Mo. execution case is bound for high court

WASHINGTON — When Christopher Simmons was sentenced to death for the murder of Shirley Ann Crook in 1994, it got little more than a brief in a local newspaper, as did the discovery of Crook’s body in the Meramec River near St. Louis.

But now a ruling in that case could affect the lives of about 75 people on death row in the United States.

College of Education to get big gift

Today, MU’s College of Education will announce its largest gift ever, campus officials said Monday.

Although MU officials declined to release the donor’s name, he is Harold Hook of Houston, an MU graduate and former chief executive officer of insurance giant American General Corp.

Office space

A pair of beady red eyes glare at George Batek as he works at his desk at the Boone County Public Defenders office. They belong to a black plastic rat he calls “State’s Witness,” a squeaky old friend once used as a prop in the courtroom.

Nearby, not far from books with titles such as “The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers” and “Murder in the Heartland” is a bobble-head doll, The Enforcer from the movie “Lilo and Stitch.”

Ice covers Columbia

Columbians awoke Sunday morning to find their town coated with a quarter-inch to a half-inch of ice thanks to an early morning freezing rainstorm. For much of the day, downtown was deserted as ice and snow forced some businesses to close and made a simple stroll down the sidewalk a treacherous undertaking.

By lunchtime, the freezing rain had been replaced by light snow. Joe Pedigo of the National Weather Service in St. Louis said snow would probably fall throughout much of the day today and continue into the night. Pedigo expected 1 to 2 inches of snow accumulation by this evening but said no more snow was expected for the rest of the week.

Signs to mark path of Boone’s Lick Trail

David Sapp spent almost two years researching old deeds, land surveys and other historical records to map the exact route of the historic Boone’s Lick Trail across Boone County.

By this summer, the trail, one of the first routes used by 19th-century settlers heading west, will be marked by signs designed by a Boone County resident.

Bills could cost county revenue

Nike Thompson is keeping a close eye on the state budget process this legislative session.

As a state lobbyist for Boone County government, Thompson worries that a projected state revenue shortfall of $773 million might roll “downhill to the county” in the form of unfunded mandates and that other legislation might cost the county revenue.

Focusing on money clouds the mind

I’ll be the first to admit that although I realize money is not everything, shortly after I wake up in the morning one of the first things I’ve been thinking about lately is whether I owe anybody anything and when it is due. I mention this because it is a new experience for me. I’ve always been the kind of person who has so much going on in my mind that money has not occupied many of my thoughts. Never having had any money to speak of, I have never had any reason to give it much thought. In other words, I’m not one of those people who have experienced an economic boom either before or after the big tax cut.

So, I don’t know why it is that money has become such an important subject in my thought factory over the past couple of years. Since it is rarely a topic of discussion among my friends and family, I can only guess that it is outside influences that keep me financially anxious and stressed. I know, for example, that all the junk mail I receive either online or by snail mail is about money. I get volumes on how much I can borrow and all the wonderful goods and services available for purchase for so many dollars and cents. An hour of television viewing will earn me at least a 30-minute sales presentation involving the receipt and expenditure of money. The subject screams at me from billboards. It seems every available slip of empty paper has been confiscated and turned into an advertising document that has to do with money.

Mediacom and Charter await audit

Columbia’s cable companies are about to be audited.

That was the decision of the Columbia City Council on Tuesday night when it accepted the recommendation of its Cable Television Task Force. The audits are intended to ensure the city is collecting the proper amount of franchise fees from cable companies Mediacom and Charter Communications.

Translating politics

We leave our sparkling new hotel in Xi’an, passing hundreds of facemask-wearing Chinese riding bicycles and pulling wheelbarrows. The smog/fog is terrible.

We reach an elevated highway. It’s elevated, we surmise, to preserve the farmland below in a country where only 10 percent of the land is arable. We’re on our way to a factory. Our states have lost manufacturing jobs overseas, and we want to see the competition up close.

Northwest pursues UM membership

MARYVILLE — If all goes as planned, this year’s legislature might consider a proposal that would make Northwest Missouri State University the fifth campus in the University of Missouri system after all.

In September, the presidents of the institutions cited the complexity of negotiations when they said they would delay asking the legislature to consider a merger.

Pulitzer winner to share experiences at MLK celebration

In 1953, Martin Luther King Jr. showed only a glimmer of the influence that would eventually unite communities for a common fight against inequality. Fifty-one years later, the memory of King seems as powerful as the man himself, as evidenced by recent celebrations across the country in honor of his birthday.

In honor of King, MU will sponsor a weeklong celebration, “The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on American Public Policy.” The event begins today with a speech by professor and National Public Radio commentator Roger Wilkins and a town hall meeting. Events running through Friday will highlight the continuing impact of King’s civil rights work. They are free and open to all.

Arts center in the works

MU’s Jesse Auditorium might have witnessed one of its most historic performances Friday when Chancellor Richard Wallace took the stage to unveil plans for a new performing arts center.

If MU gets its way, the 28 acres of land on the corner of College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard would slowly be transformed into an arts haven.

Auditorium showing its age

John Murray, the manager of MU’s Jesse Auditorium, points to an empty elevator shaft in the auditorium’s basement.

“The elevator was never installed because of budget cuts,” Murray said. The space is used to store curtains and big bottles of water.

Attorney to ask for delay in climbing wall trial

A hearing is scheduled for Monday morning on whether to delay the court case involving the death of a Jefferson City woman who fell from a climbing wall in July.

Patrick Eng, a lawyer representing Marcus Floyd, owner of the portable climbing wall involved in the death, said he intends to ask for a continuance. Floyd is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter in the death of Christine Ewing, 22, who died while using the climbing wall at a Mid-Missouri Mavericks game.

Liquor law round-up snags 22

Despite the budget cuts that have forced significant restructuring of the Division of Liquor Control, law enforcement officials say they are finding the resources to continue their fight against underage drinking.

“They (the division) can’t put as many people down here,” said Sgt. Danny Grant of the Columbia Police Department. “So we have to step up and do some more enforcement ourselves.”

MU Health Care hears candidate

When the Hunter Group took control of University of Missouri Health Care in September 2002, it was understood from the beginning that it was only a temporary situation, that when University Hospital was financially stable, the Florida-based management company would step aside.

MU Health Care saw a profit of $8.4 million last fiscal year, so the time might be nearing to turn control back over to University administration.

Colorful discs mark MU storm drains

The stencils painted on Columbian’s storm drains might be replaced with something different come summer.

Aqua and purple discs bearing a purple fish and the white block words “No dumping, drains to stream” have been placed adjacent to storm drains throughout the MU campus. The 79 discs are part of a trial to determine if they will be used by the city to supplement the Storm Drain Stenciling Project.

Migrating worker

The group of 15 immigrant women still were having trouble learning English, despite the efforts of Maria Sanchez de Morales. Knowing the love these ladies had for soap operas, she started telling them about “Days of our Lives.”

After hearing just a basic outline of the show, the women became enthralled. Watching “Days of our Lives” helped them become more fluent in English, and it helped them to develop the confidence and skills to get their citizenship paperwork done.

5th straight win earns Cougars practice-free day

Bribery is taboo in most situations, but Mike Davis, the Columbia College women’s basketball coach, used it to his advantage Saturday.

Davis made a deal with his players before the Cougars’ game with Williams Baptist (Ark.) at The Arena of Southwell Complex. He said he would give his players a day off from practice today if they played well.

Unhealthy new year no shock

It’s just like clockwork. It begins about 2 p.m. on Christmas Day after the presents have been opened, the house has tissue and empty boxes strewn about and the family is kicking back and relaxing. My nose starts to itch. Not the kind of itch that you can scratch. This itch begins somewhere high up in the nostrils, and by now I should know the signal. My annual post-Christmas cold is about to begin.

This year I was prepared. I dashed madly up the stairs to find the new super-duper nasal spray that has been advertised on TV. According to the ad, just one sniff in each nostril and I’ll barely even know that I have a cold.