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2005 a busy year for Sharp County

Thursday, January 5, 2006

With stabbings, changes in authority, arrests and deaths, 2005 was a busy year in Sharp County. Here's a list of story highlights from January through June:

January: The Sharp Medical Foundation, a public corporation comprised of local business leaders and public officials, made a second bid Jan. 10 to buy Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System from owner Robert Becht. Becht rejected the bid. The foundation reached a tentative agreement with Becht Feb. 11 to purchase the hospital for $4 million. That deal fell through.

Spc. Joshua Samuel Marcum, 33, of Evening Shade was killed Jan. 4 in Taji, Iraq, while serving with the National Guard. Marcum, a gunner; Spc. Jimmy Dale Buie of Floral; and Spc. Jeremy Wayne McHalffey of Mabelvale were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their humvee in Taji.

Cynthia Davan Whitter, a Highland cheerleader and senior, was killed Jan. 15 in a wreck on Highway 63, just three days after her 18th birthday. Whitter and her fiance, Israel Hester, were northbound on Highway 63, two miles north of Hardy, when the 1988 Dodge Dakota crossed the center line and struck an oncoming 2004 Ford F-250 pickup driven by Michael Miller of Cherokee Village. The two vehicles hit head on. Whitter died at the scene.

Unhappy with a decision by the Twin Rivers School Board, some students staged a sit-in Jan. 24 at the Williford campus. At a special meeting Jan. 20 the school board voted 4-3 not to renew Superintendent Bruce Evans' contract for the 2005-2006 school year. At a special meeting March 2 at the Williford campus, after an hour and a half in executive session, the school board voted to begin accepting applications for superintendent without offering the position to either Evans from the Williford campus or to Assistant Superintendent Don Baker from the Ravenden Springs campus.

The Hardy City Council voted unanimously at the Jan. 18 meeting to temporarily reopen the public restrooms in Dr. Thompson Park along Main Street. The restrooms were closed in late December because of cold temperatures. The closure had the Main Street community in an uproar.

Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver fired two dispatchers Jan. 28 after former Central Dispatch Coordinator Holly Smith, part-time dispatcher Vicki Lewis and jailer Tasia Charles admitted they stole a county road sign from Jones Lane, near Highway 56 west of Ash Flat, in December. After the confession Smith was fired, Lewis was not put back on the schedule and Charles was suspended for three days without pay.

February: Anissa Curry allegedly stabbed her boyfriend, Jeff Gibson, around 2:25 a.m. Feb. 12 at their home in Cherokee Village. A neighbor told police she heard screaming, went outside, saw bloody Gibson fall in her driveway and then saw Curry, who said she hated Gibson and wanted to kill him, come out of the house with a large kitchen knife covered in blood. Police charged her with third-degree battery, possession of a controlled substance and possession of an instrument of crime.

March: Arkansas House District 80 Rep. David Cook was injured in a motorcycle accident March 6. Cook, of Williford, was traveling back to work in Little Rock around 4:15 p.m. on Highway 58, four miles north of Poughkeepsie, on his 1994 Honda Goldwing when his left foot rest struck the pavement while he was negotiating a curve. He lost control of the bike and skidded 80 feet along the highway before he came to rest in a ditch. Cook suffered three broken vertebrae and one broken and crushed vertebrae in the middle of his back. He also crushed his left clavicle.

Wilborn Ray Williams, 70, and his wife, Mary, 69, were found dead in their truck in a creek in rural Evening Shade March 23 after their 2002 Ford F250 was swept into Piney Creek off a low water bridge near Bear Creek Road.

Sharp County Judge Harold Crawford, 66, died March 30 at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Little Rock from medical complications of a collapsed lung. Crawford, an experienced politician, ran for county judge in 1998, just six years after he moved to the area, and won handily. He was in his fourth term in office. The Quorum Court appointed former Sharp County Chief Deputy Joe Stidman to complete Crawford's unexpired term April 4.

April: Maranda L. Verser, 24, of Evening Shade was killed April 1 after she lost control of her car around a curve and struck a tree on Highway 115. The car caught fire and passersby J.T. Beary of Sidney, James Carter of Pocahontas and Kevin Coursey of Smithville stopped and rescued Verser's three children.

Thelma F. Smallwood, 69, of Mountain View, Mo., was killed April 7 after she crossed the center line on Highway 167 south of Ash Flat and struck an oncoming car driven by Betty S. Kunkel of Evening Shade. Kunkel suffered severe injuries but has recovered.

The Highland City Council voted 6-1 to remove Mayor David Shackelford as city check signatory for a six-month period. The vote came at the city's April 26 meeting. The measure was brought about due to past "bad judgment decisions by the mayor," Alderman Larry Allen said.

Tony Headly was stabbed in the lower leg by an "Excaliber" April 16 after several family members wrestled for the sword at a home on Rainbow Lane in Cave City. Darla Heady, 32, and her sister, Paula Herrman, 30, began to argue and other family members became involved, according to authorities. Herrman's 11-year-old son then retrieved a sword from another room and family members began wrestling for the weapon, police said. Sometime during the frenzy Tony Headley was stabbed by the weapon.

Cherokee Village City Council appointed J. Kenton Viers to serve as Ward 2 Position 1 alderman at the April 21 council meeting to replace the position left vacant when former Alderman Lew Hagerman moved out of the area.

May: Shawn Michael Price was charged with aggravated assault and first-degree battery after he allegedly shot Richard Andrew Kirk with a .22-caliber rifle in a Cave City apartment after an argument about a woman May 9.

After more than 60 years of waiting, Ruby Wayne Williams, 84, received his Purple Heart May 5 for injuries he sustained Oct. 17, 1944, while serving overseas as a welder for the U.S. Army.

Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose arrested Jonathan Greene of Marked Tree May 13 after a four-hour manhunt along the banks of the Spring River. Greene, handcuffed and in stocking feet, had been on the run for 11 hours after he fled from Fulton County deputies around 2 a.m. near Many Islands after he was arrested and charged with domestic assault against his girlfriend.

Ash Flat officer Bobby Woods captured Jennifer Lynn Englebrecht just before midnight May 22, calling off a manhunt that had lasted nearly 10 hours. Englebrecht fled from the Sharp County jail after she and another female inmate were taken outside the front of the jail by a jailer for exercise.

Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver fired jail administrator Light Roberts May 12 for violating a department policy. Weaver would not say which policy Light violated and whether the violation involved inmates. Roberts was hired as jail administrator in September 2004.

At the May 16 Ash Flat City Council meeting the council voted 4-1 not to participate in Spring River Animal Control Services, a committee hoping to establish animal control in the area.

Police arrested Jerry Wayne McCord after he allegedly set the home he shared with his wife and children ablaze May 25. No one was injured in the fire, but the home was destroyed.

June: Veronica Gomez of Jonesboro was charged June 6 with involuntary manslaughter after she stabbed her boyfriend, 29-year-old Juan Salinas, during an argument while filling up an air mattress at Flash Market in Thayer May 29. Salinas bled to death in the Red Mule parking lot in Highland after they drove to Cherokee Village looking for the hospital, which was closed.

William Davidson of Highland caught a purse while fishing on Lake Mirandy in Highland June 13. The purse, belonging to Leca Ledbetter of Malvern, had been stolen in Ash Flat in 1981 while Ledbetter and her husband were in the area for a rodeo. Ledbetter's fishing license, driver's license and Sears credit card were still intact when the purse was recovered.

JULY: The Ozarka College Board of Trustees fired President Douglas W. Rush July 7 because he failed to comply with state laws, was dishonest and insubordinate and didn't follow college policies after being warned, according to the board of trustees. Rush filed suit against the board and college Oct. 28. The board hired Dr. Dusty Johnston as president on Nov. 22.

Jerry Shawn Wainwright of West Monroe, La., was arrested July 1 after he fondled a 13-year-old West Plains, Mo., girl while the two were traveling through Sharp County on their way back to Louisiana. He negotiated a plea in August and was ordered to pay $150 in court costs, register as a sex offender and have a DNA sample drawn. He also received a 90-day suspended jail sentence, according to court documents.

Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver hired former long-time Ash Flat Police Chief Rickey Crook as chief deputy.

Sharp County Judge Joe Stidman declared the county a disaster area to gain assistance for the drought during the spring and early summer.

AUGUST: The Sharp County Quorum Court began asking the cities in the county to help defray the shortfall in the county's central dispatch center budget at the Aug. 8 meeting. Of the seven cities, Cherokee Village is the only one that hadn't paid as of Dec. 19.

Police arrested David Curtis Perkins of Cherokee Village Aug. 19 after a standoff with officers. Perkins allegedly pulled a gun and told officers they would have to kill him before he would be taken to jail. He was slated to appear in court Jan. 3 on one count of aggravated assault.

Ralph Blizard, 99, and Beverly Kersey Ericson, 90, both of Cherokee Village married at Fountain Place.

The Ash Flat Church of Christ's Family Life Center was activated as a shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Chester C. Baird Jr. and his wife, Patsy M. Baird, former operators of Martin Creek Kennels and Pat's Pine Tree Farm near Williford, gave up their home, former kennel facilities, acreage and more than $240,000 after they pleaded guilty to money laundering and mail fraud in federal court Aug. 30. Federal, state and local authorities had raided the property in August 2003 and found the couple had committed numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

SEPTEMBER: At a ceremony Sept. 7 at Cherokee Village City Hall city, state and community leaders recognized the city as the 35th Arkansas community to join the national Firewise program, developed to help protect homes and property from wildland fires.

Aimee Blansett of Hardy was recaptured Sept. 9 in Ozark Acres after she had been on the run for almost four hours after escaping with her boyfriend and another friend while working around the courthouse while incarcerated on drug charges. She is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 6.

The FBI, along with Illinois and local officials, began searching for Aimee Hankins, formerly of Cherokee Village, after she abducted her 10-year-old son from a foster home in Illinois Sept. 2. She was arrested Sept. 12 in Arizona and extradited to Illinois. She pleaded guilty to one count of child abduction and is free.

A two-vehicle crash Sept. 21 on Highway 167 near Cave City killed Cassandra Hightower, 20, of Evening Shade. Her 3-year-old son, Jacob Hightower, received minor injuries.

Cave City Police Chief Vernon Gann returned to work after four months recovering from two surgeries for injuries he had sustained in a fight trying to arrest a drug suspect in a Cave City home April 17.

OCTOBER: Rita D. Lunsford of Hardy was killed Oct. 1 in Madison County in a motorcycle wreck with Kerry Wayne Evans of Hardy. An oncoming truck struck her after the motorcycle crashed.

The Sharp County Quorum Court awarded a $518,952 bid to Ronnie's Woodworks of Cave City for a new county public health facility. The project is funded by a $450,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Economic Development and a $98,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program.

Steven Lawrence Carroll, 23, and his grandfather, Johnny W. Russell, were both arrested and charged with aggravated assault Oct. 3 after an argument ended with gunfire when Carroll came home late. Russell was scheduled for trial Jan. 3. Carroll is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Kirby Melton Booth Jr., 49, of Highland was charged with aggravated robbery using a weapon after he allegedly robbed Hill's Drug Store in Highland Oct. 15 with a gun and took Oxycodone from pharmacist Max Hill. Booth was slated to appear in court Jan. 3 for the charge.

Sharp County Circuit Judge Harold Erwin declared a mistrial Oct. 13, delaying the fate of former Bono alderman Glenn Talmadge Wynn, who is charged with raping an underage girl. The trial was rescheduled for April.

Evening Shade Volunteer Fire Department received a 2006 International firetruck Oct. 20 with the help of a 90-percent grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Carrie Meiburger of Evening Shade escaped from the Sharp County jail Oct. 26 and came back on her own with a shirt full of pills after she got cold outside. She was to appear in court Jan. 3 for the escape charge.

NOVEMBER: Frank Schupp of Santa Rosa, Fla., set a tentative date of Nov. 20 to close on the purchase of the former Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System from owner Robert Becht. Schupp had not closed on the property as of press time but is continuing negotiations.

Danny "D.J." McFarlin of Ash Flat accidentally shot himself in the chest with a .45 caliber handgun Nov. 3. He remains in the Elvis Presley Trauma Center in Memphis in stable condition.

An F2 tornado that didn't even show up on radar destroyed a trailer south of Williford belonging to Doug and Ruth Clements and Wayne Collins Nov. 5. The three were injured and are recovering.

The Highland City Council hired attorney Jon Abele as the new city attorney at the Nov. 8 council meeting to replace former city attorney R.T. Starken who resigned.

Larry Coleman, 51, of Parsons, Kan., was killed in a Nov. 13 wreck at the end of Hardy's new truck route.

William Moore, 89, of Cherokee Village died Nov. 15 from injuries he sustained in a one-car wreck Nov. 11 on Highway 167 south of Evening Shade.

The Ash Flat City Council proposed assessing an annual fee of 10 cents per square foot of advertising space on billboards. If passed, the fee will be paid by billboard owners. It is expected to be discussed again at the Jan. 23 council meeting.

The Arkansas State Crime Lab determined bones found in a septic tank at the home of Jerry Stevens near the Sharp/Izard County line are human. The bones are suspected to be the remains of Bridgett Juanita Sellers, who has been missing since May 9, 2003.

DECEMBER: Dewey Glendon Johnson, 58, of Cherokee Village was arrested Dec. 7 and charged with rape after he allegedly lured a 19-year-old woman to his home with the help of his daughter, drugged her and had sex with her while his daughter watched.

Local paramedic Leonard Lawrence Woods was arrested and fired Dec. 15 after he responded to a call with alcohol on his breath and failed the breathalizer test.

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