It was a seasonably cool and sunny day when about 200 people gathered at the St. Francois County Courthouse steps in Farmington at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate Veterans Day before the county memorial honoring the local men and women who fought and died for this nation’s freedoms.
The solemn ceremony began with an invocation given by Joel Meador, Farmington VFW post chaplain, followed by the posting of the colors by the Farmington High School Air Force JROTC and the playing of the national anthem.
Farmington VFW Post Commander Dwain Asberry welcomed those present and introduced the day’s two guest speakers — Mike Schoelhamer, constituent specialist for U.S. Congressman Jason Smith; and Missouri 116th District Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.
Addressing the crowd, Schoelhamer said in part, “Across this great country and throughout the world, Americans will pause today to honor or brave fighting men and women. We recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country and some have given all — laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.
“As we stand here today at the St. Francois County Veterans Memorial, I am honored to not only be here as a veteran myself, but to also recognize my great-uncle who is listed on this memorial. Private First Class Mike Tyndyk, U.S. Army 7th Cavalry, was a resident of St. Francois County and a graduate of Leadwood High School.
“[Tyndyk] was just 27 years old when he lost his life on Oct. 22, 1944, during the Pacific Campaign at Leyte Island in World War II. His valor and commitment to serve his country is what inspired his nephew, my father, also originally from St. Francois County, to join the Army and serve in Baumholder, Germany in the 1960s. I was inspired by both to join the Army in 1987, leading up to my 28 years of service in the U.S. Army.”
Offering his thoughts on Veterans Day 2017, Rep. Engler thanked those present for having the honor over the past 20 years of addressing veterans in a variety of roles — Farmington mayor, state representative and state senator.
“Going as a state senator to Elsinore, to Arcadia Valley, to Ste. Genevieve, to Jefferson County to speak for Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs was humbling,” he said. “I used a lot of people and a lot of instances from Farmington to try to enlighten our high school kids and college kids around the district about the sacrifices that had been made.
“I mean — they don’t get it, for the most part! A high school senior has never lived in a world without a cellphone. They’ve never lived in an era without FaceTime, without fax machines or email. I talked about Ferd Thompson being in the Seabees and left less than 10 days after he got married. He didn’t see his wife again for four years.
“They didn’t get to fly home. They didn’t get to fax or email. The mail — and I’m not saying anything that a lot of veterans here don’t already know — might have been a month behind. It might take a month to get your Thanksgiving greetings by the time it caught up to you in the South Pacific. Think if you’re a senior and for all the time you’re in high school you didn’t get to see your wife. And the sacrifices at home — she didn’t get to see her husband. They had to live without things here.”
In closing, an emotional Engler thanked veterans for their sacrifice in fighting for the many freedoms Americans enjoy, saying, “People of this town and of this community are proud to know you and we want to say 'thank you.'”
Following the conclusion of the speeches, wreaths were laid at the Veterans Memorial by representatives of the Farmington American Legion Post 416, Farmington American Legion Post 416 Auxiliary, Daughters of the American Revolution, Farmington Disabled American Veterans Chapter 12, Farmington VFW Post 5896, Farmington VFW Post 5896 Auxiliary and Farmington AMVETS Post 113.
Next, a volley of three shots was fired by VFW Post 5896 and American Legion Post 416, led by retired First Sergeant Jerry Rawlins, followed by “Taps” performed by a member of the Farmington High School Air Force JROTC and the benediction given by Chaplain Meador.
Lindsey Ellis graduated from Bismarck High School in the late '90s and almost immediately went to work with at-risk youth. She worked with children in residential care and also served as a youth pastor after attending College of the Ozarks and seminary in Springfield.
On Tuesday, Ellis will be addressing members of U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. alongside others involved with combating human trafficking. The briefing will highlight the importance of the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2017, which will allow trafficked individuals to clear their records of federal convictions for crimes their traffickers forced them to commit.
Ellis is executive director of The Covering House, a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources and healing to victims of human trafficking.
“I worked with a guy when I was probably 22 or 23,” Ellis said. “He was on the board of The Covering House and they were brand new. They had been around about two years, mostly doing awareness work. He asked if I would come and basically design the program and set up the residential care.”
Ellis said the organization’s founder, Deidre Lhamon basically started the organization from scratch. Lhamon had seen a documentary highlighting the prevalence of sex trafficking overseas, which prompted her to research the domestic problem further. She found that there were very few resources for victims of trafficking in the region, and thus The Covering House was born.
“I started there in 2012,” Ellis said. “I worked with what we call ‘sexually reactive’ kids for most of my career. The terminology has changed — when I started it was ‘juvenile sex offenders,’ then ‘sexually maladaptive’ and now ‘sexually reactive.’”
When she started at The Covering House, Ellis’ position was only part time because the organization was a fairly new nonprofit. While commuting to the organization’s office in St. Louis, she was also substitute teaching in St. Francois County.
“We designed the program from the ground up,” she said. “We worked with survivors, clinicians and experts across the nation. We’re finding that there’s not very many others in the United States as a whole. We were only the third in the Midwest to open and the first in Missouri to open.
“We’re still really small and we can only reach so many kids. But now we have other states that our interested in our program, so I do all the contract negotiation with other states and a lot of consulting across the state and also on a national level.”
Ellis said she had expected to do victim advocacy work when she came to the organization, but never imagined that she would be working on developing matters of public policy and legislation.
“Our mission statement is that we want to provide refuge and restoration for minors that have had some form of commercial sexual exploitation or trafficking,” Ellis said. “It started with a house. That was always Deidre’s mission — to do long-term therapeutic housing.
“Right now, we have the house and only five beds. But our goal in the next few years is to expand to a campus.”
Human trafficking is defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act as “…sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”
In addition to working directly and indirectly with victims of trafficking, Ellis said the organization does a lot of outreach into communities to raise awareness and to paint a broader picture of what trafficking can look like.
“We see the type the media portrays, but there are tons of kids out there that are being exploited in different ways,” she said. “They might not need housing. They might be in foster care or with their parents, or even in detention centers.
“We say that it’s hidden in your backyard, because most people don’t know. There are kids that are sitting in class, that interact with adults and their peers all but, and people have no idea so we try to make people aware that it’s more than the ‘Taken’ or ‘Hawaii 5-0’ version.”
At any given time, the organization houses five victims of trafficking at its residential facility, but works with 40 to 50 victims via referral each year.
During Tuesday’s congressional address, Ellis said she and other collaborators from Washington University who are working with Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) will be speaking about various aspects of how laws need to catch up to the trafficking problem in the United States.
“Our laws as a whole just haven’t really caught up with human trafficking,” Ellis said. “The legislation we’re going to talk about is predominantly working with victims still being seen as criminals. We work with minors, so things are a little bit different.
“Our girls are still being detained, sometimes still being called ‘child prostitutes,’ which is not accurate by definition. We can’t have child prostitutes if they’re under 18. It’s automatically trafficking.”
She said the goal is to get the victims of trafficking to be accurately identified as victims and in some cases to get their criminal records expunged to allow them to re-enter society and to thrive. Ellis and others will speak from the perspective of working directly with victims, while others will speak from law enforcement or research perspectives.
“It’s not easy for us, because we’re working directly with the victims, but it is easy because we have the experience to back it up. I can tell you about this specific person and how these laws affected this person.
“I can tell you about the girl who said, ‘They sent me to detention and I was re-traumatized,’ and here’s why. I’ve also experienced a girl who completed our program, was very successful and had no criminal activity. Everything was off her record. But she was 16 and had nowhere to go and they sent her to DYS (Division of Youth Services). So we watched her shackled out of the courtroom, simply because she had nowhere to go and that’s the policy and procedure.”
With awareness of the problem of trafficking spreading, Ellis said the work of The Covering House is both getting easier and more difficult.
“Part of it is easier, because people are becoming aware,” she said. “I think our big issue is that people are becoming aware, but still not really doing anything. So it’s almost created an indifference or an apathy. And it’s very sensationalized in the media, by and large. If it’s on a TV show, it’s the sensationalized version.
“And that is accurate, but that’s only 10 percent — just by our numbers. If you ask us how many girls were involved with force, we see 10 percent. The other 90 percent is through this very intentional, coercive relationship. Someone in authority, a boyfriend or a friend. So we’re fighting a culture, a society and individuals.”
The Covering House’s main office is in St. Louis, but the organization now has a location in Jefferson County, allowing resources to be made more available outside of the city.
“The big thing for people in this area is to just know that it’s happening,” she said. “We want to think it’s only happening other places, but it’s not. We get referrals from all over the state of Missouri and people would be surprised where some of our referrals come from.”
Ellis and other members of the panel will be speaking to members of Congress at about 3 p.m. on Tuesday. For more information about The Covering House and domestic sex trafficking, visit www.thecoveringhouse.org.
The Desloge Board of Alderman and the Bonne Terre City Council will hold meetings tonight.
The Desloge Board of Aldermen will meet in regular session at 7 p.m. tonight at city hall, located at 300 N. Lincoln Drive.
According to the tentative agenda, the board will consider payment of the final invoice submitted by Hurst-Rosche, Inc. for the Chestnut/Trailwood Stormwater Project; and a TIF request made by El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant.
Two ordinances will also be considered regarding “stop” intersections and a tax-exempt equipment lease purchase agreement with FS Leasing, LLC.
Finally, discussion will be held concerning an internet/use tax.
Meetings of the board of aldermen are open to the public.
The Bonne Terre City Council will meet in regular session today at 6 p.m. at Bonne Terre City Hall, located at 118 North Allen Street in Bonne Terre.
Listed under new business are Alliance’s monthly report, approval of next year’s Chautauqua’s dates, and discussion and approval of the purchase of a backhoe and a dump truck. They will also discuss the need for an alderman for ward 2. Ron Elders resigned last month after the council held a meeting to consider calling for his resignation.
They will also approve several ordinances. One involves a four-way stop at Jane and North Allen Streets and another involves a contract for the lease of a new sanitation truck.
The council will hear department reports. The meeting is open to the public.
The St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department has one man in custody after a domestic dispute reportedly ended in a young man’s death.
St. Francois County Lt. Greg Armstrong said charges have been filed against Clinton Wheeler, 49, of Park Hills, who is accused of shooting his 22-year-old son-in-law, Christopher Goodman.
Charges were filed with the St. Francois County Prosecutor's Office late Sunday afternoon and Wheeler is being charged with a class A felony of murder in the first degree with no bond.
The shooting occurred at 11:20 p.m. Saturday night in the 1600 block of Ellis Rd. in St. Francois County.
The ambulance district pronounced Goodman dead at the scene and transported another man to Mercy Hospital-Jefferson by county ambulance.
St. Francois County Ambulance Director David Tetrault said a friend of the family who tried to stop the shooting was injured.
“It went through his hand before it hit the young man who died. He was shot with a 9 mm gun in the chest/abdomen area with no exit wound,” said Tetrault. “A 9 mm is a high velocity bullet and he assumes that since it went through the first guy’s hand, it was slowed down a little bit and stopped it from exiting the other man.”
Tetrault said the man shot in the hand was stable, but taken to the hospital.
According to police radio traffic, a woman called 911 reporting that her father shot her husband as they were having an argument.
This is a developing story and the Daily Journal will bring details as they become available.
A Bonne Terre teen was injured in a one-vehicle crash that took place at 11:16 p.m. Friday at the junction of Blake and Griffith Roads in St. Francois County.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the wreck took place when a southbound 2009 Toyota Prius driven by Mirissa J. Todd, 16, of Bonne Terre, crossed Blake Road after failing to stop for a stop sign at the intersection. The Prius then traveled off the roadway and struck a concrete barrier.
Two occupants in the Prius were injured.
Ty A. Roussin, 17, of Bonne Terre — who the report states was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident — was transported to Parkland Health Center North by St. Francois County Ambulance where he was treated for moderate injuries.
Megan C. Webb, 16, of Bonne Terre — who was also reportedly not wearing a seat belt — was taken to Parkland Health Center North by private conveyance where she was treated for minor injuries.
The MSHP report also states that the driver was also not wearing a seat belt. The vehicle was listed as “totaled.”