Well, the new year is finally here. It's time to make new memories and remember the ones from the past year. The year 2008 was a busy 365 days for the area.
A Melbourne man, Joseph Carl Mitchell, 45, was arrested July 15 on a Grant County warrant for sexual indecency with a 14-year-old girl in an Internet chat room. An undercover investigation conducted by the Sheridan Police Department in the chat room caught Mitchell in the act. Investigator David Holland posed as the 14-year-old girl in the chat room.
According to Holland, an individual using the screen name "Smokeyroadm" contacted Holland in the chat room. The conversation turned sexual and Mitchell wanted to meet the girl in a private area. Smokeyroadm then added Holland to his friends list and the name Joe Mitchell appeared. An Arkansas crime information center check revealed a Joseph Carl Mitchell in Melbourne. Mitchell was transported to Grant County where his bond was set at $25,000.
The Fulton County Hospital welcomed people into its doors to celebrate its open house on July 20. About 500 people attended the open house to tour the new addition at the hospital and listen to several speeches commemorating those who made the improvements possible.
About 8,400 marijuana plants were found Aug. 5 by various law enforcement agencies. The plants were growing on 40 acres of land in Izard County about 200 yards from the Antioch Baptist Church. Four people were arrested and two who fled to Sharp County were arrested Aug. 7. All were of Hispanic origin and were habitating in very poor living conditions, according to Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence. The estimated street value of the plants at maturity was $8 million. Officers from the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 16th Judicial Drug Task Force, Arkansas Department of Correction, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Izard County Sheriff's Department were all involved in the seizure of the marijuana plants and the arrests.
Two fugitives tried to escape the law by claiming they worked with the carnival at the Fulton County Fair in Salem. The South Central Missouri Drug Task Force chased Helen Marie Prokopovich, 33, and Billy Joe Greer, 28, both of West Plains, Mo., into Fulton County. The Salem Police Department assisted in capturing the two. Both of them were wanted on drug related charges.
Remnants of Hurricane Gustav came to the area and brought heavy rains and an EF0 tornado near Guion on Sept. 2. According to Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence and John Robinson of the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, there was much wind damage around the area that was hit. Robinson said the tornado touched ground for nine-tenths of a mile.
Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose conducted a wellfare check Sept. 2 on Theresa M. Kosik, 42, of Hardy. Deputy Coroner Doug Wortham of Heath Funeral Home Oak Hill Chapel called Rose after people started calling the funeral home to find out when services were being held for Kosik. Wortham said, as far as he knew, Kosik was still alive because the funeral home did not have her body. When Rose arrived at the residence, he found Farrel Ace Stark, 43, of Hardy. Rose asked for an explantation of where Kosik was and he told him that Kosik died at the Fulton County Hospital after the two of them had been drinking heavily. When Kosik passed out, Stark said, he couldn't wake her up and she was pronounced dead at the hospital. Rose did some investigating and found Stark's statement was not true. Stark then admitted to shooting Kosik in the head. Kosik's body was found sitting in a chair inside the residence. Several days before Rose's investigation, Stark was spotted in a Country Mart. According to Wortham, Stark had told some people in the store that Kosik was dead, which prompted these people to contact the funeral home. Stark is still being held at the Fulton County Jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.
A former Izard County Consolidated band instructor, Stacy Lynn Tucker, 40, was sentenced to 48 months incarceration with 25 years supervised release and a $100 special penalty assessment and forfeiture of computer equipment on Sept. 3 for possession of child pornography. Tucker was caught in an Internet sting operation conducted by the Oxford, Miss., Police Department. An undercover police officer posed as a 14-year-old girl in a chat room where Tucker, whose screen name was "m719532003," engaged the undercover officer in sexual activities over the Internet. According to a press release from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, "Special conditions placed on the defendant include undergoing mental health counseling and treatment, sex offender registration, monitored Internet access and no contact with minor children without the express consent of the probation office." The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oxford Police Department investigated the case.
The aftershocks of Hurricane Ike came into the Ozark region Sept. 13. "We've had an interesting weekend," Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative said. The eye of the tropical depression passed over the area late Saturday night, according to Coleman. "This was an especially devastating storm system, with the tropical depression (Ike) eye passing over Baxter and Fulton counties. Reported winds were sustained at 30 to 35 mph, with gusts reported around 70 mph, which is just 5 mph short of hurricane force winds," Coleman said. Power outages were widespread. Coleman said at the peak of the power outages, 14,000 customers were without power. Downed trees were spotted all over NAEC's coverage area. "Many of our long-time employees have remarked that this storm was one of the worst in terms of timber devastation they have seen, and the most widespread, covering 100 percent of our service territory," Coleman said.
Gaston R. Barnett, 72, of Salem, was arrested Oct. 2 for harassing a West Plains, Mo., couple who were his in-laws. Barnett wrote several harassing letters to Bobby and Marge Bridges and some other family members. In the letters, Barnett said he wanted them to give him money. If they didn't do as he said, Barnett wrote, "If you don't comply, I'm going to have one my well rigs pulled into your back lawn, drill me a hole deep enough to toss you both down in it, time you both hit bottom, you be dead, you be taken by gunpoint, you refuse, you be cut to ribbons, tossed in the hole anyways both yours, plus Jr and Lyndal and some their rotten children that was involved in it too."
Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites also believes Barnett may have been the anonymous author of several demanding letters sent to several West Plains businesses. The letters demanded money and a new vehicle. If the businesses didn't carry through with his demands, the letter said, "I have a military unit on standby alert twenty four seven that can toss a blanket over any city with a population of ten thousand or more within thirty minutes or a county within an hour, I also have two satellites in space monitering my every movement 24 7." (All excerpts from the letters are typed exactly as they were written.) According to Crites, Barnett had recently bought a hand gun from one of his neighbors.
In the scary economy, people are worried about their investments and whether their money is safe in the bank. Many local small-town banks like the Bank of Salem and BancorpSouth said they are still lending money and they are not involved in the risky subprime mortgages that bigger banks have been involved in. The local banks also invest in area businesses and in other low-risk investments. These smaller banks are also FDIC insured.
Nov. 4 was a historic day for those at the polls. Lines and lines of registered voters turned out to vote for their prospective candidate, most importantly for the next president. Locally, John McCain and Sarah Palin beat Barack Obama and Joe Biden by about a 20 percent margin. Nationally, however, the people liked Barack Obama more. Either way, Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in history as the day the United States voted for its first black president. Arkansas also had some important issues on the ballot. Among the issues, Arkansas residents voted for banning unmarried or same sex couples from adopting or fostering children and for a state lottery in which all the proceeds will go towards college scholarships.
A local legend died Nov. 9. Elwin Charles "Preacher" Roe died at the age of 92. He was remembered as being a great baseball pitcher. In the major leagues he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals for a year then went on to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers in three World Series. He was a five-time All-Star recipient, but to those who knew him, he was a hometown boy who never lost his roots.
Post offices in Sharp, Fulton, Stone and Independence counties were broken into between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2. The post offices included Ash Flat and Glencoe. Postal Inspector Daniel Medrano, said there were seven post offices broken into in the area. According to Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger, the thieves pried open six or seven rental mail boxes and one locker in Glencoe, but it was not known if there was any mail or valuables in them. Medrano said the Postal Service was offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.
Speaking of post offices, Dec. 5, Hazel Fulfer, 65, of Salem, was pulling up to the front of the Salem Post Office when she blacked out and her 2003 Ford Taurus ran over the sidewalk and into the post office building. The vehicle damaged much of the brickwork and broke a window on the facade of the building. No one was injured.
The State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) announced Dec. 4 that they have nominated the State Highway 289 Bridge over English Creek to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge is located near Mammoth Spring in Saddle. It was nominated because it is an example of a Pratt thru-truss bridge and because of its local significance.
Andrew Golden, now known as Drew Douglas Grant, 22, of Evening Shade, applied for a gun permit and was denied after fingerprints proved Grant was indeed Golden. On March 24, 1998, Golden, then 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13 at the time, pulled a fire alarm at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro and started shooting people as they ran out of classrooms. Five people were killed and 10 were wounded. Both Golden and Johnson were charged as juveniles and would have been released when they turned 18 but they were held for three more years for the crime of bringing a firearm to school.