NEW MADRID -- A Pemiscot County judge will review evidence before making his decision on whether an area man will be bound over for trial on murder charges.
The preliminary hearing for Bobby L. Mays Jr., 27, of Howardville was held Monday in Division II of New Madrid County Circuit Court. Judge W. Keith Currie of Pemiscot County's Division III presided over the hearing due to a change of judge request from Mays' attorney.
Mays and Cornelius Sutton, 18, of New Madrid, are charged with first degree murder, first degree robbery and armed criminal action for the murder of Charles "Charlie" Toler, 70, on Aug. 17. A preliminary hearing for Sutton is scheduled for Monday.
New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Lewis H. Recker first called Dr. Michael D. Zaricor, a pathologist at the Mineral Area Regional Medical Center in Farmington, to the stand to testify on the autopsy of Toler he conducted Aug. 20, the day after the body was discovered.
While Toler had been dead only a couple of days before being found, according to Zaricor, the body was decomposing. "It was August and things can go pretty fast in that weather," he said.
Due to the decomposition, there was "no obvious cause of death" upon examining the exterior of the body according to Zaricor, although "there seemed to be some damage to the head." He said this damage could have been due to the decomposition, however.
Upon proceeding with an examination of the interior of the body, Zaricor found evidence of hemorrhaging in the left chest area of the victim along with rib fractures in several places on both sides of the front and a fractured breastbone. Further investigation revealed additional fractures in the victim's rear ribs and two fractures of the spine in the neck area.
While the skull was not fractured, "there appeared to be hemorrhage in both sides of the head itself," Zaricor said.
Upon an examination of the neck, he found fractures that indicated Toler had been strangled by someone's hands.
Zaricor's conclusion was that "that the manner of death was homicide," the cause of death being asphyxiation.
Regarding the blunt trauma, Zaricor said his examination indicated "that could be fists or feet or some other implement he might have been struck with." He said the blunt object could possibly have been a baseball bat.
The next witness, Jason Ward of the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department, testified he was contacted by Tracy Shelton of the New Madrid Police Department to check on the well-being of Toler because "things didn't look quite right."
Soon after entering Toler's home, investigators saw what appeared to be a man lying face down in the bathtub.
"It looked like his feet were bound and stuck up in the air," Ward said. "We backed out of the house and secured the residence."
The Southeast Missouri Major Case Squad was then activated. The investigation that followed found a smudged shoe print on the back door and around $400 or $500 and a .22 caliber rifle missing from the home.
The state's next witness was Theres A. Shannon, 34, of Sikeston.
Shannon said she knew Mays because he was dating her cousin, Stephanie Jones, and had been staying at Jones' home frequently.
According to her testimony, she asked Mays for a cigarette upon arriving at Jones' home on Aug. 19 at which time Mays asked to speak with her outside.
"He asked me, 'Can you get DNA off of choke somebody?'" Shannon recalled. She said Mays asked if the police were looking for him and told her "I think I killed a white man."
She said Mays told her he thought he had killed a man named Mike that they know as "Squirrel." That man, however, had been recently seen alive. "That's why nobody believed him," Shannon said.
Nevertheless, Shannon said she wished Mays hadn't told her that "because I don't want to be involved."
When asked during cross examination why Mays would ask her about DNA evidence, Shannon said she has no related professional training but watches CSI televisions shows.
Shannon also testified that she has no reason to be mad at Mays. "I got no beef with him - he never did nothin' to me," she said.
The state's final witness was Stephen Jerrol, a criminal investigator for the Missouri State Highway Patrol who took Shannon's statement.
He said her statement was received before investigators had any indication that the cause of death was strangulation.
"It appears to me that the state has failed to present enough evidence even at the preliminary stage for first degree murder," defense attorney Derrick R. Williams argued.