Judge denies bond reduction for accused Jackson shooter

Sunday, September 30, 2012
Lawrence Guthrie

A judge denied a motion to lower the bond of a Jackson man charged in a shootout with police, but granted him visitation rights with his estranged wife at a Friday hearing.

Lawrence A. Guthrie, the Jackson man who allegedly exchanged gunfire with police and then turned the gun on himself in a Jackson subdivision in June, sought to amend the conditions of his bond in order to seek treatment for mental health issues. Guthrie, through his attorney Bryan Greaser, wanted his bond lowered so that he could begin a medical furlough at a St. Louis hospital. He also asked for visitation from his wife while he is incarcerated.

Judge Ben Lewis granted Guthrie's request for visitation from his wife but denied lowering his bond for a subsequent medical furlough.

"Mr. Guthrie has shot at four people and could have killed any number of them," Lewis said. "It would be inconceivable to release him for unsupervised treatment."

Lewis also sustained a motion by the defense for Guthrie to receive a mental examination by the Department of Mental Health.

Guthrie is in custody at the Cape Girardeau County Jail on a $500,000 bond. Earlier this month, he entered a not guilty plea by reason of mental defect to the charges of attempted assault on a police officer, first-degree domestic assault and armed criminal action. He had also allegedly assaulted his wife of 22 years and is believed to have fired several shots at her before she made a 911 call to the police.

Guthrie's wife, who remains unidentified by the Southeast Missourian due to its policy not to identify victims of domestic assault, testified on his behalf at the hearing.

"He broke that day," she said under direct examination. "I don't blame him for it happening."

Greaser then asked her why she would want visitation with Guthrie.

"To help him with is VA benefits," she answered.

On cross examination, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle asked Guthrie's wife to recount the events that led to her June 13 call to 911.

"He beat me up," she said. "I got my own gun and hid. He wasn't himself."

"A lot of holes in the wall?" Swingle asked.

"Yes," she replied.

Guthrie's wife further testified that she hid in the basement of their home until the shooting stopped.

"He's been acting differently for the last five or six years," she added. "The last couple of years it's been worse."

Greaser then called Gary Helle, a licensed clinical social worker with the Department of Veteran's Affairs, to the stand. Helle had previously performed what he termed a "brief" medical and mental assessment of Guthrie, and agreed with Greaser that the defendant had mental and other medical needs. But for Guthrie to receive treatment at the St. Louis hospital, Helle said, he would first have to post bond as a condition for being admitted.

"He's a veteran, and I hope he gets the care he needs," Helle said.

Swingle asked Helle if Guthrie would be a danger to society if he were out on bond. Helle stated that he didn't have an answer because his job does not entail him making such decisions.

The prosecution called a representative from the Jackson Police Department, the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol to the witness stand. Each member of the police forces testified that Guthrie had fired multiple shots from an AR-15 rifle in their direction from trees and bushes near Guthrie's home. When the firing stopped, the officers approached Guthrie to find him with a serious wound to his chin which was later determined to be self-inflicted.

In his closing argument, Greaser said that what allegedly happened with Guthrie that day can't be changed.

"We'll explore why he did what he did on another day," he said. "But I'd like to see his bond reduced so that he can tend to his medical needs. And allowing his wife to have contact with him would better coordinate his VA benefits."

Greaser added that he understood the concern of whether Guthrie was a danger to society,

"A GPS ankle-monitor would be beneficial because his movements at the hospital could be tracked. Also, my client is in a very weak condition. He couldn't get very far in the shape he's in."

Swingle saw things differently in his closing argument.

"The defendant is dangerous," he said. "Great idea! Let's let him out on a medical furlough with no supervision. He could go on another spree and kill somebody this time."

As for the medical treatment Guthrie is currently receiving, Swingle said, "He has received adequate medical treatment in jail with no evidence having been presented to the contrary."

When asked about the judge's decision, Guthrie's wife said she was happy that she'll be able to visit him but was dismayed that the court wouldn't allow him to post bail for medical treatment.

"They're so worried that he'll do something," she said.

Guthrie's next hearing is set for Dec. 10 in Jackson.



Pertinent address:

100 Court Street, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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