|Gary McCullough and Lena Chapin|
Opening statements began Monday afternoon after a jury of 9 men and six women were seated in the wrongful death trial of Gary McCullough, who has been missing since 1999.
Neither Sandy McCullough-Klemp or Kristopher Klemp, who could be held civilly liable for the wrongful death of McCullough, were present at today's proceedings.
Attorney Richard Anderson, who is representing McCullough's daughter's, told the jury that Sandra Chapin married Gary McCullough's brother, Albert, in 1994. Part of the reason for the couple's divorce was that Sandy was having an affair with Gary McCullough.
After Gary McCullough was told he would no longer be allowed to live on the family's property if he continued the affair with Sandy, they "camped in the woods" with her six children.
Anderson told the jury that Sandra McCullough swore that she did not have any interest in any real estate holdings in her divorce proceedings with Albert McCullough, even though she and Gary McCullough were in the process of buying a house and 80 acres in Barry County.
It was inside that house that Anderson alleges that Sandra McCullough killed Gary McCullough on May 11, 1999.
Not long after the new couple moved to the farm near Cassville one of McCullough's daughter's [he had been married twice before his marriage to Sandy] told him that Sandy was verbally abusive towards her and asked for permission to move to her grandparent's home near Shell Knob.
Life with Sandy was like treading water, according to Anderson.
McCullough was arrested in Arkansas on charges of writing bogus checks. Anderson says Gary McCullough knew Sandy was responsible for the bad checks and that she was selling off livestock without his permission.
The downward spiral continued when McCullough attended a calf sale and spotted some of his herd. When he inquired who put them in the sale he was told "Gary McCullough." McCullough told sale agents he did not authorize their sale and demanded a "no sale."
Gary also believed his new wife was having an affair and placed a tracking device on a truck. His suspicions were confirmed after he discovered Sandy and her lover Kristopher Klemp in the vehicle.
It was no secret that the McCullough family and Sandy didn't care for each other, however, the contempt Sandy harbored for her in-laws was revealed when Gary told his family he had to hide his truck when he went turkey hunting at the family farm on May 9th. He told family members he had to hide the vehicle or he would face the wrath of his wife when he returned home.
That was the last time anyone in Gary McCullough's family saw him alive.
On May 10th, friends of McCullough's, Jeff and Nikki Allen, say Sandy pulled into their driveway and made an obscene gesture toward the missing man. McCullough left and returned to their home about 11 p.m. - Anderson told the jury the friends asked him to stay, but he left again "because he was concerned about what Sandy would do to his dogs and cows."
Gary McCullough worked his last shift at George's Processing in Monett on May 11th and was seen on a road he typically took to and from work about 2:30 p.m., according to Anderson.
When McCullough failed to show up for his shift on May 12th, his supervisor called and was told by female child that he had left for work that morning. After failing to show up for work again the next day the supervisor called again and reached Sandy. Sandy said Gary had "gone to Diamond on the 11th to see a Mexican about a rooster and had not returned."
According to Anderson, Sandy McCullough met her children at the door to the farmhouse as they returned from school shortly after her husband disappeared and told them that one of the family's animals had babies and to go check on them.
That was all the kids except for Liehnia (Lena,) who she took inside to allegedly help her clean up the crime scene.
When some of the children discovered the truck that Gary had allegedly taken to Diamond in the woods on the farm Sandy McCullough told them they were wrong and Gary was missing. That truck was moved and eventually discovered on a dead end road in a neighboring town, according to Anderson.
Knowing authorities were eventually going to knock on her door after being alerted to her husband's disappearance by co-workers, Anderson says Sandy gathered her children around the family dinner table and rehearsed with them what to say if police asked them what happened to their stepfather...even down to what they had for dinner the night he went missing.
|Sheriff Mick Epperly at the entrance to the former McCullough property|
At that point the proceedings were stopped and the jury sent home after defense attorneys for the now Sandra McCullough-Klemp and Kristopher Klemp raised concerns about the taped "confession" of Lena Chapin and asked for a ruling on whether that evidence would be admissible and asked for an offer of proof.
Judge Carr Woods granted the motion and an evidentiary was heard.
Defense attorneys Dale Wiley and John Lewright want the taped confession thrown out because Lena Chapin has also disappeared and, argued it should be considered be hearsay
Albert McCullough testified that the mother of a boy that Lena Chapin had been drinking with said the 13 year-old allegedly "spilled her guts" about what happened to her stepfather.
McCullough said he met with Lena, who was mad at her mother over her refusal to purchase a truck for her, contacted him, when she was 17.
They first met at a store but moved the meeting to his home after Lena expressed concerns about her mother spotting them together at the store. None of the first meeting was recorded, however, the second meeting was audio taped.
McCullough starts the tape with 1,2, 3.....bring it on.
Chapin tells McCullough that her mother had actually planned to have her husband killed the day before the actual murder but that something happened and it was pushed back a day. She said when she returned home from school Gary was on the floor of a bedroom...dead.
When asked how her mother moved the 6' 3" - 240 pound man to a burn pile on the farm - Chapin says he was cut up in the bedroom and transported there. After McCullough's body was burned, Chapin says his remains were put in buckets and spread.
"There's no proof anywhere," according to Chapin's tape recorded statement.
Lewright asked Deputy Brian Martin why he hadn't talked with Chapin after the recorded statement surfaced. "You had the opportunity for many years to question her after the statement, didn't you? She was mad at her mom...did you ask her about that...what about her receiving money for her statement," Lewright hammered at Martin.
"She recanted that statement, didn't she?" Lewright bellowed.
"She did to Sheriff Epperly," Martin responded.
Martin also testified that Steve Turner told authorities that Kristopher Klemp allegedly tried to hire him to kill McCullough.
|Kristopher Klemp (mug shot BCSO)|
"Toward the end of that statement Lena is backtracking isn't she," Wiley asked McCullough. "She didn't want to get her mom in trouble."
Wiley then asked if there was ever any concern that Albert McCullough was the "real" father of one of his brother's daughters.
Lewright then asked McCullough if the real reason for Lena Chapin's change of heart wasn't the money she need to purchase the truck. "You told her what to say in order to get that truck, didn't you?"
"I didn't tell that girl what to say...that girl was terrified, sir. She came to give my family some closure."
|Albert and Larry McCullough stand in front of the family cemetery (courtesy KC Star)|
"No one on that tape says [Kristopher] Klemp had anything to do with Gary's disappearance, did they," asked Lewright.
"Do you think Sandy and Klemp would have moved his stuff into Gary's house if he was still alive," McCullough responded. "I think Sandy and Klemp killed my brother."
"Barry County told you they didn't have enough to prosecute, didn't they," Wiley asked Albert McCullough.
"They said they needed more," McCullough conceded.
"And you went and got it for them, didn't you," Wiley shot back.
Sheriff Mick Epperly will be called to the evidentiary hearing tomorrow (07-16-13) morning and asked about the recanted statement.
Judge Woods will issue his ruling on the admissibility of Chapin's statement after that.
Following the testimony of Sheriff Mick Epperly Judge Woods ruled that Lena Chapin's taped statement would NOT be allowed to be played for jurors.
Counts two and three of the lawsuit, which pertained to property, were dismissed after Anderson failed to mention them in his opening statement.