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Man sought after pursuit

Several law enforcement agencies were out in full force looking for a man who led them on a vehicle pursuit and then a foot chase after he wrecked his vehicle Tuesday night.

Desloge Police Chief James Bullock said officers were called to a disturbance in the 100 block of Locust St. at approximately 7 p.m. and when officers arrived a man, later identified as James Bland Cooper, 40, of the Poplar Bluff/Wappapello area, immediately fled in a pickup truck.

“Officers were told he was involved in a disturbance so they gave pursuit,” Bullock said. “He went south on School Street, then headed east on Elm Street towards the intermediate school. In that area somewhere he went into a wooded and field area behind Soaring Eagle Distributors.”

According to police radio traffic, while headed east on Elm Street he reached speeds of 60 mph and past North Harry Jr. toward School Street and made his way to Lincoln Street with officers in pursuit.

“At some point he made his way back up onto Desloge Drive in the area of State Street,” said Bullock. “He then made a right onto Birch and wrecked his truck behind a daycare and fled on foot.”

Bullock added somewhere near Desloge Drive and Lincoln Street he went under a porch or deck that had lattice work underneath it.

“He kicked it in and hid down inside there,” Bullock said. “The resident came out. I don’t know if it was from all the noise or not, but when they came out, he kicked the lattice work out on the other end of the porch and ran. Officers were seeing him intermittently while he was running.”

Cooper ran down behind Jiffy Lube and across the railroad tracks. Bullock said back in that area was last visual they had on him. Scuby was deployed at that point, but he was never able to pick up Cooper's scent.

“Scuby just couldn’t come up with a good track because of the frozen ground,” said Bullock. “The cooler temperature like that makes it harder for a dog to track.”

There is a wooded area behind Ravencrest apartments or he could have gone through backyards to come out near Parkside School. Cooper is known to be armed, but Bullock didn’t know if he was at the time. He asked the public to stay in their homes in that area for their safety Tuesday evening.

Bullock said officers figured out the truck Cooper was driving was stolen out of Poplar Bluff and they also found out he was in Desloge because of an earlier incident of arguing between him and two others.

“That other person had come up here and he apparently had followed them,” said Bullock. “So that is how he ended up in Desloge. He has been from around here at one time because one of my officers has arrested him before.”

Cooper has a lengthy criminal history and has several warrants out for his arrest, including a probation and parole violation warrant. He is described as wearing blue jeans and dark heavy blue coat.

Bullock added his department will be applying for charges such as numerous traffic violations and property damage.

As of press time, Cooper had not been located and the police department was still out searching for him. Bullock said Cooper has no phone, he wrecked his stolen truck and really doesn’t have anyone to help him so Cooper will be looking for a warm place.

Anyone with any information on Cooper’s whereabouts is asked to call their local police department or Central Dispatch at 573-431-3131.


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Chamber director introduced

The Desloge Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new executive director during its monthly investors luncheon held Tuesday at the new El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant.

Shelley Tracy, chamber board of directors president, introduced Paige Faircloth who began her new duties as executive director earlier that day.

"Paige actually just graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in December with a minor in business administration," Tracy said. "We are so blessed to have her be on our team. I'm sure she's going to make her way around and meet all of you, not only today, but in your businesses and you can get to know her a little bit better.

"She is extremely enthusiastic - one thing I love about her - but she has a really big background in social media and being able to get into the online world a lot. So, I think she's really going to help us out in that way and help all of your businesses out in that way, too. Know that's coming."

Faircloth fills the vacancy left by previous executive director, Loni Ruediger who resigned to spend more time with family, as well as work with her husband on their golfing accessory business. Although it was planned to recognize Ruediger for her service to the chamber at Tuesday's meeting, she was unable to attend due to illness.

Guest speaker for the luncheon was Arthur Robbins of the Maloney, Wright and Robbins CPA firm who spoke about the overhauled U.S. Tax Code recently passed by Congress and how it could potentially affect their businesses.

Prior to Robbins, the monthly Business Spotlight featured two Desloge Rivermart employees who told the crowd about all the convenience store has to offer - from food to gasoline.

It was announced that the chamber will be hosting a blood drive from 2 to 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at Desloge City Hall, 300 Lincoln Drive. The Desloge chamber is in a friendly competition with the Bonne Terre chamber to see which organization can get the most blood donations.

The Chamber Trivia Night will take place on March 2 at Stone Park. This year's theme is Dr. Seuss - chosen because March 2 is the beloved author's birthday.

Also, a Social Media Marketing for Small Business Workshop is set for March 15 at Mineral Area College's North College Center. Breakfast and networking will take place from 8 to 8:30 a.m., with the workshop taking place from 8:30 to 9:30. The program is being led by "Karen the Connector," a social media expert. The cost is $10 for chamber members and $15 for non-members. Call 573-431-3006 to register by the March 9 deadline. Belgrade State Bank is sponsoring the workshop.

The next chamber noon luncheon will take place March 6 at Desloge City Hall.


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Ice storm stays to the south

As the National Weather Service predicted, a mix of wintry precipitation moved into the Parkland about 5 p.m. Tuesday, but, as of press time Tuesday, the question still remained how major of an impact the weather system would have on the area as the event continued to unfold through the overnight hours.

Even with the combination of rain, sleet and snow, there was reason to be thankful that the majority of the ice stayed south and east of the Parkland. According to the NWS, Iron and Madison counties were expected to get more sleet than Farmington and northward where an inch or less of snow was expected to fall by the time the system moved out of the area before daybreak this morning.

Still, schools in the area canceled many afterschool sporting events Tuesday in anticipation of the storm moving in. By mid-evening Fredericktown schools canceled classes for Wednesday, but the expectation was that more would decide to do so, especially in parts of the region receiving the most sleet.

The good news in all this is that the winter precipitation won't be hanging around very long with an expected high of around 35 today with mostly clear skies. While a day in which temperatures remain stuck in the mid-30s won't ever be confused with a spring day, it will be warm and clear enough to allow for a quick melting of any remaining ice or snow by Wednesday afternoon. Looking ahead, Thursday temps will be even warmer with an anticipated high in the upper 40s, and then on Friday, the thermometer should be moving into the mid-50s.

Another chance for more precipitation returns to the region this weekend.

For the latest NWS watches and warnings, check out the Daily Journal website at www.dailyjournalonline.com.


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Department 'untangles' elaborate scam

It’s a tangled story not of true romance — but of an individual prying on the goodness of others seeking companionship.

Lt. Jeff Crites with the Farmington Police Department said an inquiry from an individual in Hawaii branches out to involve individuals in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and California.

Crites said the department was contacted by a gentleman in Hawaii after he purchased a cell phone for a “female” he met in an online dating service.

“This ‘female’ had gained his confidence … and said she had a bad phone,” Crites said. “She requested a cell phone. So, the victim purchased an iPhone and accessories and mailed it to her at an address in Farmington.”

The gentleman told the department he received word the package was received. However, after that, communications between the two ceased.

“He made contact with her again, eventually,” Crites said. “She claimed she had pawned the phone, but the phone was never activated. He was requesting us to conduct an investigation.”

Crites said contact was made with the individual living at the address where the package was delivered. It’s at that time a tangled web of online dating relationships began to be woven together.

According to Crites, the individual at the address told investigators he met a female approximately a year ago through an online dating services and was conversing through text messages. The individual told the detectives this person was currently in Nigeria.

After inquiring about the phone delivered from Hawaii, the gentleman in Farmington told detectives “she’s received a lot of phones while she’s staying over there for some kind of inheritance she is working on getting.”

It seems the phone from Hawaii was not the only one sent to the Farmington address.

Crites said the “woman” told the individual in Farmington how friends and family would be sending phones to his address. This person, in turn, asked the Farmington man to send those phone along to her.

“While speaking with him, I asked him if he’s received any other phones and all that,” Crites said. “He had kept a lot of the packaging and partial packaging (from packages sent).”

There were addresses from Tennessee, Virginia, California and Florida along with the package from Hawaii. Crites said he began contacting some of the individuals whose addresses were found in the apartment.

“I have a lady in Virginia who said she met a male on a dating site … and said ‘we’ve been speaking since April’ and gained her confidence,” Crites said.

Around Christmas, the woman said the “gentleman” — who said he was a flight attendant — was overseas, forgot to get his “daughter” a present and asked her to send a cell phone to a friend in Farmington.

“So, she goes and purchases an iPhone X,” Crites said. Her phone is one of those recovered from the address in Farmington.

Another phone in the apartment was mailed by a gentleman in Tennessee. This gentleman was able to send the detective a “driver’s license” sent to him by the person he met online — which lists the name of the individual in Farmington, in reverse order, along with the address.

Crites said it appears all the victims are talking to the same person in Nigeria, who is representing themselves as a person who is from or has connections in Farmington. That person, in turn, is asking the scamming victims to send the phones to the address in Farmington. And, Crites believes the gentleman in Farmington sent a copy of his license, which was used to generate the fake license.

Crites said with a case like this, the perpetrator of the scam will likely never face charges here.

“This is the problem,” Crites said. “They’re in Nigeria — we have no jurisdiction outside the United States. We’re not going to catch these people. All we can do is recover the phones and send them back to the rightful owners.”

He compared it to a repackaging scam. In all, five phones were recovered. The phone and accessories from Hawaii were recovered, as well as the one sent from Virginia.

And, the detective said, the gentleman in Farmington is as much a victim as those who mailed the phones to his address.

“The guy in Farmington we looked at as an unwitting participant,” Crites said, adding that until the scam came to light, the gentleman did not believe he was doing anything wrong.

“And, the reason for that is he is receiving the phones and mailing them off to his supposed female friend in Nigeria,” Crites said.

He also asked the gentlemen in Farmington if he’d received any other unsolicited correspondence. Crites said he then gave him a priority mail envelope with a “check” for $25,000 from an industrial supply company in Connecticut.

“He told me ‘I felt like it might be a scam’,” Crites said, noting, if cashed, the gentleman would have been responsible for the amount.

Crites provided the following tips on avoiding online dating scams — which were provided to him by one of the victims in this case.

• Never provide financial or banking information to anyone.

• Use caution when giving out personal email address and contact information.

• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

• Alert the online sites of any suspicious activity.


Local
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Dinkins wins District 144 seat

Republican Chris Dinkins won handily over her Democratic opponent Jim Scaggs in a special election held Tuesday to fill the District 144 seat in the Missouri House of Representatives left vacant when Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, resigned after Gov. Eric Greitens appointed him to the Missouri Board of Probations and Parole in September.

In unofficial results, the final tally of the special election was 2,998 for Dinkins and 2,699 for Scaggs — a 299 vote spread.

District 144 encompasses four counties — Washington, Iron, Reynolds and Wayne. Dinkins received more votes than Scaggs in every county except Iron, where the long-time southeast Missouri businessman serves as presiding county commissioner.

This is a breakdown of the votes by county — Washington County: Dinkins – 676, Scaggs – 403; Iron County: Dinkins – 724, Scaggs – 1,155; Reynolds County: Dinkins – 621, Scaggs – 529; and Wayne: Dinkins – 977, Scaggs – 612.

Dinkins served as Fitzwater's legislative assistant and has continued in that role since Fitzwater's resignation. The former representative backed Dinkins to succeed him in the House.

On her Facebook Page, she posted, "THANK YOU! Words cannot express my gratitude for the trust and support you have placed in me. Friends, family, and neighbors put in countless hours helping spread our message of more jobs, less taxes, and the importance of a strong conservative voice for our rural Missouri values in Jefferson City! Now the real work begins. Whether you voted for me or my opponent in this election, I am ready to work with you for the betterment of our district."