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September 12, 2018

ROBERT WAYNE FILES, d/o/b 12-25-1979, of Omaha, Arkansas, was sentenced on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, in the Circuit Court of Taney County, Missouri, to seven (7) years in prison for the felonies of burglary in the second degree and tampering with a motor vehicle in the first degree. Circuit Judge Tony Williams heard sentencing arguments Tuesday before handing down the two (2) seven (7) year sentences, and ordering Files’ sentences to run concurrently with one another.

The felony charges stemmed from an investigation of a motor vehicle accident by the Missouri State Highway Patrol on April 4, 2017, where Files was the driver of a Chevrolet Corvette that was discovered in a ditch beside Route F, in the area of Bull Creek, in Taney County, Missouri. The Corvette had been reported stolen by Files’ father, and the investigation found that Files had broken-into his father’s home, gaining access to the Corvette. Files was suspected of having been driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, but no charges were filed relating to that suspicion.

Burglary in the second degree and tampering with a motor vehicle in the first degree are both class D felonies, carrying a maximum prison sentence of seven (7) years, respectively.

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August 15, 2018

The Taney County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Forsyth, Missouri has an immediate opening for an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Applicants must be a member of the Missouri Bar in good standing. Interested candidates should have 0-6 years experience, and a strong desire to work in public service. As a five attorney office located near Branson, Missouri, we manage a diverse criminal docket in a busy circuit.

Interested candidates can apply via email to Chris Lebeck, Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney ( or by faxing a resume to (417) 546-2376. Please provide a cover letter and your current resume.

For more information please contact Chris Lebeck, Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney at (417) 546-7260 or

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August 4, 2018

On Friday afternoon, August 3, 2018, DAKOTA CLAYPOLE, d/o/b 7-15-1995, of Branson, was sentenced to twenty-one (21) years in prison for second-degree murder and armed criminal action, in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Missouri. Claypole’s case had been moved to Greene County on a change of venue from Taney County, and on May 4, 2018, Claypole had pleaded guilty to the felonies before Circuit Judge Calvin Holden.

Claypole’s charges stemmed from a shooting on January 16, 2017, at a residence on Rainbow Drive, in Branson. Taney County Sheriff deputies responded to the residence and discovered Daxton Drake, age 22 years, had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Drake was pronounced dead at the scene. A witness – who was romantically involved with both Claypole and Drake – explained that she and Drake were in bed together when Claypole walked up the stairs leading into the bedroom, and brandished a handgun. Claypole verbally confronted Drake and fired a gunshot in his direction. Then, Drake stood up and Claypole fired multiple gunshots into Drake, killing him. Claypole fled the residence driving Drake’s automobile and was arrested by Highway Patrol Troopers and Branson Police Officers a few miles away.

“Law enforcement officers did an excellent job the night of January 16, 2017, of apprehending the murder suspect in very short order,” said Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell. “This was important to the success of the investigation, as well in assuring community safety. I’m very proud of the work done by officers and investigators in solving this murder.”

Specifically, Judge Holden sentenced Claypole to twenty-one (21) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for second-degree murder, and twenty-one (21) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for armed criminal action, with the sentences to run concurrently with one another. The class A felony of murder in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of thirty (30) years or life imprisonment – with the possibility of parole. The unclassified felony of armed criminal action carries a minimum sentence of three (3) years in prison, with no maximum.

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August 3, 2018

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey M. Merrell announced today that James Leslie Keeler d/o/b 7-13-1966 of Ridgedale, Missouri plead guilty without a plea agreement today to the class D felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon as a prior and persistent felony offender. He was set to begin a bench trial this morning in front of Taney County Circuit Judge Tony Williams. Formal sentencing is set for October 2, 2018 at 9:00am.

On February 15, 2018 during a traffic stop in the City of Hollister, JAMES KEELER was arrested and during a search of his person officers discovered .22 ammo in his pocket. During a search of his vehicle, officers found a .22 Browning “Buck Mark” pistol hiding in a coat in the back seat along with a loaded magazine in the pocket. JAMES KEELER is a convicted felon with previous convictions for felony assault and felony possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

As a prior and persistent felony offender JAMES KEELER faces the range of punishment for that of a class C felony for this offense.  The range punishment for a class C felony is imprisonment in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections for a term of years not less than three (3) years and not to exceed ten (10) years; or by imprisonment for a special term not to exceed one (1) year in the county jail or other authorized penal institution; or by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000); or by both imprisonment and a fine.

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