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Domionte Cheatum found guilty of murder in 2013 slaying

Thursday, June 12, 2014 | 11:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 12, 2014

After a two-day trial, Domionte Cheatum was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action Thursday in the summer 2013 shooting death of Anthony Unger.

Unger, of Jefferson City, was shot six times during a drug deal June 23, 2013, at 21 Conley Road. During trial, two eyewitnesses placed Cheatum at the scene of the crime.

Joycelynn Brown, who was with Unger at the time of his death, said in a June 2013 probable-cause statement that she had seen Unger pack a Ziploc bag of marijuana and place it under the hood of her car, a 2001 white Pontiac.

The two then drove to Columbia to sell the half-pound of marijuana for $1,400, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Brown told investigators on the same report that during the deal, a man pulled a gun and demanded the drugs. After seeing the gun, she ran away and heard gunshots, according to court documents. She later identified the shooter as Cheatum.

But Cheatum’s attorneys, Derek Roe and Jeremy Pilkington, challenged Brown’s account during the trial. Roe told the jury that Brown had changed details in her story several times, including whether she knew Unger was coming to Columbia for a drug deal.

Brown had even identified another man as the shooter before pointing to Cheatum, Roe said. He said Brown changed her story because she had met with the assistant prosecutor, Stephanie Morrell, with "the understanding that if what they (witnesses) have to say is helpful, there is leniency involved.” Brown faces three charges: distribution, delivery and manufacturing or producing a controlled substance.

“The simple fact is that Joycelynn Brown thought it would benefit her,” Roe said during his closing statement. “Whatever you need to hear, she’s your hero.”

Morrell said that Brown was consistent with her testimony and that she identified the shooter as a young black male with dreads and a thin mustache from the first interview with police.

The assistant prosecutor also brought other witnesses to the stand during the trial, including Samuel Butler, who said he was with Cheatum — whom he knew only by the name "Racks" at the time — the night the crime occurred. Butler said that he had arranged the drug deal between Cheatum and his friend Unger and that he had never met Cheatum before that night.

Butler said he heard gunshots after Cheatum went to Brown's car to complete the deal. Later that night, Butler said, he noticed that Cheatum was covered in blood. 

Cheatum’s girlfriend, Haley Price, who also testified for the prosecution, said she picked him up later that night and didn’t see any blood on him. Roe also called into question Butler's testimony, saying he changed his story to help his case. Butler is facing the same set of charges as Cheatum.

The defense's only witness was Shawn Bailes, a criminologist for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Bailes analyzed a piece of carpet taken from Haley Price's car, in which no blood was found, and an apron from Brown's backseat, which had DNA on it consistent with Unger's.

Cheatum did not testify in his own defense.

After about four hours of deliberation, the jury found Cheatum guilty of the three charges. Cheatum’s mother screamed and wept after the judge read the verdict.

"Why did they do this to my baby?" she said. "My baby didn't do nothing."

Cheatum, who appeared in a blue collared shirt, a blue tie, a black blazer and khaki pants Thursday, will return to the Moberly Correctional Center, where he is serving a seven-year sentence for delivery, distribution, manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty to those charges in 2013.

Supervising editor is Landon Woodroof.


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