A look back at the biggest news in Eastern Jackson County in 2011.

JANUARY

Jan. 4: Independence police arrest a man after a high-speed chase in which a patrol car was rammed and an officer injured. David Lee Womack of Independence is later charged in the death earlier that day of his brother, William, in Carrollton, Mo. At the end of the chase, in eastern Independence, Womack allegedly drew down on Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Carpenter with a shotgun. Carpenter fired and hit the windshield of Womack’s pickup. Womack gave up, and Carpenter provided cover as Independence police made the arrest. Carpenter is later awarded the county’s Medal of Valor. Womack faces trial in April 2012.

Jan. 10: A 4-month-old Grain Valley boy loses seven fingers – leaving just a pinkie and two thumbs – when he is attacked by the family’s pet ferret. The parents, Ryan and Carrie Waldo, are later charged with child endangerment. They had told police they were awakened that morning by the infant’s screams, but police used cell phone records to determine they were not at home at the time of the attack.

Jan. 14: The Blue Ridge Cut-off bridge over Interstate 70 is taken down for replacement just days after a Chiefs playoff game ended their season at nearby Arrowhead Stadium. A Missouri Department of Transportation contractor has the bridge replaced and reopened in time for the Royals first game in late March.

Jan. 24: An 18-year-old Independence man is struck and killed by a train at about 1:30 a.m. on Missouri 7 just north of the traffic circle in front of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

Jan. 28: Four Independence residents and a Neosho, Mo., resident step forward with a Missouri Lottery ticket with a jackpot of $4.2 million, although the five will split a lump-sum payment of $2.73 million. The ticket was sold at Price Chopper on 23rd Street.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 1: A historic snowstorm shuts down much of the Midwest, and Missouri officials close Interstate 70 overnight across most of the state. Along with almost 14 inches of snow in some areas,  Eastern Jackson County experiences winds of 35 to 40 mph, as well as dangerous wind chills.

Feb. 5: Charley Dumsky, former mayor and alderman of Sugar Creek, dies. He was 78. He also had served on the Jackson County Election Board.

Feb. 11: The new elementary school on the western side of the Independence School District is announced. It will be at the southeast corner of North Forest Street and Silver Lane in Sugar Creek. Officials say construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2012, with competition in the summer of 2013.

Feb. 13: Darin Rose, 37, of Buckner is killed in a head-on wreck at Missouri 7 and Pink Hill Road. John Riling is later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Feb. 17: Nia E. Grandberry is fatally shot in her home in the 9700 block of East 35th Terrace South in Independence. Her husband fled the scene with the couple’s 20-month-old child but later surrendered to police. A suspect has been identified in the shooting but not charged.

Feb. 19: A fire at the Pine Dell Farm in Pleasant Hill kills six horses that helped disabled children and adults for Sugar Creek Equinapy. The horses were used in the program’s main lessons.

MARCH

March 1: The city of Independence makes its first debt service payment – totaling more than $3.5 million – on the tax increment financing payments for The Falls at Crackerneck Creek, anchored by Bass Pro Shops. The developer, Crackerneck Creek LLC, said it is unable to repay the city, which had to make the payment after the retail tenants at the development didn’t generate enough sales tax or property tax revenue to make the TIF payments. The city made another bond payment totaling more than $2.3 million on Sept. 1.

March 1: Six people are injured at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence. The cause of the alleged blast is unknown.

March 11: An afternoon fire guts the offices of the Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce at 515 Main St. No one was injured, though most of the chamber’s records, furniture and computers were lost in the fire. The chamber later relocates to another office on Southwest Eagles Parkway.

March 11: One of the largest earthquakes ever recorded strikes Japan. Independence native Mallory Flippin, 24, was teaching in Sendai when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake occurred. Independence’s sister city, the Tokyo suburb Higashimurayama, sustains a near 5.0-magnitude earthquake.

March 17: Independence police officers, family members and friends gather to remember slain Officer Terry Foster, who was killed March 17, 2001, while responding to a domestic violence call.

March 24: Independence firefighters respond to what they call a suspicious pair of fires at Timber Wind Apartments. They return to battle a third blaze at the complex a week later and two other fires at nearby homes over the summer. Firefighters put out a fourth suspicious fire at Timber Wind in December. The fires remain under investigation.

March 29: Lonnie E. Moore, 41, takes his own life during in a shootout with Independence police on Interstate 70 near the Interstate 470/Missouri 291 interchange. After exchanging shots with an officer, he turns his gun on himself. The FBI said Moore was believed to have been responsible for seven Kansas City area bank robberies from July 2010 through March 2011, including the March 15 robbery at Metcalf Bank on 23rd Street.

APRIL

April 5: The Fort Osage School District voters pass a $7.8 million bond issue, with 64 percent approval, for upgrades and renovations. In Blue Springs, 60 percent of the voters say yes to a public safety sales tax expected to bring in $3 million annually for police personnel and equipment. Those elected include Jeff Quibell and Ron Fowler to the Blue Springs City Council; Scott Shafer and Nancy Totten as aldermen in Grain Valley; James Coen, Dale Falck and Dale Walkup to the Blue Springs Board of Education; and Jeff Coleman, Phil Hutchinson and Jan Reding to the Grain Valley Board of Education.

April 16: The Metro Homeschool Robotics team places first at the Boosting Engineering Science and Technology competition in Orlando, Fla. More than 700 teams competed.

MAY

May 4: The Missouri Department of Transportation says it it cutting 1,200 staff statewide. Services in Eastern Jackson County are not expected to be affected significantly.

May 4: The Missouri General Assembly overrides Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a new congressional district map for the state, putting the new districts into effect in 2012. Most of Independence and Kansas City remain in a solidly Democratic district, but much of Republican-leaning Blue Springs also now will be in that district. As the year ends, legal wrangling over the districts continues.

May 19: Father Shawn F. Ratigan is charged with possessing child pornography. Ratigan had been staying at the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence. The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office later filed a misdemeanor charge against the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese and Bishop Robert Finn for failing to report Ratigan for suspected child abuse. It is the first time in U.S. history a Catholic bishop will face criminal prosecution in a child sexual abuse case.

May 22: Emergency personnel from Eastern Jackson County help respond to the massive tornado that sweeps through Joplin, Mo., killing approximately 160 people. The National Weather Service says it’s the single deadliest tornado to hit the country since the keeping of modern records began in 1950.

JUNE

June 1: Jordan Hoffman’s trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee ends with an improved score on the written exam and two correctly spelled words in the second and third rounds. However, it is not enough to move Jordan, a seventh grader at Pleasant Lea Middle School in Lee’s Summit, on to the semifinals.

June 13: Rodney Ames, 56, Independence, is killed in an explosion in the 3300 block of Blue Ridge Boulevard. Investigators believe Ames had been making fireworks.


June 18: Six Eastern Jackson County students place in the top 15 of the National Speech and Debate Tournament. Of those, Austin Groves, a 2011 Blue Springs High School graduate, and Michael Cohen, a junior at Truman, placed in the top five in their events.

June 21: Independence City Council Member Will Swoffer, 72, dies after a four-year battle against prostate and bone cancer. Swoffer also had served as Independence fire chief from 1968 through 1981. Jim Engelman is later appointed to fill his seat.

June 23: Children’s Mercy Hospital East breaks ground in Eastern Jackson County. The three-story, 55,000-square-foot facility is being built near Interstate 70 and Little Blue Parkway and is to open in late 2012.

June 24: Warren Parker, 69 and his wife Mary, 66, both of Blue Springs, plead not guilty to charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. They are accused of defrauding a federal program that sets aside contracts for businesses owned by veterans with service-related disabilities. Warren Parker claimed to have served three tours of duty in Vietnam and won dozens of medals and other citations while serving in Vietnam. Among these include multiple Silver Stars and Purple Hearts. According to the indictment, Parker served five years in the Missouri National Guard and never left the state. Parker’s son, Michael, was also charged with fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

JULY

July 1: Hanna Kimble, 15, dies after being hit by a car on Interstate 470 near Woods Chapel Road. Hanna, who would have been a sophomore at Van Horn High School, was struck after she got out of a truck to pick up something that had fallen onto the road.


July 4: Independence resident Blair S. Lane, 11, is fatally hit by a stray bullet in Kansas City, just southwest of Independence. Aaron Sullivan, 50, of Kansas City, later pleads guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter. His sentencing is scheduled for February.

July 19: The Blue Springs Historical Society holds a rally to step up its efforts to save the shuttered Chicago and Alton Train Depot off of Main Street, which the Kansas City Southern Railroad planned to demolish around Aug. 2. Several rallies and fundraisers take place throughout the fall, and an anonymous couple pledges $25,000 if the depot’s organizers come up with matching funds before July 29, 2012. The city later commits to allowing the depot to be moved to nearby Central Park.

July 22: Kansas City resident Anthony J. Standifer, 25, receives two consecutive life sentences in connection with the death and home invasion of 69-year-old Beverly Crowl, in her Independence home on March 19, 2010. Standifer was convicted of second-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action and first-degree robbery.

AUGUST

Aug. 8: Jim Coen, a member of the Blue Springs Board of Education, dies suddenly. His wife, Kay Coen, is appointed in Sepetmber to fill his position.

Aug. 8: An active-duty soldier on leave from Fort Riley claims to have been shot during an apparent robbery while he was jogging on the Little Blue Trace Trail in Independence. Pvt. Brian A. Anderson is later charged with falsifying a police report.

Aug. 12:  The Independence Events Center board agrees to raise the Community Improvement District sales tax from one-half cent to three-quarters of a cent, effective July 1, 2012. New revenues will help make debt payments on the construction of the Events Center. Independence’s busiest shopping centers, except for Crackerneck Creek, will be affected.

Aug. 22: Two men are shot, one fatally, at the Hawthorne Apartments in Independence. Ronald T. Taylor, 32, of Kansas City, Kan., is charged with first-degree murder and other charges in the death of Lonzo O. Lamar, 28, also of Kansas City, Kan.

Aug. 22: Jackson County legislators approve $4.9 million to build a new animal shelter on Missouri 78 near the Metropolitan Community College Blue River campus in Independence. It is to open in 2012.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 1: The Independence Health Department asks two privately owned swimming pools to close after suspected cases of cryptosporidium. The two pools later reopend. The city’s Adventure Oasis Water Park was not affected.

Sept. 1: Jon David Couzens Jr., a former Independence man, sues two priests at Nativity of Mary Catholic School. The lawsuit included 13 allegations ranging from child sexual abuse to negligence against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. St. Joseph, Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien and Rev. Isaac True. Later in the month, the parents of Brian Teeman also sue, alleging that their son, who committed suicide in 1983, was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of O’Brien.

Sept. 12: An Independence man, Jeffrey Rist, gets into a fight at 39th Street and Phelps Road and is pushed into the back of a minivan, strikes his head and dies. Charges are pending.

Sept. 20: The Kansas City School District loses its provisional accreditation. The change in status, effective Jan. 1, 2012, means students can transfer to another accredited school district in Jackson County or an adjoining county. In late December, several school districts, including Independence and Blue Springs, sue the Kansas City district, challenging its transfer policy.

Sept. 24: Gene and Joanne Cable receive the Humanitarians of the Year Award at the annual Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Toast to Our Towns Gala.

Sept. 27: A Missouri man sues the Rev. Joseph Matt, a priest at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, accusing him of having an affair with plaintiff’s wife in 2004 and 2005. The plaintiff alleges the woman became pregnant with Matt’s son.

OCTOBER

Oct. 6: The little theater at Van Horn High School in Independence reopens, thanks to the efforts of husband and wife and 1976 Van Horn graduates Matt and Kathy Mallinson. The theater’s reopening marked another significant change since the school transferred from the Kansas City School District to the Independence School District in 2008.

Oct. 12: Andrew Brogram, a Blue Springs High School senior and drummer in the school’s Golden Regiment Marching Band, is selected to the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. Blue Springs South High School senior Ashley Rash is selected for the U.S. Army marching band’s color guard.

Oct. 13:  Blue Springs breaks ground on its first community garden, in coordination with the Parks and Recreation Department, Let’s Move! Blue Springs and StandUp Blue Springs.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 1: A 74-year-old Independence woman, Carol F. Brown, dies five days after emergency crews remove her from her home. They describe her as a “living corpse,” and say she had been sitting on a vinyl recliner for so long that her skin had fused to the footrest. Her son, James E. Owens, said he thought she had suffered a stroke but not gotten medical attention because his mother didn’t like doctors or hospitals. He said he was honoring her wish to die at home. He is later charged with first-degree manslaughter and forgery after trying to cash Brown’s Social Security check.

Nov. 7: The Blue Springs City Council unanimously rejects controversial proposed changes to trash collection.

Nov. 9: David Love, former pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Independence, pleads guilty to the March 2010 killing of Independence insurance agent Randy Stone and will serve life in prison. Earlier in the year, Stone’s widow, Teresa, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. The Stones were members at New Hope, and the Stone family later said Love and Teresa Stone had an affair for about 10 years. Love gave the eulogy at Randy Stone’s funeral and later resigned from the church and moved South Carolina, working as a truck driver. He was eventually arrested there.

Nov. 17: Kamal Saleem, a self-proclaimed ex-terrorist and former follower of Islam who is now a Christian, speaks at the Independence Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. His appearance sparks controversy.

Nov. 20: Coli C. Lafferty of Independence is killed and two men are injured when their car was struck by a freight train in Independence. The gates were down and the red lights flashing at the railroad crossing at Pleasant and South streets. No charges have been filed.

Nov. 21: A timeline is unveiled for the proposed Mizzou Center in Blue Springs, which will serve as the anchor tenant for the Missouri Innovation Park.

Nov. 23: Police renew and then wrap up a search for an Independence girl missing for nine years. Investigators, acting on tips, search an area near Blue Mills and Twyman roads. Katie Seefeldt was 12 when she was last seen Oct. 13, 2002. Police said they did find items of interest in the case.

Nov. 30: A panel of state appellate judges redraws the political map with new districts – many of them substantially changed from before – for the Missouri House and Senate. The changes reflect shifts in the state’s population during the last 10 years. Days later, the panel withdraws the new Senate map and releases yet another, further confusing the issue. Much of Republican-leaning Lee’s Summit, including the home of Republican Sen. Will Kraus, is shifted in a predominantly Democratic district.

DECEMBER

Dec. 2: The Messiah Choir performs for the first time in its new venue at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. Except for guest appearances, it’s the first time the Independence-based choir has left its traditional home at the Community of Christ Auditorium.

Dec. 7: Former Independence Mayor Bill Carpenter dies at age 84. Carpenter, a World War II veteran and retired Steelworker, was elected mayor in 1990, denying Barbara Potts a third term. He served one term.

Dec. 31: Saturday is set as the completion date for the transfer of the Country Club of Blue Springs to its new owner, Ralph Hembree, who agreed to purchase it out of foreclosure for approximately $1.2 million. Hembree said it will remain a membership club and that its name will revert to the original Blue Springs Country Club.