Kenton Cowgill

A judge decided at a preliminary hearing Thursday there was probable cause for a Carthage man to stand trial on felony murder charges in connection with a police pursuit and crash that took the life of a retired Joplin college professor.

Associate Judge Joe Hensley following the hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court ordered Kenton C. Cowgill II, 36, to stand trial on counts of second-degree murder, driving while intoxicated resulting in the death of another, resisting arrest and second-degree trafficking in drugs.

Cowgill was fleeing from police the morning of July 3 when authorities say he caused a three-vehicle crash at East Seventh Street and Duquesne Road that claimed the life of one of the other two drivers involved, 66-year-old Robert McDermid, a retired professor and former chairman of the psychology department at Missouri Southern State University.

Police officers responding to a report of a man passed out in a vehicle that was blocking a driveway in the 800 block of South Rex Avenue suspected Cowgill was intoxicated when they awakened him at the scene. Before that determination could be made, he took off in the vehicle with officers in pursuit.

The crash took place moments later in Duquesne, and Cowgill jumped out and tried to flee on foot. As he fled, he threw something under his vehicle, which officers testified Thursday proved to be about 94 grams of methamphetamine.

The defendant initially was charged with a Class C felony count of driving while intoxicated resulting in the death of another as well as resisting arrest and delivery of a controlled substance.

Two of those charges have since been upgraded to a Class B felony count of driving while intoxicated resulting in the death of another and second-degree trafficking in drugs. The Jasper County prosecutor’s office recently added the fourth count of felony murder.

The judge set his initial appearance in a trial division of the court on Dec. 7. The defendant has remained in custody without any bond set since his arrest, according to court records.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe. 

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