April 14, 2014
JUSTIN P. CLARK, d/o/b: 6-29-1977, of Nixa, Missouri, pled guilty on Friday, April 11, 2014, to the class B felony of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, in the Circuit Court of Christian County. Circuit Court Judge Mark Orr sentenced Clark to serve ten (10) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections pursuant to a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.
On March 4, 2014, officers of the C.O.M.E.T. drug task force executed a search warrant at Clark’s apartment in Nixa. During the search, officers found over 200 grams of marijuana, as well as digital scales, pipes, and other items of drug paraphernalia. A portion of the marijuana was pre-packaged for distribution. During an interview with officers, Clark admitted that he had been selling marijuana out of the apartment for the preceding few months.
A class B felony carries a range of punishment of no less than five (5) years but no more than fifteen (15) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell’s office was appointed to act as special prosecutor in Clark’s case.
April 11, 2014
Greg A. Smith, d/o/b: 4/22/1969, of Branson Missouri, pled guilty Thursday April 10, 2014, to the class C felonies of domestic assault second degree and receiving stolen property in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Judge Mark Orr sentenced Smith to serve sentences of three (3) years and five (5) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, respectively, pursuant to a plea agreement.
The domestic assault charge stemmed from an altercation on September 23, 2013, at the Branson Plaza Motel. During an argument with his estranged wife on that night, Greg Smith picked up a wooden cane and struck her on the head. When Branson Police officers responded to the motel, Smith admitted striking his wife with the cane, causing her injuries. Officers later responded to Cox Hospital to speak with the victim who stated that Smith struck her in the head with an object she could not identify.
Smith’s receiving stolen property charge resulted following several motor vehicle break-ins committed by teenagers in April of 2012. Greg Smith took cash and miscellaneous stolen personal property (including personal electronics) from the teens claiming he was going to return it to the crime victims. Instead, Smith kept the cash and other items – totaling over $500.00 – and never reported the vehicle break-ins to police.
April 11, 2014
SHERYL L. DEPRIEST, d/o/b 9-11-1966, of Benton, Arkansas, pled guilty Thursday, April 10, 2014, to the class C felony of forgery in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Judge Mark Orr sentenced Depriest to serve four (4) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, pursuant to a plea agreement.
On September 20, 2013, an employee at Mercy health center in Springfield noticed her purse missing from the locker where she left it. The next day, the employee was alerted to fraudulent charges on her credit card – including a $285.00 charge at a Branson business. Branson Police Officer Frank Hirahara led the local investigation, and – using phone records of the Branson business – was able to contact a woman in Arkansas who identified Depriest as a possible suspect in using the stolen credit card. That investigative lead resulted in witnesses at the Branson business identifying Depriest in a photo line-up as the woman who used the credit card.
“This case is an example of cooperation and tenacious investigative work by officers from Branson and Springfield,” said Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell. “Quality investigations – such as this – result in quality prosecution.”
April 1, 2014
On Monday night, March 31, 2014, a Taney County jury found Windy Dawn Friend (d/o/b 4-06-1981) guilty of two (2) counts of murder in the first degree, for her role in the murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the deaths of Russell and Rebecca Porter, of Willard, Missouri. The eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated for nearly four (4) hours before arriving at the unanimous guilty verdicts. Friend’s trial lasted six (6) days and saw nearly twenty (20) witnesses testify. Taney County Circuit Court Judge Mark Orr scheduled Friend’s sentencing hearing for June 12, 2014.
Murder in the first degree carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Taney County Prosecutor’s Office did not seek the death penalty for Windy Friend.
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