Sunday, February 25, 2018

Joplin man accused of killing three-year-old to be arraigned Monday

A Joplin man accused of murdering a three-year-old child will be arraigned before Judge Gayle Crane 9 a.m. Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Leonard Valdez, 21, is charged with second degree murder and felony child abuse in connection with the November 12 death of three-year-old Jonathan Munoz-Bilbrey.

The three-year-old was taken to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City after he suffered brain injuries, facial bruising and a laceration at his home at 1502 S. Michigan Avenue November 10.

The probable cause statement indicates Valdez was the only person supervising the boy at the time the injuries occurred.

The boy died 22 days after the Joplin Police Department arrested Valdez for domestic assault at the same address, 1502 S. Michigan Avenue, where police say the child abuse took place. The victim was the boy's mother, Natasha Michelle Bilbrey, 22, according to the JPD incident report.

Nancy Hughes: The most wonderful day of my life

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

There were very few times as a little girl that I got to go with my dad and help him with his farm chores. I don’t remember why. Perhaps he was in a hurry with so much to do. Maybe he wanted to make sure his 8-year-old daughter was safe in the house and away from the equipment.

Whatever the reason, I longed to do something – anything – with him. And then it happened. He asked me to help him feed the cattle.

It was an extremely cold January day so I zipped and buttoned layer after layer to stay warm and topped it all with oversized brown coveralls, a green stocking cap and two pairs of gloves. My job was to drive the tractor while he threw hay off the back of the wagon to the cattle.

It’s funny how sights and sounds stay with you but I can still remember the smell of the hay and feel the crisp air on my face as I proudly drove the tractor around the field as the cattle followed.

I remember thinking that this must be what the Pied Piper of Hamelin did to get the children to follow him, except the children were replaced by cattle and my dad used his voice instead of a flute to get them to follow.

In all honesty, I am sure that he did not look back on that experience with me as anything out of the ordinary. But not me! Oh, I remember that day even now because it was one of the few times that I got to work side by side with Daddy.

I am reminded of a true story about Charles Francis Adams, the grandson of President John Adams and the son of President John Quincy Adams. Charles, a successful lawyer and politician, was disciplined to the point of keeping a dairy that he wrote in almost daily.

One entry was this: “Went fishing with my son today – a day wasted.” However his son, Brook Adams, who also kept a diary, wrote this entry on the same day: “Went fishing with my father – the most wonderful day of my life!”

I know that life gets crazy. There are demanding careers and unmowed lawns and dirty dishes and jammed windows. There are golf games and card games and unread books and unmade beds.

But there are also children. Children to hug and cheeks to kiss and puddles to wade in together. There are also kites to fly and bikes to ride and songs to sing and laughter to share and Scripture to discover. Together.

There are memories to be made, my precious friends. So I need to ask you: how will your children – and grandchildren – remember you?

Paul encouraged the people at Ephesus to wisely make the most of every opportunity that they had to do the Lord’s will. His warning applies to us today as well.

Unfortunately I have to admit that when it comes to my children and grandchildren, I can get my priorities out of order. Can you relate?

There is absolutely nothing in your life right now that cannot wait until you hug or love or tickle or squeeze your children. Until you take each little face in your hands, look into upturned eyes and say “The best part of my day is you.”

I have no doubt that they will immediately think “this is the most wonderful day of my life!”

Father, thank You for reminding me today that spending time with my children is more important than anything in this world. I pray I will take every opportunity to let them know how much they are loved. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Are your children listed above everything that you have to do this next week or at the bottom of the list?

Do you find yourself telling your kids “Yes, we will do that together later” but later doesn’t come?


Make two columns in your journal. Label them “Important for Now” and “Important for Eternity.”
Enter your activities for next week under one of the two columns. Prioritize activities so your children are at the top of both columns. Are your children listed in any of the activities? In which column are they?

Power Verses

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV) “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

James 4:14 (NIV) “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Psalm 39:4 (NIV) “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.”

Psalm 127:3 (NIV) “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”

Deuteronomy 11:19 (NIV) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

(For more of Nancy Hughes' writing and information about her books, check out her blog Encouragement from the War Room.)

Kim Frencken: Do we really need more gun control?

If you are a supporter of gun control, you won't like this post. I'm not trying to offend, but this is an opinion and .... I don't agree with gun control. Also, I'm not trying to open any wounds with the recent school shootings, but I am responding to what I am hearing, seeing, and reading on media.

I am against gun control. Let me explain. People who want guns, find guns. People who want to hurt people, find a way to hurt people. People who are breaking the law, will continue finding ways to break the law. I've heard it said a million times, "The gun didn't kill anyone. The person who pulled the trigger did."

Nothing breaks my heart more or captures my attention more than a breaking story of a school shooting. I hurt for the kids, teachers and staff, and the parents. I would go crazy with worry waiting for my child to call if their school was under attack. I would be frantic waiting for my spouse to contact me with a message telling me they were okay. I ache for the victims who will never have a chance to grow up.

And, I feel for the family of the shooter. They are now labeled as the 'bad guys' who did something wrong raising a kid like that. I am sure they are hurting too. In the blink of an eye, they become outcasts. The parents of a killer. Few will extend a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on because they are the enemy.

No one wins in a school shooting. No one.

And yet politicians and the Hollywood set and social media jumps on the bandwagon and begins selling their view. Gun control is screamed from the highest peaks and in the loudest voices. Famous faces begin teary eyed campaigns to rid our world of an evil. Social media reports every last ugly word. And, the worst.... people are paid to protest and hold rallies.

Stop. Don't use a tragedy to promote your politics. This isn't the time.

Take a look at the victims. And the accused. Look beyond the weapon and find the cause. Look at the warning signs and listen for the cries for help. The ones that were ignored until it was too late. Look beyond your own agenda and find the heart of the problem. We have to start looking for answers. Solutions to a problem. Real solutions. Not extra lock down drills, or hiring additional armed school officers, or training teachers to shoot, or installing bullet proof glass and steel doors.

Time. We need to spend time with and on our kids. We need to be aware of what they are doing, saying, and thinking. Before it is too late. Warning signs are there. Kids are not silent. They post, tweet, type. They join groups that are harmful. They read articles that encourage violence. And, yes, social media is a big help in this department. Are social media accounts being monitored? Do we know where our kids are? Do we know what they are doing? Thinking? Why do some people give birth, expect government assistance, then hand their child over to the school to raise?

Resources. Why are we spending billions on movies or games depicting violence, but we're cutting school funding? Why do people spend more time and money on sports than they do on their own children? Schools need our help. It doesn't have to be money. It can be donations or time. Teachers are grateful for ANY help they receive.

We have to stop reacting and start responding. We have to be involved. We can't be too busy. We have to stop throwing insults and waving banners. We have to make time. Now.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, check out her blog Chocolate For the Teacher.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

As Neosho R-5, mayor dominate top Turner Report posts, commenter asks, "Why are you urinating on Neosho?"

Sometimes I receive comments that are rejected because they are filled with obscenities, but the comments still make me do a bit of reflecting.

One such comment came this week from someone from Neosho who was upset with me because all i do "is write about all of the bad stuff about Neosho. You never write about any of the good things that are happening in our community.

"I am so f---ing tired of you p---ing on our community."

Accusing me of doing that to Neosho reminded me of something that happened almost 40 years ago on a Saturday night on the Neosho Square.

A group of us were on the west side of the square when Scott Harris, who was his late teens at the time, had to go to the bathroom. He and another friend walked down an alley to go behind a store and urinate. A few moments later, the rest of us had cause for concern when a Neosho Police Department cruiser pulled off the square and drove down the same alleyway.

A few moments later, the other friend emerged from the alley, but not Scott. We asked him what happened.

Apparently, the friend had already finished what he was doing, but Scott was caught right in the middle of relieving himself behind the store building.

The friend said the police asked Scott where he was from. Scott replied, "Stark City."

The policeman asked, "Do they teach you to do that in Stark City?"

"No, we always try to hold it until we get to Neosho."

How he kept from being arrested I will never know.

Back to the present, the commenter's complaint is one I have heard hundreds of times over the years, all through my times as a newspaper reporter and editor through the 14 years of the Turner Report.

Why do you only write about the bad things and never the good things.

While that characterization is not totally true, there is enough truth to it that I felt I should write about it.

For the most part, I do the investigative reports and the digging into crime and court cases because if I don't do it, it may not get done.

With the notable exception of Jordan Aubey at KOAM, the traditional kind of investigative reporting is just not done any more. It takes time,  it takes patience and it takes a willingness to keep going even when you are threatened (and occasionally punched).

Investigative reporting is something I have been doing for the past four decades, so I have heard the complaint more than a few times.

I can understand the complaint. We all would rather hear good things about how our taxpayer money is being used.

When it is not the case and I have sources and documents that confirm that, I am going to run with it and let the other area media deal with whatever stories are coming down the PR pipeline.

This week, Neosho posts make up four of the top 10 Turner Report posts, but the top post once again, as it has usually been since the beginning of December, is connected to the murder of three-year-old Jayda Kyle of Carl Junction.

For those of you who have not yet subscribed or made a contribution to the Turner Report/Inside Joplin, I hope that you consider doing so at the PayPal buttons below the links or by sending your subscription money or contribution to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G, Joplin, MO 64801.

Help me continue to provide an alternative news source, commentary, and investigative reporting for Joplin and the surrounding area.

The Turner Report

1. Gag order expected in Jalen Vaden murder case

2. Neosho mayor attacks liberals, modern culture and people who would ban AR-15, but not Girl Scout cookies and pitchforks

3. Carver Elementary principal's adminsitrative leave, removal of Finance Department illustrate toxic atmosphere at Neosho R-5

4. Extra police at Carthage High School after shooter threat

5. Neosho mayor: Overwhelming majority of southwest Missourians favor AR-15 rifle

6. Neosho R-5 responds to national attention on AR-15 story by blaming the fake news media

7. Jasper R-5 Schools on lockdown after threat

8. Federal grand jury indicts Joplin man who allegedly offered underage boys $200 apiece to let him video them masturbating

9. My thoughts on guns and those who fight for the right to own AR-15s

10. Greitens: Reckless liberal prosecutor is using her office to score political points

Inside Joplin

1. Jasper County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

2. Jasper County Marriage Licenses

3. Citizen phone call leads JPD to recovery of stolen vehicle, confiscation of meth and woman with marijuana in her bra

4. Heavy rainfall expected for Joplin area

5. Joplin Police Department Arrests February 20-21

6. Joplin Police arrest man at 117 S. McKinley, meth confiscated

7. Highway Patrol Arrests February 21-22

8. Newton County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

9. Joplin Police Department Arrests February 21-22

10. Joplin Police Department Holiday Weekend Arrests

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. Cheryl Houston

2. Clint Hunt

3. Gene Schwartz

4. Jerry Clemons

5. Sue Carter

6. Judy Combs

7. Barbara Stewart

8. Charles Oplotnik

9. Larry Testerman

10. Ike Logan

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Fifteen-year-old arrested on felony charge after posted threats to "shoot up" Carthage High School

(From the Carthage Police Department)

Update to Threat at CHS

At 0917 hrs the Carthage Police Department received information from Carthage R-9 staff regarding an Instagram post making a threat to “Shoot up CHS on Monday” officers were dispatched to Carthage Schools to help ensure safety.

With the assistance of Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, there was police presence at all our schools.

Carthage R-9 staff and investigators teamed up and worked every lead they could in an effort to find the person responsible for making the threat. We take each and every threat reported to us as a credible threat until proven otherwise.

After several hours of investigation, leads developed a suspect who was identified as a 15-year-old  juvenile male Carthage resident. The juvenile was arrested for Terroristic Threats- Class D Felony without incident and transported to the Jasper County Juvenile Office with the case being referred to them. 

At this time, it appears the juvenile had not taken any substantial steps to follow through with the threats.

We would like to thank our community for being vigilant in matters concerning our youth’s safety and as always encourage you to report any matters that concern you. We would also like to thank Missouri State Highway Patrol, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, Cyber Crimes Task Force and Carthage R-9 School District for they assistance and cooperation during this incident.

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Extra police at Carthage High School after shooter threat

McCaskill, Republican senators team to fight synthetic identity theft

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

What do I have in common with Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Tim Scott?

Well for one, our commitment to protecting folks in our states from identity theft and fraud.

Every American gets a Social Security number, so that when we grow old, this system that we've paid into our entire lives will help us live out our later years with dignity and financial security.

But now, scammers are using children's stolen Social Security numbers to open fraudulent credit cards before they even graduate high school. We need to stay ahead of the curve to protect Missourians' financial well-being, and we need the Social Security Administration to step up to the task.

That's why I teamed up with Senators Cassidy and Scott to push the Social Security Administration to crack down on this kind of fraud—known as synthetic identity theft—and protect Missourians by requiring financial institutions to confirm that the names and birthdates on credit card applications match Social Security numbers.

Considering how devastating and expensive identity theft can be, this is a commonsense solution that asks financial institutions to do basic due diligence to protect consumers—and make sure our Social Security system is helping folks the way it's supposed to.

Read our letter to Acting Social Security Administrator Nancy Berryhill:

Greitens declares emergency, activates National Guard to deal with flooding

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Today, in anticipation of a major storm system that could cause increased flooding throughout the southern portion of the State, Governor Eric Greitens signed an executive order declaring a State of Emergency and activating the resources of the Missouri National Guard. The Executive Order ensures that all State resources are available for the weather event and brings a rapid response capability to impacted areas. The State is continuing to move resources in anticipation of supporting local responders who are working diligently to save lives and protect property.

Governor Greitens released the following statement, “Thank you to our first responders for their dedication and hard work keeping Missouri families safe and protecting property. Our highly skilled emergency teams are already saving lives and implementing their coordinated response plans to ensure that the right resources are in the areas where they are most needed. Please stay safe and stay away from rising water.”

“With several roads in southern Missouri closed due to high water, and water rescues occurring in the southwest portion of the state, the State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to respond to this flooding.” Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden said. “We have been tracking the rain and flooding throughout the week and we are in close coordination with the Governor, state and local agencies, and response partners to ensure we are prepared to respond to this flooding.”

The National Weather Service has informed us that the bulk of the rain is yet to come. This evening, the southern portion of Missouri remains under a Flash Flood Warning.

For more information on what to do in a flash flood, please go to For information on road closures, please go here:

Ed Emery on Greitens legal woes: A good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a turnip

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

It has been said that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a turnip, so it is premature to convict solely on the basis of a grand jury indictment. 

 It is important to understand that no defense is presented to the grand jury. Their charge is to determine whether there is a basis for trial. They neither try nor convict. 

 The governor will have his time in court which is when guilt or innocence is decided. The legislature is not dependent on the governor in performing our duties, so other than the obvious distraction, the legislature should function normally – bills will be submitted, heard in committees and debated in the respective chambers.

The governor has garnered a phenomenal group of staff and department heads who are proven leaders in their own right, and I am confident they will continue to manage government services competently and without interruption pending full resolution of the indictment.

Joplin NEA endorses all three R-8 Board of Education candidates

The Joplin chapter of the National Education Association (JNEA) endorsed all three candidates for two seats on the Joplin R-8 Board Education following interviews held February 19 and 20.

A committee consisting of Crystal Stokes, William Keczkemethy, Kylie Compton and Chrissy Landburg interviewed incumbents Jeff Koch and Lori Musser and former board member Debbie Fort, who is running again after leaving the board after one three-year term.

Candidates answers to JNEA questions can be found at this link.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Billy Long: 529 Savings Plans are helpful tools for parents, students

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

In 1985, the average cost for a degree from a four-year university was $11,548 a year. As of 2015, that number had increased to $25,409. With that being said, some parents are paying for education before their child sets foot on a college campus. With private schools, books, technology and supplies, parents are forking over thousands of dollars throughout their child’s K-12 years. I, like many of you, know firsthand how these costs can add up. Last December, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. This bill not only promised lower taxes, but it also expanded benefits for hard-working taxpayers, such as 529 Savings Plans. These higher education savings plans are now expanded to cover not only higher education costs, such as tuition, fees and room and board, but K-12 education costs, such as private school tuition, books and supplies.

In 1996, Congress created 529 Savings Plans to incentivize parents to save for their child’s education. These plans are operated by either states or educational institutions. Although contributions made to 529 Savings Plans are not eligible for federal income tax deductions, some states offer a state income tax perk. Many states, including Missouri, allow an individual to deduct up to a certain amount of their 529 contributions when filing state income taxes. In Missouri, those numbers are $8,000 for an individual and $16,000 for married couples filing jointly. However, any earnings gained are exempt from both state and federal income taxes. For example, if a parent deposits $2,000 in a 529 that grows at 5 percent, at the end of the year the parent will have made $100, which will not be taxed.

However, there are limits on how much money parents can contribute to these savings plans. To avoid being hit with the federal gift tax, a single tax filer is only able to contribute up to $15,000 a year to a plan or $30,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Now that these plans have been expanded to include K-12 education, parents can invest in their child’s education even earlier. A parent now has the choice to withdraw up to $10,000 a year to cover tuition, at both private and religious schools, or fees connected to enrollment or attendance. With the average cost of private school being $10,302 a year, having the ability to dip into this money to cover those costs is crucial. And that’s just tuition. That number doesn’t include books, fees, technology and other items.

529 Savings Plans are a helpful tool for both parents and students when it comes to affording a quality education. The expansion of these plans allows parents more choice and control over their child’s education, which they rightfully deserve.