Suspect in Comfort Inn killing pleads not guilty, faces trial as prior offender

Monday, March 10, 2008 | 7:26 p.m. CDT; updated 4:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The man charged with a murder, rape and robbery in November at two Columbia hotels pleaded not guilty to 11 felony charges Monday.

Dwight T. Hayes, 21, formerly of 1812 McKee St., will face a trial as a prior and persistent felony offender, according to a motion granted by Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton.

Under Missouri law, a person may serve a longer prison sentence if they have previously been convicted or pleaded guilty to a felony offense.

Hayes is accused of shooting Cynthia White, a 55-year-old Comfort Inn general manager. Officers found White’s body on Nov. 24 in an office at the hotel with a gunshot wound to the head. Officer’s also discovered that money had been stolen from a cash drawer.

In a separate case, Hayes is accused of asking a female clerk at the same hotel to have sex with him on Nov. 15. When she refused, Hayes pointed a handgun at her and said, “Well, give me the money then,” according to court documents. Investigators said he then forced her into a back room and raped her at gunpoint, before stealing her car.

Hayes is also charged with robbing another hotel, the Hampton Inn at 3410 Clark Lane.

A guest told police a man knocked on his hotel room door and asked for his ice bucket, according to court documents. When he opened the door, the man had what he thought to be a gun. The guest, Brian Plattner of Sabetha, Kan., forced the man out of the doorway and locked the door and then called police, documents show. Plattner identified Hayes to police using a photo line up.

Hayes was arrested Nov. 25 at his home on a warrant for the Hampton Inn robbery. Police searched his house and found a gun, thought to be the weapon used to kill White, and bullets, according to police.

During interviews with investigators, Hayes admitted to committing the robbery and rape at the Comfort Inn, according to a probable cause affidavit. He also gave incriminating statements linking him to the murder of White, according to the document.

His trial is set to begin on April 29 for charges of second-degree murder, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, four counts of armed criminal action, first degree robbery and first degree tampering of a motor vehicle.

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