CASSVILLE, Mo. — Prosecutors relied heavily on Herb Townsend's purported dying declaration to convince a judge to order Chris Paschall bound over for trial Friday in the slayings a year ago of Townsend and his granddaughter Casey Brace.
Circuit Judge Robert Foulke found probable cause for Paschall, 38, the father of one of Brace's three children, to stand trial on first-degree murder charges following a preliminary hearing in Barry County Circuit Court.
Deputy Billy Watkins, one of four state witnesses called at the hearing, testified that he discovered Brace, 20, lying dead just inside the back door of her grandfather's home when he responded Jan. 5, 2015, to a 911 call from the residence on Farm Road 1055 northwest of Washburn.
He said that as he checked her for a pulse, he heard a moan inside the house, stood up to look over some furniture and spotted Townsend lying on his back with a rifle pointed at him.
He ducked back down and pulled his service weapon out, waiting to see if Townsend might shoot. When he did not and he heard the rifle drop to the floor seconds later, he approached and could see that Townsend had been shot and was severely wounded.
"Then I said: 'Could you tell me who did this?,' and he made a statement," Watkins testified.
Darrell Moore, an assistant attorney general prosecuting the case, asked the deputy what Townsend told him.
"'Chris Paschall' is what he said," Watkins told the court.
The deputy testified that there was no one else in the home when he and other deputies checked the residence following the arrival of emergency medical help. Townsend was taken to a hospital in Springfield where he died of his wounds.
Dr. Keith Norton, the forensic pathologist who performed autopsies on both victims, testified that Brace was shot three times and Townsend five or six times.
Brace had gunshot wounds to the back left side of her head, the right side of her chest and her left shoulder, Norton said the fatal shot was the one to the back of the head because it severed her spinal cord, terminating her ability to breathe.
The pathologist found gunshot wounds on the grandfather's forehead, upper left side of his chest, left shoulder, right elbow and left forearm and a grazing wound of his right eyelid. The shot to the forehead passed down through his right eye, sinuses and voice box and into his chest cavity, penetrating a lung. Norton said the grandfather died from bleeding in the chest cavity caused by the shots to the forehead, chest and shoulder.
He said it was possible that a single round may have passed through the left forearm and into the chest if Townsend had his arm raised in a certain manner, which is why he could not be certain if he had been shot five or six times.
Defense attorney E. Dion Wilson asked if having his arm raised to shoot a rifle might explain how a single round might cause both the forearm and chest wounds, and Norton acknowledged that was possible.
The state called Cathy Townsend, Brace's mother and the daughter of Herb Townsend, to testify that she ran into Paschall that morning in Cassville. She said she first noticed him driving a vehicle behind her in traffic. She made a turn, he drove on around the town square, and they wound up facing each other in traffic, she said. He "glared" straight at her, she said.
She had a restraining order on Paschall at the time and called the Barry County Sheriff's Department to report the matter. Deputy Watkins came to speak with her about the complaint at her residence in Washburn where Casey and her three children were living. Brace and her two youngest children, including 2-year-old Alli Paschall, were there when the deputy came by.
Cathy Townsend said Paschall had threatened her the day she went to court to obtain the restraining order and had called her father and threatened him shortly before Christmas. She said he told Herb Townsend: "Old man, I've got friends with Tommy guns coming after you."
Casey left her mother's house to take her son to school about 12:30 p.m. and then came back and got Alli Paschall and left for her grandfather's house to help him pay some bills, her mother told the court. She said it was not until about 3 p.m. that she received a call from a relative informing her that something had happened at her father's house. The relative gave her a ride there and she was met outside the residence by a deputy who told her that Casey "didn't make it" and that "he shot her."
"Did he say who?" defense attorney Andrew Miller asked.
"No, we all pretty much knew," she said.
The fourth witness called was Detective Cody Ross, a narcotics investigator with the Springdale (Arkansas) Police Department, who recounted finding Paschall and his daughter at his parents' home that evening. There had been an Amber Alert issued when Barry County deputies realized Brace had Alli Paschall with her at her grandfather's house and the girl was no longer there when help arrived.
Ross said Paschall was placed under arrest at that time on an outstanding warrant for revocation of probation received on a conviction in Arkansas.
"Do you know if any evidence was found in Arkansas that has to do with the murders in Missouri?" Miller asked Ross on cross-examination.
"I do not know," the detective answered.
There was no evidence presented regarding an alleged murder weapon. Defense attorney Ronald Davis consequently argued that the state had failed to connect his client to the deaths of the victims other than with the dying declaration of a man suffering from devastating wounds that may well have affected both his ability to think clearly and to communicate his thoughts to others.
Davis argued that there also was no evidence that Paschall abducted his daughter other than that she was found with him and his father in Arkansas.
Chris Paschall has been ordered to stand trial on two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of armed criminal action and a single count of parental kidnapping.