The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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September 24, 2012

Accounts leave questions in fatality traffic accident involving deputy sheriff

NEOSHO, Mo. — Reports of witnesses to an Aug. 17 fatality traffic crash involving a motorcycle and a Newton County Sheriff’s Department vehicle don’t agree in the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s crash report.

The Globe obtained the patrol’s report via a formal request based on the state’s open records law. A more detailed crash reconstruction report is still to be released by the patrol.

The motorcyclist, Cory Sheppard, 33, of Neosho, died at the scene of the accident at 8:42 p.m. on Gateway Drive, about a mile and a half south of Joplin. A Newton County emergency vehicle driven by sheriff’s Sgt. David Trimble, headed south, struck Sheppard’s motorcycle, also headed south, from behind.

Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said at the time that Trimble was responding to an emergency call with his emergency lights and siren activated.

The report makes no reference to the nature of the emergency call to which Trimble was responding or to the speed of the vehicles.

Trimble’s statement in the Highway Patrol report was that he was traveling south with lights and siren activated “and there he (the motorcyclist) was.”

Witnesses Robyn Matthews and Raymond Matthews reported identical information to the patrol. They reported seeing the Sheriff’s Department vehicle headed south with emergency lights activated, but they said they didn’t hear a siren. They saw sparks coming from the deputy’s vehicle as it came to a stop, but they didn’t see the motorcycle until they came to a stop.

Another witness, Hank Heid, reported that he saw the motorcycle go by with its headlight on, followed by the vehicle with emergency lights and siren, “and then heard a bang.”

The narrative states that Sheppard was thrown from his motorcycle on impact and landed in the east ditch, while the motorcycle became lodged under the Sheriff’s Department vehicle and both skidded across the centerline before stopping.

Sheppard was wearing white tennis shoes, blue jeans, a gray T-shirt and a black helmet.

The report also states that the headlight and taillight of the motorcycle were collected as evidence and sent to the patrol’s Troop D crime lab in Springfield for examination.

Copeland said radio traffic and other information submitted for the investigation will show that Trimble had activated both his emergency lights and siren.

He said he didn’t want to speculate on the disagreements in the witnesses’ reports. He said the crash reconstruction should answer more questions when it is released.

Desk duty

SGT. DAVID TRIMBLE was suspended immediately after the accident. He was allowed to return to work, but only to desk duty, after the initial Highway Patrol report was completed., Sheriff Ken Copeland said.

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