The death penalty is being sought in a 2017 Lake Ozark campground killing. On July 31, 2018, Miller County Prosecutor Ben Winfrey filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for John Joe Powell accused of beating a man to death after a fight at Iguana Campground.
The death penalty is being sought in a 2017 Lake Ozark campground killing. On July 31, 2018, Miller County Prosecutor Ben Winfrey filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for John Joe Powell accused of beating a man to death after a fight at Iguana Campground. Mark Johnson of Colorado died from his injuries on September 29, 2017 after the incident on September 21, 2017. An autopsy later determined cause of death to be blunt force trauma.
Initially charged with assault, then second degree murder after Johnson’s death, the charges against Powell were upgraded to first degree murder and armed criminal action with the prosecution claiming the 39-year-old knowingly caused Johnson’s death by striking him with a tire iron during the severe beating also allegedly included being stabbed and drug behind a Jeep.
The brutality of the beating that led to death appears to be one of the factors in the prosecution now deciding to seek the death penalty if Powell is convicted. The filing states the murder was “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of mind.”
Powell’s criminal history is also a factor in the decision to seek the death penalty due to one or more serious assaultive criminal convictions.
Powell pled guilty to second degree domestic assault in February 2016 in Boone County. He was also convicted of or pled guilty to felony animal abuse at that time. At the time of the Lake Ozark incident, Powell was on parole from the domestic assault charge.
In May 2012, he also pled guilty to or was convicted of first degree tampering in Boone County and his probation for that conviction was revoked in November 2013. In January 2006, he pled guilty to or was convicted of two counts of felony criminal non-support in Ray County. His probation on that conviction was also revoked. The State is pursuing the death penalty under factors defined in RSMo 565.005.01.
According to the probable cause statement filed by police, Powell and his wife had been camping at Iguana Campground for two weeks when Powell met Johnson. The incident reportedly occurred the same day they met and started over an argument over their military service. Powell got angry after Johnson claimed to have worked for the CIA and allegedly made threats to his wife.
Police found Johnson unconscious and tied to the rear of a Jeep. He had stab wounds and fingers on his left hand were nearly severed. He had also been beaten. Powell’s campsite reportedly showed signs of a struggle, and two knives and a hammer were recovered from the scene.
On October 18, 2017, Powell gave a full confession to the killing, according to the probable cause statement. Without the special death penalty request, first degree murder is a class A felony is punishable by a minimum of 10 to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment.
Armed criminal action, an unclassified felony, is punishable by a minimum of three years in prison with no maximum sentence. Powell is being held with no bond.