Top 10 local news stories of 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

An officer-involved shooting and local elections topped the list of local news stories in 2014.

1. Man dies in officer-involved shooting

A Cassville man was fatally shot June 10 on Old Exeter Road by Cassville Cpl. Donnie Privett. Privett was found justified in his use of force, as the victim, Jonathan Gerster-Thomas, 25, allegedly assaulted Privett with a pipe. After a nearly two-month investigation, Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox decided to not file charges were based on municipal, county and state reports.

2. Amy Boxx elected prosecuting attorney

Attorney Amy Boxx of Monett was elected as the new prosecuting attorney for Barry County, replacing outgoing attorney and future judge Johnnie Cox. Boxx, 42, garnered 62 percent (3,216 votes), defeating Matthew Weatherman, 30, of Golden, and Steve Dunker, 50, of Cassville. She said although she knew she had support, she was surprised by the winning margin of 2,172 votes.

3. Cassville school district passes bond issue

The Cassville School District passed a $4 million bond issue in April, using the money to fund numerous improvements to each building in the district. Much of the work began and was completed over the summer. Bathrooms were renovated, electrical outlets were added and the geothermal system received an upgrade, among many other improvements to the primary, intermediate, middle and high schools.

4. Purdy mother: Mental health resources lacking

The mother of an 18-year-old, autistic man said mental health resources in the county are lacking after her son was held in the Barry County jail for three months. Tyler Cairus, 18, of Monett, is charged with attempted statutory sodomy and attempted statutory rape. He is being held by the Department of Mental Health in Fulton. His mother, Wendy Cairus, now has guardianship.

5. Community remembers Southwest senior

A senior, triple-sport athlete at Southwest High School died on Nov. 23 after sustaining serious injuries in a single-vehicle wreck on Highway 37, two miles north of Washburn. Jessica Morgan, 17, ran track and played softball and basketball for the Lady Trojans. Students at Southwest held a candle light vigil and a balloon release for Morgan, frequently using the epitaph, "fly high."

6. Water main break damages Rock Gym

Cassville School District's J.C. Duncan Gymnasium, also known as the Rock Gym, was damaged in a water main break in January. The district accepted a bid from Jared Enterprises for $93,040 for the new floor, which covered removal and installation, lining, molding and the base. Cassville Superintendent Richard Asbill said the cost of the gym floor replacement was covered by insurance.

7. Gov. Nixon visits Cassville High School

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon paid a visit to Cassville High School in January to promote his "Good Schools, Good Jobs" plan. After visiting numerous classrooms, Nixon spoke to the student body in the gym and had a free throw contest with now-senior Raeghan Blisard. John Sullivan, Cassville School Board president, said Nixon's visit was a big deal to the district and its students.

8. Seligman businesses favor Walmart Express

The phrase, "A new Walmart is coming to town," may scare some rural communities, but businesses in Seligman largely came out in favor of the new Walmart Express that opened in December. Managers and owners of Ruby's and Seligman Auto Parts were just some of the local business-owners who said they were exited for the new Walmart, and it would not affect their businesses.

9. Associate Circuit Judge Victor Heads retires

Associate Circuit Judge Victor Head announced in February that he would retire at the end of 2014, as his term came to an end on Dec. 31, 2014. A Barry County judge since 2007, Head said he hopes to spend lots of time at the lake and traveling with his wife. He said his greatest accomplishment was getting the drug court program going.

10. Exeter outs dilapidated caboose, adds gazebo

The city of Exeter decided to sell its dilapidated caboose, which had been on Main Street since 1987 and had been the target of multiple vandalisms. The caboose was sold for $11,300 to The Midland Railway Historical Association, which runs a railway from Baldwin, Kan., to Ottawa Junction, Kan. The city used the money to add a gazebo in the caboose's place.

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