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Farmington man charged with neighbor's murder

A Farmington man has been charged with the Oct. 27 murder of Samuel Schulze, who was found shot to death in his own home.

According to court documents obtained from the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Jesse Hubler, 35, of Farmington, is charged with murder in the first degree, felony unlawful use of a weapon and felony armed criminal action.

According to a probable cause statement, detectives with the Farmington Police Department determined from witness statements, physical evidence at the scene of the crime and previous contact with Hubler that he committed the murder.

The statement says that around 3:49 a.m. Hubler, who lived by Schulze, fired seven rounds into Schulze’s home through the front door. Schulze was standing behind the front door and received a single, fatal gunshot wound to the chest.

As previously reported, Samuel Schulz, 41, was found dead in his home in the 1000 block of Vandiver Court in Farmington around 10:45 a.m. Oct. 28 in response to a check the well-being call to police.

According to Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker, the pathologist report from the autopsy indicated the manner of death was homicide caused by a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Baker had previously said the department had a suspect in the case, however, the individual was currently in the hospital receiving treatment. He noted the suspect was not a threat to the community and additional information would be released when it could be made available.

The chief said he was not at liberty to discuss the suspect's status due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, rules which govern safeguarding medical information. However, other sources have confirmed Hubler has been housed in a mental health ward since becoming a suspect in the murder.


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County sees rise in pertussis cases

The St. Francois County Health Center announced this week that cases of pertussis are on the rise with six cases confirmed locally over the last two months.

“There were 264 cases across the whole state in 2016,” said Taylor Burch, RN, communicable disease nurse at the center. “This year, the state is already sitting at over 317 cases.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough. The very contagious disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.

The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. As the disease progresses, after one to two weeks the traditional symptoms of pertussis may appear and include paroxysms (fits); rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound; vomiting during or after coughing fits; and exhaustion after coughing fits.

“People with pertussis usually spread the disease to another person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another where they share breathing space,” Burch explained. “Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents, or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. Infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins.”

According to Burch, healthcare providers generally treat pertussis with antibiotics and early treatment is very important to prevent the spreading of the disease. Even with treatment, the cough may persist for weeks.

“Pertussis has also been known as the ‘100-day cough’,” Burch said. “The best way to prevent pertussis among babies, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. Also, babies and other people at high risk for complications should be kept away from infected people.”

While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, Burch admitted that no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

“When pertussis circulates in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease,” she said. “Like many respiratory illnesses, pertussis spreads by coughing and sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the bacteria.

“The public should at least be aware of the best health practices to follow in order to make sure they are as protected as they can be. For example, staying home when you are sick, staying away from others who are sick, regular handwashing, good cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying up to date with vaccinations. If you have gotten the pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.”

For more information on pertussis or available vaccines contact the St. Francois County Health Center at 573-431-1947 or visit www.sfchc.org.


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Engler to run for county clerk

One day after long-time St. Francois County Clerk Mark Hedrick announced his impending retirement from the post he will have held 16 years when he ends his final term in December 2018, District 116 Missouri Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, announced his intention to run next year in a bid to become Hedrick’s successor.

Engler, 58, a native of Festus and 1977 graduate of Festus High School, moved to Farmington 31 years ago and opened his downtown Edward Jones Investments office in 1986. He has represented District 116 in the Missouri House of Representatives since January 2013.

Engler previously represented District 3 in the Missouri Senate from 2005 to 2013, becoming majority leader in January 2009. He was also a member of the Missouri House from 2003 through 2005. Engler is term limited and will not be able to run for either the state House or Senate again.

Prior to entering state politics, Engler headed up the Farmington Chamber of Commerce when he decided to run for city alderman. He subsequently served as mayor of the city for six years.

Engler is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State University, where he earned degrees in finance/general business and marketing. Along with his retirement from the state legislature next year, he also intends to retire from his work as an Edward Jones financial representative.

Asked why he has decided to run for county clerk, Engler said, “Because I like public service. With my term up in the legislature in December 2018 and my retirement that same month from Edward Jones, it winds up that I can do some service in the county. The election in November 2018 would take effect in January 2019.”

Engler said he believes his experience in state and local government will provide him with several important attributes he will bring to the position of county clerk, if elected.

“I know a lot of the county’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a lot of questions that I think the county needs to be asking. Five years ago, the county went to first-class status after I moved up the level several times through legislation to keep us from having to go there, but what I’d like to do is get us up to that actual level and not just be a first-class county in name only.”

According to Engler, he wants to see St. Francois County begin doing the things first-class counties are supposed to do — or at least have a plan to get there.

“I don’t have every answer, but as I said before, I think somebody needs to start asking the questions,” he said. “How do we do more economic development than we do? How do we have better law enforcement, from drugs to animal control? I just think it’s time that we say, ‘OK, when are we going to get there and how are we going to get there?

“Is this the right form of government? Maybe we should be looking at a charter form of government — I don’t know, but I think it’s time we asked these questions. I know the first and ultimate responsibility of the county clerk is the running of elections and the integrity of the elections, but I think you can also be a catalyst for some changes and say, ‘We need to be doing this. I’ve visited this first-class county and this is the way they do this. This is not the way we’ve done it in the past as a second- or third-class county, but how we should be doing it in the future.”

After Hedrick announced his intention to retire at the end of his current term, Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher told the Daily Journal he was going to miss being able to call on the county clerk’s long years of experience when faced with a question of protocol in the midst of a commissioners meeting.

Asked if he would be comfortable in the knowledge that he could offer the county the same level of instititutional expertise, Engler said, “I obviously won’t have the information. Mark’s done a good job. He’s got great staff. He’s told me that if I’m successful that he will help me, but I don’t know that necessarily we need to look at the way we’ve done it in the past as much as we should be looking at how we should be doing it in the future. I’m going to use his knowledge and staff as effectively as possible, but I’ll never have the institutional knowledge of the county that Mark does.”


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A different kind of canned food drive

The 2nd Annual Little Master and Miss Christmas Contest is sponsored this year by the River Worship Center and according to Rose Edwards, the deadline for contestant entries has been extended to Nov. 6.

More than providing kids a chance to take part in the annual Hefner Furniture Christmas Parade in Park Hills, the contest will also be providing support to the community in a crucial way.

“Basically, it’s a canned food drive,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to get canned food items to take to the local food pantries. The way contestants receive votes is by canned goods being brought to their sponsoring businesses.”

Businesses can sponsor a couple between the ages of 3 and 6 for the contest. After paying a $35 fee to participate, which will go toward crowns, sashes and candy for the participants, the business can begin accepting canned food donations on Nov. 6.

On Dec. 5, the canned goods will be collected and counted at each business and the winner will be decided by total amount of items. The collected canned goods will be distributed to food pantries in Park Hills and Leadington.

“The businesses are also welcome to offer little perks where people might want to come and donate their cans there,” Edwards said.

Each couple will have the opportunity to ride in the Dec. 7 Hefner Furniture Christmas Parade. Edwards said each couple will be assigned an agent from the Mineral Area College Cheerleaders.

“Whenever a business sponsors a couple, they get their own cheerleader ‘agent,’ which gets to ride with them in the parade and helps us collect the canned goods,” Edwards said. "It just ties the community in even more.”

The winner of the contest will be crowned at the end of the conclusion of the parade by Santa Claus, and all participating couples will receive a gift bag.

Edwards said businesses interested in sponsoring a couple for the contest can go to the Park-Hills Leadington Chamber website and fill out a registration form, or visit the contest event page on Facebook to find a link to the registration form.

The original deadline for the contest was Oct. 30, but Edwards said it has been extended to allow even more businesses to get involved.

“Right now, we have five businesses, so that’s 10 kids,” she said. “We’ve got 22 cheerleaders, so if every cheerleader has a couple we can have quite a few more. We’re at 10, but hopefully that will grow with the extended deadline.”

Edwards said the River Worship Center got involved with the contest when the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce approached them and asked them to oversee this year’s contest. Edwards said it seemed like a great way for the church to get further involved with the community.

For more information, visit the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce at www.phlcoc.net or visit the contest’s event page on Facebook.


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Charges filed in Lewis murder

St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin filed charges Wednesday morning related to the murder of John Lewis, originally estimated to have taken place on Sept. 13 in northern St. Francois County.

Lewis’ wife Diana was also found dead on the property. Diana’s death was also ruled a homicide, although a definite cause of death could not be determined because of decomposition.

According to court documents, Frankie Pineda, 30, of Blackwell, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of John Lewis. The victim was killed by a laceration to the throat.

According to a probable cause statement obtained from the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, detectives received information from witnesses about Pineda’s connection to the couple.

The statement says detectives learned that Diana Lewis owned a mobile home in Farmington, which she was leasing to several individuals including Pineda. Witnesses also claimed that Diana was not only the tenants’ landlord, but was also involved with methamphetamine distribution and use with the individuals.

The report references a case in May of 2017, in which Diana and one of the tenants were arrested following wire transfers with other individuals involved in the methamphetamine trade. When arrested, Diana and the tenant were in possession of several thousand dollars and methamphetamine.

On Sept. 1, Diana moved Pineda to her and John’s home in Blackwell after loading his belongings and two dogs into Diana’s truck as evidenced by surveillance footage and witness testimony.

A large bulk of evidence was gleaned from a series of text messages sent from Pineda’s phone over a five-day period beginning Sept. 6.

In one text message, Pineda stated that John Lewis didn’t want him at the residence. In another, Pineda stated that John Lewis had killed his Great Dane, “Buddy.”

Pineda sent an address to a family member on Sept. 6 followed by a message reading, “Just in case something happens that’s the last place I was.” Pineda then instructed the recipient of the message to delete the text.

Shortly after, Pineda sent another text to a friend saying, “I don’t know if you get this, I might be gone soon. It’s bad in the landlady’s house and my insanity snap for a second and something happen, it happens when I try to stop it."

Pineda then provided friends with the address of the Lewis’ house and instructed them to pick him up from the address on Sept. 11. Pineda was transported from the home to Troy, Illinois and dropped off.

In a video interview after his arrest, Pineda said he was under extreme stress at the Lewis residence and had been harassed and mistreated by both John and Diana Lewis. Pineda also believed John had killed his dog, “Buddy,” and had threatened to kill him as well.

Pineda said after a confrontation with John Lewis about the death of the dog, he consumed a bottle of Cognac and a “mixture of unknown pills.” He claimed he was unable to recall any of the following events.

As previously reported, the bodies of John L. Lewis, 50, and his wife Diana L. Lewis, 58, were discovered outside their rural home in northern St. Francois County off Dark Hollow Road in Blackwell.

“The sheriff’s deputies were called to the Lewis’ home to check on the well-being of John,” said St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock. “He is a union electrician and according to the people who called us, his co-workers, he never missed work.”

Bullock said they were told that if John was sick or something he was always prompt about calling in and they hadn’t seen him for about a week.

“Officers checked the house and found the door open with the dog running in and out of the house,” said Bullock. “It didn’t look like it had been ransacked or anything was stolen that they could tell.”

Bullock said later in the day more officers were brought out to start doing a cursory search of the area around the house. That’s when they discovered a body of a man, later identified as John Lewis.

“Further searching found the body of a female, later identified as Diana Lewis,” said Bullock. “Officers believed it to be a homicide and that they both had been murdered there at the residence. Detectives from my department were called to the scene and with further search they collected evidence.”

Bullock said the area was shut down around the property and the house. They began talking to people in the area to see if anyone had seen or heard anything.

“There were very few with it being such a remote area,” said Bullock. “They then started trying to contact family members. We had an autopsy performed on both of them the following day and it was determined that they both were murdered.”