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’We lost such an amazing person’

Aaron A. O’Neal’s smile radiated joy.

People called it big, wonderful. He always seemed to be smiling, they said.

Frightful planning

It’s a weather-beaten old house set back in the weeds where Interstate 70 meets Highway 40 three miles west of Columbia.

Sheets of plywood cover the windows, and the grass grows tall along the wrought-iron fence.

Rap feud rumors have local players

Looking at a deep hole in the floor near the front door of his quiet suburban house, Miguel “Money Mike” Horn concedes there’s a problem with violence in Columbia. But, he said he hopes what he’s looking at isn’t evidence that a growing feud between rappers in the San Francisco Bay area and Kansas City has spilled onto the streets of mid-Missouri.

Horn, an aspiring Columbia-based rap artist, recorded six songs with Anthony “Fat Tone” Watkins before Watkins was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds near a construction site in Las Vegas on May 23.

InterActing lessons

Jaleesa Carter-Jackmon is tired of excuses. She’s sick of her friends blaming their mistakes on peer pressure and claiming they don’t know any better.

So, she’s going to change it.

McCaskill still silent on future elections

JEFFERSON CITY — Will she or won’t she? Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill still won’t say whether she will challenge Republican U.S. Senator Jim Talent in the 2006 elections.

But the longer she waits, the more political flashbacks she generates — and the more pressure she undertakes.

A day for a parade

The lawn chairs were pushed so close together, they were nearly arm to arm in two rows, lining the grass in front of the First Baptist Church downtown.

On the street corners of Broadway, kids perked up as each vehicle went by. Then they slouched back down at the sight of another car: no tractors yet.

Couple sues city, county for wrongful death of son

A Columbia couple has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, Boone County, two fire department chiefs, a dispatcher and the city’s director of public safety, claiming that a confusing number of dispatcher codes, different protocols and human error caused their son’s death last summer.

Carol and Ray Gilpin’s son, Ray Gilpin Jr., died on July 16, 2004, a day after he suffered a seizure while mowing a lawn near his northwest Columbia home.

Driver in I-70 crash indicted

The man thought to be the driver of the van involved in a crash in June on Interstate 70 that killed five people and injured 15 others was indicted Friday on an immigration charge.

A federal grand jury indicted Gelson Omar Mancilla-Santiago, 22, of Guatemala, for illegally re-entering the United States after deportation, according to a statement issued by the U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. Mancilla-Santiago was allegedly deported on Oct. 25, 2004.

Researchers investigate athlete deaths

Why MU football player Aaron O’Neal died after voluntary conditioning drills Tuesday won’t be known for another six to eight weeks. But researchers have been studying the phenomenon of sudden death among young, seemingly healthy athletes since 1931.

For the past 30 years, that research has been conducted at the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. Since then, the number of football-related deaths and serious injury has decreased significantly, due in part to improved data collection, which is then passed on to high school and college football programs around the country.

A Prince of a tale

“Five Frogs and a Prince,” a fairy tale set to music, is a play about love, hope and family.

It begins with a king and a fairy who grants him three wishes: for a wife, a daughter and the safety of their son. The story turns when the king’s son falls into a well. He uses his third wish to save his son, who is turned into a frog. Although the royal couple continue to love and care for their son, they remind the fairy that they still wish for a daughter. In the end, the king and queen adopt a girl, whose kiss transforms the frog back into a boy.

Summer classes come to a close

For many students, the end of Newton Summer Adventure means a fat wallet, a trip to the mall and enjoying the last lazy days of summer before school begins again.

But for 8-year-old Courtney Callahan, there will be no new clothes, fancy toys or video games.

Sculpting by Chance

The Artist: David Spears was born and raised in St. Louis but has called Columbia home for seven years. After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Spears flipped a coin to decide whether he should move to Columbia or go to graduate school; Columbia won.

Spears learned his craft while in college but said getting to his level of talent goes beyond taking classes.

A world of worship

The word of God is delivered in many languages in Columbia. Hymns are sung and prayers are murmured in Chinese, Korean, Swahili and Spanish.

Ethnic churches are growing, offering immigrants a place to worship that meets their spiritual and cultural needs. For some, a place such as the International Community Church is a transition for members who eventually join an American church. For others, it is a constant presence that creates a familiar culture of worship in what, for most members, is a radically different life and culture.

Curators to hold closed meeting

Three days before its regularly scheduled bimonthly meeting, the University of Missouri System Board of Curators will hold an emergency closed meeting Monday to discuss unspecified personnel issues.

The closed meeting on the MU campus was announced Friday. State law allows a public governing board to close its meetings for exemptions that include the “hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees.” Any vote taken must be disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting.

Muggles, wizards swarm to midnight book release

The line for the newest Harry Potter book stretched along the lawn north of University Bookstore and spilled into the parking lot at the book-release party at 10:30 Friday night. Multi-colored spotlights splashed onto the pointy-hatted and cloak-clad revelers.

An Eastern screech-owl named Lucifer perched on a witch’s forearm. Children twirled wands and sipped punch labeled potion on the candlelit lawn, awaiting the midnight release of J.K. Rowling’s latest installment in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Community Faces: Tom Oleski

Customers at Columbia’s Schnucks don’t mind waiting in line a few extra minutes if it means getting their groceries checked by Tom Oleski, a tattooed, short and wiry 50-year-old.

When regulars or people using credit cards come through his line, Oleski tries to call them by name. “Customers like that,” Oleski said. “Being called by name is a personal touch.”

Study looks at workers with arthritis

More than half of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients are unemployed within 10 years after diagnosis. Diana Baldwin, an occupational therapy researcher at MU, is looking to reverse that trend.

“This particular study is innovative in that we are moving a step beyond current research,” Baldwin said. “Our goal is to see if people who have arthritis and who are working, with information and with plans, can work longer, can be more satisfied with their job and can decrease some of the potential for injury.”

This grammar stuff drives me (or I?) crazy

When I wrote the column about six weeks ago discussing the misuse of the English language, I had no idea I had opened Pandora’s box. I have received dozens of e-mails from disgruntled language buffs each voicing disdain regarding one or more linguistic sins committed by the unknowing or uncaring people in this country.

One reader’s skin crawls when hearing, “I could have went …”

Sudden Death

ex Sharp, MU’s director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer, has been helping to prepare college athletes for the rigors of competition for a quarter century.

In 2000, Sharp’s staff was recognized by the Big 12 Conference as the athletic health “Staff of the Year.”

Inquiry into O’Neal death intensifies

The Boone County medical examiner will begin her own investigation today into the death of MU football player Aaron O’Neal.

Valerie Rao said she plans to interview everyone present at the practice. There were 11 players, three athletic trainers and eight strength and conditioning coaches, including strength and conditioning director Pat Ivey in attendance.

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