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UPDATE: Jury finds man guilty in killings of elderly Missouri couple

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | 5:09 p.m. CDT; updated 5:35 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 21, 2013

LEBANON — A 33-year-old Missouri man has been found guilty of first-degree murder for the 2010 killings of an elderly couple in Laclede County.

Jesse Driskill, 33, was found guilty of two murder counts and other charges, which means he could face the death penalty. The jury returned its verdict late Wednesday afternoon after deliberating for more than three hours.

Driskill was convicted of killing 82-year-old Johnnie Wilson and 76-year-old Coleen Wilson at their rural home. The reading of the jury's verdict was interrupted because Driskill needed to leave the courtroom. The remainder of the verdict was read without him there.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster took the unusual step of appearing personally in the courtroom during the week to assist the prosecution.

Koster said the defendant was in the area, possessed a gun, had a motive and cigarettes identified back to the crime scene, later acted suspiciously and recounted details to others.

Driskill was charged with the July 2010 killing of the couple at their home in western Laclede County. The couple had just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary.

"They were there for each other for 59 years through thick and thin and until they reached a moment when they could not be there for each other anymore because of him, because of Jesse Driskill," Koster said.

Authorities say the couple was covered by bedding, a fire was set and their vehicle was found ablaze along a road. Prosecutors say both were shot and that Coleen Wilson died from a gunshot wound and that Johnnie Wilson died from asphyxiation by a plastic bag in this throat.

Driskill is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, forcible rape, forcible sodomy and five counts of armed criminal action. He could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree murder.

Koster is taking the unusual but not unprecedented step of personally appearing in the courtroom. He is working with Laclede County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Morris and presented a final argument before jury deliberations started.

Assistant public defender Sharon Turlington probed the credibility of several of the prosecution's witnesses, telling jurors during her closing argument "there are many reasons to doubt what those witnesses told you."

She also said there was little physical evidence: no fingerprints, no blood on Driskill's clothing and no gunshot residue.

Prosecutors said Driskill's DNA was found on Coleen Wilson. Turlington questioned how DNA samples were handled.

The trial started Monday in Laclede County, and jurors began deliberating early Wednesday afternoon. Jury members are from Franklin County and have been sequestered during the trial.

In court Wednesday, Driskill wore a white, untucked dress shirt with a green tie and dark pants. Tattoos were visible on his shaved head.

Koster, a Democrat, has been personally involved in several cases since becoming attorney general in 2009. He previously served in the state Senate, was the Cass County prosecutor from 1995 to 2005 and has said he is making preparations to run for governor in 2016.

Koster worked with the Jasper County prosecutor on a Medicaid fraud case, in which a dentist pleaded guilty in 2009 and prosecuted a Jackson County murder case in 2010. In 2011, he represented the state in the sentencing of a Fredericktown police officer and Boy Scouts leader who pleaded guilty to 22 counts related to sexual abuse of minors. He also represented Missouri in an effort to stop the Army Corps of Engineers' plan to breach the Birds Point levee in southeastern Missouri and argued another case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

 


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