Four on trial for attempted murder in Stoddard County

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- Four Stoddard County residents were in court last week on attempted murder and armed criminal action charges in connection with an alleged assault, where they severely beat a woman with intentions of killing her.

Erica Cain, Josh Holderfield and Jason Talley, all of Bloomfield, and Frank Morris of Dexter, Mo., face charges of second-degree attempted murder and armed criminal action.

Cain was supposed to be arraigned Wednesday before Presiding Circuit Judge Stephen Sharp, but her attorney, James McClellan of Sikeston, Mo., filed a motion for change of judge and change of venue in her case.

Sharp granted McClellan's motion for change of judge and ordered the case transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court for the assignment of a new judge, according to Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Briney Welborn.

Holderfield, Talley and Morris were arraigned by Sharp and entered not guilty pleas, Welborn said. He said Sharp set their cases to July 21 for presentation on any motions.

The charges stem from a March 13 incident that reportedly occurred on County Road 737, south of County Road 702 in the Essex, Mo., area.

According to his probable-cause affidavit, Stoddard County deputy Hank Trout said he and chief deputy Tom Horton contacted the alleged victim, Sarah Pratt, at Missouri Southern Healthcare. Pratt, he said, was suffering from several bruises to her face and had numerous marks on her face, neck and arms.

Trout said Pratt allegedly had been assaulted and left in a field around the Dexter area.

"[She] stated earlier this morning Frankie Morris and his girlfriend picked her up and took her home," he said.

During the investigation, Trout said, officers learned Cain, Holderfield, Morris and Talley were with Pratt when she was allegedly assaulted.

Trout said Deputy Keith Haynes contacted Cain on March 13 and interviewed her concerning the alleged assault.

After being told of her rights, "Erica gave a written statement admitting to her involvement in the assault of Sarah Pratt," Trout said. "Erica admitted to meeting Sarah Pratt at the Viking's Club in Dexter" on March 12.

Cain reportedly told the officers she left the bar with Pratt, Morris, Holderfield and Talley.

Trout said Cain reported that during the early morning hours of March 13, she drove Morris, Holderfield, Talley and Pratt to a gravel road, County Road 737, west of Essex.

"Erica said she stopped, pulled Sarah out of the car and repeatedly hit and kicked Sarah in the head and body," Trout explained. "Erica stated Josh also hit Sarah several times in the head.

"Erica stated Frank also hit and kicked Sarah several times in the head and body, while she was holding her."

Cain told officers Talley was with them, but "he just sat in the car the whole time," Trout said.

After the alleged assault, Cain reported to the officers, they left Pratt in a ditch.

"Erica said she drove away and returned a few minutes later, and Sarah was standing in the road, so she hit her with her car, while driving approximately 45 mph," Trout said. "Erica stated she had complete intentions of killing Sarah.

"Erica said after she hit [Pratt] with the car, her and Frank got out and moved Sarah off the road and she drove away."

Cain reported returning to the scene a second time with Morris and picking up Pratt, who was walking on the gravel road, Trout said.

Pratt, according to Cain's statement, told the pair she had been beaten by "three guys."

"Me and Frank acted like we had no clue who she was or anything," Cain wrote in her statement.

Trout said Cain told them she dropped Pratt off at the Wilson trailer court.

"Erica said she came back to check on her because she knew [Pratt] was bad," Trout said. "Deputy Haynes asked Erica if she thought [Pratt] might have been dead and Erica said she did."

Authorities said the motive for the assault stemmed from a prior incident in which Pratt made allegations against a man, who Cain knew. When Cain saw Pratt at the bar, she allegedly sought to retaliate against the woman for her allegations against the man.

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