COLUMBIA — For Bill Spires, raising reward money for tips that lead to the arrest of whoever killed his friend, Jon Spurling, is a way to grieve.
“If you sit around the house thinking about stuff, it can drive you crazy. I put all my effort into this,” Spires said.
Spires is one of Jon Spurling's many friends and family members who are hoping to help the Howard County Sheriff's Department catch the victim's killer. He's one of three people who helped organize a cookout and fundraiser on Sunday at the Pinnacles Youth Park to raise money and increase awareness of the murder.
People gathered under a pavilion for the picnic Sunday and ate Spurling's signature dish "fugogi," bacon-wrapped mushrooms. More than 100 people attended, donated roughly $800 and bought T-shirts.
Spurling, 39, was found dead at his home near Harrisburg on Aug. 16 by his father. He had been shot twice, once in the abdomen and once in the head.
No one has been arrested in connection with the murder, although the Howard County Sheriff's Department has processed at least 60 leads, Sheriff Charlie Polson said. There were no signs of a break-in or struggle, and nothing was taken from the house, Polson said.
Spurling lived with his parents in Sturgeon, but he had moved into the house he was renovating seven miles from Harrisburg less than a month before the killing, Polson said.
Since the homicide, Spurling's friends have raised more than $3,500 through donations and T-shirt sales. They have distributed wanted posters in 11 states, Spires said. The money will go to whoever provides a tip that leads to the arrest of the killer.
“We feel it helps police if we make enough noise,” said Tim Phelen, Spurling's friend of 26 years. Phelen hopes the reward fund will reach $20,000.
Spurling was an outgoing and good-natured man with many friends, Phelen said.
“He’d give the shirt off his back," he said. "Everyone knew how good he was.”
Martin Carmichael, Spurling’s friend of 13 years, said Spurling once gave a homeless man $20 and a bag of food. When Carmichael asked him about it, Spurling had a simple reply: “It’s good to be nice to people.”
“I would describe him as a free spirit,” Carmichael said. “Generally speaking, he had a very happy disposition.”
One of Spurling’s passions was music. During the course of his life, he played guitar and bass in four bands, and he liked to improvise on the piano, Carmichael said.
In 2007, Spurling converted to Christianity, Carmichael said. Since then, he had been active in the Evangelical Free Church in Columbia, attending services and helping with the audio-visual technology.
For Tony Hulen, Spurling’s friend of 13 years, Spurling’s death has been difficult to process.
“It won’t ever make sense,” he said. “Finding (the killer) — I think it’ll bring more closure.”
Spurling's father, Harold Spurling, agreed.
“We want whoever done this caught for our closure, and it also needs to be done for the people that live out there, so they know they can be safe," he said.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol is assisting the sheriff's department in its investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Howard County Sheriff's Department at (660) 248-2477. Donations can be made at the website www.justiceforjon.com.