COLUMBUS, Kan. -- Two people suspected in a string of home invasions have been charged with first-degree murder after a robbery victim had an apparent heart attack while police were interviewing her.
John B. Gaston, 22, and James D. Rickey, 34, both of Joplin, Mo., also were charged Wednesday in Cherokee County District Court with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
According to authorities, the men also are suspects in home invasions in southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, and northeast Oklahoma.
In Cherokee County, they are accused of posing as handymen on Dec. 1 to get into to the home of 86-year-old Dorothy Daniels. After the men left, she drove to a neighbor's house to call for help because the men had ripped the phone cord out of the wall.
While meeting with investigators after returning to her home, she began having what the officers thought was a heart attack. The officers performed CPR and revived her, but she died later at a Pittsburg hospital.
Though the robbers did not directly harm Daniels, Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Norman said the first-degree murder charges are warranted because the pathologist who performed the autopsy thinks the stress of the robbery caused her death.
Under Kansas law, first-degree murder is defined as killing someone with premeditation, or in the commission of, attempt to commit, or flight from an inherently dangerous felony.
Gaston and Rickey, along with two others, were arrested Friday in Joplin, where search warrants served at two addresses uncovered suspected stolen property and a methamphetamine lab. Gaston is charged in Jasper County, Mo., with manufacturing meth and receiving stolen property. Rickey is charged there with first-degree burglary.
The men also face charges in Newton County, Mo., and charges are expected to be filed in Ottawa County, Okla.
Chris Jennings, chief deputy with the Newton County Sheriff's Department, said the burglars have done home-repair work in the area and believes that is how they found their victims.
Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com