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rbronaugh / Renee Bronaugh, Daily Journal  

North County Primary Principal Dr. Chad Lynn dresses up as the man with the yellow hat and read a Curious George adventure.

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Murder charges filed

Charges have been filed against an area man after police say he killed his grandmother late last week.

Aaron Wilkinson, 28, of Bismarck, is being charged with a class A felony of murder in the first degree.

According to a probable cause statement, detectives with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department were called to 1007 Veranda Dr. in Bismarck after Brenda DeClue was discovered dead in her home.

On Nov. 11 Wilkinson made statements to family members in Washington County that he killed his grandmother. It was reported to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and they called Bismarck Police to check the well-being of DeClue.

A woman told detectives that she picked Wilkinson up at his grandmother's residence on Thursday and that Wilkinson was in possession of several duffel bags, including DeClue's checkbook and cell phone.

The detective reported that based off of Wilkinson's statements and the knowledge that Wilkinson resides at his grandmother's residence, members of the Bismarck Police Department went to DeClue's residence and forced entry into DeClue's home.

She was found dead from an apparent assault. The detective reported that DeClue sustained life-threatening wounds that were not self-inflicted. Upon the discovery of DeClue’s body, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department was contacted to pick up Wilkinson.

He was taken into custody without incident and taken to the Washington County Jail, where a detective from St. Francois County picked him up for questioning.

An autopsy was conducted on DeClue first thing Monday morning and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head and the manner of death was homicide.

Wilkinson is being held on a $1 million bond in the St. Francois County Jail.

Local man to appear on 'Forged in Fire'

Parkland residents watching the History Channel later this month will have a chance of spotting one of St. Francois County’s own competing on the popular show “Forged in Fire.”

Each episode of the show has four blacksmiths competing against each other for a top prize of $10,000. John Wigger, a North County graduate and current Central School District employee, will be a featured competitor on the Nov. 21 episode of the show.

Wigger is co-owner and co-operator of Hawthorne Forge, a smithing business started by Wigger and Joe Nipper.

“About four years ago I acquired an anvil,” Wigger said. “A guy that lives down the street from me, named Joe Nipper, we worked together at the railroad. He used to be a full-time blacksmith about 15 years ago. He saw I had an anvil and said, ‘If you ever get a forge, let me know and I’ll show you some stuff.’”

After John obtained a forge and starting learning from Joe, the two began smithing items. They soon began making knives and eventually starting selling them and posting their work on Instagram.

“I guess the producer of ‘Forged in Fire’ saw our Instagram and found us,” Wigger said. “They asked if we would want to put in an application for the show. I thought it was some kind of a scam or something at first, but the more I looked into it, I was like, ‘I think this is real!’”

After sending in an application, having a telephone interview and sending in a video of himself at work, Wigger flew to New York in August and from there traveled to Stamford, Connecticut to film the show.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “Everything was just how you see on TV — it’s a true competition. The first two rounds they have you make a knife or weapon and they test that out. In those first two rounds, they eliminate two people and then in the last round, they send you back to your home forge to make a finale weapon.”

To find out how Wigger fared on the show, viewers will have to tune in to the History Channel at 8 p.m. on Nov. 21. For an even more immersive experience, however, a viewing party will be hosted at the Central High School Auditorium that evening.

“Everyone’s welcome to attend,” Wigger said. “The show starts at 8 o’clock and we’ll open the doors at 7 o’clock for people to come in. There will be some vendors set up to accommodate everybody — the First Baptist Church of Desloge will be doing nachos with all the toppings, RaeCole’s will be there with cappuccino, hot chocolate and coffee, the Sugar Shack will be there with desserts, Rustic and Weathered will be there with shirts and Sweet Tee Screen Printing will also have shirts.”

More than just watching the episode with the community, attendees will have the chance to hear firsthand from Wigger about his experiences during the filming of the show.

“During the viewing party, I’m going to talk during commercials about what was going on or running through my head,” he said. “Afterward, I’ll kind of sum up the whole experience and talk about it.”

If there are any updates regarding the viewing party, they will be posted to Wigger and Nipper’s page,

Despite being filmed for hours for such a widely broadcast show, Wigger said he hasn’t felt the immensity yet.

“It hasn’t really hit me,” he said. “I filmed for a long time, so I don’t know how it’s going to be portrayed or what they’re going to use, because we had hours, and hours, and hours of film. It all has to get crunched down into an hour, so I might only be on TV for 20 minutes or something. I guess it will all hit me during the show.”

For more information about the show, visit

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Predicted snow, ice doesn't accumulate

Despite the National Weather Service predicting anywhere from under an inch of snow and up to three inches, along with a light coating of ice, the Parkland was spared any significant weather.

With temperatures remaining in the 30s, most of the precipitation that fell was in the form of misty to light rain, a little sleet and a few flurries of snow. By the time evening rush hour arrived, there was nothing much to talk about. Most motorists had their windshield wipers on to brush off the light rain. It was reported, however, that Desloge got a little light snow around that time, but there was no accumulation of snow anywhere in the area.

Fearing a stronger storm, St. Francois County schools closed around noon to make sure students arrived home safely. While the predicted weather didn’t arrive as expected, local superintendents were left with making a tough call.

The weather clears out today and Wednesday, but forecast highs are expected to remain in the 40s through the remainder of this week.

At this point the one question mark is how much, if any, winter precipitation will arrive in the Parkland on Thursday when another wet cold front is expected to move through the area. As of Monday night, NWS was forecasting accumulating snow for portions of east central and southeastern Missouri, as well as southwestern Illinois.

The detailed forecast for Thursday is calling for snow before 2 p.m., then a chance of rain and snow between 2 and 5 p.m., followed by a chance of snow afterward. Conditions will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 36. The chance of precipitation is 70 percent and new snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches is possible. In the evening hours, a 20 percent chance of snow remains in the forecast before midnight. After that, conditions are expected to become partly cloudy with a low of around 26.

For the latest NWS watches and warnings, go to the Daily Journal website at

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Central hosts veterans breakfast

The Central School District took time to show gratitude to the community’s veterans Monday morning by hosting its annual Veterans Day breakfast.

Veterans were welcomed in Central High School’s cafeteria first thing in the morning, with a middle school and high school student reading their respective Patriot's Pen and Voice of Democracy essays.

Gabriel Sungcad spoke about the importance of voting in his Voice of Democracy essay, particularly for younger generations of American voters.

“Every vote matters,” Sungcad said. “Every vote is heard. Every vote holds immense power that can be used to forge a greater America in the future. As young Americans, it is our responsibility to discover value in our votes and to use our voices to shout the song of the American destiny.”

The West Elementary Honor Choir performed renditions of "My Country, Tis of Thee" and "The Grand Old Flag."

The Central High School National Honor Society served the veterans and community members who attended the breakfast, with Superintendent Dr. Desi Mayberry taking a moment to recognize 94-year-old World War II veteran and Flat River High School alum George Neckerman.