PINEVILLE, Mo. — Judge Kevin Selby sentenced Clarence Anderson to 15 years in prison Thursday in the baseball bat beating two years ago of 34-year-old Joshua Collier, who died at a Joplin hospital.
Anderson, 58, who initially faced second-degree murder charges, pleaded guilty March 11 to a Class B felony count of first-degree assault that carried a punishment range of five to 15 years.
The murder charges were refiled as assault charges a few months after the April 19, 2019, incident outside the defendant’s residence on Britt Lane in northwest McDonald County that is believed to have led to Collier’s death 11 days later.
Bill Dobbs, then the McDonald County prosecutor, refiled the charges when problems developed for the prosecution with the availability of two key witnesses for the state who are the defendant’s grandchildren.
Anderson entered an open plea to the assault count. The judge assessed him the maximum punishment for the offense.
Two women who knew the victim discovered him in critical condition with a head injury on April 20, 2019, at his home in Neosho. He was taken to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, where he eventually died.
For a few weeks, the Newton County Sheriff’s Department was unable to determine how and when Collier suffered his head injury. But investigators eventually developed reason to believe he had been beaten with a baseball bat during a confrontation with Anderson, who had agreed a couple of days before the assault to let Collier rent an outbuilding on his property, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in the case.
But when Collier pulled up to Anderson’s residence on the day in question, the defendant purportedly told him to leave because he was upset with him for having previously brought to his property another man Anderson did not like.
The affidavit alleged that a grandson of the defendant told investigators that Anderson hit Collier “at least twice” with a baseball bat, once in the chest and once in the head, as the victim was seated on his motorcycle. The boy said the blow to the head struck Collier below a “skull cap-style” helmet he was wearing.
While there were other witnesses to events leading up to the assault and following it, Dobbs told the Globe two years ago that the boy was the lone known eyewitness to the assault itself.