Johnny Wright arraigned in 33-year-old 'cold case'

Friday, October 16, 2009 | 6:28 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The voice of Johnny Wright instantly hushed a Boone County courtroom Friday afternoon.

It was Wright's first appearance in court since he was arrested Sept. 23 in Georgia on an outstanding warrant for second-degree murder in connection with the disappearance of Becky Doisy in 1976.

Wright, 65, appeared by closed-circuit TV from the Boone County Jail for his arraignment. Associate Judge Christine Carpenter of the 13th Circuit Court had just set Wright’s preliminary hearing for Nov. 6 when Wright suddenly spoke.

“Can I ask a question?” Wright asked, his voice booming from the speakers in Carpenter’s courtroom. Carpenter stopped writing. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Morrell quickly glanced up from her paperwork and stared at Wright’s image on the TV, waiting.

“It’s not a good idea to ask a question,” Carpenter replied.

Wright’s attorney — Cleveland Tyson of St. Louis — was absent.

The defendant paused, and then nodded, not speaking again. No plea was entered. Wright will enter a plea Nov. 6 at his first preliminary hearing.

The prosecution faces an uphill climb in prosecuting Wright. It isn't clear that there is any physical evidence Doisy was murdered — or is even dead — because her body  was never found. The prosecution’s key witness, Harry Moore, stated to police only after he had been charged in connection with the crime nine years following Doisy's disappearance that he saw Doisy’s body in Wright’s car.

The next step in Wright’s prosecution is a preliminary hearing process in which a judge will determine whether or not there is enough evidence to prosecute.

Before dismissing Wright, Carpenter also ordered a bond investigation — meaning Wright's bond will be evaluated to see if it's still an appropriate amount to prevent flight. Wright’s bond from 1985 is $100,000, a far smaller amount than is normal for murder cases filed in Boone County today. Bond for Bradley Enyart, who is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree attempted robbery in the slaying of Corey Brown, was set at $1 million earlier this year.

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