The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

September 7, 2012

Jury acquits Arkansas man in McDonald County murder case

PINEVILLE, Mo. — The verdict left Brian Clapper, his family and supporters temporarily speechless with relief Friday afternoon and hugging each other in congratulations.

It was quite the opposite with family members and friends of John Bevill II and Kendrick Long, who seemed stunned and left the courthouse in Pineville with little comment.

After deliberating about an hour and 40 minutes, the McDonald County Circuit Court jury of four men and eight women acquitted the 32-year-old Clapper on all four counts that he was facing in the shooting death of Bevill, 34, and the wounding of Long, 23, almost a year ago in southeastern McDonald County.

The jury had the option of convicting Clapper of any of the lesser offenses of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter with respect to the death of Bevill if it did not think he committed first-degree murder. Jurors also could have convicted him of second-degree assault or misdemeanor assault in the wounding of Long if they thought a conviction for first-degree assault was not warranted.

The jury chose instead to find that the defendant was justified in shooting both men.

Andrew Miller, lead attorney for Clapper, said the four-day trial was difficult for all concerned because anyone could look at the core situation and “interpret what happened in a variety of ways.”

“I felt Brian made the best decisions he could make at the time based on what he was facing,” Miller said after the verdict was rendered.

Clapper shot Bevill twice with a 12-gauge shotgun during a confrontation in a driveway near Bevill’s home. At the time, Bevill had his hand to the throat of his ex-girlfriend, Karis Cunigan, and was pushing her toward Clapper, who had warned him to stop and let her go.

After shooting Bevill, Clapper turned the gun on Bevill’s friend Long, discharging the weapon once at his feet and wounding him in the arm with a second shot.

The McDonald County prosecutor’s office initially charged Clapper with second-degree murder in the death of Bevill and first-degree assault with respect to Long. The murder count was upgraded to first degree based largely on the account Long provided investigators a few days after the shooting. Long told them Bevill fell to the ground screaming in agony after the first shot and that Clapper “stepped forward” and shot him a second time.

“‘Stepped forward,’” Prosecutor Jonathan Pierce said, emphasizing Long’s testimony during closing arguments.

“Deliberation,” he added, ticking off the legal elements for a first-degree murder conviction. “Cool reflection. No matter the amount of time.”

He told jurors Clapper and Cunigan could have avoided the confrontation with Bevill that night but did not. They could have turned around and left when they spotted him and Long on their way to a storage shed to pick up her belongings, he said. They could have left when the two men pulled into the driveway and Bevill began challenging what they were doing, he said.

The prosecutor downplayed the threat Bevill posed to Cunigan and the defendant.

“We don’t know if it was an actual chokehold or not,” he said.

The prosecution maintained that Clapper’s and Cunigan’s claims of having seen a knife in Bevill’s hand were vitiated by the discovery after the shooting of the slain man’s closed knife in a pocket of his jeans.

Pierce pointed out in closing arguments that Clapper admitted shooting Long and had no cause for doing so other than that Long picked up a rock to defend himself when his friend was shot and that Clapper claimed to have felt something hit his face when he fired a second shot toward Bevill. He reminded the jurors that Long told them he dropped the rock and ran when Clapper turned the gun on him.

Miller told jurors that the prosecutor’s claim that Clapper stepped forward to shoot Bevill after he was down on the ground runs counter to the medical evidence in the case.

“He hasn’t a single shred of evidence that says that, and he’s trying to put my client in jail for the rest of his life,” Miller told the jury.

He reminded them also that the medical examiner’s initial finding in the case was that Bevill was shot first in the chest and then in the groin because he found little bleeding from the groin wound. The defense maintained that this showed the shots were fired in fairly rapid succession and while Bevill still posed a threat to both Cunigan and the defendant.

Clapper maintained that Long was coming around the truck and toward the defendant when he shot him. His attorneys attacked Long’s reliability as a witness at trial, emphasizing his drug use and prior convictions for assault and obstruction of law enforcement. The defense elicited similar testimony with respect to Bevill’s past and painted him as “violent,” “possessive” and “aggressive” to jurors.

Text Only
Top Stories
  • 080114 Older worker1_72.jpg Co-workers, friends honor nurse with 50-year career

    Wilma Massey has worked a half century in health care and, even at the age of 74, she’s the first to arrive at work each morning.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • Scott Branden Smith 080114.jpg Comatose assault victim dies

    A Joplin man left in a coma from an apparent assault died this afternoon at Freeman Hospital West.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit

    Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
    The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
    After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
    Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
    The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
    “The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
    Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.  
    Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
    Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
    “Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
    The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
    “We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
    The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”  
    “The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
    Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
    “There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
    If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
    The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
    “We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
    Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
    Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
    Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
    “We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
    Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
    Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.

    Tuesday’s election
    Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.

    August 1, 2014

  • Brownback names 3 Kansas Board of Regents members

    Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday named a former veteran Kansas House member and two attorneys to the board overseeing the state’s higher education system.

    August 1, 2014

  • Fair to feature goats, chickens and decorated bras

    Along with the usual fair sights, sounds and smells — livestock, poultry, produce and the like — there will be something a bit unusual at the Cherokee County American Legion Free Fair this year: Decorated brassieres. And pink. Lots of pink.

    August 1, 2014

  • Grant to fund solar energy system for PSU’s Plaster Center

    An $80,000 grant from Westar Energy will fund solar panels to provide both energy and education at the Robert W. Plaster Center, now under construction at Pittsburg State University.

    August 1, 2014

  • Detour in Parsons for bridge work begins

    A portion of south U.S. 59 Highway will close at the Parsons, Kansas, city limits on Aug. 4 for drainage work, asphalt resurfacing and a bridge deck repair project.

    August 1, 2014

  • Autism center to break ground on future home

    Ground will be broken Tuesday morning for the future home of the Bill & Virginia  Leffen Center for Autism at 2808 S. Picher Ave.

    August 1, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Home runs for area

    Baseball fans, there’s something exciting going on today that has nothing to do with the major leagues.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIVE BLOG: Little League Regional Tournament

    Athletes and parents from Joplin and Frontenac are headed to Indianapolis for the Little League Central Region Tournament. Follow their progress here.

    August 1, 2014