Police release Poplar Bluff man accused of shooting, killing friend

Friday, June 24, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Authorities say the preliminary results of a Wednesday afternoon autopsy support the claims of a Poplar Bluff, Mo., man accused of killing his longtime friend during a physical altercation apparently fueled by alcohol.

"It was just as I had ruled (Wednesday) morning; there was no change," said Butler County Coroner Jim Akers, who ruled Christopher Richards' cause of death was a gunshot wound and the manner of death was homicide.

According to earlier reports, Richards was shot in the front yard of his residence in the 600 block of County Road 466 at about 4:35 a.m. Wednesday.

Richards, Akers said, was alive at the scene, and later was pronounced dead at 5:32 a.m. at Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center.

During the autopsy, Akers said, parts of the bullet were recovered from the 38-year-old. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Russell Deidiker at Mineral Area Regional Medical Center in Farmington, Mo.

Both Akers and Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs described the gunshot wound to Richards' head as being consistent with statements from the alleged shooter, Matthew Coble, 41.

Based on evidence collected at the scene, as well as Coble's statement, "the preliminary results of the autopsy appear to be in step with Matthew Coble's claims that he was seated in his truck and attempted to fire over the victim's head," said Dobbs, who described the shot as a "kind of warning shot."

The door to the truck, Dobbs said, was open and Richards was "right next to the vehicle, beside the door."

"With the victim being a very tall individual and from the angle, it would be somewhat difficult if (Richards) was standing near the vehicle to clear him, without hitting him," Dobbs explained.

The autopsy, Dobbs said, confirms rather than conflicts with Coble's claim.

"With these two being longtime friends, Matthew Coble had no apparent motivation to kill the victim," Dobbs said.

Coble and Richards, Dobbs said earlier, had been involved in some type of physical altercation, initially inside the home and then outside in the yard. Alcohol, he said, escalated the situation.

Due to Coble's "high level of intoxication," Dobbs said, officers again interviewed Coble Wednesday afternoon to see if there were any "other pertinent facts he could recall when he was not under the influence."

Dobbs said Coble provided officers with a similar account.

Since no formal charges have been requested thus far, Dobbs said, Coble was released from jail Thursday morning pending review of the case by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Barbour.

"The investigation remains open because we don't have anywhere to go now, (but) we don't want to close the book," Dobbs said. "There could be other factors that come into play over the next few hours and coming days."

After Barbour reviews the reports, Akers said, a decision may be made to hold a coroner's inquest into Richards' death.

Pertinent address:

Poplar Bluff, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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