Missouri man sentenced to life for fatal beating over text messages

LEBANON, Mo. | A man who beat a Lebanon teenager to death over text messages was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and other charges stemming from the June 2007 attack.

Jerry Lowell Broyles II was one of four people charged in the beating death of 17-year-old Zachary Jones and brutal attack of Matthew Bankston at a Lebanon park.

Jones, Bankston and a third teen had gone to the park after arranging a meeting with Broyles and several others after a dispute over text messages sent to Broyles' girlfriend.

Police said three vehicles entered the parking lot and one of them struck Jones. Broyles, 27, and his brother, Terry Lynn Dunkin, began beating Jones and Bankston with baseball bats and a metal rod, police said. The third teen with the victims ran to a nearby house and called for help. He was not hurt.

When police arrived, they found Jones and Bankston unconscious in the parking lot.

Two others face charges in the attack. Nathan Gibbs, 16, of Lebanon, is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of felony armed criminal action. His mother, Kimberly Elaine Dunkin, 36, is charged with first-degree murder and felony armed criminal action.

No trial date has been set for Gibbs; Kimberly Dunkin's trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 16 in Morgan County.

Her husband, Terry Dunkin, who also had been charged with murder, hanged himself with a sheet in the Laclede County jail on Aug. 20, 2007.

Before sentencing on Tuesday, Jones' mother, Tina Jones, told Broyles that his real judgment won't come in a courtroom.

"You will stand before the Lord and look him in the eye," she said. "One day I hope you have to at least beg God for forgiveness."

Laclede County Circuit Judge William Hass sentenced Broyles to two life sentences and two 30-year terms, with the sentences to run concurrently, in accordance with a plea agreement.

Laclede County prosecutor Angie Hemphill said Broyles will have to serve a minimum of around 26 1/2 years.

She said she agreed to the plea deal because it was unlikely a jury would have found him guilty of capital murder and recommended the death penalty.

"I don't believe we had the aggravated circumstances that could have led to a death sentence," Hemphill said.

Lebanon is a small manufacturing town of about 13,000 people on Interstate 44 in southern Missouri.