The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

August 22, 2012

Man’s brain injury thwarts prosecution of alleged assailant

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Jasper County prosecutor’s office dropped the prosecution of a Joplin assault case Wednesday because of the brain-injured victim’s inability to recall the alleged attack that impaired his memory.

Bobby J. Adkins, 56, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court on a charge of first-degree assault. Adkins was accused of causing life-threatening injuries to Ronnie L. Flack, 50, on April 24 in the 500 block of East Fifth Street in Joplin.

Emergency medical help was summoned at 6:35 p.m. when a Missouri Gas Energy employee discovered Flack injured and unconscious inside a fence on the utility company’s property. Flack was taken to a Joplin hospital and later transferred to a hospital in Springfield because of the severity of his injuries.

Doctors told investigators that Flack’s injuries appeared to have been caused by a blunt-force instrument and that he would have permanent brain damage. A probable-cause affidavit states that doctors said at the time that he might never walk or talk again.

Despite that dire prognosis four months ago, the prosecutor’s office appeared prepared to call Flack as a witness at Adkins’ hearing Wednesday until Assistant Prosecutor Theresa Kenney spoke with Flack outside the courtroom. Kenney returned and told the judge that she was going to have to ask that the charge be dropped.

“I just don’t have enough evidence,” she said.

Associate Judge Richard Copeland dismissed the case. The defendant had been in custody since his arrest in May.

Kenney said after the hearing that Flack has no memory of what happened because of his brain injury, making the case difficult to prosecute despite some admissions that Adkins allegedly made to police. A probable-cause affidavit states that Adkins acknowledged being in a fight with Flack and hitting him with his fists.

There are no known witnesses to the incident other than Adkins and Flack, Kenney said.

Homeless men

BOTH MEN were homeless at the time of the alleged assault, according to a police report. Defendant Bobby Adkins listed the Watered Gardens ministry and shelter at 531 S. Kentucky Ave. as his address on police and court records.

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