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Man who killed Missouri trooper gets death sentence

Friday, May 22, 2009 | 5:37 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS  — A southeast Missouri man convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year for killing the state trooper who was investigating him in a fatal hit-and-run accident was sentenced to death Friday.

Lance Shockley, 32, of Van Buren, was convicted in March in the 2005 death of Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Carl Dewayne Graham Jr., but the jury deadlocked on whether to recommend life in prison without the possibility of parole or death. Carter County Circuit Judge David Evans announced the death sentence during a hearing Friday.

Bradford Kessler, one of Shockley's attorneys, said an appeal is planned. But Kessler said he believed the judge made the ruling he thought was appropriate.

"He struck me as a fair man who searched his conscience for what he thought the right decision ought to be," Kessler said.

Shockley took the decision "stoically," Kessler said.

"I'm sure it wasn't a happy day for the Highway Patrol or Dewayne Graham's family, no matter what happened," Kessler said.

Attorney General Chris Koster, whose office handled the prosecution, said the death penalty was an appropriate punishment.

"Our uniformed officers are the guardians of our communities and they knowingly put their lives on the line every day," Koster said in a written statement. "For their protection of us, we owe them the strongest legal protections.

"We cannot undo the terrible crime of Sgt. Graham's murder," Koster said. "But we can let our law enforcement community know when one of them is intentionally harmed, we will react with swift and severe legal action."

Capt. Billy E. Chadwick, commander of the troop where Graham worked, said the sentence was fair.

"We feel that justice has been done in this matter and that an appropriate sentence has been imposed," Chadwick said in a written statement. "We pray that today's judgment will bring at least a small measure of closure for Dewayne's family, friends, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the numerous law enforcement agencies who assisted us during this entire process."

The crime happened on March 20, 2005. Graham, 37, had finished his shift and gone home when he was shot in the back of the head. A bullet severed Graham's spine. He suffered a skull fracture when he fell backward.

Graham had been investigating Shockley for his role in a Nov. 26, 2004, traffic accident that killed Jeffrey R. Bayless.

During testimony at the trial, Shockley's grandmother said her grandson borrowed her red 1995 Pontiac Grand Am around noon on the day of Graham's killing, and returned home between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Van Buren residents Rick Hamm and Lisa Hart testified to seeing a red car parked near Graham's house that afternoon.

But defense attorneys during the trial said the state had no eyewitness, no weapon, no DNA, and no ballistic or physical evidence tying Shockley to the crime.

Because both Shockley and Graham were from Van Buren, the case was moved to West Plains on a change of venue request.

 


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