Columbia woman pleads guilty to Garth Avenue hit-and-run

This is a story I’ve been keeping tabs on since the beginning of the semester. Although I’ve never thought of myself as a court reporter, I actually enjoyed following this trail and keeping up with its proceedings. 

Since you’re not allowed to bring a computer or recorder into the courtroom, I knew that I was going to have to be an extremely thorough listener and quick note-taker. Often, the judge, defendant and attorney would speak away from the microphones, making it nearly impossible to hear what they were saying. However, I was able to call the defense attorney after the hearing to confirm the judge’s ruling. Overall, it was a really great learning experience and I’m glad I ventured away from my comfort zone to cover the story. 

Columbia woman pleads guilty to Garth Avenue hit-and-run

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | 7:07 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An 87-year-old Columbia woman who hit an MU professor while driving on Garth Avenue last November and then drove away pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Boone County Circuit Judge Deborah Daniels accepted Marian Ohman’s plea during a preliminary hearing.

On Nov. 5, Ohman was driving north on Garth Avenue and hit Elizabeth Chang, an associate professor of English at MU. Chang was loading her children into her parked van. After striking Chang, Ohman continued driving and failed to report the crash. The children were not injured.

Chang was seriously injured and required surgery and rehabilitative therapy.

Two days later, Ohman turned herself in to police after realizing she’d hit Chang and was arrested on suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Daniels gave Ohman a sentence of 120 days in jail, suspended upon completion of two years of unsupervised probation, surrender of her driver’s license, and on the condition that she not possess or operate a motor vehicle. She also must pay court costs and make a payment to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, and report any arrest within 48 hours.

Her defense attorney, Rusty Antel, said Ohman has already surrendered her driver’s license.

 Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.


Generosity fueled Almeta Crayton’s community efforts

This was my third and final story published during my GA shift on Monday. I started work at 8 a.m. and didn’t get home until 9 p.m. It made for an extremely long day, but this life story made it all worth it in the end.

Almeta Crayton died Monday at age 53 after being hospitalized on Oct. 8 with heart problems. Crayton was Columbia’s first black city council woman and had a huge impact on the community during her nine year stint as the First Ward representative.

After the news of her death, I was honored when my assistant city editor asked me to help write her life story. I knew that she had meant so much to the city of Columbia, and I wanted to write an article that would capture Crayton’s compassion and generosity. After spending nearly an hour calling her close friends, I felt that I had enough information to begin writing the story.


Generosity fueled Almeta Crayton’s community efforts

October 21, 2013 | 9:33 p.m. CDT
A woman wipes a smudge of flour from Almeta Crayton’s face in November 2012 while she rests in the kitchen of Stephens College’s Stamper Commons.   |  Missourian Staff
Almeta Crayton becomes emotional as she recounts in July her prayers for help.   |  Kelly Coleman
Almeta Crayton talks to participants in her Everyone Eats! program in 2012 before they picked up their food baskets at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.   |  Kile Brewer
Former Columbia City Council member Almeta Crayton watches election coverage with Columbia resident Wynna Faye Elbert at a Democratic event at The Blue Note in November 2010.   |  Brenden Neville
From left, Dr. Johnette Morrison, Almeta Crayton and Dr. K.C. Morrison engage in an animated conversation during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gala Celebration in 2009. Later that evening, Crayton was honored with an award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee of the University of Missouri for her dedication to the community.   |  Jakob Berr
Almeta Crayton, shown here at a forum with the First Ward candidates in 2008, had three challengers for her City Council seat after running unopposed during two previous elections.

COLUMBIA — One day, when Barbara Willis visited her friend Almeta Crayton, there was a knock on the door. It was two little girls.

“Miss Almeta, mom hasn’t been home,” Willis remembered the girls saying. “We’re hungry.”

Crayton didn’t have much food in the kitchen for her and her son, Tyrone, but she let the girls in, sat them at the table and made them a bowl of cereal, Willis said.

With Crayton, who ran the annual Everyone Eats! food drive, “it was everyone eats year-round,” Willis said.

Crayton, who spearheaded several programs to benefit people in need, died Monday at age 53 after being hospitalized on Oct. 8 with heart problems. The first black councilwoman in Columbia’s history, she served three terms from 1999 to 2008.

The cause of death was not released Monday night.

Friends remembered Crayton as a generous woman. Motivated by her spirituality, she believed in doing the best thing for everyone, Willis said.

“She just had that sense that the whole community was in her hands and that if change was needed, she needed to help make change,” Willis said.

One year, Willis remembered, Crayton wrangled together some fried chicken for a picnic, inviting First Ward residents and members of the police and fire departments.

Crayton invited the police in an effort to improve their relations with the community, Willis said. She wanted the people of the First Ward to know the authority figures weren’t out to hurt them.

“She wanted them to know, especially the young kids, you work with them and they’ll work with you,” Willis said.

Crayton’s community activism often helped single mothers, said Lorenzo Lawson, a pastor at Chosen Generation Ministries. Being one herself, Crayton could sympathize with their struggles.

A friend for 13 years, Lawson called Crayton whenever he needed advice. She gave the best advice, he said.

“She has been a mentor to me,” he said. “She helped me to get where I am at and gave me a lot of knowledge and wisdom.”

When Crayton submitted her application to run for the First Ward seat on the City Council in 1999, city officials thought she was there to pay an electric bill, said Curtis “Boogieman” Soul, who was friends with her for 17 years. They told her to pay the bill downstairs.

Crayton told Soul that she said, “I’m not here to pay an electric bill. I’m here to run for City Council.”

While on the council, Crayton had a knack for getting people involved in their neighborhood.

“She definitely made her presence felt,” her friend Scott Cristal said. “She spoke up for those who did not necessarily feel that they had a voice and made sure that their rights were protected.”

After seeing a need to provide food for the less fortunate, Crayton started Everyone Eats!, Cristal said.

The event, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2012, began with an act of kindness, Soul said. About two decades ago, Crayton had a few leftover hotdogs in her refrigerator after Thanksgiving dinner. When a group of neighborhood kids walked toward her house, she called them over and asked them what they wanted on their hot dogs.

After feeding them, she cooked leftover hamburger meat to give to more kids. Everyone Eats! was born.

While preparing to host the event for its 16th year in the weeks before she was hospitalized, Crayton kept working until she couldn’t anymore, said Soul, who worked as a disc jockey at the event.

“Almeta passed the way she wanted to pass,” Soul said. “Working for people.”

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

Sewer inspection to restrict lanes on College Avenue and East Broadway this week

This is the second news brief I wrote during my GA shift on Monday. Apparently, the city was very busy last week with sewer inspections, which resulted in multiple road closings. 

Sewer inspection to restrict lanes on College Avenue and East Broadway this week

Monday, October 21, 2013 | 1:11 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Several lanes at College Avenue and East Broadway will be closed Tuesday for sewer cleaning and inspection.

Trekk Design Group will perform a TV inspection and begin cleaning sanitary sewer lines at and around the intersection of College Avenue and East Broadway, according to a news release from the Columbia Public Works Department.

The lane closures will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and the roads should be reopened by 6 a.m. Thursday.

The department urges motorists and pedestrians to use an alternate route if possible and proceed with extreme caution in the construction area.


Westridge Drive closed for sewer repairs

On Monday, I had an extremely busy GA shift. This is the first of two news briefs I wrote before noon. I found out about the road closing via Twitter, which I’m finally beginning to use as a reporting tool. It truly is a great source of information.

Westridge Drive closed for sewer repairs

Monday, October 21, 2013 | 12:45 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Portions of Westridge Drive will be closed through Tuesday evening for sewer repairs.

Twehous Excavating Co. Inc. will be performing repairs on a sewer main on Westridge Drive between North Circle and Rollins Road that will result in a closure on this stretch of road, according to a news release from the Columbia Public Works Department.

The closure began 7 a.m. Monday, and the street is expected to be fully reopened by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The department urges motorists and pedestrians to use an alternate route if possible and use extreme caution in the construction area.


Writing to be read

During our last beat meeting on Thursday, Katherine made an interesting point about writing to be read and the changing journalism landscape. As journalists, we love to write lengthy, wordy articles that explore the depths of a particular issue. However, are we taking into consideration what readers want?

In a hurried society where it seems like 24 hours in a day is no longer enough, readers want the news delivered to them quickly. Even if they wanted to, many readers don’t have time to wade through 1000 words to catch the gist of a story. They would much rather find out the main idea and findings in the first three paragraphs, and then move on. 

If this is what journalism is evolving into, why are we making things hard on ourselves and writing such lengthy articles? It’s not only a waste of our time, but also the readers. If they’re not going to take the time to read the entire article, why should we spend so much time writing it?

It’s a tough decision to make, and I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer. Of course, there are many readers out there that love to read lengthy, in-depth articles that really explore a subject. However, should we cater to them, or to the on-the-go news consumer?

In my opinion, the answer is both. I like the idea of presenting a story in two different formats, which many news organizations are already starting to do. I think readers should have the option to choose how they want to consume their news. For example, mobile and tablet news should be condensed articles, with links to the full articles at the official news organization website. Newspapers are a little trickier, and I don’t know that I have a viable suggestion for catering its article lengths to readers. 

While there has yet to be a universally accepted solution, it’s good to know that news organizations are already developing ideas to help solve the problem. It will be interesting to see how journalism adapts to the changing times. 

Columbia woman in serious condition after Friday morning crash

Last Monday, I wrote a quick brief during my GA shift. I learned how to contact the public relations department at the University Hospital and check on the status of a patient. I’m glad to see that Buxton is improving, and I wish her well throughout her recovery. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. 

Columbia woman in serious condition after Friday morning crash

Monday, October 7, 2013 | 1:20 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Sara Buxton, the passenger in a Friday car crash that left another Columbia woman dead, has improved to serious condition.

Buxton, 20, of Columbia, was flown to the University Hospital early Friday and was in critical condition over the weekend. She has since improved to serious condition as of Monday morning, according to Kathy Richardson, an information specialist with the University of Missouri Health System.

Buxton was a passenger in a Friday morning accident that left the driver, Heather Cole, 20, dead. Cole was headed eastbound on Interstate 70 around 2:30 a.m. when her car veered across the median into an oncoming tractor trailer, according to a previous Missourian report.


Compromise edit

After spending last Sunday afternoon covering the Old Wheels Car Show, I was a little disappointed not to have my story published. However, I came back on Monday with an open mind and worked on a compromise edit with an assistant city editor. Although the article is substantially less technical, I’m much happier with the final result. I need to remember that my audience at the Missourian is not a group of automotive enthusiasts, even if I would like them to be. By simplifying the technical terms and adding an emphasis on the car show itself, I believe the article is more complete and much easier to understand. 

1980s’ muscle car on display at Old Wheels Car Show

Monday, October 7, 2013 | 6:34 p.m. CDT

Wayne Sommers’ 1986 Buick Grand National is on display at the 39th Annual Old Wheels Car Show on Sunday at Historic Nifong Park.   ¦  JOEY UKROP

COLUMBIA — If Darth Vader had a driver’s license, his car of choice might be the Buick Grand National.

Only available in a menacing black that conjures up the image of Darth Vader, the Grand National’s svelte design was uncharacteristic for cars during the 1980s, especially those from the typically conservative Buick brand.

On Sunday, a pristine example of the iconic muscle car made an appearance at the Old Wheels Car Show at the Historic Nifong Park. Owned by local car enthusiast Wayne Sommers, the Buick was one of more than 100 cars from the early 20th century to the present day that were on display.

The show, which marked its 39th year, was held at several locations in Columbia before moving to the Historic Nifong Park last year, said Eddie Hedrick, president of the Old Wheels Car Club.  

“It’s a nice marriage for a historic car show to be in a historic park,” Hedrick said. “It’s kind of a scenario you dream about, because the venue fits.”

The Buick Grand National represents a turning point for the automotive industry. It’s an oddity — a muscle car made long after the end of the muscle-car craze of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

That craze ended because of environmental smog restrictions which were put in place in the early ’70s. The following two decades of the automotive industry were characterized by increasing fuel-efficiency demands. Consumers and car manufacturers thought that speed and fuel-efficiency were exclusive, but Buick tried to unite the two with the Grand National.

The Grand National is also significant for changing the way people thought about V-6 engines. Prior to the ’80s, a V-8 engine was considered the only realistic option for high-speed cars, but the Grand National showed that a V-6-powered-car could go as fast as the legendary V-8-engine models of the muscle-car era.

That was enough to get the attention of Wayne Sommers in 1986. When his wife, Trudy, needed a new car, he proposed buying a Grand National, but she had something else in mind — a smaller, four-door economy car.

Undaunted, Wayne Sommers continued his quest for a Grand National. After being told by Columbia dealerships that it was too late to get one, he began to lose hope until he drove by a Buick dealership in late 1986 and saw one sitting in the lot.

“I called my wife and said, ‘Go look at this car now,'” he said. “‘This is the car you want.'”

Trudy Sommers didn’t like the car’s design, calling it ugly and decrying its lack of chrome. Her opinion changed after the couple took it on a test-drive.

“She drove it, and from then on, you couldn’t get her out of it,” he said. “She fell in love with the power. When she’d leave the house, I’d go stand on the front porch and listen to her leave, and she’d chirp the tires in second every time.”

After 27 years, Wayne and Trudy Sommers’ Grand National has racked up slightly more than 33,000 miles. The car, which still has its original paint and upholstery, looks as if it was just driven off of the showroom floor.

The couple has no intentions of selling it.

Half of the money raised by the show was given away in a raffle. The rest will be used for the Mel Koonse Scholarship, which will go to a high school student who plans to seek a career in an automotive field. Koonse was a longtime member of the club who helped start the car show 39 years ago. In past years, the scholarship’s amount has ranged from $500 to $1000, Hedrick said.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.