COLUMBIA — John Gunn hugged his crying daughters in a Boone County courtroom Wednesday after a jury found him guilty of first-degree robbery and second-degree burglary.
He faced charges in connection with a string of robberies that occurred in Columbia in March 2010. He had pleaded not guilty.
Kyle Gunn, John Gunn's 19-year-old son, appeared in court Tuesday to testify against his father. He said his father had planned the first burglary and coerced him into participating.
March 5, 2010: burglary
The string of thefts began when Kyle Gunn and Diego Camargo, 19, broke into Hardt’s Used Furniture. Kyle testified that his father and cousin, Shannon Gunn, who was a former Hardt's employee, had planned the burglary and talked Kyle and Diego into participating.
Joel Hardt, Hardt's owner, testified that he had fired Shannon Gunn several weeks before the burglary took place. He said that during the burglary miscellaneous items were taken, including knives, jewelry and a military training pistol he kept in his desk drawer.
Kyle Gunn testified that his father said he and Camargo could keep whatever they took but asked that they bring him the pistol.
“Shannon told Dad there was a gun in Hardt’s desk,” he said. “They thought the gun was real, and Dad could make some money selling it.”
He said he put the pistol in his father’s room after the burglary. After that, he said, he divided the items taken from Hardt’s among Shannon, Diego and himself.
Kyle made a plea agreement with the state in exchange for testifying in court. He began serving five years of probation in September.
March 8, 2010: robbery
Zachary Davis, 25, and his fiancee, Stacy Morehead, 32, were staying with the defendant at the time of the Hardt's burglary. Both Morehead and Davis testified that John Gunn had attempted to coerce Davis into participating in it.
Davis and Morehead testified that they had moved to Columbia from Brunswick to live with Gunn because their home was no longer habitable. Morehead is Gunn’s niece.
Davis has prior convictions for burglary. He is serving two 15-year sentences concurrently in Crossroads Correctional Center. He received a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against John Gunn.
He said that because he did not participate in the first burglary, he felt pressure from John Gunn to commit another robbery.
“John was pressuring us because we all wanted to move to Oak Grove,” Davis said. “But he said that if we didn’t help out and get some money, we couldn’t go with them.”
He said he came up with the idea to rob the Range Line Liquor store after John Gunn offered to let him use the pistol that was stolen from Hardt’s.
“I had done burglaries before,” Davis said. “So it wasn’t that big of a deal if you think about it.”
On March 8, 2010, Camargo and Davis drove to Range Line Liquor where Davis robbed owner Lavesh Patel at gunpoint.
March 9, 2010: robbery
The following day Davis robbed Dreams Smoke Shop. Both Camargo and Kyle Gunn were present. Kyle Gunn and Davis testified that John Gunn was not aware of this robbery.
John Gunn was not charged in the third robbery.
Shortly after the third robbery had taken place, Kyle Gunn said he and his father got into an argument and he was kicked out of the house. Kyle Gunn said he was angry with his father and threatened to turn him in to the police for his participation in the burglary.
During his testimony, Kyle Gunn folded his hands in front of his mouth and avoided eye contact with his father.
Detective John Short of the Columbia Police Department said that on March 22, 2010, shortly after Kyle moved out, John Gunn called both Joel Hardt and the Columbia police. He said that he knew who was involved in the recent burglaries.
Shortly afterward, Kyle Gunn and Diego Camargo were arrested. During questioning they revealed that Zachary Davis, Shannon Gunn and John Gunn had been involved as well.
On Wednesday, the defense called its first and only witnesses, Joy and Rachel Gunn, the defendant’s daughters. Joy, 16, and Rachel, 12, both testified that they had never heard their father plan the burglary.
“My dad got really mad when he found out about the stuff Kyle had stolen,” Joy Gunn said. “That’s why he kicked him out.”
During closing arguments the defense focused on the fact that both Davis and Kyle Gunn received reduced sentences in exchange for testifying against John Gunn.
First Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks reminded the jury that there were multiple witnesses testifying against Gunn and that he had only the testimony of his daughters in his favor.
“Gunn has hidden behind his children,” Hicks told the jury. “He put them on the stand and made them lie for him. Don’t let him hide anymore.”
The jury deliberated for just more than an hour before returning to the courtroom with two guilty verdicts.
Judge Kevin Crane reminded the court that because Gunn has previous felony convictions, he is responsible for sentencing instead of the jury.
The defense is expected to file a motion for a new trial within 25 days.