Clay County Authorities Investigating Alleged Baseball Bat Attack on Teenager

APRIL 17, 2006 - Posted at 3:44 p.m. CST, updated at 4:27 p.m. CST, updated at 5:10 p.m.

CORNING, AR - Authorities with the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Second Judicial District Prosecutor's office are investigating an alleged hate crime in Corning that has apparently left one person clinging to life support in a southeast Missouri hospital.

Few official details are available yet, but credible law enforcement sources have told K8 News that an African-American teenager was reportedly attacked and beaten with a baseball bat Saturday afternoon on Stephens Lane in Corning.  That news was just confirmed by Second Judicial District Prosecutor Brent Davis, who identified the victim as Craig Matthews, a 19-year-old black male.

Davis said the victim was airlifted to a hospital in Cape Girardeau with severe head injuries, and is currently on life support at the facility.

The primary suspect is identified as 38-year-old Donald Groning, and Davis said the suspect is believed to be related to the Corning Police Chief.  Davis said Groning is charged with first degree battery and is being held on a $250,000 bond.

Meanwhile, a white female described as Groning's ex-wife and identified as 60-year-old Wanda Emons has also been charged in the case with hindering apprehension, tampering with evidence, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Davis said the later charge stems from allegations that she involved a local juvenile in an attempt to hide evidence.  Her bond has been set at $15,000.

A juvenile who was also allegedly involved in the incident may also face charges, according to Davis.  Clay County Sheriff Ronnie Cole said the juvenile is being held in Craighead County.

Due to potential conflict of interests in the case with the Corning Police Department, the current investigation has been taken over by the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Arkansas State Police.

K8 News has a crew at the scene in Corning and will have more information tonight as it becomes available.