The Jasper County prosecutor has filed first-degree murder charges against Lane Stephens in the fatal shooting of Don Pierce and the wounding of Stephens' estranged wife Saturday morning at a motel in Carthage.
Single counts of first-degree murder and first-degree domestic assault, along with two counts of armed criminal action, were added Tuesday to the robbery charges on which Stephens, 29, of Carthage, has been held without bond since his arrest Sunday morning outside a church in Lamar.
Stephens is accused of killing the 43-year-old Pierce and wounding Toni Stephens, 25, according to a second probable-cause affidavit filed with the murder charges. The document states that he shot both victims more than once with a 9 mm pistol.
Officers responding to a report of shots fired at the motel discovered Pierce deceased inside a room with multiple gunshot wounds. Toni Stephens had been shot in the calf of one leg and in the thigh of the other leg, injuries for which she was treated at Mercy Hospital Joplin and released later the same day. Both shots passed through her legs, according to the affidavit.
She told police that her husband shot Pierce in the bathroom area of the room before walking over and shooting her. He then went back to the bathroom and shot Pierce again before coming back and shooting her a second time, according to the affidavit.
The gun may have jammed on the suspect at that point because the affidavit states that she saw the gun's slide "lock back, unable to fire and that's when Stephens left" the motel room.
Police Chief Greg Dagnan told the Globe that the preliminary findings of an autopsy conducted Tuesday determined that Pierce was shot at least three times, all above the waist. But there remains some uncertainty as to the exact number of times each victim was shot, Dagnan said.
Police recovered six spent 9 mm shell casings in the room, three spent 9 mm rounds and two unspent rounds that appeared to have been dropped there in the course of the shooting.
Dagnan said there also was a gouge in the bathroom door that police believe may have been caused either by an errant sixth round that struck neither victim or a round that did strike one or the other of them. He said the medical examiner believes one of the rounds may have passed through Pierce's shoulder and an arm and entered his side. But it is also possible that those marks were caused by two separate rounds and not a single bullet.
The suspect hijacked two vehicles fleeing from the scene, first taking a woman's pickup truck at gunpoint in the motel parking lot and later displaying a knife to steal a car from a man outside the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store on Garrison Avenue in Carthage. The woman told police that he threw something to the ground as he took her truck. The affidavit states that a magazine containing eight unspent 9 mm rounds was found in the parking lot.
Police later found the pistol inside the truck the suspect abandoned prior to the second alleged carjacking.
Pierce and Toni Stephens were checked into separate rooms at the motel, although they were together in the same room at the time of the shooting, Dagnan said. She told police that they were acquainted but not involved in a romantic relationship.
Dagnan said police have reason to think Lane Stephens believed otherwise.
"The motivation seemed to be that there was at least a perceived relationship going on," Dagnan said.
He said the Stephenses had a conversation outside the room just prior to the shooting. When she returned to the room, he followed her inside and the shooting ensued, Dagnan said.