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Web Articles 2016

As a I noted on the home page of this website, "anyone can in a quarter of a century produce four or five good pieces." This page features articles written in the course of a few months for to reflect that I can and do produce consistenly outstanding work.

In addition to writing these articles, I often either took or edited the photos. I was also responsible for formatting the web pages.

> Web Archives — October 2, 2016

Mystery Solved
ME Investigator's Curiosity (And Hard Work) Leads To Identity

Mystery SolvedThere wasn’t another living soul to chat with — to help whittle away the hours on a quiet night working the 7-to-7 graveyard shift at the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office. “Being bored,” ME Investigator Adam Wilcoxen decided to check the Morgue Status Board, a listing of unresolved yet still active cases.

The “name” atop the board seized Wilcoxen’s attention: “Skeletal Remains, Unidentified.”

It was the skeleton in the closet — the charred bones of a man discovered 10 weeks after a Jan. 2, 2012 fire gutted a vacant house on Wabash Avenue in Kansas City. Who was he? had remained a mystery. The case had recently been spotlighted here.

Wilcoxen reviewed the case file. He started making phone calls, gathering paper work, requesting medical records. And he found the answer, an ID positively confirmed by a forensic dentist:

  • David J. Stevenson
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Born in 1965

“This was the oldest case we had on our Morgue Status Board, the active cases we’re still trying to do something about,” said Shaun Hachinsky, the Jackson County ME’s Deputy Chief Investigator. “Thanks to Adam we’ve got a name after all these years.”

CLICK HERE to view entire article. I also took the photos accompanying this article. — September 15, 2016

The ME's Office 'In Good Hands'
Dr. Diane Peterson Completes First Year As Chief Medical Examiner

Dr. PetersonShe wanted to be a doctor. As a little girl, growing up in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Diane Peterson displayed an early fascination with anatomy and was soon imagining herself becoming a physician.

Then she got older. And she just couldn’t see herself being able to treat patients.

“When I got to high school, I changed my mind about becoming a doctor,” she says. “I didn’t think I would be able to handle seeing people in pain.”

But, today, the people Dr. Peterson examines are — in her words — “freed of their pain.” They are deceased.

This month marks one year since Dr. Peterson was named interim Chief Medical Examiner for Jackson County. When Dr. Mary Dudley retired as Chief ME at the end of August last year, she strongly urged the county to make Dr. Peterson her successor, saying, “I’m leaving the Medical Examiner’s Office in good hands — Dr. Peterson’s hands.”

CLICK HERE to view entire article. — August 15, 2016

Dutch Newman Honored
A Woman Ahead Of Her Time, She Changed The Times In Which She Lived

Dutch NewmanShe was born Hila Bucher Aug. 18, 1920. She died “Dutch” Newman July 27, 2016. In the intervening 95 years and 343 days that were her remarkable life, Newman didn’t just see history get made — she helped make it.

With the same adventurous spirit of the settlers who went west in the 1800s, Dutch was a 20th Century pioneer, working tirelessly to open up the political process to women.

Prior to a tribute honoring Newman’s legacy during the Jackson County Legislative meeting Monday, County Executive Frank White, Jr., observed, “Her being born the very day the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified to guarantee women the right to vote was no coincidence. It was fate.”

To put into perspective the era into which Newman was born, consider the shocking — at least by today’s standards — “reasoning” some cited for opposing the 19th Amendment guaranteeing American women the right to vote. The Nebraska Association Opposed to Women Suffrage listed “10 Reasons Why The Great Majority Of Women Do Not Want The Ballot,” among them “because the woman worker wants rest and quietude — not political excitement.”

CLICK HERE to view entire article. — August 8, 2016

Corrections Academy
Department Takes Calm, Cool & Collected Approach Toward Training

Corrections AcademyTrace Abraham winces. He vividly describes the military training he has endured as an Army National Guardsman in terms of how loud — and profane — the trainers could be.

“In the military you’re always getting yelled at… screamed at… cursed at… all the time,” he says. “There’s all kinds of crazy stuff, and a lot of it is just ridiculous.”

He prefers his civilian employer’s saner, quieter approach to training. When not wearing his Army khaki green, Abraham dons the smoky gray uniform of a Jackson County Corrections Officer.

Every morning session of the Jackson County Corrections Officers (CO) Academy begins with a military ritual — the uniform inspection. But the county Corrections Department’s intensive training program rarely, if ever, gets loud. Veteran CO Bryan Carroll doesn’t even raise his voice when teaching “Use of Force III & IV: Ground Fighting & Knife Defense,” a class one might expect would entail a few high-volume shouts.

“It only makes sense that our training be calm, cool and collected,” says Corrections Director Joe Piccinni. “Those are the attributes we want to instill in our COs and the type of environment we want in our facilities.” (The department operates the Jackson County Detention Center and the Regional Correctional Center, as well as holding facilities — within the Detention Center — for Kansas City Police Department arrestees.)

CLICK HERE to view entire article. — August 4, 2016

Amos Otis Day In Jackson County
Former Royal All-Star Honored

Amos OtisWhat stadium PA announcer did not enjoy introducing Amos Otis? A name that rhythmic, almost lyrical, demands to be embellished — pronounced with extra relish, perhaps an exaggerated hissss, especially when adding the famous “Famous” moniker.

“Now batting for the Kansas City Royals… No. 26… Center fielder… Famoussss… Amossss… Otissss!”
Amos Otis’ name will echo throughout Kauffman Stadium once again during Royals Legends Night this Friday evening. He’s the featured “legend.” 

But Jackson County threw out the first pitch — metaphorically — in welcoming "AO" back to KC, holding a ceremony to honor Otis this afternoon at the Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence. County Executive Frank White, Jr. read a proclamation officially designating Friday, Aug. 5, 2016 “Amos Otis Day in Jackson County.”

He then gave his former Royals teammate a hug. With White at second base and Otis in center field, KC had a pair of perennial Gold Glovers up the middle as “The Boys In Blue” won three straight Western Division titles from 1976 through ’78, before claiming the American League pennant in 1980. 

White made it clear how highly he thinks of Otis, saying, "When people ask me about the guys I played with, they will say, ‘George Brett is the greatest hitter in Kansas City history.’ And I agree with that. But as far as a player, if you judge him in every facet of the game, this guy here, he is the best player who ever played for the Kansas City Royals.”

CLICK HERE to view entire article. — July 28, 2016

The Skeleton In The Closet

Skeleton In The Closet“I’ll tell you all about my skeleton in the closet.”

Now that she has your full attention, Diane Peterson will pause for effect. What well-guarded secret is she about to divulge?

Actually, Dr. Peterson isn’t speaking metaphorically. She is being quite literal.

And the Jackson County Chief Medical Examiner doesn’t yet know the one secret this skeleton — that was, indeed, found in a closet — has been keeping the last 4½ years.

Who was this man?

Two days into 2012, the Kansas City Fire Department fought a blaze that gutted a vacant house on Wabash Avenue in the urban core. The next day the house’s windows and doors were boarded up, essentially creating a tomb that would remain sealed more than two months — until individuals who acquired the property with the intention of rehabbing it went back inside to start cleaning the debris. On March 26, they made the shocking discovery inside one of the closets.

CLICK HERE to view entire article. I also took the photos accompanying this article. — June 27, 2016

Serving Her 'Second Family'
A Historic Promotion In The Jackson County Corrections Department

Nilda SerranoNilda Serrano smiled proudly as she received the double gold bars insignia for her uniform. Then Rex Tarwater, Deputy Director for Jackson County Corrections, promptly told her she’d soon have to give the captain bars back.

“So we can pin them on you during our next promotional ceremony,” Tarwater explained.

While no date has yet been set to commemorate her promotion ceremonially, Serrano officially assumed her new duties as a Jackson County Corrections Department captain last week. She becomes not only the first female but also the first Hispanic to rise to that rank in the department’s history.

“I’m just shocked,” Serrano said moments after Tarwater announced her promotion June 16 in a conference room at the Jackson County Detention Center. County Executive Frank White, Jr. was there to be among the first to shake her hand.

“I know there were a lot of other candidates for this position, and that we were all qualified,” Serrano continued. “I am humbled. I am excited to accept this position. Whatever’s for the betterment of the department is what matters most, as usual.”

CLICK HERE to view entire article. I also took the photos accompanying this article. — June 21, 2016

A Day At The Beach
Providing Kids From KC A Chance To Experience What Parks + Rec Has To Offer

Day At The BeachKids laugh. They play in the sand. They splash in the water.

Sounds like just another typical summer’s day at Longview Lake Beach, right? Except many of these children have never before experienced the simple fun available to them through Jackson County Parks + Rec. Until now.

“We can’t bring the parks to the kids in Kansas City, but we can bring the kids to the parks,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr., smiling as he soaked up the sun — and the children’s laughter.

Jackson County and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) teamed up to give 28 boys and girls from the Whatsoever Community Center — located on Kansas City's east side — an afternoon at the beach Tuesday. The KCATA provided what can be a major barrier preventing city children from enjoying the nation’s third largest county parks system: transportation.

"I can guarantee for these kids this is a first," said Whatsoever Executive Director Charlie Gaseich. "For most of them their whole world is that six square-block area around our center. There's nothing like this in our neighborhood."

CLICK HERE to view entire article. — June 7, 2016

Historic Medallion Unveiled
Marker Reflects Courthouse's Role As Jumping Off Point For Trails

Oregon TrailWhen his wagon train formed outside the Jackson County Courthouse, James A. Pritchard anxiously anticipated the great adventure that lay before him as he prepared to head out onto the Oregon Trail. Like thousands of other settlers before him, he was "ready now to bid adieu to homes, friends and... the abodes of Civilization, its peace, comeforts [sic] and its safety." (The Overland Diary - James A. Pritchard, 1849)

Some 167 years after Pritchard went west to seek his fortunate during the California Gold Rush, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. joined National Historic Trails Superintendent Aaron Mahr to unveil a historic marker commemorating Independence Square as the "jumping off" point for three iconic trails — the Oregon, California and Santa Fe. The Historic Truman Courthouse, which has entombed within its walls the original courthouse Pritchard would have seen in 1849, is now adored with the bronze Old Oregon Trail medallion that renowned sculptor Avard Tennyson Fairbanks created in 1924.

The artist's son, Dr. David Fairbanks of Bethesda, Maryland, donated the medallion, noting, during the unveiling ceremony Tuesday afternoon, that it captured the "action and vigor" of 19th Century pioneers. The same artwork appears on monuments at Chimney Rock in Nebraska and other key points along the Oregon Trail.

"And now it's at the beginning of the trail, here in Independence," Dr. Fairbanks said. "I know my father would be pleased."

CLICK HERE to view entire article.

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