Zackary Lee Stewart

It was a case every prosecutor dreads...a murder with multiple players with motive, means and opportunity. That was what Stone County Prosecutor Matt Selby dealt with for two years before he got the first-degree murder trial of Zackary Lee Stewart, 21, Hurley, before a Greene County jury.

Selby maintained that Stewart was responsible for the murder of 53 year-old David "Dave" Dulin, of Hurley, on November 29, 2006. About four months after Dulin's murder, Selby filed murder charges against Stewart and Leo Connelly. He said the pair went to Dulin's house to rob him.

A little after midnight Dulin called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher that two men in their 20's and 30's had broken into his home and shot him in the head with his own .22 pistol.

As Dulin lay dying, he was conscious on the line with the dispatcher for about 5 minutes while first responders made their way to his rural home. He told the 9-1-1 operator that he did not know who shot him, but stated that the assailants were from Hurley and that one of the men said he was the "Eby girl's boyfriend."

The phone line stayed open for the 25 minutes it took authorities to get to Dulin's home on Tin Can Hollow, the dispatcher could hear the sirens approaching and the sound of the first deputy on the scenes footsteps in the house. Dulin had crawled across the living room to unlock the front door for those coming to help him. He had been shot four times and was found dead just inside the front door of his home.
Stone County Prosecutor Matt Selby

Stewart's trial was moved from Stone County to Greene County on a change of venue, which was automatically granted, when defense attorney's requested one because the county has less than 75,000 residents.

I was in the courtroom when the jury returned with their guilty verdict, it was emotional on both sides of the table. Bittersweet for Dulin's family members; shock and disbelief for Stewart's loved ones.

Stewart was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for Dulin's murder, but evidence uncovered during and after the trial has raised questions about Stewart's guilt.

On May 25th, The Missouri Supreme Court granted Stewart a new trial based on an evidentiary matter.

Stewart was an 18-year-old high school senior in Hurley at the time of Dulin's murder. When investigators contacted him, he told them that he had no knowledge of Dulin's murder, but he did volunteer non-public information (when the crime purportedly occurred and the caliber of weapon involved). He stated that if he was going to kill someone he would not use a .22 caliber weapon, "something he would have to shoot four or five times with to kill them."

Stewart was again questioned about Dulin's murder a few months later when he was jailed on an DWI charge.

A sheriff's detective told Stewart that a witness placed him, his sister Christy Pethoud, and Christy's boyfriend, Leo Connelly, in a light colored car on a road near Dulin's home the night of the murder. He was told the murder weapon had been recovered in Springfield and was asked if there might be a reason his DNA would be at the crime scene. Stewart maintained that he was not involved, that he did not know anything, and that he had never left his sister's home that night.

Stewart was then placed in an isolation cell while searches were conducted. He later requested to talk to a detective. Crying, scared, and upset, Stewart told the Detective Karl Wagner that he thought Leo Connelly was responsible for Dulin's murder.

Two jail house snitches, Coty Pollard and Victor Parker, who shared a cell with Stewart, contacted investigators and said that Stewart told them about Dulin's murder. Both men testified for the State at Stewart's trial.

They testified on the stand that Stewart said he went to Dulin's home the night of the murder with Christy Pethoud, Leo Connelly, his mother Paula Eby, Mark Myers, and Myers son, Robert to "take his dope."

According to the states witnesses, they arrived in two vehicles (Zack, Christy, and Leo were in a white Ford Escort; Paula, Mark, and Robert in a Jeep Cherokee,) and that Robert guarded Dulin while the others ransacked the house searching for drugs. They said Dulin pulled a gun and Stewart wrestled the gun away from him and shot him four times. Pollard and Parker told investigators that the group panicked, fled the scene, (Leo and Zackary left in the Escort; the others left in the Cherokee) burned the clothes they had been wearing in a barrel and threw them in the river. Leo was chosen to get rid of the gun.

Stewart's lawyer, Michelle Tobin, cross-examined Parker and Pollard about their influence over Stewart in jail. She asked if they had received favors from investigators or the prosecutor in exchange for their testimony in the case.

Tobin called just one witness–Stewart's sister Christy–who testified that no one left her house the night of Dulin's murder.

The high court says the problem in the trial is that family members of Dulin's told Selby during the trial that they had never seen Dulin with the bloody hat that was found at the crime scene that was introduced into evidence as belonging to him.

Selby says, "This case was a little bit like reality T.V. at this point in the trial. It is very strange to have a DNA issue come up in the middle of a trial."

He requested an alpha rush to the state crime lab to test the hat to get a DNA profile. On the the third day of Stewart's trial the jury was provided with bombshell preliminary DNA results--the DNA on the hat didn't belong to Stewart or Connelly. It belonged to three other people; Dulin, Stewart's brother-in-law Tim Seaman, and another unknown person.

During closing arguments, Selby argued that the preliminary DNA information from the bloody hat reflected a DNA "hit" to Seaman made by an investigative database. He stressed that it was not a DNA "match" confirmed by comparing it with Seaman's actual DNA. He also highlighted that Seaman was not identified at trial as a person who was with Stewart during Dulin's murder.

Detective Wagner stated that, after Stewart's trial, he received a tip that Seaman had disclosed to his brother that he had "taken someones life." Seaman did not indicate whose life he took, but his brother Randy stated that he had not taken Tim's statements seriously until he heard about the bloody hat found near Dulin's body.

The brother stated it was Seaman's hat or a hat identical to the one he had for a long period of time. The brother indicated that Seaman drove a light tan or white vehicle.

Robert Bales, Seaman's nephew, testified at a motion hearing that his uncle had confided to him the morning after Dulin's murder that he (Tim Seaman) and his friend, John Mills, were at Dulin's house when he was killed.

Detective Wagner testified that Randy Seaman told him that Tim was at Randy's house in November and they were drinking and Tim told Randy “that he had taken someones life, and asked him how you deal with that.”

In the high court's ruling the justices note, "Seman allegedly admitted to Robert Bales that he and John Mills witnessed the murder-causing Mills to vomit the next morning. That, combined with the DNA of an unknown person on dentures found, makes two at the murder scene, which is what Victim described in his 9-1-1 call. Detective Wagner testified that Tim also confessed to Randy Seaman that he had taken a life."

Sebly, who dismissed murder charges against Connelly for lack of evidence says, "In 20 years of practice I have never had a case reversed on appeal. My guess is we go back to Greene County for trial, and Stewart is returned to the Greene County jail."

Selby says that even though there is no physical evidence linking Stewart to the crime, he believes Stewart received a fair trial with an impartial jury and, will be convicted again when he is retried.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember you be there and talking with you. I don't think anyone could believe it when the verdict came in, with the only evidence, TWO jail house snitches. Its great the supreme court can see though prosecutor Selby's bul-sh-t.

malarie alanis said...

yeah, can you get your facts straight before you post something on the internet for all to see. and take my friends address off the of the oscar nava info....that you have wrong anyway. and i know you wont accept this comment...but i know youll read it. my friend said you didnt post hers either. why? cant deal with other people having an opinion besides yours?

Anonymous said...

Kathee, as one of the investigators for the defense, there is alot that is untold. Let me first say, I sincerely believe that Zack is absolutely innocent. That said, as investigators, we encountered strange and often disturbing behavior from the state, Selby was one of the worst. For example, when we went to the Probation office to try and interview Parker, Matt Selby was there, hiding in another room provided by the P&P office. He instructed Parker not to talk to us. Another one of our investigators was threatend and harrassed by the Stone County establishment over this case. We tried to get Michelle (Zack's "lawyer.") to bring out all of the evidence proving Zack's innocence to trial. She flatly refused and became hostile. The Public Defender's office reeled over the expenses of the case, and stated that they had only budgeted $7,500.00 for the case, total for the defense. The Prosecution had an unlimited budget. I could go on all day about the imporprities of this case. I think this is one of the most malicious prosecutions which has ever taken place. There is no way Selby or law enforcement believes Zack is guilty, yet they press on.

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