Strangling death under investigation

The Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad is helping investigate the death of a 77-year-old woman who was found strangled to death in her home north of Columbia on Monday.

An autopsy performed Tuesday afternoon found that Zelpha Turner died from asphyxiation caused by strangulation, said Sgt. Tom O’Sullivan of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies found Turner in her home near Prathersville shortly before noon when responding to a 911 call with firefighters from the Boone County Fire Protection District.

Field seeks new learning model

Field Elementary school is dedicated to literacy, which is why it applied for a $74,955 grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in early April. Field expects to receive the grant this June, and it has big plans for the money.

School officials plan to implement an improvement program called the Professional Learning Community model — a model already in use at Oakland and Jefferson junior high schools, and Rock Bridge High School.

Oakland Junior High teacher honored

Government and social studies teacher Joshua Johnson inspires and transforms the lives of his students at Oakland Junior High School.

For that, he was awarded as the Teacher of the Year in a surprise presentation Tuesday morning.

Residents rally to save bridge

“Save the bridge! Save the bridge!” chanted a crowd gathered Tuesday afternoon in front of the Copper County Courthouse in Boonville. Longtime residents of Boonville, families, and even Boonville Mayor Danielle Blanck’s dog, Heidi, came to show support to keep the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge part of Boonville.

“It is a part of history. It is one of a kind. There are not very many bridges like it in this country,” said Andy Melendez, a Boonville resident who attended the rally.

Legislature closing in on budget for 2006

JEFFERSON CITY — The General Assembly is poised to begin floor debate today on a state budget for fiscal 2006 that eliminates Medicaid benefits for 90,604 people and restores money for higher education that had previously been cut by the Senate.

The $19.1 billion spending plan is the product of negotiations in a conference committee of representatives and senators. The full House and Senate face a Friday deadline for approving the budget.

High-definition launched at KBIA

Thirty-three years after its debut as the first National Public Radio station in mid-Missouri, KBIA/91.5 FM has reached yet another broadcast landmark. On Tuesday, KBIA launched the first high-definition radio service in mid-Missouri.

“A lot of people are calling it the biggest change in broadcasting since FM started,” said Roger Karwoski, KBIA’s assistant manager and director of engineering.

Lawsuit challenges random drug tests

Legal concerns have been raised over a policy by the Missouri Department of Mental Health to allow random drug testing of its 9,800 employees.

Columbia attorney Dan Viets filed a federal lawsuit against the department Monday, claiming the policy violates employees’ constitutional rights. Viets, who also represents the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, filed the suit in the Federal District Court for Western Missouri on behalf of mental health employee Amy Proctor.

Top Bruin leads sweep

Rock Bridge tennis fans came to Bethel Park with yellow rally towels in hand and hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill Tuesday.

They were treated to a 9-0 sweep of rival Hickman, the fourth time this season the Bruins (13-0) have swept an opponent. But the fact that it was the Kewpies made the win even more special.

Columbia honors its top volunteers

Teresa Kight, a Tree Keeper for 2 years, has sacrificed many Saturday mornings to yard work — and it’s not even her own yard. Kight goes out to various Columbia parks and plants trees, mulches and prunes in order to keep recreation areas maintained.

Brian Pape and his wife, Joy, have been involved with Columbia’s Adopt-A-Spot program since 1997 and maintain a part of the MKT Trail stretching from downtown to Stadium Drive.

Blunt sides with cities on school funds

JEFFERSON CITY — The stalled proposal to change the formula used to distribute state money to schools got a big push from the governor Tuesday, but the force of the effort to attract reluctant suburban lawmakers made some supporters uneasy.

Gov. Matt Blunt threw his weight behind a proposal that would cost almost $1 billion over seven years. Blunt, who had limited his comments to support for reshaping the formula, sided with suburban and urban legislators in a fight over how to account for wage differences across the state.

Making time for God

MILLERSBURG — It was a late Saturday night for Dennis Peterson, but Sunday morning he roams around the entrance of Millersburg Baptist Church warmly greeting people as they arrive.

Several minutes later, he is energetically preaching the gospel in front of the congregation.

Shoring up Hinkson Creek

Fair or not, developers have a reputation of moving into natural areas and bulldozing trees to make way for construction.

Centerstate Properties, however, is financing a project that will combat erosion by adding thousands of trees to a lengthy section of the Hinkson Creek bank near the Columbia landfill.

A thorn in MU’s side

Sure, it was a little chilly outside.

Yeah, the Southwest Missouri State Bears haven’t had a great season.

Cardinals continue to baffle the Reds

CINCINNATI — Jason Marquis made sure the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t need another historic comeback.

The right-hander gave up three hits and took a shutout into the ninth inning Tuesday, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ depleted bullpen held on for a 4-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds.

Party breathes new life into CPR certification

The Kraatzes had all the right things for a great party — drinks, dinner, a movie and even carpeted seating for their guests of honor, CPR mannequins Little Anne and Baby Anne.

Jim and Elizabeth Kraatz, both professors at MU, held the first CPR party in Boone County Tuesday night, allowing friends to leave their home with a different kind of party favor — CPR certification. The Kraatzes’ guests were instructed and certified in infant and child CPR by trainers from the Boone County chapter of the American Red Cross, who came equipped with all of its typical classroom gear. The party certified eight people.

Thriving under pressure

Rock Bridge coach Terry Whitney was standing in his team’s bullpen watching his freshman-and-sophomore team play Hickman on Tuesday when Scott Reller’s name was brought up.

“What a jerk,” Whitney said, laughing. “No, he’s a very, very, very hard worker. I said that three times, didn’t I? That’s how hard of a worker he is.”

Natural Inspiration

You don’t need to be an expert or have any formal training to try your hand at bonsai.

The Mid-Missouri Bonsai Society, which has been in Columbia almost two years, has members with more than 25 years of experience as well as those who have just started working on their first bonsai.

Use cattle panels to support your garden

Seed stores and catalogs are replete with all one needs to grow a $100 tomato or a $200 one with only a bit more shopping. But by far the most useful thing you will find in my garden does not come from a nursery at all and was made for entirely another purpose.

I first noticed a garden use for “cattle panels” north of Sturgeon where an Amish gardener had bent one into a graceful arch and was growing gourds on it. The arch had an unusual lack of symmetry to it, somewhat like the cross-sectional upper arc of an aircraft wing, making its 16-foot sweep especially attractive. The thought immediately struck that such a thing could support my Armenian cucumbers (very unusual and very, very good) and zuchetta (or trombocini) squash (a pale green Italian variety not much like zucchini and delicious).

Recycling Fashion

Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ fashion trademark, made popular more than 50 years ago, is now hotter than ever. The oversized sunglasses are back in the fashion scene, and Columbia has eagerly embraced the trend.

“They sell immediately,” said Laura Wilson, owner of Blackberry Exchange. “About 95 percent of our first order has sold within the first three weeks.”

The Sweeter Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes just got a little sweeter.

Lewis Jett, Missouri vegetable crops specialist and an MU department of horticulture assistant professor, has been experimenting with a special variety of super sweet cantaloupes for nearly two years.