A prosecutor in Missouri has announced that he plans to seek the death penalty for a 31-year-old man accused of committing a double homicide on the night of May 2. The murder investigation that led to the man’s arrest was launched when the bodies of a 30-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman were found in a running car on a private driveway in West Plains. Police determined that they both died from multiple gunshot wounds. A 34-year-old Arkansas woman and a 37-year-old West Plains man have also been charged in connection with the killings.
Initial reports do not reveal what led police to suspect that the three individuals were involved in the shootings, but they do state that the Arkansas woman provided crucial information after she was taken into custody on May 7. She allegedly identified the two men involved and told detectives that one of the men concealed himself in some bushes and waited for the victims to arrive. She claims that he committed the crimes because the couple had stolen money and a car from him. The victims were allegedly lured to the scene to purchase drugs.
The murders came as a shock to a small community that had not witnessed a homicide for at least three years. The man who allegedly pulled the trigger has been charged with two counts of murder in the first degree, three counts of armed criminal activity and a single count of robbery in the first degree.
Prosecutors often find themselves under great pressure when murder cases draw widespread media attention, and they sometimes seek the death penalty to make a statement and give themselves a stronger position from which to conduct plea negotiations. Criminal defense attorneys with experience in serious cases could encourage prosecutors to take a different position by reminding them of the unpredictable nature of juries and offering a quick resolution in return for a more lenient sentence.