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Terry Volner was released from prison 9 months ago (mug shot MDOC)


The Missouri Highway Patrol is assisting authorities in Wright County investigate the murder of a four year-old who was found dead in a sewage system that sits adjacent to the families home on Highway Z near Competition.

Sources close to the investigation say Dusty Guenther's throat was slit and he was then thrown into the septic lagoon sometime early this morning.
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Terry "T. J." Volner told investigators he used a folding knife to stab Dusty in the neck sometime between the evening of December 6th and the early morning hours on December 7th. "

Dusty Guenther had just turned 4 on December 1st


According to the probable cause statement, Volner called his mother, Tina Miller, early Monday morning and said he killed "Gina, her boyfriend, and her four kids. Volner confirmed this by sending Miller a picture via cellular phone of the boy with his throat cut."  One of  the pictures showed Dusty "lying in some tall  grass with a laceration to his throat and what appears to be a wet stick holding it up.  There were also two pictures of what appears to be a small leg submerged in ice covered water. "
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Dusty Guenther was just four years-old when he was murdered (family photo courtesy Kyle Allen)

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"Another picture showed Dusty laying in the same position, with what appeared to be an adult's left arm held up in front of the camera. There was a tattoo on the arm in the picture, which is consistent with a tattoo located on Volner's left arm. It appears the tattoo is Volner in cursive writing," according to the probable cause statement.  T.J. Volner has a similar tattoo.
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Gina Guenther was at work in Lebanon when deputies informed her of the little boys death. 
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Three sisters of the dead boy, two of whom were located at Grovespring Elementary School, the other who was found safe in her crib inside the home.  The girls have been placed in protective custody.
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Volner, who had lived with the family since June, was taken to a Springfield hospital with a self inflicted stab wound to the stomach.  He was children's babysitter and the murder of little Dusty could be related to a domestic dispute between the man and another boyfriend of the mother.
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“He was watching the kids in exchange for a place to stay,” said Wright County Prosecutor Jason MacPherson.

It appears that Volner became "enraged" because Gina Guenther’s boyfriend, Eric, was spending the night.  “The motive appears to be revenge. The defendant wanted to be the boyfriend of the mother -he did this to the child to get at the mother,” said MacPherson.  The man who had stayed the night has been accounted for, according to authorities.

Terry Volner is related to Benny Volner and Elvis Volner who were convicted a few years ago of the ambush murder of their cousin Dustin Skaggs.  "He's the brother to at least one of them," said MacPherson.

Volner, who has previous convictions of stealing a motor vehicle, knowingly burning or exploding, burglary, stealing animals and animal abuse.  He has been charged with first degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse.  He was released from prison in March of this year and could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.

Southwest Missouri Forensics will conduct an autopsy on the little Dusty tomorrow morning in Springfield.

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