Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.,December 21, 1999
The death sentence against Charles Armentrout was set aside by St. Louis City Court in August, 2006. Armentrout was resentenced to Life Without Parole.
Case Facts: Charles W. Armentrout was released from prison in August of 1994, having served time for several armed robberies. The members of Armentrout’s family, with one exception, would not take him into their homes. The exception was Armentrout’s eighty-one year old grandmother, Inez Notter, who became Armentrout’s victim, After Armentrout moved in with Mrs. Notter, he spent his time with friends getting high on drugs and “scamming” to get money for more drugs. Mrs. Notter was frequently the target of these scams. In most instances, Armentrout requested money for a fictitious friend who supposedly needed help, and Mrs. Notter would write Armentrout a check for that purpose.
In December of 1994, Armentrout began forging Mrs. Notter’s name on her checks to obtain cash. Employees at the bank where Mrs. Notter had her checking account soon became suspicious about these checks, and one of the bank managers notified Mrs. Notter about the problem. After reviewing the account herself, Mrs. Notter became very upset that a large sum of money was missing.
On February 20, 1995, Armentrout attempted to cash another forged check on his grandmother’s account, and bank employees called the police. After the police arrived, they detained Armentrout and determined that he had stolen the check from Mrs. Notter’s checkbook. Mrs. Notter, however, told the police she did not want to prosecute. The next day, Mrs. Notter went to the bank, and the bank manager tried to persuade her to sign a forgery affidavit, which indicated that she would prosecute Armentrout in exchange for the bank reimbursing her missing funds. Although Mrs. Notter continued to be very upset about the missing funds, she still refused to prosecute and explained to the bank manager that she was afraid of Armentrout and that she thought he would kill her if she did not continue to allow him to take money from her account.
On March 18, 1995, at about 11:00 a.m., Armentrout and a friend, Rick Lacy, went to Mrs. Notter’s house needing money for drugs. Acting together, they beat Mrs. Notter to death with a souvenir baseball bat. She died from massive depressed skull fractures caused by being struck some 12 times with the bat. She also suffered a fracture of the lower jaw, and eight fractured ribs on the left side of her body, which appeared to have been caused by someone stomping on her. She had “defensive type wounds” on her left hand and left upper arm. In addition, both bones in her lower right leg were fractured, although this occurred after her death, apparently in connection with the disposal of her body. To dispose of the body, Armentrout tied Mrs. Notter’s ankles together with a yellow cord, and wrapped her body in a blanket and comforter that he secured with a brown extension cord. He then stuffed her body into a trunk in her basement.
At about 6:00 p.m., Bridget Joseph, who was Armentrout’s girlfriend, and Roger Brannon picked up Armentrout at Mrs. Notter’s house. As he came out of the house, he was carrying two large bags of gifts for Ms. Joseph and told her that his grandmother had been doing spring cleaning and wanted her to have some things that were no longer needed. Armentrout also had taken $100 from his grandmother’s dresser, which he used to purchase cocaine.
After spending the night with Ms. Joseph at her grandfather’s house, Armentrout told her he was going back to Mrs. Notter’s house to see if he could get more money. On his return to the house, he cleaned the walls and the ceiling of his grandmother’s bedroom where the killing took place and also cleaned the souvenir baseball bat, and he then threw away any items that had blood on them.
The next day, March 20, 1995, Armentrout made several unsuccessful attempts to cash forged checks on Mrs. Notter’s account. At about 2:30 p.m., a bank employee called the police to report that Armentrout and a friend, Shirley Mendez, had just made a final attempt to cash a forged check at the bank’s drive-through window. The police arrested Ms. Mendez, but Armentrout fled before he, too, could be arrested.
On the morning of March 21, 1995, law enforcement officers found Mrs. Notter’s body in the trunk in her basement. In her bedroom, they found many bloodstains that were consistent with her DNA profile. In Armentrout’s bedroom, the officers found the souvenir baseball bat that had been used in the murder and noticed that blood and hair were embedded in cracks of the baseball bat. The DNA profile of the blood on the bat was consistent with Mrs. Notter’s genetic profile.
At about 11:30 p.m., police officers who were searching for Armentrout arrived at Rick Lacy’s house. As one of the officers approached the front door, Rick Lacy came out of the house and told the officer that Armentrout was inside. The officer then looked through the front window and saw Armentrout get out a chair, run to the back of the house and jump out a window. Several officers chased Armentrout and caught him in the backyard where they arrested him and informed him of his Miranda rights.
Armentrout was transported to the homicide office and was informed again of his Miranda rights. After indicating that he understood his rights and that he was aware of them through his involvement in paralegal studies, he made an oral statement concerning the murder. He was then taken to a television studio at the St. Louis City Police Department where he was informed again of his Miranda fights, signed a Miranda waiver form, and agreed to a videotaped interview.
In the videotaped statement, he related that and he and Rick Lacy discussed how to knock Mrs. Notter unconscious and steal her checkbook and that he suggested that they use his Cardinal World Series souvenir baseball bat as a weapon. Armentrout claimed that Lacy beat the victim with the bat while Armentrout put a chair and a nightstand on her to hold her down. Armentrout then described how he and Shirley Mendez tried to cash one of Mrs. Notter’s checks and how he returned to the crime scene the next day to clean up the house and dispose of the body. He also described the items he stole from Mrs. Notter and his further efforts to cash forged checks.