The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

March 15, 2013

Hearing scheduled for California man wanted by Jasper County authorities

A California man being investigated in connection with a scam in which Joplin residents were defrauded after the May 2011 tornado by next week must respond to a warrant based on a Jasper County felony bad check charge.

Clark Baxter, 58, Dana Point, Calif., is to appear in Orange County Superior Court on Thursday on a fugitive warrant from Missouri based on charges he wrote an insufficient funds check to a Joplin store in October 2011.

Clark could avoid further action in the California court by proving he has cleared up the Missouri charge, said Jimmy Harris, an assistant prosecuting attorney for the Orange County prosecuting attorney’s office, by phone on Friday.

“If he did, the charge could be dismissed,” he said. “If not, he could be held for Missouri.”

Dean Dankelson, Jasper County prosecutor, said Clark will have to come to Missouri to address the charge that he wrote a $6,255 insufficient funds check to Hermann Lumber in Joplin.

“He’ll have to come to Missouri and appear (in court) here,” he said. “If he does, we’ll deal with him here. If not, we’ll enlist California’s help in bringing him back.”

Harris said Clark was arrested on Feb. 6 and was released when California officials determined they did not have enough information to prove he was the person sought in the Missouri check charge. Baxter then returned to court. “I guess because he knew the warrant was out there,” the attorney added. “He still has the right to an identity hearing if he wanted to go through the whole process. Then if we proved it was him, he could be held for Missouri and extradited.”

The bad check charge is the only action filed against Clark in Missouri thus far, but the Missouri attorney general’s office is investigating him for a contracting scam in Joplin after the tornado, said Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster.

Larry and Amy Jump and Megan Snyder said they gave money to Baxter, owner of Sustainable Design Inc., after he came to Joplin and offered to design energy-efficient homes for them to replace properties lost in the tornado.

Baxter reportedly said he would serve as general contractor and get materials at a reduced rate. The Jumps reportedly gave him about $54,000 and Snyder gave him about $64,000, which was to pay for building materials. While some of those materials arrived, most never did, and the Joplin residents said they could get no response from him by telephone or email.

The victims had been contacted for the help by the New Orleans-based group, Relief Spark, that formed after Hurricane Katrina and came to Joplin to help after the tornado. Clark said the homes would be extremely energy-efficient to reduce future utility bills for the families.

The homes eventually were completed and outfitted by other volunteer groups — Catholic Charities and Samaritan’s Purse — that stepped in to help.

A story in Friday’s Globe incorrectly reported that warrants had been issued in connection with the home construction projects. The only warrant issued thus far is that in connection with the bad check charge.

Traffic stop

Clark Baxter was arrested after a traffic stop and is charged in California with driving on a suspended license, said Jimmy Harris, an assistant prosecuting attorney for the Orange County prosecuting attorney’s office.

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