2 defendants bound over in separate felony domestic assault cases

Apr. 19—A Jasper County judge has ordered two men bound over for trial in separate felony domestic assault cases, one of which includes an allegation of rape.

Michael J. Ashworth, 31, of Joplin, waived a preliminary Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court and was ordered to stand trial on counts of first-degree rape and second-degree domestic assault.

The charges pertain to a domestic disturbance Feb. 2 in Joplin during which Ashworth allegedly raped, beat and choked a female acquaintance. The woman told police that Ashworth would not let her leave the residence where the rape took place and took her phone from her, preventing her calling for help until she was able to escape the next day.

The prosecutor's office in January had dismissed a prior felony count of domestic assault filed on Ashworth in 2023, citing a lack of cooperation on the part of the alleged victim. Judge Joseph Hensley set Ashworth's initial appearance in a trial division on the more recent charges for May 1.

The judge also decided at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing Thursday that there is probable cause for Aeron C. Richard, 24, of Webb City, to stand trial on a charge of second-degree domestic assault.

Richard is accused of dragging his girlfriend by her hair across a floor, punching her repeatedly in the face and choking her during a domestic disturbance Feb. 16 at a residence near Joplin. The assault was not reported to the Jasper County sheriff's office until the following day.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.