Witness testifies about confrontation that led to shooting

Ricky Marchbanks

While a Carthage man had a temper, the neighbor charged with fatally shooting him was known to carry a rifle around with him and told friends he might have to kill someone, according to testimony in the prosecution's case Tuesday against defendant Ricky Marchbanks.

Marchbanks, 62, is standing trial in Jasper County Circuit Court on first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges filed against him in the May 16, 2016, shooting of Jeremy D. Neeper, 38. Neeper lived at 1032 Valley St., and Marchbanks lived next door at 1036 Valley St.

While attorneys representing Marchbanks contend the shooting was in self-defense and that Neeper had a gun, Tuesday's prosecution witnesses, who included Neeper's widow and stepson, said he did not have a gun.

A friend of Marchbanks who was with him at the time of the shooting testified that a running feud existed between the two neighbors such that after a couple incidents that day, Marchbanks went home and put a rifle in his truck before driving by Neeper's house for the final deadly encounter.

Jesse Bettis, who lives about a block from the site of the shooting, said that Marchbanks came to his house twice during the night. The first time, they visited and Marchbanks had a couple of drinks of liquor while telling Bettis he had a dispute that day with Neeper.

Later, Marchbanks said Neeper had overturned his lawn mower and that he needed help uprighting it. Bettis went with him to his house, where they turned the mower upright and checked to see if anything else was out of place.

Bettis testified that Marchbanks said to him, "I'll have to kill that guy someday. He's pushed me too far." Bettis said he didn't take it seriously because Marchbanks had made similar remarks before.

"It just seemed like he was blowing off steam," Bettis testified.

Marchbanks then went into his house and brought out a rifle before driving Bettis home. Marchbanks told Bettis he did not want to panic Bettis and showed him that the safety was set and then put the gun in his truck. "He said he just didn't want to take a chance with the guy because he (Neeper) had guns," Bettis testified.

It was raining heavily that night, and the truck's windows were fogged. As they passed in front of Neeper's house, Neeper approached the truck, and Bettis heard a thud on the truck. He thought Neeper had hit or slapped the truck with his hand.

But Marchbanks stopped, got out of the truck and took the gun.

"I could hear them arguing and then I heard a pop," Bettis said. Marchbanks walked back to the truck, got in and drove slowly away. With the windows fogged, Bettis could not see clearly, but he testified that Marchbanks told him, "I think I got him in the gut. I think he's dead." Bettis did not see Neeper clearly, he said, but Marchbanks did not say anything about Neeper having a gun.

When they arrived at Bettis' home, Marchbanks asked if he could park behind the house. Bettis said there was no way to get a vehicle behind his house and that he told Marchbanks he couldn't park back there.

Marchbanks talked about turning himself in, and then the men, who by then had been joined by a roommate of Bettis, heard sirens approaching.

Bettis said his roommate told Marchbanks that it was probably time for him to do that because it sounded like authorities had arrived at his house.

Marchbanks left, though he did not turn himself in to police. He went to another friend's house.

Neeper's stepson, Cody Pinkley, testified that Neeper was upstairs in his house getting ready for bed when they heard Marchbanks' truck approaching, and Neeper bounded down the stairs to go outside.

Pinkley testified that he heard Neeper and Marchbanks argue about a motorcycle and then he heard Neeper say, "'You have a gun? You going to shoot me. I'm not afraid.'"

Those were his stepfather's last words before Pinkley heard a shot. Going outside, he saw his stepfather standing and holding his chest. Then he fell to the ground.

Pinkley testified that he had a couple of BB guns, an airsoft gun and a pellet gun but that there were no other guns in the Neeper house.

Neeper's widow, Sharon Neeper, testified that the day's disagreements between Neeper and Marchbanks started because Neeper had given his motorcycle to a man Marchbanks recommended for repairs. Neeper could not reach the man to get the motorcycle back, she said.

Later, Neeper was angry about several things including the motorcycle issue. He had been drinking and went out to leave, but she was concerned about him driving after drinking. She said she went out to try to calm him down and that he pushed her away.

Marchbanks, who was backing out of his driveway at the time, saw it and apparently reported it to the police as a case of domestic abuse. She said police arrived after Neeper left, but she told them Neeper had not injured her and would not file a complaint.

That is why Neeper later went over and tipped Marchbanks' mower over, she testified.

Officer Justin Butler of the Carthage Police Department, who supervised the shooting crime scene, said Neeper was shot in the chest. Officers and then paramedics administered CPR, but Neeper did not respond and was pronounced dead at the scene.

He said Sharon Neeper told him her husband had been shot by Marchbanks.

Larry Dean Fox, a friend of Marchbanks who lives just outside of town, said Marchbanks came to his house that night and they visited, but Marchbanks never said anything about Neeper. Marchbanks had been drinking, so Fox provided bedding for Marchbanks to sleep on his couch.

About 3 a.m., law enforcement officers arrived at the Fox home and found Marchbanks sitting on the couch with a rifle leaning on the couch near him, Butler testified.

Resumption

The trial in Joplin will resume today with the defense making its case, court officials said.

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