By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Two of five suspects in a home-invasion murder July 6 in Joplin are known members of a street gang in Tulsa, Okla., including the suspected triggerman, Daniel Hartman, according to police.
Joplin police Sgt. Chad Allison said detectives in the gangs unit of the Tulsa Police Department are familiar with Hartman and an unidentified juvenile who remain at large in the investigation of the fatal shooting of Jacob A. Wages, 23.
Allison said Tulsa detectives have informed Joplin investigators that both fugitives are members of a Crips street gang in Tulsa. None of the other three suspects in the burglary and killing, nor the victim, have any known gang affiliations, according to police.
Wages was fatally shot inside his home at 1912 S. Pearl Ave. sometime between 3 and 8:30 a.m. on July 6. Police initially believed he was killed during the first of two burglaries committed at the address the same night. Probable-cause affidavits indicate that investigators now believe all five suspects were in the home at the time of the shooting.
Johnathan J. Taylor, 19, of Joplin, and Cody E. Stephens, 20, of Parsons, Kan., remain in custody at the Jasper County Jail on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. An unidentified juvenile from Tulsa also was detained early in the investigation on suspicion of burglary and murder.
The two remaining fugitives most likely returned to Tulsa after the crime, according to Joplin police Lt. Darren Gallup. Hartman, 17, was placed on the Tulsa Police Department’s most wanted list last week.
“We’re working with the U.S. Marshals Service to try to locate them,” Gallup said.
Hartman was arrested last summer in connection with a similar home invasion and murder in Tulsa. He and DeAngelo J. Smith, 22, were accused of committing a burglary at the home of Michael L. Ross, 23, during which Ross was robbed of drugs and cash and shot to death.
The Tulsa World reported that a judge dismissed the burglary and murder charges against Hartman in October, citing a need for further investigation.
Police have declined to say if the Joplin burglary and murder also involved drugs and cash. Affidavits allege that Hartman shot Wages with a handgun, and that he and the two juveniles then took an assault rifle from the home. Taylor and Stephens allegedly left with a lockbox.
Allison said the lockbox that was recovered with the arrest of Taylor and Stephens had nothing of evidentiary value still in it. He said that without being able to speak to its owner, investigators cannot be certain what it may have contained. Police have received differing accounts as to how many vehicles the suspects took to Wages’ home and where they went in the aftermath.
“We’ve gotten mixed stories (from the defendants in custody), and we’re still missing two pieces of the puzzle (the accounts of the other two suspects),” Allison said.
Gallup said Joplin detectives do not believe the three suspects from Tulsa knew Wages or had ever been to his home. But at least one of the other two suspects had been in his house previously, he said.
“The ones from here knew of him and basically led the others to that residence to commit the robbery,” Gallup said.
He said the defendants in custody have told police what they were seeking at the victim’s home, but investigators are not releasing that information.
JOHNATHAN TAYLOR AND CODY STEPHENS are being held on surety bonds of $100,000 and cash bonds of $25,000 each.