Ringing out 2022 and ushering in 2023

Above are the photos from various stories that made top headlines in the last half of 2022.

Editor’s Note: Due to the volume of content for last week’s edition, we opted to include the second half of our annual Year in Review in this edition to allow for our coverage of timely news as a priority last week.

2022 was a year for the record books in Sharp County, the second half of the year was riddled with drought, but rainfall made its way offering relief. Below were the top stories in Spring River Country for the last half of 2022.JulyThe Chance and Ka-tie Battles Family of Sidney were selected as the 2022 Sharp County Farm Family of the Year. The Battles love the farm life with their sons Charlie and Clint. A Fulton County registered Level Two sex offender and his wife were arrested in Fulton County for the rape and per-mitting the rape of a nine year old female child. According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed in Fulton County Circuit Court, from the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police(CACD) conducted an interview with the child who dis-closed to them that Chad Huckabee,39,performed “deviate sexual acts” on her while she was in the care of he and his wife, Lorie Huckabee, 38.

Just over a month after being freed without having to post bond on a felony commercial burglary warrant, an Ozark Acres Suburban Improvement District Commissioner was arrested again June29.This time, on a misdemeanor warrant for harassment of his girlfriend who had just broken up with him earlier the same day. This time, Judge Mark Johnson decided the misdemeanor arrest warranted a $5,000 bond for Matthew King, 47, of Ozark Acres. The Johnson family of Cave City entered in their third generation of production of the luscious fruit of summer. Gary and Phillip Johnson and their wives, Becky and Julie, who have been with them every step of the way spoke of their deep history of farming melons, the challenges, triumphs and even some humorous tales. The Fulton County Sheriff’s office began investigating the shooting of one of their own, Kristy Marie Taylor, 57, who was killed outside her home on July 9.Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law dis-covered her lying outside her home on Fawn Wood Road near Elizabeth around 5:30 p.m. on Sat., July 9 and made a call to dispatch. Karen Bagwell’s vision of helping women and men who had been abused was al-ways something she thought she would like to establish. It wasn’t until after years of prayers and what many would agree was Divine intervention, did she push forward to establish a battered women’s support and outreach group, and is in the process of establishing a shelter. The Sharp County Quorum Court gave the organization$130,000 in American Recovery funds at its July meeting to help purchase a four bedroom home that will be used as a shelter after it is modified. Hadyn Friend of Salem brought home the National American Miss Arkansas Junior Teen title on July 3.July 25 was the first of what will eventually be three conclusions for the family of 19-year-old murder victim, Davidlee Stansbury. The young man’s life was taken all to soon when he was shot to death last April near Salem by a person who had been his friend for many years, Jacoby Goehler, with Travis Barker helping to facilitate the crime. Stansbury’s parents, David and Alicia Brewer sat in court in Batesville last Monday to again face one of their son’s accused killers and hear his negotiated guilty plea. The couple were dressed in light blue shirts with Davidlee’s smiling face on the front as a reminder of the life taken and the reason they continue to sit through proceedings giving their son a voice from be-yond the grave. Travis Barker, who was charged with first degree murder, pledguilty and was sentenced to 30 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections for his role in Stansbury’s murder. Joined by Arkansas state and local officials, Emerson celebrated the official opening of its277,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Ash Flat on July 29. Emerson made a $35 million investment to transform the existing underutilized industrial structure into a modern manufacturing plant for its professional tools business, with primary focus on producing Greenly products.


The Lady Grey-hounds Golf Team won the Cougar Classic Golf Tourna-ment on Aug. 3.Sharp and Fulton Counties, along with a small portion of Randolph County were the only counties in the state that were under extreme drought, or a D3-4rating on the National Drought Mon-itor, on a scale, with four being the worst. While drought affected other counties, Spring River Country suffered the worst. The long reaching implications on farmers was witnessed for weeks. With farming the state’s largest economic sector bringing an estimated annual $16 billion to the state, according to Arkansas Farm Bureau. Arkansas is in the top 15 cattle producers in the nation. The tough decision to sell off portions of their herds was a hard pill to swallow. For three weeks, area farmer’s trailers were lined up down the highway on Fridays at the Ash Flat Livestock Auction to sell their cattle they could no longer water or supply ample grass for their survival. When best friends Natalie Lester and Justin DeJournettmet while showing livestock, both soon discovered they shared a love for all things livestock, Dr.Pepper and making a difference, especially in children. Both, are talented livestock show per-sons with a heart for others. The pair wanted to bring a unique livestock show to the area and with that dream Stock Show Stars was created. The mission of Stock Show Stars was to create a day camp and livestock show for children with special needs and beginner show persons, where all kids would be given the opportunity to learn from some of the best show per-sons in the area and have a positive and inclusive experience.16th Judicial Deputy Prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee wasted no time last week in charging a Fulton County man with 14 counts of rape and four other sexually related felonies on Aug. 4.This was only a day after interviewing the victim, obtaining the confession of the accused by investigators and police executing a search war-rant. According to court documents, Cody Rivers Redding, 26, was arrested on Aug.4 after a six-year-old female child relayed information to her grandmother the day before about “a game” she played with Redding. As students ended their summer break and headed back to school on Aug. 15,they were greeted by a building that has been transformed. Cherokee Elementary School received the largest face lift. The small school that had little change since opening in1966.If one didn’t know, they would think they were walking through the doors of a new school. Funding for the project was approved a few years ago in2020 when voters agreed to extend existing five mills. The district was able to sell bonds and generated the money to finance. The body of the young man who fell from a boat on the Black River near Lynn was located on Sun. Aug. 21. 21 year old Houston Morgan was pulled from the river around noon near where he fell in at Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area in Lawrence County. After receiving much needed rain-fall, Spring River Country was still be-low normal for the year in late August. While the drought appeared to have ended, the long term effects on farmers was still being felt. Much needed payments totaling $2.3million were sent out to area farmers from the Sharp And Fulton County Farm Ser-vices Agency offices. The funds, appropriated by a federal drought emergency declaration, assisted local farmers in re-covering some of the costs associated with the drought. In mid August, during a suppression hearing in Izard County, Judge Tim Weaver ruled the confession of Rebekah Gould’s accused killer William(Billy) Miller, an oil tycoon who was living in the Philippines prior to his arrest, will be used in the trial. A perspective trial date for the murder case was set for Oct. 31. Gould was killed in 2004,Miller was arrested earlier this year. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Salem Police Department, Mammoth Spring Police Department, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Department of Community Corrections Dog Team and Probation/ Parole, Arkansas Fugitive Task Force,16th Judicial District Drug Task Force, and Izard County Sheriff’s Office of Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Investigators concluded an investigation that resulted in the arrests 13 individuals on drug related charges in August.


The Highland School District sets public meeting to discuss proposed millage increase tofund a new highschool. The proposed8.9 mill increase was placed on the Nov. 8election ballot. After nearly four years of deliberations and massive issues at the Ozark Acres Sub-urban Improvement District (OASID),one resident who has attempted to helpwith the situation has filed a lawsuit against the organization for illegal ex-action for charging residents assessment after they were paid in full. Debra Lumley filed the suit in Sharp County Circuit Court in September. Accused Murderer Jacoby Goehler’s change of venue motion was denied on Sept. 19, His trial for the death of Davidlee Stansbury will begin Oct. 19 if no plea is reached by Sept. 24.Totals reach over half million in dam-age allegations against Stellar Construction. More new cases were filed against the compa-ny, and Stellar was arrested for writing a nearly $13,000 bad check to a local supplier. Highland Police Chief and Sheriff Elect Shane Russell announced the pro-motion of Sgt. Steve Dravenstott to High-land Police Chief effective Oct. 1. The announecment was made at the Sept. 13Highland City Council Meeting Russell will be replacing Chief Deputy Aaron Presser at the Sher-iff’s Department. The Highland Stu-dent Council brought back an old tradition in October. Students at Cherokee Elementary School waved banners in support of the Rebel football team on Sept. 23 as the Homecoming Parade made its way through their cam-pus. The parade with decorated vehicles from various clubs at the high school visited all three campus for Homecoming. The Highland Lady Rebel Golf Team finished as District Champions on Sept.20.Crystal Crow and Cathy Drew with the Ozarks Gate-way Tourist Council, participated in a workshop, painting items for floats while in McAllen, Texas. Crow accepted a prestigious international award for the music video promoting last year’s Cave City Watermelon Festival while at the three day conference. The Swingin’ for Samantha Golf Tournament, sponsored by Spring River Chronicle and Costner Brothers Farm raised over $7,000for cancer patient Samantha Jackson. 52teams that included 156 area golfers showed up in the chilly morning hours of Oct. 1 at Tur-key Mountain Golf Course in Horseshoe Bend for the bene-fit golf tournament. They were decked out in every shade of pink to raise money for Jackson. Sixteenth Judicial District Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dwayne Plumee petitioned the court in October to exhume the body of an infant found on the road-side in Fulton County in September of1980 in hope of gaining DNA evidence in the case. The death of Baby Jane Doe, was one of the cases that former Fulton County Sheriff Al Roork spoke about during his retirement interview. The deceased white, newborn female was found on the road-side on Highway 9 near the Myatt Creek Bridge with severe head trauma.


The Highland Marching Band brought home Firsts in Division Percussion, Color Guard, Drum Major and First Division Band from the Bulldog Marching Invitational on Oct. 8 in Walcott. Evan Bruner also brought home Outstanding Soloist of the Day. The High-land Band excelled over all other bands in the competition with the highest score of the day. A second lawsuit was filed in Sharp County Circuit Court against Ozark Acres Suburban Improvement District. This time, the suit also included other par-ties in the “Petition for Writ of Mandamus” which means an order requesting a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion. In this case to prevent the named parties from illegally exacting taxes through further levies after the assessment of benefits have been exhausted. Ashley Neal received the Tommy Bassham Memorial Outstanding Ambassador Award at the Fulton County Fair Awards Program. Bassham died in an accident in May and was a well loved Fulton County teen who was also a Fair Ambasasador. The award was presented by Tommy’s parents Mark and Laurie Bassham. The Murder trial of Jacoby Goehler laid out details of betray-al by the mother of the killer and bestfriend of victim. Goehler was sent to prison for life without parole plus fifteen years in October. Cindy Hamilton, the Business Office Manager at Ash Flat Healthcare and Re-habilitation was one of six in the state to receive the Summit Award on Oct. 28.Ash Flat Healthcare and Rehabilitation was named Facility of the Year for 2021-22by the Southern Administrative Services family of nursing homes. Administrator Misty French and Director of Nursing Tabatha Pebler are all smiles after the recognition. Two weeks shy of a year after receiving his cancer diagnosis, Highland coach, teacher, mentor and friend Blake Medlock was shocked and surprised by the Rebel Nation Oct. 28 as he made his way out to the field for what he thought was a ceremony to congratulate him and both his boy’s and girls’ cross country teams for winning the Dis-trict Championship and him for being named Cross Country Coach of the Year. He was wrong. While the teams were also present to greet him, the real purpose was to allow him to makegood on a promise to ring the school bell when he conquered cancer, and he did. November Cave City Key Club Sponsor Patricia Hinds and students helped with the 2022Veterans Day Flag Display in front of the school. Students include Lexie Stout Megan Gore, Brianna Coles, Darcie Taylor, Haley Cude, Kelsey Dillenger and Bella Counts put hours of work into labeling the flags and placing them for display in time for Veterans Day In one of the races that brought forth the most controversy and dirty politics, Steven Rose the candidate who refused to bow to unethical behavior, won the Mayor seat in Cherokee Village, defeating Rob Smith by a more than two to one mar-gin, more than the other two candidates combined. 897 to426. The county also elected Kyle Craw-ford to Highland Mayor, Ethan Barnes to Hardy Mayor, Susie Perkey to Evening Shade Mayor. The county also got a new sheriff and county judge, Shane Russell and Mark Counts took the positions. Many people who were rushing to pay their personal and real estate taxes in Sharp and Fulton County found their county tax collector’s and assessor’s offices closed for two days in October. A Rogers based computer company that provides soft-ware services to all but three of Arkansas counties (Garland, Hot Springs and Jefferson) )was a victim of a cyber attack on Nov. 5. Apprentice Information Systems instructed offices including collector’s, assessors, and clerk’s systems connected to the county treasurer’s office to shut down as a pre-caution due to the security breech. It is estimated that 40 counties have been affected out of the 72that utilize services of Apprentice in Arkansas and about 10in Oklahoma. The Salem Senior High Cheerleaders were able to get another win at the ACCA Competition Nov. 19.Henry Lockhart, a kindergartner and student of St. Jude’ patient Jordy Walling’s mother, Crystal, held a Lego party for St. Jude, collecting over 80 sets for patients in the hos-pital. the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT)closed a bridge last Tuesday, Nov. 22 in the area just before noon. Detours were set up and being utilized for traffic. The bridge was closed due to structural issues discovered during an inspection by ArDOT. District Two State Representative Elect Trey Steimel treated Sharp County law enforcement to lunch on Nov. 30 at the Pillbox Cafe for an information exchange to learn how he may be able to assist them when he gets to Little Rock.


December 2 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Great Flood and Tornado of1982. The people of Hardy are no strangers to the wrath of Mother Nature, when the normally scenic Spring River quickly outpours her banks during massive rainfalls. The largest flood in the area occurred forty years ago on Dec. 2, 1982 and with it, took the old steel bridge that many remember jumping from as a child. Few residents who lived in Hardy, Highland and Cherokee Village forty years ago can ever re-call a worse few days in weather history. The Highland School Board voted at a Dec. 1 special called meeting to hold a special election on Feb. 14 . The District plans to again attempt to get an 8.9mill increase passed by the voters to build a new high school and performing arts center. The millage failed during the Nov. 8General Election by a2290 to 1357 margin. Sheriff Elect Shane Russell accepted the award for Sharp County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year on Dec. 13. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge presented the award at the 20th annual Officer of the Year awards and recognition luncheon at the Benton Event Center in Little Rock. Sharp County went above and beyond this year as 168 children’s Christmas-es were made even more merry Dec. 17at Walmart in Ash Flat during the second annual Sharp County Shop with a Cop event. Members of the Highland Elks Lodge’s Christmas Basket Committee worked hard all year with the support of the community to create baskets for57 families and area seniors. On Christ-mas Day, the group personally delivered most of the baskets in the area.

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