NEW BLOOMFIELD — Usually the talk around town in New Bloomfield is about the snow or the rain, but not this past week.
Conversations among residents in this community of about 600 were filled with sorrow and speculation about the Dec. 24 murder of a young couple on the southwestern fringes of town.
On Friday, authorities could be seen removing items from Benjamin and Sarah Bonnie’s trailer home, which rests on top of a hill about two miles from the center of town. Like many of the homes in the New Bloomfield area, it overlooks rolling hills of cattle fields and horse paddocks.
Life for neighbors in this small town about 30 miles southeast of Columbia is getting back to normal, but there are still lingering signs of what residents call “the incident.” Dogs chase a noticeably steadier stream of vehicles, which residents attribute to sightseers wanting to get a glimpse of the house.
Janice Phillips, a nurse at Capital Region Resident Clinic in Jefferson City, said she was shocked by what happened in her quiet neighborhood.
“These people had their whole lives ahead of them,” Phillips said. “Its so sad, such young lives to be taken for no reason.”
In the tight-knit community, the emotional impact of the killings has been felt.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, it’s what everyone is talking about,” said Shawn Cockrum, director of the Missouri Migrant Education Program and a New Bloomfield resident. “Especially at this time of year ... it’s just really tragic.”
On Dec. 24, Benjamin Bonnie, 28, and his wife, Sarah, 25, were found dead in their home. Worried family members went to their house after the couple did not show up for a Christmas gathering. The two were found dead in a bedroom from gunshot wounds to their heads. The couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Jade, was found in the home unharmed.
On Dec. 26, Callaway County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Sarah Bonnie’s cousin, Brian Joseph Dorsey, 34, of Jefferson City, on suspicion of the double murder. He’s now charged with two counts of first-degree murder and is being held at Callaway County Jail. Bail has been set at $750,000.
Much of the sympathy is directed toward the Bonnies’ young daughter, who is staying with her grandparents.
“It hits you hard,” Phillips said. “Especially when you have kids of your own.”
At the Midway 66 convenience store on the south side of town, a donation jar for Jade Bonnie sits on the counter next to the register. The many dollars contributed reflect the community’s outpouring of sympathy and support for the family, even though they were new in town.
The Bonnies had recently moved to the New Bloomfield area from Knoxville, Iowa. They had lived in their home for less than a year. Phillips recalls seeing the young family almost daily.
“They went jogging a lot up and down the road,” Phillips said. “They hadn’t lived here too long, but we always waved.”
Phillips, as well as other New Bloomfield residents, hadn’t really gotten to know the Bonnies yet.
“A lot of this community is centered around the school,” Cockrum said. “When the kids are in school, that’s when you get to know all of the different families in town.”
Cockrum said the fact that the Bonnies’ daughter wasn’t attending school yet may explain why local families had not met the family.
Even though the Bonnies were new to town, their murder has caused some residents to think about the collective safety of the community.
“We’re not more afraid than before,” Phillips said. But she said residents are on alert.
Other residents said they felt the impact on the town had been softened because the suspect and the victims were related. Some also pointed to the distance between the house and town as the reason they did not feel personally affected by the killings.
As residents of New Bloomfield continue to sort out the effects of the killings on the town, it remains the subject on everyone’s mind.
Recalling the double homicide, Carl Powell stands on the porch of his home, shaking his head.
“It was a heck of a thing to have happen,“ Powell said. “But this is still a nice, quiet, sleepy town.”