By Jeff Lehr
Globe Staff Writer
STOCKTON, Mo. - A Cedar County jury took a little more than an hour Thursday to find Jim Edward Ryan guilty of first-degree murder in the death of John Kullie of rural Lamar.
The verdict came after Ryan, 43, took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday and told the jury that he was provoked into swinging a bumper jack at Kullie, 38, on May 25, 2005, in the bedroom of a trailer home just outside Lamar.
Kullie died of massive trauma to his head and neck inflicted by seven to 14 blows of the bumper jack, according to witnesses called by the state prosecutor on the first day of the trial Wednesday.
Upon return of the verdict by the jury, Circuit Judge James Bickel set July 17 as the date for formal sentencing of Ryan. Under Missouri law, a first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life without parole.
Ryan had come to Missouri from Oklahoma to assist Kullie and Ryan's brother by adoption, Johnny Ray, on a home-remodeling job they were doing. Ryan, Kullie and Kullie's wife, Rebecca Kullie, who is Ryan's sister by adoption, were among several people drinking and partying at the trailer home the night in question. Testimony of various witnesses established that John Kullie had gone to bed around 10 p.m.
Ryan told the court that he entered the trailer a short time later to go to the bathroom and spotted John Kullie in the bedroom harming Ryan's wife's pet Chihuahua. He said Kullie had the dog by its neck and was grinding its head into the carpet.
The defendant told the jury that he asked Kullie to stop, but Kullie merely cursed him and would not let go of the dog.
Ryan said he stepped back out of the trailer, where he spotted the bumper jack and grabbed it, intending to try to get Kullie to stop harming the dog by threatening him with it. He said Kullie threw the dog at him and jumped him when he returned to the bedroom.
By Jeff Lehr
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