6:06 PM
Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell

The circuit court judge for the 38th district has convened a grand jury at the request of Taney County prosecutor Jeff Merrell.

Merrell says he asked Judge Mark Orr for the grand jury, which began meeting today (07-23-12) and is typically impaneled for six months, "to look at several complex cases."  The jury, will have the power to indict a person or persons for crimes, bypassing preliminary hearings for those indicted.

One of the "possible"cases that jurors could look at are the murders of Rusty and Becky Porter, who went missing from their Willard home in April of 2011, according to Merrell.  The couples remains were found in rural Taney County on July 21, 2011.

Rusty and Becky Porter

Merrell says grand juries tend to handle cases more expeditiously than the normal court process. 

Tony Lee Friend of Springfield has been named the "primary" suspect in the double homicide.  Friend is jailed in Greene County on drug charges not related to the Porter's murders.

"It is possible that the jurors will get requests from citizens to look into other cases in addition to  the ones currently scheduled," said Merrell.

Merrell says he does not have an exact date as to when the last grand jury was convened in Taney County, but it was sometime prior to 1998.