2005 murder suspect still awaiting trial in Carter County

Sunday, May 25, 2008

VAN BUREN, Mo. -- It's been three years since Sgt. Carl Dewayne Graham, Jr. was gunned down outside his home near Van Buren. The man charged with his murder is still awaiting trial.

Police allege Lance Shockley, the focus of Graham's investigation into a fatal hit-and-run accident in November 2004, shot the trooper March 20, 2005, after he returned home from his shift.

More than three years later, Shockley's murder trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 11 in Carter County, following years of delays. Two judges have recused themselves from the case, pushing back the original trial date more than a year.

Shockley was charged March 29, 2005, with one count of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action. He was also charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident for the hit-and-run Graham was investigating.

In that accident, Shockley was allegedly driving a pickup truck registered in his name when it veered off a Carter County road Nov. 26, 2004, and then left the scene. The truck's lone passenger, Jeffrey Bayless, died of injuries sustained in the crash.

Bayless was engaged to Cynthia Chilton, the sister of Shockley's wife.

Graham had been investigating the crash and was focusing on Shockley as a main suspect, police said at the time of Shockley's arrest.

Shockley was not formally arraigned until August 2005, after Presiding Circuit Judge R. Jack Garrett recused himself from the case for unknown reasons. The Missouri Supreme Court then assigned the case to Presiding Circuit Judge William L. Syler in Cape Girardeau.

Shockley pleaded not guilty to all charges and has retained a public defender. Syler also granted a defense motion to hold a separate trial for the 2004 hit-and-run charge. In February 2006, after hearing several more motions, Syler set a trial date of Jan. 17, 2007. The jury would be selected in Carter County, then transported to Cape Girardeau.

45 motions filed

In all, more than 45 motions have been filed in the case, the majority of which were heard by Syler. The judge ordered Shockley to produce saliva samples, and also granted a defense request to bar prosecutors from showing photos of Graham before his death.

On Nov. 10, 2006, during a hearing for a continuance, Syler immediately recused himself and vacated the trial date. The case was sent back to Carter County because Garrett was no longer on the bench there, having resigned later in 2005.

Presiding Circuit Court Judge David Evans took over the case in early 2007, and set a new trial date of Aug. 11, 2008.

Shockley is also facing a misdemeanor assault charge in Howell County, where he allegedly assaulted another inmate in late 2007 at the county jail where he was being held, according to prosecutor Michael Hutchings.

Michael Ligons, the prosecutor who originally filed the murder charge against Shockley, is now an Associate Circuit Judge in Carter County. The new county prosecutor has left the Shockley case in the hands of special prosecutor Kevin Zoellner with the Missouri attorney general's office.

Zoellner was not available for comment, but press secretary John Fougere said the next pretrial hearing will be held June 10. Fougere declined further comment on the motions that would be argued, but said his office is moving forward with the assumption that the trial will begin as scheduled in August.

Shockley's wife, Coree, was also arrested in connection with the Graham murder investigation. She was charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly removing ammunition from their home after the shooting. She was also charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer for allegedly showing up at Ligons' house in April 2005 with the intent to threaten or alarm him. Both of those charged were later dropped.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

bschraum@semissourian.com

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