Second trial begins in Neelys Landing shooting case

Thursday, August 2, 2012
Seth Summers

As the two-day trial began Wednesday for a Cape Girardeau man accused of first-degree assault in the August 2011 shooting near Neelys Landing, his attorney painted a picture of investigators who rushed to judgment in the case and were intent on pinning a crime on his client.

Seth Summers, 32, is charged as an accomplice in the shooting of Joshua Abernathie during the early morning hours of Aug. 28 following a night of heavy drinking. Summers faces first-degree assault and armed criminal action charges.

Summers' attorney, Al Lowes, said detectives mishandled the case.

"Detectives led [Abernathie] on by asking, 'Do you feel like they were trying to get you drunk?'" Lowes said.

Abernathie, who lost his left eye in the shooting, testified Wednesday that he was out along a rural gravel road with Summers and Jimmy Ray Bell, about 2 a.m. Summers passed him on his right, said, "Let's do this," then grabbed Abernathie's right arm and crotch, Abernathie said. Abernathie flailed his arms to get free and Summers sprayed him in the face with Mace or bug spray, he said. Abernathie covered his face with his hands, then heard a pop, saw a flash to his left and felt something strike his head, he said. He fled from the men, then found a farmhouse, where he pounded on the door and screamed for help, Abernathie said. Emergency room doctors said the bullet traveled through Abernathie's face and lodged in a cheekbone, where it remains.

Bell was convicted for his role in the incident in June, and Circuit Court Judge William Syler sentenced him to 50 years in prison Monday.

Lowes read from a transcript of interviews conducted after the incident and said Detective Travis Sikes was the first person to suggest that Summers had said the words, "Let's do this."

"You made it up, or suggested it," Lowes said.

In his opening statements, Lowes brought up questions about Abernathie's criminal history. He'd been convicted of second-degree assault in 2007, second-degree burglary in 2010 and first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle this year. He is serving a three-year sentence for the crime in Jefferson City.

But Lowes gave details about the cases in his statement, including that Abernathie shot one of his brothers with a shotgun, information the court had forbidden him to reveal to jurors.

Later, Lowes said Abernathie "broke into the Groves place," to which assistant prosecuting attorney Frank Miller objected. Syler sustained the objection.

"You mean I can't ..." Lowes began.

"Don't argue with me," Syler said over him. "I made a ruling."

Miller played an 8 1/2-minute recording of a phone call Summers made to his father.

"Dad, I don't want you to worry about me, but I'm in jail," Summers told his father. "I got involved with the wrong person."

Later, his father asked how bad it was.

"It just turned out bad," Summers replied.

"Did you kill anyone?" his father asked.

"I don't think so," Summers said after a pause.

His father asked, "Did you run over someone?"


"Shoot him?" his father asked.

"I didn't," Summers replied.

Lowes said Summers would be taking the stand to testify. The trial continues today.


Pertinent address:

100 Court St., Jackson, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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