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2020: A year of challenges; Journal shares top stories of the year
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2020: A year of challenges; Journal shares top stories of the year

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2020 was a year of struggles, adjustments, compromise, and cancellations.

There was no Country Days, no Big River Chautauqua, no Azalea Festival.

It was a year of prayers and sadness.

It was a year of fighting over whether or not a person should wear a face mask.

It was a year of appreciating what was normal in 2019.

Gov. Mike Parson declared a general state of emergency due to coronavirus cases on March 13. State schools had all either closed or were in the process of closing by March 19.

On March 21, Parson ordered the Department of Health and Senior Services to require social distancing, discouraging gatherings of more than 10 people. On April 3, St. Francois County approved a countywide stay-at-home order.

The governor’s stay-at-home order was from April 6 through May 3, advising residents to avoid leaving their homes or places of residence unless necessary or unless they were an “essential” worker.

Many “non-essential” businesses shut down for months. Many state and local parks closed. Playgrounds were roped off.

During the stay-at-home order, many restaurants closed as dine-in eating was prohibited while others adapted, offering drive-up or drive-through service with no contact or even delivery in an effort to keep revenue coming in. Catfish Kettle was one of the local businesses to add a drive-up window.

When the stay-at-home order was lifted, local business owners Chip and Debbie Peterson worked with the commission and the health department to develop protocols for restaurants to use when reopening their doors to customers.

To enable social distancing, most restaurants eliminated or marked tables that couldn’t be used, reducing capacity. Stores limited capacity and would, at times, count how many customers were inside.

Some churches closed for months while others went virtual or experimented with a drive-in service.

Due to social distancing, parades became the thing. Parades to celebrate birthdays and to celebrate 2020 graduates who would have graduation delayed by months.

Vaccines were approved in late 2020 and frontline workers have begun receiving vaccines. Now there is some hope that maybe things can go back to a new normal.

Here are 10 of some of the Daily Journal's most read stories of 2020:

Browns charged

In April, four Fredericktown men were arrested and charged after a physical altercation allegedly occurred on a highway in Madison County on April 10, reportedly involving the use of a handgun and brass knuckles.

Daren Brown, 50, and Theodore Brown, 35, were each charged with first-degree assault, first-degree kidnapping, unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of armed criminal action. Taylor Brown, 27, and Logan Brown, 22, have both been charged with felony first-degree kidnapping - facilitating a felony - inflicting injury - terrorizing, as well as first-degree felony property damage. Additional charges would be added.

One victim reportedly told a deputy that the four others with them were riding in a Volkswagen Jetta and he and his brother were traveling in his truck, all of them on their way toward Cherokee Pass from Marquand.

The man said that approximately a mile before they got to Mountain View Church, a new Chevy dually truck that said “Brown’s Construction” on it had passed them and pulled in front of the car, forcing them to stop in the middle of the road. He stated that Theodore Brown, Taylor Brown, Logan Brown, and Daren Brown all got out of the truck, pulled three of the men out of the car, and began beating them while holding them at gunpoint.

The man told the deputy that the Browns were kicking and beating the car to pieces. He reported that Daren began firing rounds from his gun into the windshield of the car before shooting the gun three times into the hood of the car.

The man said that before he could drive off in his truck, Daren had fired three times at his truck with one bullet striking the passenger side door.

On social media, many readers took to defending the Browns who some said were defending their property.

Body found in Doe Run

In March, Megan Cole (also known as Megan Goodson), 25, and Shawn Korando, 24, both of Farmington, were charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, abandonment of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution in connection with the death of 28-year-old Anthony O’Harver.

According to a probable cause statement from the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department, Cole and Korando together, and with another individual, allegedly hit 28-year-old Anthony O’Harver repeatedly with a baseball bat and then strangled him with a strap, resulting in the man’s death.

The report states that Cole and Korando allegedly dumped O’Harver’s body on a road in Doe Run using Korando’s vehicle.

A sheriff’s deputy later responded to a property damage call at a residence in Doe Run. The report states that while the deputy was in the area of the call, he located O’Harver’s body bound and wrapped in materials taken from the home of Korando and Cole. After the body was located, the report states that Korando reported his vehicle stolen.

A search warrant was executed at the pair’s home on Maple Street in Farmington. The search reportedly revealed items matching the materials wrapped around the man’s body, and evidence appeared to show that Korando and Cole had made efforts to clean the residence to destroy physical evidence.

Quarantined in the Virgin Islands

In May, Farmington natives Ryan and Jennifer Roberts, along with their 14-year-old daughter Addison, were spending their time in lockdown on board the family sailboat “Dragonfly” while anchored at Megan’s Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The family bought the boat two years before while living in Tampa, Florida. They immediately sold everything they had, moved onto the boat full-time and, according to Ryan, they’ve been living happily on the 46-foot catamaran ever since.

“This season we were heading down through the Caribbean, which means generally that we were going to try to be in Grenada by sometime in July. The storm season starts getting active in July, so most folks like us try to find someplace a little bit out of the storm belt. We were in the British Virgin Islands in March when this whole thing happened.

“Basically, they wouldn’t extend our visas and so we had to leave. There was no place to go because countries were closing borders everywhere. So, we ended up just moving over to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we’ve been here ever since. We actually cleared into the U.S. Virgin Islands sometime around five or six weeks ago."

Asked how the family was handling quarantine, he said, “Well, we’re probably doing better than you guys. Life on a boat is semi-quarantined anyway, so it makes all this potentially a little easier for us. We’ve been really lucky here compared to a lot of countries. A lot of places have been very strict with folks on boats, making sure that they are staying on the boat for long periods of time. But we were fortunate …”

Beanie Babies Heist

Garry Triplett, 33, Whitney Harrington, 26, Devin Young, 31, and Maria Palazzolo, 19, were charged with second-degree burglary, felony stealing, first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle, and a Class E felony of possession of burglary tools in connection with a burglary at a Farmington storage facility in August.

According to a probable cause statement from the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department, on Aug. 26, the four suspects arrived at a storage facility on Schwartz Road in Farmington in a stolen U-Haul box truck. Once there, they reportedly cut the master lock on one storage unit and all four individuals were seen on surveillance camera footage loading items into the truck.

The report states that the items stolen from the unit included 25 tubs of Beanie Babies and stainless steel racks and shelving. There were more than 600 Beanie Babies in the stolen tubs, reportedly worth $7 to $10 each. The shelving was reportedly worth $250.

When interviewed, the report states that Triplett admitted to breaking into the unit with the others, and admitted he knew the U-Haul was stolen. He then revealed the location of the stolen Beanie Babies.

Toy Drive in memory of Baby Georgia

Lincoln students find true holiday spirit

For more than a month, students at Lincoln Intermediate busied themselves with trying to make Christmas better for those less fortunate. Knowing how children like toys, the Character Education Council sponsored a toy drive for Georgia's Gifts, a charity started in memory of Georgia White who passed away as a baby. Georgia's mother is a teacher at the school. Student collected more than 300 gifts for kids at St. Louis Children's Hospital. 

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Ashley White’s day started like no other on Dec. 16, 2015. The Lincoln Intermediate teacher dropped off her daughters, Caroline and Georgia, at daycare before heading to school.

After school, as she was walking to her vehicle to go pick up the girls, White received a phone call that brought her life to a standstill.

“I received a call and all she said was Georgia was not breathing while taking a nap,” she said.

Baby Georgia was flown to St. Louis Children’s Hospital after she was stabilized enough to be transported. Once she arrived, Georgia was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit.

Tragically, Georgia Erin White passed away on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, at just 3 months and 24 days old.

“Her death has forever altered our lives,” said White, “but losing her has also brought us closer to each other and our faith.”

White’s sister Terrah came up with the idea of people donating new toys to young patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Georgia’s honor instead of flowers for her funeral.

“Terrah thought it would be a way to spread joy in a heartbreaking time,” said White. “It gave a positive to hold onto when our world stopped turning.”

White said the amount of donated toys was astounding.

“We are in hopes that this will become a successful annual toy drive to honor our sweet Georgia,” she said.

Georgia’s death has been a tremendous loss for her family. They have now been healing together for five years.

“We feel like we are keeping Georgia alive in doing this toy drive,” said White.

She said although these aren’t the memories they envisioned of Georgia, it makes them happy to see daughters Caroline, 7, and Magnolia, 4, to have an event to remember her. Caroline was so little when Georgia passed away, and Maggie had not yet been born.

“This toy drive is something we do for them, too,” said White. “Grief and loss are such hard things to process at such a young age, any age really, but this allows us to have a positive outlet to remember Georgia and move forward.”

Starbucks

Rumors of the worldwide coffee restaurant coming to Farmington began in earnest in September 2019 when a job listing appeared online for a Starbucks store manager, as well as baristas, to serve at an undisclosed Farmington location.

The city of Farmington subsequently confirmed that Starbucks had indeed expressed interest in coming to town.

In February, after a public meeting, the city of Farmington's Development Services Director Tim Porter discussed the anticipated addition of Starbucks to the city’s business community.

“The company that owns that lot is a company out of California in the commercial real estate business,” he said. “They’ve owned it for years, and it was always leased to Ryan’s and all the other restaurants that were there. It was last year sometime, in the middle of summer, that we started getting hints that something was going on with that property…”

Starbucks would be building from the ground up, giving it the freedom to construct whatever is needed to provide a variety of services for its customers. Meanwhile, the former Ryan’s building will remain unchanged for the immediate future.

Porter said the city is excited about Starbucks coming to the city, but they remain supportive of the current businesses in town that also sell premium coffees and similar food items.

“A lot of people like Starbucks, so if that constitutes progress, that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’ve got several coffee shops here in town that make fine coffee. I’m sure folks will still patronize them. If you like Starbucks, then this is for you, but if not, you have several local coffeehouses that will meet your needs.”

Construction is still ongoing.

The scare began

The St. Francois County Health Center asked anyone who attended a wedding at Heritage Hall in Bonne Terre on March 14 to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

Health Center Director Amber Elliott reported, “We have worked through much of Friday night, but have had difficulty obtaining a full list with contact information. It is also possible that there were people in attendance that were not listed.”

Elliott continued, “Because this was a large event, it is difficult to know exactly who were close contacts to the confirmed cases that evening. Close contacts are anyone who was within six feet of a confirmed case for at least 15-30 minutes.”

As previously reported, two attendees who reside outside the state of Missouri tested positive for COVID-19. They were symptomatic while attending the event. The health center now states they can confirm that the confirmed cases did not visit any other place in St. Francois County.

“The family has stated they have received threats from members of the public. It is a very unfortunate event; however, threatening people won’t help and may even discourage people who are symptomatic from coming forward for testing,” Elliott said.

As this was announced, the state was experiencing its first three COVID-related deaths. There were only 47 cases in the state.

First COVID case in St. Francois County

On March 22, the St. Francois County Health Center was notified of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident of St. Francois County. The individual was a female in her 30s and was at home in isolation. She was quarantined since being tested on March 20.

As of Wednesday, the county has recorded 6,197 cases and 68 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Potosi teacher dies

Potosi teacher dies

Pictured is AshLee DeMarinis with her sister Jennifer Heissenbuttel.

A Washington County school teacher died in September after being hospitalized with COVID-19.

The Potosi School District confirmed the death of AshLee DeMarinis, who taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School. She died after three weeks in the hospital with COVID.

Jennifer Heissenbuttel, DeMarinis’ sister, said DeMarinis, 34, had returned to her classroom to prepare for teaching in the fall, but had not yet started teaching students when she became ill.

West County grieves loss of student

Ethan Bryan baseball field

Just hours after his death, friends honored 16-year-old Ethan Bryan by placing this memorial on the Bulldogs baseball field. 

View photos of Ethan online at dailyjournalonline.com

In September, Ethan Bryan, a West County High School student, died in an accident at Highway 8 and Harmon Road after leaving baseball practice at the high school.

West County Superintendent Dr. Kevin Coffman described Bryan as respectful, positive, talented, upbeat and a great student.

After news of the accident spread, Coffman and Bryan’s parents met with the baseball team for three hours that night. The team members were provided with counseling.

Coffman said all the counselors would be meeting with individual classes, and they would be offering one-on-one counseling for students. Support was also offered to staff.

Ethan is the son of Dan Bryan and Jackie Bryan.

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