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Interview ... not their view

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ALTON -- Alton Mayor Richard Haigwood said he wants the citizens of Alton and the surrounding communities to know that the views expressed by Alton Alderman Bill Young are not the views of the other aldermen in the city or himself.

"All other aldermen, Glen Jenkins, Tom Young, Jason Smith and myself have found no fault with any group or person for the tragedy that occurred Sept. 6 in Alton at the Oregon County Courthouse," Haigwood said.

Alderman Bill Young was interviewed by a reporter from KY3 television in Springfield following the fire at the jail.

"The reporter came to me and said he could not find anyone in this town that would talk to him. I told him I would. He aired about 20 seconds of a five minute conversation we had," Young said Sept. 17.

"I said the fire at the jail was negligence on the sheriff's department. Just because I am an alderman for the city does not mean I have given up my constitutional rights as a citizen," Young said.

Young said he has served as alderman at Alton for six years.

"I also told him that I wasn't surprised at what happened at the sheriff's office. There have been many instances where the sheriff has not done his job. It stops at his desk," Young said.

When asked if he had anything personal against Ward, the alderman replied, "No, I have a problem with him being sheriff."

Ward said he had no comment on the allegations made by Young. He said since the fire was still under investigation and he could not comment.

Haigwood had a different opinion of the events the night of the fire.

"The board and I thank the Alton Police Department, the Oregon County Sheriff's Department, the Thayer Police Department and the fire departments of Alton, BB Road, Rover, Thayer, Thomasville and West Plains and other local emergency crews and first responders for the assistance they gave and are still giving us," the mayor said.

The mayor said he and the board would also like to extend their prayers to the family of the young man who died and to the families of the young men that were injured.

"This was a great joint effort of emergency crews, and if I have left anyone out, please forgive me, for so many people assisted in so many ways," Haigwood said.

Cleanup has been completed in the jail area of the courthouse where smoke inhalation killed Jesse Johnson, 17, of Mammoth Spring Sept. 6.

Johnson was in the jail waiting to go to trial on two charges of armed robbery.

Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren and Southern District Commissioner John Wrenfrow inspected the cleanup early Sept. 17. Northern District Commissioner Buddy Wright did not participate in the inspection due to having to attend a funeral.

"There was not a lot of fire damage in the cell, mostly smoke and water damage," Warren said. He said the next procedure would be for a crew to come in and spray the cells to rid them of the smell of smoke and then paint the jail cells.

Warren said he had no time frame on when the jail would be re-opened. The courthouse has been open as usual since the fire.

Sheriff Tim Ward said the Howell County Sheriff's Department has agreed to house any prisoners from Oregon County until the jail work has been completed.

Warren said some of the water that was used to put out the fire leaked down to the second floor of the courthouse and the walls on the second floor would have to be dried out. The jail is located on the third floor of the courthouse.

Warren said the fire apparently started in a corner of a cell near the shower area. The cell was occupied by Cody Davis, 19, Alton, Robert Huff, 22, Thayer, Nicholas Pacheco, 18, Thayer and Johnson. All three cellmates were taken by air ambulance to St. John's Hospital in Springfield. Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene by Oregon County Coroner Tom Clary.

Ward said two other inmates in a different cell, Tim Martin. 47, Alton and Rodney Reed, 51, Mammoth Spring were treated and released from Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains.

Davis has been released from St. John's. He and Martin and Reed have been released from custody on their own recognizance awaiting a court date later this month.

Huff was listed in critical condition and the hospital would not report on the condition of Pacheco.

newsopinion@yahoo.com



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