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December 11, 2015

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney, Jeff Merrell, announced today that THOMAS P. BROWN, DOB: 4/05/1944, of Palm Springs, California, entered a guilty plea Friday afternoon, December 11, 2015, to two (2) felonies, in the Taney County Circuit Court. Brown pleaded guilty to one (1) count of murder in the second degree, one (1) count of armed criminal action, pursuant to a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office. In exchange for Brown’s guilty plea, the charge of murder in the first degree was amended to murder in the second degree. Special Circuit Court Judge Gayle Crane accepted Brown’s guilty plea, and sentenced Brown to life in prison for murder in the second degree and thirty (30) years in prison for armed criminal action.

The maximum sentence for murder in the second degree is life in prison – with the possibility of parole. There is no statutory maximum sentence for the crimes of armed criminal action. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Brown’s sentences are to run concurrently.

Thomas Brown was charged by the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office for the murder of his wife, Marilyn Brown, at a motel in Branson, on February 21, 2013. The evidence uncovered by the Branson Police Department was that Brown shot his wife in the head two (2) times with his handgun, then left the victim at the motel to be discovered. Brown returned to Branson on February 27th where he was arrested early on February 28, 2013. Although he refused to be formally interviewed by detectives, Brown made incriminating statements to Branson Police once he was taken into custody.

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December 11, 2015

SEAN D. ROBERSON, d/o/b 7-27-1988, of Springfield, was sentenced to fifteen (15) years in prison for killing eighteen-year-old Andros Vargas, in Branson, on March 29, 2013. Greene County Circuit Court Judge Michael Cordonnier sentenced Roberson on Friday, December 11, 2015, to fifteen (15) years for voluntary manslaughter, fifteen (15) years for assault in the first degree, fifteen (15) years for burglary in the first degree, and three (3) years for armed criminal action. Judge Cordonnier ordered those sentences to run concurrently with each other.

On October 2, 2015, a Greene County jury found Roberson guilty of those felonies, flowing over ten (10) hours of deliberation. The Taney County Prosecutor’s Office was seeking a conviction against Roberson for the crime of murder in the first degree, rather than voluntary manslaughter – the jury found Roberson guilty as charged of the remaining three (3) felonies.

The evidence presented by the State at trial was that Roberson had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend on March 15, 2013, and then was discovered hiding in that man’s apartment with a knife on March 29, 2013. The jury heard that Roberson chased the man from the apartment, threw the knife at the man, then led police on a pursuit that lasted about four (4) hours – until Roberson was finally arrested in Lake Taneycomo. It was only after Roberson’s intended victim re-entered his apartment that he found his brother’s corpse, fully clothed in a bathtub filled with water. A pathologist testified that the manner of death was homicide, and the deceased had most-likely been manually strangled – although drowning could not be ruled-out as a possible cause of death. Investigators later searched Roberson’s cell phone and discovered texts he had sent to a family member indicating that he had “tried to kill” the intended victim and “did his brother”, and another text that explained he “wanted revenge.”

Although the crimes were committed in Branson, the case was tried in Greene County due to a change of venue motion filed by the defendant. Voluntary manslaughter, assault in the first degree, and burglary in the first degree – as used in this case – are all class B felonies. The maximum sentence for a class B felony is fifteen (15) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Armed criminal action is an unclassified felony with no maximum term of imprisonment.

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December 8, 2015

On Tuesday afternoon, December 8, 2015, Stone County Circuit Court Judge Jack Goodman sentenced Howard “Brad” Gott, d/o/b 7-24-1968, of Squires, Missouri, to consecutive sentences of seven (7) years for assault in the second degree and thirty (30) years for armed criminal action. Tuesday’s sentencing concluded the case resulting from Gott’s attack on a friend in his fishing boat in the area of Big Creek on Bull Shoals Lake, in Taney County, on March 13, 2014.

Gott was charged and tried for the crimes of assault in the first degree and armed criminal action, but the Stone County jury found Gott guilty of the lesser offense of assault in the second degree after hearing evidence in the trial. The evidence presented was that Gott attacked his friend from behind, and stabbed him in the neck and chest multiple times before the victim could push Gott from the boat. Fishermen on the shore also witnessed the stabbing and called 9-1-1. The victim was able to be flown out to receive medical treatment, and Gott was arrested almost immediately.

Although the stabbing occurred in Taney County, the case was moved to Stone County on the defendant’s change of venue motion. Taney County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tiffany Yarnell prosecuted the case for the State.

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November 20, 2015

On Thursday, November 19, 2015, MARK ALAN DEFORREST, d/o/b 7-30-1957, of Branson, was sentenced to four (4) years in prison for the class C felony of unlawful possession of a firearm, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson accepted a guilty plea from Deforrest which guaranteed him the four (4) year sentence, as part of a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Deforrest had previously been convicted of the felonies of driving while intoxicated and unlawful use of a weapon.

On October 17, 2015, while searching for a suspect in a stealing investigation, Taney County Sheriff’s deputies made contact with Deforrest, at his home in Branson. Deputies discovered Deforrest had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, and when placing Deforrest in handcuffs discovered he had knives in his pockets, as well as one knife hidden in his boot. Deforrest was also discovered to have a 357 revolver with him, in the chair where he was sitting when arrested.

Currently, the Missouri Appeals Courts are considering arguments about whether or not the 2014 Right to Bear Arms Amendment to Missouri’s Constitution allows all persons to possess firearms – even convicted felons. No ruling has been made by Missouri’s higher courts on this issue, yet.

“Although the 2014 Amendment to Missouri’s Constitution states that the right to possess a firearm is ‘an unalienable right’, it is still the position of this office that dangerous felons should not be permitted to possess guns,” says Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell. “The reasoning is obvious. Convicted felons have already demonstrated an inability to follow laws and to use good judgment. Therefore, allowing convicted felons to possess firearms presents a potential danger to our citizens.”

The maximum sentence for a class C felony is seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and/or a $5,000.00 fine.

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