The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 23, 2010

Man’s last statement to be given to defendant

By Jeff Lehr
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — A judge ruled Monday that the Jasper County prosecutor must provide attorneys for Darren J. Winans with a videotaped statement co-defendant Matthew D. Laurin made about the Sheldon murders shortly before killing himself.

Attorneys for Winans, 23, want to know exactly what Laurin, 20, told investigators from the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department after pleading guilty July 26 to the 2008 murders of Robert and Ellen Sheldon, of rural Carthage.

Laurin, of Springfield, accepted a plea offer that took the death penalty off the table, then hanged himself in his jail cell less than 48 hours later.

Circuit Judge Gayle Crane heard defense motions in Winans’ case at a hearing Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court. The motions included one seeking a statement Laurin made after his conviction, the autopsy report on his death, and any records of counseling he received while at the Jasper County Jail.

Investigators believe the two men went to the Sheldons’ home looking to steal weapons from the couple’s gun and archery shop next door to trade for drugs. When they realized they could not break into the shop without tripping an alarm, they allegedly entered the home and killed the Sheldons and their dog.

A Jasper County sheriff’s detective wrote in an application for a search warrant at the time of the men’s arrests that Laurin told him that Winans entered the house first and stabbed the couple to death. But a Springfield woman testified at the co-defendants’ preliminary hearing that Winans told her that he did not enter the house until after Laurin had gone inside and killed the Sheldons.

Laurin changed his story at his plea hearing last month. On a petition to enter the plea change, he wrote that he alone stabbed “both of them until they died.”

To read more of this story, see Tuesday’s edition of the Globe.