March 29, 2015

Execution date set in Missouri murder-for-hire killing from 2000

The state Supreme Court has set an execution date for a former St. Louis City jailer who was sentenced to death for the murder-for-hire killing of his ex-wife, to whom he owed back child support.

Kimber Edwards  (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Kimber Edwards (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

50-year-old Kimber Edwards is scheduled to die by lethal injection between 6 p.m. May 12 and 5:59 pm May 13, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre.

Court documents say in 2000 Edwards was facing a felony charge for not paying a year’s worth of child support. He had been offered a plea deal that required him to pay back support when his ex-wife, Kimberly Cantrell was fatally shot at her home in University City on August 22, 2000.

Edwards was later convicted of paying one or two people $1,600 to kill Cantrell. The man he paid that was identified, Ortell Wilson, is serving life in prison for first-degree murder for his part in her murder.  Wilson testified against Kimber.  The other man, known only as “Michael,” was never identified or caught.

Missouri is next scheduled to execute 52-year-old Andre Cole, who murdered a friend of his ex-wife in a dispute over child support. He is set to die by lethal injection April 14.

Attorneys, family, argue whether killer of Barry County deputy should be executed by Missouri tonight

It’s been more than 18 years since Cecil Clayton fatally shot Barry County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Lee Castetter. His attorneys argue that a brain injury he suffered 43 years ago means he shouldn’t be executed for that crime, as is scheduled to happen today.

Deputy Christopher Lee Castetter

Deputy Christopher Lee Castetter was murdered by Cecil Clayton in November, 1996

In the 1972 accident a piece of lumber shot through the skull of Clayton, now 74, and doctors removed part of his frontal lobe. His attorneys say he was a changed man after that. They say he went from a happily married, religious man who had quit drinking, preached and sang gospel music, to a man who suffered from anxiety, loss of memory and focus, impulsive behavior, and hallucinations.

His attorneys don’t deny that Clayton fatally shot Castetter in November, 1996, when the deputy responded to a call from Clayton’s girlfriend’s sister, who was concerned about Clayton sitting in the driveway in front of her home following an argument with his girlfriend.

Attorney Cynthia Short maintains that examinations by multiple doctors in the past decade show him to be incompetent to be executed under the U.S. Constitution and Missouri law.

A brain scan provided by one of Clayton's attorneys illustrates the portion of his frontal lobe that was removed after the 1972 accident at a sawmill.

A brain scan provided by one of Clayton’s attorneys illustrates the portion of his frontal lobe that was removed after the 1972 accident at a sawmill.

“If a person is unable to understand what his punishment is, or that he has been punished, or believes that the punishment is the product of a conspiracy that has been brought forth against him based on his delusional thinking,” Short told Missourinet, “then it is not in society’s interest and certainly not in the interest of the impaired person to punish them in a way they do not understand.”

Short said Clayton’s IQ has also diminished over the years to 71, and argues that to execute him would violate laws against executing the intellectually disabled.

The state Supreme Court has rejected one of Clayton’s attorneys’ attempts to halt his execution, finding that he is competent to be executed and that he remembers, “details from 1996 quite clearly and is aware that both he and his counsel continue to search for arguments to preclude his execution,” as written by Judge Paul Wilson in his opinion. It also found that he does not meet the state law’s threshold for an intellectual disability.

“I think it’s B.S.,” James Castetter, Christopher Castetter’s brother, said of the claim that Clayton is incompetent. Castetter told Missourinet he believes Clayton knew what he was doing the night he killed his brother.

“He knew he was wrong because he went to Cole’s house to get him, let him know what he did, [to say] ‘You’re my alibi,'” said Castetter, referring to Clayton’s friend at the time of the murder, Martin Cole. “If he would have stayed there, asked ‘What did I do?’ Said, ‘Hey Cole, I did this. I can’t believe I did this,’ that might be one thing,” said Castetter. “He knew what he was talking about, so that’s a competent person.”

James Castetter, who is an emergency medical technician in Florida, is in Missouri today to witness Clayton’s execution.

“I think it’s going to put closure,” said Castetter. “Knowing that the evil that killed my brother is no longer walking this earth … and remembering my brother the way he used to be.” Castetter has named his daughter after his brother, and plans to bring her to Missouri some other time to see the section of highway in southwest Missouri that is named for him.

Castetter hasn’t told his daughter why he’s in Missouri this week. “That’s one thing I don’t want her to know, at least now.”

Cecil Clayton (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Cecil Clayton (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Clayton’s attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit federal court to halt his execution and additional actions are pending in a U.S. Western District and U.S. Eastern District court. Governor Jay Nixon (D) has also been asked to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole. Nixon was Missouri’s attorney general when earlier challenges to Clayton’s death sentence were rejected, including when a federal appeals court upheld that sentence in 2008.

“Deputy Castetter was protecting the law-abiding citizens of Barry County when he was shot and killed without warning by Cecil Clayton,” Nixon said in a statement at the time. “The jury appropriately determined Clayton should face the ultimate punishment.”

Clayton’s execution is set to happen between 6 p.m. tonight and 5:59 Wednesday. If it hasn’t happened by the latter time, the execution warrant from the state Supreme Court will expire and the court would have to set a new date. His is the first execution since the 1930s that Missouri has scheduled for a time other than 12:01 in the morning.

 

Bill to free Missouri man serving life for pot offenses gains support

A legislative effort to free a man serving a life sentence for marijuana offenses appears to have strong support.

Representative Shamed Dogan (right) listens as Michael Mizanskey reads a statement in support of Dogan's bill that seeks to free Jeff Mizanskey, who is serving life in Missouri prison for non-violent marijuana offenses.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Shamed Dogan (right) listens as Michael Mizanskey reads a statement in support of Dogan’s bill that seeks to free Jeff Mizanskey, who is serving life in Missouri prison for non-violent marijuana offenses. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Under Missouri’s sentencing laws of the 1990s, one man from Sedalia was sentenced to life without parole for marijuana possession and distribution. Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison for 21 years.

Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has proposed a bill to have him freed.

“I’ve presented this bill as a way for us to save taxpayers money, to right an injustice that was done to Mr. Mizanskey.”

Dogan also filed the bill because he felt action wasn’t being taken quickly enough on a request for clemency made to Governor Nixon.

In a hearing by the House Committee on Corrections, lawmakers asked probing questions and raised some concerns, but most seemed supportive. Former DEA agent and Drug Task Force investigator, Representative Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis), says the charges don’t fit the sentence…

“I’ve charged people in federal court with 1,000 pounds of marijuana and they got quite a lesser sentence than this,” said Jill.

Dogan’s bill would apply to anyone sentenced to life under Missouri law, but to date Mizanskey is the only such inmate and that sentencing law will be eliminated when the legislature’s changes to the criminal code become effective January 1, 2017.

Representative Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill) did raise a concern.

Jeff Mizanskey

Jeff Mizanskey

“Are we overstepping our authorities in telling probation and parole, ‘You will release this individual without having a probation and parole hearing?’ That’s where I don’t want to overstep our boundaries,” said Roden.

Some lawmakers said if Mizanskey is to be released after more than two decades in prison, it will be important that he have a strong support system to help him adjust back to life on the outside. Mizanskey’s son, Chris, said he will have that support.

“If he gets out and everything goes right and you guys help him out here, he will be back on his feet and working again and paying taxes and living his life like he’s supposed to be,” said Chris Mizanskey. “He’s a very good man and I really hope to see him home soon.”

Mizanskey’s younger brother, Michael, said it was their mother’s dying request of him, that he should fight to secure Jeff Mizanskey’s release. His wife also testified for the bill, as did representatives of the ACLU and Show-Me Cannabis. There was not testimony against it.

There is no indication how soon or if the committee will vote on the bill, but its chairman, Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi), also seemed supportive. He says he recently met with Mizanskey where he is housed, at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

“In 21 years he’s been incarcerated, he’s had two write-ups,” said Fitzwater. “One for having a messy floor in his cell and the other one was for dropping a letter in the wrong box, and those are the only two write-ups that he’s had in 21 years.”

Some victims and shooter in south Missouri spree identified

Some of the eight victims shot early Friday morning in southern Missouri, and the man who shot them, have been identified.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports that 36-year-old Joseph Jesse Aldridge, apparently killed seven individuals and injured another at multiple residences in Tyrone, Missouri before fleeing and killing himself on February 26, 2015. Aldridge, who was found dead inside his vehicle in nearby Shannon County, is a cousin of the victims. Photo provided by Missouri State Highway Patrol/UPI

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports that 36-year-old Joseph Jesse Aldridge, apparently killed seven individuals and injured another at multiple residences in Tyrone, Missouri before fleeing and killing himself on February 26, 2015. Aldridge, who was found dead inside his vehicle in nearby Shannon County, is a cousin of the victims. Photo provided by Missouri State Highway Patrol/UPI

The Highway Patrol says 36-year-old Joseph Jesse Aldridge was the man who fatally shot seven people and wounded one in and around his hometown of Tyrone, before killing himself. He was found dead in a vehicle in neighboring Shannon County.

Authorities also found Aldridge’s mother, 74-year-old Alice L. Aldridge, dead. She appears to have died of natural causes, and one possibility police are investigating was that he came home and found her dead before going on the killing spree.

Four of the victims were cousins of Aldridge. Some of them have been identified as 52-year-old Gerald Dee Aldridge and his wife 47-year-old Julie Ann Aldridge, and 50-year-old Harold Wayne Aldridge and his wife 48-year-old Janell Arlisa Aldridge.

Authorities are still trying to notify relatives of the other victims, but say they were not from the same family. None of the victims were children.

Investigators are talking to the woman who was shot but is expected to survive.

UPDATE: Nine reported dead in southern Missouri crime scenes

11:00am update

Authorities have found nine people dead in six separate crime scenes in two southern Missouri counties.

Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Kinder said a juvenile girl heard gunshots in her home in the Texas County town of Tyrone and ran to a neighbor’s house to call law enforcement.

“Responding deputies found two deceased persons at this residence. Further investigation revealed five additional victims who were deceased and one additional victim who was wounded in three additional residences,” said Kinder.

The names of the dead are not being released while family members are still being contacted. The County Coroner told Missourinet affiliate KTTS the victims ranged in age from their 40s to their 60s.

Authorities believe a 36-year-old male, who was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a vehicle in Shannon County, murdered 6 people and wounded one other. An elderly woman was also found dead but is believed to have died of natural causes.

Earlier story:

Nine people have reportedly been killed in multiple crime scenes in and around Texas County in south-central Missouri.

The state Highway Patrol tells Missourinet affiliate KTTS eight people were murdered and the apparent killer was found dead in Shannon County.

Sheriff James Sigman tells the Houston Herald four of those crime scenes are in the town of Tyrone and there are possibly two others outside his county.

The Herald reports that the Houston School District has informed staff to arrive early to work for counseling sessions.

A media conference has been rescheduled for 9:00 this morning while law enforcement continue to notify relatives of the deceased.

Don Louzader reports