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April 17, 2015

DOUGLAS E. OWINGS, d/o/b 8-09-1966, of Rockaway Beach, Missouri, pleaded guilty Thursday, April 16, 2015, to the class B felony of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson sentenced Owings to fifteen (15) years in prison, pursuant to a plea agreement Owings made with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.

Owings was already on felony probation for drug crimes when the Taney County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at his home in Rockaway Beach, on January 27, 2015. Several grams of methamphetamine were discovered in Owings’ possession, and he admitted to officers that the drugs were his.

The class B felony of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute carries a maximum penalty of fifteen (15) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Two (2) other counts against Owings were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

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April 17, 2015

On Thursday, April 16, 2015, JACOB “JAKE” KEMP, d/o/b 1-29-1994, of Cross Timbers, Missouri, entered guilty pleas in the Circuit Court of Taney County, to two (2) class A felonies of robbery in the first degree. Judge Laura Johnson accepted Kemp’s guilty pleas and scheduled sentencing to be argued on June 11, 2015. Pursuant to a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office, Kemp’s sentence in each count will be capped at twenty (20) years in prison.

Kemp’s charges stem from two (2) armed robberies of Wal-Mart stores in Branson, occurring about twelve (12) hours apart, on September 20, 2013. Branson police were alerted to a robbery that happened just after 2 a.m. at the Wal-Mart store on Branson Hills Parkway, where a young man in his twenties showed a clerk what appeared to be a handgun, demanded cash and a carton of cigarettes, and fled. Later that same afternoon, Branson police were notified of a robbery at the Wal-Mart store on Highwy 76, where a man showed a gun and made off with cash from the automotive department. Based upon descriptions of witnesses and surveillance video, the suspect appeared to be the same in both robberies.

Eventually – thanks to the cooperation of several law enforcement agencies, as well as Kemp’s companions – Kemp was identified as the suspect, located at the Greene County jail, and questioned about the robberies. Kemp made admissions to a Branson Police detective about his motive for committing the robberies, and confirmed with the detective that the gun he showed the Wal-Mart clerks at each store was not real, and was merely a prop.

Each of these class A felonies carries a range of punishment from ten (10) years to thirty (30) years or life in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

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April 7, 2015

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, STEPHEN N. GALLAGHER, d/o/b 5-01-1954, of Rockaway Beach, Missouri, entered a plea of guilty to the class D felony of attempted arson in the second degree, and entered an Alford plea of guilty to the class D felony of sexual misconduct involving a child by indecend exposure. The guilty pleas occurred in lieu of a bench trial scheduled to be held before Taney County Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson. Gallagher entered the pleas pursuant to an agreement whereby the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office would dismiss three (3) felony counts, and the sentences Gallagher could receive would be concurrent to each other. There is no plea agreement as to what sentence Gallagher will receive on the two (2) felonies to which he pled guilty. Sentencing was scheduled by Judge Johnson for July 23, 2015.

The charges stemmed from allegations that Gallagher had inappropriately touched and exposed himself to an eight-year-old girl on July 23, 2013, at his home in Rockaway Beach, Missouri. Upon being confronted by his wife about the allegations, Gallagher doused the home in gasoline and attempted to light a plush doll on fire in the living room. Gallagher was arrested on the date of the offenses, and has remained in custody since that time.

Both class D felonies carry a maximum sentence of up to four (4) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and/or a fine not to exceed $5,000.00.

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March 18, 2015

Ambulance crews, police officers, and the county coroner are all at a house in the early morning – an infant has been found dead from unintentional suffocation. The infant’s parents are understandably emotional, crying and hardly able to speak. Apparently the parents had put the infant in bed with them to sleep. An empty crib sits across the room from the bed where the infant died.

Although an accident, the infant’s death was preventable. It is a sad reality: Infants die when adults sleep next to them. In Missouri in 2012, 57 children under the age of one year died of accidental suffocation. Most of those 57 deaths occurred while adults were co-sleeping with the child.

What do I mean by “co-sleeping”? When an adult shares a sleeping surface with an infant, there is a significant risk of unintentional suffocation. Typically this cause of death is the result of overlay – a type of unintentional suffocation that occurs when an infant is sharing the same sleep surface with one or more persons, and the infant is rolled-over on or entrapped under the person’s arm or leg.

In my role as Prosecuting Attorney for Taney County, I serve as a member of the county’s Child Fatality Review Board – a group that meets to review and study child deaths that occur in Taney County. The Child Fatality Review Board must meet every time a child death occurs in Taney County. Over the past eight (8) years, our board has met numerous times to review unintentional suffocation deaths of infants.

These are incidents in which parents have not intended to harm their babies, and are broken-hearted. If asked, I believe that each parent would say that they wish the hands of time could be turned-back, so they could put that precious child back into his or her crib. However, nothing can bring back these infants. Although such a loss is tragic, it is also preventable in many instances.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that room-sharing without bed sharing reduces the risk of unintentional suffocation deaths of infants. This means, having the infant sleep in the parents’ room, but on a separate sleep surface (like the baby’s crib) close to the parents’ bed. Such an arrangement is safer than co-sleeping and also more likely to prevent suffocation, strangulation and entrapment, all of which may occur when the infant is sleeping in an adult bed. Parents need to also be aware of the need to clear the infant’s crib of all soft bedding items, including stuffed animals, to further reduce the risk of unintentional suffocation.

Please share this information with new parents, so that they may avoid the heartbreak that comes from the accidental death of a child.

Sources: “Missouri Child Fatality Review Program 2012” and American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org)

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