Friday, June 12, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XXVII): Two fugitives on the lam, one caught

After very little crime news (but lots of local, human interest reporting) in the May 21 and May 28, 2009 issues of the Newton County Times, the June 4 issue is chock full of interesting crime drama.

A front page story in this most recent issue reports that a local man, David Middleton, is a fugitive on drug charges after a drug task force searched his home and found items consistent with a meth lab. Middleton was not home at the time of the search, but his wife was taken into custody on related charges, including prescription drug fraud. The county sheriff is quoted as saying he believes Middleton is "well aware that we want him," and that the search came after several years' investigation. The story goes on to note that Middleton's son was killed two years ago outside the Middleton house, and a county resident is serving 24 years in prison for that crime. The sheriff says that any connection between the murder and the meth lab would be solely the "criminal activities among the group," which sounds like a reasonably close connection to me. Later in a plea for information that might lead to Middleton's arrest, the sheriff urges "public support" because information "is crucial in reducing drug problems in Newton County."

A page-three story in ths issue of the paper also involves a fugitive and is even more interesting. It reports on the arrest of a 67-year-old Newton County man, Ronald Wrisinger, in the death of his wife and daughter 23 years ago in Missouri. The story does not indicate how the cold case got revived, but it does indicate that the double murder charges stem from an investigation by the Ray County, Missouri Sheriff's Department, the Missouri Highway Patrol, and the Rural Major Case Squad. The population of Ray County, Missouri is 23,537, which may explain the involvement of that squad. Of course, Newton County would also seem to be a great place to hide out, though the story indicates that Wrisinger moved there only several years after the women's disappearance.

Another page-three story reports on a former pastor's sentencing to five years in prison for incest. The 35-year-old pastor of a small church in Western Grove, population 407, pleaded guilty to incest after he was accused of having sexual intercourse with his 17-year-old adopted daughter.

In other news, the county's Quorum Court (local governing body) recently voted to approve a $.70/hour pay rise to bring the minimum wage paid to sixteen county employees into line with the federal and state minimum of $7.25/hour. The story reports that the county will be able to pay this wage, in spite of budget troubles, by appropriating more than $60,000 in federal Title III money into the general operating budget. Those funds compensate the county for "providing emergency services on federal land," including the Ozark National Forest which covers the county's Southern half.

Another front page headline is "Local officers recognized for bravery," and it tells of U.S. Dept of the Interior commendations to Buffalo National River Park Rangers and Newton County Sheriff's Office deputies who attempted to rescue a youth from a canoeing accident last year on the river.

A back-page story in the May 28 issue shows a 2003 Crown Victoria Squad car that the Madison County Sheriffs Dept. donated to the Newton County Sheriffs Dept. Madison County, population 14,243, is immediately to the west of Newton County. The circumstances surrounding the gift are not explained.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Go Lisa!! I don't know you but I'm impressed.