4:11 PM

Phillip Friend (mug shot Jackson County)

A third person has been charged with murder in connection to the death's of Rusty and Becky Porter.

A grand jury convened in Taney County indicted twenty six year-old Phillip Friend, who was arrested near Kansas City, on October 31st, after a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Phillip Friend is the son of Tony L. Friend, 45, who was charged with the Porter's murders on October 3rd.  Another man, Dusty R. Hicks, 25, is facing similar charges.

Each of the defendants are facing two counts of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and felonious restraint connected to the couples murders.

The Porters vanished from their home, which reeked of bleach, near Willard in April of 2011. Their  remains were found at a rural property near Protem three months later. They each had been shot execution style, according to authorities.

Tony Friend (l.) and Dusty Hicks

Court documents say Friend grew up near where the couples remains were found, and that he "often visited the exact location" where the Porter's skeletal remains were discovered. The couple, who had each been shot in the head, were found on property belonging to Florence Collins, who is Dusty Hicks' maternal grandmother, according to Hicks' grandmother, Freda Hicks.

Sources say the Friend's and Hicks are second cousins.

Rusty and Becky Porter

Because the men were indicted by a grand jury, their cases bypass the preliminary hearing stage, which is held in associate circuit court.  Because of that, their cases are automatically bound over for trial.

Tony Friend and Dusty Hicks pled not guilty when they were formally arraigned in circuit court on October 25th.
Taney County prosecutor Jeff Merrell has refused to comment on a possible motive for the couple's slayings.  Due to the grand jury indictment's, a probable cause statement is not available.  Information on the killings will have to be gleaned through motion hearings and pre-trial conferences.

Authorities say the investigation into the Porter's homicide's is ongoing and additional people could be charged.

It is expected that attorney's representing the Friend's and Hicks will soon file motions for changes of venues for their clients.

Hicks is being held on a half million dollar bond.  Tony Friend is being held without bond on federal charges not related to this case.

Merrell says he has not made a determination on whether he will seek the death penalty against any of the defendant's at this time.