JEFFERSON CITY — A former Missouri sheriff's deputy was charged Monday with murdering an ex-lover and her boyfriend, and then assaulting a law enforcement officer by exchanging gunfire with police at a crowded hotel near the state Capitol.
Marvin Rice, who was wounded in the Saturday night shootout, could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said in court records that Rice admitted in a hospital room interview that he shot Annette Durham, 32, and Steven Strotkamp, 39, during an argument at their Salem home over the custody of his 2-year-old son.
The patrol said Rice also acknowledged firing at police after leading them on a high-speed chase through rural Missouri that ended 70 miles to the northwest at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, which was packed with hundreds of medical personnel attending a Christmas party. None of the hotel guests, which also included the families of a youth hockey team, were injured in the gunfight.
Rice, 44, of Salem, did not appear to have an attorney yet. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed as Rice's residence declined to comment Monday and then hung up. Rice was in fair condition at University Hospital in Columbia.
He faces two counts of first-degree murder in Dent County, where prosecutor Sid Pearson said he has not decided whether to pursue the death penalty or life in prison. Rice also faces charges in Cole County of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, which is punishable by up to life in prison, and armed criminal action.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol had previously described Rice as Durham's ex-husband. But Dent County Sheriff Rick Stallings said Monday that the two were never married, and the patrol said its initial information was incorrect.
Stallings said the shootings happened when Rice was demanding custody of his 2-year-old son from Durham. He described Durham and Strotkamp as girlfriend and boyfriend.
The motive for the slaying "had to be in reference to the child they had in common — that's about it," Stallings said.
Both Durham and Strotkamp were shot in the torso, and police recovered six .40 caliber shell casings at the crime scene, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said in a probable cause statement filed in Dent County Circuit Court.
Durham's 6-year-old daughter, who also was at the home, told police that after the shootings, Rice took her 2-year-old brother from a bedroom where they were hiding, the patrol statement said. The girl then ran to a neighbor, who called authorities.
The 2-year-old boy was dropped off unharmed with Rice's wife, Kelly Rice, along with a handwritten note saying he intended his wife to have permanent physical custody of the child, the patrol statement said. The Dent County sheriff's office said the children were placed in the custody of the state Division of Family Services.
Law officers tracked Rice's white Subaru wagon heading north on U.S. 63 by tracing his cellphone signal, and a chase ensued at speeds up to 100 mph. Police placed spikes on the road that punctured a tire on Rice's vehicle. As it deflated, he pulled into the hotel parking lot.
A probable cause statement by the Jefferson City Police Department said Rice fled on foot into the hotel and fired his gun first at a police officer, who then returned fire. An armed off-duty Cole County sheriff's deputy, who was providing security for the Jefferson City Medical Group's Christmas party, also fired. A .40 caliber pistol was seized from Rice at the hotel, the Highway Patrol said.
Rice had worked in law enforcement for more than a decade after starting as a part-time patrolman with the Houston, Mo., police force in August 1998. Police Chief Jim McNiell said Rice resigned from there in 2003 and he thought Rice then went to work for the Texas County, Mo., sheriff's department.
Rice was employed as a Dent County sheriff's deputy from 2004 until he was terminated for disciplinary reasons on July 28, 2009, Stallings said. The sheriff declined to elaborate on the reasons for Rice's firing. Rice subsequently was employed as a correctional officer at a state prison.
Rice's former colleagues on the Houston police force are "all kind of shocked and surprised by the events that occurred involving him — he never exhibited anything like that when he worked here," McNiell said.