State of Missouri v. Donald E. Reese

795 S.W.2d 69 (Mo. Banc 1990)

Donald E. Reese was executed on August 13, 1997

Case Facts
: On September 9, 1986 a Pettis County Deputy Sheriff went to the Marshall Junction Wildlife Area Shooting Range to recover brass shell casings. He arrived at the range around 4:15 p.m. and observed two parked cars, but did not hear anyone shooting. Thinking this to be out of the ordinary, the deputy decided to investigate whereupon he found the body of James Watson, a safety officer for the Missouri Department of Conservation, Laying on the ground behind the parked cars with two bullet wounds to this chest.

The Deputy called the Saline County Sheriff’s office and continued his search of the area. On the back seat of one car, he found the body of John Burford and his brother-in-law John Vanderlinden. Mr. Burford had been shot in the back and the left side and Mr. Vanderlinden had been shot in the back and the back of the right hip.

A short time later additional law enforcement officers arrived on the scene and a further investigation led them about 75 yards from the parked cars where the officers found a trail of blood on a low water bridge. The officers then found the body of the fourth victim Christopher Griffith who had been shot five times.

During their investigation the officers found a number of .30 caliber brass shell casings and a spent bullet was found on the ground near one of the parked cars and another on the road to the bridge.

On September 10, 1986 police discovered during their investigation that Donald Reese had purchased .30 Caliber ammunition from a store in Marshall, Missouri. On September 14, 1986 officers interrogated Reese at his home in Marshall concerning what weapons Reese owned. Reese admitted that he had recently sold 1 .30 caliber rifles and had been to the shooting range about two weeks before. Later that enforcement officer searched Reese’s home.

On September 15, 1986 police placed Reese under arrest. He later confessed to the murders and took police to where he had hidden the victim’s wallets and disposed of the murder weapon. The ammunition in the loaded weapon had similar markings when compared to the ammunition police confiscated during their search of Reese’s home.

Legal Chronology:

9/9 – Reese murdered four men at the Marshall Junction Wildlife Reserve shooting range in Saline County, Missouri.
9/15 – Reese is arrested for the murders and confesses that next day.
10/2 – Reese is charged with two counts of Murder First Degree.
12/22 – Venue is transferred to the Circuit Court of Jefferson County.

3/26 – After a three day trial Reese is convicted of two counts of Murder First Degree. The jury recommended a sentence of death on each count.
5/5 – Reese is sentenced to death on one count of Murder First Degree and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on the second count of Murder First Degree.
11/10 – Reese filed a Missouri Supreme Court motion for post-conviction relief.

7/20 – An evidentiary hearing on Reese’s motion is held in Circuit Court of Jefferson County.
10/2 – Motion for post-conviction relief denied by Jefferson County Circuit Court

7/31 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Reese’s convictions and sentences and the denial of post-conviction relief.

2/19 – The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Reese’s case.
2/27 – Reese file a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

10/27 – The U.S. District denied Reese’s federal habeas corpus petition.

9/4 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth circuit affirmed the District court’s decision denying federal habeas corpus relief.

6/2 – The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Reese’s federal habeas case.
6/9 – The Missouri Supreme Court issued a Warrant of Execution Setting Reese’s execution for August 13, 1997.