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Trial opens in ambush killing of Missouri trooper

WEST PLAINS, Mo. | The suspect in the ambush killing of a Missouri state trooper is a “coward” who shot the victim in the back, the prosecutor in the case said on the first day of testimony.

But Lance Shockley’s public defender said the wrong man is on trial for the 2005 shooting of Highway Patrol Sgt. Carl Dewayne Graham Jr. in the driveway outside his southeast Missouri home.

A jury in West Plains heard opening statements Monday as Shockley went on trial on charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and leaving the scene of an accident. The trial was moved to Howell County from Carter County, where Shockley and Graham both lived.

Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner said in his opening statement that Graham was killed because he was investigating a fatal hit-and-run accident and was focusing on Shockley as the fleeing driver. Shockley, now 32, could face the death penalty if convicted in the trooper’s death.

Graham had just completed his shift for the day and returned home on March 20, 2005.

“A coward shot him in the back,” then with a shotgun pumped two shots into his head, peppering Graham’s face with shotgun pellets, Zoellner said.

A bullet severed Graham’s spine. He suffered a skull fracture when he fell backward from the impact.

Zoellner said Shockley’s motive for killing Graham was the trooper’s investigation into a Nov. 26, 2004, fatal crash that left Jeffrey R. Bayless dead. Shockley allegedly fled the scene from that wreck.

Zoellner said evidence would show that Shockley borrowed his grandmother’s red Pontiac Grand Am, which was seen near Graham’s home on the day of the killing; and that he owned a .243-caliber rifle. Zoellner said ballistic tests indicate the bullet retrieved from Graham’s body may have been fired by a .243-caliber rifle.

Shockley’s attorney, public defender Molly Henshaw, said the state had it “all wrong,” from the alleged motive to the actual killing. She said there was no eyewitness, no weapon, no DNA, no ballistic or physical evidence tying Shockley to the crime.

“They focused on the wrong man,” she said.

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Information from: Daily American Republic, http://www.darnews.com

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