Neosho man charged in church slaying

John Ford

A Neosho man has been charged in Sunday's deadly shooting at First Congregational Church that claimed the lives of three people and left five others injured.

Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, will be arraigned at 1 p.m. Tuesday on three counts of first degree murder, four counts of first degree assault, one count of felonious restraint and one count of armed criminal action. The arraignment will take place in the Newton County Division II Associated Circuit Courtroom with Judge Greg Stremel presiding.??

The slayings are the first in more than a decade in the town of 10,500, according to the police chief.

"The city of Neosho is mourning today," said Desiree Bridges, communications director for the city of Neosho.

According to Scott Watson, Newton County prosecuting attorney, those killed in Sunday's church shooting were senior pastor Kernal Rehobson, 43; church deacon Intenson Rehobson, 44; and church deacon Kuhpes "Jesse" Ikosia, 53. Watson also identified four of those wounded in Sunday's shooting as Jim Hardy, Melihna Tarra, Dahnny Jack and Andy Kendey.??

"There may be additional charges, as there may be additional victims," Watson said during a news conference Monday morning at the Neosho Neighborhood Rec Center.

Three of those wounded have been hospitalized at two Joplin hospitals, while two others were treated and later released. Watson said when the fifth victim's name became known to his office, another charge of first-degree assault would be added.?

Saimon is being held in the Newton County Jail on $1 million bail.??

Watson said he could not comment as to the motive for the shooting in the case.??

"But I can tell you if this went to trial today, it is my belief that we have the accurate motive in the case," he said. "Folks, I'm telling you this is the day after. We're not even 24 hours old into this case."?

The prosecutor classified the Micronesian community as "close knit," a community where people take care of each other.

"Since 1991, there has been less than a half dozen cases involving this community," Watson said. "I'm not saying the community has not had problems."??

Neosho Police Chief David McCracken would not comment on whether the victims were related, but said they were acquaintances.??

But a close family member of pastor Kernal Rehobson said Saimon is his second cousin. Saimon was a cousin of Kernal's mother, Resel, the family member said.

Saimon is also a suspect in a child sexual abuse case involving a 14-year-old female relative, according to Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland. The sexual abuse allegedly took place Saturday at a home in Newton County.

Charges in sexual abuse case had not been filed as of press time Monday, but Copeland told reporters the murder case would not impact the handling of that investigation.??

Copeland also said the 14-year-old was not present at the time of the church shooting. He said Saimon was married and has children, but did not know how many children he has.