Area veterans groups will hold ceremonies this weekend in honor of the National POW/MIA Recognition Day, with the public being welcome to join.
Since 1986, the third Friday of September has been designated as a day to honor those service members who are prisoners of war or missing in action, as well as their families. This year, the day of recognition falls on Friday.
The first ceremony in the area will be held at the Bismarck War Memorial at 5 p.m., according to VFW District 8 Senior Vice Commander Joseph Cerchi.
Desloge VFW Post 2426 will hold the next ceremony Friday evening, according to Auxiliary President Debbie Sansoucie. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. around the post’s flagpole.
“We’ll have the Department of POW/MIA chairman speaking, our POW/MIA table, our post POW/MIA chairman will be speaking and we’ll be releasing balloons,” Sansoucie said.
Farmington VFW Post 5896 will hold its ceremony Saturday beginning at noon, according to Peggy Saphian.
“We’ll have a welcoming, then a posting of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, an invocation, the entry of the military caps and the missing man table of honor,” Saphian said.
“We’ll have three guest speakers. One is U.S. Army retired and works for (U.S. Rep.) Jason Smith, another is the Department of POW/MIA chairman for Missouri and the other is our district director for (U.S. Sen.) Claire McCaskill.”
Saphian said the ceremony will end with a salute to all veterans, the playing of Taps and a benediction, with lunch being served afterward.
At 1 p.m. the Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741 in Leadington will host a ceremony of its own with a meal to follow. Post Commander Bill Henson said the post has received a lot of compliments on its POW/MIA ceremonies in the past, which will hopefully continue this year.
“We’ll have the color guard setting the colors to start the program,” Henson said. “We’ll have the recognition of the POW/MIAs from all the wars from World War I through current wars in conjunction with the auxiliary and about half a dozen brief speakers.”
Henson said State Rep. Mike Henderson has been invited to the event, along with the Missouri State POW/MIA chairman and St. Francois County commissioners. The ceremony will include the Pledge of Allegiance, a song, prayers and recognition of POW/MIA service members from St. Francois County from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The post is expecting about 150 people, and Henson encourages anyone interested to come to the event to show support for POW/MIA service members.
One person was injured in a motorcycle accident Wednesday afternoon on Benham Street in Bonne Terre.
The crash occurred at 3:26 p.m. Preliminary reports indicate the cause of the accident was due to careless driving. Traffic was heading into town when a motorcycle driver maneuvered into the right lane near the stop light at Benham Street and Berry Road.
According to early reports from the police department, the driver of the motorcycle increased his speed in an attempt to pass traffic and while doing so, a Dodge Ram 1500 made a right turn into Cheap Smokes.
The Harley Davidson motorcycle crashed into the passenger side of the truck, ejecting the driver. There were no apparent injuries to the driver of the truck and it’s unclear if the woman passenger on the bike was ejected or not.
The man operating the motorcycle was airlifted with non-life threatening injuries to a St. Louis area hospital and the woman on the bike didn’t receive any injuries.
Reports of an armed gunman at UniTec Career Center Wednesday afternoon took social media by storm, and left police frustrated while trying to secure the area.
Bonne Terre Police Lt. Bill Stegall said the North County School District conducts several intruder drills per year at their campuses. Each building does at least one per year, he said.
“UniTec was doing their drill this morning, at which time the police department and school monitors it,” said Stegall. “At the end of the drill someone came inside and reported they heard two loud pops outside of the building.”
Stegall said this was something that was outside the parameter of what the drill was supposed to be, so as a safety precaution they advised the school to go ahead and do a soft, non-emergency lockdown while they checked the surrounding woods in the area and around the campus itself.
“At no point in time did we find anyone with a gun and at no point in time was anyone ever advised of anyone being on campus with a gun,” Stegall said. “It was just a precautionary measure and it took that long because there is so much property to be checked.”
Stegall said it was reported to them by just one person, but that is enough for them to make certain they don’t take chances.
“We actually went through all those woods that is connected between the school and the roadway down there,” said Stegall. “We have set protocols that in case anything actually does happen, they immediately go into action.”
Stegall explained they would immediately send all sorts of law enforcement, fire and ambulances in that direction when there is a confirmed situation like that. “So it wouldn’t just be the Bonne Terre Police, it's an immediate thing, we don’t even have to ask for it,” said Stegall.
Due in part to all the false information being circulated on Facebook, North County officials contacted parents through their automated system to let them know there was never an intruder on campus. A letter was also sent to parents to inform them the reports on social media were false.
The district stated, "There was no intruder at any time on any campus. However, with the assistance of local authorities, we have ensured the safety of all students and staff. Please know safety and security will always remain our top priority. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.”
A local businessman is charged with several felonies after a grand jury found probable cause he misused funds from a business he owns with two other individuals.
Matt Burgess, 33, of Farmington, is charged with four class C felonies of receiving stolen property and a class D felony of stealing. The case went before the grand jury, which handed down the charges. He was arrested Sept. 1 and booked at the St. Francois County Jail, and later released on a $70,000 bond.
According to a probable cause statement, on June 20 an officer with the Farmington Police Department was contacted by a business partner of Burgess and another individual. The three were partners in a corporation titled Farmington Mo. Medical, LLC.
The man gave paperwork to the officer on behalf of the business and other partner. According to the man he was the controlling member of the corporation.
In the statement he provided, on Jan. 1 the corporation had $1,853.89 in a bank in Farmington. There were $8,013.08 in deposits which were accounted for and approved, and he said Burgess made four unauthorized transactions that were not used for company business from the account totaling $9,146.95.
The man told the investigator he had been contacting Burgess since April 21 to account for the withdrawals and Burgess has not been willing to respond.
St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin said the reporting party gave a lot more information during the grand jury hearing.
“He talked about the sizable transactions that took place,” said Mahurin. “I believe there were five transactions dealing with funds that had been used improperly. Some of it occurred even after we received the initial probable cause statement.”
Mahurin said the witness statements and testimony were much more comprehensive and the additional information provided the basis on which the charges that were filed.
In addition to the charges, Burgess was involved in an unrelated lawsuit against another business he is involved in, MB Land Company, LLC. That case was ruled in the plaintiff’s favor.
According to court documents, on June 20 the court entered a default judgement against Burgess for failure to provide discovery responses and documents requested by the court. In March 2016, Emma Wessel hired Burgess’s company - MB Land Company, LLC. - to build a house for her and her brother in Farmington on or before June 21, 2016, for the amount of $221,547.
Wessel’s brother is a disabled Vietnam Veteran and currently lives in an assisted living facility. Documentation provided to the court showed that MB Land Company owned the lot where the house was to be built.
Wessel understood that the contract price would be held in an escrow account and would be paid to MB Land in two installments. The escrow account, owned by Burgess and Zachary Govreau, was never funded. Records show that on April 19-20, 2016, MB Land deposited Wessel’s two checks, one for $3,000 and the other for $218,547, in the company's general fund. During the period from April 20 to April 29, Burgess and/or Govreau reportedly made withdrawals from the account for Bill.com, Capitol One, American Express, Chase, Graham Anderson, Missouri Land Rental, Butterfields Florist, Matt Burgess, Bret Burgess, Zack Govreau and Jessica Burgess.
According to court documents, none of the transactions were for payment costs associated with the construction of Wessel's house, but were for personal expenses of both Burgess and Govreau. By April 29 the balance of the account was $538.88.
The house was not completed by the deadline and Wessel was assured they would finish the house. The house was not completed by the filing date of the lawsuit on Nov. 22, 2016.
The civil suit alleged Burgess and Govreau continued to make inappropriate withdrawals from the account for other jobs, but not the house during that time period. According to the court documents, the house still remains unfinished and based on the price list originally provided it would cost $47,204.89 to complete the home.
Wessel claimed she incurred damages in the form of expenses to pay for her brother’s assisted living care at a time when he should have been in the new home.
The court's findings and judgement in the case were in Wessel’s favor. She received possession of the home, although it was discovered during the hearing that the property itself was owned by Silas Properties, LLC. The court made no initial determination regarding the deed to the parcel the house was built on.
MB Land Company was also ordered to pay Wessel a sum of $138,854.07 for damages.