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November 4, 2014

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, a four (4) man, eight (8) woman Taney County jury found JAMES W. WIKLUND, d/o/b 3-28-1975, guilty of seven (7) felonies, after a day-and-a-half of trial. The jury deliberated in the Circuit Court of Taney County for just less than thirty (30) minutes before reaching unanimous verdicts of guilty on the felony charges of burglary in the first degree, assault in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, armed criminal action, tampering in the first degree, and two (2) counts of kidnapping. Senior Judge Carr Woods scheduled Wiklund’s sentencing for January 13, 2015.

Wiklund’s co-defendant, Jonathan Hill, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on October 23, 2014. Hill received a sentence of twenty-five (25) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, pursuant to a plea agreement.

“My thanks goes to the Taney County Sheriff’s Office, the deputies and detectives, for the quick response and effort in conducting this investigation,” said Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell. “The victims were helpful and cooperative at every turn, and I thank them for their patience while the wheels of justice turned slowly.”

The felony charges stemmed from a home invasion that took place on December 28, 2012, in Ridgedale, Missouri. Wiklund was arrested on the morning of December 29, 2012, and has remained in custody awaiting his trial.

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October 29, 2014

I write this not as your elected prosecuting attorney, but as a fellow Taney County citizen, as a fellow Missourian, and as a father. The following is a summary of true events, about a real person, that illustrates the importance of your “yes” vote on Amendment 2, November 4th:


This editorial was recently published in the Taney County Times.

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October 27, 2014

BRIAN A. BICK, d/o/b 2-09-1973, of Hollister, was sentenced on Thursday, October 23, 2014, to seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for the class D felony of driving while intoxicated and seven (7) years for the class D felony of Driving While Revoked. Senior Judge Carr Woods, acting as the Taney County Circuit Court Judge, sentenced Bick after hearing arguments from both the defense and the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office, as there was no plea agreement as to what sentence Bick would receive on his felony charges. Bick’s sentences were ordered by the court to be concurrent.

On the morning of July 19, 2013, Branson Police were contacted by citizens complaining about a possible drunk driver in a red Saturn passenger car hit the curb at least three (3) times while driving a short distance on Green Mountain Drive. Officers found the driver, Bick, in a semi-conscious condition. The car was parked in the middle of Keeter Street, Bick was found seated in the driver seat of the car, but with the door open and his left foot on the pavement. After Bick’s arrest, a sample of his blood was taken and sent to a crime lab for testing. Bick’s blood-alcohol content was found to be 0.23% (0.08% is the level of presumed intoxication in Missouri). Bick’s license was already revoked at the time of his arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Driving while intoxicated, as a first offense, is normally a class B misdemeanor, and handled by the Associate Circuit Courts. However, because Bick had two (2) or more intoxication-related traffic offenses, he was charged with a class D felony for being a “persistent” D.W.I. offender. The maximum term of imprisonment for a class D felony is not more than four (4) years in prison. However, Bick was charged as a prior and persistent felony offender, enhancing his possible maximum prison sentence on each charge to seven (7) years.

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October 27, 2014

On Thursday, October 23, 2014, in the Circuit Court of Taney County, JONATHAN D. HILL, d/o/b 8-01-1976, of Forsyth, pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Greene County Circuit Court Judge Calvin Holden to twenty-five (25) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, for committing several felonies during a home invasion in December of 2012.

Specifically, Hill entered an Alford plea of guilty to the class B felony of assault in the first degree, and straight guilty pleas to the class B felonies of burglary in the first degree, and two (2) counts of kidnapping. Hill also pleaded guilty to the class A felony of robbery in the first degree, and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action – receiving concurrent sentences of twenty-five (25) years on each of those six (6) felonies. In addition, Hill pleaded guilty to the class C felony of tampering in the first degree – for which he received fifteen (15) years – and the class D felony of resisting arrest – for which he received seven (7) years. Judge Holden, hearing the case on assignment, sentenced Hill pursuant to a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.

On December 28, 2012, the Taney County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 9-1-1 call regarding a home invasion in Ridgedale. The occupants of the home, a husband and wife, told deputies that they recognized Hill because he had previously done renovation work at their home. They further reported that Hill and another male had forced their way inside the home. Once inside, the robbers physically assaulted the husband – fracturing his orbital bone – and threatened to kill both victims with a knife.

Hill and the other man loaded the homeowners’ guns, ammunition, jewelry, and other valuables into the homeowners’ truck, and bound the victims with duct tape before fleeing the scene. When deputies located Hill and the other male, the men fled from law enforcement, driving at speeds exceeding 100 miles-per-hour. The men were eventually found hiding in a heavily wooded area within hours of the home invasion.

A class A felony carries a range of punishment of ten (10) to thirty (30) years or life imprisonment, while ordinarily a class B felony carries a range of punishment of five (5) to fifteen (15) years imprisonment. A class C felony carries up to seven (7) years imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines, and a class D felony carries up to four (4) years imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines. However, Hill was charged as a prior and persistent felony offender, enhancing the maximum sentence for his felony offenses. Armed Criminal Action carries a minimum punishment of three (3) years imprisonment with no maximum.

Due to the nature of the crime, Hill will be required to serve at least eighty-five percent (85%) of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. Hill had been in jail since his arrest in December of 2012.

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