Columbia kids reap rewards for reading

About 1,200 students from every elementary and middle school in Columbia gathered on at MU on Tuesday for the annual Columbia Reading Club Day as a reward for taking part in their school’s extracurricular reading programs.

Students who completed the program’s requirements spent the day listening to speeches by a group of authors and storytellers rather than sitting in their usual classrooms. To earn the reward, students typically read at least 10 books, said Gentry Middle School media specialist Susan Nichols.

Dig begins at farm ‘steeped in history’

It’s nothing much, yet — broken chunks of bricks, scraps of mortar, square iron nails, fingernail-size bits of pottery, a pea-sized piece of lead buckshot. But every fragment could help build the story of Lexington, a one-time overnight stop for settlers headed west that was established not long after the War of 1812 broke out.

What’s left of the settlement is being excavated by about a dozen volunteers on Bill and Judy Heffernan’s 500-acre farm about five miles northeast of Rocheport.

Jury selected for Rios murder trial

LIBERTY — While sitting at a conference table alongside his defense attorneys Monday, Stephen Rios saw for the first time the potential jurors who will determine his guilt or innocence.

Rios, a former Columbia police officer, is accused of killing Jesse Valencia, a 23-year-old MU student who was found dead near his Wilson Avenue apartment June 5, 2004, with his throat cut.

Land on south side annexed, rezoned

Columbia grew by 97 acres Monday night when the City Council unanimously approved the annexation and rezoning of wooded land on the southern edge of the city.

More than 200 single-family homes are being planned for the site along the south side of Old Plank Road. Robert Hollis, an attorney for the site’s owners, Charles and Barbara Roberts, said he expects the houses to sell for $180,000 to $1.2 million. They will be situated on plots ranging from a quarter of an acre to three acres.

New dean named for College of Education

Carolyn Herrington enthusiastically sought the top job at MU’s College of Education.

“With relish,” she said.

Missourians to get $1 million in restitution

A repayment of $1 million will reach 250 Missourians who invested in variable annuities exchanged by Waddell & Reed, a broker-dealer firm based in Kansas.

The company reached an agreement with the National Association of Securities Dealers on April 29 and said it would make a total of $11 million in restitution to 5,000 customers across the nation.

It’s time to recall our friendly past

One of the things I’ve learned from living in a politically charged environment is that it is not differences in political philosophy that divide people as much as differences in attitudes.

Remember when it was considered bad manners to bring up politics or religion at social gatherings? In those days, we valued good relationships with our neighbors and friends more than putting forth our positions on political or religious issues. For the sake of maintaining a pleasant environment, we were all willing to forgo the opportunity to express our opinions, saving them for expression at the proper time and in the proper place. As a result, regardless of which party has been in power, I have always been impressed with the friendliness, helpfulness and warm hospitality Missourians extend to visitors.

Mo. officials challenge base closures

WASHINGTON — Missouri’s congressional delegation has begun its long-shot fight to save a few thousand jobs targeted in the latest round of military closures and realignments.

Sen. Kit Bond met late Monday afternoon with Anthony Principi, chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, to complain about the Pentagon’s plan to move the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Fighter Wing out of Lambert Airport in St. Louis. The shift would cost about 250 military and civilian jobs and $135 million in economic impact to the region.

A ‘Ronald McDonald’ house for the four-legged

Marilyn Gaffney’s quest to help her ailing dog Ricci took her halfway across the state, from her home in St. Louis to treatment facilities in Columbia. For a month, she would make that trip twice a week.

Ricci’s veterinarians in St. Louis weren’t sure what was wrong with her, so they referred Gaffney to MU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Ay, Chihuahua!

Angela Henson does not leave home without her dog. From class to work to an occasional party, she takes her

10-pound Chihuahua, George, almost everywhere she goes.

St. Louis killer to be executed tonight

ST. LOUIS — Lawyers and death penalty opponents fought Monday to halt the execution of a St. Louis man twice sentenced to die.

Barring a court ruling or clemency from Gov. Matt Blunt, Vernon Brown, 51, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. It would be the third execution in Missouri this year.

Amateur songbirds

Joe Fedl sees it all. The twangy cowgirl, the drunk college guy, the smooth Madonna wannabe.

Some dance while they sing. Some sound like pros. Some, though, are really bad.

Trial in MU student’s death starts this week

Today, jurors will be selected in Clay County, northeast of Kansas City, to hear the murder trial of a former Columbia police officer.

Steven Rios is accused of killing Jesse Valencia, a 23-year-old MU student whose body was found outside his Wilson Street apartment June 5 with his throat cut.

Rocheport dig hopes to find pieces of past

When the Heffernans bought their 500-acre Rocheport farm in 1990, they had no idea the land sat on top of a 19th- century settlement that played a significant role in early Boone County history.

“The day the sale went through, I was working at the historical society and started looking it up,” said Lisa Weil, Bill and Judy Heffernan’s daughter. “I called my father and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’ ”

Insurance complaints would be concealed

JEFFERSON CITY — Among the many bills sent to Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk on the final day of the session is one that would make consumer complaints about insurance companies confidential.

Supporters say the bill is about consumer privacy. But some lawmakers say it would primarily benefit insurance companies, making it harder for consumers to learn about alleged wrongdoing.

Bill limiting mercury in vaccines nearly law

A bill requiring mercury-free vaccinations for children younger than 3 and for pregnant women needs only a signature from Gov. Matt Blunt to become law.

State Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, sponsored the bill, which requires removal of the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal from immunizations. She and others have cited the potential for the substance to cause autism or mercury poisoning in children.

Session marked by collision of agendas

JEFFERSON CITY — Behind the abortion saga that dominated the closing hours of Missouri’s legislative session lies a Republican Party division that affected a number of issues. It’s the same division that’s been plaguing the party nationally: whether social or fiscal conservatism should dominate its agenda.

Gov. Matt Blunt seemed to personify that split on Friday, first watching a bill to further restrict abortions die for the year, then two hours later calling a special session to address the issue this fall.

Thousands of new alumni bid farewell to textbooks, exams

Elizabeth Lentz will be the first doctor in her family, and her father couldn’t be prouder.

“She’s been offered three jobs, but she’s turned them all down,” said her father Rick Lentz. Elizabeth received her doctorate Friday from the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Restaurants, hotels reap benefits from graduations

Jean Hatchett stood in line Friday at the MU bookstore with an armload of Mizzou t-shirts, jewelry and stuffed toys to take back to her grandchildren in Perris, Calif.

Hatchett was in town to see her niece, Erica Byfield, graduate from MU’s School of Journalism.

Roof repairman charged in 77-year-old woman’s strangling

The man Zelpha Turner hired to fix the roof of her garage is charged with strangling her in her rural Boone County home last week.

According to court documents, Turner met Dearl W. Jackson on April 20 – 13 days after he was released from Boone County Jail, having served a six-month sentence for misdemeanor stealing. Jackson lived across the street from Turner with his girlfriend.