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Original investigator of Doisy disappearance testifies during Wright trial

Thursday, January 27, 2011 | 4:44 p.m. CST; updated 6:23 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 27, 2011
Defendant Johnny Wright, left, listens Wednesday at the Boone County Courthouse as proceedings open in his trial for second-degree murder in the 1976 disappearance of Columbia waitress Becky Doisy.

COLUMBIA — The police officer, now retired, who led the investigation into the August 5, 1976, disappearance of Becky Doisy found little direct evidence to explain what had happened to the 23-year-old Columbia woman.

But one piece remained distinct and consistent over the months and years he worked on the case: all the people who said they remembered seeing Doisy with Johnny Wright on the last day she was seen alive.

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That testimony from retired Columbia Police Detective Chris Egbert took up most of Thursday morning in the second day of Wright's trial for second-degree murder.

No body has ever been found.

Besides Egbert, Thursday’s witnesses before lunch were Doisy’s sister, Kathy Doisy, who was called for the second time; and Doisy’s friend Paul Waldt. Both testified about three pieces of evidence recovered from Wright’s blue Toyota Corona when it was searched in St. Louis a week after Doisy disappeared.  

The items taken for evidence were several More-brand cigarette butts, a poem written on a piece of stationery and a hand-drawn map labeled “Paul’s house” on a sheet of notebook paper.

Kathy Doisy, who turned 21 two days before her sister was last seen, told Egbert in 1976 that the poem was in her sister’s handwriting on a piece of stationery that their father, a doctor in St. Louis, had likely given her. She also said the cigarette butts were from the brand Becky Doisy smoked.

Waldt, who said he met Becky Doisy at Ernie’s Steak House where she worked, testified that he drew the map and gave it to Doisy so she could find his farm near Ashland. He estimated under questioning from Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks that he drew the map at least two weeks before she disappeared. At the time, he was helping a friend remodel a farmhouse and working as a nursing assistant at Truman Veterans Hospital.

In 1976 Egbert talked to Kathy Doisy and Waldt before he asked Wright if he could identify the things police gathered from his car. Egbert returned to the stand on Thursday to testify about what Kathy Doisy, Waldt and then Wright told him about the items.

Egbert said in a report he wrote at the time that Wright told him that he wrote the poem, that the cigarette butts were his and that Waldt gave him the map. Egbert, in an apparent effort to learn whether Wright knew Waldt, asked what “Paul” did for a living. Wright said he worked with underprivileged children.

Egbert also interviewed William Simmons twice between June 1985 and January 1986; the latter interview was recorded on video and ultimately was the evidence that led to the warrant for Wright's arrest. Simmons was questioned Wednesday about information he gave to Egbert in that interview, and Hicks showed six clips from the video.

Simmons met Wright and Harry Moore, Wright’s then-roommate, at a methadone clinic in St. Louis. He told Egbert that both Moore and Wright told him about a girl killed in Columbia. He also said Moore had told him that he helped get rid of the body of a young woman Wright had killed. He said Wright cut her throat with a knife.

During cross-examination by defense attorney Cleveland Tyson, Simmons acknowledged that he used a false name in his first conversation with Egbert. Simmons also admitted on the stand that he used Moore and Wright’s information as a “bargaining chip” to avoid prison time for stealing and narcotics abuse.

Testimony continued Thursday afternoon.


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