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Archive for March, 2018

The last time I had been to Venice was 51 years ago, when I was on a European tour with a group of college students, and all I remember from that trip was being encircled by pigeons in St. Mark’s Square.

I really didn’t even remember the famous square very well. This time it was a lot different.

Venice was the first stop on a recent 10-day cruise that took us down the east coast of the Adriatic, starting in Venice and ending in Athens. Very wisely, we tacked on an extra, non-cruising day in Venice and an additional day in Athens.

On the cruise — Viking line, which a few years ago added sea cruises to its well-known river excursions — we were with 10 other people, all of whom we know through a church we formerly attended in Olathe. (Why we went to church in Olathe is a long story; suffice it to say it was a rewarding experience for the several years it lasted.)

I’m going to be bringing you at least two more sets of photos, but today’s post is dedicated solely to Venice, which tour-book author Rick Steves calls “a fantasy world” unlike anything first-time visitors have ever seen.

Steves sums it up this way:

“The island city of Venice (population 58,000) is shaped like a fish. Its major thoroughfares are canals. The Grand Canal winds through the middle of the fish, starting at the mouth, where all the people and food enter, passing under the Rialto Bridge, and ending at St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). Park your 21st-century perspective at the mouth and let Venice swallow you whole.”

Before starting in with the photos, here’s a map of that “fish” and its grand canal. (St. Mark’s Square is at the bottom of the “S” shaped canal.)

Now, here are the photos…

St. Mark’s Basilica is the most prominent landmark on the square. When it rains in Venice, the water rises into the square — as well as in the city’s narrow streets — and portable platforms are set up to help people keep their feet dry.

To some people, mostly the young, the water doesn’t pose much of problem.

Here’s some of our group, including Patty (tan coat), huddled under an awning.

Plastic pullovers — of feet — are a popular product, even at an outrageous 10 Euro (about $12) a pair.

The cold, rainy weather kept the gondola business down, but they sure are a beautiful sight.

One of Venice’s many “side streets”

Ron Darst, a member of our group, took a close look at what, I guess, is a tiny chapel.

Many fine homes line the Grand Canal.

Personal vessels, public transportation “buses,” gondolas and delivery “vehicles” compete for space in the canal.

Another St. Mark’s Square landmark is the Campinile bell tower. (That’s a shuttle boat in the foreground.)

Street view from a bridge near St. Mark’s Square

Along the waterfront, also near St. Mark’s Square

The Bridge of Sighs, so named because it was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before taken down to their cells. (I’m guessing the prison was the building on the right.)

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. The stone bridge, with the unusual design of two inclined ramps with a central portico, was completed in 1591. A similar bridge made of wood preceded the stone version.

The centerpiece of this bookstore we stumbled on was a volume-filled gondola. At left is one of the members of our traveling group, Ray Brown.

A side street at dusk

We leave Venice with this creative photo (compliments of Linda Brown) of Patty on a shuttle boat.

 

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The Star’s Ian Cummings embarked on a long-shot reporting mission Wednesday and succeeded in a big way.

He got a face-to-face interview with the 37-year-old woman who has been charged with second-degree murder in the March 6 shooting death of Clinton police officer Ryan Morton.

Ian Cummings

It appears, from a front-page story in today’s print edition, that Cummings simply showed up at the Henry County Jail during visiting hours and asked to see Tammy Dee Widger, the woman who rented the home where Morton was shot.

Cummings didn’t reveal any ancillary details about the interview, such as how long it lasted or exactly where it took place, but he came away with a good story.

Among other things, Widger told Cummings she was “right there” when Morton and four other officers were exchanging gunshots with James Earl Waters, a career criminal and friend of Widger, whom Widger thought had gone out the back door before officers went inside.

“In the blink of an eye, my life changed,” Widger told Cummings. “I didn’t want this.”

If you’ve been following this case, you know the murder of Morton — and the death of Waters, who either shot himself or was shot by police  — occurred under bizarre circumstances.

For reasons yet to be determined, police went to Widger’s house even though the 911 call for service came from a home in Windsor, MO, 20 miles away from Widger’s home.

Police had been at Widger’s home earlier in the day, but it is inexplicable why they went back there that night. County emergency communications officials have said a “database error” was responsible and that they are investigating.

Whatever comes of the investigation, one thing is certain: This was law enforcement at its worst. It looks for all the world like a Keystone Kops movie, except with tragic results.

It also leaves the police department open to suspicion that it was harassing Waters and Widger mainly because Waters had been a longtime thorn in law enforcement’s side.

This week, the Henry County prosecutor’s office raised the stakes on the questionable-judgment front by filing second-degree murder charges against Widger, whose main action that fateful night appears to have been agreeing to allow officers into her home.

It’s been long established that people who are not actually involved in murders but are accomplices can be charged with felony murder if a killing occurs during the commission of another crime. Examples include a getaway driver being charged in a robbery-murder when the driver was not present at the murder scene. Or a robber being charged with felony murder after a firefight in which one of his own accomplices dies.

The Henry County prosecutor’s office alleges Widger was guilty of felony murder because Morton was shot and killed “as a result of the perpetration of the class C felony of delivery of a controlled substance.”

To me, that is a big reach, and I doubt that the prosecutor’s office is going to be able to make the murder charge stick.

…Not just Cummings, but Widger, too, gambled on this interview.

She gambled that by talking to Cummings she could help herself more than hurt herself. Her assertion that she thought Waters had gone out the back door is very plausible. If the case goes to trial, she will probably say she initially resisted officers’ requests to go inside but acquiesced after they persisted.

The prosecution’s problem — a big one — will be to establish that Widger knew, or should have known — an armed man who was a convicted criminal was inside.

Had Widger been “lawyered up” by Wednesday, she surely would not have spoken to Cummings. She has asked for a public defender, and the public defender’s office is determining if she qualifies. Lacking an attorney, she made a quick decision that could either hurt or help her down the road, depending on what evidence authorities have to back up the murder charge.

For now, though, it appears both reporter and defendant came out winners: Cummings got a Page One story, and Widger got to tell her story without having a nettlesome prosecutor there to cross examine her.

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Oh, Rex, it’s hard to grasp that you are gone,
It must have been a shock to get that call,
The one before you reached the head Ding-Dong;
And then that awful Tweet that said it all;
You looked harrumphed reading your goodbye speech,
Slapping pages below a big grimace;
Just months ago you stepped into the breach,
To see it spin into nasty business;
Too bad you chose to lead without consult,
But that’s what Mr. Exxons tend to do;
At least you now can duck further insult
And will escape that frothy White House stew;
In retrospect, you were a high-paid pawn,
Used up, beat down beneath the great moron.

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Good news, readers: It appears David Jungerman will remain behind bars until either of two felony cases pending against him goes to trial.

In my rush to put together Friday’s post on the new felony charges filed that day against Jungerman in Jackson County, I failed to check the latest entries on Case.net, the Missouri judiciary’s case information website.

When I went to Case.net on Saturday, I had a pleasant surprise…Judge David R. Munton, who is overseeing a southwest Missouri case in which Jungerman is charged with attempted burglary, had entered this note on Friday:

“Defendant’s bond is revoked. Defendant to be held without bond until further order of the court. Revocation pending hearing is based on allegation of new multiple felony charges in Jackson County.”

Before the new charges were filed — two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and one count of armed criminal action — Jungerman had been free on $15,000 cash bond in the southwest Missouri case.

Now he is behind bars, I believe in the Jackson County Detention Center, on $1 million bond in the new case.

Although he is a multi-millionaire, all the money in the world might not be able to spring him from custody at this point, before one of those cases goes to trial. He will get a hearing on the bond revocation, as Judge Munton indicated in his entry, but I believe the judge will stand firm on the revocation, possibly on grounds Jungerman poses a threat to others and is a flight risk.

My concern Friday was Jungerman might be capable of making the new bond because of his wealth. He has said in court that his net worth is about $8 million, but indications are it could be a lot more than that.

He owns several thousand acres of farm land in southwest Missouri, and for a long time he was executor of the Jungerman Family Trust. He passed the executorship to his daughter — essentially meaning he no longer had direct access to the assets — after civil lawsuits were filed against him in connection with two 2012 shooting incidents.

The biggest threat to his wealth is a $5.75 million civil judgment that a victim of one of the 2012 shootings won at trial last summer in Jackson County. That case may well have led to the fatal shooting of the plaintiff’s attorney, Thomas Pickert, who was gunned down in his front yard a day after Jungerman was notified court officials would be seizing enough of his property to satisfy the $5.75 million award.

Police and prosecutors have not been able to uncover enough evidence to charge Jungerman with Pickert’s murder. Although two witnesses described seeing an elderly white man with gray hair in or near a white van parked in front of Pickert’s house, neither, apparently, can positively identify the shooter, and neither got the license plate of the white van. Jungerman has a white van, which police searched but later returned to him.

**

This new development — Jungerman being held without bond — is a big relief to those of us who have been frustrated by the lack of a solution to Pickert’s murder. Finally, it would seem, this maniac who likes to settle disagreements with gunfire is off the streets.

At age 80, he is not likely to adjust well to life behind bars.

For one thing, he will be surrounded, for the most part, by young toughs also charged with felonies and awaiting trial. In addition, his health could go downhill quickly in confinement. He’s had both knees replaced, and during the civil trial last summer, he claimed to have suffered brain damage in a 2013 fall when his head struck concrete.

“That’s why things don’t flow out like they should,” he said during the trial, in which he foolishly represented himself.

I think confinement is also likely to knock the cockiness out of him. His brashness has been chronicled in public documents at least twice.

In the new case, where he shot at or near a man he believed had stolen iron pipes from his business, Jungerman told police he fired a warning shot but did not aim at the man. He later told a Kansas City police officer, “Missing him would have hurt my pride.”

The other time his cockiness was on display was in a deposition before the civil trial. Pickert noted, in questioning, that Jungerman had fired five times at the victim — his client — and hit him with three bullets. (The man later had to have a leg amputated.)

Jungerman offered: “That’s pretty good from the hip isn’t it? That’s lucky shooting, isn’t it?”

…At long last, it appears David Jungerman’s luck has run out.

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David Jungerman, the man police and prosecutors have been trying to build a murder case against the last four and a half months, was arrested Thursday and charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor after shooting at, or near, a man he believed had stolen pipes from a business Jungerman owns in northeast Kansas City.

Today, Jungerman, whom police interviewed in the October killing of Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert, is in the Jackson County Detention Center on $1 million bond.

He is facing two counts of unlawful use of a weapon (firing at or near someone, and exhibiting the weapon “in an angry or threatening manner”) and one count of armed criminal action (committing a felony with the aid of a deadly weapon).

He also faces a misdemeanor assault charge.

If convicted of the felonies, Jungerman could be sentenced to up to a total of 22 years in prison, if maximum, consecutive sentences were imposed.

Jungerman, in booking photo from KCPD

It is extremely unusual for the prosecutor’s office to request a million-dollar bond in an unlawful-use-of weapon case. However, a source told me that in requesting that bond, the prosecutor’s office presented information to the judge that was not related to the case at hand…In other words, prosecutors told the judge they suspect Jungerman of killing Pickert.

In this week’s case, Jungerman fired a shot in the vicinity of a man he believed had stolen 780 pounds of iron pipe from his — Jungerman’s — high-chair-manufacturing business at St. John and Belmont. Jungerman followed the man and a female companion to a recycling business at 12th and Jackson, about two miles southwest of St. John and Belmont.

 

This screen shot shows the locations of Jungerman’s business (upper right) and the recycling center where Jungerman confronted a couple he believed had stolen pipes from his business.

In an unusual twist, Jungerman was on the phone with police, reporting the alleged theft of the pipes, while confronting the man and woman at the recycling center.

The 911 recording, which is part of the charging documents filed in the case, includes the following exchange between Jungerman and the man…

Jungerman: “Now, buddy, hold it right where you’re at, motherfucker.”

A gunshot is heard.

Man: “Motherfucker, what’s your problem?”

Jungerman: “You stole my fucking pipe.”

Man: “I didn’t. Get that thing away from me. I didn’t steal shit from you, buddy..Get away from me with that fucking thing…What are you going to do, shoot me?”

Jungerman: “You’re fucking A I’m going to shoot you.”

Man: “For what?”

Jungerman: “Right between…For stealing my pipe.”

This is at least the third occasion in the last several years in which Jungerman has either shot people or shot at someone. In addition, Thursday’s incident was reminiscent of a case Jungerman was involved in many years ago, when he caught four youths trespassing on lake property he owns in Raytown. While holding the youths at gunpoint, he called police. After police arrived, they arrested him, not the youths. Jungerman was later convicted of a misdemeanor weapons offense.

**

The Pickert murder is the most serious case, by far, of any in which Jungerman has been implicated.

Pickert, 39, was gunned down, probably by someone shooting a rifle from a white van, while standing in his front yard near 66th Terrace and Brookside Road. He was talking on his cell phone after having walked his two young sons to a nearby school.

In addition to his history of trying to settle disagreements with firearms, he also had a strong motive to kill Pickert.

Pickert represented one of two men Jungerman had shot on his property in 2012, and last summer a Jackson County jury returned a verdict of $5.75 million in favor of the plaintiff, Jeffery Harris, who had to have a leg amputated as a result of the shooting.

The day before Jungerman shot Harris, court officials presented Jungerman with papers informing him property of his valued at$5.75 million would be seized to satisfy the award.

Before Pickert was shot, someone had seen an elderly, gray-haired white man standing behind a white van parked on 66th Terrace, near Pickert’s home.

In addition, Pickert’s wife, Dr. Emily Riegel, told police that after hearing two shots and seeing her husband lying on the ground, she saw an elderly, gray-haired white man driving off in a white van, heading west on 66th Terrace toward Brookside Road and Wornall Road.

Police interviewed Jungerman — who turned 80 last week — for several hours until he halted the interview and asked for a lawyer. Police got a search warrant late the night of the slaying for a white Chevy van Jungerman owns. They searched it but apparently found little or no incriminating evidence.

Meanwhile, Jungerman was — and still is — facing an attempted burglary charge in southwest Missouri, where he owns several thousand acres of farm land. Unable to make the murder case, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has conferred with Vernon County Prosecutor Brandi McInroy in hopes of gaining a conviction on the burglary case and getting Jungerman behind bars.

The attempted burglary case — also a felony — is scheduled to go to trial April 3 or 4 in Lamar, MO. A pretrial conference is scheduled for next Thursday in Nevada, MO.

It is unclear how or if the new Jackson County charges will affect proceedings in the burglary case.

**

After a Jan. 9 hearing related to the burglary case, I spoke with Jungerman outside the Vernon County Courthouse. Among other things, he told me: “I believe in the castle doctrine: You come in my house, I’m going to blow your ass away.”

 

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One of the greatest things about reporting is with almost every new story, you learn something new.

Today, it was dentistry.

Now, before you click the “back”button and head to another website, let me explain…You’ll find this fascinating. I guarantee it.

A story in The Star’s sports section caught my eye this morning because of the headline: “Texas gives its all, including a tooth, into Big 12 tourney win.”

The story, by college sports reporter Blair Kerkhoff, said that at one point in Texas’ 68-64 win over Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament Wednesday night, an Iowa State player accidentally elbowed Texas guard Kerwin Roach II and…”A tooth fell to the floor.”

Kerkhoff then wrote:

“At halftime, according to the Longhorns, Roach’s tooth was reattached by Chiefs’ dentist Dr. Bill Busch. Roach played the second half with a mouthpiece.”

…I was very puzzled, as you probably can imagine, at how a dentist would be able to reattach a tooth that, presumably, was knocked out from the roots.

Ah, but therein lies the root of the problem, if you will: The story was short on detail.

Kerwin Roach II, after a tooth was knocked out Wednesday night

In an email this morning, Kerkhoff told me that at the time he wrote the story for the print edition he didn’t know how much of the tooth had been knocked out, so he just went with “tooth fell to the floor.”

Personally, I think Kerkhoff should have avoided the tooth business if he couldn’t give a clear explanation. He did better in the updated, online version, when he clarified that “part of Roach’s tooth fell to the floor.”

He added this quote from Roach: “It just split in half. They basically glued it back together. I still can feel the glue on my teeth.”

Even with that, my curiosity wasn’t satisfied. Just how, I wondered, could a tooth be reattached at halftime and be so secure that the player could go out and play the second half?

In search of an explanation, I called my former dentist, Dr. Carla King, a personal friend, who retired two or three years ago.

After I gave her the overview, she allowed as to how she, too, was perplexed. Three times, while propounding various theories, she said the words, “I don’t know.” After suggesting that I call Dr. Busch, she closed the conversation by qualifying her circumspection by saying, “Anything’s possible.”

Following doctor’s orders, I put in a call to Dr. Busch, and he called me back a few hours later. Here’s what he told me:

Roach’s front right tooth was fractured close to the gum line on the front side, with more of the tooth remaining on the back side. The Texas trainer, well prepared for such an emergency, immediately put the broken part of the tooth in a container with a solution that halted, or at least slowed, decay.

At halftime, Dr. Busch got out his dental travel kit, which included an extremely strong bonding agent and, indeed, glued the tooth back on. He advised Roach it was fine to continue playing with a mouth guard, and that’s what Roach did.

When I spoke with Dr. Busch this afternoon, he had just finished doing some touch-up work on Roach in his North Kansas City office.

He said the training staff’s foresight in bringing the solution, coupled with the fact that he was able to bond the tooth right away, may well preclude the need for any further work — provided the nerve was not damaged. Time will tell the story there.

…Before ringing off, I asked how he happened to be on hand. He said Big 12 officials had asked the University of Kansas Health System, a sponsor of the tournament, to arrange or a dentist to be at the tournament, and KU had contacted him.

The moral of this story, as the Boy Scouts know so well, is “Be Prepared.” In this case, credit for foresight goes to the Big 12, the Texas trainer and Dr. Busch. The beneficiary, of course, is Kerwin Roach II, who tonight can smile, just as he did yesterday, without exposing an ugly gap in his mouth.

Put him in, coach; he’s ready to play.

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A criminal case I have written about for months is over.

Fifty-one-year-old Terry A. Gray, who was charged with two counts of causing death while driving under the influence of marijuana and two counts of DWI resulting in serious physical injury, died earlier this week.

I got a tip about this startling development this afternoon, and Mike Mansur, spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, confirmed it.

Mansur said he had been informed of Gray’s death by Dan Portnoy, the assistant prosecutor who had been handling the case.

Gray had made his first court appearance Feb. 6 and was scheduled to return to court today. He was free on a face-amount bond of $75,000, which he had made by paying a bond service $7,500.

One of his attorneys, John P. O’Connor, said Gray was taken ill recently and died — to the best of his understanding — Monday.

O’Connor and Mansur said they had no other details.

Terry Gray, when he appeared in court Feb. 6

O’Connor said the last time he or his son, P.J. O’Connor, who was also representing Gray, were in contact with Gray was late last week, when they exchanged texts with him.

John O’Connor said he knew little about Gray other than that he was a veteran of the Armed Services.

**

On the afternoon of Sept. 23, 2017, Gray was driving to his home in Independence in his black, 2015 Dodge Ram pickup.

Witnesses said he was driving fast and recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic, on northbound I-435 before he shot off onto the 23rd Street ramp.

Crash investigators later determined Gray was going 90 miles an hour down the ramp when he slammed into an SUV, which, in turn, hit two other vehicles and sent them flying.

When the metal settled, 3-year-old Ryan Hampel of Independence and 16-year-old Samantha Raudales of Shawnee were dead. Two other people were seriously injured, including Samantha’s father, Edwin Raudales-Flores, who suffered a brain injury.

Cellphone video taken by a bystander showed Gray walking aimlessly around his truck after the crash, picking up detached pieces and finally kicking a piece.

Not once did he approach any of the other vehicles involved in the crash to check on the occupants.

…Sometimes cases don’t end conventionally or neatly. This is such a one. But it is over.

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