Poplar Bluff man found guilty in vehicle assault

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Cape Girardeau County jury convicted a Poplar Bluff, Mo., man Tuesday of an assault in which he was accused of striking another man with his vehicle and then spinning its tires on top of him.

The jury deliberated about one and a half hours before finding Jerry Oliver Stewart, 46, guilty of felony first-degree assault, felony armed criminal action and leaving the scene of an accident.

The jury reached its verdict after hearing testimony about a Dec. 1 incident outside the Main Street bar in Poplar Bluff that left Gary Eugene Lawrence seriously injured.

The state's evidence included witnesses who ran out into the street and saw Stewart's truck "sitting there with Gary under it," said Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Barbour. "They watched as he squealed the tires and backed over him, up the hill on Cedar Street."

One witness, Barbour said, was walking down the sidewalk and saw Stewart's truck parked at Cedar and Main streets, with Lawrence standing next to the driver's side window.

"She heard the tires squealing and saw the victim on the front, passenger side of the truck; then he went down under it," Barbour said.

When the woman yelled for someone to call 911 and an ambulance, "That's when everyone else, including the woman who witnessed [the assault] initially, watched [Stewart] back over him," Barbour said.

Barbour said Lawrence also testified about the assault and his injuries. "He had scars all over him; he lost a kidney," he said.

Lawrence's arm, Barbour said, is "messed up. It will require more surgery."

According to Barbour, Lawrence has what he described as a "web" between his forearm and bicep from all the scar tissue.

Stewart, who testified on his own behalf, "got up and said it was technically an accident," Barbour said.

The jury deliberated for 30 minutes and recommended Stewart be sentenced to 10 years on the assault charge, three years on the armed criminal action and six months in the county jail on the leaving the scene charge.

The sentences on the assault and armed criminal action charges were the minimums, Barbour said. On the assault charge, he said, Stewart will have to serve 85 percent before he is eligible for parole.

After discharging the jury, Presiding Circuit Judge William Syler ordered a sentencing assessment report be completed by Probation and Parole and set sentencing for Feb. 1.

When Syler sentences Stewart, Barbour said, he will have the option of ordering the sentences to run concurrently or consecutively.

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