Christopher Montz has reached a plea deal resulting in a 15-year prison sentence in connection with a 2018 road rage incident and shooting on Missouri Highway 249.
Montz was accused of shooting David Reynolds, 27, of Carthage, in the head during a roadside altercation after Reynolds did not allow Montz to pass him on Highway 249 at the interchange with Interstate 44.
Montz, 24, of Neosho, initially faced first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges, but on Wednesday he pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court to voluntary manslaughter as part of the agreement.
According to testimony during a preliminary hearing last year, Joplin police Detective Dustin Moyer, who interviewed Montz after the incident, told the court that the altercation began as Montz was speeding toward Joplin on Interstate 49 near Route V.
He was worried about his mother in a hospital in Joplin, the detective said. He had been told that her medical condition was potentially life-threatening, and he was rushing to be with her. Montz was flashing some off-road lights on his Toyota Scion as he approached and passed other vehicles from behind.
Moyer said that Montz claimed that as he came up on the SUV that Reynolds was driving, Reynolds would not let him pass.
“I think he described at least two times where that vehicle changed lanes to block him,” Moyer said.
Montz also told him that Reynolds then made a hand motion to pull over to the side of the road.
Moyer said both drivers pulled to the shoulder, got out and began arguing between vehicles. Montz told Moyer that Reynolds wanted to know why Montz was driving in that manner. Montz told the detective that he explained to Reynolds that his mother was in dire condition at a hospital.
Defense attorney Kristin Jones asked the detective on cross-examination if Reynolds wasn’t being the more aggressive of the two men at that point, and Moyer acknowledged that he was.
“And saying things like: ‘I don’t give a s---?’” Jones asked, referring to Reynolds’ purported response to Montz’s explanation.
“Yeah,” Moyer conceded.
Police also said Reynolds punched Montz twice in the face before Montz pulled out a gun and killed Reynolds.
Jones asked if her client was legally carrying the firearm he had in his possession. Moyer said that he was. She asked if Montz shot Reynolds after Reynolds attacked him, and Moyer indicated that is what police believe happened.
Jones also asked if the woman who got out of Reynolds’ car with him tried to plead with Reynolds to stop after he hit Montz the first time, and Moyer agreed that he believed she had. He also confirmed under questioning by Jones that Montz called 911, remained at the scene until help arrived and cooperated with police.
But on direct examination by Assistant Prosecutor Will Lynch, Moyer also testified that Montz estimated that four to seven seconds passed between the two punches and the shooting. The detective said the defendant told him he was “fazed” by the punches, that he was not a fighter and had never been in a fistfight. Montz also recalled glancing at the woman who was with Reynolds just before pulling his gun out and shooting Reynolds in the head, according to Moyer.
Moyer said Montz told him: “I don’t believe I gave him a chance.”
Reynolds was shot in his right temple, according to Moyer, the lone witness to testify at the hearing.