The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

July 27, 2012

Jury convicts Stella man of murder in slaying of landlord

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A jury recommended Friday that a Stella man receive at least 13 years in prison for shooting and killing his landlord a year ago.

A McDonald County jury made the recommendation at the conclusion of the sentencing phase of the trial of Danny K. Thomas, 61, for the slaying of Darrell Bone, 58, of Rocky Comfort, on July 26, 2011. The jury recommended that Thomas also receive three years in prison for armed criminal action.

Jurors found Thomas guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the weeklong trial that was moved from Newton County to Pineville on a change of venue.

“It will be up to the judge whether those (sentences) will be concurrent or consecutive,” Prosecutor Jake Skouby said after the trial.

Circuit Judge John LePage has set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 1.

The prosecution presented evidence that Thomas shot Bone once in the back and twice in the face with a rifle when the landlord came to his residence to talk to him about moving out. Bone had sold the property that Thomas was leasing near Stella and the landlord wanted him out by the time the property was to change hands on Sept. 1, 2011.

Thomas maintained that he and his landlord had a longstanding rift involving an escaped convict from North Carolina and that Bone threatened his life on the day in question because of that quarrel. Thomas told investigators that he thought his landlord was going to his truck to get a weapon when he shot and killed him.

Thomas did not take the witness stand in his own defense. But his attorney Ross Rhoades argued that a broken door jamb supported his client’s account that Bone had tried to force his way into the home, prompting Thomas to grab his rifle in self-defense.

But investigators found no evidence of any weapon having been in Bone’s possession at the scene of the crime. The prosecution argued that various actions of Thomas following the shooting, including his decisions to leave in the victim’s truck and to take the rifle and additional ammunition with him in anticipation of a possible shootout with law enforcement, showed consciousness of guilt on his part.  

The defendant was charged with first-degree murder, but the state chose to submit the charge of second-degree murder instead to the jury for deliberation (in addition to the count of armed criminal action) at the conclusion of the first phase of the trial.

Jurors required three and a half hours Thursday to find Thomas guilty of both counts. The jury spent 45 minutes deliberating Friday on the length of sentences that he should serve.

   

Relationships

The landlord-tenant relationship of Darrell Bone and Danny Thomas was complicated by Bone having lived with a sister of the defendant for several years.

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