The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 10, 2012

Man says neighbor shot him even though he had turned music down

By Jeff Lehr

JOPLIN, Mo. — Keith Ritchey testified Wednesday that he had known his neighbor Kevin Cassell for four or five years, and had been on good terms with him before Cassell shot him in the face July 15 for playing music too loudly.

Associate Judge Richard Copeland ordered Cassell, 50, bound over for trial in Jasper County Circuit Court after a preliminary hearing on felony counts of first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.

Ritchey, 23, testified at the hearing that he woke up shortly after noon on the day in question and went outside to try to start his car. The vehicle wouldn’t start, but he left its stereo on to listen to music while he sat on the porch of the apartment where he lives at 820 W. Eighth St.

“Kevin came out and said, ‘You better turn the music down before I start popping some shots,’” Ritchey told the court.

Ritchey said he swore at Cassell but turned the music down like he asked. He said he went back in the house at that point and started up some stairs but stopped and went back outside. He said Cassell emerged from his house with a gun and fired a shot over the roof of the garage at Ritchey’s apartment house.

“I said, ‘I turned the music down!’” Ritchey told the court. “And he pointed the gun at me and shot me in the face.”

The shot to his mouth critically wounded Ritchey and left him hospitalized for 11 days. The bullet shattered his mandible and severed a jugular vein before traveling down his neck and lodging in the back of his shoulder, where doctors decided to leave it, he said.

Cpl. Larry Swinehart of the Joplin Police Department testified that the defendant produced a blood-alcohol content reading of 0.311 percent on a breath test that afternoon at the Joplin City Jail. The legal limit for intoxication is 0.08 percent.

Swinehart said he went to the jail with the intent of interviewing Cassell but noticed that he was unsteady on his feet. Swinehart said that once the man’s intoxication level was known, he decided against questioning him, but a gunshot residue test was performed on the defendant’s hands.

Public defender Nicki Neil cross-examined Ritchey about his relationship with his neighbor before the shooting incident, and he acknowledged that they had been on good terms.

“He invited me to breakfast just the day before,” Ritchey said.

Next court date

KEVIN CASSELL’S initial appearance in a trial division of Jasper County Circuit Court has been set for Nov. 9.