State of Missouri v. James Edward Rodden Jr.

728 S.W. 2d 212 (Mo. Ban 1987)

James Edward Rodden Jr. was executed on February 24, 1999

Case Facts: On the evening of December 5, 1983 James Rodden took Ms. Terry Trunnel to this apartment. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Rodden’s roommate, Mr. Joseph Arnold. Rodden’s girlfriend, Fran Jones, called Rodden to discuss the purchase of some of his furniture prior to a trip that Rodden and Arnold were going to make to California. Rodden asked Jones if he could come over to her house at which time she told him “no.” Rodden became angry telling Jones that to spite her he was going to have sex with Ms. Trunnel.

About 30 minutes later Rodden called Jones and said he was going to come over to her house if he had to kick the door in to get inside. Jones called the police. At 12:35 a.m. on December 6, 1983 a Police officer arrived at Jones’ residence, but left since Rodden was not there.

Sometime later Jones heard Rodden banging on her door and shouting for her to let him in the residence. Jones called the police and the officer returned to Jones’ residence at 1:39 a.m. The officer stopped Rodden as he was leaving the residence in his car. Jones spoke to the officer while Rodden was detained by another officer. Jones declined to prosecute and stated she wanted Rodden to leave. Rodden left the area and went back to his apartment. He was forced to leave his car at the scene since license plates were not attached to the vehicle. Rodden later called Jones and told her that she and a friend of hers “wouldn’t live out the night.”

Later that morning at 8:41 a.m. Marshall City Police responded to Arnold and Rodden’s apartment to investigate a “fire and body found.” Upon arrival the officer spoke to a man who stated he was there to do some repair work when he observed blood spots and a cardboard box on fire in the kitchen of the residence. A search of the apartment found the bodies of Arnold and Trunnel in two different bedrooms dead of apparent stabs wounds.

The same morning the Missouri Highway Patrol investigated an accident in Purdin, Missouri. The vehicle involved in the accident was identified as being registered to Mr. Arnold. A man being carried from the scene on a stretcher identified himself as James Rodden. After Rodden was transported to a hospital in Brookfield the officer found a blood stained butcher knife in the front seat, several beer cans and a bottle of brandy. Rodden was arrested at the hospital.

Autopsies of the victims revealed that Mr. Arnold and Ms. Trunnel died as a result of numerous stab wounds, described as requiring significant force. Rodden’s head hair was found on the arm and wrist of Trunnel. The time of death for Trunnel was estimated as between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning. A neighbor testified that he saw Rodden leave Arnold’s apartment at 6:00 a.m.

Legal Chronology

02/17 — Convicted of Driving while intoxicated and was find $250.00.
10/27 — Rodden was convicted of Driving while Intoxicated and was fined $250.00 and sentenced to 15 days in the county jail. Rodden was arrested on 12-6-83 in Saline County for the murders of Joseph Arnold and Terry Trunnel.

12/6 – James Rodden murders Terry Trunnel and Joseph Arnold in Marshall, Missouri.

3/25-28 – Rodden is tried and convicted of capital murder for the murder of Terry Trunnel in the Clay County Circuit Court on a change of venue from Saline County. The jury recommends the death sentence.
6/26 – Rodden is formally sentenced to death.

4/14 – Rodden’s conviction is affirmed by the Circuit Court.
7/21 – Rodden files a post conviction motion in the Circuit court of Clay County.

8/31 – The Circuit Court of Clay County denies Rodden’s post-conviction motion.

9/11 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms the Circuit Court’s denial of the post conviction motion.

4/15 – The U.S. Supreme Court denies certiorari.
4/25 – Rodden files a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

12/12 – The petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied.

5/4 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirms the District court’s denial.
11/9 – The U.S. Supreme Court denies certiorari.

1/29 – The Missouri State Supreme Court sets Rodden’s execution date for February 24, 1999.