Before he was elected to Congress in 1996, Rep. Kenny Hulshof worked as a state prosecutor specializing in small-town murder cases. Here is a look at seven homicide cases he prosecuted where his courtroom conduct was called into question, the sentence was overturned on appeal or the guilt of the convicted murderer remains in doubt:
St. Charles County man who broke into his neighbor’s apartment in February 1990 after finding out his wife wanted a divorce. Storey was convicted in November 1991 of first-degree murder in the death of Jill Frey, who had her throat slit, six ribs broken and multiple face and head wounds. He was sentenced to death.
In June 1995, the MissouriSupreme Court ordered a new trial after finding that Hulshof committed four “egregious errors” during the trial’s penalty phase:
—Arguing facts outside the record. Hulshof told jurors that “this case is about the most brutal slaying in the history of this county.” He was also cited for injecting his personal opinions, which the court said “essentially turns the prosecutor into an unsworn witness not subject to cross-examination.”
—Personalizing arguments by asking jurors to “try to put yourself in Jill Frey’s place. ... to have your headyanked back by its hair and to feel the blade of that knife slicing through your flesh, severing your vocal cords, wanting to scream out in terror but not being able to. Trying to breathe, but not being able to for the blood pouring down into your esophagus.”
—Suggesting that Frey’s brother — who did not witness the murder — would have been justified in killing Storey had he seen his sister die. That statement, the court said, was “calculated only to inflame the jury.”
—Weighing the value of lives and “seriously misstating the law” by asking jurors “whose life is more important to you,” the victim or the defendant.
Storey was re-sentenced in 1997 but again had his conviction overturned, this time over a procedural error by the judge. He was sentenced to death a third time in September 1999 and remains behind bars at the state prison in Potosi.
Livingston County woman convicted in 1991 and sentenced to death, along with her husband, Ray, for the murder of five transient farmhands from 1986 to 1989 in a cattle fraud scheme.
A federal judge commuted her sentence to life without parole in August 1999 after noting Hulshof’s “completely improper” comparison of Faye Copeland to Los Angeles street gang members killing each other for turf in the crack cocaine wars. A federal appeals court upheld that decision one year later.
Hulshof was also criticized by the judge for comparing the Copelands’ marriage to his own and for several statements such as, “There has never, ever been a more complete and utter disregard for the sanctity of human life as this case,” and, “There has never been a case in the history of our state that is stronger for first-degree murder as far as deliberation.”
Copeland died in December 2003, at 82, while in a nursing home on medical parole after a stroke. Until her re-sentencing, she was America’s oldest woman on death row.
Greene County woman convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in April 1992 for the 1989 murder of a woman whose dismembered body was found near Springfield.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that defense attorneys never received a tape recording of a witness who said Phillips’ son — a butcher — told her that he had dismembered Wilma Plaster’s body while his mother drove a car.
In his closing arguments, Hulshof repeatedly argued that Phillips deserved to die because she personally had cut up the victim’s body.
Hulshof says he didn’t know about the tape at the time of the trial. In a 2001 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the presiding judge agreed, adding that the tape was in the desk drawer of a police officer who had suffered a disability.
Phillips was re-sentenced to life in prison without parole in October 1998. Now 71, she is incarcerated at the Chillicothe women’s prison.
Illinois man convicted in August 1994 of second-degree murder in the 1992 death of Angela “Mischelle” Lawless, a 19-year-old college student in southeast Missouri. There were no firsthand witnesses to the crime, nor any physical evidence. Kezer was implicated by three inmates at the Cape Girardeau County jail, each of whom cut deals for lesser sentences on their own charges.
Those three men later recanted their story, as did a fourth key prosecution witness. In 2006, Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter — a former reserve deputy who responded to the murder scene — reopened the investigation into Lawless’ death. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Monday in Jefferson City, where Kezer is imprisoned.
Bootheel-area man convicted in September 1995 by a Callaway County jury for the 1994 murder for hire of businessman Randy Martindale in New Madrid County. Martindale’s wife allegedly had an affair with Clay’s friend Chuck Sanders.
In 2001, Sanders came forward and testified that he lied — at the urging of Hulshof and New Madrid prosecutor H. Riley Bock — about the 10-year sentence he expected to receive as a plea bargain. Sanders eventually received five years probation for his involvement. He said the prosecutors didn’t think the jury would find him credible unless it appeared he would receive a stiffer sentence.
Citing that new evidence, a federal judge threw out Clay’s conviction in August 2001. A federal appeals court reinstated Clay’s death sentence in May 2004. Now 43, he is imprisoned in Potosi and awaiting an execution date.
Both Bock and Hulshof — who told jurors that “Chuck Sanders is going to get 10 years in prison. ... Let there be no mistake about it” — filed sworn affidavits disputing Sanders’ account of the plea deal; so did Sanders’ trial attorney.
Southwest Missouri man convicted in February 1996 of killing his wife while she slept to collect on a $500,000 insurance policy. In a split opinion, the state appeals court reversed the conviction in November 1997 and ordered a new trial, calling an undated note from Lisa Revelle about marital trouble inadmissible hearsay.
In December 1998, a second jury acquitted George Revelle, who blamed his wife’s death on intruders who planned to extort Ozark Bank. The insurance money went to the couple’s two children.
Osage County man convicted in May 1996 for the July 1993 murder of his mother, Norma. Helmig wassentenced to life in prison without parole. During closing arguments, Hulshof alluded to a pillow to show the jury how a victim could be suffocated. But no pillow was introduced into evidence during trial, and investigators didn’t determine Norma Helmig’s cause of death.
In 2005, a federal judge tossed out Helmig’s first-degree murder conviction because jurors were provided a highway map during deliberations that also had not been introduced as evidence.
The map was used to support Hulshof’s contention that Helmig drove from a Fulton motel to his mother’s home in Linn, south of the Missouri River, dumped her body in the Osage River and then returned to Fulton by the next morning — all while flooding caused the Missouri River to spill over the U.S. 54 bridge near Jefferson City for much of the night.
A federal appeals court reinstated the conviction in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of that decision. Helmig, now 52, remains imprisoned at the Crossroads Correction Center in Cameron.