Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 9:24 am

Oklahoma has 11,684 parents owing past-due child support with active bench warrants for failing to appear at a court hearing. Throughout the month of August, these noncustodial parents can work with their local Child Support Services (CSS) office and the court to have their warrants recalled, not only removing the threat of arrest but also improving the opportunity to support their children in an initiative called Amnesty in August.

"Amnesty in August is an opportunity for Oklahoma parents who have fallen behind on child support to come in and work with us to get back on track," said Meg Cannon, a spokesperson for CSS. "Parents who seek our assistance in August have an opportunity to develop a payment plan that will help them move forward with their obligations and hopefully create stronger connections with their children."

Amnesty in August is available to noncustodial parents who have cases through CSS, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

"Children deserve the support of both parents. The last thing we want is for a parent to fall behind and stay behind, losing hope of providing the support his or her child needs and deserves," said CSS director Gary W. Dart. "As children across the state prepare to return to school, we want to make sure that as many as possible have the benefit of receiving support from both parents."

Amnesty in August is Oklahoma's first child support amnesty program in more than a decade.

"Child support is a legal and moral obligation," said Cannon. "If the threat of arrest has been a parent's main obstacle to meeting that obligation, then Amnesty in August is the perfect opportunity for that parent to re-engage in the support of his or her children."

Filed under: Local Crime

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 4:47 pm

David Cody Lynch, 31, died of asphyxia due to physical restraint, according to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner, which ruled the death a homicide.

Lynch died April 3 after a Warner police officer stopped him for a traffic violation. He attacked the officer, according to law enforcement sources, even removing the officer's gun belt during the skirmish.

The autopsy noted scratches and bruises associated with the scuffle and noted that Lynch was handcuffed and leg-cuffed when he died, apparently while police were laying on top of him to restrain him.

Lynch was under "acute intoxication by methamphetamine" at the time of his death, as well as legally intoxicated on alcohol. He suffered abrasions, contusions, lacerations and hemorrhages in the head and neck, abrasions and contusions on the abdomen and legs and forearms. At the time of his death, he was suffering from hypertensive cardiovascular disease and had been shocked by a Taser device.

His blood-alcohol level was 0.12, almost twice the legal limit for driving. His blood also tested positive for 2.5 mug/mL of methamphetamine and 0.65 of amphetamine. Law enforcement sources say Lynch was still grabbing for the officer's gun after he was handcuffed.

In classifying the death as a homicide, the examiner was careful to mention that the actions of the police may have been justified.

The cause of death is asphyxia due to physical restraint. The combination of the decedent being in a prone position with police officers kneeling on top of him in an attempt to restrain him most likely cause a hypoxic event. Other significant conditions are acute methamphetamine intoxication, hypertensive cardiovascular disease and electric shock weapon discharge.

The manner of death is classified as homicide. According to the National Association of Medical Examiners Guidelines, "Deaths due to positional restraint induced by law enforcement personnel or to choke holds or other measures to subdue may be classified as Homicide. In such cases, there may not be intent to kill, but the death results from one or more intentional, volitional, potentially harmful acts directed at the decedent..."

You can read the autopsy here. (4mb PDF file) Warning: Graphic content.

District Attorney Orvil Loge says he is looking into the death still and hasn't made a decision on whether any prosecution is warranted.

"There's going to be additional investigation," he said. "I will make a decision in the next 30 days."

Filed under: Local

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 8:53 am

People today know the importance of breastfeeding. While most new mothers start out breastfeeding, many Oklahoma mothers are not able to exclusively breastfeed for six months nor continue for up to 2 years of age as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). One of the challenges they face is continuing to breastfeed after they return to work.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is promoting World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, with the theme Breastfeeding and Work: Let's Make it Work. The goal is to empower and support all women, working in both the formal and informal sectors, to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding.

Major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Family Physicians recommend babies receive nothing but mother's milk during the first six months of life, and continue breastfeeding for at least the first year and beyond. Like any aspect of raising a child, breastfeeding requires the encouragement and support from a community of people. Support from hospitals, workplaces and family members go a long way in helping mothers and babies breastfeed for maximum benefit.

According to national and state surveys, mothers say breastfeeding is easier when they have support at home as well as at work. It is important that family members, clinicians, friends, co-workers and employers know how they can help make breastfeeding easier. Family members can help with household chores and other children, allowing the mother to have time to spend caring for her new baby. Employers can support mothers by being recognized as breastfeeding friendly worksites.

During World Breastfeeding Week, OSDH WIC clinics will be encouraging breastfeeding in Oklahoma by presenting award certificates to mothers who choose to breastfeed. Clinics may also hold receptions for breastfeeding mothers as well as display information that promotes the World Breastfeeding Week Theme.

OSDH and the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates (COBA) recognize worksites that meet the following criteria for becoming breastfeeding friendly:

  • Flexible break times and a private location are provided for mothers to express milk.
  • A water source is accessible for washing hands and breast pump equipment.
  • A written breastfeeding policy.

    For information about becoming a Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite, and a list of current recognized sites, visit the Oklahoma breastfeeding website at http://bis.health.ok.gov.

    For breastfeeding support and information, call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline toll free at 1-877-271-MILK (6455).

  • Filed under: Local

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 7:47 am

    Online applications for free/reduced meals at Muskogee Public Schools are now available online at School Lunch App. The full link to the site can be found on the MPS homepage at www.mpsi20.org.

    Parents/guardians are able to apply for all of their children with one application at this site.

    Students enrolled at Cherokee, Early Childhood Center, Grant Foreman, Irving, Pershing and Whittier do not need to fill out a form, as breakfast and lunch at these schools only are free for all students regardless of income.

    For more information, contact Child Nutrition Services at (918) 684-3765.

    Filed under: Local Education

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 7:43 am

    Roy Clark comes to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame to share stories from his 65+ years in the music business. Accompanied by Hall of Fame inductee Jim Halsey and John Wooley, these stories will be part of a taping of the TV program "Oklahoma Music Shop."

    Clark has a long history of TV fame, country music hits and crossover hits.

    Doors open at 7, show starts at 8 pm. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and seating is limited!

    Advanced tickets can be purchased at: www.eventbrite.com.

    The Oklahoma Music Shop (OMS) is a statewide Television show taped before a live audience at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee Oklahoma. The show provides singer/songwriters and bands a chance to showcase their talents while featuring Muskogee as a music destination location to all of Oklahoma on television and social media.

    OMS airs on Tulsa's CW 19 at 3:30 pm and OKC's KSBI 52 at 11:30 am on Saturdays.

    Filed under: Local Entertainment

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    Monday, July 27, 2015, 5:39 pm

    Capella, the company that owns the Eastar Hospitals in Muskogee, has sold to Medical Properties Trust, Inc., for $900 million in cash, according to a joint release from the companies.

    The transaction is expected to be finalized during the second half of 2015, following customary regulatory approvals. Capella is presently owned by funds affiliated with GTCR, a leading private equity firm.

    "After an extensive and year-long evaluation of different strategic opportunities, Capella Healthcare is pleased to announce that Medical Properties Trust, Inc. has agreed to provide the funding that will allow Capella continue to build upon our legacy of service excellence to our existing community hospitals and to provide attractive access to capital in support of our long-term growth plans," said Michael A. Wiechart, President and CEO of Capella. "Upon closing, we expect a management company - owned by current Capella senior management - will own with MPT the hospital operations and will operate and manage the hospital business while Capella's real estate interests are acquired by MPT."

    The management company will retain control of the day-to-day operations of Capella's hospitals with Wiechart continuing as President and CEO and no other changes anticipated in hospital management.

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    Monday, July 27, 2015, 4:10 pm

    Two earthquakes around 1:15 p.m. today in Guthrie rattled Muskogee, according to multiple reports.

    The earthquakes, one of 4.0 magnitude at 12:49 p.m., and one of 4.5 magnitude, at 1:12 p.m., were reported to the US Geological survey by thousands of people.

    Reports about the quake stretched even into Kansas. No reports of damage have come in.

    Filed under: Local

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    Monday, July 27, 2015, 9:45 am

    Yesterday, Muskogee County Drug Task Force K-9 units had information that David Branchcomb, who was the subject of several felony warrants, was in Muskogee County driving a Chrysler 200.

    The task force had received information that he was in possession of a firearm and large amount of methamphetamine, so they were actively looking for him throughout the evening. At approximately 11:40 p.m., Muskogee county K-9 unit made a traffic stop on Branchcomb's vehicle at the intersection of Live Oak and Gibson Streets. The driver of the vehicle pulled into a drive trying to elude the K-9 Deputy. The driver and a young child were found to be in the vehicle.

    During the investigation deputies learned that Branchcomb and his girlfriend, April Genzer - who also had felony warrants outstanding - were at Knights Inn Motel on N.43rd St. The task force went to that location to make contact with the fugitives. Task force deputies along with Muskogee Police department officers made contact with Branchcomb at that location where an officer had to deploy a Taser on Branchcomb to take him into custody.

    The task force secured the motel room until a search warrant was obtained to make entry at the motel room. Upon search of the room two loaded firearms, methamphetamine, digital scales and a large amount of drug paraphernalia were located in the room. Also located in the room was $1,800 in cash from sell of drug proceeds, according to the task force. Both Branchcomb and April Genzer were booked into Muskogee county jail on several felonies.

    The child in the car was Genzer's brother. The boy's mother was contacted and drove up from Shawnee to get him.

    Filed under: Local Breaking News

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    Sunday, July 26, 2015, 7:42 am

    A man from the Pryor area drowned yesterday at Spring Creek on Fort Gibson Lake in Mayes County after he jumped from a pontoon boat that was tied to several other vessels.

    The man, who has not been identified by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, was not wearing a life preserver and never resurfaced.

    His body was recovered in the vicinity where he disappeared. The water was 11 feet deep, and the boat was a mere 50 yards from shore.

    The victim's body has been transported to Shipman Funeral Home in Pryor.

    UPDATE: The victim is David S. Walton, 45, of Tulsa.

    Filed under: Local

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    Friday, July 24, 2015, 1:03 pm

    The Wagoner County Sheriff's Department has received a call that a woman near Redbird may have been killed by a pack of dogs, according to Undersheriff Mike Stickelmeyer.

    The sheriff hasn't had time to process the scene and cannot confirm whether a woman is actually dead or not, he said.

    We will report more details as they become available.

    1:50 PM UPDATE: The woman is dead, deputies have confirmed. Even though witnesses chased the dogs away, the dogs ripped the woman's clothes and face off, and she died before emergency workers could help her.

    There is no identification of the woman yet.

    Filed under: Local Crime

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    Friday, July 24, 2015, 9:13 am

    Muskogee Public Schools will be having Substitute Orientation for any individuals interested in substitute teaching for the upcoming school year from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 5.

    Orientation will be held at the Muskogee Best Center, 202 West Broadway.

    Interested individuals should bring the following items: Driver's license, social security card, voided check or financial institution document showing bank routing number and account number, $25 cash or money order for background check.

    If you substituted during the 2014-15 school year, you do not have to attend the orientation.

    Sign up for this school year by calling Tami Gardenhire, Substitute Coordinator, (918) 684-3700, ext. 1621.

    Filed under: Local Education

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    Friday, July 24, 2015, 9:11 am

    The 34nd Annual Country Showdown is America's largest country music talent show. It's designed to find the most promising country music talent in the nation and to give performers a chance to launch their professional music careers.

    The Country Showdown begins each spring with more than 450 local talent contests sponsored by country music radio stations throughout the US. Winners advance to their respective State competitions held at leading fairs and venues.

    Acts then compete for a $1,000 prize, the State Title, and the opportunity to advance to one of five Regional Finals. It's the last step before the prestigious, televised National Final.

    The audience cheers on the Regional Winners as they compete for the Grand Prize of $100,000 and the title of "Best New Act in Country Music."

    The show starts at 10 a.m. at Arrowhead Mall and is free.

    Filed under: Local Entertainment

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    Friday, July 24, 2015, 9:09 am

    The kids' fishing rodeo is tomorrow, starting at 8 a.m., at Three Forks Harbor, just east of the Arkansas River on Shawnee Bypass.

    The day is free.

    Each participant will receive a medal, a bag filled with items donated from local merchants and a t-shirt to keep as a memento.

    Drawings will be held throughout the morning for additional prizes. Entrants will also receive a free boxed lunch and beverage as well as ice cream from Braum's.

    For more information, 918-682-7886.

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    Friday, July 24, 2015, 9:08 am

    Alice Robertson Junior High School will host a public ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house for New Tech Academy at 2 p.m. Aug. 10 at the new building located at 402 N. S St.

    From 5:30-7:30 Aug. 10, all New Tech Academy students will be able to pick up their schedules and laptops, and meet their teachers.

    Seventh-grade Legacy Academy students will pick up schedules, laptops and meet teachers from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Aug. 11, and eighth-grade Legacy Academy students will do the same from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Aug. 13.

    For more information, call the school at (918) 684-3775 or public relations at (918) 684-3700, ext. 1613.

    Filed under: Local Education

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    Thursday, July 23, 2015, 4:18 pm

    Mobile is really hard to do well. But since 74.8 percent of our readers are on mobile devices, I had to come up with a solution to a serious problem (at least for me when I was reading the site): on loading the page, I had to zoom in to read anything.

    The solution might seem simple: make the text bigger. But it's not that simple, especially since many mobile devices compensate for that sort of thing, meaning it still looks horrible for them. The problem, frankly, was the ads on the sides of the page. It's hard to zoom in on the text with those ads there. But - and most sites probably won't talk about this openly - those ads go a long way toward paying the bills and helping keep this site free for you. We can't just skip them for mobile readers, which I mentioned before make up the majority of our readers. That wouldn't be providing a good value to the advertisers, which I also mentioned, pay the bills.

    And we couldn't just create a site specifically for mobile, because that becomes a major headache when trying to fix or maintain anything on the site; you have to go through and duplicate everything you do, and that's a hassle that makes it less enticing to try to make the site better.

    So I finally came up with a solution: drop the right column of ads (since they're repeats of the left column anyway) and modify the site so that it serves up the middle column much larger (proportionally speaking) to mobile viewers. Ultimately that means everyone wins: advertisers still get their money's worth (OK, more than their money's worth, if I do say so myself) and readers get a big bump in readability to the site.

    We hope you enjoy the change, you 75 percenters! Desktop readers will still get the two columns of ads, and the more proportional middle space containing the stories.

    UPDATE: MuskogeeMUGS.com is now mobile-friendly, too.

    Filed under: Local

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    Thursday, July 23, 2015, 11:11 am

    A 12-mile stretch of highway leading into Porum in Muskogee County is now free of potholes and uneven asphalt after the Cherokee Nation repaved it.

    Cherokee Nation and Muskogee County officials dedicated the newly repaired Ross Road in southern Muskogee County after it passed a final inspection on Wednesday.

    The work included patching, asphalt overlay, placing of signage and striping for the road that runs south from exit 284 on Interstate 40 near Webbers Falls to Porum.

    "For our citizens and all the drivers on this road, it's critical for the Cherokee Nation to play our role in making sure safety comes first. We proudly partner with our counterparts within the county government to ensure upgrades happen when they are needed," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "We make these investments in infrastructure because it improves the quality of life in Muskogee County."

    Cherokee Nation used more than $3.5 million of Tribal Transportation Bridge Program funds to complete the project.

    "It's a road that has been here for many years, taking the community into Porum," said Cherokee Nation District 4 Tribal Councilor Don Garvin. "I'm glad we could put the overlay on it to make it last, and I know our citizens who drive it appreciate it."

    With pavement placed in the mid 1980s, the condition of Ross Road was deteriorating quickly. The new road surface is now safer and reduces the wear and tear on the nearly 800 vehicles that travel the road each day.

    "I can't express how much I appreciate the Cherokee Nation and their roads program, which helps us with at least two projects a year," said Muskogee County Commissioner for District 2 Stephen Wright. "Ross Road had alligator cracks, a number of pot holes and probably wouldn't have made it another two years without the repair by the Cherokee Nation."

    The Cherokee Nation Roads Program has completed more than 43 miles of roadway and two bridge projects in fiscal year 2015 at a cost of more than $5.4 million.

    Filed under: Local Good News Tribes

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    Thursday, July 23, 2015, 10:24 am

    Muskogee flight nurse Todd Kochell recently celebrated his 1,000th patient flight with Air Evac Lifeteam. Kochell first came to work for Air Evac in June 2004 as a flight paramedic. He left the company in May 2011 but returned in September 2014 after completing school to become a registered nurse.

    "In between my work at Air Evac, I worked in the emergency room at St. Francis South in Tulsa," Kochell said. "I've come full circle. I was in Claremore, Okla., for my first four years at Air Evac, and moved to the Muskogee base. I enjoy the crew and the family atmosphere. It's a good experience."

    Kochell and his wife, Kathy, live in Wagoner. They have three children: Joseph, Daniel and Kandice, all raised around Air Evac.

    Filed under: Local Good News

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    Thursday, July 23, 2015, 10:10 am

    Mark Ashbrener, 64, of Wagoner and an unidentified 61-year-old black man from Muskogee were injured in a head-on collision on Oklahoma 16 late last night, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

    The Muskogee man's name is being withheld pending notification of his family.

    The Muskogee man was driving a 1993 Chevrolet Silverado northbound on the highway and Ashbrener was driving south. According to the highway patrol, the Muskogee man's vehicle crossed the center line for an unknown reason and collided with Ashbrener's vehicle. Both men were taken by helicopter to Saint John's Hospital in Tulsa with head and internal injuries. Both men were admitted to the hospital in critical condition, according to the patrol.

    Both men were wearing seatbelts.

    10:51 A.M UPDATE: The Muskogee man's name has been released. He is Virdell Miller.

    Filed under: Local Traffic

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    Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 12:05 pm

    Ellen Sparrow, 58, of Muskogee has disappeared from Eastar Hospital West, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which has issued a Silver Alert for her.

    Sparrow is described as an at-risk adult. She has a proven disability and is believed to be in immediate danger of injury or death if she is not located.

    She suffers from dementia, schizophrenia and a failing liver. Police describe her as having a medium build, and she disappeared sometime between midnight and 8 AM today. If you see her, contact Muskogee Police at 918-683-8000

    UPDATE 10:24, July 23: Sparrow has been found in Tulsa. She is now in the custody of Adult Protective Services.

    Filed under: Local

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    Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 11:05 am

    Muskogee Public Schools Board of Education hired Ron Davis as the new high school head wrestling coach during its regular board meeting Tuesday night.

    Davis is coming to Muskogee from Wilburton Public Schools, where he is a technology teacher and high school wrestling coach, and also the founder of the Wilburton Takedown Club youth program.

    Davis previously worked at MPS as a head middle school football coach, assistant wrestling coach and head middle school track coach in 2004 and has more than 12 years experience in coaching from youth to semi-pro athletics.

    Filed under: Local Sports Education

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