By Jeff Lehr
A Joplin man was sentenced to life in prison Friday for killing his dying mother’s boyfriend in a drunken rage.
A jury’s conviction of William Laramore in January for the first-degree murder of his roommate, Sean French, 46, predetermined what Laramore’s fate would be at his sentencing hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole in Missouri, and that is what Circuit Judge David Mouton assessed the 46-year-old man.
The judge’s discretion came into play when he assessed a consecutive term of 30 years on the second count for which the jury found Laramore guilty: the first-degree assault of Steve Shockley, 50, who was drinking with Laramore and French the night of Nov. 14-15, 2010, at their home at 814 W. A St.
Shockley testified in a video deposition played at Laramore’s two-day trial that French appeared to be suffering a seizure just before Laramore began berating and kicking him. Shockley testified that when he told Laramore to leave him alone, the Laramore turned on him and struck him with a bat or a table leg. He admitted that his memory with respect to details that night remains vague because of the skull fracture he suffered.
Another key witness at the trial was the defendant’s 20-year-old son, Charles Laramore, who testified that he arrived at his father’s house the night in question and saw French lying in a pool of blood. Shockley was no longer there, and his father was cursing French and exclaiming that he had warned French not to provoke him.
Laramore’s mother was in the hospital at the time, dying of pancreatic cancer, and Laramore had gone to see her that day.
“He said that Sean had been disrespectful towards my grandmother by saying that he was going to take her medication and hide it, or keep it for himself, or something like that,” Charles Laramore told the jury.
He said his father told him that he had struck Shockley with a metal baseball bat and that two other people had helped drag Shockley out of the house. The son said that his father then resumed ranting about French and picked up a coffee table and threw it down on him. The table caromed off the victim into an entertainment center, toppling a television onto his head, the son testified.
The week before he was to go to trial Laramore tried to fire his public defender, Brett Meeker. He told Mouton that he wished to exercise his right to defend himself. He also asked for more time to secure expert witnesses and fortify his defense.
After questioning the defendant at a hearing, Mouton ruled that Laramore was not expressing an unequivocal desire to act as his own attorney and denied his motion for a continuance. Laramore raised similar objections Friday at his sentencing hearing.