Robert and Ellen Sheldon (above,) and the family dog were found stabbed to death in their home on October 12, 2008, by their son when they didn't show up for church.
Prosecutors allege that Darren Winans, 22, Jasper, and 20 year-old Matthew Laurin, Springfield (he grew up in Nixa) killed the Sheldon's when they got back home from a church function on the evening of October 11, 2008.
Matthew Laurin (above)
The Public Information Officer for the Jasper County Sheriff's Department, Sharon Rhine, says that an attorney representing Matthew Laurin waived his preliminary hearing, and that Darren Winans attorney put three witnesses on the stand today.
One of those witnesses was Teresa Adkins, the mother of Winans 16 year-old girlfriend, Amanda Adkins. She testified that in December of 2008, around Christmas time Winans told her and her daughter that he and Laurin went to Carthage to kill Robert and Ellen Sheldon and their dog because their drug dealer wanted guns in exchange for drugs.
Adkins says that Winans told them, “him and Matt had gone to Joplin to kill two people and a dog for drug money . . . to rob the place.”
According to Adkins, Winans and Laurin took gloves and masks with them and that Winans told them that he waited outside the Sheldon's house while Laurin butchered the elderly couple .
However, in the probable cause statement filed with the charges in July, Laurin told investigators that Winans was responsible for the Sheldon's (who were both in their 70's) grisly murders.
Online court records don't show much of a criminal background for Laurin. The same cannot be said about his alleged co-conspirator, Winans.
On the stand today it was revealed that Winans former girlfriend, Amanda Adkins, had died from a lethal overdose of morphine (as well as other drugs) that was allegedly provided to her by her boyfriend Bret Turner in Christian County in April of this year.
Turner pleaded guilty in June to possession of a controlled substance (Vicodin) that he was found with on his person when Amanda died. He pled guilty without a plea agreement with prosecutors shortly before Adkins toxicology reports came back from the crime lab. He's serving a seven-year stretch in prison on that charge.
Because he pleaded guilty without a plea agreement, prosecutors were able to charge Turner with second-degree murder for Adkins' death when they got the final toxicology records. He is also facing charges of providing a minor with a controlled substance in connection with her death as well.
Darren Winans (above)
Another witness was Jasper County investigator Tim Williams who testified that Winans mother, Tina Bass, who lives in Springfield, met him at the door of her home and before he identified himself as a law enforcer she allegedly told him, “I know why you are here, you’re here for the murder weapon.”
Williams testified that Bass escorted him to a back bedroom and pointed to a small cooler on a closet shelf. Inside the cooler was a blue plastic bag...inside it she said he would find the murder weapon.
Investigator Kevin Mitchell testified about the amount of blood that was in the Sheldon home and how brutal the crime against the Sheldon's was. He also testified that the home and been ransacked.
Mitchell testified that Ellen Sheldon was found just inside the door of the house (near the west side door) and that the dog was found dead in the laundry room. Bob Sheldon, who was a Reserve Deputy for the Jasper County Sheriff's Department suffered from multiple stab wounds and was found dead in his recliner with his throat slit.
During one of my first interviews with Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn he told me that, "whoever did it hated those people."
Mike Barbieri, Director of National and International Investigations for PDI, a private investigation agenecy out of St. Louis, was contacted by some relatives of the Sheldon's earilier this year that requested his help with their relatives murder.
Barbieri says that the working relationship between his agency and the Jasper County Sheriff's Department was very professional and says he, "takes his hat off to investigators that were working the case." Within about three months of the two agencies teaming up came the arrests of Winans and Laurin.
Winans attorney has filed a motion with the court to have his client moved out of the Jasper County jail because he is being "abused" by jailers who blame him for their fellow reserve officer's and his wife's murder. Winans attorney has also filed a motion with the court to have any audio or videotaped evidence of his client being "abused" to be preserved.
Sheriff Archie Dunn said at the time of Winans and Laurin's arrest that he believes that Winans returned in October with Laurin to the Sheldon home because, "they were easy targets."
Winans has a pretty extensive criminal history. Online court records show he was given 120 days shock time for stealing a car in March of 2006. In March of 2008, while still on probation for the stealing conviction, Winans was arrested on a felony drug charge. Winans pleaded guilty in the drug charge and was placed was on one year of unsupervised probation.
He should have been behind bars at the time of the Sheldon's murder, but was out on the street after repeatedly violating the terms of probation.
In January of 2009 Winans was charged with driving without a license (he was revoked) and having no insurance---he was supposed to appear in Greene County on those charges the day he was formally arraigned for killing the Sheldon's.
In May of this year a judge granted Winans exwife a full order of protection for herself and their child against Winans.
Prosecutor Dean Dankleson has not made public a decision on whether he will seek the death penalty in the case.
In an almost Shakespearen twist of irony, the very first courthouse in Jasper County sat on the property where the Sheldon's were killed.
Both Winans and Laurin are scheduled to be arraigned in Jasper County Circuit Court on Sept. 11th.
UPDATE--October 5, 2009:
Two men accused of murdering Bob and Ellen Sheldon last October appeared in a Jasper County courtroom with their lawyers this morning.
Attorneys for Darren Winans, 20, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, want their clients trials to be held separately and in another county. Prosecutors have filed motions asking that a change of venue be denied.
Investigators say the two men stabbed the Sheldons to death when they broke in their home looking for weapons to trade for drugs.
Judge Gayle Crane took the motions under advisement and will continue hearing the motion for the change of venue on October 26th at 8:30 a.m. in Jasper County.
UPDATE--October 11, 2009:
The children of Bob and Ellen Sheldon will celebrate their parents life today at the Old Cabin Shop that sits on the property were they were found murdered last October 11th.
The memorial will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday October 11, 2009, at the gun and archery store the Sheldons operated at 155 N. Black Powder Lane, just west of Carthage.
One of the Sheldons sons says that they have been keeping the store open in honor of his folks because that is what they would have wanted.
Prosecutors allege that Matthew Laurin, 20, Springfield and Darren Winans, 22, Jasper, stabbed the Sheldons and their dog to death when they broke in their home looking for weapons to trade for drugs.