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Local
breaking top story
Investigation conducted into newborn's death

An area woman may be facing charges in the death of her newborn baby after police were called to the 1400 block of Highway 47 for an unresponsive infant Friday morning.

The St. Francois County Ambulance District responded to a premature delivery at home. The baby was deceased when they arrived.

St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said after taking Roberta Baker, 36, of Bonne Terre, into custody for a probation and parole warrant out of Jefferson County and to question her about her baby, an autopsy was performed on the infant.

“We were able to determine the baby was alive after birth and had eaten already,” said Bullock. “The baby was a boy and was born anywhere from 28 to 30 weeks into the pregnancy. We also determined the baby was just a few hours old.”

rbronaugh / Renee Bronaugh, Daily Journal 

An autopsy was conducted at the county morgue. 

Bullock said they are still interviewing people who were there and plan to send the reports over to the prosecutor. There might be some charges of neglect, but they aren’t sure yet at this time on what charges will be filed.

“From what it looks like right now, they aren’t finished yet, but she didn’t kill the baby,” said Bullock. “But the baby may have died because it was neglected and not taken care of properly.”

In an earlier interview, Bullock explained they were looking for William Bertelsmeyer just to talk to him because Baker told them he was there at the time. There are no charges on him. They just wanted to talk to him in reference to this investigation.

It was also discovered during the investigation that she had not been to the doctor and she didn’t know how far along she was in her pregnancy.

Bullock said it was an early delivery and the baby was approximately 2.5 pounds. He added Baker didn’t call the police, someone else did. After EMS arrived, they transported the baby to the hospital.

This is a developing story and the Daily Journal will bring more details as they become available.


Local
featured
Police warn of Flakka after bizarre incident

On Wednesday afternoon, the Bonne Terre Police Department and St. Francois County Ambulance District were faced with something they had never encountered before.

Bonne Terre Police Chief Doug Calvert said they came up against a very violent, strong and combative 32-year-old man who was unaware of his surroundings and was attacking inanimate objects.

“We got a call of a suspicious subject locked in a room in a house in the 300 block of South Long Street, possibly on a controlled substance,” said Calvert. “I was the closest car in the area. We were given a number to call and while one of my officers was on the phone, I arrived at the scene and was met by the homeowner.”

Calvert explained the woman told him there had been a man in the room with her brother, and when she heard a disturbance she knocked on the door and opened it just in time to see the man dive out the window headfirst.

“As I was on the scene speaking with her, I saw the glass from the window busted from the inside out, and there was nothing used to break the glass ... just a human being,” said Calvert. “It was discovered the man had been at the Bonneville Motel for the last several days with a woman using drugs, and he decided to go to the other side of Bonne Terre to get some more drugs.”

Calvert explained the man apparently used the drugs and became "berserk," causing a disturbance and tearing up the house. He then dove headfirst out of a closed glass window and began running through the streets of Bonne Terre screaming, while trying to pick fights with inanimate objects.

Calvert said the man ran through the town wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and one shoe. His legs were covered with lacerations. He had severe cuts from diving through the window.

“At one point he found a piece of metal from a vehicle and tried to attack an off-duty paramedic driving in his vehicle with it,” said Calvert. “Then he was confronted by a Bonne Terre police officer, where he physically attacked the police car, which was about a mile from the home where he jumped through the window and about five minutes afterwards.”

He had run approximately a mile with only one shoe and ended up in the area of St. Joseph and Benham streets.

Because of the man’s behavior he was restrained by officers.

“He resisted arrest violently, (however) very minimal, if any, force was used against him. He was basically shoved to the ground, placed in handcuffs and restrained ... sat on and held down until EMS personnel could get there,” said Calvert. “He was loaded onto the gurney upside down because he was still so combative. There were five police officers holding him down at any one point.”

The ambulance crew had three personnel on the ambulance, plus an off-duty EMS supervisor who opted to go. They determined that he had taken a mind-altering drug.

“So they began to give him drugs to counteract the drug that he had taken,” Calvert said. “He then continued to go berserk in the ambulance, with four medics working on him, two officers restraining him and a police officer driving the ambulance. He had to be restrained all the way to the hospital.”

The police chief said the veteran paramedics on the scene said they have never seen a drug reaction that severe in their entire career.

“The ambulance was being followed by a parade of police cars to Parkland North Hospital where he was placed in their care and was finally sedated to the point where he was no longer combative,” said Calvert. “We have never seen anyone act that way to drugs, and upon further research we determined the drug to be Flakka - which several of the officers had been researching and had knowledge of.”

Calvert said the doctor and nurses who treated the man said they had treated three similar cases recently at Parkland South in Farmington. They told him it appeared to be the same type of reaction.

“He will be facing charges at some point, but the main thing was to get him off the street, secure the public and secure him,” said Calvert. “We did discover a room key from Bonneville Motel, so we dispatched officers to the motel to check and see if anyone else used the drug because the reporting party said he was staying with a woman.”

Calvert said that knowing how the man reacted to the drug or drugs, they wanted to check the well-being of anyone staying in the room with him.

“We did recover what we believe to be drugs from the man on the scene. It was a white crystalline substance,” explained the chief. “No one or nothing else was found in the room. The room was searched to locate the female who may have taken the same drug and overdosed. She did return after management called, and she was fine.”

Calvert said to his knowledge the man didn’t receive any injuries from the Bonne Terre officers but he had some sizable lacerations to his legs from jumping out the window.

“The initial call came in at 1:05 p.m. and there were other calls after he made it from South Long Street down to the Benham Street area,” recalled Calvert. “There were calls coming in saying there was a guy who wasn’t acting right.”

Calvert could only describe the man as acting "possessed." He said he was screaming, growling, and at one point appeared to try to pray but so incoherent no one could understand what he was saying.

“We did more research on the case and he has all the signs of taking that type of drug,” said Calvert. “All the training videos we watched were consistent with that type of behavior. If anyone would encounter someone acting this way they need to call the authorities immediately.”

Calvert said individuals under the influence of Flakka are often violent, resistant to pain or any kind of communication, are very strong, delusional, paranoid and can be hallucinating.

“It’s a very dangerous drug and research on it shows it is called PVP (Alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone),” said Calvert. “We have found that it is some sort of synthetic designer drug that originated in the 1960s and it has somehow made its way into our county. Like I said, the doctors and the nurses are familiar with it. They said they had three cases and they didn’t know where they originated from, but that is where they ended up.”

Calvert said in his 25-plus years in law enforcement this is the only case he has seen exactly like this. He added the good thing was that there were enough officers on duty to avoid having to use any kind of overwhelming force to restrain the man.

“It was mostly just to hold him down to prevent him from harming himself,” said Calvert. “My Taser specialist didn’t believe, in his professional opinion, that a Taser would have affected him if there had been one on scene. The guy was never tased though.”


Govt-and-politics
breaking top story
Lawmakers react to indictment

Following Thursday’s announcement from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s office that Missouri Governor Eric Greitens had been indicted and taken into custody for felony invasion of privacy, state officials and the governor himself have made known their opinions on the matter.

The indictment comes after St. Louis news station KMOV reported in January that Greitens had been involved in an extramarital affair, during which time Greitens allegedly took a photograph of his mistress in a compromising circumstance and threatened to circulate the photo if she made their affair public.

Greitens and his wife had affirmed the affair had taken place, but the governor denied that any blackmailing had occurred. Thursday’s indictment charges Greitens with the class D felony of invasion of privacy.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that “…the defendant knowingly photographed K.S. in a state of full or partial nudity without the knowledge and consent of K.S. and in a place where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the defendant subsequently transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer.”

After being booked into the St. Louis Justice Center Thursday afternoon, Greitens was released on personal recognizance and released a statement, inferring that the indictment was politically-motivated.

“As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor,” the statement reads. “I did not commit a crime.

“With today’s disappointing and misguided political decision, my confidence in our prosecutorial system is shaken, but not broken. I know this will be righted soon. The people of Missouri deserve better than a reckless liberal prosecutor who uses her office to score political points. I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action. This will not for a moment deter me from doing the important work of the great people of Missouri.”

The Missouri Republican Party issued a statement of similar sentiment, pointing to ideological differences being the driving force behind the indictment.

“Kim Gardner has received more than $200,000 from George Soros groups,” said Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party Sam Cooper. “Missourians should see this for what it is, a political hit job. This law has never been prosecuted in this way and it is safe to say if Eric Greitens wasn’t governor, it wouldn’t have been this time either.

“We have a progressive anti-law enforcement Democrat wanting to single-handily [sic] oust a law-and-order governor. We look forward to a bipartisan committee of legislators elected by people across Missouri to find out what’s really going on — ensuring St. Louis liberals aren’t controlling the future of our state.”

Regardless of the merit of the indictment, local lawmakers seem to agree that the process has been distracting and disruptive of business in Jefferson City, with some recommending the governor’s resignation before impeachment becomes necessary.

Representative Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, said rather than acting rashly, he recommends allowing the process to be worked out and more information to be made available.

Henderson

“I’m disappointed, first of all, in what came out a few months ago with the governor because that’s not what he ran on,” Henderson said. “Second of all, with this indictment, I want to learn more about it and find out what’s going on. We all know where it could lead eventually, and that’s going to be something that the House would deal with, because the House handles impeachment procedures.

“Before I jump onto that, I’m waiting to get more information. We’ve got leadership in the House right now gathering more information and hopefully they’ll share that with us the first of next week.”

Representative Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said the best course of action could very well be for the governor to step down to allow the focus to return to important work in the capital.

Engler

“I think he should have the right to defend himself, but it’s starting to interfere with the operation of the state,” Engler said. “So I think he should strongly consider resigning for the good of his family and of the state.

“I use this as an example. He made his major proposal, which is a tax cut proposal. And then the other big thing he’s done in the last few weeks is the budget. And the legislature’s not paying attention to either one. At least with a Democrat, they paid attention and tried to work with the guy. He’s irrelevant, and that’s not the way you need your governor to be.”

Representative Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, said she trusts the judgment of House leadership as the situation resolves itself.

Gannon

“I want to let the process work,” Gannon said. “I know the speaker of the house is working on it and has made a statement as far as the impeachment proceedings and that he’s thoroughly vetting that avenue. My position is that I trust Speaker (Todd) Richardson to do the right thing, and I will be in line with whatever his final decision is. It’s a very distracting situation as far as us trying to work in Jefferson City.”

In a previous statement, State Senator Gary Romine, R-Ste. Genevieve, voiced similar concerns of needing to get past the controversy for the good of Missouri.

Sen. Romine

“We need to get this behind us for the betterment of the state,” Romine said. “It is clear the governor cannot lead effectively while defending himself against this criminal charge.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday afternoon that Greitens has resigned from his position on the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association.


Local
top story
Board discusses use of fields

The North County Board of Education recently discussed the public use of their new softball/baseball fields during their monthly meeting.

North County Superintendent Dr. Yancy Poorman said he wants a policy put in place that allows game play on their natural surface fields. This does not include practices, because they don’t want the field to get torn up.

“We have put a lot of money into them. They are nice and we want to keep them that way,” Poorman said. “But, we want people to people to be able to play on them. We want people to play games on them, that’s fine. The problem is that starting on a Saturday morning at 8 or 9 a.m. and practicing on it until 3 or 4 p.m. and then starting games and playing all night, they won’t last that way.”

During a recent Bonne Terre City Council meeting, it came up that the city's ballfields were “hot,” meaning the lead levels were too high.

Poorman said they are thinking the city fields are going to have to be dug up before the kids are even able to get on them this summer. That is one of the reasons he is trying to get something in place.

“What we are afraid of, is if we don’t have something in place, it’s going to be daylight to dark over here three or four days a week,” said Poorman. “We are going to have our field trashed and that is kind of a concern. We got word through the city and later we said 'we better get something in place.' If they kill all of the fields, we are talking about six fields with no access and that is going to be a mess.”

Poorman said he was bringing it up this month so the board can discuss it and he can get some feedback. He said he is concerned about maintaining the playing surfaces that are grass.

“Some of the things we talked about is that we want the community to have access to them to play on them, but not necessarily to practice on them all the time,” Poorman said. “We can’t keep them game ready if everyone is practicing on them all the time.”

He said they probably have one of the nicest facilities in the area and he wasn’t just bragging because it’s their school. Poorman said he spoke with the softball association and told them they get first priority for league games on the new softball field.

“Athletic Director Chad Mills will schedule it, but we are going to give priority to the softball team,” Poorman said. “But during tournament time, they don’t usually have as many tournaments as baseball, so when there are tournaments, especially upper-level tournaments, such as state and regional, they will be hosted there. Everything is in place there for us to be able to host those things.”

Poorman said Mineral Area College wants to use their fields and they tell them to use the football field which they have done many times this winter. He added they don’t hurt the turf surface and it’s dry.

“Just don’t tear up our baseball field, because he is out there edging, leveling and trying to get it ready for our baseball season,” said Poorman. “Mills put this together and I’d like to hear the board’s feedback. We would like to have a policy so it’s understood and we can put them on a calendar.”

Poorman said they aren’t saying they can’t get in the cages and they aren’t saying they can’t use the multi-purpose building. They just have to schedule, they can’t just show up, so there is no overlap.

The field usage policy that is being proposed asks that the North County High School baseball field, softball field and the middle school football field are reserved for competitive scheduled games only throughout the year including summer.

It asks that competitive natural surface fields are not to be used for scrimmage contests or practices at any time by outside teams. Also that summer softball teams have priority over summer baseball teams on the new high school softball field when scheduling home contests throughout the summer.

The policy addresses alternate North County locations where baseball, softball or football practices can be reserved. The list includes batting cages at the multi-purpose building, the intermediate field, the grass field behind the multi-purpose building, the high school turf football field and batting cages at both the tennis courts and the high school softball field.

“Mills is trying to put it together the right way, but you will have to approve that because it is school property,” Poorman said. “He has already had four people approach him to schedule and that is why you have it tonight. We will bring it to you in March for approval and then he can build a calendar. What you approve as a board is how it will done.”


Local
top story
What is Flakka?

A new drug has made its way into St. Francois County and it’s leaving authorities baffled.

Flakka or PVP (Alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone) is known as a designer drug much like bath salts.

According to sources, Flakka is the latest growing trend since Molly and it is being imported from overseas into the United States. The drug itself popped up in Florida a few years ago and its use has increasingly spread into other states.

This drug presents many challenges to law enforcement and emergency responders since it causes extremely violent and erratic behavior. It’s known for causing the user to display what can only be described as super human strength, which is attributed to increased adrenaline.

It can also cause erratic, irrational and combative behavior, along with hallucinations, incoherent speech and abrupt violence. It has also been reported that users feel no pain while under the influence of Flakka, which would make Tasers ineffective. It can typically take up to five or more people to subdue someone under the influence of Flakka.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, recently, the abuse of clandestinely synthesized drugs has re-emerged as a major worldwide problem. These drugs are illicitly produced with the intent of developing substances that differ slightly from controlled substances in their chemical structure while retaining their pharmacological effects.

It was discovered in the early stages of research that use of Flakka is extremely dangerous and can be lethal in some cases. It can be associated with mental condition called Excited Delirium Disorder, which is coupled with elevated body temperature, kidney failure and heart problems.

Reports also indicate that the use of Flakka can cause extreme paranoia, to the point the user believes they are being chased, hunted down, attacked or even on fire. They lose normal thought process, will show no fear and are incoherent to their surroundings.

Flakka side effects include increased strength, above normal body temperatures, extreme thirst, violent behavior, sweating, screaming, anxiety, abnormal or bizarre behavior, attraction to shiny or glass surfaces, cardiac arrest, no acknowledgement of authority, and difficulty being resuscitated. Flakka overdoses are also hard to determine as the cause of death.

Flakka use is geared toward low-income people because of its extremely low cost. It’s been reported that Flakka use has surpassed the popularity of cocaine in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to get.

Known as the five-dollar insanity, Flakka sells for approximately half the price of other drugs, such as methamphetamine and heroin. It can sell for as cheap as $3 to $5 a dose and comes in a rock or powder form. It can be inhaled, smoked, injected, eaten or vaped.

Parkland Health Center Emergency Department Physician Dr. Bruce Harrison, MD, confirmed they have seen cases of Flakka come through the emergency room.

“Unfortunately we have occasionally treated patients in our emergency department who have ingested Flakka,” Harrison said. “The immediate side effects cause serious health complications including rapid heart rate, agitation, extreme aggression and psychosis. There is not enough science behind this drug to know the long-term effects to a person’s health. But we do know it is a very dangerous drug with potentially life-threatening consequences.”

So far there have been four cases of documented Flakka use in the area, the most recent coming out of Bonne Terre. Authorities are working to try to figure out where it’s coming from to keep the community safe.