Jonesboro woman pleads guilty in child trafficking case
JONESBORO — A Jonesboro woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison this week after pleading guilty in a child trafficking case.
Olivia Grace Deroeck, 27, pleaded guilty to the trafficking of a minor on Tuesday. Deroeck was arrested in March after police alleged that she and 26-year-old Tyler Sowell of Brookland were in contact “making sales and setting up timing with a minor.”
She was also given a 60month suspended sentence, given a no-contact order with the victim in the case, complete alcohol and drug rehab and psychiatric treatment, and must provide “truthful testimony in the trial of any co-defendants.” Deroeck was given credit for 208 days already served in jail. Sowell is set to appear in court on Oct. 19.
FORT SMITH — A Fort Smith woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing her 5-year-old stepson.
Rae Von Elizabeth Smith was sentenced to 28 years, according to court records.
A probable cause affidavit reportedly said Smith told police the boy fell down the stairs two times inside their home. She also reportedly told police she treated the wounds herself because they did not have health insurance and that she did not seek medical treatment until she noticed the 5year-old was not breathing.
The affidavit said doctors told police the 'bruises, abrasions, and burns' on the boy were not consistent with Smith's statements.
Smith was being held in the Sebastian County jail.
LITTLE ROCK— A 60year-old Little Rock man was shot in the neck Monday night while getting gas at a convenience store, according to a police report.
The man told police he was getting gas at ‘Our Community Market’ at 1901 Wright Avenue around 9:42 p.m. He said while he was pumping gas, he walked across the parking lot toward the store and heard a gunshot. He began running and didn’t realize he had been shot in the neck, according to a police report.
He told police he did not see anyone with a gun.
He was taken to a local hospital with non-lifethreatening injuries. No suspect information has been released.
HELENA-WEST HELENA — Like many other events, the King Biscuit Blues Festival has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The King Biscuit Blues Festival annually draws thousands to Helena, Arkansas for music guaranteed to “stir the soul.” But this year the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on live performances.
Organizers decided the show must go on, but virtually.
“Simply because we didn’t want all of our fans to just have King Biscuit drop out of their lives,” said organizer Munnie Jordan.
To keep blues fans happy, the Central Arkansas Library System is airing a tribute to the festival tonight on its website. Then on Friday and Saturday, a virtual concert on King Biscuit’s website and
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“Mookie Cartwright, Reba Russell, Paul Thorn, The Big Muddy Band and ‘Brotha’ Ric Patton are some of the ones you will see,” Jordan said.
Jordan says the pandemic forced the festival to take a new marketing approach, including face masks, tshirts and even this year’s poster all reflecting these uncertain times.
But there’s no escaping the real blues caused by not seeing some of the world’s best musicians on stage in person or the chance for local musicians to showcase their unique sounds.
“It really hurt me, it hurt my heart,” said musician Phillip D’Anthony Stackhouse. “I hate that the pandemic actually messed it up. Cause this is a time of the year that we all here in this area look forward to.”
Not having the live festival will have a huge negative impact on the local economy and lost revenue to restaurants and other tourist-oriented business.
The show can be seen on the King Biscuit Festival website and the festival’s
Facebook page. ***
LITTLE ROCK — The CARES Steering Committee on Wednesday recommended an additional $5.4 million to be used for meat processors in the state of Arkansas.
State Senator Missy Irving hopes that the meat shortages from early on in the pandemic won’t repeat themselves once these grants are put to use, she said, “Being able to put out these processing grants and grow that industry gives us the long-term benefit of making sure we don’t have that food interruption during a crisis like what we experienced.”
The industry has settled down after initial panic buying. Many processors though are still backlogged for months. Andy Shaw is the CEO of Cypress Valley Meat Processing and he says they are close to 24 months behind. Cypress Valley, along with many other processors in the state, are not taking wild game this season in order to catch up with their livestock demands,. Shaw said, “We’ve experienced a huge back log since Covid hit and there’s been a meat shortage and also people wanting to buy local and support local and we’ve seen that really accelerate since March.”
Sen Irvin says this will vastly help to expand the processing industry and help not only the processors but also small- to medium-sized livestock operations. Irvin hopes that many processors will be able to expand their operations to handle more product and modernize operations to be more efficient with that product.
She said the farm-to-table concept that was beginning to explode before the pandemic has become more popular and if there are more processors that can sell directly to consumers it will help those outfits greatly. She said, “This really will grow that mom and pop farmers that are out there and give them that opportunity to really have a place to process their meats and be able to sell, perhaps, direct to consumers.”
Shaw agrees with Irvin, “It’s going to allow us to accommodate more farmers, so we’re going to be able to bring in more employees and provide more jobs, but we’re going
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to be able to better service our current customers and be able to add more and new farmers on to our processing schedule.”
The funds will also go towards 16 total facilities including funding for four mobile processing units, three educational institutions, and two further processing facilities.
Between the first and second rounds of grant funding it will add 250 full-time positions and 73 part-time positions within the processing industry.
The additional $5.4 million is still subject to legislative approval.
*** A-State gets $1.5 million for student services program JONESBORO — The U.S.
Department of Education has awarded Arkansas State University a grant of $1.5 million over a five-year period to continue funding for student retention and completion initiatives.
The grant funds the university’s Student Support Services (SSS) program, which promotes retention and academic success for students who qualify as first-generation, lowincome or disabled.
SSS, one of three federally funded programs that are collectively referenced as TRIO programs, provides participating students with services such as tutoring, advising, career coaching, mentoring, workshops, graduate school preparation, and supplemental advocacy.
Dr. Jill Simons, associate vice chancellor for academic services and dean of University College, noted, “A-State’s SSS program has a long history of helping students reach their academic goals in a timely manner. The renewal of this grant allows deserving students additional support so more first-generation students can graduate from college.”
“Our office is very excited to have received this funding,” added Jerrod Lockhart, director of Student Support Services.
“The services we provide are very valuable to students and adds to our institution’s theme of ‘Every Red Wolf Counts.’” The grant funding will allow for 175 student participants each year, he added.
Additional details about Student Support Services at Arkansas State University are available by contacting Lockhart, [email protected] or (870) 972-2320.