New Madrid man found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Cape Girardeau County jury found a New Madrid, Mo., man guilty in the beating death of a 70-year-old man.

Cornelius A. Sutton was found guilty Tuesday of involuntary manslaughter, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary in connection with the Aug. 19, 2006, death of New Madrid resident Charles Toler. Sentencing is set for Dec. 1.

Sutton was arrested Aug. 25, 2006, on suspicion of Toler's death. Toler's body was found in his New Madrid apartment after friends reported him missing.

The jury heard the case before Judge William Syler on a change of venue from New Madrid County. The trial began Monday and ended Tuesday afternoon; the jury returned with its verdict after deliberating just under three hours.

New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Lewis Recker, who tried the case with the assistance of Kevin Zoellner from the Missouri attorney general's office, expressed disappointment over the jury's decision to find Sutton guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The state had charged the defendant with first-degree murder.

"There is no logic to the decision," Recker said. "If he is found guilty of causing a death while committing a felony, which is second-degree murder, and the jury was instructed on felony murder, I don't see how they made the leap to involuntary manslaughter."

However, Recker noted that Sutton is a prior and persistent felon, which sets the maximum penalty for the first-degree robbery and the first-degree burglary at life in prison for each charge. The involuntary manslaughter charge has a 15-year-maximum sentence.

"We are going to request the maximum sentence from court and that the sentences run consecutively," Recker said. "I think that would be fair based upon the facts of this case."

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