The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

February 23, 2012

Jury acquits father-in-law in Noel fatal shooting

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A McDonald County jury decided Thursday that James Patterson acted in self-defense when he shot and killed his son-in-law, Marty Reece, in Noel more than two years ago.

Jurors deliberated less than three hours before acquitting Patterson, 51, of charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in a two-day trial in Pineville. Circuit Judge Tim Perigo had dismissed a charge of attempted murder against Patterson’s wife, Kimberly, 47, before jury deliberations began.

The judge’s call and the jury’s verdict left the Pattersons obviously relieved but drew bitter reactions from the family of the 32-year-old Reece, who was shot five times by James Patterson with a .45-caliber handgun, including four shots in the back.

“How can you leave your house with a loaded gun, never call 911 until he is dead and still walk?” Ginger Reece, the deceased man’s stepmother, wanted to know after the trial.

One of Reece’s sisters, Tammy Cantrell, said testimony showed that her brother was outnumbered three to one in a fight with his in-laws and estranged wife, Jindy Patterson, the night of Sept. 7, 2009, and that the Pattersons were the ones that “brought a gun to a fistfight.”

“He didn’t have a weapon, and they did,” Cantrell said. “Is that justice?”

While neither of the Pattersons took the witness stand in their own defense, their attorney, Duane Cooper, argued that his clients were defending their daughter who had been beaten up by Reece and that they never introduced the gun into the dispute until Reece was getting the better of them and they were taking a beating.

“You don’t have to take a beating,” Cooper told jurors in final arguments. “You don’t have to let your family take a beating. You have a right to defend yourself.”

Reece and Jindy Patterson, who had a son in common, were undergoing a divorce and not living together at the time. Court records showed that she had taken out a protection order against him in April of that year and the order was still in effect the night of the domestic assault and shooting.

It was Labor Day, and Reece and James Patterson went golfing together. They consumed alcohol as they golfed and afterward went to a bar and shot pool.

Trial testimony established that Reece became considerably more intoxicated than Patterson. The medical examiner determined he died with a blood-alcohol content almost twice the legal threshold for driving in Missouri. Jindy Patterson picked him up at the bar to drive him home.

The Pattersons told a Noel deputy marshal after the shooting that they received a call from their daughter that night telling them that she’d been in a quarrel with Reece and needed them to come right away. Kimberly Patterson told the deputy marshal that she advised her husband to take the gun with them as they were leaving.

Reece’s assault of Jindy Patterson took place inside the vehicle in which she’d picked him up. He was still in that vehicle a short distance from his home on Alexander Street in Noel as his in-laws pulled up in their vehicle.

James Patterson told the deputy marshal that as he got out of his vehicle and approached Reece, the younger man “sucker punched” him. They began to scuffle, Jindy Patterson tried to intervene and the three of them went sprawling into the ditch along the street.

Kimberly Patterson retrieved the gun from the car and struck Reece in the head with it three times before pointing it at his hip and trying to shoot him. The gun didn’t fire, and the Pattersons told the investigator that at that point, Reece looked at his mother-in-law and said: “Pistol whip me, b----?” and reached for the weapon.

James Patterson is said to have then taken the gun from her and fired five shots in rapid succession at close range.

 “He was mad and upset, and he wanted to kill Marty,” Prosecutor Jonathan Pierce told jurors.

Pierce argued that if the Pattersons felt their daughter’s life was in danger, they should have called 911.

Cooper said Patterson had good reason to fear for the safety of himself and his family. He pointed out that James Patterson did not approach Reece with the gun as he got out of his vehicle.

“If this man had wanted to kill Mr. Reece, if that had been his plan, the gun wouldn’t have been in the car,” Cooper argued.

He said the fistfight ended when “Marty Reece (reached) for that gun.”


 Judge’s call

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