Several local cases have had major updates in the last couple of months with a change of venue being granted in one case to another appealing their sentencing in a Sedalia murder case. 

Change of venue in child molestation trial

Raul B. Jaquez-Garcia, 32, of the 1800 block of East Broadway Boulevard, has been granted a change of venue to Cooper County Circuit Court. 

Jaquez-Garcia’s attorney filed a motion for change of judge and venue Jan. 10, 2018. Jaquez-Garcia waived a formal arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty in February 2018. 

His motion for a change of judge was sustained and a request was sent to the Missouri Supreme Court for the assignment of a new judge May 6. The court assigned Judge Jeff Mittlehauser May 14. The request for change of venue was granted June 13, and was changed to Cooper County on Aug. 5. 

Jaquez-Garcia has been in custody at the Pettis County Jail since Nov. 20, 2017, on a $100,000 cash-only bond. Two girls reported multiple incidents of molestation by Jaquez-Garcia, leading to two charges of first-degree child molestation. His trial is set for Sept. 18-19. 

Man charged with sodomy pleads not guilty

A Sedalia man charged with felony first-degree statutory sodomy waived formal arraignment and entered a not guilty plea Aug. 5. 

Chad Newcomb, 34, of Sedalia, was arrested by the Sedalia Police Department in April after a female juvenile told her mother that Newcomb touched her inappropriately while at his residence. She also said Newcomb tried to get her to perform oral sex on him, but she refused.

Newcomb denied the allegations during an interview with SPD, saying he had been worried about being accused of molesting the juvenile since she was a baby “because it happens all the time to people.”

He was transported to the Pettis County Jail where he is being held on a $50,000 bond, cash or surety. A hearing is set for Sept. 3. 

Sedalia shooting suspects sentenced in Lafayette drug cases

Two individuals involved in a May Sedalia shooting were sentenced in unrelated drug charges in Lafayette County in June.  

Police responded to the 500 block of East Second Street at 12:04 p.m. May 13 in reference to a subject who had been shot. The victim, Sean Clark, 32, of Hughesville, had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He was eventually flown to University Hospital in Columbia for treatment. 

Officers from the Patrol Division and the Criminal Investigations Bureau investigated the shooting and developed two suspects, Tyler J. Evans, 24, and Tiffanie L. O’Malley, 42, both of Sedalia. Investigators were able to determine the suspects were traveling on Interstate 70. With the assistance of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the suspects were stopped in Lafayette County and taken into custody.

Evans and O’Malley had to face their drug-related charges first before facing their Pettis County charges. Both Evans and O’Malley pleaded guilty to possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana in Lafayette County and were each sentenced to five years in the Missouri Department of Corrections June 17.

In the May shooting, Evans has been charged with felony first-degree assault, felony armed criminal action, and two counts of felony unlawful use of a weapon. O’Malley has been charged with felony first-degree assault, felony unlawful use of a weapon, and felony hindering prosecution of a felony. $150,000 warrants were issued for both Evans and O’Malley.

Man found guilty of Sedalia murder files appeal

A Lincoln man convicted of murdering a Sedalia woman last January has filed an appeal.

On April 30, a Pettis County jury found 29-year-old Justin K. Lewis guilty of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon at the conclusion of a two-day trial. The charges stem from the Jan. 14, 2018, stabbing death of 33-year-old Heather M. McClellan. 

Lewis’s attorney had filed a motion for a new trial, but it was denied. Lewis was sentenced by Judge Robert Koffman to 30 years, 30 years and seven years on each count, respectively, to be served consecutively in the Missouri Department of Corrections June 18. Lewis’ attorney filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals on the sentencing judgment later that month. 

Sedalia Police officers responded to an apartment in the 400 block of East Seventh Street for a report of a disturbance with a weapon the night of Jan. 14, 2018. During his testimony, Officer Bradley Arnold said he found McClellan laying on the floor in a blood-soaked sweatshirt, gasping for air. Pettis County Ambulance District paramedics arrived and took McClellan to Bothwell Regional Health Center where she died from blood loss. According to court documents, she had eight stab wounds and a slit throat.

Man eligible for public defender in hostage case

Scovern C. Norris, 31, of the 500 block of Sunset Drive, was determined to be eligible for public defender representation July 23. District Attorney Max Mitchell was appointed to represent him. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27.  

According to a Sedalia Police Department report, officers responded to the 500 block of Sunset Drive at 12:01 p.m. June 14 in reference to a disturbance involving a weapon. Norris held a woman hostage with a knife and pair of scissors, at one point holding the knife to her throat and covered her and himself with a blanket. Two officers were ultimately able to tase Norris and get the knife away from him.  

Norris is charged with felony first-degree kidnapping, felony armed criminal action, and felony unlawful use of a weapon and is being held at the Pettis County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

Man sentenced in Sedalia drug case

A suspect arrested in a Sedalia heroin sting in 2017 was sentenced to 17 years in court Tuesday on drug-related charges. 

Kenneth S. McGee, 48, pled guilty to felony delivery of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 10 years in the Department of Corrections for the first charge and seven years for the second to run concurrently. 

McGee was one of five people arrested in December 2017 in a sting operation by multiple law enforcement authorities. Officers arrested him at his residence in the 1000 block of West Fourth Street.

SPD organized the operation to arrest multiple suspects reportedly involved in distributing heroin in the Sedalia area. Two of the arrestees have already been sentenced.

Tuesday M. Sparks, 28, was sentenced to 20 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to two counts of delivery of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

McGee also pled guilty on a separate charge of felony delivery of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 10 years to run consecutively with the other charges.

Viktor Chernish, 55, pleaded guilty to possession of hydrocodone. He received a suspension on a seven-year prison term and will remain on supervised probation for five years.

The final suspect, Charles B. “Polo” Price, 32, has a jury trial scheduled for Sept. 4-5. He is charged with delivery of a controlled substance.

Trial set for Sheriff’s Office theft case

A former Pettis County Sheriff’s Office employee is set for trial with fewer charges.

Ben E. Banner, 57, of Green Ridge, was charged in July 2017 with felony receiving stolen property and felony forgery. After numerous continuances over the last two years, he has been set for trial Oct. 3 in Cooper County Circuit Court with Judge Keith Michael Bail.

Banner previously served as the Pettis County Deputy Coroner and for the sheriff’s office handling concealed carry weapon permits, considered a combined full-time job with the county. 

After Banner was terminated in August 2016 by Pettis County Coroner Skip Smith, a deputy was put in charge of handling CCW permits. The deputy found information indicating cash was missing or unaccounted for in the deposit records for the CCW program, court documents state. An independent audit showed the account was balanced and consistent with deposits in the months following Banner’s departure.

According to court documents, the audit showed $55,350 in cash and checks was taken by Banner as payment for CCW permits between January and August 2016, but only $32,425 was deposited into the sheriff’s office banking account. A Johnson County Sheriff’s Office detective found Banner only issued written receipts for a handful of the 182 permits issued or renewed in March 2016.

In addition to the theft accusations, Banner also allegedly forged the new deputy’s signature on his own CCW permit renewal form.

The case continued to stall due to lack of evidence. For privacy reasons CCW permits are not required to be released under state law. Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Sawyer requested the CCW permit receipts and records but did not receive them from the sheriff’s office. Defense attorney Chris Spangler argued he could not properly pursue the case without that evidence.

According to online court documents, during a hearing June 21, Bail ordered Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Robert Farkas to provide all previously ordered discovery within 20 days or count one against Banner would be dismissed. Spangler’s motion to dismiss count one due to the state’s failure to produce documents was sustained over the state’s objection during a July 19 hearing.

Banner now has one charge of forgery.

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