State of Missouri v. Walter Barton

Missouri Supreme Court Case Number: SC80931

BartonWCase Facts:  On the morning of October 9, 1991, Carol Horton, a resident of Riverview Mobile Home Park in Ozark, Missouri, visited the trailer of Gladys Kuehler at approximately 9:00 a.m. Kuehler, eighty-one years of age, served as manager of the park. Kuehler was unable to move about without the assistance of a cane. Horton assisted Kuehler with some tasks and last saw Kuehler at 11:04 a.m.

The owners of the trailer park, Bill and Dorothy Pickering, visited Kuehler’s trailer some time between 1:15 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to collect rent receipts. Ted and Sharon Bartlett, former residents of the trailer park, arrived for a visit with Kuehler between 2:00 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. and remained until about 2:45 p.m. Kuehler told the Bartletts that she was going to lie down because she was not feeling well.

Appellant was visiting Horton in her trailer on October 9, 1991. At approximately 2:00 p.m., appellant left her trailer. Appellant said that he was going to Kuehler’s trailer to borrow twenty dollars. He returned to Horton’s trailer ten or fifteen minutes later saying that Kuehler told him to return later and that she would write him a check. Appellant left Horton’s trailer again at approximately 3:00 p.m. He told Horton that he was going to Kuehler’s trailer.

At approximately 3:15 p.m., Bill Pickering telephoned Kuehler’s trailer. A man, later determined to be appellant, answered the telephone and stated that Kuehler was in the bathroom and could not come to the telephone. Debra Selvidge, Kuehler’s granddaughter, spoke with Kuehler on the telephone some time after 3:00 p.m. She telephoned Kuehler again between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., but received no answer.

Appellant returned to Horton’s trailer at approximately 4:00 p.m. Appellant was acting “totally different,” seemed to be in a hurry, and asked Horton if he could use her restroom. Horton detected a smell of blood on Barton’s person. After noticing that appellant had been in the bathroom for a long time, Horton went to check on him. Appellant was washing his hands. He said that he had been working on a car.

At approximately 4:15 p.m., Horton told appellant that she was going to Kuehler’s trailer. Appellant told her not to go because Kuehler had told him she was going to lie down and take a nap. Appellant left Horton’s trailer. Horton then went to check on Kuehler. She received no response when she knocked on Kuehler’s door. She tried to open the door, but it was locked. She returned to Kuehler’s trailer again at 6:00 p.m. and again received no response.

Debra Selvidge, who had been attempting to reach Kuehler by telephone, drove to Kuehler’s trailer. She knocked on the door but received no answer. At approximately 7:30 p.m., Selvidge went to Horton’s trailer and expressed her concern. Horton, Horton’s son, and Selvidge went to Kuehler’s trailer. They knocked and received no response. On their way to make telephone calls, they saw a police officer, Officer Hodges, who agreed to meet them at Kuehler’s trailer after he answered another call. The two women saw appellant at another trailer in the trailer park. Selvidge asked him if he would go with them back to Kuehler’s trailer. Appellant agreed to go but said that he would go later.

The women drove to Kuehler’s trailer. After a time, appellant arrived. The women knocked on Kuehler’s door. Appellant walked over to the side of the trailer, where he began to pound on the wall of the trailer under the bedroom window near where Kuehler’s body was later found.

Officer Hodges arrived and unsuccessfully attempted to open the door. He radioed a dispatcher to send a locksmith. The officer left on another call. When the locksmith arrived, he opened the door. After the locksmith opened the door, Selvidge and Horton, followed by appellant, entered the trailer. After calling out for Kuehler and receiving no answer, Selvidge started down the hallway toward Kuehler’s bedroom, followed by Horton and appellant. Appellant told Selvidge not to go down the hall. Selvidge did, however, and noticed Kuehler’s clothing on the floor in front of the toilet in the bathroom. Selvidge also noticed that the lid of the toilet had been left up. Selvidge discovered Kuehler’s body in the bedroom. Kuehler’s partially nude body lay on the floor between the bed and the wall; there was a large amount of dried blood on the bed and the floor. Officer Hodges returned to Kuehler’s trailer. Selvidge directed him to Kuehler’s bedroom where he saw her body between the bed and the wall.