment for all of our students. We have many challenges now and even more ahead, and I believe that a collaborative approach – one that involves instructors, staff members, administrators, students, parents and community members and like-minded organizations – is the only way we’ll be able to move forward with excellence in such a challenging environment.”

Lancaster has been affiliated with Missouri State-West Plains in a variety of teaching and administrative capacities for 23 years. He joined the campus as a per course English and journalism instructor in 1990 and was hired full time in 1992 as assistant director of university communications/lecturer. In 1997, he was appointed special projects coordinator/lecturer then became the assistant to the chancellor/instructor in September 2001. He served as acting chancellor/instructor for six months in 2007 and was appointed assistant professor/director of the Darr Honors Program in January 2009.

A 1980 graduate of West Plains High School, Lancaster received his bachelor’s degree in English (literature) and philosophy in 1984 from Drury University and his master’s in journalism in 1996 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He completed his Ed.D. in higher education administration in September from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.

(Photo by Donald W. Hall/University of Florida)

(Cape Girardeau) (AP) – The Missouri Department of Conservation says residents likely won’t encounter stinging caterpillars this fall, despite booming populations in southern states.

A large population of pus caterpillars in Florida this year has stung locals, leaving a swelling, burning wound.

Residents have been calling the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center asking about the creature.

Pus caterpillars look like a brown lump of fur. The department says only a small population lives in Missouri, although they cause the most severe reaction of the state’s 15 species of venomous caterpillars.

Forest Entomologist Rob Lawrence advises against touching hairy caterpillars.

Spines from the insects can be removed with a scotch tape. Stings should be washed with soap and water and monitored in case of an allergic reaction.

Crews from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield had a variety of animals for children to see and touch. (ORN Photo)

Crews from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield had a variety of animals for children to see and touch. (ORN Photo)

(West Plains) – Hundreds showed up for the annual Haunting in the Hollows event Saturday at Galloway Creek Nature Park.

The event featured live animals including snakes and frogs, face panting, a “troll bridge”, games and a whole lot more.

Photos from the event can be found here.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansans can begin early voting in this year’s busy midterm election.

Voters can cast ballots from 8 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday, and 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturdays. Early voting wraps up at 5 PM on Monday, November 3 – the day before the general election.

Arkansas election officials predict that 51 percent of the state’s nearly 1.7 million registered voters will cast ballots for the general election. That’s an increase from the last midterm election in 2010, when 47.6 percent of Arkansas’ 1.6 million registered voters cast ballots.

This year’s ballot features a heated U.S. Senate contest between Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, along with the governor’s race with Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson seeking the office.

(West Plains)- The West Plains City Council will meet this evening at 5:30 PM for a regular council meeting in the West Plains City Council Chambers at West Plains City Hall.

During the meeting the council will look to make Bill 4358 into an ordinance. The bill will approve a settlement agreement with Centrylink and assigning a percentage of the settlement proceeds to the Missouri Municipal League.

There are also two other bills scheduled to be discussed – Bill 1007 would declare an intention to reimburse certain capital expenditures from proceeds of a proposed lease purchasing financing; and approving the engagement of certain professionals relating to the proposed financing, while Bill 1008 would adopt a city vehicle policy for the City of West Plains Employees.

The council will also hear a bid to replace handheld units for meter readers and the hearing of planning and zoning recommendations.

Economic Development Director Bob Case will give a Department Presentation followed by the administrators report.

(Mountain Home) – Mountain Home School District Superintendent Dr. Lonnie Myers will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Myers’ retirement was approved at a special school board meeting this past Thursday. Myers is in his fifth year as superintendent of Mountain Home Public Schools, and has a total of 39 years of experience in education.

Since becoming superintendent, Myers has overseen a number of improvements in the district, including improved ACT scores and an increased graduation rate.

His retirement will be effective June 30, 2015.

(Houston) – The Texas County Memorial Hospital Healthcare Foundation is gearing up for the Eighth Annual Chili Cook Off on Saturday, November 8, in the Community Building at the Texas County Fairgrounds.

The Foundation is hosting the event to raise funds to benefit TCMH Hospice of Care. Jay Gentry, director of the Healthcare Foundation, is overseeing the chili cook off and related activities.

The TCMH Healthcare Foundation Chili Cook Off will feature 16 teams competing for chili prizes and in raising money for Hospice of Care. The event will also feature music, a live auction, a chili dog eating contest, a cake walk and booths with special foods or games as well as the opportunity to sample all the chili. Chili cooking teams are comprised of five people and are sponsored by businesses and organizations.

Three TCMH departments are also participating in the cook off- the EMS department, the medical surgical department; Home Health of the Ozarks and Dr. Christopher Baldwin and Tracey Arwood, CNM of the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston. A live auction held at 2PM in the Community Building will be a major portion of the fundraising for the day.

Hospice of Care provides end of life care for patients and their families regardless of a patient’s ability to pay for the service.  If insurance coverage is not available, Hospice of Care may use Chili Cook Off funds to purchase medications in addition to providing care at no charge.

Tickets to the event are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available through Hospice of Care and the Healthcare Foundation at TCMH. For more information about a sponsorship or to make a gift in support of the chili cook off, contact the TCMH Healthcare Foundation, 417-967-1377 or online at www.tcmh.org.

(Jefferson City) – The Missouri State Highway Patrol is urging motorists to be cautious during harvest season. Brett Stevens has more:

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