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Woman, 83, pleads guilty to manslaughter

An 83-year-old Columbia woman pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of her 86-year-old husband.

Marjorie Franklin Leslie entered the plea in Boone County Circuit Court in connection with the Nov. 14 shooting of James R. Leslie, her husband of 53 years. An autopsy revealed that James Leslie suffered from a form of dementia, possibly caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Police continue search for suspect in assault

Columbia police completed a composite sketch Tuesday of the suspect in two burglaries and a sexual assault Saturday at the Valley Creek Subdivision.

In a statement, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said the suspect is believed to be in his early 20s or late teens. Authorities believe he was wearing a light-colored, horizontal-striped pullover knit shirt, khaki shorts and sandals, the statement said.

No Child Act leaves ESL learners behind

When the parents of third-graders met in March to hear Columbia Public School District representatives talk about standardized testing at Paxton Keeley Elementary School, one mother’s concerns centered on one aspect most parents took for granted.

Seung Hee Han moved to Columbia from Korea last year with her daughter. Han worried that the language of Missouri’s standardized test was too hard and unfamiliar for her daughter, who doesn’t know English as well as other third-graders do.

Franz to sub as provost for Deaton

When MU Provost Brady Deaton becomes interim chancellor at MU this fall, campus administrator Lori Franz will step into Deaton’s shoes.

Deaton announced Monday that Franz — vice provost of undergraduate studies since 2002 — will serve as interim provost starting Sept. 1. That’s when Deaton will at least temporarily succeed Chancellor Richard Wallace, who is retiring. Franz was notified of her new position last week.

Soprano sings to raise tuition

Milagros Cruz only had to see one opera to know what she wanted to do with her life.

In her first semester at Syracuse University, she was required to attend “Otello” for a music history class.

Sprucing up Garth Avenue

As evidenced by the bulldozers and backhoes and a swath of fallen trees, the city’s effort to widen Garth Avenue is now under way.

The road is now closed to all traffic between North Garth Court and the entrance to the Bear Creek Trail parking lot, requiring residents living north of Bear Creek to use Blue Ridge Road and Missouri 763 to access areas south of their homes. Through traffic has also been restricted between Thurman Street and North Garth Court, as well as between Caribou Drive and the Bear Creek Trail parking lot.

Not much is insured

Finding health coverage continues to be a big hurdle for small businesses, despite the efforts of some legislators and employers. Since 2001, with health insurance premiums seeing double-digit increases, small businesses — defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as employing fewer than 100 people — have been the hardest hit. Legislative proposals — state and federal — have had mixed results and have not succeeded in resolving the growing crisis. Of the 43.5 million uninsured Americans, more than 16 million own, work for, or are dependent in some way on small businesses, according to the 2002 Census.

Iraq escort duty draws complaints

KANSAS CITY — Members of a Missouri National Guard unit say guarding convoys for private contractors in Iraq puts them at greater risk than when they were hauling military supplies for the Army.

The 150-member 1221st Transportation Company has been reassigned from its hauling duties to providing security for convoys operated by defense contractor Kellog Brown & Root.

Tornadoes cut across Nebraska

HALLAM, Neb. — More than a dozen tornadoes swept across southern Nebraska, killing at least one person and prompting Gov. Mike Johanns to declare a state of emergency.

Johanns confirmed the death Sunday before he was taken by military helicopter to tour the town of Hallam, where every home was damaged or destroyed, vehicles were flipped and trees lay in the streets.

Pushing onward for racial equality

The information coming from the examination of racial progress 50 years after the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision has not produced many surprises. Racial equality remains as elusive as it has always been in the areas of employment, housing and, still in many cases, education.

Among other things, we have learned from a study by the Education Trust, an independent nonprofit organization, schools populated primarily by minorities are more likely to have less qualified and less experienced teachers. This, of course, leads to a predictable outcome. Overall, minority students, by the time they reach eighth grade, tend to be “three years behind other students.”

City Council plans strategy for 2005

OSAGE BEACH — During brief breaks from the intensive work sessions at its annual retreat this weekend, Columbia City Council members held impromptu talks with department heads and even cooled off with water-gun fights.

Holding the retreat outside Columbia allows the council members to dedicate their time and undivided attention to city business. Though there was some opportunity for play and relaxation, it was a working weekend. All totaled, the council and staff spent about 14 hours discussing city business.

Diet choices fuel rising cost of milk

Ernest Zhang’s family drinks three gallons of skim milk each week. When Zhang went shopping for milk on May 9, he was shocked at what he found.

“For the price of skim milk, it has been $1.80 to $2.09 a gallon for a long time, but it was $2.69,” Zhang said. “We compared it with the soaring gasoline prices. We can not live without both of them because we need to drink a lot of milk and drive every day.”

Healthy exchange

To prepare the way for her Russian guest, Susan Burns carefully compiled a list of useful words for almost every room in her house 20 miles outside Columbia. She used a Web site to translate the key words from English to Russian.

“I gave her several lists for different rooms,” Burns said. “But she has been taking English classes for two months, and her English is much better than she said it would be.”

A year later, parents look to law

MOKANE — Christine Ewing was an adventurous young woman, recently living on her own, who loved spending time outdoors with family and friends.

It was a family outing to a ball game that led to the unthinkable.

Senate candidates split on oil policy

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Nancy Farmer criticized President George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., for refusing to act on the high cost of gasoline.

Speaking to a handful of people gathered Friday at the MFA Oil gas station on West Boulevard, Farmer mirrored the stance of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, saying the Bush administration should suspend the delivery of oil into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. She said the move would reduce the price of gas by 10 to 25 cents a gallon.

Cleaning the Big Muddy

Jim Fogle of Kansas City is committed to retracing the route of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery from Missouri all the way to Oregon. Alone and carrying everything he needs on his bicycle, Fogle set out at 4 p.m. May 14, the same time the expedition departed from St. Charles 200 years ago.

Fogle will bike across the country and camp each night along the way. Retired, he has time to stop wherever he sees fit. On Saturday, he decided to stop at Cooper’s Landing south of Columbia, where he joined nearly 200 other volunteers who lent a hand to Missouri River Relief’s annual cleanup and “trash bash.”

Burglar at large after assaulting woman

A woman who awoke to find a burglar climbing into bed with her early Saturday morning was sexually assaulted before she escaped and called authorities from a neighbor’s house in Valley Creek subdivision, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

The man is suspected of a burglary minutes earlier in the same neighborhood east of Columbia. The crimes occurred between 4:30 and 5 a.m., according to a news release from detective Andy Anderson.

Roadway funding to get more focus

OSAGE BEACH — Several top officials at the Columbia City Council’s annual retreat this weekend raised concerns over the creation of transportation development districts to build new roads, furthering the debate over how the city will meet its growing transportation needs.

Most of the city’s major street projects are financed by a quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax, which brings in an estimated $4 million a year. While it seems a foregone conclusion that the council will ask voters this fall to extend that tax for street work, City Manager Ray Beck has already indicated that won’t be enough to keep pace with the city’s growth.

Not much fabric, but a lot of grief

Note to readers: I’m resurrecting another old column, again with additional comments.

I just returned from my annual swimsuit quest. I normally love to shop, but this is one instance where the whole procedure is very painful. A one-piece bathing suit is nothing more than a colorful girdle. And those of us who wore girdles in the ’60s know that they don’t hold in the fat, they just squish the flab so it looks for the nearest opening to fan out. And with the latest styles, there is plenty of room for redistribution.

District to challenge tax ruling

Henry Lane’s property tax lawsuit may substantially affect the way school districts across the state create and implement their budgets.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, Judge Edwin Smith of the Missouri Court of Appeals applied the state’s budget laws to school districts, saying they must keep revenues “substantially the same” as the amount budgeted for the school year.

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