Affidavit: Suspect in baseball bat beating admitted hitting victim

Clarence Anderson

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A judge denied a request for a bond reduction Wednesday on Clarence Anderson whose murder charges were refiled as an assault case when the mother of a child witness did not bring him back to Missouri to testify at a scheduled preliminary hearing Sept. 25.

That hearing was reset for Wednesday two weeks ago when Bill Dobbs, the McDonald County prosecutor, refiled the second-degree murder charges on Anderson, 56, of rural Seneca, to first-degree assault charges in the death of 34-year-old Joshua J. Collier, of Neosho.

Dobbs sought and obtained a continuance again Wednesday, prompting public defender Charles Oppelt to ask Associate Judge John LePage either to release his client from jail on his own recognizance or reduce the cash-only requirement of his $25,000 bond to a more affordable surety bond allowance.

The judge denied the request and reset the preliminary hearing for Nov. 6, promising the defense that if the hearing is not held that date he would grant a bond reduction.

Collier died of a head injury April 30 at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, where he was taken April 20 when two women discovered him in critical condition inside his home in Neosho. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be complications from blunt force trauma to his head.

For a few weeks, the Newton County Sheriff's Department was unable to determine how and when Collier suffered his injury. But investigators eventually developed reason to believe he had been beaten with a baseball bat April 19 during a confrontation with Anderson at the defendant's residence on Britt Lane in northwest McDonald County.

Anderson was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action, and his girlfriend, Kathy L. Kay, 55, was charged with hindering prosecution for allegedly trying to get rid of evidence of the slaying.

The probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges on Anderson states that investigators learned that Anderson knew Collier and had agreed a couple of days before the confrontation to let Collier rent an outbuilding on his property. But when Collier pulled up to his residence on April 19, Anderson opened the door to his home and told him to leave because he was upset with Collier for having previously brought another man to his residence whom Anderson did not like.

Two grandchildren of the defendant are described in the affidavit as key witnesses to the crime. The mother of the boy and girl recently contacted the Globe by phone and explained that she took her children to Texas in response to social media "bullying" that her son was experiencing for having told investigators what he witnessed at his grandfather's residence.

Dobbs declined to comment on the situation with the grandchildren and their mother except to say: "The only witness that can testify to the actual physical assault of Joshua Collier has not been made available to the state despite repeated agreement that the witness would be present."

Dobbs said that left him two weeks ago with no other choice but to amend the murder charges.

"I was in a position where I was going to have to either dismiss the murder case and have nothing or amend it down," Dobbs said.

He said he refiled the counts as first-degree assault and armed criminal action rather than let the defendant off altogether. He pointed out that first-degree assault is a Class A felony, with a possible punishment range of 10 to 30 years, or up to life, in prison, which is what second-degree murder also carries in Missouri.

The probable-cause affidavit states that the suspect's 14-year-old grandson told investigators that he saw Anderson hit Collier "at least twice" with the bat, once in the chest and once in the head as Collier was seated on his motorcycle in the driveway of Anderson's residence. The boy said the blow to the head struck Collier below a "skull cap-style" motorcycle helmet Collier was wearing, according to the affidavit.

Dobbs said he has other eyewitnesses' accounts of events immediately preceding and after the alleged assault with the baseball bat. But the boy is the only known eyewitness to the assault itself, he said.

The affidavit states that Anderson admitted to an investigator that an argument took place during which he hit Collier with a metal bat and that he later sold the victim's motorcycle for $50. He told investigators that he hit Collier in the side with a single swing of the bat but could not recall under questioning if he hit him more than once, according to the affidavit.

Dobbs declined to discuss why he believes Anderson can be prosecuted for assault without the boy's testimony if he cannot make a murder charge stick.

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Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.