New evidence in Becky Doisy case discussed at motion hearing

Monday, January 3, 2011 | 8:43 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Boone County prosecutors sought in a motion hearing Monday to be allowed to introduce evidence in an upcoming homicide trial demonstrating that Johnny Wright fired shots at the only known witness in the Becky Doisy case.

In the hearing held in the 13th Circuit Court for Boone County, Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks told Judge Gary Oxenhandler that on Aug. 26, 1976 — three weeks after Doisy went missing — Wright was questioned by Columbia Police Detective Chris Egbert.

A few hours later, several gunshots were fired at Harry Moore inside his home at 711 N. Providence Road. At the time, Moore, Wright's former roommate, would not say who shot at him. Hicks said Moore will now testify that Wright fired at him in anger after learning that Moore had told police he'd seen Wright with Doisy on Aug. 5, the last time she was seen. Hicks also said a hat found by police just outside the back door of Moore's house after the shooting was the same hat Wright had worn earlier in the day when he was interviewed by Columbia police.

Hicks said in the hearing the attempted shooting proves the defendant's "consciousness of guilt." 

But Wright's defense attorney, Cleveland Tyson, raised a question about why Moore didn't come forward until 1985 with his claim that Wright had shown him Doisy's body stuffed into Wright's 1972 blue Toyota.

Wright was arrested on Sept. 23, 2009, in Georgia on an outstanding warrant for second-degree murder in connection with Doisy's disappearance, according to a previous Missourian article. He was applying for a job and had been asked to undergo a background check. That process revealed the warrant. Wright was 65 when he was arrested.

Doisy was 23 and a waitress at what was then called Ernie's Steak House (now Ernie's) on Walnut Street when she disappeared. Her body was never found.

Tyson took issue with the prosecution's effort to link the shooting at Moore's house to Wright and to his suspected role in Doisy's disappearance. He said there is no proof that Wright was the one who shot at Moore that August afternoon.

"I think that's a very creative theory," said Tyson, who has steadfastly maintained that the Boone County prosecutor has no solid evidence against his client. Wright was not in court Monday. He was released on a $10,000 bond on Nov. 6, 2009.

At the hearing, several pieces of evidence were sealed for privacy and not discussed in open court with the media present. But among the other evidence discussed was:

  • That Wright used a fake name for several years, and it was not revealed until 2008. The prosecution will seek to convince a jury that his use of an alias is further evidence of Wright's "consciousness of guilt"; the defense will focus on his life after he left Missouri because he now has a wife and children in Georgia.
  • That the night Doisy disappeared, a shovel and a hoe belonging to Wright were stolen from the house of Wright's girlfriend. The defense says there is no evidence Wright stole the tools.
  • That in 1976, according to the state, Wright told an acquaintance, William Simmons, that he killed a woman in Columbia.

Oxenhandler could rule on the motions at another hearing scheduled for Jan. 18, and a jury trial is set for Jan. 25 in the Boone County Courthouse.

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