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January 5, 2018

KYLE W. WILLIAMS, d/o/b 3-21-1999, of Branson, and JORDAN M. HALL, d/o/b 7-13-1998, of Branson, both pleaded guilty to felonies on Friday, January 5, 2018, in the Circuit Court of Taney County, stemming from a 2017 Facebook post showing the teens torturing a kitten by dragging it behind a motor vehicle. Christian County Circuit Judge Jennifer Growcock accepted Williams’ plea of guilty to the class E felony of animal abuse and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action, and Hall’s guilty plea to the class E felony of animal abuse. Judge Growcock ordered a sentencing assessment report for each defendant. Hall’s sentencing is set for February 23, 2018 at 9:00 A.M. and Williams’ sentencing is set for March 2, 2018 @ 1:30 P.M.

The crimes were recorded around June 1, 2017, which Williams posted on Facebook in an effort to get his audience to buy him pizza. The kitten was not dead after being dragged behind the motor vehicle, so Williams ultimately killed the kitten.

Both Williams and Hall pleaded guilty with no agreement as to what sentence each may receive, though Hall did plead guilty in exchange for the dismissal of one count of armed criminal action. Because the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office made no plea agreement with the men regarding their respective sentences, both Williams and Hall face maximum possible sentences. Williams also faces potential consecutive sentences. Williams remains in custody pending sentencing, while Hall remains free on bond.

The class E felony of animal abuse carries a maximum penalty of up to four (4) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.00. The unclassified felony of armed criminal action carries a minimum sentence of three (3) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and no maximum sentence.

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January 3, 2018

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney, Jeff Merrell presented mandated reporter training to teachers and professionals of the Forsyth School District this morning at the Forsyth Performing Arts Center.  The training is designed to educate school professionals on their obligations to report suspected child abuse and neglect, and the training covered why reporting suspected child abuse is important, the warning signs, and the nuts and bolts of when and how to hotline. An estimated 683,000 school age children are known victims of abuse each year, and 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males will experience some form of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

This was the first in a series of upcoming trainings of school professionals in Taney County by the Taney County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. In March, Merrell will be presenting to the professionals at the Kirbyville School District.

If you have reasonable cause to believe a child has been the victim of physical or sexual abuse, or neglect contact the Missouri Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Unit (CANHU) on their toll-free at 1-800-392-3738 or visit the online reporting portal at https://apps.dss.mo.gov/OnlineCanReporting/default.aspx.

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December 20, 2017

On Wednesday afternoon, December 20, 2017, Eldon “Ollie” Ault, Jr., d/o/b 11-20-1943, of Forsyth, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on charges of murder in the second degree and armed criminal action, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Christian County Judge Laura Johnson accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Ault to thirty (30) years for murder in the second degree and twenty (20) years for armed criminal action, pursuant to Ault’s plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.

Ault had been facing a charge of first degree murder, before the charge was amended to second degree murder for purposes of finalizing a plea agreement. According to the plea agreement, Ault’s sentences are to run concurrently with one another. Ault entered an Alford plea of guilty – meaning that he was admitting that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove his guilt, however, not requiring that he formally admit responsibility for the crimes.

At just after 5:00 a.m. the morning of March 24, 2017, Taney County 9-1-1 received a call for service from defendant at Rolling Meadows Road, in a mobile home community just outside Forsyth, in Taney County, Missouri. Ault lived at that mobile home with his ex-wife, Dianna Merritt. Officers and emergency responders made contact with defendant, Eldon Ault, at the home, and found the body of Dianna Merritt in bed. It was apparent to officers and medical personnel that Dianna Merritt had died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Ault explained to officers that he and Merritt were sleeping in the bed, and that he had his pistol under his pillow, and that he was awakened by the sound of his pistol firing. It was at that time, Ault told officers, that he found Merritt had been shot. Ault also explained that Merritt had packed-up her belongings to move out that day, so that she could live with her close friend who was suffering from a terminal illness. Investigators did, in fact, find that Merritt’s car was packed, indicating an intention to move out.

During an interview at the Taney County Sheriff’s Office, Ault stated that he must have been dreaming and sleep-walking when – or if – he fired the pistol, killing Merritt. Ault denied any memory of killing Merritt.

Detectives compared Ault’s statements to the positioning of Merritt’s body and disputed the angle at which Ault claimed to have accidentally fired the gun. In addition, detectives found Ault’s belongings in a different bedroom of the home, indicating that Ault would commonly sleep in the bedroom other than where Merritt was found. Items that led detectives to this conclusion included Ault’s breathing machine used for night time breathing treatments, as well as a holster for the pistol used to shoot Merritt. Phone records later showed that Ault’s cell phone was used to place a call to Ault’s brother at about 4:25 a.m. – over thirty minutes before Ault’s call to 9-1-1.

“The fact that this murder case was able to be resolved in less than twelve (12) months is a testament to the solid work of the detectives with the Taney County Sheriff’s Office,” said Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell.

Murder in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of thirty (30) years or life imprisonment – with the possibility of parole. Armed criminal action carries a minimum sentence of three (3) years in prison, with no maximum.

Topics: News, Press Releases |


December 11, 2017

On Friday, December 8, 2017, Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell spoke to attendees at the Second Annual “A Heart for Children” fundraiser, benefitting the Lakes Area Child Advocacy Center. Merrell’s introductory comments focused on the importance of services provided by the Lakes Area Child Advocacy Center – located in Branson West, Missouri – in assisting children who may have seen or experienced trauma.

The main program for the evening was presented by professional speaker and musician Monte Selby, in conjunction with his brother, Stone County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby. The event was held at the Clarion Hotel, in Branson, for the second consecutive year. The Lakes Area Child Advocacy Center sees over 200 children per year, providing forensic interviews and – in some circumstances – medical examinations.

If you would like to know more about the Lakes Area Child Advocacy Center please visit their website at: https://www.lacac.com/


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