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Some Bonne Terre residents unsettled by possible murder
BONNE TERRE, Mo. -- The news of a homicide -- one that could involve a motorcycle gang -- in their small, country town has residents of Bonne Terre on edge.
Home to fewer than 10,000 people, Bonne Terre recently has been brought into the spotlight after authorities on July 25 discovered the body of Cape Girardeau resident Samuel "Tick" Francis, 38, in a septic tank. Francis had been missing since December.
Melvin J. Scherrer, 49, of Bonne Terre, was charged with one count each of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, felonious restraint, abandonment of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence in connection with Francis' death. Sherrer is alleged, according to police statements, to have beaten Francis with a baseball bat, taped his hands behind his back, wrapped his head with tape and removed Francis from his home while still alive.
In February, a female relative, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Samuel Francis as "a tough guy" who had trained as a martial artist and boxer. Samuel Francis' adoptive father, Gary Francis, on Saturday described his son as about 6 feet tall, stocky and energetic.
Family members of Francis have been asked by the Missouri State Highway Patrol not to speak about details of the case, but they previously shared concerns he may have been killed by a motorcycle gang with which he had been associating. Gary Francis previously said his son, a tattoo artist at the Tattoo Spot in Cape Girardeau, had traveled to Cedar Lake in St. Francois County to do some tattoo work for a gang and said he was afraid if he ran from them, they would kill him.
Gary Francis said Samuel Francis' wife was from the St. Francois County area, and they would stay there part of the time.
He did not know much about the motorcycle gang, but had not heard anything good about them.
"I am pleased that the law enforcement agencies have worked together to at least start the process of getting one or ones involved in custody," Gary Francis said.
The St. Francois County Sheriff's Department has not announced whether it believes the suspect had accomplices.
Sandy Willett, a Bonne Terre native, said she knew only a few details about the story, but it was enough to leave her concerned.
"It's scary to think things like that can happen here," she said.
Willett said she had heard of a few motorcycle riding clubs around the area, but wouldn't consider them "gangs."
"Not gangs, not around here," she said.
James Montgomery, an auto body mechanic who works in Bonne Terre but lives outside of the city, said the news of a homicide was uncommon for the area, but not shocking.
"I think some people might be surprised by what goes on in small towns," he said. "Sometimes you just get mixed in with the wrong people and get in too deep."
Mike Ortmann works at a convenience store in town and has heard a few theories about the suspected killing.
"Ever since the news came out last week, everybody's been blowing up about it all over town," he said. "I don't know what happened, but it's crazy to think someone around here is capable of that."
Ortmann said he had never heard of any motorcycle gang activity in the town, which he said experiences very little crime.
"It's just a little town with a bunch of country folk," he said. "It's totally out of the ordinary."
Amity Downing contributed to this story.
Bonne Terre, MO