State of Missouri v. Danny R. Wolfe

Supreme Court of Missouri (en banc) February 22, 2000)

Danny R. Wolfe’s conviction was reversed and remanded by the Supreme Court of Missouri in November, 2003. A new trial was held in Camden County in June, 2006.  Today Wolfe  was sentenced to two terms of Life without Parole, plus 50 years on each of two counts of armed criminal action, and life for robbery. 

Case Facts: On February 19, 1997, defendant went to the home of a co-worker in Camdenton, and asked to leave a bag there. Agreeing, the co-worker placed the bag in the laundry room. Another man staying at the house looked in the bag and saw what looked like a gray or white wig. That evening, defendant went to a bar in Lake Ozark. He met Jessica Cox introduced himself as “Danny,” and played a game of pool with her. Afterward, they sat at the bar and talked. Defendant asked Cox if she was “into drags.” She said yes. Defendant asked if she could “get rid of’ some drugs for him. She agreed.

When the bar closed defendant and Cox left in his pick-up. Defendant said that he would give her a ride home and could get her the drugs. The two then stopped by defendant’s room at a motel for about 20 minutes. Defendant said that they should go to Camdenton. He drove them to the coworker’s house, where he retrieved the bag left earlier. They then returned to the motel.

Defendant told Cox that they would have to go to Greenview to “pick up some money,” but could not leave until 4:30 a.m. Cox asked defendant to take her home. Defendant replied that it would be worth her wait. She decided to stay.

Defendant took some silver handcuffs from the bag. Cox asked why he had them. Defendant said not to worry, he wasn’t going to use them on her. The pair watched television and talked for about two hours.

Around 4:30 a.m. on February 20, the two drove into Camdenton. Defendant stopped at a gas station. Handing over $6, he told her to buy a pair of jersey gloves, which she bought. They headed toward Greenview on Highway 7 by the home of Leonard and Lena Walters. After about a quarter mile, defendant pulled into a gravel road, turned the truck around, and parked facing the highway. It was about 5:15 a.m.

Defendant announced that he planned to rob the Walters, whom he described as “loaded.” Defendant had been to the house before and said that the Walters had a car for sale. He had indicated that he would return with his girlfriend. Defendant instructed Cox to test-drive the car with Mr. Walters for about 15 minutes, while he would stay behind, handcuff Mrs. Walters, and rob them. Defendant told Cox to call him “Sam” around the Walters and to use “Jo-Jo” for herself.

Defendant was wearing black, shiny, parachute pants and a camouflage jacket, which he had changed into at the motel. He took out the handcuffs, put on the jersey gloves, and polished the handcuffs. Defendant gave Cox a pair of gloves that were already in the truck.

After waiting in the truck for about two hours, defendant drove back to the Walters’ house and pulled into the driveway. He then knocked on the front door. Mrs. Walters came to the door, wearing what “looked like a nightgown.” Defendant entered the house and came back out with Mr. Walters. They walked to a red Cadillac in front of the house.

Cox joined them at the Cadillac. Mr. Walters invited Cox to test-drive it. Defendant asked Mr. Walters if he was going along. Mr. Walters replied there was no reason to. Cox said she would appreciate it, to tell about the car. Mr. Walters then got in the front passenger seat. As Cox put the car in drive, defendant jumped into the passenger side back seat, saying, “Let’s go, Jo-Jo.”

Cox drove toward Greenview. Mr. Walters and defendant discussed the car. After driving a while, Cox turned around, returning toward the Walters’ house.

Hearing a “loud bang,” Cox swerved and glanced over to see Mr. Walters’ head fall forward with blood coming out of his mouth. Defendant had shot Mr. Walters in the back of the head. Cox then saw defendant pull what looked like a gun away from Mr. Walters’ head.

Defendant directed Cox to keep driving. He patted down Mr. Walters and pulled out his wallet. Opening it, he said, “This guy’s loaded.” Cox looked over and saw a large amount of cash.

As Cox pulled into the driveway, defendant told her to park the car where it had been earlier. Before the car fully stopped, defendant jumped out and walked straight to the house. He told Mrs. Walters that he needed to use the phone because Mr. Walters had had a heart attack.

Once in the house, defendant shot Mrs. Walters in the chest with a shotgun while she crouched in front of him. This wound did not kill her. Defendant then stabbed Mrs. Walters – once on the left side, and four times on the right side – while she begged. “Please God, no, no, no.” The fatal stab was to the heart. Mrs. Walters did not die immediately, remaining conscious for another three minutes.

Cox heard a “loud bang,” “a bunch of ruckus” from the house, and then silence for about ten minutes. Defendant left the house carrying a safe, which he loaded in the back of the truck. As they left, Cox asked if defendant was going to kill her. He replied that she was his partner, so he was not going to kill her.

Defendant pulled off the road, unloaded the safe, opened it with some tools, and rummaged through it, discarding some contents but stuffing others in his pockets. Defendant then climbed into the truck and drove away. Shortly, he turned the truck around, and retrieved his tools.

Defendant then drove to a subdivision, where he had worked as a painter. Defendant said he was going to get rid of the gun. After getting a key from one house, defendant drove to another area and left the truck for about 10 or 15 minutes. When he returned, he was in painter’s clothes. Cox did not see the black, nylon pants he was wearing earlier. Defendant told Cox he had thrown the gun into the lake.

Defendant then stopped by a cigarette store where he was painting later that day. The owner testified that defendant said he had to go get some paint.

After leaving the cigarette store, defendant handed Cox a large amount of cash. He said it was enough to keep her quiet; if she told the police, she would be charged as an accessory to murder; or if she got bail, she would be killed.

Cox asked to be dropped off at the hospital. There, Cox called her fiancé between 8:30 and 9:30, saying she had been kidnapped, the kidnapper had been caught, and it was all over. Cox’s fiancé’s truck was broken, so he told her to call her friends. Two friends testified that they received phone calls from Cox around 9:00, asking them to pick her up.

After dropping Cox off defendant purchased paint from a supply store, at 9:12 a.m. (according to the invoice).

Cox claims she lied about the kidnapping story because her life would be in danger if she told the truth. Cox told the kidnapping story to at least three other people. The story spread and became the “talk of the town.”

Later that week a local bartender called Cox’s fiance. He said that a man resembling Cox’s kidnapper had come in, and someone had recognized him and attacked him. The man attacked was, in fact, defendant. The police were called, and Cox admitted to her fiance that she fabricated the kidnapping story.

Cox then told her fiancé that she had witnessed one, and maybe two, murders and feared for her life. She consulted an attorney. Through negotiations with the prosecuting attorney, Cox received immunity in exchange for her testimony.

Cox detailed to the police what happened to the Walters. She took them to where defendant rummaged (and left) the safe. Investigating the scene, police examined the safe and found loose change (including quarters) and other contents strewn about the area. She showed them defendant’s motel room and truck. She identified the house where they picked up the bag. She confirmed a photograph of defendant. She pointed out the subdivision where defendant changed clothes.

When defendant was arrested, three sets of silver handcuffs were in his room. Defendant waived his Miranda rights. At the beginning of the interview, defendant was calm, showing little emotion. As police related Cox’s details, defendant became nervous and apprehensive.

Police searched the subdivision where defendant changed clothes. In a storage area they discovered a pair of black pants and tennis shoes with the same pattern as shoeprints on the floors of the Walters’ house. From defendant’s truck, they seized a pair of jersey gloves, and a pry bar.

In the dumpster at defendant’s motel, police retrieved a .25 caliber cartridge consistent with a misfire from a .25 caliber gun. Also in the dumpster were a bag with a camouflage jacket and a synthetic “wig or beard,” another bag containing two boxes of .25 caliber rounds, three ring boxes, and various papers with defendant’s name on them.

Mr. Walters was shot with a .25 caliber gun. A spent cartridge was found on Mr. Walters’ back collar and a live round on the back seat of the Cadillac.

The Walters’ bedroom was in shambles, with drawers open, items littering the room, a shotgun on the floor, and a .22 rifle laying across the bed. A live .25 cartridge lay on the kitchen floor, near a six- to eight-inch fillet knife. Footprints in dried dirt also appeared on the kitchen floor. Mrs. Walters’ body was face down in the hallway, with cuts consistent with the fillet knife. She also had a shotgun wound to the chest.

In addition to Cox’s testimony, the State called Paul Hileman who was in the Camden County Jail at the same time as defendant. Hileman testified that defendant bragged to him about the murders, relating several details. At the time of trial Hileman was in prison for first-degree property damage. Hileman had two prior convictions of burglary and stealing, two prior forgery convictions, and two prior interference-with custody convictions. The defense presented two impeachment witnesses against Hileman.

The local bartender also testified that about a week before the murders, defendant offered to sell him a .25 caliber handgun. He then testified that about a week after the murders, defendant “sold” him a bag full of loose quarters.

After deliberating for 12 hours, the jury returned a guilty verdict. It later returned two death sentences, finding five statutory aggravating circumstances as to Mr. Walters and six aggravators as to Mrs. Walters.