CHARLESTON - A Cape Girardeau man was found guilty for his role in the armed robbery of a Miner business Tuesday by a Mississippi County jury.
Darrin Meuir, 24, was found guilty of the class A felony of first degree robbery and an unclassified felony of armed criminal action in connection with the Sept. 13, 2001, robbery of the Keller Truck Stop in Miner.
The robbery occurred around 3:30 a.m. at the truck stop. According to reports, Christopher Shipman had entered the business wearing a gas mask as a disguise while being armed with what appeared to be a black revolver. At gunpoint, Shipman demanded money for cashier Lois Lutes and escaped from the truck stop with approximately $600 and a cash drawer. Shipman got into a car that was driven by Meuir.
The report stated that Meuir drove Shipman to the robbery and was keeping watch while armed with a fully loaded 30-06 rifle. Both defendants then drove out of Miner and into Sikeston, where they were pursued by officers from the Miner Police Department. The car was eventually stopped by police and money from the robbery was located in the car. Both suspects were arrested at that time.
During the trial, Lutes testified that after she surrendered the cash drawer and money to Shipman, she immediately called the police. Miner officer Anthony Moody said he heard the call go out that a robbery had occurred and shortly thereafter, he spotted a car exiting onto Interstate 55 from Highway HH.
Moody said he got behind the car and was able to determine with his spotlight that the passenger had long blonde hair and matched the description of the robber. He followed the suspect vehicle back through Miner and into Sikeston, where it was eventually pulled over by Miner Police Chief Roger Moore with assistance from the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.
Donald Massey, also an officer with the Miner Police Department, said that after investigating the crime scene, he had found footprints leading to and from Keller's from a secluded spot on the shoulder of Highway H. He said he observed and photographed tire marks indicating that the getaway car was parked behind a tall privacy fence outside the view from Keller's Truck Stop.
Moore testified that after the suspect vehicle was stopped, he identified the passenger as Shipman and the driver as Meuir. He said Meuir was armed with a loaded 30-06 scoped rifle at the time of the stop. He also said a further search of the car revealed the cash drawer from Keller's, the money and Lutes' register card that was also taken in the robbery. The gas mask and gun used by Shipman in the robbery were also recovered.
Although Shipman later confessed that he committed the robbery, Meuir made no statements to the police, nor did he testify at trial.
Mississippi County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory B. Spencer said the state prosecuted Meuir on the theory of accomplice liability. In Missouri, a person who aids or encourages another in the commission of a crime is just as guilty as the person committing the crime. "Without the assistance of Mr. Meuir," Spencer said, "Chris Shipman never would have been able to commit this robbery in the manner that he did."
Spencer said that without the hard work of the Miner Police Department, the men might have escaped. "And with the brave testimony of Lois Lutes, these dangerous guys will not breathe free air for hopefully a long time."
In November 2001, Shipman pleaded guilty to the robbery instead of going to trial. Even though he had no prior convictions, Shipman will still have to serve at least 85 percent of the 10-year sentence handed to him by Judge David Dolan before being eligible for parole. Robbery in the first degree is defined by the Missouri Legislature as a "dangerous offense."
Since Meuir has prior felony convictions, Dolan found him to be a prior and persistent felony offender. As a result, the jury did not decide the issue of punishment in his case. Dolan has sent sentencing for Oct. 8 in Mississippi County, after a pre-sentence investigation is completed by the Department of Probation and Parole.
Spencer prosecuted the case on behalf of Scott County, even though he is now employed in Mississippi County.