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The needle and the damage done, meat tampering case

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A East St. Louis man has been accused of ‘needling the meat’ in a Shop ‘n Save at 4201 North Belt West Rd. in Belleville, Illinois. 68-year old, disabled vet, Ronald G. Avers of Belleville, was arraigned Thursday on seven counts of food tampering. The crime spree or terrorist actions were alleged to have happened over the past 15 months, at one store.

A grocery store employee found needles in packages of ground beef, steak, beef roasts, pork steaks and pork chops. In one case cited in the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. Federal District Court in East St. Louis, a female customer of the store, reported that, after preparing a chuck roast, she was eating a piece of the cooked meat when she impaled her mouth by a sewing needle.

Similarly, another customer reported getting stuck on the hand by a needle in a cut of steak, purchased from the store’s meat department. Seven separate incidents in all.

According to court documents, FBI Special Agent Daniel Cook, in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, wrote that Shop 'n Save alerted him July 9 of the tampering, which dated to May of last year, when a customer first reported finding a needle in a package of ground beef. Roughly four months later, Cook wrote, a store employee found a needle sticking out of a package of pork chops. Customers later reported finding needles in everything from ground beef to roasts and steaks.

Using its surveillance camera footage, Cook wrote, the Shop 'n Save's security crew identified a suspect seen manipulating meat items he never ended up buying and alerted Cook on Tuesday when that man again entered the store, riding a motorized scooter and using a portable oxygen tank.

After buying various items, Cook said, the man was approached by investigators outside the store and allowed them to search his truck, where an open package of sewing needles was found in a center console. Identifying himself as Ronald Avers, Cook wrote, the man insisted he kept the needles on hand to mend pants he tore while camping, then gradually acknowledged he used the needles more inappropriately.

"'Every now and then I would stick one in a hamburger,'" Cook quoted Avers as saying before the man expounded, "'Mostly hamburger, a couple of times I did it with a roast, maybe a pork chop every now and then.'"

Avers insisted he had no justification for such tampering, calling it a "stupid idea," Cook wrote. "Avers said during the interview two times he inserted sewing needles into packaged meat products, 'just for the hell of it.'" the FBI agent wrote, adding that Avers continued: "It was stupidity. I didn't want to hurt nobody."

Court documents indicate Avers has not worked in 15 to 20 years and lives on a $2,000.00 monthly Veterans Administration disability check and $600.00 in Social Security benefits.

Avery made a brief court appearance Thursday, to answer for the seven tampering counts, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine for each charge. He was ordered jailed pending a scheduled detention hearing Monday.

Needles in food give all of us the heebie-jeebies, and how appropriate that is. The word “heebie-jeebies” means "uncomfortably nervous". It can also refer to a particular form of intense apprehension, verging on horror! The American English idiom most likely has its genesis in the Mid-West United States, probably an anti-religious statement, referring to those who studied both Christian and Hebrew scripture/texts.

“The extreme Protestant nature of these people would have been seen as odd, much like the Amish People are often perceived, quite possibly giving birth to the term, Heebie Jeebie (Hebrew + Jesus) that has morphed into its non-offensive modern-day variant, which applies to anything that is misunderstood and the cause of anxiety.” ~

What would possess a person to put needles into raw meat? How random and asinine is that? When we were kids, on Halloween our parents would have to check our candy to insure that there wasn’t any package tampering. The late ‘60’s, early ‘70’s, hospitals would offer to x-ray your bags of candy, free of charge, trying to detect needles or razor blades. This is how epidemic this act of violence was.

Some things don’t change and unfortunately, sin and the effects of sin, continue. For such a tiny word, a lot is packed into the meaning of sin.

Sin is described by Webster as a noun\’sin\ 1. a: an offense against religious or moral law. b: an action that is felt to be highly reprehensible <it’s a sin to waste food>. c: an often serious shortcoming: FAULT. The Bible describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law (1 John 3:4). It is also defined as disobedience, or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), or independence from God. The original translation means "to miss the mark" of God's holy standard of righteousness.

Hamartiology is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the study of sin. It investigates how sin originated, how it affects the human race, the different types and degrees of sin, and the results of sin.

Scripturally, we know that sin was introduced in the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve and they disobeyed God (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). The essence of the problem stemmed from the human desire to be like God. All sin, therefore, has its roots in idolatry—the attempt to put something or someone, usually one's own self, in the place of the Creator. While God allows sin, He is not the author of sin. All sins are an offense to God and they separate us from Him (Isaiah 59:2).

Here is the kicker…without Christ, all of us are like ‘Ronald G. Avers of Belleville’. Yes, the meat poking, needle pusher! Romans 3:10 reads, “…there is no one righteous, not even one.”. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” ~Romans 3:23.

So, no matter what you’ve heard or been told, we’re all screw ups…damaged goods…human. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”, 1 John 1:8. This disturbed Avers guy and his penchant for needles, will surely be punished for his heinous acts.

Jesus spoke of a needle in Matthew 19:24, and you might have heard this before, “I'll say it again--it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!". Many dispute the definition and origin to this passage. I don’t believe that camel means “rope” or that the eye is a small gate in Jerusalem’s wall.

Quite simply, Jesus was answering a wealthy young man’s question, “…what good deed must I do to have eternal life”? Jesus told him, “…to receive eternal life, keep the commandments”!

“Which ones?” the man asked. Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

"Jesus' love for the man is expressed in a challenge. The one thing the man lacked was a wholehearted allegiance to God. So Jesus gave him a stern test to reveal the fact that he had made an idol of wealth, thus breaking the first Commandment (Exodus 20:3)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

…24. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Verse 24 is a proverbial expression for an impossibility. Christ used an expression, denoting a difficulty, altogether unconquerable by the power of man. Nothing less than the almighty grace of God will enable a rich man to get over this difficulty. “…Human achievement cannot attain salvation; only God has the power to bestow it." (The Spirit Filled Life Bible) “There is a way that appears to be right, to man, but in the end it leads to death.” ~ Proverbs 14:12

If sin separates us from God and condemns us to death, how do we get free from its curse? Fortunately, God provided a solution through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

'What about the eye of a needle?' Well, whether we are rich or poor, good or bad…on our own, it is impossible to be saved. A drowning man can’t save himself, that’s just as impossible as it would be for a camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle. But, God could get a Camel through the eye of a needle, if He wanted to do it.

With God everything is possible, even our salvation. In the words of John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”




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