Video: Suspect in shooting changed story

A video interrogation of Taron Crawford aired in court Thursday shows Crawford changed his story about the shooting death of Charles Blondis when talking to police.

Crawford, charged with second-degree murder and first-degree armed criminal action, took the stand Thursday afternoon and said he did not kill Blondis. He said others, including Sam Hileman, testified untruthfully.

City to shoo geese from Stephens Lake

A new initiative by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will attempt to control and reduce the goose population at Stephens Lake Park.

The swimming beach will be closed until April 15, allowing time for construction of a silt fence to prevent erosion and reduce the number of geese in the area. The department will also use artificial harassment techniques, such as simulated shotgun blasts from a propane-run cannon, and chemicals to keep geese away. The chemicals will not have any effect on humans.

Erickson pleads guilty to murder

A 20-year-old Columbia man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery Thursday in connection with the 2001 killing of Kent Heitholt, the Columbia Daily Tribune’s former sports editor.

Charles Timothy Erickson walked into the courtroom handcuffed, wearing a black and white jumpsuit from Boone County Jail, for a brief hearing with Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton.

Political ads factor in win

Potential voters were bombarded with TV ads for president starting in early March, when it became clear Sen. John Kerry would be the Democratic presidential nominee. Since then more than 630,000 ads have aired, according to the Nielsen Monitor-Plus and the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project.

That figure is almost triple the number of ads that ran in 2000, when TV viewers saw almost 245,800 ads, the project reported.

Man convicted in 2003 slaying of MU student

A jury Friday morning convicted Kansas City resident Taron Crawford of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2003 death of MU student Charles Blondis.

Blunt tells Missourians to expect change

JEFFERSON CITY — Transition is the new focus for governor-elect Matt Blunt as his camp prepares to move into the governor’s office. At his home in Springfield on Wednesday, Blunt discussed his plans.

He talked about turning from a campaign mindset into a governing mindset and some of the challenges and differences involved, said Blunt spokesman John Hancock.

Report details sanctions for MU

Now we know. Finally.

The NCAA has handed down its sanctions, and Missouri has accepted them. End of a chapter in MU sports history, for now.

Pierpont wins right to be village

A round of applause signaled the birth of a village Wednesday night when the Boone County Commission voted unanimously to approve the incorporation of Pierpont.

The vote followed a public hearing during which Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman, Pierpont residents and the commissioners debated the need for rational incorporation policy versus the right of residents to control their destiny. In the end, the people of Pierpont got their wish for protection against the possibility of annexation by Columbia.

Youth trumps experience for GOP

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House Republican Caucus appointed Rod Jetton, 37, as the next speaker of the house Wednesday. Jetton with Governor-elect Matt Blunt, 33, have begun a youth movement in state government leadership.

Jetton and Blunt will be the second youngest people to hold their respective positions in at least 40 years. The youngest governor and speaker of the house were Kit Bond and Dick Rabbitt respectively, who also began their terms in the same year.

High turnout at Boone Co. polls above expectations

Boone County residents broke the voter-turnout record on Election Day, with a full 86 percent of qualified voters packing the polls.

“I will be honest, it was 20 percent above my highest expectations,” Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said Wednesday.

Witnesses identify shooting suspect

Two witnesses testified Wednesday at the Boone County Courthouse that they saw 21-year–old Kansas City, Kan., man Taron Crawford, pull out a handgun and shoot MU sophomore Charles Blondis three times at a party last November. Blondis died on the scene.

Sam Hileman and Peter Lassiter pointed at Crawford when asked by the prosecution who shot Blondis.

The day after, grass roots activists find hope in turnout

A week before the election, Lisa Smith, 39, was sitting on her porch with family and friends, watching their children play in their yard on Eighth Street.

When Stacy Small, an organizer with, came door-to-door making sure people were going to vote, Smith told her she wouldn’t miss the opportunity. It would be Smith’s first time voting, which was cause for excitement among the neighbors, some of whom were also planning to cast ballots for the first time.

Trial in shooting to begin

When MU student Charles Blondis was shot and killed in the early hours of Nov. 16, police quickly came to the conclusion that the shooter was a 20-year-old man from Kansas City, Kan. Officers arrested Taron Crawford later that morning at an apartment on West Worley Street.

But when Crawford’s trial begins today, his attorney could present some surprising testimony. Court records suggest that defense attorney Roderick Smith will call two witnesses who allegedly heard another man claim to be the one who fired the fatal shot. That man is also one of the five potential defense witnesses in the case.

Poplar Bluff students, parents upset about required identification badges

POPLAR BLUFF — A new policy at Poplar Bluff High School requiring students to wear identification badges has prompted one parent to withdraw his children and some students to put stickers on their badges protesting the policy.

The badges are identical to the IDs students were previously required to carry and use to check out library books. Students and faculty must now wear the photo IDs on campus from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. as a safety measure. School officials say the badges allow them to identify people quickly and make sure visitors have checked in.

Australian author to speak, sign books at MU

Prize-winning Australian author Peter Carey, known for “Oscar and Lucinda” and “True History of the Kelly Gang” as well as other books, will speak Thursday evening at MU.

A reception, book sale and book signing sponsored by the University Bookstore will follow Carey’s speech.

Growing kids, shrinking meals

Centralia R-I school district student Aaron Schwennesen started a petition because he says he isn’t getting enough food in his school lunch and often has to buy more food to get his fill.

Aaron, 14, and some of his friends in the eighth grade at Chester Boren Middle School started the petition — which reads “Please sign here if you would like bigger lunches” — a few weeks after school began. He says the portions are smaller this year.


This morning began the way many people feared and predicted: without an answer on who the next president of the United States will be. At 1 a.m., President Bush was close to the magic number of electoral votes, 270, required for a victory. Ohio and Iowa hung in the balance. Even if answers evolved overnight, questions will linger as to whether challenges could prolong our national angst.

Days until inauguration: 79


JEFFERSON CITY — Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt won Missouri’s hard-fought gubernatorial race early today, riding an overwhelming rural vote to a narrow victory over Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill.

Blunt, the son of third-ranking GOP Rep. Roy Blunt, will become Missouri’s second youngest governor when sworn into office in January. His victory also will give Republicans full control of the Capitol for the first time in 82 years.

Voters elevate Carnahan, Steelman; Nixon re-elected

JEFFERSON CITY — Twenty years after Margaret Kelly became the first woman to hold statewide office in Missouri, female candidates were elected to two of Missouri’s top offices Tuesday.

Voters filled three of the state’s executive positions with new officers and re-elected their head prosecutor to a fourth term.

Highway funding measure approved

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A state constitutional amendment to direct all vehicle sales taxes and some gas taxes to improving roads and bridges was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by Missouri voters.

With 52 percent of the vote counted, the amendment won 79 percent to 21 percent, according to unofficial results.