McKenna was originally charged with second degree murder. Winfrey dismissed the second degree murder charges earlier this year, and filed first degree murder charges.
An Illinois man accused of murdering a business associate from the state of California in Miller County could face the death penalty.
Last week in the Miller County Circuit Court, Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey filed a notice of intent to pursue the death penalty against Joseph P. McKenna, of Chicago. McKenna is accused of murdering Tyler Joseph Worthington, 34, of North San Juan, California, in June of 2018. McKenna was originally charged with second degree murder. Winfrey dismissed the second degree murder charges earlier this year, and filed first degree murder charges.
The notice to seek the death penalty was filed the same day McKenna requested a bond reduction. The bond reduction was denied with a notation that McKenna had made “alleged threats to a witness.”
A second defendant in the case, Tyler Kroll, 25, is also charged with first degree murder for his alleged role in the murder. Kroll is being held in Miller County on $750,000 bond.
Court documents filed in Miller County by investigators in the case indicate a well established and successful pot operation and distribution system were being operated by Worthington. His body was found in a wooded area off Dry Creek Road near Tuscumbia. Investigators believe he was murdered by McKenna, a known business associate. Evidence at the scene indicated the victim was shot at that location and dragged into the woods, from the roadway.
On June 13, 2018 an autopsy determined the cause of death to be a single gunshot wound to the head and fingerprints confirmed the body was that of Worthington.
Investigators now believe the weapon used in the murder was recovered by Arkansas authorities during a traffic stop last year. During the arrest in Arkansas, McKenna and his girlfriend were in possession of 68 pounds of pot and a Ruger 9mm hand gun found hidden in a compartment. The handgun was subsequently tested by the Missouri Highway Patrol crime lab and was determined to be the gun that fired the shell casing found at the scene of Worthington’s murder.
Early on in the investigation, it was discovered that Worthington owned and maintained a large marijuana grow operation in and around his home in California. He was engaged in the growing of marijuana as well as heavily involved in the production of marijuana oil. Investigator’s also learned from an interview with a close associate of Worthington’s that he supplied this marijuana oil to McKenna. The murder is believed to be connected to money allegedly owed to Worthington by McKenna.
Investigators determined that after Worthington extracted the marijuana oil, it was shipped to McKenna, who then loaded the marijuana oil into cartridges for use in vapor style smoking devices.
During the execution of a search warrant at the home of Worthington, invoices were found showing a large number of new, empty vapor pen cartridges, along with specialized equipment to fill those cartridges, were purchased by and shipped to McKenna Services, Inc., in Chicago.
Also found during the search warrant was over 500 pounds of processed marijuana, green houses containing hundreds of marijuana plants, growing and cultivating supplies, and processing equipment including specialized equipment used in the extraction of marijuana oil. Other documents found during the execution of the search warrant included a handwritten ledger, which recorded details about the extraction of marijuana oil from plant material.
An interview with Worthington’s fiancee’ indicated that on June 2, 2018, Worthington flew to Chicago, Illinois to meet with McKenna, who she described as an individual active in the dealing of drugs and one who Worthington “works with”. She alleged that during his trip to Chicago, Worthington along with McKenna were planning to drive from Chicago, Illinois to Missouri to “do a job”.
Investigators confirmed that Worthington flew out of Sacramento airport on June 2, to Chicago O’Hare Airport. Upon arrival, Worthington rented a white 2018 Toyota Corolla (Still missing) from Hertz Rental Car. Worthington was reported to have driven separately in his rental car, from McKenna, but traveled with him during the trip to Missouri. Toll road records show that McKenna’s truck and Worthington’s rental car passed through the Cermak and Joliet tolls together, headed out of Chicago, just seconds apart on June 4, 2018. It was also discovered later that same day, McKenna’s truck went through northbound tolls, on its way back into Chicago, without Worthington’s rental car. The approximate drive time from Chicago to the location where Worthington was murdered is 14 hours, round-trip. From the time McKenna left Chicago until the time he returned was 16 hours and 17 minutes.
Court document filed with the first degree murder charge indicate multiple interviews were conducted, all leading back to McKenna. McKenna had allegedly made statements prior to Worthington’s body being found that he was going to kill him.