Death penalty to be sought in Sheldon murders
The Jasper County prosecutor has filed a notice that he will seek the death penalty against Darren J. Winans and Matthew D. Laurin, the accused killers of Robert and Ellen Sheldon, as Missouri appears poised to resume executions under its death-penalty statute.
Winans, 22, of Jasper, and Laurin, 20, of Springfield, are accused of stabbing the Sheldons to death inside their home near Carthage the night of Oct. 11, 2008. Investigators believe they broke into the elderly couple’s home intending to rob them.
Missouri’s capital-murder law prohibits the death penalty unless at least one of 14 aggravating circumstances is found to be part of the offense. The notice of aggravating circumstances filed in Jasper County Circuit Court by Prosecutor Dean Dankelson cites four alleged elements of the crime that meet the requirements:
Commission of first-degree murder while committing another homicide.
Commission of first-degree murder for the purpose of receiving money or other objects of monetary value from the victims.
That each murder was “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of mind.”
That each murder was committed in the act of perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate another felony offense, namely burglary or robbery.
The two defendants’ cases have been severed by order of Circuit Judge Gayle Crane, and each has a hearing on motions scheduled for Jan. 25. The judge has yet to assign the cases to other counties on changes of venue for selection of jurors, and no trial dates have been set.
Winans and Laurin become the second and third defendants currently facing a possible death penalty in Jasper County cases, and the fourth and fifth in the Globe’s coverage area in Southwest Missouri.
Gary Black, 54, twice convicted and sentenced to die in the 1998 slaying of college student Jason Johnson in downtown Joplin, is awaiting a third trial in his capital-murder case. Both of Black’s convictions were overturned, with the Missouri Supreme Court most recently deciding that he should have been allowed to act as his own attorney at his second trial.
Black since has relinquished the idea of representing himself at his next trial. The local court is awaiting completion of a mental health examination of Black that was requested by his attorney before setting a new trial date.
David W. Spears, 27, of Stella, and Chris L. Collings, 34, of Wheaton, face the possibility of death sentences if they are convicted in the Rowan Ford murder case. The 9-year-old girl was abducted Nov. 3, 2007, from her home in Stella. She is believed to have been raped and murdered in Barry County. Her body was found in a sinkhole in McDonald County.
The trial of Spears, Rowan’s stepfather, has been shifted to Pulaski County, and Collings’ case is pending in Phelps County on changes of venue.http://www.joplinglobe.com/local/local_story_019223906.html?keyword=secondarystory