Monday, November 3, 2008

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part IX): Feds investigate vandalism of historic structure

The Oct. 23 and Oct. 30. issues of the Newton County Times arrived together today, and there is only one crime story between the two front pages. It reports the vandalism of a historic log cabin that sits on Buffal0 National River property in the Erbie Historic District. The Park Ranger and "law Enforcement Specialist" are investigating the mid-month vandalism of the Parker-Hickman homestead, which dates to around 1850. Various windows and window frames were broken, as were both doors, with damage totaling about $1,000. It appears that a perpetrator may have punched out the windows with his or her hands.

The story notes that the "homestead is extremely important due to its age, traditional architecture and remarkable craftsmanship, which is a testament to the people who lived in the Buffalo River Valley."

Something tells me that drugs or alcohol probably fueled this crime. I am also guessing that the perpetrator(s) had no idea of the value of the property.

Park Service officials are investigating the incident as a felony under the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. That law is probably something else about which the perpetrator(s) were unaware.

In other news, the town hall meeting to inform voters about the half-cent sales tax to finance a new jail, as reported in my last "law and order" post, drew about 20 citizens. The headline announces, "Town hall meeting supportive of jail." In addition, two quarter-page ads in the same edition of the paper encourage voters to pass the sales tax. One is paid for by "Citizens for a Safer Newton County Committee," and the other by an individual member of that committee. The latter reads, "I, John Wallace Hudson, am against any tax increase as much as anyone else. But, I am also against the conditions found in our present County Jail. It is not safe for the inmates or employees of the county. Any injuries to either person becomes [sic] a liability of the county." The text of the ad continues with a call to vote for the taxes that would finance and maintain the jail. Interesting approach to drumming up votes for a sales tax in a persistently pool county during very difficult economic times.

I've also noticed in the past three issues of the paper the same woman writing letters to the editor with very unkind -- and untrue -- things to say about Barack Obama. Paid political ads in these two recent issues urge voters to support Republicans. The ads list the McCain-Palin ticket (with photos!), as well as the Republicans running for re-election to the U.S. Congress, for relection as represenative to the Arkansas General Assembly, and as county judge. This is unusual, in my recollection, as local candidates rarely link themselves to national candidates, even of the same party. Local politics tend to be more about who you know and what they can do for you than about ideology. The Republican Party of Newton County or of Arkansas presumably paid for these ads, but the sponsors are not specified.

Finally, returning to crime, a story on page 2 of Oct. 30 issue of the paper reports that the 25-year-old man recently arrested for beating his step-children has been sentenced to 16 years in prison. The man's wife is charged with three counts of permitting the abuse of the minor, though some of the testimony in the man's case indicates that he has also battered her. Her court appearance has not yet been scheduled.

In happier news:
  • The bridge over the Buffalo River at Hasty is now open. Federal funds paid for 80% of the cost, the state, 18%, and the county just 2%.
  • The Kiwanis Spook house was open for two week-ends, with a $5 admission fee. Proceeds will go to various projects, including the Headstart Program's purchase of a machine that tests infants and toddlers for lead toxicity.

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