Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLVI): New leads in 2005 disappearance

The December 31, 2009 issue of the Newton County Times features this front-page crime headline, "Police searching for Middleton's remains." The story indicates that authorities have some leads about a 20-year old man who went missing in January, 2005, and is thought to have been killed. The man, Josh Middleton, disappeared just a day after his 56-year-old friend, Charles House, was found shot to death.

The story seems to implicate a county resident, Rickey Freeman, in the deaths, but the links between Freeman and the back-to-back death and disappearance of Middleton and House are not made crystal clear. The story reads:
Rickey Freeman of Mt. Judea was arrested on varied charges in Harrison that same day. [The county sheriff] Slape said they believe Freeman was the last person seen with House. Freeman's house in Newton County burned shortly thereafter.
Of interest in relation to the "lack of anonymity" characteristic of rural communities are these paragraphs:
Authorities had received numerous reports of sightings of Josh Middleton. They have gone to other states to chase those leads. Slape said one person even reported seeing Josh Middleton dressed in drag and at a school dance.

But Slape said there had never been any truth behind any of those sightings.

In November, 2007, authorities said there may have been a witness to Middleton's killing. Slape told the Daily Times then that "someone with some information" had come forward, leading to the new investigation as a homicide.
The story reports that Slape has denied other rumors that Sheriff's office authorities have been digging and may have found some remains. The Sheriff acknowledged, however, that investigators have been looking for remains on a piece of property in the Mt. Judea area.

All of this makes me wonder what sort of highly trained forensic support the Newton County Sheriff's office has in undertaking this endeavor.

In other news, the Jasper (Newton County) and Kingston (Madison County) schools were recognized on a list of "most improved" schools by the Office of Educational Policy at the University of Arkansas. Jasper was the fourth most improved in the state in its elementary math scores, and it was most improved in the state's Northwest quadrant. Jasper and Kingston are in the same school district, though in different counties.

No comments: