NEW MADRID -- DNA and a stolen rifle were found to be enough evidence for a New Madrid man to face murder charges in circuit court.
A preliminary hearing was conducted Monday in Division II of New Madrid County Circuit Court for Cornelius Sutton, 18, for the murder of Charles "Charlie" Toler, 70, on Aug. 17. Sutton is charged with first degree murder, first degree robbery and first degree burglary.
New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Lewis H. Recker called only three witnesses at the hearing before Associate Circuit Judge Charles Spitler.
The first witness, Deputy Jason Ward of the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department, testified how he was called by Tracy Shelton of the New Madrid Police Department at about 8:30 a.m. Aug. 19 to a residence to assist on a well-being check.
"I believe he had entered the residence," Ward said. "Once he entered the residence, something didn't look quite right."
Ward said he and about four other police officers and sheriff's deputies entered the residence and noticed several things out of the ordinary, such as a wallet and documents spread on the floor, and an odor.
"It had a real bad smell to it," he said of the residence.
Upon looking straight down the hall into the bathroom, officers saw what "appeared to be a person laying in the bathtub with his feet turned up in the air, tied," according to Ward. "We did not go in any further, we backed out of the scene."
Ward said they then secured the home with crime scene tape, placed an officer on the scene, and called the major case squad.
In an interview of a family member during the subsequent investigation, investigators "discovered missing from the home was some cash and a .22 long rifle," he said.
Ward said the rifle was later recovered at a residence on Vandenvender where authorities believe the mother of Sutton's baby lives.
"There were some items there that had his name, and his clothing," Ward said.
Ward said he knew the defendant due to a prior investigation into a bomb threat at New Madrid County High School.
The second witness called by Recker was New Madrid County Coroner Jimmy McSpadden.
"I got to the scene about 1 p.m.," he said. "I spoke with all the investigators, they said they were gathering evidence ... We knew very quickly we were dealing with a homicide investigation."
Based on the last time Toler was seen alive and the decomposition of the body, the time of death was placed at about a day and a half before the body was discovered, according to McSpadden.
McSpadden said he was present for the autopsy conducted at the Mineral Area Regional Medical Center and that the cause of death was determined to be asphyxia from blunt chest trauma.
The final witness was Dennis Overbey, an investigator for the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Overbey said Toler's wrists were tied behind his back and his ankles were bound with gray shoe strings which were removed and submitted to a crime laboratory for evidence.
DNA from the shoe laces was compared with a mucal swab from Sutton.
"There is in fact evidence linking up the probability with the DNA testing that Mr. Sutton was in fact at the residence," Spitler said in coming to his decision, and "there was nothing offered to counter that evidence."
Sutton, who is being held without bond, was ordered to appear in Division I of New Madrid County Circuit Court on Nov. 28 to be arraigned.