Sep 11, 2019 1:30 PM

Sons of Missouri woman slain in 1988 responded to charges in case

Posted Sep 11, 2019 1:30 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The sons of 31-year-old Cynthia Smith, who was killed more than 30 years ago in southwest Missouri, say they are happy that someone has been charged in the crime that caused them to be separated as children.

Lawrence Gene Timmons, 65, was indicted Friday on a first-degree murder charge in Smith's death and six charges of unlawful possession a firearm for incidents that allegedly occurred in 2017 and 2019. During an arraignment Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Jack Goodman entered not guilty pleas for Timmons, who does not yet have an attorney.

A court official told Goodman Tuesday that Timmons was not eligible for a public defender because he has more than $250,000 in assets. After Timmons told the judge he didn't have "anywhere near $250,000" Goodman ordered an indigent hearing on Oct. 8.

Jason Smith was just 4 in 1988 when his mother didn't pick up him and his then 8-year-old half-brother, Shawn Goodspeed, from a babysitter. After the body was found about a week later, Shawn was sent to live with his dad in California and Jason remained in Missouri with his grandparents.

Cynthia Smith was last seen leaving a Mt. Vernon, Missouri, bar with a man. Her body was found at a rural cemetery near Pierce City, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Springfield.

Jason Smith, who is now 35 and living in Springfield, said Monday he doesn't have many memories of his mother,

"Probably my biggest memory — (her death) is solely what separated my brother and I, for pretty much all of our lives,"

The older brother, Jason Goodspeed, now 39, remembers his mother as a kind and loving woman who sometimes cried when residents at a long-term care facility in Aurora where she worked had died.

"Her dying just changed everything," he said. "Everything."

Lawrence County authorities say Timmons is a suspect in the 1994 death of his first wife, Deborah Jean Timmons, and in the 1998 drowning death of an 11-year-old girl who was a friend of a daughter Timmons had with Deborah Jean.

The Associated Press could not independently verify that Timmons was being investigated in those deaths. A Lawrence County sheriff's detective told the AP Tuesday the department is working with other agencies, but would not say if Timmons is suspected of the Oklahoma killings.

Timmons also is charged with forgery on a job application he allegedly filled out in Feb. 2019 and a second forgery charge for which he was arrested Aug. 19 at his Pierce City home after allegedly filling out a job application in March that falsely claimed he was not a felon.

Smith said he only recently learned that Timmons was convicted of felony kidnapping and assault following a 1976 incident with an 11-year-old Springfield boy and that Timmons was accused but acquitted of raping a 24-year-old Monett woman just hours before his mother's disappearance.

"I didn't know about that," Smith said. "It seems like somebody — I wish they'd have caught him sooner."

Goodspeed, now 39, and living in Tempe, Arizona, said he knew Timmons was questioned when his mother disappeared but he wasn't aware of his extensive criminal record. He said he still wonders what happened to his mother before she was killed and often questioned if the case would be solved.

"He's affected a lot of families, a lot of people," Goodspeed said. "I can't help but have some annoyance at the original investigation from the beginning. Had they got it right, they'd have saved those lives. And I hope those families, I hope they find their closure as well."

In New York state Monday, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said there was no evidence that Timmons committed any crimes while living in the Rochester, New York-area from 2004 to 2014. But officials from Perinton, New York, said Monday that in 2014, Timmons falsified information on a job application and was hired as a public park watchman.


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Sep 11, 2019 1:30 PM
Governor: Missouri in 'crisis' with violence in large cities

Parson:Tuesday, in a follow-up from our meeting on September 5, we met again with St. Louis officials.

We discussed what immediate actions the state could make to face urban violence in our communities and then spoke with members of the press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri is in a "crisis" with violent crime in its largest cities, Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday.

Parson met with St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and about a dozen other area leaders to address violence in the city. The officials didn't release a new crime-fighting plan, but Parson said one will be announced soon, possibly later this month.

It was the second time Parson came to St. Louis in the past week to discuss the crime problem. Last week, he met with about two dozen faith leaders along with Krewson. He also met last week in Jefferson City with the Legislative Black Caucus to discuss crime.

St. Louis has already seen 138 homicides in 2019 and is on pace to top last year's total of 186. Eleven of this year's victims were children, and two other child deaths are being investigated as "suspicious." All 13 children were black.

Homicides are also on the rise in Kansas City, which has recorded 103 homicides so far this year. That's on pace to top the 138 killings totaled in 2018. Both cities have among the nation's highest homicide rates.

Parson, a Republican, called the cities' violent crime rate a "crisis" after meeting with the leaders. But he remained noncommittal on whether he would support changes in Missouri's gun laws, instead saying the matter needs to be addressed by the full Legislature next year.

"That legislative body represents close to 6 million people in this state," Parson said. "They all should have a say if we're going to change the gun laws in this state."

He also pledged "to protect the rights of the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens of this state."

The GOP-led Legislature declined to take up the issue of gun violence at a special session that began Monday. Instead, lawmakers returned to the Capitol to consider bringing back a tax break for multiple vehicle trade-ins.

One gun law change favored by Krewson and others in St. Louis would allow the city to require a permit to carry a gun. Missouri changed its law, effective in 2017, so that a permit is no longer required.

Krewson, a Democrat, said Tuesday's meeting focused on three areas that could help reduce violence: manpower, equipment and technology.

Parson has said he supports directing the Missouri State Highway Patrol to take over some St. Louis-area highways to free up city officers for other crime-fighting efforts. Technological improvements could include purchasing a system that helps detect gunshots and adding more security cameras in high-crime areas.

Page, also a Democrat, said the county is willing to do whatever it can to help reduce crime in the city.

"We know that crime is a regional problem," Page said. "It's going to take a regional effort."

ST. LOUIS (AP) — For the second time in a week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will be in St. Louis to meet with local leaders to address violent crime in the city.

The governor's office says Parson met Tuesday afternoon with Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and other local, state and law enforcement officials. The meeting at St. Louis City Hall is closed to the public and the media.

Parson, a Republican, met last week with about two dozen faith leaders in St. Louis, and with Krewson.

St. Louis has already seen 138 homicides in 2019 and is on pace to top last year's 186. A startling 11 of this year's victims were children, and two other child deaths are being investigated as "suspicious."