Suspect in shooting death pleads not guilty to murder charge

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — In a pre-trial hearing Tuesday in which a number of motions were filed, a Columbia man charged in an August 2008 murder pleaded not guilty to all charges and was granted a continuance for his jury trial.  

Clyde Hyler III, 22, pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the shooting death of Antonio Flores-Ramirez, 29.

At the hearing, Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steven Berry filed a motion to endorse Antoine Harris, the co-defendant in the shooting, as a witness in Hyler’s case. Harris was charged in a grand jury indictment in August 2008 with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action.

Kevin O’Brien, Hyler’s attorney, objected to the motion on the grounds that the defense would not have enough time to review Harris’ testimony. Before the continuance, Hyler’s jury trial had been scheduled for June 23.

Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler granted Berry’s motion, but also granted O’Brien’s request for a continuance, which O'Brien submitted not only because of Harris’ endorsement, but also because the medical examiner in the case was not expected to be available during the week that the trial was originally scheduled to take place.

Oxenhandler said he did not know how long it would take for him to coordinate a new trial date because an out-of-county jury will be brought in for the trial.

According to previous Missourian reports, on the day of the shooting, Flores-Ramirez and Javier Perdoza thought they were going to buy marijuana from Harris and Hyler, but were robbed instead, Columbia Police Capt. Brad Nelson said at the time.

Flores-Ramirez was found shot to death on Quail Drive, and Perdoza was found in a nearby apartment shot in the chest. Both men were citizens of Mexico.

O’Brien also filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Jose Romero, who is listed in probable cause statements as a witness in the case, is out of the country and cannot be made available for testimony.  

O’Brien said Romero was an “essential” witness in the case. “We need another witness from the scene, and that witness has left the country,” he said.

Oxenhandler asked O’Brien for case law that supported his motion, which O'Brien was unable to provide. Oxenhandler denied the motion.

O’Brien also filed a motion to limit the testimony of Karen Oliver, who he said was in a romantic relationship with Romero at the time of the shooting.

Oliver, who does not speak Spanish, previously testified that she overheard a phone call made by Romero in which he used the word “mota,” a Spanish term for marijuana, O'Brien said.

Berry argued that Oliver, because she had overheard the conversation, had been led to believe that a drug transaction was taking place, but Oxenhandler granted the defense’s motion to limit her testimony.

“That’s a jump to light speed that I’m not going to allow the state to make,” Oxenhandler said.

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