A judge sentenced Michael Osborne to 20 years in prison Monday for the fatal stabbing of Shawn Rockers in Joplin.
Rockers, 27, died of a single stab wound to the chest suffered in an altercation with Osborne, 35, on Jan. 11, 2019, in the 300 block of South Connor Avenue.
The defendant's sister, Tiffany Hernandez, was a reluctant witness in the case, recanting at a preliminary hearing in April 2019 some of the account of the altercation she purportedly provided police the morning after the slaying.
She acknowledged taking a walk with her brother the morning in question and being present when he got into an argument with Rockers and two other men who were standing on the steps of a residence they were passing. She told the court that one of the other men — not Rockers — came down the steps and pushed her brother.
Hernandez claimed she tried to protect her brother by stepping in between him and the other three men, and that something happened when she turned away from them and toward her brother. She said that when she turned back around, Rockers had been stabbed. But she denied having seen her brother stab him.
Prosecutor Theresa Kenney challenged the accuracy of her testimony at the hearing, asking Hernandez if she hadn't told police that her brother confronted Rockers just before the stabbing with the words: "You called me out. Well, here I am."
Hernandez testified that she did not recall telling police that.
Kenney asked if she recalled telling police that she saw her brother take a swing at Rockers with a knife, and she insisted that she saw no such thing.
Osborne nonetheless pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to a reduced count of second-degree murder in a plea agreement limiting the prison term he would receive to no more than 20 years and dismissing a related count of armed criminal action. He had been facing a first-degree murder charge.
The defendant had been the victim of street violence himself just four months before his altercation with Rockers. He was severely beaten with a baseball bat in a September 2018 case that police say was not related to Rockers' slaying other than Osborne's status as a victim in the first crime and the perpetrator of the second. Jack Ballard, 40, pleaded guilty to assault in the beating of Osborne and was sentenced to some shock time in prison.
Osborne fled town after the slaying of Rockers, but investigators tracked him to Anacortes on Fidalgo Island in Washington state, where he was arrested at a Salvation Army shelter less than three weeks later.
Michael Osborne was sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 for abandoning the corpse of another man at Grand Falls in Joplin. The partially burned body of Michael H. Kordis, 52, of Miami, Okla., was discovered in the cab of a pickup truck left at the falls. Osborne and Tasha B. Brownlee, then 23, were suspected of having been with Kordis when he died and drove around with him in the truck before abandoning both the body and the vehicle. An autopsy determined that Kordis had died of a preexisting illness before his body was set on fire. No account was ever offered as to who burned the corpse or why.