Barring any delays, the capital murder trial of a man who has already been convicted of killing a man in another state, will get underway in Laclede County in October.

 Barring any delays, the capital murder trial of a man who has already been convicted of killing a man in another state, will get underway in Laclede County in October.

Martin Priest, 59, is accused of murdering 15-year-old Tammy Sue Rothganger in Eldon on May 16, 1984. Rothganger disappeared after being seen getting into Priest’s car on her way to school. Priest was the live-in boyfriend of Rothganger’s mother.

In May, Priest filed a writ in Miller County prior to the change of venue demanding the case be disposed of within 180-days. The writ moves the case up on the court docket. Priest is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 3 before 26th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Hayden. The court has set aside 8 days for the trial.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Sept. 11. The case is being prosecuted by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey and the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

Priest is currently being held in Laclede County Jail. He was transferred from Miller County after being turned over to local authorities by the state of Kansas.

Priest was charged in 2016 with Rothganger’s murder while serving a life sentence in Kansas for the death of a man killed on Christmas Day in 1984, just months after the teenager’s disappearance.

According to court documents in the Rothganger case, there was a third person that was allegedly in Priest’s car that morning during the incident who came forward with key information that led to the charges decades after the murder occurred.

The third person is identified only by initials and as a man. The witness alleges Priest struck Rothganger in the back of the head with a wrench, knocking her unconscious. He then raped her and strangled her. Her body was left at what was only identified as a local residence. According to the witness, Rothganger’s body was later retrieved by her alleged killer and buried in an unmarked location.

Rothganger’s mother reported her missing the same day she was last seen. Priest was questioned in the early stages of the investigation, but he denied any involvement in her disappearance.

In the early to mid 1980s, law enforcement in Missouri and Kansas linked Priest to five deaths, but state prosecutors gained only the one conviction in Kansas that’s held up. Priest was a suspect in a case in Nevada, Missouri in June of 1980 involving a young girl. He was also linked to the disappearance of a young girl in Kansas the same year Rothganger disappeared.