The top read crime story published on emissourian.com in 2018 involved a former Washington Public Schools employee who threatened a shooting.

The story, called “Washington Custodian Bought Ammo, Guns Before Arrested” received 15,445 views online. 

The Washington School District was closed March 8 after Thomas W. Wingfield, Union, a school custodian, allegedly tried to buy a gun and ammunition while warning of “a lot of shooting.”

The custodian’s erratic behavior had prompted school officials to suspend him the previous day.

Wingfield was charged in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court March 7 with felony possession of a controlled substance after police searched his house and found over 35 grams of marijuana.

Wingfield also was charged in St. Charles County with a felony count of unlawful use of a weapon, a handgun which he waved at a stranded motorist early March 7.

According to the probable cause statement filed in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office by the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit (MCNVCEU), a witness who was with Wingfield said he had attempted to purchase an additional handgun and 500 more rounds, but was denied.

The witness also told police Wingfield had recently been suspended from his job at the Washington School District and he had made statements about “a lot of shooting at 7 a.m.” 

Washington police said Wingfield was acting “bizarre” that week and reportedly making strange demands and statements to friends and co-workers at Washington High School.

Second Top Story

The article titled, “Washington Man Charged With Felony Child Molestation” was the second highest read crime story on emissourian.com with 13,001 page views.

The story was published Feb. 6 after David F. Schneider, Washington, was charged with three felony counts of first-degree child molestation.

Schneider is a former gymnastics coach accused in the alleged inappropriate touching of female gymnasts at a local business.

According to online court documents the incidents occurred in 2013 and 2014.

Washington police began an investigation into allegations of inappropriate touching after being contacted by a juvenile. Jan. 9. The girl told police her gymnastics coach had touched her inappropriately five years ago.

According the probable cause statement filed in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office by Washington police, Schneider was a volunteer gymnastics coach at Kids in Motion, Washington.

Murder Charge

The third and fourth most widely read crime articles were: “Union Man Suspected of Abuse Leading to Child’s Death,” which was seen 11,463 times; and “Union Man Charged With Murder in Child’s Death,” viewed 11,177 times.

Both articles were on the Feb. 1 murder of a toddler in Union. Austin T. Stonebarger was charged with first-degree murder in the child’s death. 

According to Union police, officers responded to a home on Henry Drive just after midnight that day for the report of a child who was unconscious and not breathing.

Officers performed CPR and the toddler was transported to Mercy Hospital Washington where he was pronounced dead.

The child had been left with his mother’s boyfriend for most of the day, police said.

When officers arrived at the hospital, the child had bruises on his body. When Stonebarger was questioned, police said he gave inconsistent stories.

Sleeping in City Hall

The fifth most read crime story on emissourian.com last year was titled, “Homeless Man Was Sleeping In City Hall for Weeks.” The story was viewed 10,947 times.

In September, Washington officials learned that a homeless man spent most evenings over a two or three week period living in a city hall office.

Police arrested Justin W. Beckmann, 24, Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, after an investigation of reckless driving led them to the man, who admitted to sleeping in the city engineering department’s office and driving a city vehicle around town.

Beckmann was charged in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with felony burglary, felony tampering with a motor vehicle and misdemeanor stealing. 

According to police, employees in the engineering department had noticed strange things happening in the office in the weeks leading up to Beckmann’s arrest, including change missing from desks, city keys being moved, extra gas being needed for the department’s vehicle and employee lunches being taken.

Upon arrest, Beckmann admitted he had not only been sleeping inside the office at night and using a city vehicle, but also eating food and stealing change, police said.

Beckmann gained access to city hall after sleeping in a stairwell on the southern side of the building. A staircase there descends to a door that leads to the engineering department’s office.

Shooting Death

The sixth story in the crime section with the most views, “Man Dead, Female Injured In Double Shooting Outside Pacific” was viewed 10,866 times. 

On March 22, sheriff’s deputies investigated a double shooting that left a man dead and a woman flown to an area hospital with injuries.

Sheriff Steve Pelton said the shooting occurred around 4:30 a.m. and appears to have stemmed from a domestic dispute inside or near a white SUV at a trailer on Osage Street between Pacific and Gray Summit.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they located a 38-year-old woman leaning against a vehicle. Authorities said she had a gunshot wound. A 24-year-old man was found dead inside the vehicle. 

Weapon Charge

The seventh most read local crime story in 2018 featured a headline, “Man Refuses to Stop Vaping, Points Gun at Patrons.” That story was seen 9,741 times.

A Marthasville man was arrested June 2 outside of Driftwood Distillery, Washington, after allegedly pointing a gun at a group of patrons.

Nathan G. Gauthier was charged in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with felony unlawful use of a weapon.

According to Washington police, Gauthier was kicked out of Driftwood Distillery for vaping inside the business after he was asked to stop. Gauthier was removed from the premises but stayed outside of the business and refused to leave.

An argument began between Gauthier and two patrons who told him to leave. After the altercation, Gauthier waited for the patrons outside of the business for an hour and a half.

According to a probable cause statement filed in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, during that time he got a semiautomatic handgun from his truck. He then walked back to the distillery and waited for the two patrons.

A bar bouncer saw Gauthier outside the business and walked the two patrons and their friends out of the front door of the distillery. Gauthier then approached them and pointed his gun at them.

According to police, Gauthier threatened to shoot the two patrons. After some time, Gauthier lowered his gun and put it back in his pocket, but then got the gun out a second time, pointed it at the group, and threatened to shoot them again.

Gauthier once more put the gun in his pocket and walked away.

He was later arrested. At the time of his arrest he was in possession of a Smith and Wesson M&P Shield Bodyguard 380, according to the probable cause statement. The magazine was loaded with one round in the chamber.

Gauthier claimed that he was acting in self-defense at the time of his arrest.

Enticement

The eighth top read crime story in 2018 was called, “Union Man Charged With Attempted Statutory Rape, Police Said Man Tried to Entice Child,” and it was viewed 8,326 times.

Joshua J. Mastin was charged Nov. 28 in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with one count of attempted statutory rape of a person less than 14 years old and one count of enticement of a child.

Union police said officers received information regarding the possible enticement of a child on Sunday, Nov. 25. Police said a private organization, using an anonymous phone application, presented themselves as a 12-year-old child.

The group made contact with Mastin and the conversation was sexual in nature.

Mastin allegedly sent who he thought was a child a sexually explicit picture. He also requested nude pictures from the child.

Mastin then traveled to a motel in St. Louis County to meet up with the child. Union police said Mastin was confronted at the scheduled meeting and the encounter was video-recorded by the private organization. The video was then posted on a social media page.

Store Owner

The ninth top read crime story in 2018 was called “Owner of Sullivan Store Charged With Sale of Drugs.” The story, published online Dec. 23 garnered 8,184 views. 

Scott Arnold-Micke, Irondale, owner of three Peace of Mind stores, was charged with the Class A felony of distribution of a controlled substance in a protected location.

Stores in Festus and Park Hill also were searched this year through a joint investigation, including Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit (MCNVCEU), the Mineral Area Drug Task Force and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the probable cause statement filed by the MCNVCEU in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Sullivan police and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office received complaints that the business, located at 116 Main St., Sullivan, was selling “marijuana, marijuana products, and there was an odor of marijuana around the store.”

Authorities said for sale in the store were CBD oil, a schedule 1 controlled substance, as well as pipes commonly used to smoke methamphetamine and marijuana, items to extract THC from marijuana plants, items to smoke THC wax and containers to hide marijuana.

The store is located within 1,000 feet of a Sullivan municipal park, and within 2,000 feet of Sullivan Elementary School.

Kidnapping, Assault

Rounding out the top 10 crimes stories of 2018 is “Man Charged With Kidnapping, Domestic Assault” which was viewed 8,000 times.

Daniel Allen Arnold, Robertsville, was charged with in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with first-degree felony kidnapping and second-degree felony domestic assault for allegedly throwing a woman down a flight of stairs and forcing her into a vehicle.

Union police said the incident occurred July 11. Arnold is accused of forcibly removing a woman from an apartment building in Union, according to a probable cause statement filed by Union Police with the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Office.

The woman told police Arnold choked her and threw her down stairs. The woman said Arnold forcibly removed her from the apartment and into his vehicle.