Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster took an unusual step Monday, appearing personally in court to assist with the murder case of a man charged with killing an elderly couple in a rural home in south-central Missouri.
Koster is working with Laclede County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Morris, presenting evidence and questioning witnesses about the July 2010 deaths of 82-year-old Johnnie Wilson and 76-year-old Coleen Wilson.
The Wilsons were found dead in their home near Bennett Spring State Park. Authorities say they were covered by bedding, a fire was set and one of their cars also was found ablaze along a road.
Jesse Driskill, 33, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, forcible rape and sodomy and multiple counts of armed criminal action. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Koster's direct participation in the courtroom is unusual but not unprecedented since he became attorney general in 2009. On Monday, Koster presented evidence from law enforcement officers and a deputy coroner. Evidence included pictures showing charred skin on Coleen Wilson, chairs found on Johnnie Wilson, various photos from the house and from an examination of the bodies and other items.
Koster previously served in the state Senate and was the Cass County prosecutor from 1995 to 2005. He told The Associated Press in April he is making preparations to run for governor in 2016.
Driskill has pleaded not guilty and is represented by two assistant public defenders. In court, he wore dark pants and a long-sleeved white dress shirt that was untucked. He has a goatee and tattoos are visible on his head. On Monday, the defense waived its opening argument for now, and prosecutors were scheduled to continue their case Tuesday. The jury is from Franklin County and is being sequestered.
The Wilsons celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary just before their deaths. Family members discovered the bodies after checking on them when the couple was late returning from Laclede County. Both had been shot. Johnnie Wilson was wearing only shoes, had a plastic bag over his head and plastic was found in his throat. Coleen Wilson was naked, had burn marks and a partially burned roll of paper towel was found nearby.
Testimony ended Monday with Calvin Perry, who had mutual friends with Driskill. Perry was sleeping on a pullout couch when Driskill arrived and said law enforcement was looking for him. Driskill changed clothes and recounted details.
Perry testified that Driskill said he was trying to break into a garage when people showed up and threatened to call police. Perry said Driskill said he pulled a gun and walked the couple into the house and shot them. Driskill also indicated he raped Coleen Wilson, Perry testified.
After Driskill fell asleep, several people at the apartment left and called police.
Page 2 of 2 - Perry currently is serving a five-year prison term for possession of methamphetamine. Driskill's attorneys questioned Perry actively, pointing out that he knew the area well and asking if he had difficulties with his memory.
Koster has been personally involved in several cases. He worked with Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson in a Medicaid fraud case, in which a dentist pleaded guilty in 2009. In 2010, Koster prosecuted a Jackson County murder case and a year later represented the state for sentencing of a Fredericktown police officer and Boy Scouts leader who pleaded guilty to 22 counts related to sexual abuse of minors. In 2011, Koster represented Missouri in an effort to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to breach the Birds Point levee in southeastern Missouri and argued another case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Getting back into the courtroom from time to time helps me to be a better attorney general," Koster said Monday.