The Springfield News-Leader from Springfield, Missouri on May 13, 1990 · Page 81
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The Springfield News-Leader from Springfield, Missouri · Page 81

Springfield, Missouri
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 13, 1990
Page 81
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Sunday, May 13, 1990 The News-Leader 9F '(Douglas County Sheriff Roldan Turner) had just come into office and his deputies were new. I guess you can't expect miracles from minimum-wage people.' Joan Workman, mother of homicide victim 'Experience is not always the best tool. Willingness to help and concern and other things come in and aid where experience lacks. We have used every means possible in this case.' Douglas County Sheriff Roldan Turner WCfME n n n a n n r an U(SC USl7Dml LmSKiaLn fffluW Violent crime victimizes five of six Americans You will likely fall victim to violent crime sometime in your life, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Nationwide, 83 percent of Americans eventually become victims of attempted or completed violent crime. Violent crimes include rape, robbery and assault. One-fourth of victims injured each year An estimated 28 percent of violent crime victims are injured each year, the U.S. Department of Justice reports. Those injuries cause more than 700,000 days of hospitalization annually. Springfield lost $9.57 million to crime; U.S. lost $11 billion Last year, more than $9.57 million was lost to crime in Springfield more than $63 for every man, woman and child in the city. Police say $4.18 million or 43.7 percent of losses was recovered by year's end. Nationwide, crime victims lose more than $11 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. DOGWOOD A gentle rain fell the day Kelle Ann Workman disappeared. More than a drizzle, less than a downpour, the rain sputtered out after a few minutes on June 30, 1989. A shower rain, her folks call it enough to settle the dust among the markers in the Dogwood Cemetery, where Kelle was mowing the grass. She was 24 years old and didn't like to smile much; she was self-conscious about a crooked front tooth and shy to boot, her parents say. But the lanky woman who stood 6 feet and weighed 134 pounds was always willing to help people in need as long as she knew them. Her mother, Joan, calls Kelle "quiet, independent and hard working." Kelle started mowing about 3:30 p.m. It was a two-day job, passed from generation to generation of the Workmans, a family of dairy farmers. Kelle was meticulous about her work, clipping along the rows of headstones before using trimmers to cut the stray blades from around each marker. The rain came at 5, and Kelle went home to feed the calves while Joan and husband Stanley milked cows at a rented Seymour farm. The rain soaked Kelle's turquoise T-shirt; she changed into a yellow shirt and shucked the wet one into her room. By 5:40, Kelle was back at the cemetery; her uncle saw her mowing as he drove past the lot on Missouri 14 in Douglas County. Twenty minutes later, with the job not yet half-done, Kelle abandoned the mower by a tombstone and left the cemetery. Seven days later and 10 miles away in Christian County, Kelle Workman was found dead. Her body was fully clothed but so badly decomposed that it took dental records to identify her. How she died remains murky; her death certificate lists "homicidal violence" as the culprit. She wasn't shot. She wasn't raped. She may have been stabbed or strangled. She probably died in the early hours of July 1. Joan Workman thinks she knows the exact moment. At 3:40 a.m., as she sat on the living room couch and worried about Kelle with family and friends, she felt a surge of panic and pain in her chest. Hang on, Kelle, hang on, her mind urged the daughter she'd lived with for 24 years, but then the feeling passed and Joan Workman was left dead inside. Nearly 11 months later, with a $10,000 reward uncollected, Joan and Stanley Workman still don't know who killed their daughter. Neither do the police. And the flurry of activity that surrounded Kelle's case in the first few days has dwindled to an occasional telephone call from the authorities to the Workmans. While their dead daughter stares down at them from a grainy black-and-white photograph on the living room wall, Stanley and Joan Workman believe better law enforcement would have made a difference. Several things gnaw at them in the silence of their rural Douglas County home. They resent police speculation in the first few hours that Kelle had run away. They're angry that police didn't dust Kelle's 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass for fingerprints. They're disappointed that tidbits of potentially valuable information including reports of a screaming woman were lost in the confusion of that first night. Douglas County Sheriff Roldan Turner is the target of much Workman criticism. While professing personal respect for the sheriff, the Workmans think he lacked adequate experience to investigate their daughter's disappearance. , Victim advocates help 1,300 keep up with criminal cases in 1989 "All I need is a loan," Rhonda Robinson remembers her friend saying at Christmastime 1987. "I'm selling my business and after the holidays, I'll have the money to pay you back." Robinson hesitated for a moment; her friend wanted to borrow several thousand dollars, her life savings. Still, she relented because his story seemed seamless. But Robinson's friend didn't have a business and he didn't pay her back. Instead, police say he pocketed her savings. Rhonda Robinson is a fictitious name, but the 35-year-old Springfield woman's story is real. And statistically, almost every other southern Mis-sourian has or will have a similar tale to tell. Man or woman, rich or poor, urban or rural crime knows no boundaries. The VS. Department of Justice says 99 percent of Americans will r 7 5T ! ESS Kelle Ann Workman was mowing the : "He had just come into office and his deputies were new," Joan Workman says. "I guess you can't expect miracles from minimum-wage people." Turner's deputies actually start at an annual salary of $10,750 about $5.17 an hour. Turner makes $22,200 a year. Turner had no previous paid law enforcement experience before being elected sheriff in November 1988 over incumbent Leonard Sanders. He acknowledges the frustrations held by the Workmans but says he's doing everything he can to catch Kelle Workman's killer or killers. "Experience is not always the best tool," the 3&year-old sheriff says. "Willingness to help and concern and other things come in and aid where experience lacks. We have used every have something stolen from them in their lives. Seven of eight people will be victimized three or more times. Statistics show that one in 31 southwest Mi8sourian8 was victimized by crime in 1989. More than 30,000 crimes were reported in a 33-county area with an estimated population of 921,857. But those statistics are misleading-ly low. Unlike many of its neighboring states, Missouri doesn't require police agencies to report crime statistics to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. For instance, all law enforcement agencies in Dade County reported one crime in 1989. Douglas County registered seven. Shannon County claimed four crimes last year. Most sheriffs and police chiefs say they don't have enough time or staff to compile the information for themselves or the state. Typical is St- Clair y Dogwood Cemetery when she was TV Stanley and Joan Workman remember the fear their neighbors felt after Kelle (above) vanished. "Now it's quieted down, and it'll stay quiet until the next one," Stanley says.. means possible in this case the Highway Patrol, the FBI, two Highway Patrol troops, two county sheriffs departments. "I don't think anyone could ask for more except for the case being solved ... it's just a sad fact that a warped mind can do anything he wants to do, and more times than not, he can get away with it." The Workmans don't have similar complaints with the other law enforcement agencies investigating Kelle's slaying. They praise Christian County Sheriff Steve Whitney for bringing in a hypnotist to interview a witness. They say his department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol have gone out of their way to keep them informed of developments. County Sheriff Fred M. Haworth Jr., who says deputies used to jot police reports on napkins while drinking coffee in a cafe. Whether the crime is reported or not, the victim suffers. "It's real and awful for them," says Paula Tindell, coordinator of Greene County's VictimWitness Services program. "There's an invasion there a sort of rape." Tindell and fellow advocate Linda : Casey were involved in about 1,300 of the 2,000 felony cases filed last year in Greene County. They talk with victims and keep them posted of developments in their cases. And they offer an open ear to people who often think no one will understand what they're feeling. "We refer a number of people to counseling," Tindell says. "Time helps a lot, too." But the help Tindell and Casey L 1 abducted and killed. Her grave sits a few "This may sound strange, but I'm thankful she was found in Christian County," Joan Workman says. "If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't know much," Stanley Workman adds. Whitney is appreciative of the Workmans' words but downplays his role in the investigation. "I promised the family that I'd quit working on it when I have nothing at all to work on," Whitney says. "In this case, we've still got things to work on." Whitney believes Workman's killers he thinks at least two people were involved chose her at random. "I don't think this was a planned-out deal, other than they saw her and made a quick plan," he says. "I feel rape was the motive ... I think she was big and strong enough give isn't generally available in southern Missouri. Greene County's office is one of nine regionally, Tindell says. Smaller counties say they need the service but can't afford it. Many Ozarks prosecutors work part-time and have private practices on the side. They say they don't have the time or resources to set up a victim services office. "But to me, it's a common sense thing," Tindell says. "You have to treat people with kindness, because I think the system is very intimidating to them." Only recently has that system become more open to crime victims. Greene County's victim services office was established five years ago by Prosecutor Tom Mountjoy. Police response to victims also has improved, Tindell says. A few years ago, police in southern Missouri rou feet from where she disappeared. to fight them and they probably strangled her and then dumped her." Better not to think about that, Stanley and Joan Workman say as they stand by their daughter's grave and contemplate the work to be done sod on the ground, maybe a few planted flowers, a headstone when, the earth settles. - "You know, when this first hapi pened, there were a lot of people buy ing guns and applying for gun per-' mits," Stanley Workman says. "Now it's quieted down, and it'll stay quiet until the next one. Someone else's daughter." 1 Joan Workman nudges the soil covering Kelle. "I still don't know how to put it into words. You see, I . haven't been to hell. But if what they say about it is true, then we're living, in hell right now." tinely infuriated some victims especially those of sexual assaults by publicly questioning the victim's role; in the crime, she says. Rhonda Robinson's story had a happy ending. The man who took her money was caught, pleaded guilty and made restitution. Without the help of Tindell and Casey, Robinson says she wouldn't have had the strength or knowledge to tackle the criminal justice system. "I was ignorant about the law," she says. "They explained things to me. They were super to help me. "My advice to other victims? Go for it Use their help. I could have sat back and felt defeated, but I stayed after it with their encouragement and ended up with restitution. I felt defeated. But they helped me a tremendous amount."

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