State of Missouri vs. Bobby Joe Mayes

Missouri Supreme Court Case Number SC82743

Bobby Joe Mayes resentenced to life in prison. State of Missouri, ex rel. Bobby Joe Mayes v. The Honorable John D. Wiggins – Case Number: SC85657 (Hand down Date: 12/07/2004)

Bobby Jo Mayes was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed his convictions on direct appeal but reversed his original sentence and remanded for a retrial of his penalty phase. State v. Mayes, 63 S.W.3d 615 (Mo. banc 2001). Following retrial, the jury found the presence of aggravating circumstances in connection with the murders but could not agree on punishment. The court discharged the jury, overruled Mayes’ motion for a life sentence and ordered another penalty phase trial. The Missouri Supreme Court held the trial court is prohibited from taking any further action than to sentence Mayes to life in prison.

Audio: Oral argument on appeal to Missouri Supreme Court (11/10/04)
Audio: Oral argument on appeal to Missouri Supreme Court (9/6/01)
Text: Missouri Supreme Court Opinion: SC82743 (Handdown Date: 12/18/01)

Case Facts: At the time of the murder on August 10, 1998, Bobby Joe Mayes was married to Sondra, and lived with her and his 14-year-old stepdaughter, Amanda, in Houston, Missouri. Mayes was scheduled to go to trial the next day, August 11, for committing statutory sodomy on his two minor daughters from a previous relationship. He wanted Sondra and Amanda to testify for him, and they had been endorsed as defense witnesses.

Evidence was presented that the couple was having financial and marital difficulties. Sondra had told Mayes that she would not testify for him unless he signed a document that purported to waive his right to contest Sondra’s ability to unilaterally convey the couple’s marital real property. On August 6, 1998, just four days before the murder, Mayes talked briefly with an acquaintance, Michael James, about his financial difficulties and indicated that he did not want to return home when his wife was there because they might get into a conflict. Mayes also unsuccessfully sought Mr. James’ help to buy a gun, allegedly to rob another man.

The next day, August 7, 1998, Mayes signed the waiver of marital rights that Sondra had requested in return for her promise to testify. The State presented evidence that Sondra went to work at 8 a.m. on August 10, 1998, as usual. Sondra told her co-worker and friend, Cora Wade, that even though Defendant had signed the waiver “she had not been able to work up the courage to tell him that she still wasn’t going to testify for him.” Although Cora and Sondra planned to talk more in the afternoon, Sondra went home during her lunch break, as she did on most days, but never returned to work.

Cora called Sondra’s house at about 1:15 p.m., when she realized Sondra had not yet returned to work, but no one answered. According to Mr. Noakes, about 45 minutes later Duane Sutton, Sondra’s father, came by the house and knocked on the door. Mr. Sutton testified that he called through the window for Sondra, but no one answered.

Around 4:20 p.m., Mr. Noakes saw Mayes return home. Shortly thereafter Defendant called 911. When asked what was wrong, he said, “I don’t know. I just come home and, I don’t know. You just need to send somebody over here,” and that someone was “hurt” and was not breathing. He refused to check for a pulse, stating, “I’m not going in there,” but agreed not to touch anything and to flag down the ambulance.

Officer Campbell arrived to find Mayes pacing back and forth in the driveway and rubbing his hands with a blue shop cloth. When asked what was wrong, Defendant responded he did not know. The officer looked around the house and discovered Sondra’s body in the master bedroom. When the next officer to arrive asked Mayes what was going on, he threw up his arms and shouted, “I have an alibi, I have an alibi. I’ve been fishing for the last three and a half hours.” He was perspiring and “fidgety” and continued to wipe and scrub his hands with the blue shop cloth. When Chief of Police Kirkman arrived, Mayes said he had last seen his wife at 7:00 a.m., that he had been fishing at “Flat Rock” or “White Rock,” and that he talked to her on the telephone briefly when he returned home to make a sandwich before returning to fish at either “Flat” or “Duke.” Still massaging his hands, Mayes did not ask about his wife or even mention Amanda. Chief Kirkman observed ligature marks on the back of his hands.

After investigating Sondra’s murder for some time, police learned that Amanda should have been home but had not been seen. Her partially clothed body was found on the floor next to her bed, with a blue comforter draped across the front of her body and with a very pronounced ligature mark on her neck. Chief Kirkman advised Mayes of his Miranda rights and placed him under arrest. Police took him to the Texas County jail, where he consented to a search of his person and the seizure of his clothing. By early evening, Fred Martin, Mayes attorney in his pending trial, met with him briefly. Later, a doctor found a laceration on Defendant’s right hand and constriction injuries on the backs of both hands consistent with the ligature mark on Amanda’s neck.