State of Missouri vs. Mark A. Christeson

ChristesonMCase Facts: On Saturday, January 31, 1998, Christeson, 18, and his cousin Jesse Carter, 17, who were living in the home of a relative, David Bolin, concocted a plan to run away. The Bolin home was located in a rural area near Vichy, Missouri. Susan Brouk, along with her children, twelve year old Adrian and nine year old Kyle, lived about a half mile away. On Sunday morning, February 1, 1998, after Mr. Bolin left for work, Christeson and Carter each took shotguns and went to Ms. Brouk’s home. After hiding outside for a few minutes, they entered the home and found Adrian and Kyle sitting on the living room floor. Ms. Brouk came in from the kitchen and encountered Carter binding her children’s hands with shoelaces that he had brought for that purpose. Christeson forced Ms. Brouk into her daughter Adrian’s bedroom at gunpoint, where he then raped her on Adrian’s bed. When Christeson brought her back out to the living room, Carter bound her hands behind her back with a piece of yellow rope. Ms. Brouk said “you had your fun, now get out.” At some point during the confrontation, Ms. Brouk and Kyle were both struck in the head with a blunt object.

About that time, Adrian recognized Carter and said “J.R.,” Carter’s nickname, and “Jesse Carter,” which prompted Christeson to tell Carter “we got to get rid of ‘em.” They forced Ms. Brouk and her children into the back seat of Ms. Brouk’s Bronco and also loaded her television, VCR, car stereo, video game player, checkbook, and a few other small items. Christeson drove down the highway, down a gravel road, and then across a neighbor’s field to a pond at the edge of a wooded area.

They forced Ms. Brouk and her children to the bank of the pond. Christeson kicked Ms. Brouk just below her ribs with enough force that she was knocked to the ground. Christeson then placed his foot on her mid-section, and reached down and cut her throat with a bone knife. She bled profusely, but she did not die immediately, and as she lay on the bank of the pond, she told Adrian and Kyle that she loved them. Then Christeson cut Kyle’s throat twice and held him under the pond water until he drowned. Carter pushed Kyle’s body farther out into the pond so the body would sink. At Christeson’s direction, Carter retrieved cinder blocks from a nearby barn, and while there, heard Christeson fire a shot from one of the shotguns. When Carter returned to the pond, Adrian was struggling to free herself from Christeson. Carter held Adrian’s feet while Christeson pressed down on her throat until she suffocated, and Carter then pushed Adrian’s body into the pond. While Ms. Brouk was still alive, but barely breathing, Christeson grabbed her arms and Carter grabbed her legs, and they threw her into the pond on top of her children’s bodies. As she drowned, Carter went into the woods to get a long stick, which he used to push the Brouks’ bodies further out into the pond.

Christeson and Carter returned to Mr. Bolin’s property in the Bronco and parked it near a garbage pile. They took one of the shotguns back into Mr. Bolin’s house, loaded their personal belongings into an Oldsmobile, and then drove the Oldsmobile back to the garbage pile and transferred their belongings to the Bronco. At that point, they drove off in the Bronco, eventually heading west on Interstate 44.

Ms. Brouk’s sister, Kay Hayes, thought it was unusual that Ms. Brouk and her children did not come to Sunday dinner, as planned, but she was not concerned until Tuesday evening, when she called Ms. Brouk’s home and there was no answer. That evening Ms. Hayes called another sister, Joy Lemoine, to inquire if she had heard from Ms. Brouk, but she had had no contact either. When family members went to Ms. Brouk’s house the next evening, they discovered that Ms. Brouk’s prescription glasses and the children’s and Ms. Brouk’s coats were still in the house and that the television, VCR, and Bronco were missing. They called the police, and that night officers from the Maries County Sheriff’s Department secured the home and searched the premises.

The next morning, officers in a Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter conducting an aerial search spotted a body floating in a pond located slightly southeast of the Brouk’s residence. After landing the helicopter in a field just south of the pond, they found the bodies of Ms. Brouk, Adrian, and Kyle partially submerged. The officers then investigated the area around the pond and found a sixteen-gauge shotgun shell on the south bank, some leaves and soil splattered with blood, shoe impressions, and two cinder blocks on the west bank near the area where the bodies were recovered. There were also tire impressions leading from the pond to the garbage pile on Mr. Bolin’s property where Christeson and Carter had parked the Bronco.

In the meantime, Christeson and Carter were driving from Missouri to California. On the way, they sold several items of Ms. Brouk’s property to pay for gas and food. Christeson also pawned the sixteen-gauge shotgun at a pawnshop in Amarillo, Texas. On February 9, 1998, a detective with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, stationed in Blythe, California, recognized Christeson and Carter from their photographs on a flyer that had been circulated by law enforcement officials, and later that day the fugitives were arrested.

Missouri officials continued to investigate the crimes. A medical examiner’s autopsy report showed that the cuts to Ms. Brouk’s neck were not severe enough to cause her death immediately and that the actual cause of death was drowning. Autopsies also revealed that Ms. Brouk and Kyle had hemorrhaging or bleeding under the scalp, indicating a blunt impact injury or blow to the head, and that there were two superficial cuts across Kyle’s neck, but that he, too, died from drowning. Adrian died from suffocation, but there also was a small, shallow puncture wound in Adrian’s left arm that could have been caused by a pellet from a shotgun shell, although no pellet was present. DNA testing performed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory established that genetic material from semen recovered from Ms. Brouk’s body and from Adrian’s sheets matched Christeson’s genetic profile. Firearms-identification testing established conclusively that the sixteen-gauge shotgun that Christeson pawned in Texas was the one that fired the shell found on the bank of the pond.