By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
In a video deposition played Wednesday at William Laramore’s murder trial, prosecution witness Steve Shockley testified that Sean French got down on the floor and appeared to be suffering a seizure just before Laramore began berating and kicking him.
Shockley described French as the boyfriend of Laramore’s mother and a little guy who was known to suffer epileptic seizures. The three men were drinking together the night of Nov. 14, 2010, in the house at 814 W. A St. in Joplin where French lived with Laramore and his mother.
Shockley said that when French dropped to the floor of the living room, he assumed that he was about to suffer a seizure. Laramore started cursing French and yelling at him to get up while kicking at the soles of his feet, he said.
Shockley said he told Laramore to leave French alone at that point, and the defendant turned on him and hit him with a bat or a table leg. He admitted that his memory of events that night was “vague” because of the skull fracture he suffered in the assault.
He could recall telling police that he had been hit three or four times in the back of the head with a club of some sort. But he also testified that he was uncertain as to what Laramore used to hit him, and that he never saw the defendant hit French with a bat, or a table leg, or anything else.
Laramore, 46, is on trial in Jasper County Circuit Court on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree assault in the slaying of French, 46, and the bludgeoning of Shockley, 50. A jury of nine women and three men was selected Wednesday to hear the case, and Shockley was among the first witnesses to testify.
The state was allowed by Circuit Judge David Mouton to present his testimony via a video recording because Shockley recently underwent hip replacement surgery and remains hospitalized and unable to attend the trial.
Assistant Prosecutor John Podleski told the jury during opening statements that Laramore’s son, Charles Laramore, is likely to be called as a witness since he was summoned to the house by his father later that night. Podleski showed jurors a crime-scene photo of French lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
“That is what Charles walked in on,” Podleski said. “He knew Sean French, and that’s what he saw.”
Charles Laramore told the Globe two years ago that French was unconscious but still breathing when he arrived at the house. But William Laramore was still angry and yelling at French, and he picked up a coffee table, walked over to French and threw it down on him. The table struck the victim’s head and caromed into an entertainment center, toppling a television onto the victim.
The coffee table, a television, a table leg and an aluminum bat were among various items entered into evidence Wednesday by prosecutors.
Laramore’s public defender, Brett Meeker, told jurors that her client had been to the hospital the day in question to see his mother, who was dying of pancreatic cancer. She said Charles Laramore will testify that his father told him that French had disrespected his mother by stating that he was going to hide her medications.
Meeker said her client admits that he caused Shockley’s injuries after Shockley hit him first. She said he did so “to get him out of the house.” But he did not cause the death of French, Meeker told jurors.
The initial assaults on Shockley and French are believed to have taken place a few minutes before midnight on Nov. 14, 2010. Charles Laramore told police that he arrived at his father’s house at 12:33 a.m. on Nov. 15 and witnessed the assault with the coffee table.
Joplin police Sgt. Bob Higginbotham testified that police first received a call about a man injured in the 400 block of West A Street and located Shockley, who seemed disoriented and was bleeding profusely from a head wound.
It took some time for police to determine where the assault took place because of his condition, but officers eventually were directed to 814 W. A St., where they met Laramore and his son coming out of the house and detained them. French was discovered still alive inside the home, but he died a few hours later at Freeman Hospital West.
A Freeman nurse was called to testify Wednesday concerning a phone call she received at the hospital “about midnight or shortly after.” She said a man who identified himself as the son of Dorothy Laramore made disturbing comments to her that there were “people laying all over the house” where he was, and that he thought they were dead. He went on to say that he thought he had killed some people.
After speaking with him, she called 911 to report the matter, and provided police with the phone number of the man who called her and the address of Dorothy Laramore. An investigator testified that the phone number belonged to Laramore and French.
Testimony is to continue today in circuit court in Joplin.
PHOTOS INTRODUCED INTO EVIDENCE at William Laramore’s trial purportedly show blood stains on his hands, and on the shirt, pants and shoes he was wearing when he was arrested.